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June 17th 2010 - Thrupp

Well I know its been a while since the last blog but oh boy have we had a lovely time!

We stayed in Oxford for two or three days, mainly to sit out the rain, which was quite heavy at times.  Finally the rain passed over and left everything looking newly washed and clean! 

All newly washed!

I have to say we are so delighted with our pram hood cover, which makes a huge difference when the weather is inclement.  It means that we can pop up on deck and put the engine on without getting wet for a start, it is also somewhere to hang our waterproofs when we come in out of the rain, its just great.  However, it also doubles up as a sunshade when it is hot and sunny, we just leave the sides off in that case.

Anyway, after our sojourne in Oxford we set off again on Thursday, June 10th.  There was a cruiser moored in front of us and as Clive was untying the bow line the guy from this boat said good morning to him, he looked very familiar and it suddenly dawned on Clive who it was.  He whispered to me when he got back on the boat and I would have taken a photo if I could have sneaked one but didn't want to do it obviously, its a bit rude really!  Anyway it was Rodney Bewes from The Likely Lads!  I've pinched a photo of the internet just to show you what he looks like now!

Rodney Bews and his cat Maurice!

He lives in Oxfordshire and one of his neighbours is Beatle George Harrison's widow.  After that terrible knife attack on George they had razor wire put on top of all the fences surrounding their huge property - Rodney's grounds butt onto theirs and his poor pussy cat has injured herself several times on the razor wire! Bless!!

Anyway after that bit of excitement we set off into pastures new.  The last time we we were on the Thames we had done the reverse journey, coming down the Oxford Canal, onto the Thames then through Brentford Lock and onto the Grand Union Canal.  This time we came down the Grand Union onto the Thames and thus to Oxford but Oxford is not the end of the navigable Thames so this time, instead of going through Isis Lock onto the Oxford Canal we remained on the Thames. 

Well, I have to say, we have had a really lovely week on one of the most beautiful stretches of waterway we have been on since setting off on this adventure.  The trip up to Lechlade was fantastic.  It is completely out of the way, no roads, hardly any houses just miles and miles of beautiful countryside.  There were several locks on this stretch, all manned by lock keepers.  At each lock there is a lock-keeper's house and all of them have the most beautifully kept gardens I have ever seen.  Evidently they all compete against each other for the best kept lock garden - as far as I'm concerned they all deserve a prize.  One or two of them had experimented with topiary on some of the shrubs and the results were great.  Here is one in the shape of a frog!

Topiary frog!

We arrived at a boatyard finally which Clive had phoned whilst we were in Oxford to ask them to order in some oil filters for our engine.  He had decided to do his own oil change this time as it would save us over a hundred quid!  He has watched it done so many times and there really isn't anything to it so why pay somebody else to do it!  We moored up outside the boatyard and Clive asked if they had a strap wrench for sale as he doesn't have one and you need that to get the oil filters on and off.  They didn't have any for sale but the guy very kindly lent Clive his own.  So he set too emptying the old oil via the little pump which is provided for the purpose into an old oil container - so far so good!  Then he removed the old oil filter and put the new one on, then finally put the new oil in - piece of cake!  Once that was all done he tidied up the engine room and returned the strap wrench.  The guy in  the boatyard also very kindly said he would dispose of the old oil for us too, what a nice man!

We set off again and only a short distance further on we found the most beautiful place to moor.  It was surrounded by meadows full of wild flowers and grasses.  In the meadow  across the river from the boat there were horses running wild, a swan with cygnets and a duck with ducklings.  There were lots of insects flitting about amongst the wild flowers including bumblebees but there were also some beautiful little blue butterflies, which turned out to be Common Blues according to our trusty wildlife book. 

A Common Blue butterfly

It was really peaceful and quiet in this lovely place and we decided to stay for a few days.  However, every now and again the peace was interrupted by a low flying plane - a big one!  It kept circling round and disappearing behind some trees in the distance looking as if it was landing then up it came again and a few minutes later it was flying over the top of us.  We finally identified it as an American cargo plane called a

USAF C-17 Globemaster III

Clive and I have always been fascinated with aircraft.  In our younger days when we first started going out together we often used to spend all day on a Saturday up on the terraces at Manchester Airport  plane-spotting!  Yes I know, we were a pair of anoraks!!  Clive's interest has waned a little over the years as he has spent so many hours in airports and has flown so often he has probably clocked up enough airmiles to fly to Mars and back!!!  However we both still get a thrill out of watching planes so we were in for a thrill.  Unbeknown to us we were actually very close to Brize Norton Air Base and they were having an airshow on the Saturday and this is what the above plane was practicing for.  However the biggest surprise of all was the Red Arrows!  We had a fabulous view of their display, which they put on twice during the course of the show.  They were absolutely brilliant and I took a million photographs, I just couldn't resist.  Here is one of them and there will be more in the gallery.

The Red Arrows

So we had a wonderful afternoon watching the planes the Red Arrows were the icing on the cake, then it was all over and peace returned to our mooring.  As the evening wore on and the sun began to set we were treated to a truly beautiful sunset - the colours were absolutely amazing.  I don't really think this photo does it justice but it will give you an idea.

Incredible sunset!

Finally on Monday, June 14th, we tore ourselves away from the meadows and continued our journey to Lechlade.  We had a lovely cruise but the river was gradually getting narrower and more winding, sometimes we were going round complete hairpin bends, which was fun but a bit scary when there is another boat coming the other way!  Eventually we came around a bend and there was Lechlade in front of us and the moorings were alongside a huge field full of Friesians!  Once moored up we put the pramhood up and on the suggestion of our pal Ken we brought the planters inside off the roof - just in case!

The following morning I awoke to the sound of banging and thumping on the roof above me.  At first I thought it was Clive propping up the solar panels so that they were angled at the sun but it wasn't, it was the cows investigating our pole and ladder on the roof!  Thank heavens we brought the planters in or else they would have been grazed!!

Fresh milk anyone?

Finally the herd wandered off to the other side of the field and left us alone.  We had breakfast then took a stroll up into Lechlade to do a bit of shopping.  It is a lovely little village full of antique shops and pubs!  There was also a general store and a pharmacy so we managed to stock up on all the things we needed.  I had also spotted a post office and remembered that I had some cards to post but I hadn't brought them with me - doh!  So when we got back to the boat I quickly wrote my cards, stuck the stamps on and set off back up to the village to post them, leaving Clive wiping the cow-spit off the windows!  It didn't take me long but by the time I was crossing back over the bridge the cows had come back and the boat was surrounded - we had put the planters back on the roof ready to set off - eek!  As I was walking along the path back to the boat I could see Clive wafting his cloth at the cows trying to keep them away from the boat, fortunately they got the message and by the time I arrived at the boat they had all wandered off again.  I inspected the planters - all intact - phew!

Lechlade is even closer to Brize Norton than our previous moorings had been and there were still planes doing practice runs into the air base and they were flying right over our heads.   This one was so close and so low you could almost count the rivets!!

Lockheed L-1011 TriStar

We cast off and headed under the bridge then turned the boat around to go back the way we had come.  The end of the navigable Thames is only a short way further along from Lechlade so we couldn't have gone much further.  We continued retracing our steps and decided to try and get back to the lovely meadow moorings for one more night.  Whilst we had been moored there the other day Clive had spotted some Curlews in one of the meadows but he just couldn't get a photograph of one, I spotted one as we were cruising along and managed to get one reasonable shot but unfortunately you can't see his long curving beak!

Curlew in flight

We spent one more night at the meadows then after breakfast on Wednesday June 16th we reluctantly upped sticks and set off again.  It was a

lovely sunny day but there was a really strong, chilly wind and when the sun went behind a cloud we had to put our fleeces on then it would pop out again and we would be too warm and the fleeces would come off.  This went on for some time!  Finally we moored up in a spot we had used on the way down, just before Pinkhill Lock.  We had a lovely peaceful night.

This morning we got up, had breakfast and then set off.  It was to be our last day on the Thames.  We had a couple of locks to do on the way, neither of which were manned so I did the honours - oh well, it will get me into gear for the locks on the canal again!  A short time later we arrived at Duke's Cut.  This is a narrow, treelined watercourse which joins the Thames to the Oxford Canal.  We were very relieved that it was now clear as we had heard a few days ago that a tree had fallen across the channel, completely blocking it and British Waterways were having to come and clear it, fortunately they have done!  There is one little stop lock on this stretch and once through that and under a bridge we were onto the Oxford Canal where we turned left and there was another lock immediately.

So that is the end of our Thames odyssey.  We have really enjoyed ourselves.  Apart from some wonderful scenery, amazing castles and palaces we also got to see some lovely people too, cousin Graham, our niece Alison, husband Mike and little boy Harry and of course our good friend Stuart and his partner David.  I hope it isn't too long before we come back again.

So, onwards and upwards!  We are now embarking on the next stage of our journey, heading for East Anglia.  We would like to get somewhere near to Cambridge by the end of the first week of July - Clive has a dental appointment!!!  Also, our granddaughter Indeia will be over from America for the summer and we are really looking forward to seeing her.

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