The Oxford Ring
You could be forgiven for thinking the title of this blog post is the name of an Inspector Morse episode, maybe filmed in Jericho, which is adjacent to our mooring for the last couple of days. But no, it simply refers to our one day circumnavigation of Port Meadow with our daughter, her husband and the endlessly entertaining Alice, our first grandchild.
But first back to Jericho. If you have moored, or even passed through Oxford in the last decade you cant miss the hoardings between St Barnabas Church and the canal promising an exciting new redevelopment in the site of what was Castlemill Boatyard. Sadly this redevelopment has languished on the drawing board and remains unrealised. We moored opposite College Cruisers for our first night on the 48 hour moorings and soon realised the selection of mooring is very important if you want a good nights sleep. The northern end is alongside the railway marshalling yard to at about 11.00pm all the trains come rumbling in for the night, wheels screeching on the points and then from 5.30am they are all revved up for 30 minutes before departing for another days work. Top tip - use the southern end near the weir where housing blocks the worst of the noise.
Tower of St Barnabas, Jericho
We did venture into Jericho, site of the old Eagle Ironworks and directly linked to the construction of the canal. The area was redeveloped cheaply in the 1870's and sitting on poorly drained soil it became something of an unsanitary slum with its nadir in the 1950 when it became the city's red light district. Then, just when it was on the cusp of demolition, a community organisation was formed, grants obtained and the whole area was cleaned up. Today you wouldn't suspect the areas run down past. It is THE fashionable area for students and commuters with its good pubs, atmospheric streets of 2 up 2 down terrace houses and an art house cinema.
The Marklew's breakfast visit
Anyway, after a couple of nights outside the walls of Jericho we met some friends from Aldridge for breakfast and enjoyed a trundle up to The Plough where we met Suzie, Jack and Alice. We pootled up to Dukes Cut and entered the EA waters of the Thames, pausing to breast up the butty just before the first lock.
Cormorant at Port Meadow
I then motored around to the visitor moorings (hard to moor on the starboard side with the butty attached) and presented my debit card for punishment. The lock keeper stood there, hands on hips staring at the butty muttering things like wow, and gorgeous before turning to me and exclaiming "what is it, I mean on what basis do I license it?". I indicated that I had been looking on the website and hadn't identified an appropriate category, save possibly as a tender - if you stretched the definition a bit. "Hmm" was the reply and the guidelines were consulted. Then a call to a senior colleague before the final verdict was in. And the EA's conclusion about the Jam Butty? For licensing purposes .... its a canoe! This decision suits me just fine as the motor cost £100 for 31 days and the "canoe" an extra £20 (ish).
So we set off downriver with the canoe strapped to the side, scaring oncoming boats as we dominated the narrow winding channel to reach the more open waters of Port Meadow. It was a flaming hot day and all along the river young people were playing in the cooling waters or jumping off the bridges. With he sun still hot in the sky we decided to create a wild mooring on the tree lined and shady length just before the southern entrance into Isis Lock, tying onto three spindly trees. Ideally Suzie would have like a swim but hauling a seven month pregnant girl over the stern was not appealing, so we compromised and paddled our feet off the back of the butty. Alice, not wishing to miss any fun going, was delighted to paddle in a bowl of Thames water, and then managed to squeeze most of her body into its modest confines. Hey, we just rolled with it and at the end filled it with hot soapy water and it served as an impromptu bath.
Bathtime on the Thames
We relinquished the motor boat to the three of them and retreated to a peaceful, if slightly cramped night in the butty. The following day we completed our circuit, entering the Oxford Canal at Isis Lock and making our way back to The Plough. As is common in these parts, each chance stop, even at the Elsan point, seems to attract preserve enthusiasts and more stock is sold.
Hmm, we did a stock take in Oxford and concluded that the level of jam is a bit dire, so on Saturday its off to Kidlington Market to get some more strawberries.