Ten Bob Note


Wednesday 28th May 2008

Location: Benson, Oxfordshire, River Thames

Today: 21 miles, 8 locks. Total distance: 1393 miles.  Total locks: 964

Up at 05:30 today and pulled the pins at 06:30. We wanted to get as far up the Thames as we can today so that tomorrow will be less of a rush to get to Oxford and off the river.

Got down to County lock and had a good look at the river conditions before proceeding. The entrance to County lock is right beside a weir and with the strong flow a bit of care is required. By the time you get there, there is no turning back as there is nowhere to turn. Decided that the flow on the down stream side of the weir was manageable so went for it. There were a couple of folk (yes even at that time of the morning) that decided to hang around and watch us exit the lock – fortunately we gave them nothing of great interest to see. We flew down through Reading town centre and arrived at Blakes lock in double quick time. Dropped down through Blakes lock and were happy to be on the Thames after the fast flowing Kennet.

Stopped off at the Reading Tesco as there was one space left on their 24 hour mooring. Picked up a bit of shopping then headed off up stream. Progress was much better than expected as the GPS indicated that we were making almost 4MPH against the flow (almost full throttle – 2000 revs).

Bought a one day license from the staff at Caversham lock (first lock you hit up stream of the K&A). The one day license expires at midnight tomorrow so that gives us all day today and all day tomorrow to get to Oxford – should be no problem with two 10 hour days. Chatted to the lock keepers about the river flow rate and they thought that although the yellow ‘Strong Stream’ boards were up, the flow should not get any worse and the journey up to Oxford shouldn’t be a problem.

Before I forget (dementia setting in ??) we bought diesel at Reading Marine yesterday at 71 pence per litre which is a very good prices at the moment.

Headed on up the Thames and as we progressed, the GPS indicated that we were getting slower and slower as the miles passed by. Just below Wallingford the rain came on and turned a bit on the heavy side. Passing under the centre arch (the widest arch) of Wallingford bridge was a bit of a struggle – on full power (2200 revs), we were only just moving forward!! Approaching the next lock after Wallingford (Benson) was also interesting due to the strong side flow from the weir there. Into Benson lock and we were given the news that we had not been wanting to hear – but had been expecting with the increasing flow – the next lock up stream, Day’s Lock has red boards up and the advice is to moor up until the conditions improve. After a quick chat with the Benson lock keeper, I decided to turn around and head back down to Wallingford and moor up in the trees and sit it out there until the levels drop – there are some good shops at Wallingford but not much at Benson. He agreed that there were much better facilities back at Wallingford and that it was probably a good option. I headed off a few hundred yards up stream (well away from the weir) and turned around so that we were pointing back towards Wallingford. Got back to the lock to find that the lock keeper had closed the gates on me. Pulled in at the lock landing and the lock keeper came over with the great news that Benson lock had gone on red in the space of the 5 minutes that it took me to turn. His advice was to stay moored up on the lock landing and to sit it out until conditions improve. So here we are, sitting on the lock landing at Benson lock waiting for the river to go down – oh I do like rivers – brings back memories of the 15 nights we spent stuck on the river Severn last summer.

The lock keeper told us that the river normally starts going back down around 24 hours after it peaks and that it is currently still on the rise – we expect to get very familiar with the Benson lock landing!!!

Update 29th - 09:00
The river has continued to rise over night so it is very unlikely that we will be going anywhere any time soon. Nice sunny morning today - fingers crossed we get no more rain (I suspect that even crossing fingers is not going to help with the weather!).

Friday 30th – 08:30
The water level has started to drop but only very slowly. It looks like it has gone down by about two inches over night. At least the weather forecast is looking reasonable for the next couple of days. Fingers crossed we may get away tomorrow or Sunday??

The lock landing at the bottom gate is still well under water – photo below.

There were still boats on the move yesterday, even though the red boards are up and the advice is not to travel. Some of the boats even had young children on board, some even without life jackets. It only needs engine failure or a rope around the prop near a weir and you are in big trouble. The lock keeper was explaining to us yesterday that if a boat gets itself sideways across a weir in conditions like they are at the moment, the flow of water will roll the boat over.

Had an email from Bones last night. She very kindly offered to drive down here to Benson to bring us any supplies that we might need. There are still some very nice people in this world. Thanks very much for the offer Bones.

We walked into Benson village yesterday and were pleasantly surprised to find a good assortment of shops. There is a family butcher, Somerfield supermarket, post office, veg shop and a few other odds and ends. A nice little village and only ten minutes walk from Benson lock.

Saturday 31st - 14:30
Still stuck here at Benson lock. The outlook for dropping back to yellow boards is now tomorrow if there is no more rain up river.

Asked the lock keeper this morning if he minded us using the chain saw for half an hour, he kindly said no problem. We spent a couple of hours cutting up the Ash that we found on the Kennet earlier this week. It is now all cut and split and on the roof again (photo below). We now have a lovely pile of Ash logs in preparation for the summer ahead!!

We had another kind offer of help from Neil off Snipe and Taurus – the hotel boats. They are stuck about a mile up river from us and have the added problems that they are running a business. Hope to meet up with them in passing once we are on the move again.


Current Mooring - top gate lock landing at Benson lock

Fobney Lock - note lock landing on right

County lock next to white water rapids!!

Goodbye K&A - lovely but hard work and needing some TLC

Reading traffic light system - it's at red so that the duck can cross the river

House on the Thames - slightly different to their neighbours

Red boards up at Benson lock - means strongly advise not to navigate

There is a lock landing under there somewhere!!

Cygnets don't mind the flooding

Nice pile of Ash logs for the summer........

All Material Copyright © 2010 Ernie Williams