My friend Helen lives on a houseboat, which is convenient, since like a snail she can take her home with her. The other weekend she decided to use the boat to get to a wedding, and requested some company/help returning home the day after. I dutifully took my car to Moulsford, a beautiful village just south of Wallingford, and joined her on a lovely sunny day for the 18 mile trip back to Oxford. Since it is an upstream journey, and there are four locks, this would take us the next 6 hours.
Fortunately, the sun was shining, and Helen had organised various suitable items for lunch – sandwiches, wine, chilled beer – and so we gently pootled up river at at least 3.5 miles an hour (when the current wasn’t too strong). The nice thing about a mode of transport which really can’t get above 5 miles per hour is that it is perfectly acceptable form to have a small glass of wine whilst driving it.
Upstream locks make for particular fun; since you are entering from the bottom of the lock, the lock sides are often well above you! For two of the four locks, the sides were reachable by a reasonable leap from the roof of the moving boat in order to get ropes around the bollards. For the other two, we needed to aim for the steps at the centres of the lock. In one case this involved what was effectively a race between my ability to get up the steps (which faced downstream) in the opposite direction of travel to the boat, whilst getting to the top before i ran out of rope length and got yanked back down them – I just made it.
Travelling through oxfordshire on the Thames really makes you appreciate the beauty of the area – Oxfordshire is not renowned for exciting landscapes, but there are many beautiful ones, often containing old and rather large houses! There are also several beautiful bridges – for the railway to London and roads too.
So, in all I had a fantastic day, and when I eventually got a lift back home, it was in a convertible MG too. Fab fun, fab company, fab day!