Last Of The Matchsticks. 21st July

Kings Lock, River Thames to College Cruisers, Oxford Canal

It was busy this morning. A Sea Otter that had pulled in infront of us last night pulled out and winded. It seemed like they’d done this in front of a blue boat that had just come up the lock. A second glance at the blue boat, hang on that’s Graeme on NB Misty Blue! We stuck our heads out of the kitchen window and shouted across. Graeme was last seen on the Great Ouse last summer, we’d both escaped Goole after the breach in 2021 and the same year both boats had taken part in the first Tideway cruise under Hammersmith Bridge. Today there was only chance for a quick exchange of words, Graeme has never cruised the Upper Thames, he looked excited to be on new waters.

There be dragons

A few more boats came and went before we were ready to push off, we let a small cruiser go ahead, not knowing if we’d have been able to fit alongside them. I walked down to help with the bottom gates and the skipper said they would wait at the next lock for us.

Last matchstick lock

Our last matchstick lock on the Upper Thames. I like these with their matchstick markers on the paddles, even using the long pole to open and close the bottom gates. I’ve been wondering if the gates on the Thames last longer than those on broad locks on the canals. On the Thames they like you to open both gates, the long pole saves you from having to walk all the way round. Having both gates open avoids the edges getting worn from boats only using the one. Yes many boaters manage to avoid grating their way into a lock, but many don’t. We all see how much water gets lost through gates where a groove has been worn and then C&RT have another running repair to do.

We don’t!

Maybe we all should adopt opening both gates at broad locks. I know we have tended not to, but maybe we should start. Yes it will take longer to go through locks, Mick usually has a boat hook with him as he enters or leaves a lock so that he can catch a gate that opens itself. Every little thing may help reduce the maintenance costs.

We pootled along, passing other moorings we’d considered stopping at yesterday, we’d chosen well being away from busy roads.

Thank you for waiting

Sure enough at Godstow Lock the little cruiser was waiting for us, gates open and more than enough room for us to go along side. I made sure I kept hold of the bow rope, keeping Oleanna well away from the cruisers hull. A boat was heading towards the lock, this made our leaving a lot easier, meaning we could all get back on our boats and leave the gates for someone else to sort.


Port Meadow stretched out in front of us, the cattle wetting their feet at the waters edge. Cranes on the horizon and the tower of St Barnabas Church in Jericho, our chosen destination for today.

Looking across to Jericho

A boat came towards us, that would make a good picture I thought so got my camera out. The chap at the helm did the same in return. A big wave and smile followed, it was Paul the Narrowboat Mover on his latest job.

Hello Paul

Good to see him again. Only one more boat to tick off our summer list this year and that’s the blue boat normally found further north, NB Jubilee Bridge.

Well our time was up on the river. We could have stayed until midnight, but we chose not to. A left onto Sheepwash Channel, ducking under the railway lines and squeezing past the old swing bridge. Our next job to fill with water below Isis Lock.

A small cruiser was tied to the end of the pontoon, we managed to pull in in front of him, Oleanna’s bow overhanging by quite a way. Mick took the hose just as a chap stepped off the cruiser behind. Maybe he’d only just pulled in and was wanting water too, maybe he’d been there a while. Soon he was filling umpteen plastic bottles from the tap. Mick found another one closer to the lock, we draped our hose across and started to fill our tank.

Facing the canal

A boat reversed towards Isis Lock, we were nearly full. Our hose was sorted and the reversing boaters intention confirmed, he was heading for the river. I helped with the lock, then the boats swapped places, Oleanna heading into her first narrow lock for two weeks. A few turns of the windlass and we were back up on the Oxford Canal.

A space was found opposite College Cruisers, boats being made ready for this weekends hirers. An early lunch for us whilst Tilly reacquainted herself with the isthmus between canal and Castle Mill Stream.

Emails for panto required attention. With my final model meeting next week today would be filled with budget questions. Set build quotes were in, they ranged from £40,000 to £16,000. The highest from a company who obviously didn’t want the job. I so wonder how much my friend Graham in Leeds would have quoted. Not sure if he was approached or not this year, I know it wouldn’t have been £40,000 for sure!

The remainder of the day was spent finishing off painting notes on the model. Hooray! Finished!! Then time was taken doing a paint call, this means when I’m in Chippy I can check to see what colours they already have and what to order.

Our time on the Thames is over, we’ve enjoyed the upper reaches, a touch of a shame that I’ve had to work most of the time. But at least I’ve been able to enjoy the cruise there and back. We’ve a couple of places we need to be in the next couple of weeks, after which we have to decide where to go and by which route?

3 locks, 2 navigations, 3.5 miles, 2 lefts, 2 friends spotted, 1 full water tank, 39 x 2 litre bottles, £2,000 to shave off, 1 long list of paints, 48BG 54/244 base, 2nd night of spag bol, 1 development still not started!

2 thoughts on “Last Of The Matchsticks. 21st July

  1. Amos Meyers

    Pip, I didn’t realize there is a waterpoint below Isis lock. Is it at the pontoon? We will be in Oxford later in September and that would be helpful. Thanks

    1. Pip Post author

      Hi Amos. There are a couple of taps near the pontoon below Isis Lock but they are actually on the other side of the towpath on the permenant moorings. Not an official water point, but plenty of people use them. There is a water point right at the end of the Hythe Street Bridge arm, which you either have to reverse down to or reverse back from, it’s also a 2 day mooring. If College Cruisers has no boats in they have a water point too, along with CRT bins.

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