Thursday, 17 May 2018

River Thames. Oxford to Weybridge.

In Oxford we moored up on the very nice East Street visitor moorings just below Osney bridge.
This is the lowest bridge on the Thames and we’d had to reduce Legend’s air draught in order to get through it.
It doesn’t have an official height because it depends on the vagaries of Father Thames, but if you have less than 6’ you should be ok. As soon as we moored up we started to put all our tat back on the roof, which was when Tony Robinson walked past. We exchanged pleasantries, then a couple of minutes later he walked past again. Then we spotted the film crew a bit further down the towpath. It turned out he was filming an episode of “Coast to Coast” and was walking the Thames Path. Well bits of it anyway. After he’d walked past a few more times, and we’d exchanged pleasantries a few more times, a young lady came over to us and asked us to sign a form for permission to use any footage that we were in. Fame at Last! The series is being screened in the Autumn of 2018, so keep an eye out and you might see Legend, or maybe just the back of our heads. Here’s the back of Tony’s.
We had two nights at Osney; partly because of the weather forecast, and partly to give us time for a proper look round Oxford.
On the second day we were about to walk into the city when we noticed that Nb Gloriana was moored just behind us. Nic was on board so we had a little chat then he went off to the station to collect Jackie who was coming to the boat for a few days. When we got back they’d left to moor at Sandford for the night, which was where we caught up with them the next morning after chugging our way through all the Saturday morning rowers at Oxford.
We shared Sandford lock with Gloriana...

...and the rest of the journey to Abingdon...
...where we moored up next to them. Later on, Nb Polako (Jan & Colin) and Nb Magnus Mirificus (Simon & Wendy), turned up and moored in front of us. Simon and Wendy got caught by a gust as they were turning round to moor and were blown into an overhanging chestnut tree which, with a resounding crack, flattened their cratch. Once they’d got tied up they assessed the damage, luckily the cover wasn’t torn and the glass wasn’t broken; the screws that had held the king plank to the roof had sheered off, but Colin soon had them replaced and after half an hour’s tinkering you would never know anything had happened.
Later on we went for a walk round the town and to the Abbey Gardens on the other side of the river.
We walked down the the bank to get a photo of the boats and were slightly concerned to see that Legend was now pointing the opposite way round.
We hurried back over the bridge to find out what had happened. Apparently a wide beam boat had come up the river really fast and pulled everyone’s pins out of the soft ground. Our very kind and quick thinking neighbours had managed to catch our boat and re pin it before it disappeared down stream to the next bridge. The thoughts of what might have been were too hideous to contemplate, so instead we had a very pleasant crib night on Gloriana, and planned our two boat trip for the next four days.
Nic and Jackie live in Hungerford on the K&A. They’ve been boating for years and know the Thames very well, so we were grateful of their knowledge about where all the best moorings were.
Our plan had been to stop at Days lock and go and visit Dorchester the following day, but the weather forecast promised a big storm so we carried on with Gloriana to Wallingford instead.




Walking round the town that afternoon we noticed that the corn exchange was showing “The Darkest Hour” the following evening so, as we expected to have our hatches firmly battoned for the next twenty-four hours, we booked four tickets.
In the morning, the storm which the previous day the met office had been so certain would envelope and devastate the whole of the country, carelessly missed our half of it, so we could have gone boating after all. However it was worth staying to explore the castle...



and to go to the pictures with Nic and Jackie.

 On May morning, Dave was just making the wake up pot of tea when Gloriana set off, but we caught up with them just before Cleeve Lock where we moored behind them for breakfast on the bank with our little speaker playing Molly Dancing Music.

After a lunch stop at Goring...


we carried on to moor up at Pangbourne Meadow.
In the afternoon we walked up beside the little river Pang to Tidmarsh, then across the flint-strew fields to Sulham wood with its beech trees and bluebells...

...and back to the boats just in time for Aperos on board Gloriana. Possibly a mistake; Nic is extremely generous with the gin, which is lovely, but when we got back to Legend, Ann-Marie was nearly too drunk to cook tea, and Dave was definitely too drunk to care.
 After four short days of boating together we had to say goodbye to the lovely crew from Gloriana. (However they live in Hungerford on the Kennet and Avon, and we have an invitation to go and see them when we get there later on this year - something we are really looking forward to.) So after a quick walk round Whitchurch and Pangbourne, we set off on our own for Sonning. On the way we had a fortuitous stop on the Mapledurham lock landing while a short sharp shower passed over us, then carried on through Reading and past the entrance to the K&A before mooring up on the Thames Visitor Mooring (TVM) outside the Bluecoat’s School just before Sonning lock.

TVMs are a relatively new thing and they work really well. As soon as you arrive at one, you use the app to register your arrival which gives you your first twenty-four hours free, or you can book in for up to another two nights as well at £5 per night. It’s really easy; the app gives the precise location and a description, and it even tells you if there are rings or bollards or if you need pins. And, as we were rapidly discovering, compared to a lot of other places on the Thames it is very good value.
Just as we were getting ready to set off the next morning Jan and Colin on Nb Polako came past so we shared Sonning lock with them. It was a short collaboration; they moored up on the TVMs just below the lock, but we had chance to compare notes and wish each other well. We carried on to another TVM at Lashbrooke opposite the very posh river frontage at Shiplake.
Rather spookily, the next morning, just as we were about to set off, Polako came along again! With lots of banter about who was stalking who, we shared Marsh lock with them after which it was our turn to wave them off as we stopped and moored up under the wishing tree in Henley.

Lesley and Pete had invited us for a bar-b-que at theirs so that evening we had a lovely walk up the hill, over the golf course and through the beautiful bluebell woods to their house.

By happy coincidence Anne, Jen and Greg were there as well, so we had a terrific evening. When it was time to go, their son Jacob very kindly walked us home in the dark, which was just as well because after all the wine we’d never have managed it on our own.
In the morning we all met up again in Wetherspoon’s for breakfast, after which Anne, Lesley and Pete did a three-car shuffle to Marlow and we all went for a fabulous boat trip down the river.



It was brilliant to have local guides on board as we went under the town bridge and down the Regatta course. Predictably for a bank holiday Saturday, we had quite a bit of queuing to do at the locks but, just as predictably, Ann-Marie set too in the kitchen and kept everyone’s spirits up with a super lunch spread followed by delicious cream teas.
There is a TVM just below Marlow lock and we’d all had our fingers crossed that on such a perfect day for messing about on the river there would be space for us to get in. Someone must have been looking after us, when we came out of the lock there was the mooring with just one GRP cruiser on the far end.
Perfect!
On Bank Holiday Sunday we met up with Jan and Colin on Polako for what turned out to be the final time. We were boating through Madenhead when we spotted them moored up on the other side.
 Under the A404.
 Breakfast on the tiller
Dave put us in reverse and we hovered in the stream for ages waiting for an endless procession of rowing boats and cruisers to go the other way. At last there was a gap in the traffic and we made a dash across the channel to breast up alongside them for a cuppa and a chat. We were glad we’d stopped as they’d decided not to go down the Wey and were heading back up the Thames, so it was good to be able to say goodbye properly and exchange contact details.

We’d got our sights set on the TVM at Boveney lock, but as it was only short and very popular we weren’t particularly hopeful. However, luck was once more on our side; we came round the corner just as a cruiser pulled out, so we turned round, stuck our nose into the gap and hovered while the crew of another cruiser - under the hypnotic charm of one of Ann-Marie’s most beguiling smiles – moved up to let us squeeze in.


Karen, Andrew, River and Nick all came over for lunch, then River and Nick left and Coops, Autumn and Tristan turned up for a second lunch sitting. We all had a beautiful sunny walk into Windsor and back for sight-seeing and ice-cream...
...then Coops and Co left and Karen, Andrew and ourselves had a small, but beautifully formed bar-b-que on the river bank.
Bank Holiday Monday dawned bright and sunny with temperatures predicted to be soaring to 26˚C. As we chugged under the railway bridge and made our way downstream in the shadow of the magnificent Windsor Castle, it seemed that from far and wide, anyone who owned anything that could be vaguely described as a boat had rushed to the river to join the dozens of hired motor boats, rowing boats, paddle boards, canoes and swans that were happily messing about on the river.


We’ve never seen so many boats in one place and couldn’t stop laughing. The only lock that was manned was Boveney just after we set off, all the rest were self-service which slowed the whole operation down considerably, with all the hirers not really knowing what they were doing and all the gin palace boaters getting twitchy about sharing a lock with a 17 tonne steel brick.
We tied up on a one-boat long mooring at Runnymede, just below the American Memorial...

then had a walk up to it, and the Kennedy Memorial. In the morning we had an early morning climb up the hill for a very emotional visit to the RAF Memorial.




Back at the boat, Ann-Marie went for a dip in the river before breakfast...

...then we set off for our last day on the Thames for a couple of months. We saw our first cygnets and ducklings of the year before dropping down Shepperton lock and turning off the Thames onto the River Wey and tying up on the TVM moorings at Weybridge.


Ann-Marie’s Aunty Wendy and Uncle Dave came over from Shepperton for a cuppa, bringing home to us just how close we were to her home ground.




River Thames. Oxford to Weybridge.

In Oxford we moored up on the very nice East Street visitor moorings just below Osney bridge. This is the lowest bridge on the Thames an...