Wednesday 28 May 2014


Monday 26th May – Bank Holiday Monday

It was raining before we got up and pretty much carried on all day.  Meg’s early morning walk had to be on the lead as the sheep had come into the field overnight, then the poor girl was shut in for most of the day.  She doesn’t like sitting outside in  the rain.  We had been a little bit concerned about the river levels as the yellow boards are out but realised it couldn’t be that bad when three swimmers came powering by – upstream!

swimmers 1  swimmers 2

In the second picture they are making their way towards the sandbank where we ran aground.  Two of them were wearing green triathlon caps and they were so powerful we wondered whether they were training for the elite races over the summer.  Two were wearing what could be wetsuits but may have been tri-suits and the third (out of the pictures, he was so far ahead) just his swimming trunks.  Hard-core stuff!  They swam across to where we ran aground yesterday and stood up for a rest – one was on the sandbank, 15 feet out from the bank, and the water was only just over his knees so it’s not surprising we had a problem!

We tootled off down to Hurley lock where we emptied a cassette, took on water and had our first sighting of parakeets. The Thames is very lovely around here but we didn’t take many photos because of the rain which was pretty relentless.  This is the elegant footbridge above Temple Lock (I think) just visible in the murk;

elegant footbridge in the rain above temple lock

a line of moored yogurt pots at Temple – wouldn’t you rather see narrowboats?

row of plastic boats in temple area

and the church at Bisham.

bisham church

I (Debby) once played hockey at Bisham Abbey.  It is now a major training centre for elite athletes but in the early 1970s, when they were creating the pitches, local teams were able to play there.  In those distant days I played for Ranelagh, a Reading team.  The pitch was much better than anything we ever played on in our local league!   On through Marlow, where Izaak Walton was born and where the Compleat Angler pub (named after his famous book) is by the bridge;

compleat angler at marlow bridge

On we went past big houses with green lawns but were rather surprised to see this in one garden – does he really need to water his lawn with the weather we have been having?  I bet the water is from the mains, expensively treated and purified for drinking, rather than abstracted from the river ...

does he really need to do this in the rain

We hoped to be able to stop for lunch at the Bounty.  Nicholson’s reckons it has extensive moorings, but there were a lot of cruisers and no apparent spaces (it is bank holiday after all) so no chance.  Luckily we had got chatting in one of the locks to a couple on a narrowboat who have a mooring at Cookham and they told  us about the field above Cookham which is a good mooring but doesn’t appear in Nicholson’s.  We stopped there for lunch and didn’t get stung for a mooring fee either!  Plenty of room for the dog to have a run about.

moorings aboce cookham

Still raining after lunch as we set off to the beautiful Cookham lock.  On a canal we would probably have called it a day at lunchtime, but the yellow boards are up at least as far as Boveney and we don’t want to get stuck.  The lock and the stretch below Cliveden towards Maidenhead must be some of the most beautiful spots on the Thames.  We decided to keep going rather than try for one of the wild moorings so carried on to Boulters Lock past this chap on one of the island  properties who didn’t seem to mind the rain!  Very lifelike!

sitting in the rain near boulters lock

Dave lived round here as a young teenager and pointed out many spots where he used to fish, such as this island above Boulter’s lock where a local guy used to ferry the boys across in the morning and back at tea-time, and the landing stage above Maidenhead bridge.

island near boulters lock where dave used to fishmaidenhead bridge where dave fished from the landing stage through the arch

We moored below the railway bridge, which used to be railed off years ago but which is now good moorings with grass and access to the Thames path.  We were so pleased to stop mid-afternoon – it has rained all day and we got rather cold.  This is the wonderful device that keeps Nicholson’s dry and helped us to keep going; it is basically a shallow aluminium box with a hinged plastic lid, made by a friend of the previous owners many years ago.  It’s brilliant!

device to keep nicholsons dry

I took Meg out for a run down the Thames Path past Bray lock before we settled in for the evening.  Wet and muddy but very worthwhile.  I put the chimney up while I was still soaked and Dave lit the fire.  We have a lot of wet things to be dried and the Mikuni has broken down so no radiators!

10 and a half miles, 5 locks.

Monday 26 May 2014

Lovely sunny day on the Thames (mostly)

Sunday 25th May

Mostly lovely that is, and all on the Thames.  It was great to be woken by the sun, even at stupid o’clock, and it was still lovely when we did get up.  There was no rush, as I needed to go to Tesco and as it’s Sunday they won't sell you anything till 10.  So Dave washed the port side of the boat and tried out our new bottle of Craftmaster carnauba wax polish and was very impressed. Meanwhile I got to walk the dog on King’s Meadow in the sunshine and buy nice things in Tesco.  It’s a hard life!  We left eventually around 11 after a chat with the couple on Hawkeye, who we saw yesterday as well.  They are on their way to Oxford and thence to Ely. Like Chuffed, their boat spent the winter at Caen Hill, but we didn’t see them.

We were happy to say farewell to Kennet Mouth (Hawkwind were also not very impressed with the K&A).  See that lovely blue sky! (I'm writing this on Monday …)

1 kennet mouth

We cruised sedately down to Sonning lock, and gave a muted cheer as we passed Sonning Court where we understand Uri Geller lives; he is an Exeter City supporter, as are we.  Not his narrowboat though we think!

2 chez uri geller

We were disappointed till now not to have seen any red kites, but suddenly they were all over the place!  My photo only showed bird-shaped dots so isn’t included.  I think this glamping site was at Shiplake lock.  Lovely beds and settees inside, and barbies and seating outside, but still as close to each other as any campsite!  The tent behind the roses was occupied so no direct shot of the inside.

3 glamping at shiplake lock poss

We pulled in for a lunch stop at the pretty moorings opposite Shiplake, then cracked on towards Henley where we were due to pick up daughter Jen and her partner Will.  On our way we were intrigued by the various riverside properties.   With their manicured lawns and unimaginative garden design they look so sterile and immaculate they could be dolls’ houses. The Stepford Wives came to mind.  Dave did have a moment of lawn envy, but we imagine they all have ‘staff’ so that doesn’t count.

7 immaculate dolls house

We picked up Jen and Will at the moorings below the weir.  We learnt from our lunchtime neighbour that if you try to pick up passengers at the Leander club pontoon in Henley they will try to charge you £8 for the privilege! Henley was crowded with people enjoying the sunshine and beer, especially at The Angel at the bridge.

10 angel at henley

The regatta course has been laid out and the marquees are going up.  There were a lot of boats about and we missed the arrow telling us which side of the barrier to go – oops, never mind ….

11 regatta course

We passed Temple Island bright in the sunshine -

12 temple island

and Will enjoyed a turn at the helm

13 will takes a turn

while Jen kept Meg out of trouble!

14 jen and meg

We were a little concerned to see that the yellow boards are out (from Shiplake to Boveney we found out later) and the weirs are a bit lively – this is Hambleden I think.  But the river still seems reasonably gently flowing for the time being.

16 hambleden weir yellow board

Some boathouses seem rather fanciful – crenellations in front of a rather ordinary (if large) Tudorbethan house.

17 crenellated boathouse

As Jen and Will were on foot we hoped to drop them off below Hambleden lock, but the moorings appeared to all be taken so we dropped them off on the (presumably) private moorings at Culham Court, where the public footpath goes between the house and the river.  Quite a grand landing!

18 jen and will at steps to culham court

   19 j and w passing culham court 

We continued towards Hurley but wanted to moor at the attractive meadows near Medmenham.  Unfortunately some of the spots were too shallow and most had projecting branches and roots.  We decided to turn again and go further down when a strong gust pushed us onto a sandbank – just as a phalanx of Tupperware came charging round the corner at some speed from the lock.  By the time they had all passed we were well and truly stuck!  luckily a passing cruiser was able to tow us off and we managed to moor up.  Here is the stalwart crew who gave us assistance – many thanks!

23 our saviours

There were some amazing craft out today, and this was the best!  L100 WET.

21 amazing carboat 1  22 amazing carboat 2

The evening was glorious.  Dave celebrated by polishing the other side of the boat and I was forced to take Meg for another walk, though she did offer to help with the polishing. 

27 helping with the polishing

Apart from the grounding, we had a brilliant day today, especially because Jen hasn’t seen Chuffed ‘in the flesh’ before and it was lovely to have family on the boat – the first ones this year.

About 12 miles and 5 locks.

Saturday 24 May 2014

Off the K and A at last!

It’s really not our favourite canal, although some stretches are beautiful.  The bit we liked most was between Devizes and Hungerford, but mostly we got fed up with the poor moorings, and the locks and swing bridges which are so often just too close to each other to get the tea made – and drunk – without it getting cold!

I woke before 6 to hear the rain beating down, and didn’t get up.  It was pouring when we got up too, but eased off a little as we left at 8.30.  The plan was to get down to Reading today as we originally intended, just that we would have to get to Theale first which we had meant to do yesterday.  Froud’s Bridge is a nice little marina, but we weren’t sorry to be on our way at last.  We were moored on one of the pontoons to the right of the picture.

farewell frouds bridge

The exit is onto the river as it flows down to a weir, and it was flowing fairly fast;

leaving frouds bridge

We cruised down to the lock in the rain, to find it being turned by a group of Guides who were going up to Newbury.  It was their first canal trip and they were quick learners in spite of the rain which was hammering down!  As they left, a novice crew from the hire base came up to be shown how to operate a lock, and they kindly did a lot of the work for us, and then opened the lift bridge for us too, so although it took a little longer than usual it was very easy for us. 

coming through aldermaston lift bridge

The level of tuition seemed to be very good, with another staff member giving the steerer instruction as they came through the bridge, and the crew had also seen a video the afternoon before.  At Tyle Mill we saw our first cygnets of the season.

cygnets at Tyle MillWe made good progress this morning, with the rest of the locks in our favour. The rain had stopped by the time we got to Towney lock – here is Chuffed leaving it.leaving Towney lock

Meg has quickly settled into boat life again, taking up her favourite position as soon as the rain had stopped!  It’s a shame that a still photo can’t show her little nose whiffling as she enjoyed all the new smells!

whiffly nose

We stopped at Theale for an early lunch, and were on our way again by 1.  We soon caught up with a hire boat, with whom we shared the locks until Southcot.  There were a lot of grey-lag geese this afternoon, and we could just see a gosling with the adults, though it was half-hidden in the grass!

grey lags with goslings

The weirs this afternoon were pulling very strongly and at one the widebeam approaching us had a nasty shock as he suddenly started going sideways!  But fortunately gave it enough welly to avoid a collision, as we we being carried along too quickly to do much about it at that point.  As we entered Fobney, another boat joined us with what looked like a small branch caught on the bow.  It floated off as they came to a halt, and as Dave got the hook to haul it out it turned out to be about 15 feet long and with multiple branches.  It was heavy and unwieldy and it took both of us to haul it out and across the towpath – no pictures as the camera was on the boat, but this is what it did to my trousers!muddy trousers

The flow was quite strong as we came round the bends to County Lock.  The weir here was the scene of a grounding a little while ago – apparently the water level was right up over the weir, the boater thought ‘why bother with the lock?’  and ended up losing the skeg as he tried to cruise over the weir.  Somehow he avoided sinking.  This is how it looked today -county lock weir 1

We swept through the traffic light section, and past hordes of shoppers doing a bit of gongoozling on the side.  Out onto the Thames at last where we turned upstream and got the prime mooring for Tesco as the rain came down once more.  The rain cleared at last and it was a lovely evening.

13 locks, 12 and a half miles.

Friday 23 May 2014

Let’s start with Plan B ….

Plan A was to cruise to Theale in the sunshine.  Just one problem…. it’s rather wet.

We arrived at Froud’s Bridge after a wet and tedious drive, just outrunning the rain in time to unload the car before it tipped down again.  We got an internet signal to check the weather forecast but it’s likely to be raining till the end of the afternoon, and given the difficulty of mooring along the K&A we decided to stay put and hope for an early start tomorrow.

A cuckoo was calling from the other side of the river as it flowed past the marina entrance -

cuckoo calling from over there

but stopped as the rain got going.

Later in the afternoon we needed to take Meg for a walk, so we got the wet weathers on, paid for our mooring on the way out, and walked along the towpath as far as Padworth lock.  The rain had stopped now so I risked getting the camera out for a shot of Aldermaston lock with its scalloped edge.

aldermaston lock

We chatted to a guy from a boat waiting the other side of the swing bridge – he wanted info about moorings, and we wanted to know what the flow was like on the river sections.  The traffic-light section in Reading was quite hard work when they came up earlier today, so we hope the levels are not going to be too high to cruise tomorrow after this afternoon’s rain.

After about 7 the sun came out and it was a beautiful evening.  The cuckoo was calling again, and Meg enjoyed belting about on the grassy bit for a while – luckily the rabbits saw her and scarpered before she realised they were there!

meg running