Sunday 19 May 2024

Brentford to New Haw Lock. GU mainline. River Brent. River Thames. Wey and Godalming Navigations.

We had just over a week at Brentford waiting for the Thames strong stream warnings to come down from red to amber, and we made good use of our time. We got the bikes out and cycled along the river bank to spend a lovely day at Ham House (NT).

We had a  guided historical tour of the gardens, where a very interesting lady told us all about the 17th century Baroque influence, and how the Trust is restoring the gardens; not to their original design, but to a moment in time in their history. We found the geometric shapes of the Cherry Garden parterre, and the secret ‘rooms’ of the wilderness particularly fascinating.

By chance, our ride home coincided with a spring tide and several sections of the towpath were under water. We didn’t realize just how deep it was when we rode into the first bit, otherwise we’d have turned round and found the ‘Alternative Route to Avoid Flooding’. By the time we got to the slipway we’d already got our shoes well and truly dunked. There didn’t seem much point in going back so we dismounted and pushed the bikes through the knee deep water, glad that we’d both chosen shorts that morning.


On the Friday we drove up to Nottingham for Ann-Marie’s clinical trial screening. Unfortunately, they couldn’t proceed with it because she still had bruising from when she fell over, she was a bit glum, but it meant that we didn’t have to juggle the our social calendar round the trial dates, which was quite a good thing as we were now approaching the little pocket of the country where a lot of her relatives live.

On Saturday morning we cycled out to the Old Deer Park in Richmond for parkrun...

...after which we had a little explore to see if we could find the building where Ann-Marie’s Dad used to work when she was little. She remembered spending many Saturday mornings in Richmond, and going through the penny turnstile into Kew Gardens at the end of the road.

When we got back we untied and set off, first to the services and then on to the gauging lock, effectively the end of the GU. There were no volunteer lockies on duty, so Ann-Marie had some nice buttons to press, and lots of gongoozlers on the bridges while we worked Legend down onto the semi-tidal River Brent.

The Gauging lock at the end of the GU.

Leaving the Gauging lock on the semi tidal section.

This is what that bridge looked like the day before on the spring tide.

We moored up on the high wall just before Thames lock, ready for our booking on the tide at 4pm.

By the time we set off, we’d been joined by two more narrowboats and a widebeam. About 4pm the lock keeper began penning us all down the lock.

The fall was only a few feet and it filled really quickly, we went down on the second pen and followed the other two narrowboats down the short stretch of the Brent to its confluence with the incoming tide on the Thames. 
We turned right with the ebb, and the mighty river whisked us up towards Teddington. 

We thought that the first two boats - being newer and more powerful -  would leave Legend standing, but by the time we got to Isleworth we’d shortened the gap, and after they’d gone round the back at Isleworth Ait and weaved their way through all the moored barges, while we went straight up the river, we were right behind them. 
We assumed that they were experienced river boaters and were just sight-seeing.

Richmond Bridge came next. This bridge has sluices underneath it which can be lifted up under the bridge deck by steel cables when the tide comes in, allowing navigation, and lowered when it's going out to retain a navigable depth above the bridge.  

The riverside pubs at Richmond were - not surprisingly - absolutely rammed. it was the best day of the year so far, with temperatures in the high 20s and messing about by a river was definitely the thing to be doing.

The slipway where we got wet legs.

When the two boats ahead of us did the same thing at Eel Pie Island and went round the back there as well, we thought that confirmed the sight-seeing theory, either that or they were heading for their home moorings.

At the other end of the island they both emerged behind us, and when we all got into the lock at Teddington and had a chat, we found out that they hadn’t been sight seeing or going home at all, they’d just not been on the Thames before and didn’t have a map, so they’d gone where the other boats were because they knew the river would be deeper there!  

Unless our plans change radically, Teddington lock will forever mark the end of our last tidal passage. It’s sad, but it’s not sad. We’ve had some real adventures on tidal rivers. There was the Ribble, when Savick Brook was closed and we ended up in the Preston River Festival along with about hundred other narrowboats and a Royal Navy minesweeper. The Yorshire Ouse, when we made some of our best friends at Selby while we waited for a week because the moorings at York were underwater. The Great Ouse at Salter’s Lode, where the tide was late and we grounded outside the entrance. The Trent at Gainsborough, where some bossy know-it-all convinced us to abandon our (until that point, perfect) timing and we spent two hours fighting the ebb on the way to West Stockwith.

There are several tidal estuaries we’ve not been on; the Nene, the Hull and the Derwent to name but a few, and we’ve not pushed our long suffering little boat (or our capabilities) beyond their limits on those epic voyages from Boston to Wisbech across the Wash, from Sharpness to Bristol on the Severn and Avon, or from Liverpool to Elesmere Port on the Mersey, but we think we’ve done enough for our lifetime.

There were plenty of mooring spaces at Teddington...

...but we had lots of time and the weather was good so we carried on to Kingston where we tucked in on the last available spot just above the bridge.

Approaching Kingston Bridge

Legend looking tiny on the mighty Thames.

The river was still high and lapping the bank, so it was a bit tricky getting on and off the boat, but it was only for one night and we were exactly where we’d planned to be.

Kingston Waterfront at dusk.

In the morning we walked through Kingston to volunteer at Latchmere junior parkrun, before setting off for the short hop past Surbiton and Thames Ditton, hoping we’d get lucky on the moorings at Hampton Court Palace.

We thought the mooring fairy had let us down when we got there, but with a bit of ingenuity we managed to perch Legend on a corner with its back end sticking out into the river, just outside the magnificent wrought iron gates at the bottom of the main vista.

We just happened to be there on one of the six annual open garden weekends at Hampton Court... we took a picnic and spent the afternoon in the sunshine wandering round the beautiful gardens and grounds.

After tea Ann-Marie’s Aunty and Uncle, Jan & Allen came over for a visit and we had a very happy evening out on the the towpath, the beginning of a week-long family social whirl.

The next morning Mum & Dad drove down to meet us.

We took them up the river through Molesey Lock, and then Sunbury lock where Ann-Marie’s cousin Lucy was waiting for us.

At the top end of the lock channel we tied up at The Weir where Ann-Marie performed her usual banquet-from-nothing and we all had lunch.

Later on Lucy took Dad back to pick his car up, Jan & Allen came back again and we were joined by Wendy & Dave and Margaret & Bruce, making a lovely big party of ten in the pub for dinner. 
We’d been promising Ann-Marie’s family that we’d do that ever since we started boating. We’d tried six years ago, but time and tide had conspired against us, and now we’d finally made it. It was a really great evening; lots of laughter, lots of stories and the food was pretty good too.

All the EA moorings - and most of the other public ones - give you 24 hours for free, so we were doing short hops and one night stays, the next one was about a mile away at Walton where Ann-Marie’s Grandparents used to live.

Approaching Walton-on-Thames

We walked around her child hood patch and she pointed out all the places she remembered, all of it now much smaller with everything closer together.

Ann-Marie's Gran's old house.

Dave cycled back to Brentford and collected our car, then on Wednesday morning we pulled the pins did another short hop to the very peaceful Manor House moorings behind Desborough Island in Shepperton, just a short walk from Wendy & Dave’s house.

Ann-Marie spent the afternoon re-potting the seedlings and lifting the spring bulbs, while Dave made the well-deck a bit tidier and cleaned the roof.

Dave was really pleased with his nice clean roof!

Before we left for Weybridge the next morning, we walked up through Shepperton to Wendy & Dave’s house. Wendy took us and the dogs for a walk round the park and showed us the huge new Shepperton studios after which walked back for lunch and then set off round the rest of the Island to the Weybridge and the River Wey junction.

The entrance to the Wey isn’t the easiest to find amongst all the other waterways, but we came here last time from the other direction and knew what to look for. We tied up at Thames Lock and went to book in, hire a windlass and pay for our license at the lock house. While all that was happening, we were joined in the lock by Nb Iris Lily who were going to their new home mooring at Triggs lock.

We shared Town, Coxes and New Haw locks with them before we pulled over and tied up just after the lock landing.

Town Lock. It's a tricky entrance under the bridge, but slow and steady gets you in without touching the wall.
Coxes lock with its gorgeous mill.

New Haw lock

After dinner Ann-Marie had a group chat with her family while Dave cycled back to Walton for our car and parked it the closest it had been to Legend for months. We were very happy about that as it meant we could go out and do a big shop. Also we could finally get our old starter battery into the car boot and go and weigh it in. It’d been taking up room in the engine ‘ole for far too long and we were sick of the sight of it.

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