Sunday, May 31, 2015

Scrum down for a day out at Twickenham.

We tried to beat the rain on Friday morning and were away early. Our planned destination was some nine or so miles and two locks away at Goring on Thames where we were going to meet family later in the day. Sadly, the rain won, but we were moored up before the really heavy stuff landed. By mid afternoon it had all passed over and so we went for a walk around the village, gazing into estate agent windows and picking our chins up off the floor. To get over the shock, we found ourselves back in The Catherine Wheel with a stiff drink and booked a table for dinner the following really is a great pub.

Our youngest son, Luke, and his girlfriend Annabelle (for those that have been following us for a while, yes they're still together) arrived in the evening. We found a car park in the village to leave his car for the weekend for the extortionate sum of £3.30, which actually allowed him to park until 11.20am on MONDAY morning. Derby City Council take note !!

The reason for the visit was that we (minus Louise) had tickets for the Rugby Premiership final at Twickenham on Saturday, and we had arranged to travel in by train from Goring. Apparently nb Waiouru passed us early morning but unfortunately I missed them, but Louise managed to wave from the hatch as she cooked us all breakfast!! 

So, on to Twickenham. The train journey was a bit of a nightmare due to sheer numbers. The train from Reading was full to bursting, but fortunately we managed to get a seat. We met our eldest son, Liam, outside Twickenham and the four of us made our way into the stadium where Saracens were to take on Bath. Sadly, our team, Leicester Tigers were hammered by Bath in the semi final, so we were neutral supporters, as so many are at this occasion, but for the day, we followed Bath, as the vast majority of neutral fans did. 
The Home of Rughby
Sadly they were quite well beaten on the day, but it was great to see Jonathan Joseph play and indeed score for Bath. He started his career at Derby RFC many years ago as a junior dreaming, no doubt, of one day playing for England. Dreams do come true. We had a great day out before the frantic train journey back to Goring. So many rugby folks together though make light of the situation and we met so many like minded fans from different clubs to have some good natured banter with. 

The five of us had a really excellent meal in Tha Catherine Wheel on Saturday night before retiring to the boat. Louise slaved away in the galley again this morning whilst I exercised Jasper and the young 'uns eventually stirred to the smell of bacon. We said our goodbyes late morning and then we were back on our way. Today has been dull and breezy and a real lack of pictures.
Wallingford Bridge
We are now back in Abingdon, having found a nice mooring on the meadow. Tomorrow will probably be our last day on the Thames as we have to crack on a bit to get back home in a couple of weeks time. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Best of Berkshire.

We've had a lovely last three days steadily making our way back up the Thames towards Oxford. The weather has been kind, if not a little windy today, with blue skies and even the appearance of sun cream - sadly that all looks certain to end tomorrow !!

A resume of the last three days goes like this. We left our mooring at Shepperton about 8.30am on Tuesday and were straight into Shepperton Lock which was on 'Self Service'. Louise went and opened the gates and as I was going in, I happened to glance behind to see a tug towing two great barges appearing and looking like he was following us in. It soon dawned that he was in fact actually following us in and despite the thought of 'shut the gates on him, he'll never fit in here' we ended up feeling very squeezed up against the top gates as the water started to flood in. A bit of crashing and banging of the barges and poor old Jasper thinking the world was going to end, but all's well that ends well as they say, and we exited unscathed.  

We stopped for lunch at Runnymede on a very nice National Trust mooring. No sooner had we stepped onto the bank and we were descended on by a very nice young man on a cycle who happened to be the 'Visitor Engagement Officer' for Runnymede. A damn fine title and very engaging he was too. Of course, he wanted cash, but unlike some moorings along here, you pay for what you use. We told him we weren't stopping long, so the charge was £2 for up to two hours. Don't mind paying that for such a pleasant spot, so it was deck chairs and table out, wine and beer poured and make the most of the next couple of hours. 

Having refreshed, we made our way up to Windsor for the evening, and moored on the inside channel of Baths Island. It seemed a nice quiet spot, and yet again our timing was impeccable as the moorings warden was on us before we'd actually finished tying up. However, we made him earn his money a bit as the locals are the best to ask when you want to know directions to a good boozer that accommodates dogs. Without hesitation he recommended The Watermans Arms and so off we trudged with directions firmly planted in our minds. A friendly welcome, especially for Jasper, an excellent choice of real ales, decent pub grub and a jar of dog biscuits on the bar...perfick. Jasper rates it 5/5 on Trip Advisor. 

We then had a good walk around Windsor to compensate for the excellent pies we'd just demolished, doing the touristy bit and taking in the castle, but only from the outside of course. 

Diamond Jubilee fountain
A rude awakening on Tuesday at precisely 6.10am !! We were moored near to a railway bridge, but hadn't noticed any trains starting to run. Oh no. We were woken by the sounds of a disc cutter and a drill as Network Rail decided it was the best time to do repairs to the brickwork under the arches of the railway bridge. They had the footpath underneath cordoned off (Health & Safety you know) and get on with it they did. Needless to say an early start followed for us.

The run up to and through Bray is especially nice. Both Boveney and Bray locks have gold coloured paddle controls to celebrate the Olympic Rowing at nearby Eton Dorney in 2012, along the lines of the gold coloured post boxes that appeared in the home towns of gold medal winners. 

Some fabulous properties to see once again, wondering who lives in a house like that. A better picture this time of Rolfs 'vacant' mansion. 
Rolfs place again 

We stopped off for lunch in Maidenhead, before travelling up through the picturesque Cliveden Reach to Cookham Lock.

Then on to Marlow where we had the opportunity of a mooring below the lock. We passed it up as there is plenty of space above, close to town...wrong. No room to be had, so we continued on to Temple Lock (lesson learned). We chatted to to the lock keeper who very obligingly let us moor on the island next to his lock cottage for the night (but don't tell anyone). 

We left this morning just before 9am. I soon heard a loud blast of a whistle. In fact four sharp blasts, followed by a pause and then two more. I impressed myself knowing that it meant 'I am about to turn  around to port' and sure enough it did. Not any old boat though. It was a pleasure to see 'Alaska' turn ahead of me. Built in 1883, it was absolutely immaculate.

Today we have travelled up through Henley which was bustling with folks and there have been lots of trip boats on the river. We had lunch at Wargrave, whilst admiring the residences on the opposite bank, before continuing up through Sonning, passing the rather large home of Uri Geller. Who says there's no money to be made bending spoons?

We have moored for the night at Thames Promenade on the outskirts of Reading, where, looking at the forecast, we could be for a good proportion of tomorrow too.  

Monday, May 25, 2015

The only Wey is up.

We've spent the last four days exploring the delights of the River Wey and Godalming Navigations. Opened in 1653, with the Godalming Navigations following in 1764, extending the navigation a further four miles, these waterways have been in existence since long before our beloved canals were even considered. One of the main uses of this navigation was for the transportation of gunpowder, and was, back in the day, the 'motorway' to London, linking with the Thames at Shepperton. 

Today, Godalming Wharf is the southern most point of the connected waterways of the UK, so us 'northerners' had to visit, to say that we'd been. Not exactly a place to remember other than for the fact that there is a Sainburys right next door, which is great for re-stocking the cupboards, and the fact that there is a lovely horse drawn trip boat running, which we were lucky enough to see on Saturday afternoon. 
Genuine horse power
Just beautiful
One thing which has been most apparent has been the number of visitors to the waterway. Not on boats necessarily, as the number of boats has been really low for a bank holiday weekend, but it is a constant stream of walkers, joggers, cyclists, rowers, canoeists and gongoozlers. And we have to say, everyone we have come across has been very pleasant, even if the question 'Are you really from Derbyshire' has got a bit tiresome !! 

So here's a few pictures from the waterway that we've taken over the last four days. 
Coxes Mill and lock. Now nice flats appartments
Papercourt Lock and wier is very picturesque

Sutton Place is a Grade I listed building dating from 1525 and built by Sir Richard Weston. The estate has had a string of super rich owners and was once owned by the worlds richest private person at the time, J Paul Getty. It is now owned by Russian billionaire, Alisher Usmanov.
The driveway to Sutton Place
We didn't fancy trying to get any closer
Dapdune Wharf
Guildford Wharf
One of the friendly locals...Trigger the Japanese Akita
A lovely mooring at Guns Mouth at the junction with the Wey and Arun Canal
Broadford Bridge is very low at 6'5"
So now we are back at Shepperton and back on the Thames. Would we do the Wey again?...most definitely. It's a welcome change from the big river and a gem of a waterway. We found the locks interesting and you really need to take the advice of the lock keeper when going up the locks as the majority of the locks are gate paddles only. Make use of the yellow posts is definitely a sound piece of advice! We saw a few come unstuck by going freestyle!   

Friday, May 22, 2015


The last couple of days have been very relaxing and a real contrast in scenery. First thing Wednesday, we were up with the lark (well almost) and headed off for a walk to the top of Coopers Hill at Runnymede. We wanted to see the Air Forces Memorial which you can see protruding from the top of Coopers Hill, so armed with a bit of a map, we headed off up through the woods and a muddy track vaguely resembling a footpath, which Jasper thoroughly enjoyed and we didn't, to eventually find ourselves on the lane which leads to said monument. 

Unfortunately, although the gates were open, we were a bit early for them as they didn't open for another hour at 9am, so we trudged off to find the next on our list, the memorial to JFK which was close by. We surprised the gardener being so early, but had a walk round. The acre of land in which the memorial sits was given to the USA in memory of JFK after his assassination in 1963. The steps which lead to and from the memorial are called the 'steps of individuality' and are made of 60,000 individually laid Portugese Granite stones which in turn make 50 steps - each representing an individual state of the USA. 

From there we walked the short distance to the Magna Carta memorial, but as (bad) luck would have it, it was in the process of being renovated and surrounded by scaffolding, so in the end we had a quick look and headed back to the boat. 

Our cruising yesterday took us from Runnymede down to Kingston Upon Thames. This stretch was certainly not as picturesque as the past few days have been, and the closer to London we get, the more bizarre and diverse both the boats and houses are becoming. This row of house boats was certainly very interesting as we approached Molesey Lock. It was like sailing down a road in flood.

Once through the lock, we soon passed Hampton Court Palace, a contrast if ever there was one !! We decided to go on to Kingston Upon Thames and found a nice mooring just above Kingston Bridge. 

The area was really vibrant and there was much activity to observe on the water. Not only these yachts, which kept us entertained whilst we had dinner, but canoes, rowing boats, skiffs, dragon boats and a couple of paddle steamers too. 

I was particularly pleased with this picture of Kingston Bridge at night. I'm a real point and shoot photographer as you can no doubt tell. I wish I understood it better, but I don't, but I guess this was more luck than judgement. 

When we set out on our trip, we had intended to go into the centre of London via Brentford and end up in Paddington, but we've enjoyed the trip on the Thames so much, we've decided to change our plans and actually head back along the Thames to Oxford and make the most of it, and remove at least 95 double locks to Norton Junction in the process, much to Louise's delight. So today we started to retrace our steps, but only for a few miles as we always intended to travel along the River Wey and Godalming Navigations as part of this trip. On the short journey back to the River Wey, we passed this magnificent 'houseboat' called 'Astoria' at Hampton. It is owned by Dave Gilmour, the guitarist from Pink Floyd who has actually owned it nearly thirty years and uses it as a recording studio. It really is beautiful and is over a century old. 

We had lunch just below Shepperton Lock before we entered the River Wey. The river is owned and run by the National Trust, so another licence had to be purchased at the first lock before we could proceed. Thames Lock doesn't have much clearance to get into it, so having passed through the stop lock gates, we waited for the level to be brought up so we could actually get into the lock itself. 

The locks don't have ground paddles, so it's gate paddles only and we were warned by the lock keeper that they can be quite turbulent. Once he'd locked us up, it was time for me to pay up and also sign for my special River Wey windlass which is loaned to us (free of charge). 

 Our short trip down the Wey this afternoon has been a real contrast to the Thames. It's like being back on a shallow canal and progress is much slower. I could get used to leaving gates open on exiting locks though, it makes life so much easier. We made it down as far as Pyrford this evening and had a meal in The Anchor which was your average pub grub. Why they have to serve food on paper is a mystery though. 

Well I did title the post 'Contrasts'. We've also had huge contrasts in emotions today too. As we cruised up the Thames this morning, our eldest son rang us to say he had got the job he wanted in London. He has been job hunting for his dream job for the best part of nine months now, so to get it is testament to his hard work (and our cash). If anyone heard a loud shreek about 10.30am, it was Louise. 

Contrast that to the sad news that a very good friend and former work colleague passed away very suddenly today in Canada, the range of emotions have been well and truly stretched. Rest in Peace Nev. I'll miss you buddy. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Henley, Windsor and a lovely coffee morning.

We're really loving the River Thames and over the last few days have passed through some fantastic scenery, observed a whole plethora of wildlife and seen some magnificent properties as we continue to head towards London. 

We slipped away early on Sunday morning from Pangbourne Meadow and had a very enjoyable cruise down as far as Henley on Thames. Plenty of boats about as the sun was shining which also brought out the crowds. 
Arriving in Henley
A very English scene greeted us as a brass band played on the bandstand in the park. We travelled down the regatta rowing course, which felt really strange and eventually moored at Temple Island, away from the town, a site we are familiar with as we enjoyed ourselves here at the Rewind Festival a couple of years ago. The 'temple' itself was constructed in 1771 by James Wyatt as a fishing lodge. 
Rowing course and Temple Island
Red Kite
We stayed put Monday morning as the rain moved in, but by midday we were off again in sunshine with just the odd shower. We passed through Marlow with its impressive suspension bridge, built in 1832 by Willaim Tierney Clark.
Marlow Bridge
We found an unusual mooring for the night at Cliveden Reach on an island in the centre of the river. We were surrounded by trees, birds (especially red kites of which we could see up to eight at once) and silence....other than being under the take off path from Heathrow !! 

Our island retreat  
This morning we had a rendezvous arranged with James & Doug on nb Chance so we made the short trip down to Maidenhead and awaited their arrival as they were heading up from Windsor. Doug jumped off Chance with a tray of breakfast muffins (very nice too) and we had a good, if not far too brief, catch up over coffee. It was great to see you again guys and look forward to catching up again later in the summer. 

Have a safe journey
We then dodged the showers and hail pretty well during the afternoon. When the sun was out it was very pleasant indeed. The properties in Bray are something else and were observed through slightly envious eyes. One seemed vacant as we passed...apparently it belongs to Rolf Harris !!
Rolf's Pad

One nice place....

After another....

As we approached Windsor, we were confronted by many rowers out on the water from Eton School. Their coach was most apologetic when a couple strayed from their line. Windsor Castle appeared ahead, but unfortunately the dark clouds spoiled the view. We hope to stop and spend some time here next week. 
Windsor Castle (plus rowers!)
We eventually moored for the night at Runnymede, still under the flight path of Heathrow, but it's been interesting seeing where all the planes are off to using the Flightradar app and an A380 doesn't  half look big when it's only 2,000 feet above.

Runnymede is most famous for the signing of the Magna Carta by King John in 1215, widely accepted as the first constitutional document that formed the basis of modern democracy. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Time with friends and the 10p experience.

The last three days have been about spending time with friends. Wednesday evening saw our good friends Sally and Dave arrive from Derby to spend a couple of days with us. Unfortunately Thursday was a total washout weather wise, so we set off around lunchtime to have a bit of a wander around the lovely town of Abingdon. I'm sure we didn't see it at its best in the dismal weather and from under an umbrella, but we did find these very interesting alms houses at Long Alley. Built in 1446, they are still inhabited today and in fantastic condition. 

Friday was much brighter and we set off soon after 8am to make the most of the day and, after all, it's what our guests had come for. The first lock of the day at Culham was on self service and took a full 20 minutes to fill which was most annoying. 
Once through Culham, the trip down river was a good one. Some exceptional properties adorn the edge of the river, and we assume there's better to come the closer to London we get. The rest of the locks all the way down to Goring were manned and we started to share a few with some big white boats containing holiday makers, which kept us on our toes!!

A nice sun house

We reached Goring on Thames mid afternoon and easily found a mooring below the lock before having a look around this lovely village. We eventually found a little jewel in the crown for dinner, The Catherine Wheel. A 15C pub which was full of life. The landlords (yes there are two) were brilliant hosts, engaging and friendly and the food was really excellent value for money. A real must if you moor in Goring. Sadly, we had to say goodbye to Sally & Dave after dinner as they needed to return home. 
The Catherine Wheel
Today we have made the short trip down to Pangbourne where we had another meeting arranged. The river has been noticeably busier today with it being a weekend, with a good mixture of boats, so we were glad to be moored up just before midday. 
Towards Pangbourne 
A real English scene 
This afternoon we have welcomed more friends aboard with whom we used to share ownership a few years ago. Steve & Trish together with Peter & Sue arrived early afternoon and we sat out with drinks in the sunshine enjoying a good catch up on all things boaty. We were later joined by Maffi who moored next to us and it was good to have a nice long chat with him too. Another good pub to recommend is The Ferrybridge found just over the toll bridge in Whitchurch on Thames, where we enjoyed a good meal with Peter & Sue this evening.
 Peter, Sue, Steve and Trish
Oh yes, before I forget, the '10p experience', and a new dimension to that most common boating discussion - that of toilets. Well, if you find yourself in Abingdon, and don't want to fill your cassette or tank, there is a 'tardis' located near the road bridge which has to be experienced. What other service  can you get nowadays, or for many a day come to that, that costs 10p for up to 15 minutes. Coloured lights, instant hot water to wash your hands and toilet roll at the press of a button that comes out like a till roll. The best 10p I've spent in a long time, probably since you could get 10 fruit salad and black jacks for 10p.