Goodbye Thames, hello Oxford Canal

Boating on the Thames in Autumn has been a wonderful experience. It’s quiet this time of year, with hardly any narrowboats still cruising. Windsor was almost empty of boats, unlike last time I visited in summer when it was difficult to find a mooring.

The river has been consistently beautiful and interesting from Brentford to Oxford. At Oxford we left the Thames and entered the Oxford Canal via Isis lock.

Isis Lock

Suddenly everything’s much narrower. I’d not seen a narrow lock in years and it takes some care to get into one without scraping the side of your boat at the entrance. Once in though, it’s easier to tie up and there’s only one gate to open and close. The flow of water is faster than in most wide locks and it took me by surprise the first time the boat surged forward and bounced the front gate. Quickly figured out that it’s a good idea to drive the boat right till its bow touches the front gates, then open the paddles slowly.

How’s this for narrow? It’s quite unlike boating on the wide open Thames, where you can happily drive round in circles. Once on the Oxford Canal there are boats lined up either side and not much gap between them. Just drive slowly and carefully.

Oxford Canal is very narrow

It’s rewarding to get up at the break of day to go boating. Not that I always manage to get up early, especially after a long trek the day before. Sometimes you see mist on the water like this.

Mist on Oxford Canal

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