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Archive for April 9th, 2009

The Odyssey 2009: Day 6

Posted by indigodream on 9 April, 2009

Monday 6th April Henley to Reading

Approaching Shiplake Lock

Approaching Shiplake Lock

The visitor moorings at Henley are perfectly secure but they’re not as quiet as our previous remote spots. People seem to enjoy the path and the park until the wee small hours so we slept with an ear open the whole night.

Anyway, it didn’t really matter, we weren’t in any hurry and there was a certain spiteful luxury in sleeping late on a Monday morning when everyone else was in work! I was a bit concerned because our mooring ticket ran out at 10am, but mooring’s free from 10am ’til 3pm so we were ok.

Richard decided to do some more painting which gave me time to sip my coffee, gently pack up the boat and give dogs yet another walk. While all this was going on, we had a surprise phonecall from Danusia, Richard’s little sister, inviting herself on board for the afternoon. It was perfect timing – we finished our various chores just as she arrived in Henley. There’s ample Pay ‘n Display parking near the River and Rowing Museum (RG9 1BF).

Smart stilted house - seemingly typical of new build on this stretch.

Smart stilted house - seemingly typical of new build on this stretch.

Danusia bought her adorable dog, Polo, with her and we set out mid-morning.

Note: Watch out for the current from the weir downstream of Marsh lock in Henley – it’s a bit fierce though at least it does push you in a useful direction towards the lock moorings!

The stretch upstream of Henley is just fabulous – the houses are beautiful, the sort you’d expect to see on Grand Designs. The more modern houses have been built on stilts to allow for flooding but an alarming number were built at river level – one was a bungalow! They were archetypal flood plain developments – mad to build there, but glorious to live in….. if you can get away with it.

Note: Shiplake lock can be busy in the summer. Not an issue going upstream but if you’re approaching downstream and can’t get onto the lock moorings because of a queue then stay well back from the weir as it has a powerful current which makes it difficult to hover.

We made good time upriver and soon reached Sonning. As it was still early afternoon, we decided to stop off for lunch here – the Ferryman pub/restaurant/hotel, on the left just downriver of Sonning Bridge, has free visitor moorings for patrons. You have to go out to the road to get to the pub and the best I can say of it is that it’s a weird place! Although the bar

Sparkling riverscape upstream of Shiplake Lock

Sparkling riverscape upstream of Shiplake Lock

was obviously open, the main door was locked; we persevered and got in via the hotel entrance. The dogs were welcomed and it was fine enough for us to eat outside. But despite the obviously posh surroundings (the ladies loos are particularly palatial!), the menu was limited to a few ciabattas and salads, even then they’d run out of prawns, which cut the menu choices by a further 20%. Nevertheless, the food, such as it was, tasted fine with large portions and quick, pleasant service.

Note: there are moorings on the left below Sonning Bridge that cost £10 per night. If you want to save yourself a pretty penny there are better, free moorings on the left bank upstream of Sonning Lock.

Note: take the centre arch at Sonning Bridge – keep a lookout as downstream traffic uses the same arch and the angle makes it difficult to see them coming. Watch out for the opposing currents from the bridge and from the weir stream on your right (going upstream). No drama – you just need to be aware of them!

Richard spotted an ice cream shop at Sonning lock so we sent Danusia off on a recce. She says that there’s a lovely tea shop there which also sells fantastic cakes – it would be good place to sit for a while. But she had to rush back to the boat as we were squatting on the (quiet) upstream lock moorings. We

Sonning Bridge (red brick) - watch out for strong flows from the weir (under the timber footbridge)

Sonning Bridge (red brick) - watch out for strong flows from the weir (under the timber footbridge)

allowed her back on board as she was carrying three ice-lollies and some large slabs of date and walnut cake (succulent).

Shortly afterwards we arrived at the Thames and Kennet Marina, accompanied by a strong gusty wind which had been building up all day. This proved to be a problem. We found our mooring and Richard decided we should reverse in so that we could access the shore power – DOOM!!!!! I tried and at first couldn’t even turn the boat in the wind let alone get her into the mooring. I moved on, turned the boat and managed to get the back to the mooring post ready to reverse into the mooring (allbeit rather crookedly). Richard yelled at me to abort and took the helm for a try. There followed an interesting 5 minutes where we were blown all over the marina.  We did eventually get into our berth with the massive help of a jolly gang of boaters affectionately known in the marina as the “cocktail crew”.

Looking back towards Sonning Lock

Looking back towards Sonning Lock

We went along to the marina office to sort the fees (£10 per night) and chew the fat – they’re so helpful here. After much modelling and parading round, Danusia selected a new life-jacket for Polo – he’s going sailing for the first time next weekend. In the meantime, Blue and Lou got thoroughly overexcited when the marina manager’s cat decided to poke his tongue at them through the marina office window. We had to lock them in the car – it was just too much for them, especially when the cat started strutting around the boat pontoons. We like it here, so the wholesale slaughter of the manager’s cats didn’t seem to be a good move!

View upstream from Sonning Lock - good free moorings on the left bank.

View upstream from Sonning Lock - good free moorings on the left bank.

We drove back to Henley for Danusia’s car with me squashed in between the two greyhounds on the back seat. And I mean ‘squashed’ – both dogs exerted as much pressure as they could but I’m afraid that I’m just too substantial to get rid of that way – many doggie sighs ensued.

When we got to Henley we had a last walk around the park with the dogs and breathed in the ambience – there’s such a great atmosphere here. The thought crept over me that Henley probably sneers, in a genteel way of course, at its more well known royal neighbour in Windsor, which does seem rather common in comparison!

We had a quick drive home and Blue and Lou have just eaten a huge dinner and collapsed catatonic onto their duvets. They need their rest – we’re back on the boat on Thursday evening ready for the next stage of the Odyssey – the Thames up to Oxford.

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