...or, “This is Oxford, and you're welcome to it”!
It rained heavily on and off during the night. I wouldn't have known, had it not been for the frequent passage of railway trains throughout the night, on tracks just tens of meters away from the boat. So I didn't get much sleep. Fortunately, Grace slept fine. Wednesday morning brought clear blue skies and warm sunshine, so, after a half-successful shopping trip to the local Londis, we cruised on into Oxford.
It turned out that we had made the very best choice of mooring the evening before, for the bank along the towing path continued to be totally unusable because of excessive reeds and rushes, or severe deterioration – and often both. The only half decent places were designated Long Term mooring, or “Agenda 21”, a local authority response to shortage of affordable accommodation in Oxford, and mostly looking very slummy. The only decent visitor moorings came another mile further on, after bridge 240. And the frequent signs said, “Welcome to Oxford”. The funny side of it was that other signs generously offered 24-hour mooring in a number of places where no-one in their right minds would dream even of attempting it!
The last two miles into Oxford look and feel generally neglected and run down, despite the fact that some pleasant, no doubt expensive, houses flanked parts of it. Finally, we arrived at Isis Lock, the end of the Oxford Canal, surprisingly still some distance from the heart of the city. Boats over 50 foot long were unable to wind (turn around) without first passing down through this shallow lock onto the River Thames, there to turn around, re-enter the lock, ascend, and return back up the canal, out of Oxford. We had not been impressed, and could think of no reason to stay even for a short while.
The weather all the while had been fine, but this changed now, and we had a number of squally showers from which we could not escape, owing to the absence of anywhere to moor up for a while. We needed to press on and find somewhere pleasant to moor for the night, so we simply had to carry and on and get very wet. But even then, a warm sun broke through from time to time, making us and Kantara steam.
We were a little alarmed to come across NB Jorja, a boat we had seen several times over the past months, moored at the stern, but drifting her bow out across the canal and almost blocking it. There was no-one aboard, and the bow mooring pin had been pulled out of the very wet and soft ground, probably by the passing of another boat. I boarded her from Kantara, retrieved the rope and pin, and pulled her back to the bank while Grace took Kantara on to where she could moor safely, and came back to me with a mallet which I used to re-pin the bow. We left, hoping that this new mooring would last until the crew returned.
We arrived at Thrupp just as the skies opened again, and moored up at a good spot just across the road from the cottages. It was getting late, we were tired and achy, and were glad to take the opportunity to enjoy an evening meal at The Boat Inn just at the end of the road.