With brooding sky overhead, Ian and I watched Carol Kirkwood’s smiling face on BBC Breakfast. Her message was not as bright as her smile as she presented the weather forecast for the day; projections of heavy showers and wind for the afternoon. We had about 4 hours cruising to do before reaching our intended mooring point so a little after eight we pulled up the mooring pins and set off. The clouds overhead were heavy and grey but it was warm and still. However, a little after this picture was taken, the heavens opened and the rain came down like stair-rods.
It was as if God had switched on a power shower and He was laughing at us “You might run but you cannot hide.” I scrambled down into the cabin to get Ian’s rain coat then closed the cratch covers as the rain poured in. A few moments later, as quickly as it started, the rain stopped and the sky cleared a little, but only a little. I made a cup of coffee and was determined to enjoy as much of the day as I could.
Ian pointed out the electric blue flash of a kingfisher as it darted away, scarcely skimming the water as it went. As if in contrast, I then saw a ponderous heron push out its long neck and almost topple over as it lifted its ungainly body into the air, then awkwardly flapped up and over the trees while pulling in its neck and leaving its long yellow legs training behind.
As we reached Shifford lock it started to drizzle again but the welcoming lockkeeper opened the lock for us. Moments later the lock slowly filled and as I chatted amiably to the lockkeeper, I noticed a beautifully crafted ‘bug hotel’ in the gardens and commented on it. It was a beautiful structure topped with bird nesting boxes. I also noticed the house martins darting to and fro obviously feeding noisy young ones. It didn't take much to guess that the lock keeper enjoyed his natural surrounds.
The river continued to meander through isolated meadowland with sharp twists and turns in places, the boat leaving a boiling wake behind it. By mid-morning the air was warm and still and even though the clouds were low and brooding, it was probably the best place to be in all of England. We soon passed a long line of moored boats just before the 18th century Tadpole Bridge and even glimpsed a tiny scrap of blue sky but it didn’t last long.
The Thames continued to meander as the sky became heavier. Light showers gave way to the promised heavy rain and by the time we reached Radcot, our stopping point for the day, we were both soaked through. The lockkeeper at Radcot Lock told us of a good mooring spot where the farmer didn’t charge for mooring and we found it easily. The herd of cows that occupied the field slowly moved off leaving us with a spectacular 'front garden' view for the rest of the day.
By mid-afternoon, the rain had abated, the clouds lifted and the sun began to poke through although the wind did pick up a bit. Perfect time to write a blog but poor internet connection prevented me from publishing it.