Monday, 14 October 2019

August 23 - September 6 down the Thames from Oxford

Friday August 23 Oxford to below Abingdon Lock (8.5 miles, 5 locks)
Noisy revving College Cruiser hire boats woke us up! The boater behind helped Ali and Liana with the lock. Descending Isis Lock, John managed to turn Annie 180 degrees without using the mooring pontoon, as there was hardly any current. Under the rail bridge, we entered the main river channel and soon arrived at Osney Lock, enjoying the view. The keeper was busy, so asked us to get our license at the next lock. Most of the locks are about three miles apart on the middle Thames. Leaving Oxford behind, we soon reached Iffley Lock, above which we moored by a wedding venue and got a week's license for £68 (more if over 60 feet). We enjoyed our leisurely cruise in the sun, with only a bit of rope holding in the locks. We stopped for lunch at the Kings Arms, above Sandford Lock, in a favourite scenic setting. After using the services above Abingdon Lock, we took the lockie's advice, so both Annie and the narrowboat we locked down with, moored on the last two spaces in the meadow, just after the lock. While we fixed all seven pins in, Ali finished the stew and baked potatoes with peas for a tasty meal. Liana won at Settlers of Catan, after which we watched Downton Abbey bonus material and then an episode, before bed. Mooring by lock weirs is a little noisy but pretty.

Saturday August 24 Abingdon lock to North Stoke near old ferry (16.5 miles, 4 locks)
Woke early. After visiting the loo, John noticed the sun was shining through a small gap in the rear doors, creating an inverted camera obscura image of morning sun and trees on our headboard! We are taking our time, enjoying the scenery, as we have a week to travel down to Teddington and back to the River Wey, where we will need a special National Trust license. We are told that we cannot ascend Deepcut Locks on the Basingstoke Canal due to water shortage, sadly, but we can travel 20 miles up the Wey to Guildford and beyond. Past Abingdon Marina, Wilts & Berks Canal junctions (maybe one day …), we passed meadows and bosky tree-lined banks to Clifton Lock. For a change, we turned up the weir channel to Pendon, where we moored and walked around the village. John visited the excellent model railway museum, surprising for a small village, which had some massive displays, worked by enthusiasts. Even though it is not a big interest, John enjoyed it. We motored on in the sun, through Day's lock at Little Wittenham and under Shillingford's stone bridge. The moorings were all taken above and below the bridge. Through Benson and Wallingford the Bank Holiday crowd filled the moorings, so we carried on in the evening to find a decent bankside mooring just after North Stoke, near the site of the old ferry. We played the game again and qatched Downton.

Sunday August 25 North Stoke to Beale Park (7 miles, 2 locks)
In lovely sunshine we set off. Liana and Ali hung towels from the cratch to protect themselves from the sun. They completed the two locks at Cleeve and Goring easily, just holding ropes. It was soooo hot that we stopped early. We moored bankside at Beale Park, clearing up half a bag of rubbish from the grass. We walked near the park itself, but did not enter, as it was nearly closing time, and we have been before. We spotted unused and neglected floating mooring pontoons in a lake off the river, which seemed a waste. It was still hot, so we had food on board, played the game and watched an episode of Downton.

Monday August 26 Beale Park to Reading (River Kennet) (9.5 miles, 4 locks)
Not up early, and Ali was last up, unusually..... so cuppa needed, but no gas! The new bottle didn't work, so we thought we had been sold an empty bottle. We used the microwave to boil water for tea. We bought a new bottle from Reading Marine (£35). Lifting bottles onto the high quay, John realised that our duff bottle did contain gas, so we kept it for the moment. They had no diesel due to flooded tanks, so we continued to Caversham Cruisers to get 50 litres of diesel (it was 99p @ 0%!). It was a struggle to moor in Reading, as our usual moorings now showed green signs demanding £100, clearly designed to frighten off moorers! We found a mooring just before the red light downstream of the Gut river narrows, and visited the town for supplies.

Tuesday August 27 Reading to Hallsmead Alt near Shiplake House School (4.5 miles, 2 locks)
Today is car moving day, so Liana and Alison took the train to Heyford via Oxford – an hour or more, but very busy – Ali had to stand. John bought Simpsons pyjamas from Primark, then needed help to get out of a huge shopping centre! The girls had a beer at Morse's The Boat at Thrupp, while they ate their sandwiches, after which Ali drove home and Liana returned to Reading. Parking was difficult, so Liana paid, had lunch, then took our neighbouring boater's advice and found a spot near the Jolly Angler, close by Blake's Lock. Liana joined John at the lock. We passed on to the main river and through Sonning Lock to Shiplake. It was third time lucky finding a mooring on one of the two islands, Hallsmead Alt and The Lynch, by Shiplake House School. One such attempt was given up as too many branches needed to be removed! We got soaked as we were tieing Annie up to trees on the other side of the island. It was good to dry off, have leftovers for tea and watch Downton.

Wednesday August 28 Hallsmead Alt to Henley-on-Thames (Henley Reach) (5 miles, 2 locks)
Poor Liana coughed all night and woke up feeling so so. We set off from the island about 0900, passed Shiplake House School and stopped at the services before Shiplake Lock to take on water and empty loo holding tanks again. The “Millionaire's Mansions” at Wargrave and Lower Shiplake are really something! Again, the scenery is beautiful. Later, we looked in the estate agents in Henley-on-Thames to see them valued at £5 million plus! Below Marsh Lock we spotted a fuel boat at the visitors moorings, so filled up with 127 litres @ 96p, still much dearer than off the Thames. The river is sooooo scenic around here. Passing under the town bridge, we moored on the west bank on Henley Reach, where the regatta is held. A boat soon arrived to claim the £10 mooring fee. It is a pleasant walk across the grass towards town, where there are plenty of interesting buildings and shops. Beautiful flower planters and hanging baskets were everywhere. There is clearly money around here. Even a 2 bed terrace was for sale at £475k. We relaxed and had afternoon tea in the Cafe Chocolat, then chilled at the boat and had sausages for tea.

Thursday August 29 Henley-on-Thames to below Marlow lock (8 miles, 4 locks)
Another beautiful, sunny morning, with hot sun but cool air and plenty of dew on the grass. We breakfasted while loads of scullers rowed past, then did a bit of blog and diary before setting off. Past the colonnaded temple on Temple Island, we passed riverside meadows to Hambleden Lock, near which Midsomer Murders is filmed. Large houses like Culham court, Medmenham Abbey and Danesfield Hotel dominate the skyline above the river on these scenic reaches. We shared Hurley, Temple and Marlow locks with quiet electric craft and grp cruisers. Motors must be switched off and boats roped fore and aft in all these locks, to safeguard smaller vessels. The views are so pretty every day along the Thames!
Mooring on free visitor moorings below Marlow Lock, we repeated yesterday and walked into town along the Thames Path. Burgers tea shop did decent coffee and lovely scones. Later, we had mince and tatties, then watched England women soccer v Belgium on tv.

Friday August 30 Marlow Lock to Boveney Lock (12 miles, 4 locks)
The moorings below Marlow Lock were ok. Poor Liana was coughing most of the night, so didn't sleep well. Setting off about 1000, we passed under the Marlow ring road bridge, beneath Quarry Wood (the inspiration for the Wild Wood for Graham), past the rugby club fields to Gibraltar Island. The riverside houses are pretty spectacular and varied. Bourne End Reach and its meadows were busy with boats of all kinds, including a sailing boat John used his sailing knowledge to anticipate and avoid. Bourne End and Cookham had more expensive properties vying for approval. The two lock keepers at Cookham Lock sorted out a new week license for £68, which should see us to the River Wey. They confirmed that we should be able to get a transit license from Wey to Teddington Lock, onto the tidal Thames, for around £10, thankfully.
Cliveden Reach has NT owned Cliveden House on its hilly North side, hidden by trees. Once it was the home of the Astor sisters, 1930s Nazi sympathisers, then the scene for the Christine Keeler 1960s scandal. We passed by Maidenhead's fringes through Boulter's Lock, past numerous moorings and boatyard, under the Great West Road A4 and railway. At Bray, we passed the famous Waterside (Roux brothers)and The Fat Duck (Hester Blumenthal) restaurants …. no, we couldn't copy friends who have tried them!
Once through Bray Lock, we passed under the M4. All day we have seen planes taking off from Heathrow Airport. Bray Marina charge 123p/l for diesel and 163p for petrol! The rather grand Oakley Court hotel had lots of visitors in its grounds, enjoying the sun. We had a sandwich to keep us going until 8pm, when our daughter Rachel is expected with Honeypie. After the busy Windsor Marina we had hoped to moor at good free 24hr , by Dorney Lake moorings by Boveney Chapel, but they were full. Rachel will have to park here and walk down to Boveney Lock, where we have paid £10 for overnight moorings on the lock island, in the large pool below the weir, opposite Windsor racecourse. Lots of trip boats turn here before returning to Windsor with their passengers.
We walked up to the Chapel to meet Rachel and Honeypie, then we all returned to Annie for a meal and game of Settlers of Catan, which Liana sneaked a victory from John (rats!).
Saturday August 31 with Rachel and Chrissy around Windsor
Liana walked Honeypie from Boveney Lock to Windsor Bridge, where we picked up Rachel's friend Chrissy near Windsor Bridge.

Leaving Sainsbury at Staines, the girls made up tea with nice crusty bread, cheeses, olives and pate. We passed up Bell Weir Lock, then got well stuck in the shallows By Wraysbury Skiff and Punting Club, fooled by a nice looking grassy meadow shore. It took a lot of rocking, pole pushing, reversing and tiller waving to get us off, after which we went back to the decent 24 hour moorings we had just passed! After tea, we played the game again and chatted. John recorded Match of the Day.
Sunday September 1
Monday September 2 Windsor Baths Island to free moorings near Chertsey Meads Marine (12.5 miles, 5 locks)
We walked Honeypie around Baths Island and beyond, admiring the full size Hurricane mounted twenty feet high in the park. The walk to Eton College over Windsor Bridge is just under a mile. The Eton shops were interesting, and most still kept their Victorian and Edwardian shop fronts. There were three tailors selling tails, pinstriped trousers and waistcoats etc to the young Etonians. We walked on the sports fields of Eton, along a right of way, and John photographed Honeypie at the Eton College entrance.
Setting off, John took Annie through the narrow passage between island and shore, to see the decent moorings there (£10 a night), then we headed downstream, through Windsor Bridge and around the Windsor Castle Home Park (public), then under Victoria Bridge to the private parkland, with cattle and excellent views of the Castle.
After Old Windsor Lock, we soon reached Runnymede again, through woodland edged country, past Magna Carta Island and the Memorials, to Bell Weir Lock.
At Staines, we moored outside the Swan Hotel, and John sat outside with Honeypie (they are dog friendly but it was sunny), enjoying a beer, while Liana shopped at Sainsburys. Through Staines you see a wide variety of riverside homes, from houseboats, chalets and bungalows to richer fare, often supported on round piles to avoid flood damage. After Penton Hook Lock, we found the moorings at Laleham to be full (home of the Lucan family: His Lordship was out), and the meadow riverside after the campsite was marked as shallow in the Imray Thames guide, so we continued under the M3 through Chertsey Lock. We moored on concrete piling free 24h moorings, half a mile below Chertsey Bridge, close to NB Rebellion, which had made the same trip today. John finally watched Saturday's Match of the Day.

Tuesday September 3 Chertsey to Hampton Court and by train to London (7.5 miles, 3 locks)
It was less than a mile to Shepperton Lock and the confluence with the River Wey, where we will go later this week, once our Thames license runs out on Friday. The shorter Desborough cut avoiding Shepperton is straight but boring: We must take the long route next time. There are loads of house boats and riverside chalets alonf here, plus two marinas and a big EA maintenance yard., before Sunbury Lock. Riverside trees hide the lakes adjoining the river, but you can choose which way to pass some of the islands on the way to Hampton Court Lock, near which there is a useful rail link to London.
Joanna used Whatsapp to make a video call from Bali on our Iphone, looking very brown.
There are good moorings downstream of the bridge next to Hampton Court, free for 24 hours and £8 for a second day, payable on line using the notice at the moorings. We had a pleasant long walk with Honeypie in the park, after which we caught the hourly train from Hampton Court station, next to Hampton Court Bridge. We had invitations to attend the British Medical Association Medical Book Awards 2019 at BMA House in London, with drinks before and meal after: Joanna being in Bali, had us attend in her place. We met Clare Boomer of Scion Publishing. There were about 100 books shortlisted out of 600, in various categories. Joanna had six books in her category, Anaesthesia, which came first …... and she won! We both shrieked “Oh my God!” (sorry, God), which prompted the presenter to comment on the exciting start! Clare went up to receive the award. Scion's other entry won the Young Author award. We whatsapped and texted the family, but Jo was fast asleep in Bali, ringing us about 10pm when she woke up at 5am Bali time!
We celebrated on the boat and watched the last episode of Downton Abbey series five before a late bedtime.

Wednesday September 4 at Hampton Court (0 miles, 0 locks)
After our exciting time in London we chilled today, having a walk into the town and around the park next to Hampton Court. We wished Happy Birthday to sister Dianne and friend Andrew. After a nap, we left Honeypie on the boat and visited Hampton Court shop and gardens. Liana bought “Six Wives, the queens of Henry VIII” by Richard Starkey and we got a guide to read before we visit tomorrow morning.

Thursday September 5 Hampton Court to Teddington Lock (4.5 miles, 0 locks)
John walked to the formal gardens which should be open 0900-1000, but they weren't, as construction of tents etc for a car event were going on, sadly. So he looked over the kitchen garden before joining Liana and Honeypie in the park, before we all went for another coffee and pain chocolat over the bridge. Setting off downriver, we passed several islands full of small houses and chalets, as well as others on the shore, plus a few grander residences. Several passenger steamers passed us, bearing the late season tourists, as we travelled the few miles to Teddington Lock, with its three locks, the biggest being 650 feet long!
The lock keepers at Teddington were friendly and helpful: We intend to go back upriver and spend a few days on the Wey, then descend Teddington Lock and go to Brentford on Tuesday (12.30 departure, half hour before high tide), or 1330 on Wednesday.

Friday September 6 Hampton Court to Shepperton

 We moored back on our favoured mooring at the park close to the Shepperton, ready to move across the river to the River Wey next day.

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