Day 1 Monday 20th July 2015

Kingfisher count: 2 Weather: Light rain which miraculously stops as we set off and occasional gusty wind

10.30am All equipment safely stowed away (or not as it turns out), kingfisher does a fly past to send us on our way and our first intrepid trip from the Wey to the Thames begins.

First obstacle, Pyrford lock. Why couldn’t we have a nice simple start? We stop to let narrow boat out of lock and another narrow boat with drunken driver goes straight past us, asking where he can find diesel. I warn him about the boat in the lock and he executes a hasty manoeuvre which involves hitting a moored boat, owner of which offers some advice which is impolitely rejected. We decide not to join them in the lock.

Moor up for lunch just beyond Cox’s lock – where did the time go? Enjoy the boat names playing on the Wey theme – favourites being ‘This Wey Up’ and ‘Get Out Of The Wey.’

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The impressive former mill at Cox’s lock

Arrive at Shepperton meadow opposite Desborough island at 3.30pm. We will buy the Thames licence tomorrow morning at Shepperton lock. We are Immediately accosted by an aggressive beggar jumping on the roof, ducking and diving under our ropes and looking accusingly at us. Yes, a single female mallard, much less restrained than all the other waterfowl we have met, is demanding food. We cravenly give in and hand out some brown bread – the wrong food – I think it should be cat food

or is that hedgehogs I’m thinking of?

Second kingfisher exocets by.

Loads of food in cool bag so feast tonight of quiche, beetroot, pre-cooked potatoes, tomatoes, salad and wine.

Getting into the spirit of this boating lark. Chat amiably to boat owner moored next to us. Boat owners have lots of stories to tell, so we discover, and they mostly fall into the horror or disaster genres. Apparently said owner was here two weeks ago, walked to the shops conveniently close by and returned to find he couldn’t get to his boat due to a body having been found in the water ( just where our boat is now he helpfully points out). The area was now a crime scene and he had to wait several hours before he could return to his vessel.

Pleasant dreams.

Day 2 Tuesday 21st July 2015

Weather: Clear blue sky

The water this morning is like glass but the reflected images are pixelated like a giant screen.
8.45am the rush hour begins with our first sighting of a Surbiton wedding cake – vast three tier confection containing a driver somewhere in there but not visible to the human eye.
We head for Shepperton lock and whilst Ivan is sorting out our licence (£72 for two weeks) I take the opportunity to use the lock toilet. Find it costs 20p so head back to the boat for requisite coin.
We are told that we can fill up with water just before Chertsey Lock, however when we get there the lock gates are opening, mooring looks tricky with a strong wind blowing and the lock, we have been told, is unmanned so we enter with the other boats and let them figure out how to operate the lock. We fill up two plastic bottles with water from a tap.
Penton Hook lock, fortunately, is manned but no water to be had.
We find a mooring at Runnymede and stop for lunch.
We decide to stay put for the night as we have done four hours of cruising.
Make several trips to the clean public toilets to fill up with water so that we can have a wash.

Statue of the queen

Statue of the queen

Walk to the new statue of the queen which looks remarkably like Jenny Agutter, on to the Magna Carta memorial and beyond that to the National Trust café for tea and scones.
Back to the boat for a wash and brush up before we take a short walk to the Italian Concept restaurant for a pleasant evening meal.
It appears that Runnymede is positioned at the end of the runway at Heathrow so you can see what the passengers are having for their dinner. Fortunately the aircraft noise stops around 11pm.

Day 3 Wednesday 22nd July 2015

Weather: Wind has dropped.

Elsan toilet cartridge is filling up. Decide to check out public toilets at Runnymede at 7am but are locked, then 7.45 and then finally at 8.30am they open. The joy of clean public toilets with hot running water too!
All the mallards on the water appear to be female. It transpires, however, that the males lose their glossy bottle green heads in the summer.
We tackle three locks today. We stop at Chris’s cruisers after Windsor lock to ask about the new guide to the Thames that everyone says we need (The river Thames book by Chris Cove-Smith). The shop magically produces a copy and we are instantly initiated into where all the facilities are to be found on our route. We are in constant fear of running out of petrol, food, water and toilet facilities. Perhaps the book will help. We also take the opportunity to pop into the pleasant village of Datchett for a can of petrol, a sandwich and a newspaper.
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After passing through Windsor lock mild panic sets in as the tell-tale of water from the engine appears to have disappeared. We stop at Romney lock and poke about a bit until the stream of water reappears. Our book tells us that there is a water tap and hose at Windsor Town Moorings. We find it just before the bridge and fill our tank with water. (I don’t think tank is the correct term – it is a water bag inside the front of the boat which seems to fill up (and empty) remarkably quickly.

Beyond Boveney lock we keep a weather eye out for moorings near to Dorney Lake but they appear to be full. We pass them and spot a grassy area with the mysterious words P G Point painted onto the embankment. We moor up and wonder nervously if P G is going to turn up and ask us to leave. Ask many people what PG Point means and no-one knows, not even the lock keeper who we quiz when we return to the lock for drinking water. Before we burden ourselves with our drinking water we take a look at the small fascinating settlement near the lock. A slightly surreal situation emerges as a steady stream of traffic arrives on this remote dirt track to ask us where the Church of St Mary Magdalene is. As we have now become the experts on where the church and the car park is we direct people accordingly. It transpires that the Friends of Friendless churches rescued the church some years ago, it is the saints own day today and one of the very infrequent services (three or four times a year) is about to take place.

We return to the boat and enjoy the comings and goings on this popular stretch of the river. Our enjoyment is only marred by the strains of strangulated melodies creeping across the river from the hotel on the opposite bank. A dragon boat race passes by and as the light dies the open decked party boats emerge noisily from the darkness and disappear for a time until the relentless party-goers appear yet again on the return voyage.

No friendly restaurants here so tinned ham from Waitrose and tinned potatoes roasted not fried as we discover that we have forgotten to bring a frying pan, in fact we have forgotten to bring any kind of pan. We do have a tin opener but it doesn’t work very well.

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Dragon boat racing at PG point

 

Day 4. Thursday 23rd July 2015

Kingfisher count: 1 Weather; Overcast with hints of blue. Wind light.

Kingfisher streaks past as we set off.

Take on drinking and tank water at Cookham lock. On reflection two lemonade bottles are probably not enough to satisfy our never ending need for drinking water since not every lock has water. At 1pm we arrive at the lovely stretch of mooring at Cookham and decide to stay put. We are told that the £5 mooring fee will be collected at around 5.30pm. Finish off the rather nice Royal Oak tinned ham for lunch and take a walk along the river and across the railway bridge to Bourne End and then back again.
Neighbouring boat owner tells us the alarming tale of the events at Windsor town mooring last night where we didn’t moor, thank goodness. All the boats there had their moorings released in the night. One boat ended up on the ropes next to the weir and the family we came through one of the locks with were cast adrift  then remoored by other boat owners all whilst they slept and were blissfully ignorant of the danger they were in.

Our mooring fees are collected as promised and although there are lots of nice looking pubs in walking distance we decide to head off and find the fish and chip shop a good thirty to forty minute walk away. Buy a few supplies from the shop opposite at the same time and head back as quickly as our legs will carry us to enjoy our catch.

Note on the radio that there is a severe weather warning out for the following day – lashings and lashings of rain.

Day 5 Friday 24th July 2015

Weather: Torrential rain most of day.

7am Should we stay at Cookham or should we go? Not raining yet and haven’t worked out how to work boat with hood up – can’t get round the canopy to get to front of boat for hopping off to moor. Decide to set off with hood down and see what happens. As we approach Marlow it starts to rain heavily and we quickly pull over to the town moorings (24 hours free) and batten down the hatches. Ivan goes to lock to use toilet and asks the perennial question – is there a tap to fill up with water? This turns out to be a tricky subject. There is a tap shown on our guide but the lock keeper doesn’t own up to having one so Ivan returns empty handed.

I visit the toilet and try again to request water. This time he points out that if you ask for water the assumption is that you want to fill up your tank and you can’t do that at Marlow. But, please sir, we only want to fill up our two lemonade bottles so that we can have a cup of tea. Well, there is a tap, in that case, it is hidden in the hedge at the edge of the lock.

Our Elsen is now nearly full again and despite the pouring rain we must explore the town toilet situation. Marlow turns out to be a very lovely town with, as luck would have it, a charity shop with a large umbrella for sale. We have a cup of tea and cake in the café next to Sainsbury’s, discover very nice public toilets next to Sainsbury’s and are recommended the George and Dragon for good value food by the lady in the charity shop.

On returning to the boat we witness a forlorn wedding party passing by on a pleasure craft. Everyone packed like sardines into the canopied area of the boat, unable to move and looking like tailor’s dummies. A day to remember.

Come evening once more braving the pouring rain we make our way to the pub and indeed enjoy a very good value meal and take the opportunity to charge our mobile phone (something else we are always running out of).

Day 6 Saturday 25th July 2015

Kingfisher count: 2 Weather: Clear and bright

I take the opportunity to do a spot of bird watching at this rather peaceful spot whilst Ivan walks into town to fill his can with petrol.

3 cormorants, 1 coot, 1 swan and cygnet, 3 mallard, 1 kingfisher, 1 heron, 1 grebe, 1 swallow.

After Marlow lock, good old Hurley lock has an Elsen emptying station AND a water tank filling hose. Why can’t all locks be like this? Glanced into the Elsen station, will not go in there again except on pain of death.

Spot another kingfisher at Hambleden lock.

1pm, the point at which we have usually had enough of travelling, we arrive at Henley where there is a £8 charge for mooring; this end nearest to Hambleden lock is very peaceful. We decide to walk over the impressive weir at Hambleden lock to the beautiful flint and mellow-brick village of Hambelden, where we have tea and cake outside the post office. The village is bursting with hollyhocks and visitors revelling in the sunshine and unspoilt charm of the village.

On the return journey I try to pin-point the location of the high pitched whistles which I assume are created by a shepherd instructing a rather slow witted dog, but the whistles seem to be located first on one side of the hills and then another. Eventually I recognise the culprit in the red kites wheeling from one side of the valley to the next. I never knew the Chilterns were so beautiful.

Walk into Henley in the evening, too far really, from our end of the field, especially as we have to walk back again in the semi-dark. The mooring fee man arrived and caught us just as we were about to leave for Henley, mentioning that he had tried earlier but we were out. Have a nice meal in the Two Brewers and enjoy the beer brewed especially for the Regatta, We had to swop meals half-way through because Ivan ordered swordfish, I ordered meat pie and he started to suffer from pie-envy.

The regattas, luckily for us, are all over and done with for this year. There are still enough rowers on the river to raise the anxiety stakes as we cruise along. In the evening, before the light fades, we see a single craft on the river, one of the beautiful slipper launches, a traditional Thames pleasure boat produced in the 1930s by Meakes of Marlow and now highly prized and greatly admired.

Day 7 Sunday 26th July 2015

Kingfisher count: 1 Weather: Rain

Difficult decisions day again. Rain due from 9am – 3pm. Should we carry on upstream or stay and continue to explore this rather delightful area? We are told it is quite wonderful further up-stream but our appetite for adventure is waning. We decide to stay put and head for the Flower Pot at Aston a shorter walk than that into Henley. Encouragingly a huge message is painted on the side of the pub in true Edwardian style claiming to welcome fishing and boating parties. On this washed out Sunday there are few guests, if you don’t count the rather alarming collection of stuffed animals and prize fish lining the walls. The welcome, however, is warm and even more attractive is the offer of a free mooring for up to three nights if we eat at the pub. We enthusiastically order food and I enjoy fish pie and treacle tart Ivan wisely opts for the meat pie, as I am not in the mood for , and spotted dick to compensate for the gloom outside.

We walk back to the boat, take the hood down, and head through Hambleden lock to the Flower Pot landing stage. Rather a dicey landing as the rail at the front of the boat tries to hook itself over a post, I leap off against my better judgement and nearly do the splits on the wet slimy surface. We moor up and survey the scene, which is very attractive with the Chiltern hills in the distance. This area of the Thames is serious goose territory with Canada, greylag and Hawaiian geese present in large numbers. The geese all settle onto the river in the early evening and we head back to the Flower Pot where we share the small bar area with one or two customers, a live parrot and three terriers which, since they are in baskets and not glass cases, we assume are alive although we saw no evidence to confirm this.

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The geese rule the roost at the Flower Pot mooring

 

Day 8 Monday 27th July 2015

Kingfisher count: 1 Weather: Sunny but windy (18) and warnings of coastal gales

8am A lie-in! Normally we are up before 7am getting ready to be at the first lock when it opens at 9am and to make some progress as we don’t travel very quickly, unlike some boats which treat the river as a motorway. Wise to stay put today and decide to walk back to Hurley along the Thames path thereby discovering a beautiful walk. This long sojourn brings with it the usual problem of drinking water and washing water running out and Elsen filling up.

Swan upping took place last week so it says on the radio, but Swan numbers are down by a third. Fishermen are being blamed but I didn’t catch why they are the source of the decline. On the river you never fail to be in awe of the majesty of these birds. If fishermen are to blame, shame on them.

Our walk is so lovely it appears to be three walks in one – The Thames Path, The Chiltern Way and, improbably, The Wokingham Way. Entering what transpires is a huge country estate, the first delight is the wildflower meadow. CoincidentallyI am reading Meadowland: the private life of an English field by John Lewis-Stempel I am struck by the array of wild flowers in the meadow and ashamed that I can’t instantly name them. I have a stab at field scabious, birds foot trefoil, field mallow, wild marjoram but stumble at the delightfully architectural umbelliferae. We have lost 97% of our wildflower meadows, not something that regularly hits the news headlines, but along with the pleasure of walking through this mini paradise are lost all the species associated with it. We spot a marbled white butterfly disinclined to fly on this blustery day. The view from the field, with the river and Chiltern Hills as a backdrop, is a feast for the eyes.

The next delight is the imposing 18th century mansion Culham Court perched on the hillside with steep lawn sloping down to the river. Passing in front of the mansion we enter the deer park and spy groups of sheep dotted around the landscape. On closer inspection these are found to be white deer – how could we not have noticed the strange but impressive web-like antlers?

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The white deer of Culham Court

In a position on the brow of the hill and commanding the whole countryside we see that someone in their wisdom thinks this imposing spot would be an ideal place to build a warehouse. Affronted, we stop a workman passing by and he enlightens us as to the true nature of the steel and scaffolding confection. Within its protective embrace is an embryonic classical temple with eighteenth century features financed by the (extremely) wealthy owner of Culham Court.

We now descend into Hurley and enjoy lunch at the Rising Sun. We buy an ice cream at the farm shop which is a little disappointing as it is little more than a camping shop with thoughtful varieties of tinned food and (admittedly) some jars of local jams and chutneys.

We enter Hurley lock on foot and fill our trusty lemonade bottles with drinking water and then head back to the Flower Pot mooring.

The early evening calm is only broken by the hyped up dog-owners who drive to the river in their cars, repeatedly throw balls and, inexplicably, stones, into the river for the hapless dogs to retrieve. We escape from the madness back to the Flower Pot where Ivan has Pork shank which was lovely and tender. I have pheasant which is OK but a bit dry.

Day 9 Tuesday 28th July 2015

Kingfisher count: 1 Weather: Sunny, light breeze

Nearly out of everything and Elsen nearly full and shock horror, nearly out of matches too. Time to get down to Hurley lock.

A kingfisher does a farewell fly past and we are on our way once more. Fill up with water at Hurley and meet Ivan’s bogeymen, the ruffians first seen at Pyrford lock who are still hunting for diesel fuel.
We are kings of the river now with water galore for two days ahead, an empty Elsen, but, admittedly, still no matches.

Manage to squeeze onto the public moorings at Marlow and since the weather is fine explore the town and environs more extensively.

Here we meet some of the single gentlemen who have been cast adrift by their partners and are condemned to travel in narrow boats for the rest of their lives, from one free mooring to another. They don’t seem to mind too much.

Walk around the church, see the Steve Redgrave statue in the park and find even more wonderful toilets in the park next to the leisure centre, where the fine day is being enjoyed by all and sundry. Buy some more essential food items from Sainsbury’s in case we are stranded without a pub. Return, mistakenly perhaps, in the evening to the George and Dragon where the service is good and the food reasonable but unexciting. Ivan has his gammon extravaganza again and I have Scampi and chips which seem to have been manufactured from cardboard. The caramel apple pie is pretty good though.

Day 10 Wednesday 29th July 2015

Kingfisher count: 5 Weather: Sunny with threat of rain showers.

High pitched whistle announces a kingfisher fly past just before we depart to garage to fill petrol can (and use toilet of course – never waste an opportunity). Return down the delightfully Victorian Glade Road where the builders are so proud of their work that the sign ‘Built in 1884’ is writ large on the side of one of the buildings.

We depart for Cookham passing the impressive mansions dominating the slopes of the hills outside Marlow.

We arrive in Cookham to find all the ‘civilised’ moorings are taken so we have to execute a landing in the wild meadow between the sailing club and a large barge owned by and named ‘Two Ladies.’ We do not acquit ourselves very well and I fall over but we eventually secure our position. I count my boating bruises which now add up to 30. In compensation we find ourselves moored next to a kingfisher hole in the bank from which the resident darts backwards and forwards when he thinks we aren’t looking.

Decide to walk to Cookham lock to find out from the lock keeper the best way to visit Cliveden National Trust property by boat. On the way we wander into the church where a copy of Stanley Spencer’s painting ‘The Last Supper’ sits on one of the walls. We save the museum for another time as we have had the pleasure of visiting it before. What strikes Ivan about the painting is the prominence of the feet. What strikes me is the obsession with the detail of the bricks. Wandering around Cookham it is clear that the warm bricks and the clay roof tiles provide the stability and character of the town. What Spencer is trying to say about bricks I have no idea but he spent a lot of time painting them all individually.

At the lock we are told that there are mooring in the grounds of Cliveden (pronounced Clivden so the lock keeper informs us). Back in the town we decide we will visit the Kings Arms rather than the nice looking Indian restaurant – better safe than sorry. We visit the public toilets next to the car showroom – we are becoming experts on the location of public toilets. There is also a petrol station where we could have filled up – closer than the Marlow trek. A sudden shower forces us into the tea room where we enjoy one of the best cakes (blueberry) we have tasted in ages.

Later we find the Kings Arms was an excellent choice with delightful waitress and excellent food. Ivan has slow cooked pork belly and I have chicken, ham hock and mushroom pie. Unfortunately the blueberry cake has filled up the space where pudding should have been, but Ivan manages passion fruit and blackcurrant sorbet.

We seem to be out of washing water. We use our drinking water to fill up the kettle so we can wash.
Day 11 Thursday 30th July 2015

Kingfisher count: 2 Weather; Bright and sunny, light wind

Ivan walks into Cookham to use the public toilets. I do the same on his return. Love walking along the tow path early in the morning, through the churchyard past the fortress-like Cookham church into the town and back, even if it is for nefarious purposes.

Some of the male mallards have hints of green appearing on their heads if there was any doubt about the summer plumage theory. People used to think that swallows disappeared into holes and caverns under water during the winter so it is easy to get funny ideas. I like to think that the male mallards go to Majorca in the summer but the evidence appears otherwise.

Our resident kingfisher reappears with a fish in beak but sees us and flies off to another hidden den.

As we depart the kingfisher emerges from the hole and darts across to the other side of the river. Did he sneak back in there or are there two of them?

Fill up with water at Cookham lock and then moor on the banks of the river just passed all the islands which we now believe is Cliveden territory and subject to mooring charges, although there are no signs informing us of this fact. Get ready to explore when an unexpected mini-drama unfolds. We can’t find the boat keys! They were there a minute ago, Ivan goes into immediate panic mode and starts hunting down the river imaginingg that the keys have fallen in and drifted away as they are attached to a cork. No sign of them anywhere. A second search of the cabin where they were last seen finds them sitting on the folded driver’s seat. Phew.

Cliveden, built to impress

Cliveden, built to impress

Walk along the towpath past the cottage where Stephen Ward holed up at the height of the Profumo affair, according to an impromptu talk by a passing National Trust volunteer, and the grounds where we are heading are where Christine Keeler met John Profumo with far reaching consequences.

We have lunch outside the orangery and head to the entrance to begin our tour. A great day out for all the family, with plenty of space to run around and lakes, fountains, rose gardens, topiary and flower borders enough to satisfy the severest garden critic plus the incredible views with Cookham church visible in the middle distance.

Back to the boat for an evening meal of salad garnered from the Marlow Sainsbury’s visit. A bit spooky in the evening; steeply wooded hills behind and all other guests departed apart from two other boats moored along the banks.

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Night draws in at the Cliveden moorings

 

Day 12 Friday 31st July 2015

Kingfisher count: 2 Weather: clear skies, sunny, slight wind.

Depart Cliveden, no-one having collected a mooring fee. Pass through Boulter’s lock and just have time to enjoy passing the village of Bray with its quota of riverside mansions before we arrive at Bray lock.

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Bray and The Waterside Inn

We then cruise on to the Dorney lake area and moor up beyond PG Point next to Eton Rowing Club. Decide to walk to the village of Dorney across the common which is a kind of mini New Forest with cattle grids and commoners rights and cattle roaming around. Dorney village is a conservation area but there are only remnants of a village life there. There is an ex-school, an ex-bakery, an ex-Post Office and some very expensive looking houses. We walk to the end of the village and follow the sign for Dorney Court which promises a farmshop, café and horticultural centre. Dorney Court is a 450 year old manor house and farm which provides a backdrop to the café garden. We missed by one day the opening of the walled garden refreshment area which would have been more atmospheric. The café garden is more of a children’s paradise with a two-storey play house and a range of ride-on toys.

Asked sheepishly if they sold matches (it feels subversive somehow, we tried at Cliveden shop with the same slight embarrassment). The same negative answer comes back, only three matches left now.

We walk back along Dorney rowing lake which goes on and on and on. This vast Eton-owned park which was used to host the 2012 Olympic rowing events must have received government funding and looks today as though the Olympic legacy amounts to two rowers, a child on a bike and four boys jumping off a footbridge into a rivulet.

This evening we have Prince’s tinned ham, a slight lack of imagination on the part of the catering corps. Prince’s ham is not so good as the tinned ham we had from Waitrose.

We phone Tom and arrange to meet him tomorrow in the fields of Eton opposite Windsor town. He asks if two of his friends can come along too.

Day 13 Saturday 1st August 2015

Weather: Sunny, a bit breezy.

Recklessly we both decide to have a shower and predictably find ourselves totally out of water. Fortunately we are able to refill the tank at Boveney lock. Quick call to Tom and arrange rendezvous in 20 minutes time. Anxiously scouring the riverbank we quickly spot Tom and his friends and without further ado they leap aboard complete with several carrier bags of beer and, it transpires, a supply of gin and tonic and a lighter (hurray!).

High spirits from the boys as we cruise through Windsor and are casually informed that Charlie has to be at Heathrow this evening to catch a flight to Gambia – that’s fine, there should be plenty of time to drop them all off further down the river at Staines.

Slip into Romney lock at 11.00am and wait for the gates to close and wait and wait..
A power failure in this part of Windsor means that the gates can’t be closed and the lock emptied. Big strong Ed tries to do it manually but it is impossible. The power should be back in half an hour though so the boys settle down to drink, the gin and tonic is cracked open, the radio installed on top of the boat and our meager rations of crisps, tinned ham sandwiches and satsumas shared between us. Two and a half hours later and we are finally released from our temporary prison. Meanwhile streams of French’s ferry occupants have disembarked and walked to empty ferries on the other side of the lock.

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Stuck in Romney lock

Our fellow boating prisoners are concerned when they learn that Charlie has to be at Heathrow today and an escape strategy is planned – either walking back along the Thames path to Windsor or, if the gates ever open, dropping him at Datchet where there is a train station.

As the gates open at 1.30pm we opt for the Datchet plan and rather clumsily land fleetingly at the Chris’s Cruisers mooring as the town moorings appear to be shallow- what a shame it would be very useful to be able to stop at Datchet. Charlie says farewell – he has a one-way ticket to Thailand after Africa, that’s what teaching in a London comprehensive does to you.

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The queue to enter the lock

Edwin settles down on a cushion on the top of the boat and falls asleep, Tom decides he would like to steer. I think drink driving rules only apply to boats over 22 feet long. Oh, ours is 26 feet long so the limit is two pints of beer or three glasses of wine. I think we are now all over the limit so a pause for food might be a good idea and Tom is complaining that he is REALLY hungry.

At 3pm we stop at Runnymede. Ivan stays with the boat to fend off mooring charges since we are only there for five minutes. We head off to the café and order fish and chips and burger and chips. We quickly scoff them down and resume the voyage with Ivan at the controls. We zigzag between each shore of Staines on Thames looking for a suitable landing place and eventually opt for the Sun Inn where our passengers disembark and make their way to the railway station.

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Swan hotel where the boys disembark

We are not used to looking for moorings in the late afternoon so we scour the riverbanks, where suggested mooring locations do not look suitable at all.
Finally we moor up on the grassy verge before Penton Hook lock and Ivan goes to ask the lock keeper if they are public moorings. The area well back from the lay-by is suitable for mooring, so the lock- keeper informs us. It was part of the lay-by in the days when thirty boats used to line up waiting to go through the lock.

Lovely quiet spot near to Penton Hook nature reserve where we take a short stroll in the evening. We can just hear the strains of music emanating from Thorpe Park. We eat up everything left in the store cupboard, which isn’t very much but have already had one square meal.

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Sunset at Penton Hook

 

Day 14 Sunday 2nd August 2015

Weather: Lovely sunny day

Through the lovely Penton Hook lock at 9am. Lots of rowers out and about. Find ourselves in a short queue at Shepperton lock. Take the opportunity to empty the Elsen whilst waiting and fill up the trusty lemonade bottles with drinking water.
Arrive at Shepperton meadow at 12.00pm and take the last official mooring space.

Walk to Shepperton to check out the restaurants and drop into Budgens to buy a few provisions. Back to the boat to observe how posh picnicking is done, involving the mustering of substantial tables and chairs from the bowels of the mighty vessels moored up beside us. What a delightful place to be on a sunny Sunday afternoon. A day boat with a cargo of young children moors up and father and daughter proceed to fish from the bank. Younger child falls plop off the boat; it happens so quickly Ivan has to explain to me what is happening before our very eyes. Father loses no time in scooping child from the river, general tears all round then calm returns as we watch boats like goldfish cruise round and round the island. An ancient couple row energetically past and my hand goes wistfully to my now tired and aching back. Maybe I will have to don the captains hat and Ivan become the 1st mate and rope- catcher-in-chief. It is unusual to see women steering on the Thames, too many toys for boys.

Strike up a jolly conversation with our neighbours who have an impressive sea-going vessel. He has accumulated many amusing tales including the one where the lock keeper persuaded him not to throw an arrogant youth into the lock after he hit his boat three times, because of all the paper work the lock keeper would have to fill in. He lends us his phone charger which plugs into the boat socket; Ivan makes note to order one when we get home. Wife advises us that the garage in Shepperton has a water tap, useful information for us nomads.

We decide to take a chance, given our limited toilet facilities, to have a curry at The School of Spice not far from the mooring. Aptly named since it is located in the old school house. Listen to the radio whilst getting ready and hear a) Cilla Black has died b) An explosion on a boat in Bray lock has injured several people

Very enjoyable meal and attentive waiters.

Day 15 Monday 3rd August

Weather: Cloudy with showers later

After several visits to the bathroom and a note to self that boating and curries do not mix we set sail for home. Back now hurting quite a lot and prospect of manually operating the locks on the Wey rather daunting. Fortunately a young family proceed through all the locks with us as far as Pyrford lock and they kindly take our ropes so that I don’t have to step off the boat.

We arrive at our home moorings at 12.30pm. I have a gin and tonic and lunch sitting by the river. We wave to Chris and Tam, the helpful boat owners, as they eventually pass by after their short sojourn at the Anchor. I reflect on the camaraderie that exists amongst boat owners and how a similar convention exists amongst walkers where one feels compelled to wave at and greet everyone you meet. It must be something to do with the slower pace of life and the implicit agreement that you are all here to enjoy yourselves.

Well, I think we did that.

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Back home on the Wey

 

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