I leave Lechlade in better weather on Wednesday. On the journey to Oxford good mooring spots are few and far between - certainly for a 54ft boat with a dog who will not use the plank but I find an unexpected (and unplanned) one at Rushey Lock. Engines are turned off while in locks on the Thames and mine refuses to start again. I have cover under my insurance policy for two free callouts per year from River Canal Rescue (RCR). It is getting late in the afternoon so I am not very hopeful of anyone coming out tonight but, because of trees, there is no way I can pull the boat back to the lock landing using a rope and it is too deep to pole the boat back. I am concerned I may have run out of deisel and the engineer who I speak to agrees to do the 3 hour round trip and bring some deisel just in case. A short while later there is a knock on the boat. It is the lock-keeper's wife (he is on long term sick leave) and she informs me the boat is in danger of tilting because I am only using the centre rope to secure the boat. This could happen if the lock emptied and the rope was tied too tight but I know I am OK because the lock has just been emptied (prior to the engine not starting) and refilled. She also informs me that I should be tied up with three rropes to avoid the danger of tilting - a statement which is factually incorrect. She also insists I telephone the Environment Agency emergency number to tell them I am stuck in the lock, even although I say the engineer will be here in less than an hour. I do phone but they are not particularly interested - no surprise there!
There is another cottage, apart from the lock-keepers, next to the lock and I get chatting to the friendly couple there while James amuses their two children. I discover there is a locked gate at the end of the one mile track leading to the main road and they agree to lend me their key to walk down and let the engineer in. He phones to say he is near and I go to the cottage to borrow the key. The man says he has been informed that, under the terms of his occupancy, he is not allowed to lend his key to anyone and, moreover should not open the gate for anyone else. However he is not going to leave me in the lurch and offers to drive me down to the gate to let the engineer in, then go back to let him out. My grateful thanks to him. I go in the car with him and ask if he had phoned the EA and he replies "No, I received a phone call telling me not to lend the key". The penny drops - it was the lock-keepers wife! It crosses my mind that she may be stressed by her husband's illness but I subsequently discover it is not serious. What a nasty piece of work and a very sad lady. She wanted me to remain stuck in the lock!
The very pleasant engineer starts the engine in no time - it was an air lock in the feed but we fill up with the diesel he has brought to ensure I can get to the next boatyard. I knew I was getting a bit low on diesel but did not know there was nowhere to buy any between Oxford and Lechlade (including Lechlade). Admittedly it is a very rural stretch with no roads close for much of the way - I should have consulted my guide beforehand.
|Not much room here!|
|And no moorings here|
With overhanging trees the river is surprisingly narrow in places with some very tight bends.
There is little or no internet signal until I get back near Oxford but the forecast for Thursday is good so I decide on a long days cruise.
The very pretty Pinkhill Lock. The blue sign says "self-service", which means there is no lock-keeper on duty and you have to operate the locks yourself. Despite being large they are easy to work and most are not very deep - Pinkhill is 3'6".
I arrive back at King's Lock, just before Oxford, where I moored 10 days ago and stay there for the next three nights, awaiting the better weather tomorrow (Sunday). I have not enjoyed the cruise up to Lechlade and back as much as I thought I would. Not helped by worries about James and the shortage of good mooring spots (and poor internet/phone signal).
9 miles; 4 large locksThursday
17 miles; 6 large locks
TOTAL: 412 miles; 232 locks (58 broad; 26 large; 7 lift bridges)