Friday, 27 June 2014

To The End and Back

We have travelled the Thames on three different boats, covering the estuary, Tidal Thames and, on the non tidal bit, getting as far as Wallingford, but we have never made it to the end of the Thames navigation. Until now.

Leaving Oxford behind we set off in open countryside to rejoin Martin & Karen on Aria, who had travelled up the Grand Union and down the Oxford back to the Thames, and met up with them just above Pinkhill Lock.

BBQ with Martin & Karen from nb. Aria

The Thames at this point becomes much narrower and meanders through mostly dense foliage, with no sign of habitation but for the odd caravan park and the Lock-keepers cottages. It was very tranquil and quite pretty especially some of the bridges.

Kelmscott Bridge

Radcott Bridge

and my favourite, Newbridge

On the way we had a lovely meal at The Plough, Kelmscott in their very pretty restaurant.

Some parts of the river were very reminiscent of geography lessons at school where we learned about oxbows. At one point we could see Aria travelling in the opposite direction to us as they rounded the bends in front of us.

We arrived in Letchlade in brilliant sunshine on Tuesday 17th June and moored up at the bottom of the New Inn's garden,

just before Halpenny Bridge, so called because of the halfpenny toll which used to be charged for crossing the bridge.

The Toll Hose still stands, but the toll doesn't.

Letchlade is a quaint little Cotswold town with several eating venues, a few shops, including an all year round Christmas shop and a couple of antique centres.

So now we can boast having travelled the Thames from it's estuary in the Channel to the end of navigation at Letchlade, quite an achievement & one to tick off the list.

We returned the way we came, travelling much quicker, sometimes 5mph instead of the 3 we did against the flow on the way up. We found a good mooring next to The Ferry Man pub & had a BBQ in the warm, still evening.

Next morning was just a short trip before we turned off to Dukes Cut which was to take us to the Oxford Canal. We waved goodbye, yet again, to Martin & Karen on Aria as they were returning home via the Thames.

Thanks for your company guys & we look forward to seeing you back in Hallingbury sometime in September.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Thames - Wargrave to Oxford

I'd forgotten how much we always enjoyed the Thames, the wide expanse of it, always lots to see, the fabulous houses and of course there are lock-keepers to do all the work.

In beautiful weather we slowly made our way on a fairly quiet river through Wargrave, Sonning, Reading, Caversham, 

Tilehurst and Maple Durham before mooring up at Pangbourne. A bit overgrown

but once I'd had the shears out -

It was Pimms o'clock .

I want one of these :)

Wallingford Bridge.

We moored for the night in a little hamlet called Clifton Hampden.

We set off next morning in the sunshine again. The journey on towards Abingdon was very quiet & rural apart from the Power Station which seemed to dominate the view the closer we got to Abingdon.

At one time the river was diverted to what is now known as the 'Swift Ditch'. This remained the main Navigation channel for over seven centuries until in 1790 improvements were made to the navigation at Abingdon & the river returned to it's original course.

We found a lovely mooring at Abingdon just by the Town bridge (can you spot us, we are behind the large blue & white boat?) and took a wander into town where we found a great little butchers - two sirloin steaks for a fiver & they were delicious. Wish I had a freezer on board.
Another sunny day dawned & we decided to stay put. Had lunch in the Nags Head, on Nags Head Island and watched life drift by.

From Abingdon we made our way to Oxford and moored on the edge of the city where we met up with nb Melodian which we had seen earlier at one of the locks. We had lunch at a local pub and then walked into town where we took an open top bus tour of the University colleges.

Linda & Nick from nb Melodian joined us for pre dinner drinks when we regaled each other with boating stories. 

The next morning we had coffee on Melodian before saying goodbye as we set off to meet up with Aria again.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Boulters Lock!!!!

In my last blog I mentioned the infamous Boulters Lock and now would like to tell you why arriving at this lock fills me with trepidation.

Back in the mid 80's Tony decided he'd like a boat and to persuade me it was a good idea, he convinced the parents to babysit and booked us a weekend on a hire boat on the Thames. Similar to this one.

We picked the boat up from the boat yard, in Maidenhead, Saturday lunchtime and after a very short intro we set off. Just around the corner was our first ever lock. Boulters Lock.

The official lock mooring was on our left, however it was full, so Tony decided to moor up on the right. See that mooring in the photo? Well it has been much improved over the years. Back then there was no railing and no bollards, just the 12" square beam and upright posts with the river in front & the fast running weir behind.

From the front, where he was driving, Tony gave me instructions to 'Get a rope around the post'. Having failed to lasso the post I stepped off the boat onto the beam and, petrified, grabbed the post, hanging on for dear life. Mean while Tony decided he wasn't happy with the post he had lassoed and proceeded to move the rope, just at that moment the sluices of the lock were opened, sending a torrent of water in front of the boat which was then pushed out into the middle of the river towards the boats moored on the other bank. Worried that he might hit the other boats, Tony shouted 'Pull me in', which of course was impossible against the force of the water coming out of the lock and anyway, by then, I only had 6 inches of rope left in my hand & had to at that point let go.

So there I was, on my own, in the middle of the river with a raging river in front & a raging weir behind, Tony & the boat disappearing the way we had come and a restaurant full of lunchtime diners watching the whole spectacle.

Tony finally managed to get control of the boat & returned to pick up his very frightened & embarrassed wife. It's a wonder I ever let him buy a boat. But I'm glad I did or we wouldn't be on this wonderful adventure now.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Asylum Lock & onto the Thames

Last Monday we said goodbye to our travelling companions, Karen & Martin on Aria, and headed down the Grand Union towards the Thames.

Not much of note along this stretch apart from the Hanwell flight (6 consecutive locks), which run along the side of the former County Asylum now called Ealing Hospital. Asylum Lock & Asylum Dock are the eerie names given by the boatmen who delivered coal & collected surplus produce from the market garden. If you look carefully you can see a bricked up archway which was the entrance to the dock.

Having made it to the Thames we moored up just above Teddington Lock & had a meal at a pub called Tide End Cottage (apparently Rudyard Kipling’s explanation for the derision of the name Teddington). Whilst away from the boat the bankside cleat at the front of Aylmer was ripped from the boat, completely sheering the bolt & bending the metal!

We suspect the culprit was one of these as they charged past the moorings way to fast.
As it rained pretty hard we stayed put a 2nd night & took the bus into Kingston.

Our next stop was Laleham, a small town badly hit by the floods earlier in the year. We dined at the 3 Horseshoes, a very well run pub we would recommend, where they had live music.  Then back to the boat for Nashville.

The sun came out and the views improved, as we travelled through Walton-on-Thames, Windsor, Bray & Maidenhead. Sunday we woke to a beautiful summers day and started off at the infamous Boulters Lock (more of that later). Next came the very pretty stretch at Clifton Reach and later Cookham where there is an abundance of mooring places.

Today we made Henley-on-Thames and found a spot, by the park near the town centre, where we had lunch in the Anchor. The promised thunderstorms did not materialise but we had a little rain late in the afternoon. Forcast is good for tomorrow though :)

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Retired at Last

After 2 years of waiting we have finally set off for a whole summer cruising the rivers and canals.  Our journey started at Hallingbury Marina on Friday morning, 30th May and took us along the very pretty River Stort.

Through Sawbridgeworth, past the Maltings, which now house various businesses including a couple of Antique   shops.

Shortly after this our journey nearly ended for the day when at Sheering Mill lock the work boat had just arrived to close the lock to make repairs to the hydraulics, which had a split pipe & was spraying oil everywhere. Luckily, with a little persuasion, they let us through before closing them.

Between Harlow Lock & Parndon Lock are several sculptures by local artists using the inspiration & history of the river.

At Parndon Lock is a raised walkway designed by Alan Freeman and decorated with glass inserts made by Karen Murphy.  Both artists are based at Parndon Mill, which provides studios & workshops for artists and a fine art shop.

At Roydon Lock we stopped at the lockside shop for ice creams.

We finely moored up for the night just beyond Roydon and enjoyed a drink or two on Aylmer's sister craft, Aria, with good friends Martin & Karen to reflect on a very pleasant first day on our adventure

Day 2 saw us do the long haul along the river Lee to Lime House, 9 hours.  A much wider river, but not so pretty, especially all the industrial bits around Edmonton & Tottenham, relieved slightly by the Ice Cream 'Float' :).
A lovely meal in the Grapes revived us all and we spent a peaceful nigh tin Lime House Basin.  Sunday we spent a pleasant morning in Greenwich and then set off along the Regents canal which was very disappointing.  So many more live-aboards, and most of them so dirty Scruffy & dilapidated.  The locks were crowded with half drunken young people draped all over the lock-side,. making it very difficult to operate the locks.

Now moored up in Battlebridge Basin for a peaceful night aboard.