Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Beyond Henley.

We have reached the little town of Wallingford on our travels upstream after a brief stop again at Henley to pick up mail. The whole town is now in full regatta mode. As one group of ladies flashed past us I caught the captain laughing his head off. The man in the trainers boat had shouted through his megaphone, "more power, get those chests out!". Don't know what the captain was thinking but well, perhaps I can imagine!
We left behind the corporate circus being prepared for those who will be there, not to see but to be seen, and made our way as far as Reading where there is a huge Tescos with mooring outside. We strolled into town just to have a look, but it is not a very inspiring place. Its main interest for narrowboats is the entrance to the Kenet and Avon canal which passes through the town. After filling up our diesel tank we moved on to a mooring at Beale Park for the weekend. The sun made a good attempt to shine and it was good to relax away from the crowds.
The showers continued as we cruised up a very lovely stretch of the Thames to Wallingford to a good mooring right by the medievel many arched bridge. There is the remains of a Norman castle here which was destroyed after the civil war. It was the last stronghold to capitulate to the parliamentary forces. Very little remains except a few walls and of course the earthworks, however it is a poignant reminder of our turbulent past.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Steamers and Launches

The one thing you notice about the Thames is the great variety of boats making thier way up and down the river. I thought that on this post I would give just a flavour of some of the diferent traditional craft we have seen.
Back at Hampton Court, paddle steamers seemed to be the theme. Various trip boats up and down. Unfortunately the paddle wheels were for show, but, hey ho, I supose it is the look of the thing.
As we have come upstream there are more of the traditional Thames steamers.
Two sister ships, Nuneham and Streatley, both built around 1900 and kept in superb condition. We watched Streatley passing through Hurley lock, with clouds of steam and a toot or two on her whistle, she was expertly handled and a joy to watch. Several times we have seen Alaska, a rather smaller steam boat which is the oldest on the river, built in the 1880s. Available for charter with crew in uniform, it is not a cheap afternoon out!
For the less afluent there are the slipper launches, a style unique to the Thames. Very elegant with varnished mahogany decks and an air of the 1930s about them. I think the owners just cruise up and down to show off the quality of their boats. Moored here at Cookham we can watch people sailing on the river mixing in with the cruisers up and down all weekend.
Way down in the pecking order there are the traditional Thames rowing skiffs, much in the style of 'three men in a boat' and 'Wind in the Willows'. Just goes to show that there is something for everyone, and as Ratty said, "there is simply nothing quite like just messing about in boats".
As I write this the rain is coming down steadily. Just hoping the levels don't get too high!

Thursday, 16 June 2016

A Rowing Mecca

You might have guessed from the title that we have made our way to Henley, home of the world famous regatta. On the run in to the town we saw the rowing course being laid out and the grandstands being built. The town moorings had plenty of room and we got in with NB Inca in time to go out for a steak and a glass or two of the red stuff.
Henley has a great holiday feel to it with launches of all kinds bobbing at the moorings and bunting strung across the streets. I know it is nearly time for the regatta but you get the sense that it is always like that.
Sadly, yesterday morning we parted company with NB Inca. We have been cruising together since meeting up on the Grand Union and we have had a great time exploring the rivers Wey and Thames. It will seem very quiet without them.
Deciding to stay in Henley another day and see a bit more of the town, we discovered a vintage tea room called Upstairs & Downstairs. Up a windy staircase and you find yourself back in the 1930s.
A variety of different teas, served with cake, scones with cream and preserves, all to the acompaniment of subtle jazz in the background. Even the plates and teapots are from the era. The whole town gives one a hint of  Edwardian splendour and a bygone age.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

A Royal Conection

We have spent a couple of days in Windsor. It is a magic town, overlooked by the famous castle, which is of course one of the residences of the Queen.
After seeing her Majesty in Berkhampsted, and seeing her horseguards turn out in London when we were there, you might think she was stalking us, however, as it was her birthday, she was in St. Pauls.
We did visit the Castle and do the tour of the state rooms, as well as visiting St. Georges chapel, (more like a cathedral than a chapel), where many of the past royals are interred. We saw the stone under which HenryVIII and Jane Seymour are buried. There is a gallery which was built for Catherine of Aragon to watch the services taking place while she was still in favour with Henry.
We were moored on the park with a fine view of the castle down the river and a nice area to put our chairs out in the sunshine which obliged us with its presence most of the time we were there.
From Windsor we continued our passage up river as far as Cookham which was once reckoned to be the third richest village in the country and has been home to some famous people including Chris Rea .They did charge us £3 each to moor there breasted up alongside NB Inca, not the most expensive mooring we have found on the Thames to date!

Friday, 10 June 2016

A Different kind of Boating!

On leaving Hampton Court behind we made our way upstream through Sunbury to the public moorings at Dockets Eddy Lane. A lovely spot with grass to sit out on and road access alongside. This was important because I had been in contact with my cousin who lives in Sunbury and we arranged to meet up. We had a great evening and between us we coerced them to take us out on their boat the following afternoon. This is a very different kind of craft. On three levels' with twin engines that can produce speeds up to 30 knots. As we gingerly inched our way out of Sheperton marina the power was obvious and we sat on the flying bridge feeling very superior looking down on the river. Vastly different to the view from the deck of a narrowboat. After a fine lunch and another circuit of the island created by the Desborough cut we returned to the marina with a new perspective of the river. Although we were very impressed with the boat, it can, and has been across the channel, which is not something I would be comfortable with.
On Wednesday morning we were up bright and early to continue our journey up river. It was a fine warm day again but as we aproached Old Windsor the black clouds gathered and just as we spotted a mooring the heavens opened and in the time it took to get the ropes ashore we were soaked to the skin. Still, that is all part of the boating life and a hot shower soon puts all to right.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

A Royal Palace

The river was still high when we left Godalming. It was a tricky manoeuvre to back down the river with the increased flow and turn the boats but it was accomplished with only the loss of one mooring pin, (NB Inca).
The headroom under the bridge at Guildford was also a concern but we both got through with only a bit of a scrape to Incas cratch board. After that it was plain sailing all the way down to Thames lock and back out onto the big river. Turning downstream we moored outside Hampton Court Palace for the weekend. The sun shone, with temperatures in the high twenties and we all sat out and enjoyed the life on the river. Rowers, an endless stream of cruisers and trip boats as well as the wildlife. It is suprising to see the number of parrots living wild around London and the Thames.
On Saturday we visited the Palace. A fascinating piece of history,  Tudor and Georgian. The Captains favourite part was the Tudor kitchens, where they made quantities of pies, as well as roasting meat on spits in front of a huge log fire. The fire was six feet high and incredibly hot. My personal favourite was Henry VIII's private apartments, where you can just picture the intrigues which were part of the Tudor court. On Sunday we just chilled, enjoying the bustle and atmosphere of the river. Also on the moorings were Carol and George on the wide beam, Still Rockin' and Ann and Kev on NB Rock n roll. Thanks guys for a wonderfull evening on your spacious rear deck.
Monday morning early saw us heading back upstream towards Sunbury where we had the oportunity to try a very different kind of boating!  Which will feature in our next blog.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

On the Wey

The river Wey is one of the oldest navigations. Dating from 1653, it shows its age. In the style of the locks and the whole feel of the river, you know you are on a very different kind of navigation.
We made our way as far as Walsham flood gates on our first day. This is one of the original turf sided locks and is normally open, being used to control the water levels on the river.
While there one of our daughters came to visit. It is only about 50 miles from the south coast so is about as near as we can get to our home town. We had a great day in the sunshine, the dogs bounding up and down the towpath. The next day we were at Bowers lock and were joined by our other daughter and three of our grandchildren. It was a good chance to catch up with family.
At this point the weather took a turn for the worst. Still, we pressed on in the rain through Guildford, under a very low bridge. Oakapple fitted through OK but NB Inca just scraped through. By the time we moored up at the limit of navigation at Godalming, the river had risen about 6in. No chance of Inca going back under the bridge and possibly not Oakapple as well. As the rain fizzled out today we stayed put, waiting for the river level to drop. Luckily there is a Wetherspoons here for breakfast, as well as supermarkets to top up with supplies.