The weather was fair and the hour early when we cruised away from Abingdon on the River Thames. Our goal for the day was to arrive at Wallingford and moor up around noon. Things would not be going to our plans.
Not even out of Abingdon the steering felt wrong to Alan. We were far enough along the river to no longer have moorings we could pull into but we had to find somewhere. We found a small boating club mooring designed for tiny plastic boats so we pulled up as gently as possible so that I could hold the rope while Alan cleared the weed hatch. The weed hatch is where one can access the prop to clear debris. There was a fair amount of fishing line wound around the prop. Now that this had been cleared we were heading back down the river.
The weather chose not to stay fair. In fact it drizzled on us most of the morning. Alan did most of the helming while I got things done inside only to pop my head out for locks on the whole. Drizzle mixed with cool weather is not my cup of tea. The idea though was that Alan would helm in the morning and we would be moored by lunchtime as he needed to work as well.
We were approaching Wallingford so I took the helm so Alan could find a spot to moor and be able to jump off easily to help pull us in. The drizzle turned to a light shower. We approached the first bit of public moorings and Alan couldn’t decide if the space was big enough to we moved on. Then we saw another spot but he was still undecided so we missed that spot too. The heavens opened and the rain became drenching with me in just a hoodie.
We went under the bridge with the plan to find a wild mooring for the night. The rain still pouring down. The sides had long grass, trees, and at places high sides. Alan was not happy to try anywhere. I was freezing and unhappy. Alan came and took the helm again as I went inside to get my wet clothes off and warm up. We cruised on.
After several more miles and as the weather improved back to nice, we were aiming at a mooring listed in Moulsford. I told Alan I feared it would be another mooring that we would either no fit on or not see as sometimes the official ones are not obvious. We told me to find a wild mooring and I pointed out he has refused long grass, higher sides, and trees so I can see no options! To thins he relented and chose a spot with long grass and high sides though no trees. We moored up along the Thames path for the night.
The River Thames really isn’t terribly narrowboat friendly. There are very few public moorings and the river cruisers tend to block out the narrowboats as best they can by mooring ten metres apart. Other narrowboaters have said they just force their way between the boats and make the cruisers move about to let them in but we don’t have that bravery. Wild mooring really is the only option on the river as far as our experience showed.
The next morning we headed off again with the intention of mooring at Pangbourne. Alan used to work there so we knew it was a nice place. This was also one of the first good weather days for a while as well as being the Queen’s Jubilee bank holiday. As we went along that morning we saw boats decorated with bunting and flags to celebrate Her Majesty’s platinum jubilee and felt disappointed that we hadn’t even thought to dress up The Nut House.
Just after noon we were coming up to the lock at Pangbourne, our last lock of the day, but the whole river looked to be a weir and certain death. I could see the lock. I knew it was there. I knew it was on the left somewhere but I couldn’t see it. I was quickly approaching the weir and feeling very panicked when I could see the slightest hint of a man made something in a tree. The tree was covering the sight of the lock which was at a 90 degree angle to the river/weir. I was so relieved to be safely pulled up to the lay-by of that lock.
Through the lock and we were immediately looking for a mooring. We knew where they would be. We knew the rules of the mooring area. We were ready…..and so was everyone else. There was a small space here and there to fit a river cruiser but nothing long enough for a 65ft narrowboat. And then we saw this patch of space with a trees at each end and poor access. It was the very end of the official moorings with a sign on a post to mark it. We nosed right up to the bank where the sign was and pivoted the stern in next to a tree. We tied off to the sign post on one end and the tree on the other. Our plank went out to help us and Peanut get on and off. For an official mooring it was even more wild than the day before. I loved it.
Alan had to work that afternoon so we really didn’t get to enjoy the park or the town as we had hoped. We did drive into Reading to see a movie though and as we were there and saw the traffic lights on the canal in the town we checked them out ready for the next day.