Everything you need to keep the smiles coming
Stan Cullimore recently reviewed his holiday from our Oxford base in the Bristol Post, and found the pace of life to be good for the soul…
There’s a lot to be said for messing around on boats. Living life beyond the river banks. It’s a wonderful way to slow down, unwind and watch the world go by.
Over the past few years I’ve had a lot of fun exploring the canals of Britain, so thought it was time to take a walk on the wild side and try the river. A week of peaceful cruising up and down the River Thames was just what the doctor ordered.
Arriving at the Anglo Welsh boatyard just outside Oxford in the early afternoon, we were shown our home for the duration – a four-berth 58ft-narrowboat called ‘Knighton’.
It had everything needed to keep the smiles coming. A solid double bed at one end, a delightful living room at the other and a bijou galley in the middle. It also had a snug bathroom and central heating. Perfect for seven days of relaxing adventures.
Once we had our things on board, we moved off down river and found ourselves deep in the heart of countryside, the hills gently rolling away as far as the eye could see.
Up ahead there were tantalising glimpses of the slender spires of Oxford. But before getting there, we had to put our minds to the serious business of mooring up for the night. Luckily Nick from Anglo Welsh had suggested Godstow Abbey. It’s a sweet spot to stop and has a picturesque pub just over the bridge. The Trout delivered everything we needed. Great views, great beer and free WiFi. On our way home we went for a stroll and found a sign “Be Your Beautiful Best”. Decided to make it our motto for the week ahead.
The next day we headed on down to Oxford. After a gentle morning mooching along the water, we moored up and went into the city centre to explore.
It’s very cute, obviously. If Willy Wonka did architecture, this is the sort of place he’d come up with. As if to prove it, when we strolled along in search of coffee and cake we found a four-piece string quartet playing next to an outdoor café. It really was the cherry on the cake.
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. Who needs the crumbling spires of town and gown, when you’ve got the beautiful bridges of Oxford county soaring over head?
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.