As you drift through Oxford by boat, you can’t help but notice swarms of rowers out on the water. They’re lovely to watch but prone to get up to mischief. They splash and twirl their way around the river like crazy boat-borne ballerinas. Think watching Formula 1, but with less revving, more rowing and much slower bumps.
We thought the university town would be the cutest place on offer during our holiday, but we were wrong. Approaching Abingdon by water the next afternoon was like watching a picture postcard come to life.
Luckily, even though the river runs right through the middle of town, we were still able to find a quiet spot in a delightful meadow just moments from the action.
By now, we were getting into the swing of life on board. It’s very restful. You steer the boat, drink tea and watch the countryside glide past at walking speed. Then you moor up and go in search of pleasure and pubs. Very easy on the soul.
As was the procession of bridges that we passed under. Whether they were built for trains, cars, people or bikes, made of stone, steel or wood, there’s something lovely about all of them.
By early evening the next day, we had arrived in Wallingford. Another glorious little town, with another glorious golden bridge spanning the river.
We turned around and got ready for the return leg of our journey. But first, Mrs Cullimore decided it was time to do some holiday shopping. Somehow I persuaded her to pick up a garden sprinkler, which must be the oddest souvenir we’ve ever brought home.
As we made our way back up river over the next few days, I tried to work out my favourite thing about a being on a boat. It could have been the ever present wildlife, the fabulous scenery or the sheer joy of having a rock’n’rolling home. But it wasn’t. It was something even better than any of those. It was the passers-by.
Whether they’re on another boat, on the towpath or just enjoying the view, their waving, smiling and chatting makes your day.