Sunday, 30 July 2017

Heading West on the Kennet and Avon

Yesterday we came off  the Thames and we are now travelling up the Kennet and Avon Canal heading to the West Country.  Last Thursday though we set off from our island on the Cliveden Reach.

This is Seven Gable Cottage on the Cliveden Estate.  It featured in the Profumo Affair as the place where a lot of the sexual shennigans took place.

The river at Bourne End is unusually wide.  No need to look for a winding hole here - you can do 360s in a narrowboat with plenty of room to spare.  At this point we have just overtaken the broad beam you can see behind us.

 Here we are coming to  Marlow Lock with the church showing behind it.

Above the Lock you pass the church and under Marlow Bridge which is a suspension bridge built by the same chap, William Tierney Clark, who built the bridge over the Danube at Budapest.

The church at Bisham above Marlow is built of chalk and looks brilliant in the daylight.

Temple Lock is the next one above Marlow and, as you can see, is pretty well half way to Oxford from London.

As we waited below Hurley Lock this camping rowing boat came out.  Camping punts and rowing boats were common in past years but are now a rare sight.  The lady at the back commented that it was great fun but could be a little damp.

Medmenham Abbey was at one time the home of the Hell Fire Club and decorated  with pornographic and sacreligious paintings as background to the orgies that took place there.

From our mooring above Hambleden Lock we walked to Remenham and Aston.  Near Aston we came across a field with guinea fowl where 8 to 10 Red Kites were diving and soaring.  We wondered if this was adults teaching the young how to do this.  Left is a Kite sitting on a hen house in the field.

This is the more usual view of a Red Kite soaring with its characteristic forked tail.

We all know about the Nazi Stormtroopers 'goose stepping' on parade.  But when these Canada Geese passed our boat we could understand why it is called goose stepping!

We've had some good storms lately.  Look at the sky behind the sunlit field as seen from Leo at Hambleden.

On Friday we cruised up the river through Henley where we stopped to visit the bike shop and Sainsbury's.

As we came into Henley this platform was removing some of the posts they drive into the river bed to mark the course for the famous regatta.

Here we are approaching Henley Bridge.  The traffic on the road is nose to tail.  Do you see any other boats moving on the river?

Enough said - who needs a car?

Henley is a pretty place whether seen from the land or the water.  This view is looking back to the church, bridge and the Angel Inn right by the bridge.

At Sonning we tried to moor for free but all the places were taken.  So we finished up here and had to pay £10 for the privilege.  We've had five nights on the Thames from Weybridge to Reading.  We've paid £10 twice (at Hambleden and Sonning) and managed to moor free for the other three nights.

Sonning is a pretty place but has far too much traffic queuing for the bridge over the River.  We left Sonning on Saturday, stopping just beyond the mouth of the Kennet to visit the nearby Tesco.

Sonning bridge is delightful but can present difficulties for tall cruisers when the river is high.

Upstream of the bridge is Sonning Lock, our last on the Thames for the moment.  Here Leo is waiting below the lock.  The lock keeper here has a bad back which makes walking difficult.  His solution is to travel from one end of the lock to the other on an electric scooter!

After our Tesco shopping trip we turned round and turned off the Thames up the River Kennet which goes under the main line railway and shortly reaches Blakes Lock.

This is Blakes Lock which is actually still on Environment Agency water.  Technically the Kennet and Avon navigation begins just a little further on.

The route through Reading is narrow and the River Kennet is quite fast flowing.  Through the centre the river is one way and controlled by traffic lights.  Just like driving a car really!

Here is Leo  cruising past the many restaurants in the Oracle development.  If only boats were allowed to stop and enjoy all these retail and gourmet opportunities.  But it is all 'no mooring'.  I think the town is really missing an opportunity here.  Some towns make use of their waterways, Reading just ignores it.

 Through the centre of town you meet a small weir ahead with a lock to one side which rises all of 1 foot 1 inch.  And it was full of two narrowboats.  A fun bit of manoeuvering sorted this out by putting Leo in the lock alongside one narrowboat facing the other way.  Quite novel having two boats in a lock facing opposite ways.

Above County Lock the river flows strongly and is very bendy.  This makes navigating it somewhat tricky, especially when we met a wide beam hotel boat coming the other way.  After a mile or more the navigation bends to the right and goes up Fobney Lock.  Another boat was waiting and we had no choice but to moor alongside.

We moored just above Fobney Lock and sat out some quite heavy rain yesterday afternoon and overnight.  Today (Sunday) we've come through 9 locks which crop up every mile or less as the Kennet Valley climbs steeply into Berkshire.  Tonight we're moored at Aldermaston Wharf.

Helen took this lovely photo this morning of a Grey Heron enjoying the sunshine.

 A biplane gave us an aerial display as we approached Burghfield Lock.  Yes the plane really was upside down, I've not cheated at all with the photo.

Garston Lock is one of two remaining turf sided locks on the K&A.  A steel frame stops boats drifting onto the turf and getting stuck.

By Garston Lock is one of many pill boxes.  In the Second World War, the Kennet and Avon was a defensive line that was to be held if England had been invaded.  So there are a lot of defensive structures along the canal.

Here's what Garston Lock looks like when it fills up.  The water, as it fills, spills over onto the sloping turf sides.  This does mean it takes a lot longer to fill.

There are some odd locks on the K&A.  This is Sheffield Lock which has brick built scalloped sides.  The ends facing the boat are lined with timber.  This seems to be a development from the original turf sided locks.

 In several places a lift or swing bridge is set just before a lock so you have to set the lock then open the bridge and then drive the boat through the bridge into the lock.  This one is at Tyle Mill.  Leo is waiting for Helen to set both lock and bridge.

Towney Lock  was a problem.  At 9 feet 8 inches it is a deep one but the bottom gates would not close properly so there were plenty of leaks under and between the gates.  We had to fully open the top gate paddles which is not normally recommended.  But it did then fill up.

Aldermaston has a lift bridge with the lock just beyond.  This time there is in fact sufficient space between the bridge and the lock to fit the boat in between but this isn't always the case so you need to have a close look before you start to tackle these.

We're really enjoying the K&A, though some warmer and more sunny weather would be even better.  Moving from the wide Thames to the relatively narrow Kennet Navigation emphasises the variety in boating.  And you know that they say about variety.

In the next week or more we'll be continuing our way west on the K&A.  The plan is probably to come back the same way but our discussions lately have been turning to the possibility of then going up the tidal Severn to Sharpness from Bristol.  Not sure if we'll meet that challenge this year.  We'll see.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Marooned on a desert island

Well not quite but we are the only boat moored on an island in the Thames tonight.  Anoher boat did come for a while but now they've gone so we have the place to ourselves: it's a bit like Swallows and Amazons:
The path in the foreground is a sign that lots of others have been here before us.  Indeed there are two National Trust signs on the island saying "Mooring Fees Apply" but no-one has appeared yet to collect any money.

But, as usual, I am getting ahead of myself, so I need to relate how we got here.  Last Saturday we came down the St John's Locks and on Sunday we descended the Woodham Locks on the Basingstoke Canal and rejoined the River Wey:

Early morning sun and mist made the mooring at Brookwood Country Park very attractive.
  This is one of the five St John's Locks.  Further down Ian on Leo was waiting mid canal for the lock to fill ahead.  We finished up under a plum tree which was burdened with fruit, so we've had plenty of plums in the last few days.

We've seen this swan several times and each time it was at Lock 2 on the Woodham flight and always it was pecking at whatever vehicle had the misfortune to park in this particular spot.  Glad our car wasn't parked there.  Another side to the aggressive nature of swans.

This is the bottom lock of the Woodham flight of six and soon after this we came back to Woodham Junction and rejoined the Wey Navigation.   So we said our goodbyes to the Basingstoke Canal.  We'll have to come back sometime when there is more water so that we can take Leo all the way to the end.

We shared locks through New Haw and Coxes Locks with another narrowboat called Daisy Anna and below Coxes Mill ....

...... we moored with them at the Pelican pub where we all had Sunday lunch.  Daisy Anna is coming up the Thames with us and we saw them again today (Wednesday) when they passed 'our' island.

Having skillfully avoided the Thames at a weekend when there are lots more boats everywhere, we came out onto the River on Monday.

Here we are about to come out of the lower pound at Thames Lock on the Wey.  From here a short cut leads to the Thames below Shepperton Weir.  We then turned left up Shepperton Lock.

When Helen was little her family owned this cottage on Pharoah's Island above Shepperton Lock.  To mark this, we usually do a grand circuit of the Island and this time was no different.  There is no bridge to the Island so you have to go by boat.

This is Chertsey Bridge and the next lock is just to the right beyond the bridge.

Monday evening we moored in a spot we haven't found before.  It was recommended to us by the lock keeper at Thames Lock on the Wey.  Behind Church Island above Staines Bridge there are a few moorings by a public park.  This proved to be a good place which we shared with 2 other narrowboats.  This Egyptian Goose and her young visited us later.

On Tuesday we carried on upriver.  We have bought a 7 day licence on the Thames so we have plenty of time to reach Reading.

This is Runnymede Bridge which carries the M25.  So once again we are outside the M25.

Just beyond the M25 bridge is Bell Weir Lock which we shared with this monster.  She's a rather fine steamer called Magna Carta.

A good name for a steamer round here as we then passed the meadows where Magna Carta was signed in 1215.  In the woods on the hill behind you can just see the Commonwealth Air Forces Memorial.

The lock keeper at Romney Lock made a good job of packing us all in.  There seemed to be more boats waiting than would fit in the lock, but he found a way to get us all in.

We waved but the Queen was not at home.  There were lots of boats of all shapes and sizes at Windsor ....

.... including this DUKW.  It seemed very slow and low in the water.  We didn't like to tell them that one had sunk in Salthouse Dock at Liverpool!  This one was still floating when we lost sight of it.

This small chapel is at Dorney near the Olympic Rowing Lake.  We moored soon after passing it, attached to a ramshackle pontoon.  The pontoon was intended for rowing boats (the storage building for the boats was behind us).  We didn't feel it was a proper place to moor.

A boater on a good mooring nearby walked his dogs and returned to tell us there was a better mooring just round the bend.  So we moved to here.  A nice spot with some prestigious houses opposite.

Here are the Bromptons ready to go out.  Sadly Helen's Brompton had a flat tyre so we had to put in a new tube before we could go for a ride.

We cycled on the towpath up the river and then into Dorney village.  We wanted to see Dorney Court which is Elizabethan but it is private and difficult to see from public land.  This was the best view we could get.  We tried to have tea at the cafe but we were too late.  Without the flat tyre we might well have enjoyed tea and cake.

Returning to the boat, we crossed unfenced farm land on the edge of the village.  From here there is a lovely view of Windsor Castle.

Today (Wednesday) we came just a short way to Cliveden.  Well it was raining quite heavily.

We passed Bray Studios which is now derelict.  Lots of animations and other films were made here from the earliest days of the movies.  Hammer Horror was based here at one time.  We understand that houses are to be built on the site.
It was not a nice morning.  Dull, wet and grey.  You can just see Cliveden above the river.  There are three channels in the river here which all seem to be navigable.  Islands separate the channels and we are moored on an island to the right of the narrowboat ahead of us.  A fun spot.  No prospect of a long walk, the island is only about a hundred yards long.

Here is our spot.  Just long enough for Leo.

Our aim from here is to go upriver as far as Reading and then turn off on the Kennet and Avon Canal towards the West Country.