Thursday 5th and Friday 6th September
Rather a lot of catching up to do – it’s the 11th and we’ve been home for two days!
We were reluctant to leave our lovely spot at Lower Basildon but wanted to be sure of a good mooring at Reading as we were meeting my sister and brother-in-law the next day. As it happened we were awake early so Dave got another hour or so fishing – but no luck unfortunately. Here you can just see the reflection of the rod in the water at the stern …
and here the view forward from the cratch including a nearly-invisible spider’s web.
We were joined for breakfast by a swan who tapped at the side hatch till we paid attention – in this picture it was dragging a bit of bread out of Dave’s hand;
We spent a couple of hours enjoying the sun before we left, spotting a kingfisher, watching great crested grebes, and listening to the zizzing grasshoppers. A working barge passed very early, carrying huge metal pipes downstream for the works at Whitchurch toll bridge, shown here with the swarm of youngsters in canoes which made our exit from the lock extremely cautious;
The sanitary station shown by Nicholson’s at Whitchurch lock has been closed for 10 years, as there is no road access for emptying the cesspit, and been replaced by excellent facilities above Mapledurham.
We stopped for lunch above Caversham, opposite the Reading Festival site which was still being cleared. On the way we had seen the hundreds (literally – check the website!) of alpacas at the Bozedown farm, two red kites, and this unusual piece of natural graffiti – I couldn’t get the CND sign in as well;
We moored at King’s Meadow just past the Tesco moorings – now plenty of room as the ‘overstayers’ who apparently used to take all the spaces had been moved on. This picture was taken as we left next morning;
We went for a stroll up to the prison moorings and round Forbury gardens, returning via King’s Meadow. I worked in Reading for several years and we lived in the area till the mid-80’s but didn’t recognise much apart from the Maiwand Lion which commemorates the fallen from the battle of Maiwand in the Anglo-Afghan wars in the late 19th century http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Maiwand.
Next morning Dave went up to Tesco in the rain and got caught up in a fire alarm, resulting in a late move round to Blake's Wharf where we met my sister Philly and husband Richard who were joining us for my birthday! We went up to the Oracle centre, where all the restaurants face the canal, for lunch, then set off up the K and A. Our first impressions of Reading are not terribly positive – compared with Banbury and Oxford, our last built-up stops, it is a sea of litter. Blake’s Lock was interesting for its paddle gear;
We were able to go straight through at the traffic lights and into County Lock which was left open by the boats waiting for the lights to change. We were astonished at the size of Fobney lock and the ferocity of the paddles, and amazed at Garston, never having seen a turf-sided lock – here is Philly taking care of a rope at Garston;
and the boys looking after the tiller (who can have been doing the work I wonder?);
We got to Sheffield lock to find the top gates couldn’t be closed. By the time we had found the extremely heavy obstruction and shifted it enough to close the gates it was getting dark, and as we passed out of the lock whatever it was moved back again. We had no idea what mooring there was past the swing bridge so had to stay on the lock moorings (I know, cringe!) as did the boat below the lock – it was too dark to safely try and shift the obstruction. After a quick cup of tea and slice of birthday cake Philly and Richard set off to collect their car at Theale, luckily knowing exactly where they had to go in the dark.
We tried to call the C&RT helpline, reasoning that we would be able to leave a message, as it was well after 8 when Nicholson’s says the helpline closes – but not only does it now close at 6, it doesn't open at all at the weekend (and you can’t leave a message anyway). So we called the emergency number and explained the situation to the very nice man on the other end.
So, a very late supper and setting the alarm to be up early to move off the lock landing.
14 and a half miles and 11 locks over 2 days