Saturday 8 June 2024

Godalming Wharf to New Haw Lock. Wey and Godalming Navigations.

Some bemused swans wondering where their eggs have gone.

The  closest parkrun to Godalming Wharf was at Broadwater park, about a half hour walk away. Luckily, when we got to the GPS co-ordinates and were standing around looking lost, a passing local runner kindly told us that they’d moved the start to the other side of the park. All part of the fun of being parkrun tourists!

We fully intend to carry on being tourists (and voluntourists) when we move over to Ireland, but we don’t expect to be be somewhere different
every Saturday. Antrim Castle Gardens will more than likely become our local, and we’re looking forward to getting to know people there. One of the few downsides of this wonderful nomadic life is the lack of a stable community. Yes, we have met some of our most loyal and firm friends on our travels, and there are always new, interesting and like-minded people to get to know, but it’s been a long time since we’ve had neighbours - or a neighbourhood - and we miss that.

After parkrun we had a mooch round Godalming. Ann-Marie came here a few times in her youth, but 30 years later she didn’t recognise much of what we were looking at. It’s a lovely market town with some terrific architecture, and we discovered a very cosy little café that did excellent coffee.

There was a warning of heavy overnight rain on the forecast, so after tea we untied and headed off downstream in order to get under Broadford Bridge before the river level went up again. We moored up just above St. Catherine’s lock with our nose on the end of the lock landing and the rest of the boat in the jungle. (Mooring on lock landings is - quite rightly - frowned upon, but some of them are really long, and the protocol on the Wey is to leave the gates open when you exit the lock, which means that half the time you don’t need the landing anyway, so we really don’t see a problem with using a couple of feet at the end.)

The forecast wasn’t wrong. In the morning the towpath was sodden and boggy as we cycled up to Stoke Park in Guildford for Junior parkrun. We were both marshals, there were loads of kids, (and loads of very enthusiastic parents) and the organizing team were really welcoming and friendly.

Stoke Park has some lovely gardens

After that we picked up Karen & Andrew and went for a very nice Sunday lunch with Mum and Dad, (making up for the disappointment the week before) and then all back to Karen’s for the afternoon.

In the morning, after a nice lie-in, we extricated Legend from the reeds and nettles, penned down St. Catherine’s lock and carried on, past the Wey & Arun junction at Guns Mouth...

...easily under Broadford Bridge...

... and through Guildford... moor up back at Dapdune Wharf.

We re-built the big box, stowed the bikes and camping gear, and put all the plants back on the roof just in time before the heavens opened.

It stopped for a bit when Karen & Andrew brought Nanny Wendy over for a cuppa, which was lovely, but then it started again and we all took refuge in the NT bookshop.

We had a wander round all the other exhibits at Dapdune, learning about the history of the Wey & Godalming Navigations and the wharf while - along with all the other bank holiday visitors - hopping from shed to shed between showers.

Then next couple of days were showery with bits of sun, so it was tricky planning anything, however we managed to move Legend - without getting wet - to a perfectly sized mown bit of riverbank alongside the Nature Reserve at Burpham, about 300 yards before Bower’s lock.

The A3 was quite close, so we had constant traffic noise, but otherwise it was lovely there. We shuffled the car up to the nature reserve car-park, Dave finished off his monthly boat checks and Ann-Marie spent an afternoon at Karen’s, then got caught up with all the admin jobs, labelling photos and bringing our log book up to date.

In the morning - on the last day of May, mind you - we woke up to such a fierce northerly wind we were surprised it wasn’t snowing. Rather than spending the day looking out at grey clouds and wondering which of the frantically waving willow trees would end up in the cut, we girded our loins, armed ourselves with stout boots, coats, woolly hats and, with lashings of coffee in the thermos, drove to Hatchlands.

Hatchlands, originally built by Admiral Boscawen (a name every matelot worth his salt should be familiar with) isn’t your usual NT property; there isn’t a beautiful formal garden or an ornamental parterre, there’s no orangery or long avenues of lime tree with majestic views of a distant folly, and even the fountain looks like it came from B&Q.

The large manor house is quite restrained in comparison to other ancestral piles we’ve seen, and the 170 acre parkland, although very pleasant to walk through, with a nice lake, a giant’s picnic table and lots of fabulous old black lotus trees...

.... well, it isn't really anything to write home about.

However, none of that is why the car-park is full every weekend. The main attraction is what - or rather who - is inside the house. Alec Cobbe is a collector and restorer of art and musical instruments and lives at Hatchlands as a National Trust tenant. His incredible collection is on display on the ground floor and is open to the public during the day. There are over 40 antique pianofortes, harpsichords and organs, some of which have been owned by famous composers and musicians, and all of which are in working condition, regularly tuned, and played by Mr Cobbe himself and other musicians.

The Grand Masters that cover every square inch of every wall are in incredibly good condition, as are the amazing decorative ceilings. We’ve become a bit blazé about National Trust houses, after a while they all get a bit samey, but Hatchlands really blew us away.

The bikes came out early the next morning for a cycle down the riverbank and back to Guildford for what the parkrun website describes as an 'undulating run'. We think there must have been some geological upheaval since that was written, ‘cos some of it is really flippin’ hilly. You can also see all the way round the course from the start line, which makes it look an awfully long way to run, but - as always - it was good fun.

Karen & Andrew came for lunch and a bit of boating in the afternoon. We went from Burpham, down the locks and round the river bends to the New Inn at Send...

 ...after which we went to the shops and stocked up with supplies for River’s 30
th birthday barbecue party the following day.

After all the recent rubbish weather, the Sunday turned out to be terrific. Wendy had offered to host River’s party in her lovely garden, so Mum & Dad, Karen & Andrew, us and the birthday person themselves, all turned up with heaps of grub and drinkies and had a really lovely afternoon enjoying each others company and eating far too much.

On the Monday, we were getting ready to set off when another boat came past, so we asked them to wait for us at the next lock. Adam & Pam, on Nb Pamela Anne turned out be lovely. In the three years they’d been on their boat they’d managed to do the entire network, which is incredible; it’s taken us thirteen. Like us, one of their last ’targets’ was Godalming, and amazingly, also like us they were now planning on selling up and moving to Ireland! They, however were hoping to go to Cork, but it was still a very serendipitous encounter. We stopped at Pyrford lock, exactly where we’d been on the way up the river, and waved goodbye to Adam and Pam; they were heading for the Basingstoke canal for a couple of weeks before returning to the Thames towards Oxford, which is the way we’re going - although we’re going more slowly - so hopefully we’ll come across them again. 

After we’d walked back and recovered the car, Ken & Annie came for a visit. It was fabulous to see them and really good to be able to hook up before we left the area. Since they’ve moved off the water they have taken everything they learnt about off-grid life and have converted their house into an eco friendly oasis; solar, EVs, lithium batteries, night time tarrifs, air to air heat pumps, the lot. They’ve even got a phase-change heat battery for hot water, which Dave was very interested in. And of course they’d recently sold their boat so we had so much to discuss. Before we knew it, four hours had gone by and they had to leave, but it was a really great afternoon.

That day was River’s actual birthday, so they and Karen came to Pyrford to join us for dinner. Somehow between all the social stuff and the boat and car moving, Ann-Marie had found the time to make a cake to celebrate the occasion.

Fabulous. Happy Birthday River, we hope you had a good time.

We managed to pull our combined fingers out and do a mid week run the next morning. When we first started becoming more active we were running a couple of times a week between parkruns, but in the colder months it’s too easy to make excuses not to go out, so we got a bit out of the habit. A morning car move three miles down the river to New Haw lock provided the perfect opportunity for a  jog, and the weather was perfect, so off we went.

Mum and Dad came for a little trip down the river from Pyrford to New Haw which was lovely.

Being on the Wey, close to Ann-Marie’s family, has been a really special time for us, made even more precious by the fact that this is going to be our last summer on Legend. Sure, there are many  happy family times in Ireland, or back over here in our camper, to look forward to - it’s not like we’re going to Mars - but making family memories on board our lovely boat on a lovely river has been a wonderful gift.

On the way to New Haw lock we met Mick & Pip on Nb Oleanna.

They were heading for Pyrford Marina to leave the boat for a few days while they went to visit their house in Scarborough and they'd messaged us to say that they thought we'd be passing each other. we had a quick chat mid-stream and arranged to go over to the marina later for a proper catch up, which we did. it was only a flying visit as we had a ridiculously early start the next morning, but it was still really good to see them.

Wednesday was another one of our military logistic triumphs. We were up at 4:30 and on the road by 5:00 heading for Nottingham. Ann-Marie had a screening appointment for a clinical trial at 8:00 and after a very smooth drive up the M1 we arrived a 7:50. She was out of the clinic with all the boxes ticked by 9:30 and were straight round to Jasper’s café (half a mile away on our fav list) for breakfast with Steve and Les. With everyone talking at once we managed to cram several months of catch-up into a glorious hour and a half, before we had to leave at 11:00 for a return dash down the M1 to Abingdon. Why Abingdon? Well, we’d arranged to go and see a partially converted van.

It had windows, sheep’s-wool insulation, sound proofing, flooring and a pair of swivel seats up front. It also had really low mileage, and its MOT history on the gov. web site looked OK.
 We really did go with open minds, quite prepared to walk away if there was anything awry, but it was as good as the advert claimed, rust free and really nice to drive. We’d shown the advert to several people over the previous few days and they agreed with us that with so much stuff already done, it would be too good an opportunity to pass up on. We know the rules; never buy the first boat/caravan/camper you see, but we broke that with Legend and that turned out OK, so we trusted our instincts and did the deal there and then.

We now own a van!

There were a few hasty phone calls to find somewhere to keep it till we take it to Ireland with most of our belongings in it. Steve & Annemarie came to the rescue and it’s going to live at their riverside campsite for a while, which is fantastic because Legend is going to be there as well before long, which will make the whole process so much easier. We’re not going to do any further work inside the van till we get to Ireland, we need it to be a removal van for now, and we’ve got enough on with getting the boat ready to sell, so we think for now we’ll probably just get a couple of tarps to protect the insulation and use it as is. The owner kindly let us leave it with her and agreed to drive it to Steve’s for us later in the week so that we don’t have to insure it yet, and we’ll SORN it for a month when it’s there as well.

Another piece in the jigsaw.

With that done we zoomed back to New Haw just in time for Karen & Andrew and Sarah & Geoff to arrive for an afternoon chat and dinner in the pub. 

Sarah & Geoff were Karen's first neighbours nearly 40 years ago, and they've remained friends ever since, so we had a great time.

Tomorrow we leave this beautiful, secretive river and go back onto the Mighty Thames. Yes, Mr Thames, you are also beautiful, but in such a different way. We’re so glad that our second attempt to get all the way to the end of this far flung little waterway was a success. It was so worth the effort and expense, and we’ve loved every minute.

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