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  • clivenmel

March 29th

Normal 0 false false false st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} We finally left Abingdon today - well we had to really as it was a 5 day max mooring and today would have been our 6th if we had stayed!  We were quite sorry to leave really, it was a lovely place.   About half an hour after we said farewell to Abingdon we arrived at the Culham Lock.  Once again there was a lock-keeper to do all the work, all I have to do is hold the centre line to ensure the boat doesn't drift out into the middle of the lock, Clive also holds the boat on the stern line.   Almost immediately after leaving the lock we passed under the Sutton Bridge and when I looked back I just had to take a photo, it was just like a picture postcard - so pretty don't you think?   The next lock was Clifton Lock - only a small one at 3' 5"!  Just after we left this lock Clive saw a small hawk, which he thinks maybe a hobby. I managed to get a photo but it was quite high up and it is difficult to make out the detail; colour etc but you can at least see the shape of the wings and tail.   Whilst we were cruising along the river Clive needed to pop inside for a few minutes so he handed me the tiller.  For once I wasn't too nervous at the thought of being in charge of the boat - the Thames after all is very big and wide and there was little likelihood of me hitting anything or running into the bank so I actually enjoyed myself, so much so that when Clive came back up on deck I didn't want to give it him back!  So he left me to it for a while and enjoyed being able to bird-spot with his telescope and take sneaky pictures of me at the helm! In this picture I look rather nervous or something but in actual fact I was totally engrossed watching yet another Red Kite!  They are as common as muck down here!   We must have seen at least a dozen today, sometimes in pairs and sometimes in a threesome, having a bit of a scrap as they were soaring above us.  They are absolutely wonderful to watch, however I won't bore you with any more photographs of them in the blog!  Talking of photos, I was quite horrified this evening when I downloaded the photographs from the camera to find that between us we had actually taken 108 pictures today!  I normally take up to about 20!   I just couldn't resist snapping away each time we saw a Kite, Grebe, Cormorant - talking of which we saw a tree with a load of these lovely birds roosting in it - here are a couple.  I find it strange seeing Cormorants so far from the sea! As we came through the Clifton Lock the lock-keeper had informed us that there was an event going on a little further along the river at Day's Lock.  Sure enough as we approached the lock we could see crowds of people on the bank and clustered on the bridge, including one man holding one of those big fluffy microphones and another guy with a TV camera.    Now you might ask yourself, what could be going on here? Well you could be forgiven for not guessing what they are up to, we were amazed when the lock-keeper told us what to expect - however as we passed under the bridge and looked back, all was revealed - it was the World Pooh-Sticks Competition!!!  Can you believe it!   The history of this event goes back to 1984 when the then lock-keeper of Day's Lock,  decided to hold an event to raise money for the R.N.L.I. about which he was very passionate.  He got the idea after watching a couple of people playing pooh sticks on the bridge one day.  The event has been running annually ever since and people from all over the world come and take part.  After he himself retired the organisation of the event was taken over by the local Rotary Club but they too have had enough and this year it has been run by a newly formed Oxford Rotary Club.  Lets hope they raised lots of money.  If you are interested in finding out more about it, check out their website: www.pooh-sticks.com   We had a bit of a hairy moment as we were passing under the bridge, they all started yelling and jumping up and down to warn us that there was a line straight across the river (the finish line!).  Fortunately Clive had seen it and throttled back just in time to give the guys chance to lift the line - it just missed our chimney and we had to duck as we went under it!   One of the things that has enthralled us coming down this stretch of the Thames are the riverside houses - some of them are absolutely spectacular.  One that we passed this morning is called Shillingford Court - stunning!   Now we had assumed that the people that live around these parts were rather well heeled, judging by the gorgeous houses we were passing but we had quite a surprise as we passed the Shillingford Bridge Hotel, which was just a little further along the river from the above house.  The carpark was absolutely brimming with Rolls Royces!!  There were loads of them - however we deduced that it wasn't just ladies what do lunch out in their Rollers but some sort of Rolls Royce rally.  But oh my goodness, what a wonderful collection of cars, from the very old to the very new.   We had decided to stop for diesel at a marina in Benson, however as we approached it we couldn't see anywhere to pull in at all.  We could see the diesel pump but there were pleasure boats moored up right in front of it.  Clive did contemplate trying to reverse in but the problem is that again we are on a flowing river here and in the end he decided that we would most likely crush about three of these "plastic" boats, which could prove to be a bit expensive!  We aren't desperate for diesel anyway at the moment.   We had heard that the next town, Wallingford, was very pretty and well worth a visit.  According to our map book there are some visitor moorings just before the bridge which incur a fee and some free visitor moorings just after the bridge, so being Yorkshire folk and always thrifty we decided to head for the free moorings - there weren't any!  None at all, so somebody has got it wrong somewhere!  So we turned around (dead easy on the big broad Thames!) and went back under the bridge and moored up right outside a pub which had very kindly proved rings for the purpose! The proper moorings which you have to pay for were just beyond the pub but there wasn't really any room for us - two large Dutch barges and one narrowboat were moored up and the only bit of mooring left was actually higher than our roof - we didn't fancy that!  So, we popped into the pub for a drink and to enquire whether it would be possible for us to remain on their mooring - the answer was no!  It seems that their insurance wouldn't cover an overnight mooring.  The reason being that if the river were to flood in the night they could end up with a boat in the bar!!!  Its a shame really, we would have quite liked to explore Wallingford.  We had passed the ruins of an ancient castle on the way in and as you can see from the picture there is a very pretty church with an amazingly thin spire - I would have liked to have seen more of it.  Oh well.   So, after our drink (mine was soft by the way!) we cast off, turned around again and headed back under the bridge and set out to find a decent mooring spot - not easy!  That is one thing about the canal, you can moor up just about anywhere you can get in.  On the Thames it's a bit different, there are lots of places you aren't allowed to moor because they are at the bottom of people's gardens, or they are private moorings or they just aren't suitable because they aren't straight!  We actually thought we had found one spot but just as we were tying her up a man came out of his house and started waving his arms about and shouting "PRIVATE" - so we had to move on again.   Whilst we were looking for the mooring we couldn't help but notice this house - a bit different don't you think? Anyway, it all worked out in the end because we found a beautiful mooring on the right bank, away from houses etc and best of all its Red Kite territory - they have been flying around very near to us ever since we moored up - lovely.  We are just a little way up from the Cleeve Lock.  On our map there is a notice which says "sailing" - we weren't quite sure what to expect here, however a little while after we moored up I looked up ahead and saw, sure enough, a sail!  There must be a yacht club or something near the lock.   Lovely as this place is I think we will move on tomorrow.

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