Thursday, 31 July 2014

To Windsor.

Cookham lock was first lock of the day, it transports you into Cliveden Deep with steep cliff like woods on the east bank, on the tow path side it is mostly farmland towards Maidenheads Boulters Lock scene of the iconic Victorian scene below.

'Boulter's Lock, Sunday Afternoon', Edward John Gregory




Under two bridges, the ornate Maidenhead road bridge and the railway bridge that has the flattest and widest brick arch in the world

Maidenhead s ornate 1772 bridge.


Brunell's 1832 railway bridge

Some of the most expensive property on the Thames is seen here on the west bank. Through Bray Lock and under the M4  FL passes Monkey Island and Bray Marina on the right, Queens Eyot can be passed either side, the marina has a board up - diesel £1.21,..... they are having a giraffe!

Eton's Dorney rowing course is close to the towpath on the Buckinhamshire bank while on the Berkshire bank Windsor Marina and mobile home park is passed before entering Bovney Lock. The river archs around Windsor race course before entering the main Windsor riverside, we find a mooring by the leisure centre.

After I had an afternoon nap we walked into town past the coach park there must be at least 60 parked up most with engines running to keep the air conditioning on to cool the hot tourists on their return.


Windsor has it's own Duck transport...one of these sank in Liverpool Albert Dock last year


Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Mines better than yours!

Didn't get away from our Henley Park mooring smart enough this morning, the park ranger clobbered me for a £9 mooring fee.

It is another glorious summers day to enjoy our cruise down to Cookham. A short while after passing over the regatta course and past Temple Island, we arrive at Hambledon Lock which is busy with boats, we tread water as the lock landing is full. Through the lock and past it's large weir the river passes a few heavily wooded islands and the odd wooden boat house on the banks, 3 miles further and we approach Hurley Lock, the congestion we had earlier has now gone and we are soon through the lock. The river bank by Harleyford Marina is lined with expensive cruisers and barges lying idle for their weekend skippers. Slipped through Temple Lock, passing Bisham to starboard and under the fine 1832 iron Marlow Bridge, keeping the horse shoe weir to starboard we enter Marlow lock, our last lock today. Because of our late start this morning we weren't holding up much hope of getting a decent mooring spot on Cookham Moor and we were right, but luck was with us, a space on the rings before the bridge was just FL size. £6 mooring charge.



Overheard in Harleyford lock, a chap at the lock is watching the boats (gongoozling), while a very plummy Toff is taking his palatial river cruiser through the lock.

Gongoozler "I have one of these boats, how do you get on with it's width"

Toff  "Admirably old chap, I find that when one has guest's for luncheon the beam is just about right for four to six  people...... do you have a stern thruster on yours"

Gongoozler "Just a bow thruster"

Toff's voice finds another plum and gets louder. "Oh dear.. this has stern as well as the bow thruster and I wouldn't be without it, best thing about the boat, saves all that scuffing on the sides don't you know"

Gonggoozler "You have a large scuff on this side"

Toff "I've been reliably informed that is just dirt! Good day to you"



Henley Bridge

A view to Temple Island

Isis

Old Father Thames

Passing Bisham Abbey

Marlow Bridge




Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Weatherspoons in Henley !

No one came and asked for  a mooring fee so we waved goodbye to Uri via his multi security camera post. The sun was out with a nice cool breeze blowing at 09:00. The river widens for a while and then narrows as we pass Ait's (island's), Buck and Hallsmead, Shiplake College to port and into Shiplake Lock. The river Lodden empties into the Thames just past the lock on its descent from Basingstoke if this tributary was navigable it would make a rather nice cruising ring via the Basingstoke and Wey navigation's.

The Thames arches past Lower Shiplake with some residences for the well heeled dotted along the bank. Once past Phillimores Island there is a half mile straight section into Marsh Lock, through the lock affluent Henley is laid out in front of you, Rod Island with its seemingly marooned residents, park land, the iconic Henley Bridge, boats of all shapes and sizes, St Mary the Virgin 16th century church dominates the town by the river (Dusty Springfield is resting there) and on the opposite bank the Leander Rowing club that spawned Steve Redgrave, who won five gold medals at consecutive Olympics Games, has the Henley Regatta HQ as a neighbour.

We walked into town to post off my camera for repair and to get supplies from Waitrose, no Tesco or Lidl here. Later we walked back into town to find a maggot shop but the one on google maps is now a Chinese takeaway.
Henley has its share of upmarket hostelries cafes and restaurants, as if to offset this it also has a very large Weatherspoons where we partook of the Tuesday steak club meal.






Monday, 28 July 2014

Sonning

The TZ40 camera I bought in January has a fault, half of the LCD screen has vertical lines on it and it's difficult to view the picture you are going to take. No bother, a two year warranty came with it, I'll take it back to Curry's and get a replacement... wrong. The chap in Curry's Staines branch told me the exchange policy is only for the first 28days, not only that but the warranty doesn't cover the screen! He offered to send it away for me but I would have to pay for the repair. Not happy with that I politely refused his offer, deciding to take it up with Panasonic directly. To cut a long story short Panasonic use a third party to do their warranty work dkavs.co.uk and it will be going to them for a foc repair.

We left the marina at 15:00 hours after washing the port side, some laundry, a trip to B&Q and taking the hire car back to Enterprise. We felt a few spots of rain under darkening sky's as we made our way through wide stretches of the river, just glimpsing the large Oracle shopping centre on the banks of the River Kennet, leaving Reading behind we cruise to Sonning Lock who's lock side plants were in full bloom, the lock garden has been opened up as a tea garden, 11:00-17:00. Not sure if this is an EA enterprise of if the lock keeper is supplementing his income.

Out of the lock and under the picturesque, red bricked, eleven arched Sonning bridge. To starboard the old mill now an upmarket restaurant used to grind the flour for Huntley & Palmers biscuits factory at Reading.
Sonning is a small village that shouts unashamedly of it's prosperity and affluence from every brick, tile and gated driveway. We moored up just past Uri Geller's pad for the night.


Sonning Bridge from out the side hatch
View from side hatch
www picture of Sonning Bridge




Sunday, 27 July 2014

Didcot power station demolished.

The blot on the landscape that were the huge cooling towers of the Didcot 1970's built power station have been demolished  by explosive. watch video here.

The towers were visible on the Thames cruise through the Oxfordshire countryside seeming to pop up on either side of the bank as the river merrily meandered on its way to Berkshire.



A young Nikita knew these towers as cloud makers.










Saturday, 26 July 2014

Thames and Kennet marina

Friday- Pulled the pins at Pangbourne at 08:00 and went at 1000 revs over FL's tick over speed through the rising mist, even at this speed we passed an aircraft carrier size hire boat that was enjoying the same time of day cruise, we surmised that it was the last day of their hire and they didn't want to get back to the Caversham base too early, we shared Mapledurham and Caversham lock's with the German crew.









Our plan for the day was to moor in the Thames and Kennet marina and get rid take Betty back to Somerset. Betty has really enjoyed her two week holiday and can't wait to return again! Enterprise was an hour late collecting us, the traffic was horrendous on the A303 the journey taking an hour and a half longer than the Sat Nag suggested.

We were back on board a very hot FL by 20:00

We plan to stay put for the weekend as we are off to Shepperton on Sunday for a garden party, Thames & Kennet charge £15 per night for a 25 foot pontoon, washing the boat is going to be difficult.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Pangbourne

The high bank and trees on the east bank put paid to viewing the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony last night. Today it looks like its going to be another scorcher.

The birthday girl was still in bed when I got up to make the tea. A cox less pair and a coxed four are being put through their paces,  shouted instruction through  megaphones directed from following coaching launches. Cards and gifts open, bacon banjo's eaten we pulled the pins at 10:00 through Whitchurch lock and beneath the new Whitchurch Toll Bridge still under construction, we pulled in on Pangbourne meadow and put the pins back in at 11:00.

I spent the afternoon sitting on the bank watching boats of all sizes and description  while cleaning one of the brass roof mushroom vents while Sue and Betty watched 'Mrs Browns boy's' pick up a gold and silver in the triathlon.


Exiting Whitchurch  lock

Toll Bridge

Pangbourne


Birthday meal at the Swan, Pangbourne.



Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Beale Park

This morning the meadow was full of cows, Betty refused to walk through them so a slow jaunt up to Wittenham Clumps was off the agenda.

We pulled pins at 10:00 and straight into Days Lock and out on the lower level to do the dumpables at the facility. We stopped at Wallingford for lunch, Sue and Betty went for supplies, Sue wanted to get something for Betty's birthday which is tomorrow, I stayed on FL sitting on the slide hatch watching the world go by.

I was bitten 5 times yesterday by horse flies, three times on my back, once on the knee, and again on my hand which overnight has swollen up. I hear it is the good weather that has brought the toothy little blighter's out, but the weather was the same last year and I didn't get bitten once, I blame last years mild winter that didn't kill of their grubs, and the lack of horses using the tow paths these days.

We were going to moor at Beale Park but all the suitable moorings were taken, so we back tracked to the meadow where the farmer was threshing hay and found a spot.


Wittenham Clumps and cows




EA lock gates don't leak like C&RT ones.

Walingford



Think I need one of these protective suits.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Days Lock

Set off at 10:00 straight into the first lock of the day, in the continuing heatwave. Sandford lock is the same depth as Teddington lock at 8'10" the deepest locks on the Thames. Through the lock and we are cruising through delightful wooded areas. The large frontage of Radley College Boathouse is passed to starboard then more wooded areas under Nuneham railway bridge and as we approach Abingdon there are some fine expensive riverside property's to port. Abingdon is it's usual busy self with only a few moorings left.




Abingdon
In Abingdon lock we purchase some bog blue from a passing boat trader. Once through the centre we pass a sailing club and Abingdon marina to starboard. then we are back in the woods once more. As you approach Culham cut it's difficult (without a chart) to see which way the channel run's, straight ahead is the red danger sign for the weir, it's not until you get close to the turn that you see the channel marker pointing sharp left.

There is already a small fibreglass cruiser in Culham lock, as we pull in behind, the skipper calls out "Don't come in any further"  he had positioned his boat across the steps with 10 feet clear in front of his bow. "Sorry mate I'm over the cill at the back, move up". "But I always use the steps to get back on my boat" .. " Not today friend move along"  The lock keeper came around and explained he couldn't open the sluices while FL was overhanging the cill. ..again the same mantra "But I always use the steps to get back on my boat" after a few more exchanges he reluctantly agreed to get on the boat and allow the lock keeper to pull him forward. When the gates finally opened he roared of in to the distance where we met him again at the next lock. From Clifton lock the river takes a broad sweeping right hand curve to Days Lock we moor up on the bank before the lock, opposite the pill box.

Once we were moored up we all walked into Dorchester through fields of wheat, allotments and a group doing an archaeological dig on a Roman site. The Fleur De Lys was closed so we had orange juice, lemonade and Brakspear in the George hotel before buying a few provisions in the local store on our way home. That was quite a distance for Betty to walk especially in this heat, tomorrow I'm going to encourage her to have a slow amble up to Wittenham Clumps to enjoy the view.




Moored at Days Lock


Monday, 21 July 2014

The Thames

Forgot to mention yesterday that wrinkles took a tumble, she insists on getting off at locks and stepped off the front of the boat where the bank was a bit lower than she is used to, she did a sort of slow motion tumble and roll, luckily FL was undamaged. She had another mishap today while getting back on the boat at the stern she panicked about stepping over the 3 inch gap from bank to boat, I had to let go of the tiller to heave her aboard unfortunately the tiller spun to port and jabbed her in the ribs, the tiller is OK. Sue would like to ban her from getting on and off but Betty is having none of it.

We left the mooring today and cruised through urban Kidlington and Oxford to the Isis lock where a sharp right takes you on to the Thames, we then turned left onto the Thames, under Osney bridge and paid our Thames licence fee at Osney lock, £170 for a month.  FL likes the Thames the deeper water allows her to take her head without the wash even reaching the banks. Found a spot on Sandford meadow to moor so it's off to the Kings Arms by the lock for tea.

Jerome K. Jerome described Sandford " As a very good place to drown yourself " in his book Three men in a boat. I presume he was talking about the beer, the beer garden overlooks the lock gardens which are now in full bloom, a credit to the hard work of the lock keepers, if the EA get their way lock keepering will be  a thing of the past along with all the beautiful gardens they tend.

On our walk to the pub we met Ken, Shenna and Sumo on Dogma. Dogma's bottom is looking resplendent, all  black and shiny. A job FL requires doing again this year, we spent £600 paying for it to be  done last year and it is so thin most has flaked off at the waterline already, lesson learnt I will do all future blacking as DIY.



Huge weeper


Boat coming off the Thames via Dukes Cut.

Sad sight in Oxford

THE THAMES


Ken on Dogma entering Sandford Lock, my dodgy photographic skills has cut Sheena out on the front rope.

Sandford lock and garden.

Sue and Betty, Sandford lock

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Tea & cakes

Saturday- Somerton deep lock was busy, we were 3rd in the queue to go down with 4 coming up, I don't mind the queue as it gives me a chance to let go of the tiller, help out at the lock and socialise with other crews. It's interesting that all boaters we have met so far are all very easy to talk to, probably the result of being in a relaxed state of mind, no one seems defensive.
We helped a single hander through Heyford Common and Allens lock, he was having a packet of fig rolls lunch, he was on his way to pick the missus up at Devises. We met the lift bridge at Lower Heyford just right as a crew travelling in the opposite direction were already lifting it. The canal gets narrow just here and we pulled into a space to let on coming traffic pass, we decided the space was where we would moor for the night as the sky looked a bit ominous, we could hear the sound of distant thunder.

We walked up through the picture postcard village through streets of thatched roofs and sandstone buildings to the Bell Inn, a fine friendly locals pub with a large garden. We chatted with one of the locals with an aprilia in the car park who  visits the IOM TT races each year, he wanted our address but was politely refused. On the way back to FL we got caught in a warm downpour and were soaked by the time we boarded FL, very refreshing.

Cooling down.

A wheatabix field

This Allens lock gate is falling apart


The vegetation is huge 



Sunday - Out of bed at 09:00, this is getting better, bacon banjos consumed and we were on our way in humid conditions. We stopped shortly under Heyford Wharf Bridge where we filled the water tank and I trollied the dumpables over the bridge to the boatyard where they charge £2 to use the elsan.

The foliage each side of the canal is enormous, there is a cut strip on the towpath side but you wouldn't see any one one walking on it or vise versa. There is a place on the off side of the canal before Pigeon lock that to us has always looked like some 70's hippy commune, old sofa's, tables, chairs, wind chimes and other objet d'art scattered around in the foliage of the bank, we never saw any sign of life. Turns out this is 'Jane's Tea's', only open two weekends a month and as luck would have it, it is open today. We moored above the lock and walked down the country lane for refreshments. The place was heaving with customers, I enjoyed a goats cheese sandwich while the rest of the crew sampled  apple and lavender cake and cherry and marzipan cake along with pot of tea. A must stop off if you are ever in the area.

Replete, we were on our way again with the intention of mooring at our favourite spot on the Oxford canal, behind Shipton Weir Lock. We came across another single hander at Bakers lock when we asked about the name of her boat she told us it was named after her late husband..... well hats off to her for keeping going, she was on her way to Devises. Unfortunately our spot behind the lock was taken so we carried on to Thrupp which was rammed packed with boats as usual, we managed to get the last mooring on the way out of Thrupp and walked back to the Jolly Boatman for a drinks and to see if food was available, a quick drink and back to the boat to raid the under the bed staples.



Entrance to Jane's teas.


Sue's portion.

Betty with pre birthday cake.