The Last Pull Down. 24th May

Shipton Bridge to Aristotle Bridge

Byebye Fin

Chores to start the day, yellow water tank to empty whilst it was on the towpath side, then we moved onto the services. A boat was already filling with water, so we pulled along side one of the boat club boats to be able to use the second tap. This of course meant that the water pressure dropped so both hoses trickled into tanks, at least we were filling whilst the washing machine did it’s thing. Tilly’s pooh box got a refresh and the bathroom a bit of a clean, rubbish disposed of, all sorted.

Aubrey’s Lift Bridge

There was an offer from someone to work the bridge, but I’d already got the key of power in my hand, I wasn’t going to be deprived of a possibility of stopping cars. Up the bridge went, one car stopped from exiting Annies Tea Rooms. There are lots of signs about regarding paying for parking now, Annies has a few free spaces, but the rest are now pay as you park.

Plenty of room in Thrupp to moor this morning, had everyone moved on towards Oxford and would we be able to find a mooring there, the river Thames still rising and some reaches on red boards.

Pair 21 coming along nicely

We soon caught up with the boat we’d been following yesterday, chatting at the locks, somehow I was always left to close the bottom gate for them, hmmm!

Still temporary

The bottom gate was closed at Roundham Lock, the temporary beam that had appeared last summer is still doing it’s best to hold on, wonder if it will get an upgrade this coming winter? A dad sat for a rest from cycling, a little lad in a trailer and little girl had been perched on his cross bar. As I went to open the top gate she walked up, I asked if she’d like to help, a quite ‘Yes Please’ was her answer. She did the same at the bottom gate and as I thanked her she said something like ‘my pleasure’. The family climbed back onto their bike and peddled off.

Normally this is where we would stop for the day, a good outside for Tilly before entering Oxford. Not a jot of armco to be had, it was chocka block. We would have to wait for lunch.

Drinkwaters Lift Bridge 231, was one of the first to be converted to hydraulic windlass operation, saving the boater on the offside constantly coming out to assist in lifting the bridge. We caught the boat ahead up again at Dukes Lock, one of the bottom paddles playing up, a little bit of tinkering and it rose, a joint in the gear possibly wearing away.

Thames on red boards at Dukes Cut

I closed the bottom gate and Mick filled the lock for us. Once down we aimed for a possible mooring at the junction, red boards towards the Thames and a boat just about to come out of the lock there, the Sea Otter we’d been following earlier in the week returning from Oxford giving up on a cruise on the river. The mooring was not really suitable, a wade through long grass to struggle to pull the boat in not worth the effort.

Wolvercote Bridge, THAT bridge! The one everyone hated before it was dismantled and left under the A34 bridge. Today after several years there is a new oak bridge. No need for a chain to pull it down, no chain to be stollen, no need to jump up and shimmy along the beam to try to use your body weight to pull it down, no need to enlist passing cyclists to push or pull it, no sitting on the beam to keep it open then hope you’d be able to close it again. All that is required, a windlass and several turns of the hydraulic pump to lift it and then lower it. All the fun and games gone!

The Last sit down

Perrys Lift Bridge however is still manual, the last one I think. This bridge always seems to be weighted in favour of being open to the canal. You unlock it with the key of power and quickly run across to the offside to aid it to open. I then assumed the seated position on the beam making sure it didn’t move whilst Mick brought Oleanna through. Someone has added a piece of wood to the beam, which gives a handy hand hold to be able to lift the beam back up. An umph then a dash to stand on the bridge to keep it closed whilst you turn your key of power to lock it again. I’m slightly sad that this may well be the last time I sit on a lift bridge beam on the Oxford.

At Elizabeth Jennings Bridge a boat was moored on the water point, has been three days apparently! How wonderful city boating can be, glad we filled up in Thrupp. No point in stopping now, well there wasn’t anywhere to moor up anyway!

Wolvercote Lock

At Aristotle Bridge the boat ahead was just pulling in, they nudged up a space to give us room on the end. At last we could moor up, however the proximity to the bridge, not a busy one, meant no shore leave for Tilly. Constant traffic tends to be a deterrent, but the occasional car can set Tilly into panic and send her high tailing it back to the boat, possibly in front of those threatening tyres! Sorry Tilly.

Time to watch the last episodes of Narrow Escapes. A good mix of all types of boaters and everyone came across really well, just some continuity was out for those who know. The voice over saying ‘a day trip to see how NB Barbarella handles on tidal waters‘ the edit suggesting this was from Alrewas onto the tidal Trent, Cromwell lock some 25 hours cruise away! We’ve really enjoyed the series and I believe they are looking at making a second one.

A lufted bridge

4 locks, 6 miles, 3 gates to close, 5 moveable bridges, 1 left open, 1 to sit upon, 1 straight on, 3 boats at the junction, 0 shore leave, 3pm lunch, 1 boat hoping for levels to drop, 1 boat happy to sit it out, along with everyone else.

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