Jim, may you enjoy the reeds again, good story. The Lydney Yacht Club (which is not that far from Abingdon) has a regular dinghy cruising programme. (shameless advert).
Single hand: I find it practical and enjoyable; of course a crew is good too, especially over long distances. Reefing afloat is perfectly practicable, I reef noticably earlier on my own, but I don’t feel inclined to hit the doughnuts to try to improve (?) my weight/length ratio.
I sometimes carry a spare polyprop line and a couple of old mainseet blocks – I have got up a reasonable slope on my own using 3:1, but it wasn’t easy.