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The Odyssey 2009: Day 7

Posted by indigodream on 13 April, 2009

Friday 10th April Reading to Moulsford

Back on the Thames - leaving the Thames and Kennet Marina

Back on the Thames - leaving the Thames and Kennet Marina and passing the entrance to the Kennet & Avon Canal

All week we’ve been discussing our target for this weekend’s cruising – Oxford. It would be a push, we’d need to be diligent, good practice for the BCN Marathon, 10 hour days, well, make it 9 hours because we can manage 5 mph on the river even going upstream. Yeah right, Thursday evening came and went and we decided to drive to the boat early on Friday instead; well, you know us and early! We didn’t get onto Indigo Dream until nigh on 1pm…..

Mind you, we did have stop in Tesco’s in Reading on the way – we’d normally stop there by boat – they have tremendous visitor moorings on the left just upstream of the marina entrance. There’s also quite extensive parkland adjacent to the towpath so there’s good rummaging for the dogs.

Needless to say, Indigo Dream had been perfectly safe and secure at the marina but it was time to move on. I’ve often thought that if I ever took to life on the water, this marina would be the perfect place to moor – it simply has the friendliest atmosphere. Sadly, though, it also has 33 cats and the

Tesco Moorings on the Thames in Reading

Tesco Moorings on the Thames in Reading

marina manager’s cat (who Blue and Lou met last time) seems to have a death-wish! This time, we met the marina manager and her family walking down the pontoon with her cat strutting arrogantly behind her. I had to put my considerable body weight into holding Blue and Lou back. The cat seemed determined to sit in the middle of the pontoon, staring the dogs down, but the marina manager wisely plonked the silly creature on the boat roof while I bodily dragged our thoroughly overexcited hounds onto Indigo Dream and locked them away until we’d moved out.

It’s been two years since we cruised this stretch but even so I was surprised at how little memory I had of it. Never mind, at least it meant that the waterway would seem new and amazing 🙂 We passed through the surprisingly green and leafy outskirts of Reading, sharing a lock with nb Sandalwood who’d left the marina shortly before us. There are a lot of boats in Reading but nonetheless I was surprised to see so many boatyards in such

Random cruiser - there's a big space behind us!

Random cruiser - there's a big space behind us!

a short stretch of river. I counted three between the marina and Caversham Bridge so you’d never be short of a pump-out around here. Mind you, I think at least one of the yards serves a fleet of hire cruisers. I was a bit concerned when a hire cruiser headed out into the river in the, just, cruiser sized space between us and Sandalwood and proceeded to weave around randomly. But after a while they seemed to decide that upstream wasn’t them and they disappeared off downstream, much to my relief.

Once we got past Caversham bridge, Reading seemed to vanish – I’m not sure where it went but all of a sudden we were in the countryside. It was such an abrupt transition from the flamboyantly extravagant Thames downstream of the city. Up to Reading, you get the sense that every bit of the river is being employed – a rowing club, a summerhouse, a riverside estate, a meeting place. But upstream of Reading the river seems to slow to match the stately flow of the Chiltern Hills to the North. The views around Mapledurham are particularly lovely with fresh rain-washed greens and the abundant

Rolling lanscape above Mapledurham Lock

Rolling lanscape above Mapledurham Lock

cleanliness of white hawthorn blossom.

Mapledurham was also beautified by it’s very jolly lock-keeper, who hails from Croydon. There’s a tale to tell there about how he came to this remote and rural spot – I’m sorry that he managed to fill the lock and get us on our way before I could hear it. There’s also good dog-walking below Mapledurham Lock – Blue enjoyed a quick rummage while we were waiting. This was our first lock queue of the year and also the first proper demonstration of the lock-keeper’s expertise as a sardine packer as he shoe-horned a couple of narrowboats and a few cruisers into a not very large (by Thames standards) lock.

We carried on through the landscape – marvelling at the change in the river’s character and enjoying the sense of movement that belongs uniquely to the odyssey. Unfortunately the weather was grim – it was raining, a steady constant downpour falling with the incessant patter of water on a mission – which was to get us soaked. I imagined the hundreds of new

Local colour - a few members of a much larger herd of Llamas (or alpacas) in a riverside meadow

Local colour - a few members of a much larger herd of Llamas (or alpacas) in a riverside meadow

plants we’ve just had put into our garden at home waving their little leaves in joy. But I’m not a plant, though I realise that I may have turned into a cissy southerner – I’d never complain about a bit of rain when my roots were planted in Wales 🙂

I was cheered by a bit of spite though. We’d been overtaken by a large cruiser who seemed intent on getting to the next lock before us – cruisers are notoriously reluctant to share locks with narrowboats. But when we got to Whitchurch Lock the lock keeper signalled the cruiser into the moorings and waved us past into the lock (to good natured cries of “not fair” from the cruiser. But we were last in a companionable 4-narrowboat huddle in the lock.

The other narrowboats were part of a boating club based on the Kennet and Avon, heading out for a weekend cruise. They stopped off at Beale Park, which many of you will know as a great spot from the IWA National a couple of years ago. There’s free 24-hour mooring here and we were tempted to join them (the dog-walking looked superb) but it seemed a bit early to stop. For information, there are also

Speed camera hidden in the bushes - is that set for 5mph???

Speed camera hidden in the bushes - is that set for 5mph???

good countryside moorings on the left hand side below Whitchurch Lock. Knowing the boating club were taking it easy and stopping very shortly, I overtook them on the straight after Whitchurch Lock – of course that was before I spotted the speed camera! (see photo).

Goring sounds and looks like a charming place to moor. But as we got there, the rain finally stopped and we decided to keep going a bit further and make use of the first bit of decent cruising weather of the day. Goring Lock itself is very picturesque and above the lock the scenery becomes a little less cultivated.

Goring was soon followed by Cleve Lock. We were very excited to see Cleve as Richard had spotted a possible investment opportunity. The island below the lock is for sale – one and a half acres for £195,000. We’ve heard it was owned at one time by Pete Townsend but we are not sure if he is the current owner. We’d cruised upriver discussing how desirable it would be to own a Thames island before moving on to plans for making money from it via moorings, fishing etc. It was a lovely dream which brightened an otherwise cloudy afternoon. Alas, our little bubble was burst when the island itself hove into view. It’s a rough piece of ground which the details make amply clear can never be developed. There is

Moorings at Beale Park

Moorings at Beale Park

foot access across the weir but this is not an official right of way – the weir bridge was signed “NO ACCESS” in no uncertain terms. The only other access is by boat and there are landing stages for boats on the shore and on the island but NO mooring rights. This is where it gets complicated – the island and the shore is owned by one person, the river bed is owned by another, and it seems that the water is owned by someone else with little prospect of getting mooring or fishing rights. So, it’s £195,000 for a bit of land with no conceivable practical use and next to no access – bargain!

Never mind, we’re an optimistic crew on Indigo Dream and we’ll find another little vision to enlighten other days.

It would be wrong to call this stretch dull but it did feel more conventional. The river seems to have lost the sheer vivacity of the colourful and eccentric houseboats and other

Unusual conservatory overlooking the river

Unusual conservatory overlooking the river

strange features that enliven the lower Thames. However we did find some flashes of that rampant individuality that seems to mark the character of river dwellers in the form of a beautifully built free-standing conservatory and a magnificent art-deco house rising like a monstrous wurlitzer from the bank!

Our Nicholson’s has mooring marked just downstream of Moulsford and we did see a likely spot on the left. We scouted it out going upstream, went past then turned round for another look then headed back upstream. That’s the great thing about this river – there’s no need to mess around looking for winding holes. It’s got width to spare for turning – the current is helpful turning downstream (slightly less so turning upstream). Although river levels are low at the moment, there was a marked difference between travelling downstream with the flow – even the seemingly gentle current exerts a considerable push when you’re cruising upstream. We were still undecided about the

Dedication to style......

Dedication to style......

countryside moorings – there weren’t any signs either way – we think it would have been a good place to stop, however, there was better to come.

Nicholson’s rhapsodises about the “Beetle and Wedge” hotel on the left at Moulsford. We’d spotted it earlier and, better still, noticed that its moorings were empty. A quick phonecall established that they’d be happy for us to moor there overnight if we were eating in the pub, though it was not dog-friendly. It was only 5.30pm and we’d never normally stop that early but it had just started to rain again and the ‘Beetle and Wedge’ looked very enticing so we moored up – plenty of room for a 60footer.

Note: Nicholson’s is out of date (even the new March editions!) The ‘Beetle and Wedge’ is no longer a hotel and is now just one riverside pub/restaurant though it does have a few rooms B & B.

Fine pub moorings

Fine pub moorings

It proved to be a great place to moor – there’s fine dog-walking downstream of the pub (though the footpath is treacherous in places – wear walking boots, carry a torch in the dark and watch your footing). The dogs loved it – they had a joyous run round and had a good splosh in the river. Unlike many greyhounds, our two love paddling, though they’re not that fond of swimming. We did find later that the country area downstream (adjacent to the dog walking spot) was a mooring place as a few passing cruisers had stopped there for the night.

At 7pm we went off the the pub – for reference, the entrance is right round the back from the waterside. We sat in the old part of the pub which is utterly charming – warm, cosy and atmospheric. The service was superb and we watched the chef expertly cooking our food on the open charcoal fire by our table.  The food was excellent – pricier than our usual but well worth it. Beer was good and cheap so Richard had a half or so.  We were given a table with a view over the river, where we

The warm interior of the Beetle and Wedge restaurant

The warm interior of the Beetle and Wedge restaurant

thought Indigo Dream added a lot to the pub’s ambience.

The chef came for a chat (as he was cooking only feet away from us). He was a slightly abrasive (but not unpleasant) character but we had to be amused by his attitude – if he sees cruisers full of drunken young men he just waves them on and tells them to moor elsewhere. Maybe this explains why the mooring was so quiet and we passed a peaceful night without a murmer of noise from the carefully vetted pub customers 🙂

Photoblog:

Lots of cute dog photos today so look away now if you’ve already seen enough of them!

Lou keeping an eye on us

Lou keeping an eye on us

Are we there yet? Can we go back for that cat? Why can't you make it stop raining?

Are we there yet? Can we go back for that cat? Why can't you make it stop raining?

Attractive spiral staircases on this development in Reading

Attractive spiral staircases on this development in Reading

Rooftop toboggan run or a place for Eddie 'the eagle' Edwards to practice??

Rooftop toboggan run or a place for Eddie 'the eagle' Edwards to practice??

Lovely detail on Caversham Bridge in Reading

Lovely detail on Caversham Bridge in Reading

Restoration project??

Restoration project??

Rain smeared vscenery upstream of Beale Park

Rain smeared scenery upstream of Beale Park

Near miss! Lesson: don't stand in front of the steerer when driving on the wrong side of the river!!

Near miss! Lesson: don't stand in front of the steerer when driving on the wrong side of the river!!

Got enough fenders????

Got enough fenders????

Of course, you don't need fenders if you make if clear you're a mafiosi boat!

Of course, you don't need fenders if you make if clear you're a mafiosi boat!

Dramatic tree - still alive despite being blasted and eaten by woodworm

Dramatic tree - still alive despite being blasted and eaten by woodworm

Des res - that's full length narrowboat in that boathouse....

Des res - that's a full length narrowboat in that boathouse....

This bird of prey was very interested in Blue and Lou before deciding they were too bony for supper; or did he get fed up of waiting for them to flush a fat rabbit for him?

This bird of prey was very interested in Blue and Lou before deciding they were too bony for supper; or did he get fed up of waiting for them to flush a fat rabbit for him?

Great space for the dogs here...

Great space for the dogs here...

On the lookout.....

On the lookout.....

The race is on.....

The race is on.....

Enjoying a paddle in the Thames

Enjoying a paddle in the Thames

2 Responses to “The Odyssey 2009: Day 7”

  1. Greygal said

    Sounds like a full on day, Sue! And sorry we’ve bagged all the good weather!

  2. indigodream said

    Greygal – I don’t begrudge you the good weather. Our floor’s beyond description after the assault of only 8 muddy paws – I can only imagine what it would be like with 20!

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