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Archive for October, 2008

The Odyssey Summer 2008 – Day 46

Posted by indigodream on 8 October, 2008

Boveney Lock to Shepperton Lock

We’ve got a bit of photo famine on today’s blog – we’re waiting to get some images from our friends, especially of the adorable baby Seamus!

It’s been a funny day. We’d planned to come back to the boat on Friday but we had a night out with Richard’s family instead. It was Richard’s mum’s ‘name day’ – the day of the saint after whom you were named. It’s a Polish thing and, no, it doesn’t replace the birthday – they celebrate both! We had a lovely night out then it was on with the alarm clock for the following morning.

This time it was my family – I had to pick up my cousin Paul from the airport (at 7.30am – aargh!) after a disastrous holiday in Sri Lanka. Very long story but we’ve been teasing him that he’d better stick to safe holidays in Tenby (preferably with my mum) from now on!

So, we didn’t leave ’til gone 10am and finally got to the boat at 11.15am. But things got a bit more efficient from there. I dropped Richard and the dogs off at the boat and then went to do Sainsbury’s and drop the car off in Windsor.

In the meantime, Richard took the boat off downstream. The lock keeper came out for a chat with him and confirmed that the boat had enjoyed a peaceful week below the weir. It’s worth knowing that some of the Thames locks have visitor moorings – Boveney lock is very secure and the lock keeper was extremely helpful.

It’s a shame that only Blue and Lou were on the boat to hear Richard’s commentary as he passed down this stretch of the Thames. Twice he’s cadged a lift of the trip boats and is now an accomplished tour guide 🙂 I missed the sight of Natalie Imbruglio’s house and a house where Jimmy Page of Led Zepplin used to live. Where on earth do the trip boats get this information?

In the meantime I was toiling round Sainsbury’s and negotiating the narrow streets of Windsor. There is a brilliant riverside car park just by Vansittart Estate (aka Windsor Trading estate) – if you come here then go via Alma Road. DO NOT go down Vansittart Road, no matter what your satnav tells you – it does not have access to the car park and is impossibly narrow.

It was perfect timing – Richard had just moored the boat downstream of Windsor Railway Bridge when I finally found the car park. He came to find me and it turned out that the car was no more than 500 yards from the boat.

Windosr Castle

Windsor Castle

There’s plenty of very fine mooring in Windsor. We moored on the public mooring rings on the right (looking downstream) – £4 a night if you’re staying on. These moorings are adjacent to a narrow stretch of park and inhabited by a tiny cafe and LOTS of walkers (even on a cold October afternoon). As we walked back to the boat, it was very funny to see lots of passersby staring into the boat and generally having a good nosey. One group of Polish tourists were admiring the boat then decided they wanted a photo – five of them posed, leaning on the side of the boat, feet on the gunwales. I walked up behind them, quietly got onto the back deck and grinned – they scarpered quickly! Richard asked whether I’d said anything to them but I’m afraid my polish doesn’t stretch to “get off my boat”!

The alternative 'london eye'!

The alternative 'London Eye'!

Unfortunately the park is way too close to the road for dogs to let be off the lead, but the mooring on the meads on the other side of the river looked promising (had we been staying longer). But we just needed couple of hours to get the boat tidy before being joined by some friends for lunch. Talk about ‘goldfish bowl’ – the world and his wife (and kids) walked past the boat – all staring in through the windows and looking heartily embarrassed when they realised I was at home. My favourite ‘incident’ was when I heard a tap on the side hatch – there was a smart young man blowing me kisses – I opened the hatch, naturally, and found that he was trying to wheedle a bit of the lovely looking lunch that I was preparing (all courtesy of Sainsbury’s ready meals counter). His girlfriend called him a ‘cheeky b*****” and so he was, but it still made me laugh.

I now understand why the lock-keeper at Bray told us not to moor in Windsor – you’d never have any peace! I quite enjoyed being an exhibition piece for a few daylight hours but it might have been uncomfortable after dark. Aah, the strain of being in the public eye is just too much…..

Happy smiling faces (despite the weather)

Happy smiling faces (despite the weather)

At around 2pm were joined by some old friends – Simon, Caroll and their daughters Sarah and Robyn then Liam and Lena and their 14-month old son Seamus. There were two firsts for Seamus – first time on the boat and first meeting with the dogs. He loved the boat and ignored the dogs – perfect! Lou thoroughly approved of Robyn who was too soppy to shift her off the sofa – Robyn ended up perched awkwardly on the edge rubbing Lou’s tummy!

As we set off, the fine morning that we’d enjoyed was replaced by grey skies and cold winds, but luckily the rain held off for a few hours so we had a sociable cruise past Windsor Castle and Runnymeade. The back deck was crowded and I think just about everyone had a turn at the helm. Once again we enjoyed the sheer affluence of the Thames – properties were inspected, discussed, valued and sighed over. It was our turn to be the gawpers! I think that our guests enjoyed the opportunity to see the unique veiw from the riverside. As Caroll commented, from the road you just see the bland front doors and anonymous parking spaces but the river frontages range from the lavish to the downright weird.

Indigo Dream crashing a wedding!

Indigo Dream crashing a wedding!

As we cruised downriver, the weather gradually worsened. As we had plenty of crew I had the luxury of being able to sit on the bow deck chinwagging with Lena (while Seamus tried to steal my tea). We noticed that the river was getting choppy and after being showered by spray a few times we gave up and went inside. The boat was toasting – we’d run the heating earlier to get the boat warm then battened down the hatches to keep it that way. We found that the other ladies had retreated inside, leaving the chilly decks to the boys. Simon made a bid for the warmth but he was soon dragged out to be acting lock crew. The lock-keepers are on their winter hours now and go home at 5pm.

Deep thought - Simon and Robyn at the helm

Deep thought - Simon and Robyn at the helm

By then, the fierce wind had been joined by torrential rain. Luckily Liam was at the helm, grinning like a pumpkin. He really enjoys filthy weather – the more it rains the more he grins. It’s a fine sight (from inside the boat!). We girls abandoned any pretence at liberation and sat watching the telly while the men finished off the last few locks and sorted out the mooring. We stayed the night on the free 24-hour moorings just above Shepperton Lock, conveniently placed just outside the Thames Court pub.

If it had been just the two of us, I’d have had to spend the afternoon in the rain out of a sense of marital solidarity but having a big crew had absolved me. But I had my come-uppance – Richard and the boys caught a taxi back to Windsor to

No-one likes a wet rope!

No-one likes a wet rope!

get the cars and I took the dogs for a walk. It was a long walk – there’s a road (albeit a quiet one) between the river and the pub so we had to walk quite a distance before we got to a ‘proper’ towpath where dogs could have an off-lead rummage. Carol very kindly joined me so I wasn’t alone in getting cold and wet. I only realised afterwards that we’d left Lena babysitting, but luckily she didn’t seem to mind! The boat was warm and comfy, and as an ex-headmistress of a primary school, she was well able to manage our crew to three extremely well-behaved kids!

After an hours’ walk the dogs were glad to get back to the boat – I’d left their coats at home so Caroll and me weren’t the only ones who were soaking. No need to report us to the RSPCA – Blue and Lou were fine, really! They soon warmed up after a vigorous towelling and gigantic dinner. Despite several phonecalls from the boys telling us to go over to the pub and get the beers in, we stayed on board and dried off until they (and their wallets) had arrived at the bar! I know, the women’s libers are probably sobbing into their saggy cleavages but it’s all about choice ladies, and we chose to take advantage of our menfolk today!

We had a wonderfully convivial evening in the pub – good food, great company and very fine service – the staff were so helpful. I was impressed that our junior crew, aged 14, 11 and 14 months, were welcomed. This is not a dog-friendly pub but Blue and Lou were mollifed by a huge doggie bag made up of scraps from 8 meals (rather than the usual palrty two). As almost everyone had steak, we were particularly popular when we got back on board!

We were moored directly across the river from the ferocious Shepperton Weir so our last job before turning in was to check the ropes, add a spring and get some fat fenders down. Satisfied that we wouldn’t be swept to our doom, we went off to bed – alternately lulled and alarmed by the roaring weir, whistling wind and pounding rain.

Photoblog:

For some reason we have a few photos of Simon and Robyn on the helm – having shown them in full concentration I can’t resist adding this one. I’m not sure what they’ve just successfully dodged (or sunk) but they’re very pleased about it!

Yeah!

Yeah!

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The Odyssey Summer 2008 – Day 45

Posted by indigodream on 1 October, 2008

Marlow to Boveney Lock

Sunny Sunday in Marlow

Sunny Sunday in Marlow

Marlow’s obviously a very popular mooring spot so the assorted wildlife is very tame here, as the shrew showed us last night. Knowing that boats are easy prey and boaters are a soppy lot, the local ducks chose to start pecking at the side of the boat at 2.30am. They carried on right through ’til daybreak. Richard slept through it, but I lay awake trying to persuade myself to move from our very snug bed and wave a boathook at the marauding ducks. But I couldn’t face it – I had to content myself with muttering muffled threats from under the duvet. The boat’s getting quite chill at nights now that the autumn’s arrived and Blue and Lou are back to sleeping swathed in blankets.

A typical Thames weir

A typical Thames weir

Ducks apart, the morning in Marlow was beautiful – there was a light mist on the water but a periwinkle blue sky above promised another fine day. It was a classic English morning – rowers shushed by gently, accompanied by the shouts of their less than genteel coaches, church bells rang out in the distance and the towpath was already occupied with dog walkers and joggers exchanging cheery greetings.

We set off in good spirits – dodging the rowers to join the main stream. Our first feature of the day was Marlow Lock which boasts an imposing view of the associated weir. I think that most of the Thames weirs are just as large but a fair few of the locks are tucked away down long cuts so you don’t get the full impact! We got to the lock moorings first this time so we had plenty of room to tie up securely, but the lockside pontoon soon filled up. For information, you

The lockside judging panel is in place!

The lockside judging panel is in place!

can actually moor on both sides of the pontoon – the cruisers behind us hadn’t realised and stayed on the river – well back from the weir and using their generous bow and various other thrusters to stay out of trouble.

As we left Marlow Lock we noticed another potential mooring spot on the left – a fine pontoon with easy access to a park/picnic area. We’ll have to remember this for the future as the moorings above the lock can be crowded.

Further down we spotted The Bounty pub (on the right hand side). It looked very welcoming and had convenient overnight moorings. We’ve never noticed this place before – my guess is that the moorings have always been full so we’ve just cruised on by. We’ll make it a target on one of our future trips.

More money than sense? An englishman's home is literally his castle around here....

More money than sense? An englishman's home is literally his castle round here....

We meandered down to Cookham via the neat village of Bourne End. Once again we were accompanied by lavish woodlands and sumptuous houses and felt very grand to be on the water in the middle of it all. Cookham is one of our favourite places and, unusually, there were lots of moorings here – we’ve just squeezed in on previous visits. There’s good dog-walking here and the Bel and Dragon pub in the village is very dog-friendly.

By now it was lunchtime and the glorious weather persuaded us to take our time and stop off to eat. We decided to head for the Cliveden islands a little way below Cookham Lock. There are lots of fine moorings on the right hand side along Cliveden Deep but we fancied having our own island, as we did last year. Ha! The islands were jam-packed with moored boats – I think we’d all had the same idea

The popular Cliveden Islands

The popular Cliveden Islands

and the island that we’d had to ourselves before was host to at least six cruisers and associated picnics. We had a nice chat with our neighbours on Fortuna Major III (who had an aged spaniel so lots of dog talk ensued). Blue and Lou had a little rummage but we were forced back to the vicinity of the boat by a vulnerable chocolate cake! I’d like to stay overnight here sometime (£6 a night but the National Trust don’t always collect) – the bank moorings looked particularly fine as they’re flanked by a deep woods which looked very exciting for dogs.

We’ve had a huge audience at every lock – it seems as if the whole population of the southeast was out and about enjoying the river. In the midst of this jolly crowd why did I get to talk with the only miserable git! At Boulter’s lock I was accosted by a gloomy bloke who had looked through the kitchen window and started

Lots of boat enjoying this fine day!

Lots of boat enjoying this fine day!

the conversation by warning me that the plateful of fried bacon on the cooker was going to go off in the full sun. He told me about it three times and seemed very distressed that I wasn’t leaving my post at the bow rope to attend to it straightaway. As the meat was some cooling slightly out-of-date bacon that I’d cooked for the dogs I knew it would vanish long before it had time to go off! This information wound him up even more so I tried to change the subject from my errant rashers to the lovely morning and how nice it was to see people enjoying watching the boats. I was told in no uncertain terms that “it’s because they haven’t got money like you lot – not all of us can afford what you do, you know”. Of all the locks in all the world why did he have to walk up to this one?? 🙂

Fancy dress rowing - a new sport for the 2012 Olympics?

Fancy dress rowing - a new sport for the 2012 Olympics?

We needed to get back to Reading for the car so we contemplated mooring very early in Maidenhead. But I didn’t fancy the moorings above the lock – they’re so close to the road. But we had a pleasant surprise – there are very good moorings on the left below the railway bridge, well away from the road, council run and only £6 per night. But it was such a splendid day that it seemed a shame not to enjoy the river a little longer so we pressed on.

We were now looking for a secure mooring for the week, rather than just a night, so we started ringing the lock-keepers as many of the locks have visitor moorings. Boulter’s lock didn’t have any moorings but he did advise us that the Maidenhead moorings were secure. We squirrelled that fact away for later as the town doesn’t really look that promising. Surprisingly, though, the lock-keeper at

Bunny rowers - better keep Blue away!

Bunny rowers - better keep Blue away!

Romney lock warned us that ultra-posh Windsor wasn’t a good place to leave a boat unattended – who’d have thought it? Unfortunately Romney lock has lost its visitor moorings (how very careless!) so we plumped for Boveney lock.

The lock-keeper at Boveney Lock couldn’t have been more helpful. He sorted us out with a mooring below the lock facing the weir (£8 a night). It was quite imposing to be looking down the weir’s throat and the boat was rocked gently by the constant flow. The only trouble with Boveney lock is that it is quite isolated – Richard cheekily hitched a lift to Windsor from a passing trip boat and caught a train from there back to his car in Reading. In the meantime my big plans to clean the boat got wiped out by another long dog walk.

On canals, the dogs can have extensive rummages around and between locks but that’s impossible on the Thames. The locks are widely spaced and your crew stays on board (lock-keepers are so convenient). There’s no question of being able to pick errant crew members (i.e. Blue) at the lock moorings on the other side as they’re full of incoming traffic on a busy Sunday.

However, we did stop below Bray lock to visit the rubbish point. There’s tremendous flow from the weir here and I tried to moor by poking the bow in first then bringing the stern in. Stupid stupid – did I learn nothing from the approach to Gloucester Lock?! Ok, when you’re trying to moor with the flow then bring the stern in first, secure with a rope then swing in the bow – the flow will make it easy. Better still, turn the boat round and moor against the flow – this gives you total control and is much easier….

Boveney Lock

Boveney Lock

Anyway, I was feeling a bit guilty that the dogs hadn’t had much excitement so I took them on a long exploration along the Thames path. There was fine rummaging here and plenty of places where they could get safely into the river for a splosh. We walked for just over a mile then turned back as they were looking a bit weary. But Blue had a surprise in store for me. In a stretch of largely rough footpath we came across a terribly civilised area of mown lawn and decorous rowing lakes called Dorney Reach. Blue went off for a rummage while Lou and me paraded primly round the perimeter. I was enjoying the “aaaahs” of the passersby at the sight of the sleek greyhounds when I suddenly heard their cries change to “uughh!” Blue had caught a fat rabbit and was strutting proudly across the lawn with said bunny dangling from his mouth! We beat a hasty retreat – people’s nerves just don’t seem to be up to this sort of thing! It took a while for Blue to relinquish his prize but the rabbit was heavy and he soon got fed up of carrying it around – I quickly lobbed it into the undergrowth. No, I

Windsor Racecourse (oppsite our moorings)

Windsor Racecourse (opposite our moorings)

don’t feel guilty – rabbits aren’t endangered and some fox at Dorney Reach will have a feast courtesy of Blue! This gave both dogs a new lease of life and they raced down the path back to the boat.

Soon after we got back from our walk, Richard came back and we walked up the dark lane to the car (allowing Blue to have yet another run) and drove home after a perfect weekend’s cruising.

Dog Update:

Blue and Lou slept ALL DAY on Monday and barely moved on Tuesday! The rabbits in our garden are frolicking merrily in complete safety!

We’ve been a whole 5 weeks without a visit to the vet – almost a record for us. But Lou (whose turn it was) managed to fall/run into a (car park not lock) bollard on her walk this evening and sustained multipe strains/bruises and cuts. She’s on strong painkillers, rest, limited exercise and full sympathy for a week. I knew that our vet-free interval was too good to last……

People who read our blog…..

Our ‘statistics’ page lets us know the search terms that people have used to find our blog. We were mystified to find the following search term today – “big brested women”. Now, I will confess that I’m generously endowed but I did think they’d be better off with Greygal’s post!

Ah, there’s a lesson for the men of the world – learn to spell or enquiries about ‘brested’ women will lead to a lesson how to parallel moor a narrowboat 🙂

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