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The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Archive for April 7th, 2009

The Odyssey 2009: Day 4

Posted by indigodream on 7 April, 2009

Saturday 4th April Chertsey Meads to Cliveden Reach

Dumsey Meadow

Dumsey Meadow

Yesterday a lock-keeper waved us on with a ritual “See yah”and I thought  “well, no, not for 6 months or maybe a year” – the wonderful reality of it suddenly stuck me – we’re on our odyssey.

The weather forecast for this morning was pretty gloomy so we planned for a long lie-in – bliss. The moorings were very quiet and we all had a peaceful night, especially the dogs, who were exhausted by their adventures in Dumsey Meadows. They showed no signs of waking up and were happy to snooze until we were both up and dressed at 11am-ish. They have the most wonderful long-range tanks, there’s none of this having to go out for the essentials at dead on 7am or whatever.

Richard took them out for a mid-morning run round the meadows and we set out slightly regretfully – I like it here.

The Thames is a truly wonderful waterway – stop reading this blog immediately and come and cruise it for yourself!

Looing downstream to Chertsey Bridge

Looking downstream to Chertsey Bridge

The weather was fine and cool to start with, but it soon warmed up. There were plenty of people out on the waterfront in Chertsey and indeed, all along the waterway; including a man swimming in the river in Staines – brrrrr, it wasn’t that warm!

For a long while we were the only boat on the water apart from Dutch Barge Caberfeidh who we shared locks with for most of the way. They were pleasant company and they have two particularly cute Bassett hounds on board – a fine barking match between our two and their two ensued, all from the safety of their respective beds!

With the river virtually to ourselves, we were free to enjoy the more regal views as the river passed through the royal boroughs and parks surrounding Windsor Castle. It’s visible for miles as the river turns majestically around it. There are some particularly attractive bridges between Runnymeade and Windsor.

Bridge in Windosr Great Park

Bridge in Windosr Great Park

They’re a fine mix of decoration and functionality with almost fortified piers and delicate parapets. I wondered whether this was a peculiarity of more warlike times when you could collapse a deck to deter invasions but leave the piers in place to make it easier to rebuild afterwards. And then of course there are the houses. Some are just little summer houses, others are positively regal then there are those which look like they could feature on Grand Designs.

By 2.30pm the sun was hot and the river suddenly filled up with boaters who’d finally realised it was a nice day! Romney lock is truly enormous – just as well, we were finally joined by a few more cruisers and the lock-keeper finally had the opportunity to show his sardine-packing skills (though as nothing to how he’ll pack them in over the bank holiday!).

Note: Bell Weir lock and Romney lock have side-paddles running along the length of the lock. This means that when the

Windsor Castle (park side)

Windsor Castle (park side)

paddles are raised the water tends to push your boat out from the side – just take an extra turn of rope around the bollard and you’ll be held steady. Compared to canals, none of the locks on the Thames are that turbulent.

We decided to stop off at Windsor for a little wander with the dogs. We stopped at the visitor moorings on the left (looking upstream) – there are handy moorings rings here and there’s easy access to the town. There were hordes of people on the riverside but they were as nothing compared to the tides of tourists washing up against the castle walls. Yes, the castle walls. Windsor castle is so vast it seems to have one peaceful foot in its country estate and another in the middle of this thriving town – amazing.

We took Blue and Lou for a wander round the town – they were very good considering how crowded the streets were. They drew a lot of attention as always; one Argentinean lady came up and gave Lou a big cuddle – she’d had to leave her dogs at home and she was missing them terribly. We sat and

Windsor Castle (town side)

Windsor Castle (town side)

ate an ice cream outside the castle avidly watched by the dogs and then wandered back to the boat. We hadn’t realised what a big attraction Windsor was. Judging by the variety of languages we heard, it has truly international appeal.

As we came back, we passed a boat hire place – on the way out all their boats were sitting on the waterfront; on the way back all but one had been hired. We were a bit gobsmacked as the little boats with outboard motors cost £38 an hour to hire. I knew that buying Indigo Dream was a good investment! Of course, this meant that we had to thread our way out past a fleet of little yellow boats being driven inexpertly across and along the river. I was a little miffed at the sheer randomness of some of the boaters but it would take someone far crueler than me to begrudge people a day on the water on the first really hot afternoon of the year.

We met one lurcher and one greyhound being walked along the path today – we said hi and waved enthusiastically. Blue was very excited to see proper-shaped dogs though he was confined to the boat and couldn’t run with them.

Juxtaposition of bridges in Maidenhead

Juxtaposition of bridges in Maidenhead

I was quite pleased to move away from the busyness of Windsor but I needn’t have worried. The fair weather boaters had all disappeared by 4.30pm – probably back to sip G &Ts at one of the many marinas along the way – very sensible.

The next town of note was Maidenhead. I wouldn’t say it’s the most attractive riverside town but it does have two fine bridges which contrast nicely with each other. The red brick railway bridge has two long arches which are apparently the longest brick spans in the world. Just beyond that is the road bridge – soft grey stone and about 10 little arches skipping across the river and bank beyond. Past the bridge I think that the waterfront suffers from having a busy road running adjacent; but in the narrow strip of land between the road and the river there is an attractive tree-lined promenade which Richard thought was charming.

Note: going upstream through Maidenhead Road Bridge take the centre arch – it’s slightly to the left of the river approach and it’s not the obvious choice. The channel is marked though.

Cliveden Reach - what a fine mooring!

Cliveden Reach - what a fine mooring!

After Maidenhead we started thinking about where to moor for the night. Our first choice was to moor up in Cookham, which has a very fine dog-friendly pub and a good dog-walking field. But there was also the enticing thought of mooring up on one of the Cliveden Islands and have our own private island for the night. In the end we did neither!

As we approached the Cliveden Islands we spotted that the National Trust allows mooring on the Cliveden Reach – the right bank of the river (looking upstream). We suspected that it would be too shallow, but we slotted into a perfect spot where we could moor tight to the bank at just the right height for easy onloading/offloading. There’s a mooring fee of £6 per night though I’m not sure how/when it’s collected. If no-one comes to collect then we must make a donation to the National Trust instead because this really is a very special spot.

Great views upstream of Cliveden Reach

Great views upstream of Cliveden Reach

More importantly, however, it’s got to be Blue’s definition of a perfect mooring. There are no roads or other signs of civilisation around, just a riverside footpath at the bottom of a steeply wooded embankment which towers 120 feet above the river. Blue and Lou could rummage at will, coming and going as they pleased without us yelling at them to come back or take care. Blue disappeared into the undergrowth for hours on end, checking back with us every 10 minutes or so. Lou stayed close to the boat and soon lost interest and went back to bed.

In this remotest of spots, we were surprised to have a visitor. A lone canoeist came up to the boat and started chatting. She was very curious about narrowboats as she harbours an ambition to do some extended cruising one day. We invited her on board for a nosey and she seemed entranced – she’d never been on a narrowboat before and was so excited to be given the opportunity. She didn’t stay long as she still had a lengthy paddle home but we hope we’ll see her on the cut in a more substantial boat one day.

As we’d eschewed the pub for the evening it was my task to cook us as good a meal as we’d have had in the Bel and Dragon (Pasta Carbonara with roasted peppers – nice). The boys put the last of the daylight to good use – Richard did some more painting while Blue did some more rummaging.

I couldn’t understand why Blue was still whining when he eventually came back on board. I hadn’t twigged that he was hungry after all his exercise. He and Lou scoffed huge dinners and disappeared into their respective beds. Richard offered them a last rummage and Blue ran off the boat then ran straight back on – they are so tired!

So, it’s 9pm and everyone but me is in bed – the Thames really has enchanted the crew!

Photoblog:

Grand design?

Grand design?

What a life.....

What a life.....

What body-boards were made for!

What body-boards were made for!

Bridge in Windsor Great Park. Who's crest is that?

Bridge in Windsor Great Park. Who's crest is that?

View downstream in the serene centre of Windsor Great Park

View downstream in the serene centre of Windsor Great Park

Male mandarin duck

Male mandarin duck

One of the fleet of yellow hire boats that swarm around Windsor town

One of the fleet of yellow hire boats that swarm around Windsor town

Celandine

Celandine

Violet

Violet

Luminous lady's smock (aka Cuckoo Flower)

Luminous lady's smock (aka Cuckoo Flower)

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