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Thomas C King

Thames, Oxford - Reading in the Winter

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We are considering going down to Reading from Oxford on the Thames soonish. However, I don't understand if/when the Thames becomes un-navigable in Winter. If we are in and around Reading throughout Autumn (e.g., on the K&A), will it be impossible to go back up to Oxford until Spring (or later)? I know there is an EA page on lock stoppages, but can't see anything beyond August. We have a 33hp Mitsubishi engine, if that's any help.

Edited by Thomas C King

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Travel is weather dependant, so if the river is up and the red boards are out you shouldn't be going anywhere.

 

This is the river conditions page:

 

http://riverconditions.environment-agency.gov.uk/

 

Second, winter maintenance is done then and that can mean lock closures.

 

This page has the current list:

 

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/river-thames-restrictions-and-closures

 

Hope that helps

 

 

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Apart from planned maintenance / stoppages rivers are subject to doing bad things in time of heavy weather.

 

After a lot of rain (for example) the rivers can go 'onto red boards' (if you are not familiar with the system there are coloured boards (like traffic lights) at each of the locks, if you can see "green" then everything is normal, if green is covered and you can see 'yellow' then beware there could be strong flows and some boats may not be capable of being under proper control, when the water level is up to "Red" then tie up and do not move the water levels and flows are dangerous.

 

If you try and cruise on 'Reds' your insurance is probably invalidated as you are ignoring the advice of professionals / the authorities and are being reckless.

 

No one can say when, or for how long rivers will be under flood conditions so you should be prepared.

 

The last couple of days we have had a 'storm surge' (low pressure, strong winds and loads of water) where the water levels have risen over 6 feet higher than normal. It is at times like this that you need to ensure that you know how to tie-up properly (with Springs) and make sure you do so.

 

Tidal rivers can be badly affected with bad weather AND storm surges.

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The Thames doesn't go into very high flow (often) - your worst enemy is the winter maintenace programm.

Oh dear others have got there first....

(Abingdon and Days locks are closed fro November until the end of March 2021)

 

But travel this side of the closures is likely to be possible - flows are low at the moment and IMHO it will take a lot of heavy rain to bring the River into 'Red' condition this side of this  winter.

But, but, but we've had very strange weather this year haven't we??

 

I personally think  33HP is a bit small to push against high flows - but then you shouldn't be boating at that time anyway!!

 

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The Thames winter stoppages start on 2nd Nov.  If you sign up for the harbour master notices you will get the emails. There are 4 locks that are closed from Nov to March, Day's Lock and Abingdon Locks which are between Oxford and Reading are 2 of those 4.  So irrespective of weather you will not be able to do the Oxford/Reading trip between 2 Nov and 31 March, if the EA stick to their plan.

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1 hour ago, Thomas C King said:

Thanks, sounds like it's a no then until storms are less frequent and the maintenance is done.

That's about it - if you want to spend the Autumn on the K&A - then you're stuck there (and some parts of the 'middle' Thames) until spring. Could be worse...

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Rivers flood, it can't be predicted but it happens more in winter. Note that much of the K&A between Reading and Newbury is also a river and actually much more likely to be an issue than the Thames itself. Some winters there is no problem at all, some summers have lengthy period when you can't move. If you want to do it then do it but keep a close eye on the weather and make plans such that getting stuck for a while won't be a disaster.

 

..............Dave

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Friends were heading off the K&A up to the Oxford last October. Rather than do it in the 2 days you *can* do it in, they purchased a week's licence to do some sight-seeing. Poor things got as far as Wallingford when the rains came down and the red boards came out. The red boards didn't come off until May! On several occasions the towpath was under-water and needed waders to get off the boat. Pump out into a barrel and walk over a mile to get water. After the red boards came off we were in lock down... They spent 6 months in Wallingford. Lovely place but it must have been wearing a bit thin. 

Respect the Thames. 

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Last winter was amazing for red boards. The one before that had hardly any at all and lots of really nice weather. 

 

It's completely unpredictable and sitting in my boat listening to this wind in August I suspect it might get rather more unpredictable in future ! 

 

Strange things happening with the weather. Maybe we'll get heatwaves at Christmas. Last Christmas I was rowing my dinghy across a field near Henley to get to my car. That field is now 4ft above the water level. 

Edited by magnetman

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