Thursday, 11 July 2013

Cruising the Thames Again

After four weeks on the Kennet and Avon we are now back on the Thames and tonight we're moored just downstream of Sonning.

It is worth reflecting on our experience of the K&A.  The Canal is all pleasantly rural with some fine views from the summit level and around Bath and Bradford on Avon.  At the Bath end the locks down to the Avon and the wonderful aqueducts of Dundas and Avoncliffe were well worth seeing and the Caen Hill Locks are truly spectacular.  On the downside, the canalside moorings are inadequate for the number of boats travelling and mooring other than on special visitor moorings is often impossible.  The sides of the canal are usually heavily overgrown with reeds and would be much better trimmed on the towpath side.  This really would help all users of the canal, not just boaters.  Dredging the canal closer to the edges would also help boats.

Enough for general comments, back to our trip.  We enjoyed our second stay in Newbury and left there on Tuesday morning.

This picture shows a narrowboat trip boat coming into Newbury Lock.  Below the lock is a Fullers Pub, 'Lock Stock' which has tables by the waterside.  We ate there on Monday evening.

Here we are on our way down the K&A following Alf who was a single hander.  Normally we find locking with a single hander means more work for us, but Alf was great, putting in just as much effort as us  in working the locks.

We stayed overnight at Woolhampton just above the lock below which the Kennet flows fiercely in from the right.  Amazingly moored right in front of us was the boat, Whistler, which we looked to buy at the same time we considered buying Leo.  Our two boats were moored side by side in Pyrford Marina.  We have met Jan and Graham from Whistler before and it was good to see them again.

Here is Whistler - moored in front of us
 On Wednesday we welcomed our friends Jeremy and Maggie onboard after enjoying lunch together at the Butt Inn close by Aldermaston Wharf.
Jeremy and Maggie onboard Leo
We took Jeremy and Maggie through the Aldermaston Lift Bridge and then a few more locks to Tyle Mill where we stopped for tea before they walked back to their car.  Then it was onward for us to Theale where we spent Wednesday evening.  We had a short bike ride here around some of the lakes in the Kennet Valley.  These old gravel pits now form wonderful sites for wildlife or fishing or sailing.  We had read that Theale Church was built in imitation of Salisbury Cathedral so we went to take a look.  While we couldn't see the resemblance it is certainly an imposing church, quite unlike a typical parish church.
Theale Parish Church
Today we've come down the remaining locks and through the centre of Reading.  En route we came through the second of the turf locks on the K&A.  These have an iron grid that keeps the boat in place in the centre but the water spills over onto the sloping sides:

Here you can see the iron structure next to Leo and the water spilling over into the surrounding vegetation.

This view is looking back into the empty lock.  We were sharing with another couple, Dave and Alison on Free Spirit.

In Reading we met Sally who Ian used to work with and gave her a ride through Reading and out onto the Thames.  Sally ordered an egg sandwich at the pub we visited at the bottom end of the Kennet and was surprised to find a fried egg sandwich on her plate.

After allowing Sally to go back to work we carried on down the Thames and after mooring downstream from Sonning we walked back to look round the village.  Sonning is a lovely village but unfortunately is strangled by loads of traffic on a tiny road trying to get to the bridge to cross the Thames.

Approaching Sonning Bridge - through the central arch with priority over those coming upstream.

This is the view from the downstream side of the bridge.  We've tried to find out the story about the postbox on the bridge pillar but without success.  We'd just love to see the postman collect the letters!!

Here is a view of one of the side streets in Sonning, with as few cars as I could manage.  It did strike us that the village would be so much prettier and comfortable without all the cars.

In the next few days we'll be carrying on downstream via Henley and Windsor eventually to Brentford to connect with the Grand Union Canal.

1 comment:

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