Friday 28 June 2024

Boveney to Pangbourne. River Thames.

 We drove from Boveney to Maidenhead for parkrun on Saturday morning, missed the turning into the park, then couldn’t find the start and very nearly turned up late, with soggy socks from short-cutting across the long grass.

Maidenhead parkrun nearly started without us.

We finally joined everyone else at the start line just as they were giving the run director a cheer, then it was Three, Two, One, GO, and off we went, with no idea about where we were going or how many laps. To be perfectly honest, not knowing doesn’t make a lot of difference. Even when we have been in time for the first timer’s briefing, the instructions don’t always make a lot of sense. We just followed everyone else as usual. The rain more or less held off and we had a really good run, with lots of mixed terrain and a couple of short hills to make it interesting.

Missing the park entrance turned out to be quite fortuitous because we got parked on an unrestricted cul-de-sac that - as we found out when we got back - lead to a footpath to the river, so without trying we had somewhere in Maidenhead to leave the car till we brought the boat along. Well done Karma, although you can keep the soggy socks, thanks.

In the afternoon it was still quite windy but we were on a 24hr mooring, so despite not really feeling the love, we braced ourselves and set off up the river. We’d not gone round the next bend before we spotted a nice looking unrestricted mooring, exchanged glances, and without further ado called it a day and dived into the bank, less than quarter of a mile from where we set off.

After our usual volunteering stint for junior parkrun on the Sunday, we drove down to Mum and Dad’s for Father’s day card & pressie delivery in exchange for tea and cake, then came home and planned our moves up the river to Steve and Annmarie’s campsite on Culham Reach.

In the morning the sun finally came out and we had a beautiful run along the Thames path, followed by some equally beautiful boating up through Bray Lock and past all the really posh houses to Maidenhead...

...where we found a very nice gap on the public moorings just before the ‘Sounding Arch’  of the magnificent IK Brunell railway bridge.

The sign at Maidenhead said that moorings were £8 a night, but they were clearly out of date and nobody came to collect any money.

After lunch we got a phone call from Keith & Kate on Nb Donela Too who we met in Wakefield on the Calder and Hebble navigation last year. They had just come onto the Thames in Oxford and were putting in long boating days to get down towards London for work. They’d read Ann-Marie’s moving e-mail, so they knew where we were and suggested we could meet up somewhere. As moorings were in short supply, we decided to stay in Maidenhead for two nights so that they could breast up against Legend when they got there, and have our mooring when we left.

Staying put also gave us time to stop and be tourists. It was two days before the summer solstice and the day was made even longer by the geese pecking at the algae on the side of the boat at dawn, so we had an early start and took a picnic to Cliveden House (NT). The grounds are spectacular and we had a short walk around before going into the House for a guided tour.

Unlike other National Trust houses Clivedon is run as a very posh hotel, so it was a bit strange being guided on our tour of the various state rooms while hotel guests wandered about. And made all the more bizarre by the fact that it was Royal Ascot week and most of them were dressed up in their finery for the racing. We ate our picnic on a bench outside the restaurant, feeling very much like the scruffy commoners that we are, then had a walk round the gardens and got lost in the maze, before wending our way through all the Bentleys and Porsches in the Guests Only car-park and scuttling back to our hovel.

Seriously though, Cliveden really is a jewel in the NT crown, and although we are members primarily so that things like the coastal paths, open spaces and nature reserves can be continually cared for in Trust hands, it’s really good to know that such a fabulous, and historically important place remains accessible to Joe public.

We decided to use our free afternoon to get the car ahead, so Dave took it to Henley with the intention of using his bus pass to get back. He should, however, have looked a bit more closely at the timetable, that way he wouldn’t have missed the last bus. It was only £6 on the train though, and a lot quicker. By the time he got back, Donela Too was moored up in front of Legend... he joined Keith, Kate and Ann-Marie for the rest of the afternoon, sitting in the sunshine on the river bank.

 After waving Keith & Kate off the next morning...

...we had a look at our itinerary and decided to have yet another night before we set off for Marlow and Henley, where we knew we’d get charged to moor. Ann-Marie set about sorting the plants out, while Dave got a scraper and sandpaper on the top of the bow locker to prepare that bit for repainting.

That night, Dave got up for his usual nocturnal wandering, and discovered that Legend was on a bit of a lean. The recent lack of rainfall had lowered the river levels and we were sitting on the bottom, so he went out, slackened the ropes and pushed us out till we were floating again. When we got up he repeated the process and added a gangplank.

Got a slight list to port.

None of the other boats seemed to have a problem, but for two boat lengths below the railway bridge the river bed was turning into a beach. After Ann-Marie had been for a run up the Thames path (and after we’d done a spot of skip diving for a couple of flooring planks to make plinth covers out of) we set off for Marlow.
Keith and Kate had told us about a fire that they'd passed at Bourne End marina on the way down the river. We saw the remains of two of the three boats that had been damaged, the third had been lifted out but it was too upsetting to photograph.

It's so sad seeing things like that, the owners must be devastated.

Lunch stop at Cookham.

A mutant strawberry. It still tasted delicious! 

Happily, the rest of the crop look like this.

We talked to another boater at one of the locks on the way who told us that the visitor moorings below Marlow, where we’d stopped before, had been closed for two years awaiting renovation, so we thought we’d be going straight through and finding somewhere further on. However, as we passed the moorings we reckoned we could just about fit in on the end beyond the Herras fencing. So, instead of going up Marlow lock we did a twelve point turn in the breeze, went back and did a big doughnut at the end of the lock channel, then came back and gently wriggled Legend into the bank. It was clear why the moorings had been closed; some planks were missing, and those that were left were a bit on the wobbly side, but we’ve tied Legend to far more rickety things in the past and survived. There was a handy tree to put a rope round as well, and it was free, so there we are.

After a peaceful summer solstice we set off early for Henley.

It was also the Friday before the Henley regatta week so the women’s racing was well underway when we got there.

The organisation at Henley was superb and it only took about 45 minutes to pootle down the navigation lane. After that we were soon under the bridge and through the town...

 ...and, to our amazement, found a mooring spot on the park just where we wanted to be. After tidying the boat up, we drove up to Pete & Lesley’s house and spent a lovely evening with them, catching up on the last two years.

We were in two minds about parkrun in the morning. Henley was a walk away, but was described as an “undulating, narrow trail run through the woods”. Marlow, on the other hand, was flat tarmac and possibly fast, but involved a drive to get there. In the end the environmentally friendly option won and we had a half hour walk through Henley and up the hill to the rugby club, for a very enjoyable run round the woods behind it.

The description was indeed correct, there was a quite steep hill, immediately followed by a hairpin bend and another hill, and some single file bits, but there was also a flying downhill bit and a kissing gate, which made it really good fun. With fewer than 70 runners it was really friendly and tempting to stay for a chat, but unfortunately we couldn’t hang around as we needed to get back for our visitors.

Pete & Lesley were the first to arrive, bearing gifts of freshly ground coffee and a warm sourdough loaf, (so, so good!)

 They were soon joined by Anne & Andy, who brought wine and reunited us with our tomato plants that we gave them to look after in April, then forgot to take home.

Ann-Marie performed her usual magic in Legend’s tiny galley and produced a magnificent spread then, just before our £12 mooring ran our at three o’clock, we set off up Marsh and Shiplake locks and on up the beautiful Thames towards Sonning.

We got to Sonning Lock just before the lock keeper went home at five. The visitor moorings just after the lock were being renovated and all the space below and beyond there was full, so we thought we’d lucked out. However, the very nice lockie said if we didn’t mind being inside the building site barrier, we were welcome to moor between the work barges. Any alternative would have meant going a lot further on, so that’s where we stopped.

He also told us why the lock café - which we’d been looking forward to visiting - was no longer open. We’d thought it was a Covid victim, but apparently it failed a hygiene inspection and although EA originally agreed to pay for the necessary improvements, they have yet to do so. There have been bids from third parties to take it over, but the lockie and his wife really want to carry on running it themselves, so for the time being it remains closed.

As it turned out, despite not being the most salubrious of places, mooring in a building site meant we could spread out on the towpath for a Moroccan/Mediterranean fusion dinner - another of Ann-Marie’s delicious tiny galley miracles - and not upset the hoards of walkers and cyclists going past on the other side of the fence. Jacob joined us and did a car shuffle with Anne’s car, and we all sat around chatting till home time.

A&A stayed overnight, then in the morning we all went up into Sonning for a walk around the pretty village and ended up in the Village Hamper shop-cum-café, which was lovely and had guinea pigs in the garden.

After lots of goodbye hugs and promises, Anne & Andy went back home to Bristol and we set off once more up the river. 

Above Sonning lock there was yet another regatta on Sonning Reach just before Reading, a junior one this time with lots of wild meandering. The poor woman in the safety boat was tearing up and down the course trying to keep them all in some sort of order while we, and the wide beam in front of us, crawled down the navigation lane trying to keep as close to the edge as possible without running aground.

We boated through Reading, passing the entrance to the Kennet & Avon canal and all the weird and wonderful boats that surround it.

Under all the Reading bridges...

...and up Caversham lock.

After Tilehurst and Mapledurham we started looking out for a suitable spot to moor on the meadows at Pangbourne, and were delighted to find a perfect Legend size gap in the trees.

 We tucked ourselves in, nose to tail in the bushes and almost invisible from the bank.

That evening and the following morning we were treated to the most amazing views over a beautiful, peaceful river.


Wednesday 19 June 2024

New Haw Lock to Boveney. River Wey. River Thames.

After pulling the pins at New Haw we dropped down the last four locks on the Wey...

Cox's Mill Lock

Town Lock

The final stretch of the Wey.

...gave the lock keeper his long handled windlass back and thanked him for having us, then set off through the big Weybridge junction onto the Thames. 

When we came the other way the Thames was not long off red boards; this time it was noticeably less like a four-year-old on Sunny Delight, and we calmly pootled round the junction - accidentally on purpose going the wiggly way round d’Oyly Carte Island - before going round Desborough Island and mooring at Shepperton Manor.

d'Oyly Carte Island.

Approaching Shepperton Manor.

Auntie Wendy invited us out for lunch, she was singing with her Show Choir at the Epsom Downs Beacon lighting that evening, to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, so we knew we didn't have long . While we were eating a lady she was giving a lift to phoned and cancelled, that meant there was space in the car for us and she invited us along, we watched the rehearsal and the show, the whole evening was really moving. From Vera Lynn, through Les Mis to The Greatest Showman, Wendy’s Show Choir went through an amazing repertoire of poignant numbers that had the audience all welling up.

Auntie Wendy's fabulous Show Choir. She's the one with an arrow in her head.

After that there was a brass band followed by the lighting of the beacon which stands on the highest point at Epsom Downs overlooking the whole of London.

The City and Canary Wharf in the distance.

All very emotional, but God, it was cold!

June 2024 had failed to load properly and was in limp mode.

In the morning we carried on upstream and then went back down Desborough cut, under Walton bridge and through Sunbury Lock to Hampton Court Palace where we took our pick of the surprisingly empty moorings.

Walton Bridge.

Sunbury Weir.

Sunbury Lock.

Round the back of Tagg's Island.

Molesey Lock

Hampton Court Bridge

Hampton Court Palace from the river.

 We had a walk into Molesey for supplies, then later on we walked round Hampton Court - with a detour through the amazing wild flower garden...

Hampton Court's stunning wild-flower garden. Bushy Park to see the deer and check out the parkrun start for the next morning.

Bushy park is where - in 2004 - parkrun started. Thirteen people got together for a 5 kilometre timed run on a Saturday morning, and the rest, as they say, is a cliché. These days Bushy always has more runners than anywhere else; it has become a mecca for not only parkrun tourists, but for all parkrunners. That Saturday we were two among over 1500 others.

So many people!

The atmosphere was terrific and the organization was - as you’d imagine - fascinating to watch and super-slick.

Crazy numbers!

Dave recovering by the three - yes THREE! - finish funnels.

Back at the boat we set off straight away back up the river to Walton-on-Thames, where we really needed to find a mooring because we’d arranged for quite a few of Ann-Marie’s family to meet us there.

Leaving Hampton Court.

Back under the bridge

As we approached Walton there appeared to be more rowers than usual on the water and there was a big yellow buoy in the middle of the river. Just at that point we got a phone call from Mum asking us if we were aware that the Walton Regatta was on that weekend. We hadn’t been, but we certainly were now and over the following 30 minutes life aboard Legend became somewhat chaotic.
The two racing lanes were on the town side of the river with the navigation lane on the opposite side.
All well and good so far. We joined the rowers heading upstream for the start line in the navigation lane, trying really hard to keep our 17 tonne steel hulk away from their very expensive - but oh so fragile-looking - skinny little carbon fibre hollowed-out pencils, while in the racing lanes lots of strenuous exertions were going on as pairs and fours went zooming down the river every few minutes. 

Where it got really interesting was when we wanted - nay, needed - to get to the town side to moor up. With our eyes everywhere, we picked a moment when no-one appeared to be about to set off from the start line, and made a dash across the racing lanes to the opposite bank, ignoring the stripy-blazered umpire with the megaphone, and swung up in line with the moored boats just above the pub. Naturally there was no vacant space, so we pulled up alongside another narrowboat and knocked on the roof to ask if we could moor alongside. There was no-one home so we tied up and made a cup of tea to calm our frayed nerves. With hindsight the only thing we’d do differently would be to sound the horn before crossing over, but otherwise we didn’t make a bad job of it.

We left a note with Nb Coddiwomple and went down to the pub where we met Tina, Grant and Sarah, and later on Mum and Dad turned up as well. After a couple of drinks we all went back to Tina’s for a great family afternoon get together.

Dad, Mum, Tina, Grant, Ann-Marie and Sarah.

Later on, back at Legend, the owner of Nb Coddiwomple was back on board and asked us if we’d mind moving somewhere else now that the regatta was finished, so we turned round had a short - but very much calmer - cruise back down the river to the wharf outside Tina’s house.

In the morning, with the car about as close to a boat as it’s possible to get on the Thames, we started packing boxes with ornaments, maps, books and other stuff that we won’t need till we move.

Moving out of Legend begins.

With the car full we set off for Abingdon, where our new-to-us van was parked. With Ann-Marie in the van, Mel, the seller, then followed Dave to the glamping site at Sutton Courtney where it will be staying till we tax and insure it. 

Following our car across the fields to Steve and Annmarie's remote camp site, it dawned on Mel that maybe she was far too trusting, and this could all be an elaborate abduction plot.

It's been a while since we've had a fleet.

Steve and Annmarie had organized a barbecue for the afternoon and invited Colin and Julia over as well, so after Dave had run Mel back home we had a lovely Wallingford gang re-union. We tried out the wood fired hot tub and then sat round a camp fire till it was time for us to go home.

Two days later we pulled the pins and moved up to Weybridge...

A one night stop on the end of the Weybridge moorings

This visitor was rather a long way from home!

...then up Shepperton lock to moor outside the Thames Court pub.

The next day we had an early start and were up through Chertsey lock...
Heading for the tap at Chertsey Lock.

...and moored at Laleham by 9:30 to meet Wendy for a dog walk round Laleham park.

It was quite shallow there and we had to deploy the gangplank for the first time since the floods at Wallingford.

After a bit of car shuffling, Wendy came on board and we took her for a trip up to Staines where we got moored just above the bridge.

Dave ran Wendy back home and picked up a sink/cooker unit out of a trailer tent that she didn’t want. We’re sure Dave can adapt it to fit in the van.

The next day we were off again and up Bell weir, Old Windsor, Romney and Boveney locks...

Bell Weir Lock

...passing Runnymede, Windsor Castle, and boating through Windsor itself, which although busy, was nowhere near as chaotic as the first time we went through there.
The RAF Memorial peaking out above the trees at Runnymede.

French Brother's Trip Boats

Our first glimpse of Windsor Castle

Entering Windsor. Not as busy as last time.

Still plenty of river traffic though.

We tied up on the moorings at Boveney at the end of the Olympic rowing lake. It was really windy with super strong gusts, and Ann-Marie was very grateful for a helping hand from another boater to get Legend into the bank. In the afternoon we walked into Windsor, then got the bus back to Staines for the car. On the way home we stopped at Runnymede to have a look at the Wicker sculptures.

A few weeks ago we had a plan to get this far on this day. There’s been some early starts and some really full days, but it all worked out. We’re now moving away from Ann-Marie’s family so it’s going to be less of a social whirl for a bit. Not for very long though. Next up is a weekend with Anne & Andy and the Lawes
 and then a glorious six weeks of summer (if it ever arrives) with Steve and Annmarie followed by Ben and Megan’s wedding.

We'll use the time we're moored up to get Legend ready for sale and advertise it online, but for now there's a sign in the window.


Pangbourne to Sutton Courtenay. River Thames.

Summer ‘24 finally arrived while we were moored at Pangbourne, and boy, did we all know about it. The temperatures rocketed up - along with ...