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  1. #1
    boatone's Avatar
    boatone is offline Registered User
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    Default Locks above Oxford

    Above Oxford all the locks are the old beam type rather than hydraulic.

    I haven't been up there for some years and there was full manning then.

    Would anyone used to using the upper river care to let us know how they are being affected by reduced manning issues?

    The EA have expressed some disappointment that volunteers are proving more difficult to recruit on the upper reaches.

    At some meetings I have attended it has been suggested that these locks are more difficult for user operation but I seem to remember they were somewhat easier than the hydraulic locks, even with self service power.
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  2. #2
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    From my memory, anyone used to hadling locks on the canal network would find the Thames balance beam locks an absolute doddle.

    I believe the sluices are still hydraulic and moved by those lovely "ship's wheel" things.

    Maybe you have to walk a bit further to open the opposite gate because the lockkeepers don't like you using the boat hooks that they use themselves, but it's so peaceful up there, why would you want to hurry?
    Last edited by Brayman; 17-04-12 at 12:50. Reason: typo

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brayman View Post
    From my memory, anyone used to hadling locks on the canl network would find the Thames balance beam locks an absolute doddle.

    I beleive the sluices are still hydraulic and moved by those lovely "ship's wheel" things.

    Maybe you have to walk a bit further to open the opposite gate because the lockkeepers don't like you using the boat hooks that they use themselves, but it's so peaceful up there, why would you want to hurry?
    Ditto...

    If there is a problem its that not many know the river exists above Oxford which can be good and bad, some locks are a bit remote and difficult to get to as well.

  4. #4
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    The upper, Upper Thames locks are an absolute dream to operate. Much easier to operate than even the easiest canal lock.

    • With one exception they are 5ft or less rise.
    • The exception is Rushey, with a rise of 7' 4" and the head sluices can be a bit fierce if you wind them up fast.
    • The sluices are mechanical (not hydraulic)- rack and pinion and so light that you can spin them up or down. They are "handed" so that you always face the centre of the lock. Being mechanical, you can adjust the flow to an nth: degree.
    • Balance beams are huge and pitched at a reasonable height to push with minimal effort.
    • All have stone steps with non slip surface.
    • Good length head laybys, but many tail laybys are very short - only enough room for one decent sized boat. The ultimate lock - St.John's has a tail layby with no land access (? why), not only that but there's a road bridge betwixt the layby and the lock.
    • The whole section is very isolated, no shops ('cept at Lechlade) and few pubs.
    • Very twisty turny; quite a challenge in places.


    I don't understand what the problem is? Could someone enlighten me.

  5. #5
    boatone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrueBlue View Post
    I don't understand what the problem is? Could someone enlighten me.
    There is no problem. I am simply seeking opinions from people who use the beam locks as to whether or not they find them difficult or easy to use without lock keeper assistance.

    It seems to me that narrow boats entering the river at Oxford and turning upstream will experience a similar lock regime to the locks they are used to on the canals. Those turning downstream, however, will find themselves in an unfamiliar environment which may take a little getting used to.
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  6. #6
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    Hi Boatone

    My boat is moored upstream of St John's lock and I can advise the following:

    * My wife is about 5' tall and can easily open and close the lock gates.

    * Last summer a person at a lock directed me to move my boat past the white sill marker. Even as a novice I knew that was not usual but was not concerned because we were going up - i.e. the lock was empty. Then my pulpit rail started to become jammed in the lock gate. I had to rush to the bow and push the boat down and off the gate. All while the lock was still filling. That person ws not a lock keeper but I don't know if he was an offical volunteer or not.

    * On a solo trip last year I interrupted a sandwich eating tourist man to work a lock. He had operated locks once before on a boating holiday on a canal some years before - he said. He did a fine job!

    * I am not brave enough yet to operate a lock while I'm the only person on my boat.


    I hope that helps.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by boatone View Post
    seeking opinions from people who use the beam locks as to whether or not they find them difficult or easy to use without lock keeper assistance.
    as well as Upper Thames, which is pretty much where I live, I still walk long stretches of the Kennet and Avon, which are pretty much all beam and unattended. No one ever seems to have any problems, which is a shame as I'm always looking for an opportunity to assist!

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    ianc1200 is offline Registered User
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    You also need to master use of the aluminium pole to pull the gates shut if short handed. However agree with all of the above, very easy to use.

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    I kayak up in that neck of the woods. Last time was last year around june time. Every lock from Eynsham to Rushey was manned. Even let us in the locks. Lockie at Northmoor said he didn't mind kayaks/canoes using the locks at all "only one gate to open".

    Best part of the river above oxford. Seems to be overun with idiot boaters lower down 8)

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    Best part of the river above oxford. Seems to be overun with idiot boaters lower down 8)[/QUOTE]

    Shh - remember - it's horrible. Pass it on.

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