Friday 6th April
Teddington to Runnymeade
Hampton Court Palace - in summer you can't see the palace for the trees...
I don’t know whether an Odyssey can ever be less than a grand voyage – if I was ex-president G.W. Bush I’d say that “the trouble with Greek is that it has no word for ‘micro'” 🙂
Anyway, after a tremendously stressful day yesterday, I was astonished to see how well Poppy was walking this morning. Although the neurologist had told me that Poppy was likely to recover, I confess that I didn’t really believe it. There’s a long road ahead of her but she’s off to a promising start – she is very cheerful and eating well – she has such spirit and zest for life – amazing!
Given yesterday’s events, we’d agreed that Richard would stay at home with the hounds – the theory being that a quiet couple of days at home would benefit his health as well as theirs. In the meantime, I had arranged to meet Sarah and Andy at the boat in Teddington, where, hopefully, a couple of days of fresh air would blow my stress-induced migraine away.
The cruising plan was subject to some debate – I had thought about turning tail and heading back to Limehouse. The tidal Thames is a fantastic cruise, we do it frequently, we never tire of it but that would have been such a gloomy outcome if wed gone back to our mooring I’m not sure that we’d have moved again in April. Of course, if we had decided to go downriver we might have been delayed by the trip boat that got wedged against Westminster Bridge! The only way to overcome this weekend’s gloom was to head upstream – that would give us the hope of more cruising in April before the intensive tideway rehearsals in May.
We met up soon after 10am, and, after a huge greeting from hounds Susie, Ranger (my favourite), Henry, Archie and Herbie, we loaded the supplies that I’d brought with me and got the boat ready for cruising. We’d had to arrange an extra night’s mooring with the lockies (“Dog is ill, of course you can stay an extra night, after all they are more important”) so I went to pay them, then we set off upriver. We didn’t have any particular destination in mind – our only goal was to reach a mooring where we could leave the boat for a week from Saturday night. That’s not so easy on the Thames – there is an abundance of 24-hour moorings, but longer term mooring are more rare – confined mainly to the marinas (expensive) and some of the locks (very reasonable).
The Thames is graced by many mature trees - it's a fine sight...
It was the most lovely morning – warm and sunny – much better than we’d expected in fact. Yet the river was nigh on deserted. I had expected congestion at the locks and lots of passing boat traffic, but there was hardly any. I’m not complaining – it’s very luxurious to feel as if we have our own river 🙂
We had a very pleasant cruise with Sarah on the helm, Andy in his deckchair and me pottering around. I had planned to give them the commentary (courtesy of an excellent book on the Thames that I bought at Christmas) but instead I just enjoyed watching the world go by at a very leisurely pace indeed. The Thames is easily my favourite waterway – I’m captivated by its sense of history and by the sheer eccentricity of its residents. The highly individual house-boats epitomise the rampant individuality that so marks the British; the contrast between the grand and shabby dwellings packed into every inch of the islands epitomises the vagaries of the planning system!
With Sarah on the helm we mooched along, in no rush to get anywhere – that’s a novelty in itself. We stopped for lunch above Sunbury Lock – there are good moorings outside the Weir pub. Although the pub was busy, there was plenty of room to moor. Sarah and I walked the hounds – there is excellent dog-walking on the lock ‘island’ – walk back toward the lock from the pub, cross the lock cut and there is an area of woodland which kept the hounds entertained. The path back from the pub in interesting – there is a road/cycle path, with a narrower fenced path adjacent marked for wheelchairs – cyclists not allowed. Most walkers take the ‘wheelchair’ path as it means that you can’t be mowed down by the speedy cyclists – so how moronic, then, was it for four young men to bring their bikes down the ‘wheelchair’ path, causing inconvenience to all concerned – bah!
The newly restored Chertsey lock - wow!
We got back to the boat and started on lunch – but there was a problem – our fridge didn’t seem to be working. We’d had our suspicions earlier and I’d put a thermometer in there to check – alas it was warmer inside the fridge than outside. Tragic -I was so worried about the cold chain that I felt obliged to cook ALL of the pancetta and we had the thickest, most delicious bacon rolls that have ever been made 🙂
Andy is an electronics whizz-kid so I set him to fixing the fridge – he found two loose wires at the back – possibly dislodged when we had the gas hob fixed – oh dear, that explains the rotting bacon I found last week – the fridge hasn’t been working for weeks! He replaced the wires and tested the fuses and whatnot, we cheered, and I put the thermometer back in the fridge. Sadly, when I tested it later the fridge still wasn’t working. Luckily we’d eaten the most perishable items and stored the milk in the outside lockers after dark – it got pretty chilly overnight.
It was extremely pleasant at our lunchtime mooring spot – we were very tempted to stay there, but the thought of Richard’s contempt at our lack of endeavour spurred us on 🙂
I really enjoyed the cruise – Sarah and I took turns on the helm as we cruised through the increasingly wealthy riverside suburbs. I had my usual pangs through Walton on Thames, memories of walking there with my first rescue dog, Honey, as vivid as they’ve ever been. We gave the Byfleet Boat Club convoy a symbolic wave as passed the entrance to the Wey -we’ll join them another time I hope. Then we were in Chertsey Lock – WOW – this lock has been closed for renovation for most of the winter and it looks like new – smooth concrete walls, fine watertight gates – well worth the effort I’d say.
I had yet more pangs cruising past Chertsey Meads – another fine walking spot and this time a reminder of Blue’s exploits as Richard tried to teach him to swim in the river….
More lovely trees - the riverscape is quite magnificent in places - and we're still at the 'poor' end of the navigation!!
We thought about stopping at Chertsey Meads for the night, but by now we had a tentative target – the moorings at Runnymeade – free for the first 24 hours and near a fine park for the hounds. We were also tempted by Staines – with the fridge not working, there was a limited menu on board and we needed to moor within reach of a decent food establishment – we would have been spoilt for choice there! However it’s a bit barren for the hounds so we pressed on, despite numerous recommendations for eateries from the local lockies.
Richard (at home) and Sarah, had been busy scouting out the eateries on the internet – we were heading for a promising Italian restaurant in Runnymeade – it’s not on the waterside but by chance we moored right outside the ‘alley’ that runs to it. However, Sarah had also found a chinese takeaway that would deliver to the boat and which had excellent online reviews so we went for that instead.
New boat house - nice!
We were tying up in Runnymeade when a couple approached us with the usual questions – “how long is your boat?” “Are you warm enough in winter” What does it cost to cruise” “Have you got a loo on board” “Can you live on board?”- you know the ones……
Geoff and Trish (our impromptu visitors) were an engaging couple, recently retired by the sounds of it, and very keen to take to life on the water. I gave them a tour of the boat while Sarah and Andy walked the dogs. They instantly fell in love with Indigo Dream and admired her many features – of course, I took to them immediately 🙂 Trish is also a blogger and writes about her love of Nice, in the South of France – think this is her blog here – The best place in France.
I’ll be interested to hear whether they do get a boat. They seemed to embody the enterprising spirit of those people who suddenly sell-up and take to the waterways in a gloriously adventurous change of life i.e. totally and endearingly bonkers 🙂
Some time later, our Chinese takeaway was delivered – it was excellent so we can recommend the Magic Wok – 01784 477991- if you’re moored in Runnymeade ask them to deliver to Skyte’s Meadow outside of the “Italian Concept” cafe/restaurant (Windsor Road, Egham TW20 0AE).
When we moored up, we ran the heating for a short while and the boat quickly heated up – after a surfeit of food and fresh air, the warmth soon put us in a stupor. Luckily we were enlivened by the planes taking off from Heathrow, and banking above the boat – not just over Runnymeade but directly over Indigo Dream – Sarah’s “Plane finder” App told us so! We were entertained by her commentary about where each plane was going (long haul to the East generally). I can see why people believe in alien visitations – the sight and sound of a giant luridly-lit cruciform struggling to gain altitude seemingly within touching distance of our heads was quite surreal.
However, by the time we got the beds organised the flights had largely stopped. Sarah’s hounds are frequent day-trippers but don’t often stay over so there was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing before they settled -Susie slept on Andy’s legs; Henry and Ranger stayed close to their mummy and slept on the floor by her side; Herbie hound took the spot previously favoured by Blue – at the end of my bed. In the meantime I had the novel experience of sleeping with a gigolo! Archie is a supremely handsome hound who shamelessly seduces every human that he meets – he told me he loved me, so he got to sleep in Richard’s spot on my bed.
Once everyone was in place we had a quiet and very welcome night’s sleep – just what the doctor ordered….
Note: Poor Richard, knowing that he would be interrogated about every aspect of the hounds’ care while I was away, actually photographed Poppy’s food bowl and, to prove that he hadn’t eaten her share of the roast chicken I’d left for them, also took a photo of her eating her dinner! Oh dear, what sort of domestic dictator have I turned into (don’t answer that!)? 🙂
Poppy eating her dinner - the stroke hasn't affected her appetite...
Below Molesey Lock - such a fine day on the river and we mainly had it to ourselves!
That tall white thing in the distance looks like a crane, but I actually think it's a fairground ride - I didn't see it in action but it looks nauseating to me....
The fine 'houseboat', well, what would you call it, belongs to someone famous, possibly from Pink Floyd - quick Sarah, leave a comment and tell me who it is....