Day 1. Narrowboating on the Thames

I’ve spent many a happy hour strolling along canal towpaths and riverbanks enjoying watching narrowboats pass by.  I’ve even seen 3 of the 7 ‘Wonders of the Waterways’ yet had never been on a British narrow-boating holiday, that is until now.

The Anglo-Welsh narrowboat reception at Eynsham, Oxfordshire
Meeting Jo at Anglo Welsh’s reception

Our adventure started one bright and sunny October morning when we drove to the Anglo Welsh base at Eynsham near Witney in Oxfordshire to pick up our narrowboat for a four night break along the River Thames.  After loading up with supplies from a nearby supermarket, we arrived at the boatyard in the early afternoon.  Here we were greeted by Jo and Dan who suggested we temporarily move the car close to where the boat was moored so that we could load all our luggage on board.  As regular readers will already know, we are a family that never manages to travel very lightly!

Loading our luggage and supplies on board our narrowboat, Cunningham
Loading our luggage and supplies on board

Setting eyes on Cunningham, our 65ft Admiral class narrowboat with her blue livery and gold detailing, we couldn’t wait to climb on board to explore our home for the next five days.

Cunningham, Admiral Class narrowboat, Anglo Welsh, Eynsham.
Our comfortable living area

With two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a lounge/dining area and fully equipped galley kitchen, our boat was so long that it almost felt like a train.  Bed linen, towels and high quality pots, pans and utensils were included, and we adored it all.

Cunningham narrowboat, Anglo Welsh Oxford
Our spacious interior
Cunningham, Admiral Class Anglo Welsh boat
Well equipped kitchen galley with a large fridge/freezer

The boat even had central heating, a wood burning stove, Wi-Fi, a TV, radio and DVD player making it almost a home from home and very spacious for our crew of four, comprising myself, my husband and two adult sons.

Twin bedroom, Cunningham, Admiral Class narrowboat
Plenty of space for all of us with both twin and double bedrooms

After loading everything on board, we were given full operating instructions of how everything worked by Dan who was very helpful.  Our handover started at the bow (front of the boat) all the way through to the stern at the rear.  We learnt everything from making engine checks and using the tiller to how to change gas bottles, etc.  There was quite a lot to take in but with a manual on board to refer to we were quite happy.  Handover complete, we felt reasonably confident and were soon edging out of our mooring to make a mid-afternoon start downstream towards Oxford.

Cunningham, Anglo Welsh narrowboat based at Oxford
Our boat was stylish designed and so well equipped

For the first 35 minutes, my husband (David) and older son (Mark) took turns at the tiller whilst I sat comfortably at the front of the boat enjoying the slow pace of the river as it meandered through the reeds.

View from the bow of Cunningham, Anglo Welsh Holidays
My view from the bow of the boat

It felt so tranquil motoring along at four miles an hour, enjoying the fresh air and the ever changing views.

Eynsham Lock, Anglo Welsh Holidays
Entering Eynsham Lock

At Eynsham we encountered the first of two manually operated locks – further downstream they are all automatic (self-service button operated).  There was a lock-keeper on duty and he showed us how to operate the sluices before opening the heavy wooden lock doors.  My job was to hold the boat steady with the foredeck rope as the water emptied out of the lock.

Leaving Eynsham Lock
Leaving Eynsham Lock

With the first lock under our belts, I took my turn at the helm needing to remember that I had to turn the tiller the opposite way to where I wanted the boat to go!  This took a bit of thinking about at first but thankfully I managed without veering towards the bank.

Watched by a herd of cows, Eynsham, River Thames
We were watched by a herd of cows just past Eynsham Lock!

Along the next stretch we were closely observed by a herd of cows and slightly further on spotted a heron perched on a tree branch.  It took a little over an hour to reach Kings Lock which had a large blue sign indicating that it was a self-service lock with no-one on duty.

Cunningham, Anglo Welsh narrowboat on the Thames
Waiting to enter the lock

As there was another boat already in the lock we moored close by until it was our turn to go through.  On entering the lock we were observed by a couple sitting on a bench who waved to us as we passed by.  This lock was slightly deeper than Eynsham and it was actually fun to be able to open and close the paddles and sluice gates ourselves.

Operating the paddles at Kings Lock, River Thames
Operating the lock gates at Kings Lock

I then moved onto my other role of galley maid by serving up buttered currant tea cakes and mugs of tea as we chugged slowly along in the late afternoon sun through the beautiful Oxford countryside to Godstow Lock, arriving at 17.05.

Anglo Welsh narrowboat on the Thames near Godstow
Getting lined up to go under the arched bridge

As we approached the lock there was a riverside traffic light system in operation as construction work to the riverbank was being carried out.  The sign indicated that the work would be completed by September so it was obviously running slightly behind schedule.

Godstow Abbey, River Thames
Passing another boat near Godstow Abbey

Godstow was another self-service lock and we were already getting the hang of it all by now, passing through within 25 minutes.  At this lock we had a jogger who paused for a short rest as a spectator and a family of ducks sitting on the riverbank seemed to be also looking our way.

Godstow Lock, RIver Thames
Waiting to enter Godstow Lock

By this time it was getting a bit chilly so we popped on our coats for the final stretch of the day into Oxford.  The Thames becomes much wider after Godstow and along here we shared the river with some university rowing eights out for a practice session.

Rowing eights on the Thames approaching Oxford
We passed several rowing eights on our approach to Oxford

It was 18.15 by the time we arrived in Oxford where we managed to find a mooring large enough to accommodate our 65ft boat just above Osney Lock.  With perfect timing, crew member number four (i.e. our younger son Simon) phoned to say that his train was just pulling into Oxford station so we explained where we had moored and within 10 minutes he had joined us on board.  After having a quick tour round he was suitably impressed, after which we closed the curtains, locked up the boat and went in search of a cosy pub for dinner.

Entering Oxford on an Anglo Welsh narrowboat
Entering Oxford and looking for a suitable mooring

We couldn’t have found a more convenient mooring as it only took us ten minutes to walk into the centre of Oxford where we were soon tucking into steak and chips in one of Oxford’s many pubs.  Back on the boat a couple of hours later we were soon warm and cosy with the central heating turned on and after a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit were snuggled up in our comfortable beds for the night.

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67 thoughts on “Day 1. Narrowboating on the Thames

  1. Pingback: Day 1. Narrowboating on the Thames – Site Title

  2. jasonlikestotravel

    I would love to do this at some point. I know there’s a bit of work involved but it does look like a relaxing way to travel! I’m excited to read how the rest of the trip went!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Love Travelling, 21 December 2022 - Drifters

  4. That boat looks great, in an excellent condition!
    Talking of locks: on our trip we had 115. Nearly all of them had to be operated by hand by us. My wife still has a button inscripted “lock slave”. *grin* But to tell the truth, even if I had the button”captain” I helped her as much as I could.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Day 1. Narrowboating on the Thames – DIGITALNEWSLINK

  6. This must have been a wonderful experience! I must admit, I’m quite impressed with the space in the narrowboat – even the kitchen looks spacious. And to open and close the locks sounds like heaps of fun (and what lovely views along the way)! It’s also great that you could enjoy this with your family!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Taking our first ever narrowboat holiday was so much fun and it was perfect for our sons too with steering the boat and working the locks. It felt like a train, it was so long and sometimes we used our phones to communicate at each end if we didn’t catch our instructions!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This evokes fond memories in me, of one of the best, if not THE best, holidays I ever spent in the UK, narrowboating on canals and rivers, in 2011. And you won’t believe it, we hired our narrowboat from Anglo-Welsh, too – in Wootton Wawen, on the Stratford-on-Avon canal.
    I’m delighted to find your travelling reports here and will certainly follow them closely.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I like your interest in my narrowboat adventure. Unfortunately, all my entries are in German. And there are LOTS of posts about that trip. I hope that you’ll still be able to enjoy them.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. I think you should Sandra as our adult sons both adored the boating trip and want to do it again next year. No-one was ever bored and although we could have cooked our evening meals on board it was fun to call into nearby pubs. As we only travelled at 4mph steering was quite easy, it was just manoeuvring and mooring up that took a bit of practice. Thanks so much for your interest.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your interest in this post. Finding moorings was mixed especially as we had quite a long boat. In several places it was quite easy but in others we just had to find an empty space along the riverbank where we could hammer metal pegs in that were provided on the boat. We always found somewhere within walking distance of where we wanted to be and never needed to pay for moorings. It may be more difficult in peak season so I would suggest finding moorings earlier in the day then to avoid disappointment. Hope this helps.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Cindy Teyf

        Thanks for the quick reply, Marion! We don’t mind hammering spikes into the bank if we have to. I was just a little worried about the volume of boats mooring in popular locations on the River Thames and if it was more congested than canals in Wales and north of Birmingham. Canal boating is so addictive! We can’t get enough!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. How fun to spend five days with your family narrowboating on the Thames. It looks like your first day was off to a good start and that you were able to successfully navigate through a few locks. The views along the river are beautiful. I love the picture with the herd of cows and their reflection in the water.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I would definitely like o try this one day. The boat looks really cosy and of course the route had such handsome views. Seems like you had good weather for it too, with fine colours from the water and sky. I love the idea of hopping out at Godstow Abbey for some exploring.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Now that is an adventure up a lazy river. Great way to see the countryside at a slower pace. Good thing speed is limited as I can not imagine trying to control such a long craft. Thanks for sharing Marion. Allan

    Liked by 3 people

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