A Breakdown In Communications. 29th May

Above Days Lock to Wallingford

Not the best nights sleep. Yesterdays heavy rain made for a twitchy night. Had we been wise to moor here on pins? How high would the river come up in response to the rain? Were our ropes loose enough for fluctuating levels? How would the flow be when we came to move? Should we move? Sooner rather than later?

A lovely morning view

We both checked the internet for the levels. Overnight the river had come up by 6 inches. Would we now be stuck by red boards? The EA website gets updated at 11am each day so we wouldn’t know from there for quite some time. Mick took a walk along the bank towards the lock, wet grass soaking his trousers and shoes. The lock was normal and on self service. Time to make a move and go whizzing off down stream.

Looking back to Days Lock

Untying was planned, the bow rope last to stop us from drifting backwards and with Mick already onboard he’d be able to keep us steady into the flow. However the bow rope was quite slack, Oleanna had risen with the water and was now closer to the bank and this morning the wind was holding her into it. We followed our plan anyway, me trying to push the bow out against the wind, extra umph needed from a bow thruster to get the bow into the flow and Oleanna winding to head downstream.

Blue skies and fluffy clouds

A couple of boats had already been seen on the move and we followed a small cruiser in to the lock cut, they’d been moored on the weir stream overnight. I checked with their skipper if they’d be okay sharing with us which they were. They would head out first and I’d close up behind us. This of course wasn’t needed in the end as a boat was heading upstream and then a Lockie who was gardening appeared from nowhere and did the honours for us, the cruiser pulled in at the service mooring, we carried on.

Blue skies with fluffy clouds, that’s more like it! More boat houses I could live in. The fab big house on the bend near Shillingford still looks wonderful. Maybe one day we should walk the Thames Path which goes right outside the other side of the building so we can see the front door. If we lived there we’d give some ornamental tall grasses a trim to improve the view of the river.

Above Benson Lock there were plenty of moored hire boats, the recent yellow and red boards keeping them off the river, we’ve seen only a couple of Le Boats out and about. The cafe looked to be popular, maybe it would be a suitable place for a rendez vous, but our only choice of mooring nearby was on the weir side of the lock island, there’s a ferry that runs back and forth. However the moorings looked quite full and it would have meant winding to reverse into the weir cut, with the river running fast we didn’t fancy that.

Ouch!

Time to fill the lock, descend and then cross over the weir exit! Earlier this year a boat had lost it’s mooring and been swept towards the weir, only the bridge over it stopping the vessel from plunging over the top. Today the water crashed over the weir, where the navigation meets this there are green marker buoys to help keep you away from the build up of silt. We’d heard that these marker buoys had moved in the floods, so didn’t mark the channel well. They certainly looked to be further over towards the bank and the trees than we remembered, if you kept to the right side of them you’d almost certainly end up entangled in branches. After picking me up, Mick set off, cranking Oleanna up, the aim to pass through the green markers. It turned into a bit of a chicane but we made it through without touching the bottom or the trees, but very close to the buoys.

A space on the low bank

Not far now, we made note of possible moorings under the trees as we approached Wallingford, plenty of room should we need it. On the east bank there was a space, just not quite big enough for us, a few git gaps behind, we called out but no one heard us. The west bank was just about empty. We headed down stream through the bridge and then winded, no chance of running out of room to make the turn here. Upstream we headed, another call out to a narrowboat to see if they could move up, big thumbs up from inside and out they came to pull back six foot so we could moor. Thank you.

Earlier there had been a phone call, but not enough signal to hear anything. Mick had sent a message saying we were heading to Wallingford, he received a message saying a cuppa was being enjoyed at the cafe at Benson. Serious communication problems, Mick went off to try to find signal, Wallingford being added to our list of bad signal. Up on the bridge he got through to a French answerphone just as a car with two familiar faces came past slowing to say ‘Hello!’

Mick, Siobhan, Patrick and Pip

Siobhan and Patrick are friends of Micks from long long ago, they now live in Newcastle, Australia. Most years they come over to the UK to visit family and we do our best to meet up. They arrived earlier this week, had a few nights in London before driving down to stay with a friend in Benson, our cruising plans had just nicely managed to fit with their tour of the UK. Big hugs all round then a venue for lunch was found. We all got in the car and headed off to The Red Lion in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell a very pretty place.

A picturesque pub

Ham egg and chips, a burger, fish and chip and a vegetable tart were all enjoyed, better food and a quieter lunch than we’d had on Monday. Lots to catch up on, news of grandchildren, 70th birthdays, travel plans.

After a cuppa and more chats back at Oleanna it was time for them to head off and meet up with their friend in Benson. So lovely to see them both and Yes we do need to try to put a plan together to do a visit to Newcastle!

Brand new signs

As we’d returned to the boat there was a chap taking down the Town Council signs regarding mooring fees. New signs were going up, still the same fee but the moorings were now going to be overseen by District Enforcement. The chap chatted away, the moorings would be policed three times a week and anyone pulling up even just for the day (free) would need to register on line to moor there otherwise they’d be charged the penalty £100. Later in the day we wondered how we’d manage to register as our internet signal was seriously poor, at times there was nothing at all! This may be a problem.

We’ve only been able to moor in Wallingford by the bridge once before and we couldn’t remember if we’d looked round or not. Looking back on Lillian’s blog posts I suspect we didn’t as I had a migraine the day we arrived. So we headed out to have a bit of a walk around.

St Peter’s

In the early 12th Century Wallingford had many rights and liberties exceeding those of London and it is one of only four towns that were mentioned in the Magna Carta. The very recognisable spire of St Peter’s can be seen by all from the river, it is now a redundant Anglican church. Grade 2 listed it was built between 1763 and 1767, the spire added by Sir Robert Taylor ten years later. A local lawyer, Sir William Blackstone ( who’s books were widely used by the makers of the American constitution) paid for the clock face to be visible from his house. The church was deemed redundant in 1971.

There are plenty of antique shops, one of which Siobhan had remembered from when she worked in the area. We had a good look round at all the things no-one really needs. The shop went on and on forever!

Wallingford Town Hall

A couple of things were needed from Waitrose then we walked by the Town Hall, held up with extra wooden pillars bedecked with plastic ferns. The open area beneath was used for market stalls and the chamber above was used for Borough Courts and Quarter Sessions. Around the end of the 13th Century the town fell on hard times and shrank, only reviving in the 17th and 18th centuries with the vast growth of London and trade on the Thames. During Victorian times Wallingford had 50 pubs whilst only having a population of around 2000. Down a side street where half timbered buildings have been painted haphazardly in green and yellow and we wondered what the department store had been on St Mary’s Street.

Where St Mary’s meets St Martins a row of four terraced houses sits prominently over looking the junction. They are Grade 2 listed and are quite fine, their gable windows on the top floor hidden behind a wall.

Maybe next time we’re here we’ll explore more, there is what looks like an interesting walk around the town Link. So there is more to Wallingford than Midsummer Murders.

2 locks, 5.8 miles, 1 wind, 6 inches higher, 6ft too short, 1 broken cleat, 2 Australian visitors, 1 perfect rendez vous, 0 phone signal, 3 pints, 1 glass wine, 1 unimpressed Tilly, £12 a night, but not tonight, 1 more lovely day with friends, 2 equalised batteries (they sorted them selves a few days ago).

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