Money for jam

Horse flies are a bastard. Rocking horse flies I have no problem with. Normal Aussie flies can be a pest but basically they’re okay. Horse flies on the other hand are a right pain. They have all the charm of a fly with added mosquito tendencies. I know because I was attacked by lots of them on our journey down river today. Fortunately they are quite slow and stupid so are easy prey to a good solid hand slap! Still, that doesn’t stop the itching.

As you can tell from the above paragraph, we didn’t go home. After the drama of yesterday our undisturbed sleep saw us looking at our holiday afresh. Mirinda thought it would be a shame to end it when Bob was so keen. I said things couldn’t really get worse without the addition of Somali pirates and, in fact, would improve.

Actually my sleep wasn’t exactly undisturbed. Being the fresh air freak I am, I had to sleep with the roof open, under the stars and a victim to anything thrown from the sky. And so it came to pass that I was suddenly woken up by a huge splat on the face. And, no, it wasn’t the well aimed droppings of some malevolent owl. It was a massive rain drop.

I was up and shoving the roof closed quicker than the drop could turn into the expected deluge. Incidentally, this was about the only time I could manage to close the roof quickly and easily. I guess Egeria was looking out for me.

But back to the beginning of the day. We woke, had tea and coffee then cereal before I went over to the pub to wait for Greg. Mirinda was being a bit non-committal depending on the result of his findings. This particular ‘he’ was the marine engineer coming out to help us. And what a lovely chap. Not only was he prompt and on time but he had a personality and was quite a jolly fellow. He brought along his apprentice who was a lad who knew what he wanted from life and was willing to work for it.

Greg realised the problem straight away. A few days ago, they had installed a new starter motor and the wrong sized connector had been used to power it. Of course it had worked loose and the starter motor wasn’t…well, starting. It took no time at all to fix the problem. In fact it took an awful lot longer pulling the boat to bits in order to get to the connector than it did fixing it.

Bob turned up just before our saviours left and joined in the general thanks. Greg and the apprentice left and we decided we’d give the boating lark another go. Well, Mirinda did. Bob didn’t actually know how close we were to an abandonment.

We made everything fast that needed to be, untied from the handy mooring and set off through Tadpole Bridge.

This is NOT Tadpole Bridge
This is NOT Tadpole Bridge

There’s something quite scary about going on a five day boating holiday with no access to electricity or the Internet or a smart phone. Actually, we sort of had access to a smart phone (or two) but a signal was far from ever guaranteed and we had to be careful of not using up the battery since recharging was going to present its own difficulties. Anyway, the whole Slow thing was quite scary for the first couple of days. Every time someone asked something, I’d reach for my phone to look it up.

Something I never had to look up and which we gradually became very adept at was the locks. Our team work became immaculate. With Bob at the wheel, we would pull into the moorings where I’d leap (actually ‘step’) onto the land and tie off the front of the boat (or back depending on the direction of the current). Mirinda would be ready to throw me the other rope and I’d secure Riverdance II before setting off for the lock.

All locks should be left locked and empty. This means the white ends of the poles need to be up on the wheels and the water level needs to be at the downstream, or lower, level. This makes life really easy for subsequent boats approaching the lock. It also means that you might get caught opening and closing the lock for every day tripper and foreign tourist coming along behind you. Not that I minded. In fact, I really enjoyed myself.

Anyway, once I had the lock gates open, I’d signal Bob and Mirinda and they’d bring the boat into the lock where I’d lock them in then start the process of equalising the water while they held the boat steady.

I’d release them back into the river then, eventually, join them at the mooring on the other side of the lock where they’d pulled in and waited for me. Like I said, it was a beautiful team effort which only improved over the five days. Well oiled, springs to mind.

Things were much improved mooring-wise on the second day as we pulled alongside the Thames Path just beyond the Rose Revived Inn at Newbridge. Funnily enough, Newbridge is actually the oldest bridge across the Thames. It was built by Benedictine monks in the 13th century. Fortunately Bob didn’t know this when he was motoring under it.

The name of the pub is interesting. Rumour has it that Cromwell had a pint there and placed the empty tankard on top of a rose. I don’t know why. Perhaps he didn’t like roses. After he left, the rose sprung up, completely revived. So they named the pub accordingly. I realise most people would love that to be true.

Cromwell drank here
Cromwell drank here

When Cromwell supposedly visited, it was called the Fayre Inn because there were fairs there twice a year. Then, in the 1750’s it was called the Rose before becoming the Rose and Crown. By the mid 19th century the rose legend cropped up and so…I rather expect that it was called the Rose Revived because some new owners decided to get rid of the ‘Crown’ in the name and return to the earlier ‘Rose’ and used the romantic story to give it a bit of mystic lore.

These days it serves a lovely lunch, has a very popular B&B and has been beautifully renovated. The only thing it lacks, if you ask me, is some proper moorings along the bank that runs beside the beer garden. The willows might need a bit of a trim but it would make life a lot easier for boating visitors and look terribly inviting. It would also allow access to the pub that bypasses any nettle attacks.

As it was, we parked up quite a distance away from the pub just by a very handy patch of nettles. Mooring was a lot easier than yesterday (we managed in one go and without a friendly, helpful stranger on the bank) and we were soon on our way to the pub for a few beers and lunch.

Finally we returned to the boat and headed further downstream, stopping for a cup of tea and a slice of pound cake at Northmoor Lock. The pound cake was such a good idea. I baked it the day before we left thinking a good, solid fruit cake would be perfect along the river as it wouldn’t get stale. It also felt rather English. Anyway, it proved very popular and should be on everyone’s list to pack for boating.

[Speaking of lists, we have started one for things that need to be packed before a boating trip…things we actually forgot this time. So far this list includes: insecticide that kills horseflies, tea towel, flannel, fairy liquid, scrubbies, a first aid kit for the stupid things Gary does to himself…and the list continues to be compiled…]

We arrived at our next destination, Eynsham, without any difficulties or hassles to speak of. Well, apart from the narrow boat that had managed to take up every single public mooring because it was so ridiculously long. We weren’t angry for long. We simply parked up and headed up to the Talbot Inn for dinner. It was on the bridge that we discovered the oddest toll booth and collection system I think I’ve ever seen.

There has been a toll on Swinford Bridge since it was built in 1769. It is privately owned and built by the Earl of Abingdon. Following an Act of Parliament, he was allowed to collect tolls (tax free) from anyone crossing it. Up until 1835, pedestrians also had to pay but now it’s just vehicles.

The bridge went up for sale in 2009 and was purchased for £1.08m and the toll is still collected. While the amount of money can only be called insignificant, the queues created by the traffic having to stop and start continuously throughout the day are monumental. It infuriated Bob while I just thought it was incredibly funny.

The tolls, which are not taxed because some long dead king said so, are: 5p for cars, 12p for single decker buses, 20p for double decker buses, 10p for vehicles towing caravans or trailers, and 10p an axle for lorries. The tolls were raised in 1994 from 2p for cars. That’s a good thing! I can imagine that Bob would have been even unhappier if he thought people were stopping and giving the toll collector a copper coin for the privilege of crossing to the other side of the bridge.

Not sure what they'd do if people just drove through
Not sure what they’d do if people just drove through

Furthermore, the Act states that no river crossing can be built three miles up or downstream from the bridge thus keeping all the money exclusively in the owner’s pocket. It makes for some horrendous traffic not helped by the Earl of Abingdon not making the bridge very wide. It gets a bit scary when two buses pass in opposite directions. We had Mirinda constantly forcing our elbows in, out of the way of wing mirrors.

After a beer or two, served by a barmaid from Coffs Harbour, Bob checked into his B&B for tonight and we all strolled up to the lovely little town of Eynsham where Bob’s favourite abbey is situated. We were in the church yard of the local church when I came across an information board. It showed the former location of the abbey. I was standing in the middle. Bob was ecstatic as there was absolutely nothing left of it.

We found a Co-op open and bought up the things we’d forgotten to bring and then headed back to the Talbot for dinner. It was over dinner that Bob offered us his room at the B&B – Mirinda had already had a shower in it – but, to his concealed delight, we flat out refused.

It was a much happier night aboard Riverdance II.

This entry was posted in Boating 2016, Gary's Posts. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Money for jam

  1. Mum Cook says:

    All is getting better that is good as you will all remember the best things now instead of the bad. That pub was great and your right wish we could have done that for our ROSE I knew what you ment, So interesting I feel as if I am there but don’t want the Horse Flies thank you..Love mum xxxxxx

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