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Archive for April 8th, 2009

The Odyssey 2009: Day 5

Posted by indigodream on 8 April, 2009

Sunday 5th April Cliveden Reach to Henley

Wonderous view upstream from our mooring on Cliveden Reach

Wonderous view upstream from our mooring on Cliveden Reach

As I mentioned in the last entry, Richard and the dogs were all fast asleep by 9pm leaving me to listen to the loud and incessant hooting of a barn owl in the woods. It reminded me a welsh book that I read when I was very young indeed – the tale of a cat called Timi Twm Tam who was desperate to find a place to sleep and kept being disturbed by the most unlikely things, including a loudly hooting owl! Back then I thought it was far-fetched (I was a thoughtful child!) but the owl by the boat was LOUD. However, it stopped hooting at the exact same moment as the Webasto cut out on its timer leaving a silence so profound it was almost creepy.

Needless to say, we had a great night’s sleep here and we emerged refreshed at 9am-ish (positively daybreak by Indigo Dream standards!). It was a stunning morning, there was just a hint of haze on the water but the sky was clear with pale sunshine filtering through the trees. The view was magical and I felt a great desire to stay here for a while. We got our Nicholson’s

The view downstream's not bad either.....

The view downstream's not bad either.....

out and calculated that we could spend a morning here without wrecking our schedule for Reading, so that’s what we did.

The dogs had a wonderful time. Richard took them for a long walk, along the riverbank, up the 120 foot embankment, along the top of the ridge then back down again. Once they got back, we all settled into a morning of pottering around. Richard carried on painting, I sorted out some of cupboards and Blue and Lou explored the surrounding woods (for hours on end in Blue’s case).

We had a long chat with a local jogger who actually works as a gardener in the hotel/estate. She was a mine of information and told us that the footpath didn’t open to the public until 11am (which explained why it was so empty), that dogs were fine in the woods but not allowed in the formal gardens, and that Spring Cottage on the estate was the centre of the notorious Profumo affair. She was the first of many walkers that stopped for a chat and we had a very convivial morning.

Underway towards the great house at Cliveden (now a hotel)

Underway towards the great house at Cliveden (now a hotel)

Blue and Lou were very good with people and dogs for most of the morning. They didn’t even complain when a 16-week old spaniel puppy leapt on the boat and stole their breakfast (their owner was horrified but it really was funny as the puppy rushed to gobble the food down before his owner could put a stop to it).

In fact, our dogs were good right up until the point when they decided that they’d been here long enough to call it home and claimed the footpath for their own. I’ve worked that there’s an 18-hour rule: arrive in new place and explore – 2 hours, sleep on it – 15 hours, explore some more – 1 hour, turn into towpath terrorists – oops, time to move on. The 18-hour rule – well worth factoring in when we’re planning our cruises. 🙂

We moved on from Cliveden after lunch, though, 18-hour rule notwithstanding, I could imagine having a nice retreat here for a few days.

Unusually empty visitor moorings in Cookham (upstream of the bridge)

Unusually empty visitor moorings in Cookham (upstream of the bridge)

Our first stop after Cliveden was Cookham Lock. There’s a really useful Environment Agency waterpoint above the lock – at the end of the left-hand pontoon. There was very good water pressure here – Richard had settled down for some painting but he’d barely wet his brush before the tank was full. The Environment Agency publishes a booklet listing all of the facilities available at the locks all along the river – you can pick up copies at most of the locks.

We moved on and once again marvelled at the beauty of Cookham – the village is lovely, there are plenty of visitor moorings on the left after Cookham Bridge (they do fill up in the summer though) and there are miles of dog-walks upstream. Do watch out for Cookham Bridge going upstream – the channel goes under the centre arch, a good bit further left that you expect – I went through the wrong arch (to the right of the channel); luckily it wasn’t mined! We have stopped in Cookham before, we particularly like the pub ‘Bel and the Dragon’ (as do the dogs) so there was a certain temptation to stop there for lunch.

Picturesque Marlow

Picturesque Marlow

A bit further upstream from Cookham there’s some more good dog-walking on the right – watch out for a small section of visitor moorings by a lone ice-cream van. The meads just upstream of this mooring are safely fenced and have good shallow beaches to the river – perfect for a dog splosh.

Our trip up to Marlow was marked with all sorts of excitement. Firstly we saw a blue greyhound who was the spitting image of Blue – it was uncanny. Blue was on deck and we waved madly to the other greyhound’s owners. Sadly, it was in a spot where the bank was too shallow for us to moor and chat to them. They did manage to tell us their greyhound’s racing name though – Sailaway Timmy. We checked his pedigree and yes, you’ve guessed it, he’s one of Blue’s many half-brothers! How I wish we could go back and tell them. Maybe this could be a new hobby, a bit akin to trainspotting – Blue has over 4,000 half-siblings so it could keep us amused for years!

We’ve been delayed in posting our blogs – on Saturday we had no signal because we were moored in a dip; today we lost our connection because we lost the dongle overboard. Richard was working on the computer inside, decided he might

Fine visitor moorings in Marlow

Fine visitor moorings in Marlow

get a better signal outside and moved to the boat hatch. He worked happily there for a while but he’s a bit tall to be standing there when little me is on the helm. So, he decided to move operations to the top of the gas locker – during the kerfuffle there was a sudden ‘ping’ and the dongle flew gracefully through the air to land with a soft plunk in the river. It bobbed just under the surface for a moment before sinking out of sight to join the rest of the debris of ages that will confound ‘Time Team’ in five hundred years! So, the dongle went to the deeps and we were incommunicado. Could have been worse – if Richard had dropped my laptop overboard then I’d have made him dredge the bottom until he got it back! It did give us the opportunity to find out how surprisingly cheap these things are now: A new sim card from Three is £4.99 delivered next day. We have a spare payg modem but will probably buy a new one (£24 delivered next day) as the modem we have does not work too well with an external aerial.

Marlow lock’s rather stunning – there’s an old mill building downstream with a powerful stream running below it. The lock itself is picturesque and has a row of lockside benches which are full of onlookers. We always think that they should be holding up scorecards as we manouver into the lock! The weir above the lock is awesome and leads to a magnificent

We're very tired.......

We're very tired.......

view upstream to Marlow Bridge and the charming buildings that surround it.

We thought about stopping here, Marlow’s a wonderful town for just browsing. But if we pressed onto Henley then our last day’s cruising would be less onerous, so on we went.

The stretch between Marlow and Henley is a wilder, more untamed landscape than we found downstream. Just east of Aston we spotted a red kite hunting and waved to our second greyhound of the day. He was being walked (on a lead) through a field of sheep and wasn’t at all bothered. Blue, in the meantime, was up on deck, nose twitching interestedly. We were contemplating mooring near Aston as the local pub (the Flower Pot) is dog-friendly; but sadly they don’t do food on a Sunday, well not when the weather’s cold!

A wilder landscape upstream of Marlow

A wilder landscape upstream of Marlow

We got to Henley by around 6pm – plenty of time for Richard to do some more painting and for me to take the dogs for a walk in the adjacent park. We moored upstream of Henley Bridge at the visitor moorings on the right bank opposite the island. We’ve moored here before but now they’re ‘Pay ‘n display’ moorings – you buy a ticket at the car park nearby (steep at £8 a night but worth it)!

Blue and Lou enjoyed a fun run round the park, though I had to carefully steer them away from the many barbecues that were underway. There’s a small stream running through one edge of the park – perfect for dog sploshing, so all in all a great mooring. On our way back from our walk we caught up with a man walking two luscious lurchers and we were later joined by a lady walking a saluki cross. All the dogs behaved impeccably and we realised that Henley people were our sort of people. How could they not be – the town’s full of folk who love boating and/or dogs!

On the lookout for a dog-friendly pub!

On the lookout for a dog-friendly pub!

We rang around and found a dog-friendly pub at the Little Angel – walk downstream from the moorings, cross over the bridge and the pub’s a few yards along on your left. Dogs allowed at the tables (but not at the bar), very smart pub with a gourmet menu (and prices, though not outrageously so). On the way to the pub we ran into a couple with a 6-month old pointer puppy – he was keen to play chase and the greyhounds were happy to oblige. His owners were very relaxed considering Lou was doing her best ‘pacman’ impression with wide open snapping jaws (no, she didn’t bite him!) but the puppy just wanted more and I’m afraid the greyhounds got knackered long before the pointer was ready to stop!

The dogs were very well behaved in the pub and we had a lovely meal. We were well-satisfied as we meandered back to the boat.

On our way back we noticed a super-bright headlamp heading upstream under the bridge. We were convinced it was a trip boat but it proved to be a pair of canoeists having a late-night, possibly drunken, scull upriver. One suggested shooting the weir but as his more sensible (or sober) friend pointed out, “you can’t shoot a weir going upstream”!

Photoblog:

Typical greyhound behaviour (1)

Typical greyhound behaviour (2)

Typical greyhound behaviour (1)

Typical greyhound behaviour (1)

The cut above Cookham Lock - obviously a new embankment but will it become new moorings?

The cut above Cookham Lock - obviously a new embankment but will it become new moorings?

Unlikely site for a scandal - one of the Cliveden Cottages involved in the Profumo affair

Unlikely site for a scandal - one of the Cliveden Cottages involved in the Profumo affair

Eccentric holiday apartments - apparently!

Eccentric holiday apartments - apparently!

Alien craft???

Alien craft???

Broad vistas..

Broad vistas..

Sad sight - I wonder what happened here?

Sad sight - I wonder what happened here?

This private island downstream of Henley would suit us nicely..

This private island downstream of Henley would suit us nicely..

Bautifully maintained cotage at Hambledon Lock

Beautifully maintained cottage at Hambledon Lock

Thames on Henley Bridge

Thames on Henley Bridge

Henley panorama - it's such an attractive town

Henley panorama - it's such an attractive town

Pay 'n display - Henley style

Pay 'n display - Henley style

Isis on Henley Bridge

Isis on Henley Bridge

Nice pub but that wall's in the wrong place....

Nice pub but that wall's in the wrong place....

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