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 ...

Friday 6 August 2010

Abbey life, England's past and a photo of a Kingfisher! Yaay!

Our travels recently have taken us to a number of Abbeys dotted along the Thames from the days of the French Pilgrims, and spookily I've been reading Joanne Harris's book called 'Holy Fools' which I'd picked up on a book swap from the launderette at Braunston Marina - it's coincidentally set in 17th century France and much of it is based around Abbey life.  Once again I'm struck by how little knowledge I have of English history and picked up more gems on Thursday when we visited Dorchester and its Abbey.

P1300421 Walking the path through the corn fields to Dorchester - under a rather ominous sky

Dorchester sits close to the confluence of the rivers Thame and Thames, and was a centre of Saxon Christianity.  The village is delightful, with houses, just a few shops, three pubs and a Co-op store, and the restored Abbey taking pride of place.  



             Flint ingrained brick cottage from 1715                                 Old converted pub


'Thatchers Cottage' - almost chocolate box perfect



Main street of Dorchester with the Fleur De Lys pub, circa 1520






A rather unusual corner building which used to be Dorchester's Missionary College










The White Hart Hotel on Dorchester's High Street






This little High Street house is only about eight feet wide - it must be rather compact inside








   A thatched cob wall - haven't seen one of these before              The side door to the abbey

Within the Abbey there are once again fascinating timelines of England and I was astounded to realise that much of English life was ruled by Abbeys for around 400 years, from the 12th to the 16th century when Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of the Monasteries.  Incredible to think that this accounts for about 7 generations!  It certainly makes me relieved I didn't live in the middle ages, there's a high chance I'd have been burnt at the stake as a witch as I really don't think I could bear the confines of a secular society, try as I might I've never been able to believe in a 'God'-like presence watching me and to whom I should ask for forgiveness daily if I step slightly out of line or have a bit of fun. 

At the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, Dorchester's church building was saved from destruction by wealthy landowner Richard Beauforest, who bought it for £140 and subsequently left it to the village in his will.

On our visit to the museum in Abingdon, we saw an exhibition about the Puritans which I also found incredible - what stark and dismal lives they led, wearing only black and white or grey and not taking any pleasure from life as they were hoping for redemption in the next life if they lived this one purely.  After years of thinking I may be a little odd not to 'believe', I finally found my personal 'niche' in Humanism, where their belief is that it's highly unlikely there's another life after this one which frees me up to enjoy this one to the full!



The breathtaking Abbey interior, with crocheted kneeling cushions each with an individual design














Candle chandelier and the People's Chapel which has an original restored 14th century wall-painting of a crucifixion




P1300494A Tombstones at the abbey with the rickety 'thatched cottage' in the background


The old Toll House at the end of the road - one of the earliest roads to become a toll road due to its location on the main road from Gloucester, and the Oxford to London route



The bridge over the River Thame, which runs south east of Dorchester





 A resplendent roses round the door cottage


Another aspect of the converted pub alongside an ivy covered house 



Along the footpath to Dorchester there's what looks like a heavily furrowed field but is actually a Celtic settlement and a rare example of a pre-Roman town, called the Dyke Hills

Having got up late and mooched around Dorchester for so long, we finally set off mid-afternoon down the Thames, heading to Goring.

P1300524A Another view of poohsticks bridge past Day's Lock

Though the time was well spent, we think we may've stayed too long in Abingdon, as there's not enough time now to visit the other places along the way!  But we're aware we can't see everything, so although Wellingford looked and sounded splendid, we didn't have time to stop as it was already after 1700hrs when we travelled through ...

 P1300534A  How about this one for a des res?



    So many beautiful boathouses along the Thames ...          and a river swimmer - how brave!


 Skirting through Wallingford with many a backward glance ...


to Wallingford Bridge - 17 arches, only 5 over the river, originally built around 1141, rebuilt in 1809 and has a Bridge Chamberlain appointed annually 



 And yet more boathouses


 A little sunshine every now and again lit up the way


 Moulsford Railway Bridge - built by Brunel



 Hurrah!  Barry managed to get a Kingfisher photo!


 Cruisers for hire





More amazing homes ... 







and a rather ostentatious riverside property just past Wallingford - it'd look more at home in NZ's Art Deco capital, Napier, than here - bizarre!




Ploughing a very dry and dusty field

Approaching Goring we could feel the wealth oozing from the properties, and weren't surprised to learn from the lock-keeper that George Michael has a home not far from Goring Lock.  We'd travelled to the lock hoping for one of the few Environment Agency moorings down river, but they were understandably all taken by the time we got there.

We turned around and managed to get a mooring, but not such a lucky one as the previous night's, as it entailed a rather precarious walk of the plank to disembark, and was so close to bunches of nettles that we had to close windows or they may've invaded the boat.  There was a notice saying there'd be a charge of £4 but no-one came to collect so that was a bonus.

P1300603A  Not sure if this is a residence with a boathouse underneath, or just a boat's house? 


 Approaching Goring Lock




The weir at Goring - straddled by gangs of geese







No moorings after Goring Lock, so we turned back around without going in 





 Another spectacular home

On Friday we'll visit Goring and see if it's really so gorgeous, especially if George is around - he's one of my favourite artists, despite his misdemeanours (or maybe in spite of them bless him!).


Spot the poppy!


  1. say hello to George if he is at home! His house is down the first lane on the right as you come over the bridge, before the churchyard, his garden is right on the riverside, he has been seen by some boaters we have been told!!

  2. I got a sense of deja vue reading the last few entries! Our whistlestop tour didn't really to the area justice.

  3. Dorchester:
    "This little High Street house is only about eight feet wide - it must be rather compact inside". Until c. 1985 it certainly was, being just two rooms, one up, one down. Since extended and wider at the back, wrapping around the house next door as many Dorchester houses do. Great pics, thank you.
    (The owner).