Narrowboat AREandARE

From the 2009 & 2010 tantalising tales, traumas and stunning photographs of Barry (photographer) and Sandra (writer) from New Zealand aboard NB 'Northern Pride', to the stories of their 2013 return journey, purchase of 'AREandARE', progress on sustaining their live aboard continuous cruiser lifestyle, and Barry's quest to gain residency and 'Indefinite Leave to Remain' in UK ...

Saturday 31 July 2010

A spot of shopping in Oxford

It was another short trip day on Friday of about three miles and one lock to return to the city of Oxford.  The Thames flows in the far west side of the city outskirts, with the Oxford Canal hugging the sidelines - the two then finally almost merge at the end of the cut, where you enter the Thames via Isis Lock.  All the way from Godstow on the east-side there's a huge expanse of meadowland and a nature park - it's quite surreal considering there's such a large city just across the other side of the canal which almost acts as a boundary marker up to the railway station and centre.


Cows and horses mingle on Port Meadow, with the outskirts of Oxford in the background



Kim and Sandra at the stern                    Bossom's Boatyard and Medley Footbridge

We were lucky to get a prime mooring spot just past Osney Bridge where you can moor for 24 hrs freely, after that it'll cost you £5 per night up to 72 hours, and then should you be still around you'll be landed with £75 (or was it £25?!).


Moored up just past Osney Bridge, a short walk from the city centre

We're taking it slowly as we've arranged to meet with Helen and Andy (aka Captain Ahab) of Wand'ring Bark fame on Sunday in Abingdon, and Kim confirmed that she's staying with us until Sunday morning so we don't want to leave Oxford before then.  We also wish to make the most of our fifteen day Thames license that doesn't run out until 7 August, so will be relishing each expensive day.  The funny thing is that if we'd been staying in a hotel in Oxford, the £93.50 we paid for the privilege of being on the Thames would've been swallowed up in one night - that certainly puts it into perspective when we can moor up for free!

Kim and I took a walk into town to have a bit of girlie time.  There's a large Primark (or Primarni as Kim calls it!) store which we mooched around and purchased a few 'essential', and very cheap, items! 

I'd been wanting to visit the Museum of the History of Science to check out their exhibition by the philosopher and author Alain de Botton, along with photographs by Richard Baker, titled 'The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work'.  Maybe I'm looking for some inspiration for my future career which I'm hoping won't involve midwifery at some point in the not too distant future!  However we feel about it, our work tends to define who we are and/or how people see us, and after 23 years I've reached a point where I only continue in the profession to earn money rather than gaining much satisfaction from it, and for me that's just not sufficient.  Anyway, there were some very poignant, thought-provoking photos and text on display and I look forward to reading the book ('cos I asked Kim for it for my birthday, lol!), though I'm no closer to knowing what the future holds in that regard ...

Back to reality and we then had to do yet another grocery shop at Sainsbury's to fill up with goodies, while Barry had a ride in on his bike to carry the bags back to the boat.  Of course along the way he took a couple of photos - actually I'm very impressed that he only shot two scenes, he must be almost Oxford-ed out!

P1290808A  P1290813

Punts on the River Cherwell discovered by Barry on his bike ride into Oxford

Back at the mooring there was hardly an inch of space left, and Barry was excited to see a couple of 'famous' working boats nearby, from the Candle Bridge Carrying Company ...





Narrowboats Archimedes and Ara






Possibly cheating and we've previously posted a sunflower - but it's Sandra's favourite flower!

Friday 30 July 2010

Back once again to Morse's Oxford

On Thursday we tootled back to the west side of Oxford as we were actually craving some civilisation again after almost a week of remoteness.  Along the way we moored up as close as possible to a small place called Farmoor as we needed some milk or I'd not get my afternoon cup of tea which would never do!  Barry wanted to walk around the large Reservoir there, but unfortunately there's no public access.



Barry gets up close to some cygnets and the "Grey Lady" boat leaves her mooring in front of us


 Approaching Northmoor Lock







A wonderful windmill stands desolately in a field








It was just a short walk to the one shop at Farmoor which luckily sold milk - and also seemed to stock a vast range of South African meat, how peculiar!  One must conclude that the owners originate there, but why would you go to all the trouble of having supplies brought in from so far away when you're in England - I wonder if the local residents appreciate it - maybe there's a community of South Africans living in the area?

We walked back to the boat along the nature reserve surrounding the reservoir, enjoying sights of pretty butterflies and wild flowers, then sat in the afternoon sunshine with a cup of tea and home-made blueberry muffins - it's such a tough life!


 The reservoir at Farmoor










Sandra and Kim resting up after a long walk to Farmoor and back to the boat


 P1290660 A quick stop at Oxford Cruisers marina for diesel and some 'loo blue' (@ £14.99 - rather pricey!) 


  Moored boats at the marina


 Snakelike meandering river


 Approaching Swinford




Side hatches are ideal for duck feeding




Another trip under the toll bridge at Swinford

Continuing on we eventually moored up right next to the ruins of Godstow Abbey not far from Lower Wolvercote.  The Abbey has an interesting history:

  • It was built on what was then an island between streams running into the River Thames;
  • The site was given to the foundress Edith, widow of Sir William Launceline in 1133, by John of St John (!) and built in local limestone in honour of  St Mary and St John the Baptist for nuns of the Benedictine Order;
  • The church was consecrated in 1139;
  • Henry II gave the nun's funds for many things, probably due to the fact that his mistress Rosamund Clifford was buried there;
  • Following the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, it was converted into Godstow House by George Owen and occupied by his family until 1645, when the building was badly damaged in the Civil War;
  • Following the damage, the building fell into disrepair and was used by the locals as a source of stone for their buildings; 
  • During the 19th and 20th centuries, it was used for collecting livestock during the annual rounding up of animals on Port Meadow;
  • In Victorian times, Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) brought Alice Liddell (aka Alice in Wonderland) and her sisters, Edith and Lorina, for river trips and picnics at Godstow.

A selection of Abbey images ...




Barry shot off on his bike in search of some tonic water and soda, to mix with the gin and vodka on the boat, but alas after being away for over half an hour returned empty handed. The petrol station he found had every other drink imaginable - doesn't anyone around here drink gin?!

Ah well, he managed to take a few photos on his travels ...


 The Thames widens out considerably after Godstow Lock


The huge area of flood plains stretching to Oxford is perfect for walking the dog (and child!)


 A hire boat enters Godstow Lock - the abbey ruins can be seen in the background




Another boat-full of pirates, though mini versions this time 




P1290767   Wytham Village - cars and signs should be banned from spoiling such 'chocolate box' village scenes

Across Godstow Bridge is The Trout Inn, a very popular 17th century public house where you can sit out by the river, so of course it would've been rude for us not to visit the establishment and we went later in the evening to find it absolutely packed - well we though it was but the barman from Sydney said it was a quiet night considering that on Sundays it gets so busy there's standing room only.  The Inspector Morse television series was filmed here a number of times and they proudly display photographs of each series on their walls.

We didn't stay too late, just a couple of drinks each - it gets mighty expensive tasting the local ale in each place and we'll be running out of funds if we're not careful in the not too distant future!  So it was back to the boat for another game of cards in the week's tournament ...

On Friday we'll be heading into Oxford itself for yet more grocery shopping (oh for the luxury of a large fridge and deep freeze!) and another explore (or possibly a bit of a girlie shop!) before Kim leaves us either Saturday or Sunday.

P1290646A Scotch Thistle and hoverfly silhouetted against the very dry grass


Thursday 29 July 2010

Flowery conundrums solved by blog readers

We've had a couple of emails from readers informing us as to the names of a few of the most recent flower pictures - it's certainly educational to discover what they're called.

Val, a lady we met on our travels last year, gave us the following answers:

  • The flower from the post of 23 July titled "These are just astounding - any offers?" is a Sea Holly/Eryngium, and you can find out more if you click here
  • The one from the post of 24 July that "Looks foxglove-like, but suspect it isn't!" has a very unusual name - Bear’s Breeches/Acanthus click here for more details.

Dave, from Leicestershire, told us that the beautiful flowers on the  post from 25 July "These are truly stunning, wonder what they're called?" are called 'Echinops' or 'Globe Thistle' and says he has some in his garden that he bought from Mary Arden's House in Stratford which we visited last year and you can see on our blog post in May 2009.

Thanks Dave and Val!

Wednesday was another gentle day - Kim's been working her little heart out as a teacher and has recently broken up for the holidays, though she's still working for some of them so the plan was to give her a good break, and of course on a narrowboat it's the fastest way to slow down!  Before we left our rural mooring at Kelmscott, the lady on a punt cruised by us and moored up so Barry asked if it was OK to take a photo - how on earth does she not fall in the river standing on the back of the boat?  She was very slim so I suspect that helps, if I got on the back at the moment I reckon it'd capsize - I really must stop eating naughty foods and get off onto the towpath once we're on the Kennet and Avon to get some exercise!

P1290417 Our mooring early on an eerie morning, nestled in the river bank at Kelmscott ...

P1290419A with other boats nearby sharing the ghostly mist


Awesome - Barry was up and about while Kim and Sandra slept 

P1290459A Far from the madding crowds here


The haze dissolved into a clear sky day




Some neighbours take their morning refreshment from the Thames












P1290497 Punting perfected

This stretch of the Thames from Oxford to Lechlade is so rural it can be a tad monotonous at times, just broken with the attractive locks, and with all the villages close by being set away from the river.  Obviously this was planned in case of flooding, but from what we've seen the floods here are minimal compared to other rivers such as the Avon or the Ouse, with the last big one being over a hundred years ago and even that was only around a foot from what we can make out by the markings! 

P1290507 How's this for rest and recuperation?



Packing them into the lock - a cruiser, Northern Pride and an Anglo Welsh hire boat along with a labradoodle and Jack Russell!


Kim checks out the Easter Island topiary at Radcot Lock

Luckily there's an array of public houses very near to the water, and we took advantage of one mooring just past Tadpole Bridge and managed to get a drink at The Trout Inn (there's three pubs of that name just along this stretch of the river!) before they closed for the afternoon at 1500hrs.  It looked like a smashing place with a very tasty looking menu - though you're recommended to phone up to book a table AND a mooring place as they only have space for two narrowboats.






Sandra & Kim absorbing some rays outside the Trout Inn




P1290532-Panorama1 Kim holds onto the front rope at Rushey Lock

P1290539A Tadpole Bridge by the Trout Inn

P1290561 Last lock of the day at Shifford

It was then back to Newbridge where we managed to moor in the same place as on our previous visit, to go the Rose Revived Inn as we'd noticed they have a selection of vegetarian food for Kim - fortuitously we moored again away from effluent stream, at no cost, hurrah!

P1290573 The setting sun reflects on the water, with The Maybush illuminated across the bridge

After a pleasant meal - two for the price of one for Barry and I - we ventured across the bridge to the Maybush which was amazingly empty while the previous establishment had been packed - we wonder how some pubs make any money at all?  And what makes one popular and another hard to attract people?  Previously we've said it's the people working in the establishments that can make or break them, but in the case of these two pubs we haven't been able to come up with an answer as they're both lovely and welcoming - maybe it's as simple as having a meal deal?

P1280272AA single purple poppy surrounded by seed pods

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Chilling with Kim in Buscot and Kelmscott

Early on Monday morning we heard a knock on the roof of the boat which turned out to be the local landowner demanding £4 for staying overnight on his 'land' (funny that, thought we were on water, lol!) - after a heated debate about the legality of this as there was absolutely nothing to advertise that we'd be charged (Barry used the word 'entrapment' at one stage!), we paid up and decided to find another spot to moor - goodness me, we've already paid £93.50 for the privilege of being on the River Thames for 14 days - we're going to have to be more careful about where we choose our stopovers!

Travelling to collect Kim from Oxford, I caught the first number 64 bus out of Lechlade at 0910hrs taking me to Carterton and then had a quick change to the S2 into Oxford where I collected my glasses from Specsavers - not sure how I'm going to get on with them as I'm not too keen on varifocals but was persuaded to give them another go by the optician, and the sunglasses really don't seem to be the same ones I'd ordered almost two weeks ago - I wish I'd never bothered updating my spectacles now, it's turned into a bit of a nightmare!


 Swan sign in Lechlade - how cute!

Ah well, I walked to Sarah's and had a coffee with her before Kim arrived, parked up outside her house and we then returned to Oxford, had some lunch, then got the buses back to Lechlade where we had the most delicious fish and chip supper from 'Monica's Plaice' on the High Street, run by a delightful family from Madeira.  Barry had found a 'free' mooring at The New Inn, so he'd had a pint at lunchtime and it would've been rude for us not to return and have another drink in the evening - so we did!

There were a number of extremely tame swans that came to visit us, and a lady from Oxford moored up alongside us in her punt - incredibly she travels along the Thames in this small boat and sleeps the night in there with her covers over - how exciting, but also how brave!



 A feeding frenzy - and a bit of swan upping!



      Is this my best side?                                   Feed me first please ...  


 I'll try this lovely lady in her punt then P1290247A

 A magnificent evening light magnifies the reflections on the river ...


 while the sun pokes his head out and lightens the scene a little on Northern Pride


 The church spire dominates the sky-line of Lechlade ...


 and later the sun peeks through once more to illuminate the cloud formations






 Monica's Plaice serves us some mean fish and chips - and curry sauce - yum! 






                        The church again ...                                              and a very old Post Box

Kim is now with us until Saturday which is fabulous, as we weren't expecting her until August.  We'll be chilling all the way back to Oxford ready to meet up with Captain Ahab and his motley crew on Sunday in Abingdon!  Goodness me, what a fun life we're having; never a dull moment!

On Tuesday Kim and I had a stroll into Lechlade and visited the Christmas Shop - how bizarre to have only a few shops and one of them sells xmas goodies all year round!  I said to the woman in the shop that she must get fed-up of xmas - "Oh no," she said, "I love it!"  She must be crazy!


The swans came back to visit Kim on Tuesday for more bread and loving!

Our first stop was at Buscot where we'd seen a National Trust property, Buscot Park so thought we'd take a walk there - the only problem was that as usual we'd picked the wrong day to visit as the house wasn't open Mondays and Tuesdays, and the gardens didn't open until 1400hrs.  So we moored rather precariously at the National Trust picnic site called 'Cheese Wharf', and walked a mile or so to Buscot village where we found a path to the weir and sat on the grass and had a picnic lunch - very pleasant.






After lunch we walked to Buscot Lock where this watery figure watches over the boaters - he was originally found at the source of the Thames 








    A residence in Buscot                                   A walking visit to Buscot Lock



                 Sandra and Kim chill at the lock ...                        watching the lock-keeper work


 Some of the sights seen on our stroll back to the boat





Our next stop was only another couple of miles along, to Kelmscott, where we moored for the night.  We're getting used to mooring up at random places now - so long as it's not too shallow and we can get close enough to the bank, even if we have to put a plank across, it's a case of grabbing anything remotely suitable.  Another walk transpired to check out Kelmscott and it's attractions, which turned into one pub and a few houses - apparently there's just 100 inhabitants here but it has the most delightful pub called 'The Plough' which has a very salubrious restaurant decorated with fairy lights and elm tree branches woven across the room.

After a drink sitting in the pub gardens we had a walk around the village, famous for Kelmscott Manor where William Morris lived from 1871 until his death in 1896.  We'd have visited the house but it was only open on a Wednesday (!) and costs £8.50 entrance fee, it's not National Trust or English Heritage unfortunately.



 Walking into Kelmscot



 The Plough at Kelmscot


 Chilling in the pub garden


 Not sure what's going on here - maybe Sandra's just snatching a precious hug?!


 A taste of Kelmscot - isn't it gorgeous?



 Time stands still in the village - no rushing here 


 Unusual upright stone walls


 You wouldn't want to take the wrong turn and end up in this field!

P1290378 Our mooring for the  night

P1290381 Kim relaxing in the sunshine at the bow



Not such a friendly swan - this one growled and barked aggressively intermittently at Kim from the time we stopped until we left

We had another quiet evening on the boat playing Barry's card game - six-handed rummy.  We have a tournament in progress until Kim leaves to see who wins by then, making the most of having an extra person on board as we can't play it with only two people.

It's wonderful to have almost six days with Kim, we see each other far too rarely so will make the most of our time together.


 One of the great things about such isolation - the sky is so huge, especially at night


It's a fuschia, I know this one!!!