Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Whatever happened to David and Sarah?

Google happened. Seems they now have something to do with this blogger site or at least we had to put our google password in to gain access and guess what I couldn’t remember it but after some long hard experimentation I guessed right. So here we are back. In fact its been a super relaxing trip back but devoid of any really memorable moments that seemed worth writing about anyway so you haven’t missed much! 

We found some great moorings, one near Dorchester on Thames which is a fascinating small town with history going back to iron age times. From there up through Oxford and back on to the canal with a few days in Thrupp to do some maintenance and painting to the boat and then hence up to Braunston and back to the marina where we arrived yesterday. A couple of months early really as we had planned not to be back until the end of October to coincide with the boat being blacked but Sarah’e hip is giving her severe problems so we want to get back to get that sorted and will come back to the boat to take it for blacking.

The other blot on the landscape is that on arriving back at the marina yesterday I went to get the car to find it battery was totally flat, not a major problem as our neighbour kindly gave it a jump start but when I went to drive it I had the most excruciating noise from under the bonnet. Someone who knows thinks that a suspension strut has broken - how that happened when the car hasn’t moved for months heaven knows but it has meant a call to the AA who will be here tomorrow and probably load up the car on a trailer and take us home. Hey ho. Anyway a slightly sad end to what has been a thoroughly enjoyable, if tiring,summers cruising.

See you all next year.


Anyone fancy a large garden shed for £575,000? On an island in the middle of Thames at Henley, you will need a boat to access it

Steam launch at Goring

Toll cottage at Dorchester on Thames

View of Thames from Whittenham Clumps Dorchester

Stormy sky on Oxford Canal

Pastoral scene at Clayden

Thursday, 6 August 2015

A quiet time

Nothing really exciting to report since my last missive I’m afraid.

We did the tourist bit and went round Windsor Castle which was very impressive and I have to say quite good value for money - much more so than Warwick Castle which is rather “disneyfied”

We’ve meandered slowly back up the Thames with a night at Maidenhead and then 5 nights at Cookham. We hadn’t been able to find a mooring here on our way down and having stopped there and explored one can see why. A delightful mooring (£6 a night) a pleasant village/town with some shops and a large choice of eateries/pubs, although the downside being they were all very expensive to eat in so apart from one lunch we didn’t partake, and super walking with Winters Hill giving terrific views over the Thames valley. 

The church is worth visiting being over 1100 years old and its worthwhile buying the short guide as its hilarious to read. For our narrowboating friends I liken the prose to Mr Pearson.

From there a night in Marlow, a pretty enough town but interesting to note that there was not one provisions shop in the town, no butchers, no bakers and definitely no candlestick makers or greengrocers come to that. (Perhaps a guide to the area is given by the fact that in the hardware shop in Cookham they were proudly displaying chandelier cleaner for sale!)

From Marlow on a few miles to a very remote mooring near Medmenham for a night and hence to Henley where we will be for 2 nights. Its the most expensive mooring we’ve come across (£10 a night but its buzzy and close to the town)

So on tomorrow to Sonning.  

PS I've just discovered that my blog entitled "Back to Bath" had some problems with the font colour which I've now tried to correct so if you couldn't read this exciting instalment about the Welshman and the German do give it another go. (8th JUNE)

Relaxing at Cookham

Marlow Bridge which appearently was nearly demolished in the 50's for a new concrete monstrosity

Quiet neighbours

I thought this was a war memorial but it was erected to celebrate the local landowner winning a case in 1809 in the Court of Appeal to confirm that the ferry was public. The ferry has long gone.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Rebellious crew, a tranquil river and being cured of punning

In my last post I mentioned that neither Teazle nor Tansy were keen to go on the island. Well they rebelled totally and said that they were not stepping off the boat to visit this p******g sized island and if we thought they were going to do what they should do on it then we had another think coming. They would hold everything until they got back to the mainland. So it was, that early Sunday morning, we unhitched ourselves from the islet and sailed the 50 yards or so across to the river bank and moored exactly opposite the spot we had on the island. They were very relieved in more ways than one!

So we spent the day there, a rather cloudy one but I walked them up to Clivedon House only to find that dogs were not permitted into the grounds but it was a grand walk through the woods anyway.

Monday dawned very dank and dreary and shortly after we had started it began to rain. The plan was to go into Maidenhead and find the laundrette that was listed in the guide book to do the washing. We moored on some free 24hour moorings and I volunteered to walk into town with the girls to locate said launderette before Sarah trundled Miss Biddy (Miss Biddy is the wheeled shopping basket we have on board. It is extremely handy and takes huge amounts of stuff, be it food from the supermarket or laundry to the launderette but it absolutely destroys my street cred - assuming I have any in the first place - as its one of those square ones on four wheels that you see all the old Biddy’s (hence her name) staggering around the town with. If we are taking it shopping I usually walk a few paces behind Sarah to try to avoid being associated with it but I found myself having to wheel it through one town and decided the only way I could do it and not feel a total wally was to power walk the whole way - anyway I digress)… before Sarah trundled Miss Biddy full of washing to said establishment. After about a 20 minute walk I located said premises to find that they no longer offered a launderette service so back to the boat to press on. However by then the rain was coming down in buckets so we travelled only a half mile or less and decided to call it a day and moor up still in Maidenhead.

Tuesday saw us going down through Windsor (you can tell its a tourist trap - dingy hire was £25 for half an hour!) and we moored at Runnymead having stocked up with fuel off a travelling barge at a lot better price that the marinas were quoting.

We visited the Magna Carta memorial which was erected by the American Bar Association and the JFK memorial which is on an acre of land we gave the Americans. Seems they take more interest in Magna Carta than we do!

The following morning did not start as planned. As is our usual practice I got up at about 6.00 to let the dogs out and make a cup of tea. The girls have been exemplary in their behaviour in the mornings and I’m not really awake so perhaps not as switched on as they are but they didn’t miss this cat that was skulking down the towpath. Off like two cruise missiles up the towpath past the boat moored next to us, quick detour on to their stern deck as the cat tried to find an escape route, back on the towpath hurtling past me into the distance disappearing around a corner towards the boatyard which had huge piles of bits and pieces everywhere. So I stormed after them. Picture the scene with me in my PJ’s, dressing gown and derry boots - sexy hey? - running down the towpath hissing their names so as to try not to wake up all the boaters. I got to the boatyard and not a sign of them. Hell, if they have chased the cat into those piles of rubbish - sorry those carefully stored items of historical interest - it could take weeks to dig them out. I decided that I would have to return to the boat get Sarah up and get dressed and hope for the best. Cursing and muttering about B****y terriers I came round the corner to the boat to see a border terrier standing at the side of our boat, surprisingly, it was Teasle as she's usually the one I’m extracting from thorn bushes- “Hi Dad, did you see us chase that cat - hey that was great fun, super way to start the day, What, you not happy? Why’s that? Oh, No Tansy’s here too, she’s already on board recovering from the exertion” 

Mmmm. I did eventually calm down.

And so onto the River Wey. If there was a place that will cure you of wanting to make puns this is it. It is tempting of course but after having seen what seems like dozens of boats called “The only Wey is up” or “This Wey up” or “Hem-in-Wey” or “Wey Hey” or… oh well you get the idea; I’m not going to enter the contest.

The Wey itself is a delight. After the hurley burley of the Thames it is a backwater to savour the slow pace on board. We came on to it on Thursday and moored the first night near West Byfleet which was very quiet except for the continual hum of M25 traffic so moved on to Send and a truly idyllic spot, very quiet and peaceful. Saturday saw us up early and away by 7.15 and what beautiful morning to be up and about on.  A really peaceful journey as we progressed through Guildford and on towards Godalming when we had a complete change of tempo and found ourselves in the middle of everyone and his granny out in rowing boats, punts and day launches, most, obviously, never having been in any sort of boat before. It started to go downhill when we had a narrowboat trying to get into the lock before we had exited it and they ended up totally across the river having been dragged by the weir and wind; we then had a hen party in a day launch broadside on just the other side of a bridge hole with the helmswoman having no idea which way to turn the tiller to straighten things up; I did shout to tell her but I don't think she even knew what a tiller was; we had a sculler who had yet to grasp which oar to pull on to make the boat go a particular way so ended up under our bows, we had rowing boats that as soon as they saw us bolted for the tree line (probably sensible because by that time I was thinking how many skull and crossbones I could draw on the side of the boat to mark the number of enemy sinkings)

Anyway we made Goldalming and whilst Sarah went to Sainburys (the moorings are right outside) I tried to fill up with water to find the tap had been removed so settled just for emptying the cassette toilet. So a short trip then to start our return  journey to moor up near the junction of the defunct Wey and Arun canal and then today on to a different mooring at Send. Again absolute bliss, I’m typing this sitting on the back deck in gorgeous evening sunshine with total silence around me apart from a few boisterous ducks.

We have a couple more days on the this river so will slowly make our wey back to the Thames - Opps sorry couldn’t resist it.

Moored in the shadow of another Brunnel masterpiece - the largest single span brick bridge in the world at Maidenhead

Well decorated lock keepers cottage

Tranquil mooring on the River Wey

Masses of room to spare

Steam boat rally at Guildford

Send Church

Peace! River Wey at Send

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Goodbye K & A - Hello Swallows and Amazons

So after 2 months and 5 days we eventually left the K and A and got back on to the Thames. Its been interesting and a trip we are glad we did. On the positive side we have met some super people, found some great pubs, thoroughly enjoyed exploring the variety of towns (with Bradford on Avon probably topping our favourites list) and loved the countryside especially towards the western end. Experiencing the Floating harbour at Bristol was also a highlight and something we are pleased to have accomplished.

On the downside it’s been hardwork with the double locks and multiple swing bridges and (dare I mention for the last time) the lack of mooring.

Are we glad we did it? An emphatic yes, will we do it again? Highly unlikely; which seems to be the reaction of all the other boaters we have met.

So onwards on the Thames - chalk and cheese. The last but one lock we did on the K and A in Reading we had to step over a comatose druggie on the lock side. Within a couple of hours and only a few miles distant we were moored up at Sonning a village with a variety of Ferraris and Porsches outside the houses.

The following day saw us just drop down to Henley and we went into town in the afternoon for some shopping.  A very pleasant town, not too touristy but we were glad that we avoided the Regatta week as it was crowded enough as it was.

This morning the plan was to sail on for a few hours enjoying the sunshine and find a mooring where we could stay tomorrow avoiding the forecast rain. Unfortunately that didn’t work. Given that we are now in the height of summer, it was a gorgeous sunny day and it was a Saturday, spaces proved to be at a premium. We tried a couple of places but couldn’t get in due to the water level being low and at the last of those attempts it was like having to take my advanced boat handling test. The space I judged was likely to be tight bounded by a £50,000 glass fibre job at either end, it was at the edge of a sailing regatta course which had an Optimist race in full swing and the wind had got up. Oh, and there were loads of people sitting on the bank enjoying the spectacle - not sure whether me or the regatta - Anyway having turned the boat round so that I at least had a bit of control by heading upstream we attempted to get in but found the space was about 2ft short. So we made our excuses and left. Actually without touching anything.

Anyway onward, through Cookham lock and then a  quick circuit of Bavins Gulls islands and we eventually spotted an unoccupied space which we managed to get into (see below). It really does feel that we should be playing Swallows and Amazons although Tansy is refusing to walk the plank and has to be carried. Her sister is fine about it but probably doesn’t realise the risk! I think we are on the smallest of the islets, probably about 20 metres by 3 metres so walking the dogs should not take too long.

We are near Cliveden (famous for, amongst other things, being the home of the Astors and the centre of the Christine Keeler/Profumo affair and want to explore the woods and grounds so hopefully tomorrow we will be able to find a spot on the opposite bank and spend a day or two moored there.

A sign of the times No fishing sign in 4 languages!

From our mooring in Henley

Henley on Thames

The Temple at Henley

Swallows and Amazons mooring

Monday, 6 July 2015

A quiet time

Some while since my last blog but its been a relatively quite period for us and I’ve had nothing really to report that was likely to get you all excited.

From Crofton we moved up to Gt Bedwyn for a couple of days and enjoyed the walking there but were disappointed to find that the village bakery which did superb bread and cakes was closing down that week as they were being required to update their ovens which was not practical from a cost point of view. Another victory for good old health and safety and loss for common sense.

From there another short hop to Froxfield where we found for the first time on this canal a good unrestricted mooring in a pleasant setting so we spent 5 nights there. It had the advantage of a good pub only a 15 minute walk away and plenty of footpaths for walking. We took the opportunity of cleaning and polishing the boat too as we were near a winding hole so could turn it round and do both sides at the same time, a rare luxury.

From there it was on to Hungerford and back to the mooring nightmare. We did just manage to moor up although the first night entailed being “in the rough” and just managing to get the nose in to disembark. The following morning however some boats did move which enabled us to get on a proper mooring and we had a further couple of nights there.

Then on to Avington Manor, another unrestricted mooring which we had spotted on our way out which looked as though it would be beautifully quiet as it only had an estate road passing it. Unfortunately British Rail or Network Rail or whatever they call themselves these days were repairing a bridge over the canal a few hundred yards away which seemed to involve various vehicles including tracked diggers and fork lift trucks driven by Lewis Hamilton wannabes passing the boat every half an hour or so. So after a day of that  we moved on to Kintbury for a couple of nights and then on to Newbury where we actually booked into a marina for 2 nights. 
We had met a boater at Devizes who had had his (and 2 other boats) ropes cut one night moored at Victoria Park, Newbury and then met another boater who had heard about boats having paint thrown over them at Westfields, Newbury so we decided that a few pounds for a marina berth would be worth it for peace of mind. From there with an early 7am start on to our current location at Woolhampton which we managed to arrive at before the rush at 11.30am so secured a good mooring and will be here a couple of days. 

The last few days I’ve started using our bike to cycle between locks and swing bridges leaving Sarah to do the steering and its working very well. We reckon that it saved something in the order of an hour on todays journey as I could get the locks set and bridges open for Sarah to be able to sail straight in every time. I cant see it working on every canal but certainly if you are doing the K & A its worth thinking about.

Little Bedwyn

Gt Bedwyn

Avington Manor churchyard

Misty morning leaving Kintford

View from Lock 79

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Imitating the Flying Dutchman

We’ve taken out time retreating from the western end of the canal with a night in Bathampton, and then a night at Claverton hoping to get a view of the waterwheel pump. Unfortunately its under renovation so we walked up (and I do mean up, its about a mile from the canal on a continuous rising 1 in 10) to the American Museum. We did the grounds but not inside the house as we had the girls with us. Then on to Bradford on Avon where we spent 3 nights and had a thorough investigation of the town. It is fascinating having a very old section up the hill (everything is hills here -a culture shock for us East Anglians) of old weavers cottages and its a warren of alleyways, stairs and passages just as fascinating as Bath but much more of a “lived in” feel than just a tourist hot spot.

From there an easy day travelling to Semington for a night and then on to Sneed Cleeve where we had arranged to meet Sarah’s goddaughter Anna. We haven’t seen her for 5 years and that was at funeral so it was great to catch up with her and hear about her experiences doing the Fastnet race a couple of times amongst other things.

This is where our relaxing trip back starts to go awry. The plan for the following day had been to go to Foxhangers then on to the bottom of the Caen flight and then tackle the flight the following day. In the event we decided not to stop at Foxhangers and go straight to the bottom of the flight but when we got there a couple of volunteers had just helped a couple of boats down asked if we wanted to go up. They were uncertain that there would be volunteers on on the following day and as the forecast was for that day to be a warm one we decided to take up their offer. So in the end we did 32 locks and 2 swing bridges that day, a new personal best!

We felt that deserved a rest so took the 72 hours available in Devizes and had a really relaxing time soaking up the sun although we were lucky to secure the last mooring at the wharf when we arrived and it remained full the whole time we were there.

So yesterday we left Devizes with the intention of going to Honey Street but on arrival there it was full - some sort of summer solstice celebration (apparently the pub is the centre for crop circle fans!) so we headed for Pewsey but on arrival there it was full so we headed for Wooton Rivers but when we got there - yes it was full. So we headed for some staging we had seen a couple of locks on but when we got there - you're getting the picture by now I hope and as to why this blog has the title it has- it was full. Not strictly true; it was very busy because there was a huge field of tents being erected and a band tuning up obviously for another summer solstice celebration so we didn’t thing it was likely to be very restful. So we headed for Crofton but when we got there - surprise, surprise -it was full. By this time is was 6pm (we had started at 8am) and we had had enough so we moored on the lock staging. Up early this morning in case anyone was wanting to use the lock and eventually a boat came off the moorings below us and we have taken their space so will recuperate for 48 hours and then move on to good knows where. We hope to moor in Hungerford but may well end up having to sail the K & A for eternity. The strange thing is that although all the mooring is taken, yesterday, in our 10 hour 17 miles and 10 lock marathon we only saw about 8 boats on the move. It will be interesting to see how many boats move off this mooring today. Given thats it's 48 hours it should on average be a half of them shouldn't it? Some hope.

Overlooking Bradford

Weavers Cottages in Bradford

Rooftops of Bradford

Typical Alley in Bradford "Newtown"

A proper coffee house - eat your heart out Starbucks

Inside Mr Salvats Coffee Room

Mr Salvat's modern writing implement

Monday, 8 June 2015

Back to Bath

Sorry its been a few days since I last posted, I’ve been so busy with the important things in life, sunbathing, sleeping, enjoying a beer or two, laughing myself silly at Germans falling into locks - more on that later - and just haven’t had a moment to spare

We did the Clifton Suspension Bridge on our last full day in Bristol, taking the girls on a bus - bus passes accepted for all 4 of us - and walked back along the Severn from there to the floating harbour. Again something worth seeing and another masterpiece from Brunel although it wasn’t really his design in the end and wasn’t finished until after his death.

That evening we had a great meal with Lynn and Ian from NB Travino at the bistro at the end of our jetty. As they were staying on for another 5 days or so it seems unlikely that we would meet up again so a farewell meal.

Thursday saw us leave Bristol to start the long journey back to Reading. An uneventful first day, mooring up again at Hanham lock for a meal at the Chequers.

The following morning gave us our first encounter with “The German.” Strictly the boat (which happened to be a yogurt pot -glass fibre for the uninitiated) was skippered by a Welshman with the German as crew but for the sake of this story its the German who has the staring role.

We decided to fill with water at the lock which meant turning around and going back 100yards to the landing stage and as we approached, the aforementioned boat was coming out of the lock and, understandably, they thought we were going in so did not bother to close the top gates. We had no problem with that other than the fact that they also made no attempt to close the paddles. Still it gave us something to do whilst filling with water and someone to grumble at. Oh, that that had been the last time we encountered them.

We went from Hanham lock to the moorings at Bitton where luckily there was one space left on the 24 hour mooring, the other being taken by a boat which our friends on NB Terino had seen there when they passed some 6 days earlier. (I’ll try not to keep harking on about overstayers I know you will all be bored to death by now but it is really, really, galling.)

Anyway, off the following morning to get to Bath with plans to do the first 3 locks in the flight (which included the 20ft deep lock) and then moor for a couple of days. Given the size and weight of Deep locks’ gates we truly hoped that we would meet someone to go up with. Well, we had 4 locks to negotiate before the flight so hopefully we would find someone. At the first lock just as we were emptying it to enable us to go in I saw a boat approaching in the distance, great news. Unfortunately it turned out to be a 15ft single handed inspection launch so not a great deal of help and very nerve racking to try and avoid crushing it in the turbulent lock. We decided to stop again for water after the lock (Sarah’s washing machine regime demands regular top ups) so that help disappeared over the horizon.

The next lock, just as we were emptying it, yes, another boat arrives, another yogurt pot but with a crew of two and a decent size so things were looking better for some assistance. Wrong! Not sure if either of them had been out before but both seemed clueless and it took ages to organise the lock and clear it. On to the next lock. Following them down the river to find that at the next lock they were turning round and heading back from whence they had come. Hey-ho on we go on our own. 

Through that lock on our own and towards the next lock and in front of us I could see another boat, This time a narrowboat. Hooray! A look through the binoculars confirmed that there were at least 3 adults on board. This looked hopeful. Mm, I suddenly became aware that we were catching them up quite quickly and had to slacken our pace to stop overhauling them. Anyway they moored on the lock landing and I pulled in behind them to let Sarah off the bow to hear that they asked her if she would mind doing the lock on her own as although the skipper was experienced the others were on board for the first time with two children. Any guesses as to what Sarah’s response was? Suffice to say she did one paddle whilst  a crew member from the other boat did the other. It also transpired that they were not going up the Bath flight so although in going through 4 locks with three different boats we were still on our own (we thought) for the Bath flight and deep lock.

( I haven’t forgotten about the German we are getting to that part soon)

As we were approaching the bottom lock of the Bath flight we passed the inspection launch we had gone through the first lock of the day with moored up but didn’t see any one aboard so assumed he was shopping (or something)

Up to the lock landing for the bottom lock to find a hire boat moored there with no one aboard. Have I mentioned how irritated I’m becoming with boats moored in the wrong place? No? I’m sure I have. Never mind I’ll leave it for now. Anyway I managed to moor up and we went into the lock to find hot on our tail the inspection launch. Well, at least some help. As we raised the water level and saw up towards deep lock there was a yogurt pot moored up on the lock landing at the top of our lock but facing up stream which turned out to be ??? Yes, our German and Welsh friends. “Ve do not wish to go up zee deep lock on our own so one of you vill come with us. You - pointing at us - are zoo big and you do not have any fenders down  (pointless really considering their boat looked as though it was shrouded in barrage balloons) You vill be ideal” - pointing at our inspection launch friend - To avoid a diplomatic incident we concurred. Yeh back to doing the lock on our own.

So inspection launch comes out of the lock and goes into deep lock. The Welshman has gone on to deep lock to assist with closing gates (wonders will never cease) leaving German to cast off and take boat into lock. Well, in an earlier blog I likened us to Tim and Pru but this guy had us well and truly beat. It take him ages to get off the mooring much revving of both outboard motors lots of smoke and eventually he manages it but has forgotten that his bow rope is still around a bollard. As it is not tied up it doesn’t stop him leaving so there he is trailing the rope with two hearty outboard motors ticking away. He arrives in the lock and decides that he needs to tie up so attempts to throw a rope up to Welshman on the lock. This is some 19 feet above his head. Given that the rope looked about 20 feet long I thought it was a mite optimistic and so it proved. After about 6 attempts it was on to plan B which involved getting the boat hook and hooking it around the lock ladder to pull the boat to the side. This he managed to do but then the classic; he lent over and grabbed hold of the ladder with the inevitable result that the boat moved quickly away from the side. Result? Yep. Splash! One very wet German faced with a 20 foot ladder to climb. This was really turning into an entertaining afternoon. So German is on the lock side, lock is filled. Unfortunately (!!) the two previous boats up had somehow managed to deplete the small pound above deep lock of water so that when the levels were reached the inspection launch which probably had a draft of about 6” got out of the lock Ok but the German yogurt pot ground to a halt on the cill. Instead of trying to reverse back into the deep water of the lock he kept the engines on forward and although, apparently they should raise if they meet an obstacle, one didn’t and it ceased functioning. Wonder why? Suggestions on a postcard to… Well and truly stuck on the cill we then had to raise the level in the pound so that he could get himself off. This took some 15 minutes but he then floated out  but made no attempt to close the gates or paddles behind him so left it to me to do. Sarah by this time had gone up the flight to see what was happening higher up and it transpired that the next pound was even lower. I didn’t know this at the time so closed the gates emptied the lock and brought Hoddy in to hear the news that no one was going anywhere for a considerable time until levels could be restored. So I found myself climbing out of the lock to while away a couple of hours whilst the matter was sorted.

Meanwhile our German/Welsh fiends (sorry, friends) were knocking on doors of local cottages to see if anyone would let them fill up their water containers so that the German could have a shower and wash off the canal water - whats wrong with our canal water?

The CRT man that Sarah managed to magic out of thin air did a great job in sorting things out, having put Sarah in charge of the top lock to forbid anyone to come down until he said it was Ok. No one did.

So four and a half hours after we had entered bottom lock we had gone up 3 locks and were moored up for the night. Inspection launch and our friendly tupperware had gone on and we just hope that having spent a couple of days here recovering we wont see them again.

Other than that it been a rather quite time, a bit more sightseeing around Bath, a re-provisioning of the beer cellar and we will be on our way tomorrow.

View up the Severn from Cliffton Suspension Bridge

Coffee break at the floating harbour (Hoddy in the background)

Ornate verandah in Bristol

Hoddy in the Floating Harbour

Pirates on the Bow! Actually a replica of Matthew the ship John Cabot bumped into Newfoundland with

At last a steam engine named after me! (At Bitton  Avon Valley Railway)

Our friendly inspection launch assistant