Monday, 27 July 2015

Escape, Wind, Alarm, Tight Squeeze, Surprises and a very Leaky Sky!

Saturday 25th July
Cunning Man, Burghfield to Shiplake on the Thames

8.5 miles, 5 locks

The decision to stay put on Friday was a good one as it got worse before it got better

Saturday was the day we would escape from the Kennet and Avon onto the Thames.  First we had three more locks to negotiate.  Looking back at the time on the K & A it was not all bad and I am not sure that I would say 'never again'.  The frustrations of so many moving boats at the Bath end and the 'continuous moorers' along most of the length of the canal and in particular those who massively over stay on the 24 hour and 48 hour moorings did colour the trip, but we only had one night with a tricky mooring, so maybe it was not as bad as we felt some days.

Fobney Lock is quite exposed and the wind did cause some problems, but we made it in to the lock okay

And managed to pick up the lock side crew at the bottom despite this rather fiercesome outflow of water just below the lock

County Lock is just before Reading and we were glad of the Cleddau crews' knowledge.  You moor just before the bridge, the lock labourers leave and go along this long walkway to ready the lock

Once all is set the boats come in one at a time.  Tentatrice first

To be followed by Cleddau, but as The Captain was lining up to enter this other narrow boat came storming round the corner at an enormous lick.  The reason for the need for caution is the weir on the right of this photo.  This was alarming and scary to watch, but must have been heart stopping for the single handed crew member on the boat.  He was being swept towards the weir, but there was nothing we could do to help.

Thankfully he managed to pull into the side and then had to haul the boat back with his stern rope - no easy task, but again we could only watch as there was no way to get over to help him.

At county lock the canal narrows and the journey through Reading is traffic light controlled.  Push the button and if the way is clear you get a green light and off you go - you have 10-12 minutes, so no stopping on the way.  It is a busy waterfront through modern buildings of all types.
 Suddenly you are aware of a roaring sound - a dinosaur park!

But it has a purpose other than being a visual treat - it is a crazy golf course being put to good use by two business men as we passed by

Safely at the other end of the narrows - there were no craft waiting and even if there had been the light was still red, so we made it in good time.  This marks the end (or beginning!) of the Kennet and Avon Canal - right by Reading Gaol.

I must apologise for the quality of the next few photos.  The dial moved on the camera and I failed to notice!

So to the next lock which is officially the first Thames lock with these wheels as the winding mechanism for the paddles.

We turned left onto the Thames as we needed to shop at Tesco just round this corner.  The big question - would there be moorings?

There were, but our stern was sticking out, so inaccessible to land, so we had to squeeze ourselves and a lot of shopping round this big tree trunk!  It was rather tight!

Back on board after stocking up we turned round to head downstream.  We heard this group of people before we saw them - a lot of hype going on led by a very enthusiastic trainer.  But what were they waiting to do?

Sail cardboard canoes!  Sadly we had gone past before they boarded them, so we don't know if they worked or not!!  It looked as though they were having fun.

Onwards to our first 'real' Thames lock - Sonning Lock

With information about Thames licences - something we do not have to worry about as we both have 'Gold Licences' this year, so are covered for as long as we need.  Sadly it does not cover the Wey or the Basingstoke.

I have often wondered how comfortable hammocks are - this one certainly looked inviting on a warm summer's day - not that I am sure what one of those is at the moment!

We had planned to moor near Shiplake College - there are some moorings on islands, but no spaces today.  We saw this sign and assumed the private land ended just after the sign

So we moored up just behind it.  We found that we were still on their property, but one of the house mistresses said it would be fine for us to stay one night, but that there would be a lot of noise as rowers arrived early in the morning.  Not a problem for us as we planned an early start.

It turned out to be a lovely mooring with a couple of unexpected surprises in store for us.  First a party of around 20 swimmers.  Some arrived and dived straight in, others sat and dangled their legs before taking the plunge.

Off they went and spread out all over the river leaving the boats to navigate round them.

The second surprise - a bride and groom came down to the water's edge to have some photos taken and on cue along glided a swan to add to the romance of the pictures.

Sunday 26th July
Shiplake to Henley
3.5 miles, 2 locks

The day started dry and calm - this was taken around 07:30 when Monty and I were out for a walk

Sadly by the time we were pulling up pins the rain had arrived - a very soggy family day out!  We Brits are a hardy bunch.

The rain was incessant

Even a tree did not help much

Noah would have felt at home, but I am not sure this craft would have been much good to him!

Were the cows sitting down - no they were all standing.  We decided it must have been just too wet to sit!

More apologies for the quality of some photos - I am afraid rain drops from the very leaky sky kept getting on the lens!

Despite the rain we could only wonder at how the 'other half' live!  I am sure there will be even grander houses before we leave the Thames

 The house at the bottom left fascinated me as there seems to be some sort of very ugly extension (bottom right) at the back??

Then there was this - the photos are bad due to rain, but we think it is a house that featured on Grand Designs and was built much to the disgust of the neighbours as they felt it does not fit in with it's surroundings.
 It is certainly different, but they do have a great view from their sitting room.

Our second and final lock of the day was Marsh Lock just before Henley - it was still pouring

We both found a good mooring on the park at Henley - we had one ring, pins were hammered into the soggy ground and we were, at last, able to retreat and strip off the wet clothes which are hanging up all over the place!  Dry by now (Monday morning), so need to be put away.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Wife Swapping, Bends, Mobile Pin and a Stalker!

Thursday 24th July 2015
Tyle Mill to Cunning Man, Burghfield

4.5 miles, 5 locks, 3 swing bridges

Before we left after a great evening together on Cleddau we had agreed to start at 09:00 (rather than 10:00) as we were aware there was a narrow boat and wide beam ahead of us.  In the event it was 08:55, but alas too late - they both pulled out just ahead of us!  Just a few hundred yards down the cut we came to the first lock - the wide beam went first, Cleddau went with the narrow boat.  This meant they could start taking on water which was just after the lock and swing bridge.  We had been warned the pressure was low - it was and therefore very, very slow!  By the time our turn came for the lock another narrow boat had come along, so we went down with them.  We were thankful that none of the other boats needed the services.  As it was, it took us nearly two hours to travel a few hundred yards, go through a swing bridge, fill up with water and get rid of the rubbish!  

Tentatrice emerging from Tyle Mill Lock - Cleddau is on the left at the services
 After our slow start there were no more hold ups - in fact at most locks we met boats coming up the locks which makes life a lot easier.  These moorings above Sheffield lock are new since Cleddau was last here some 8 years ago.  They are in a good state of repair

with a park area behind them along with this rather attractive mile post - 6 miles to Reading and 13.5 miles to Newbury

There are many pillboxes along this waterway, but this has to be the most well preserved and even has a porta loo beside it!

 Sheffield lock is the second 'scalloped edged' lock on this waterway

 Originally there were 20 turf sided locks on this canal, but now there are only two left.  This is the second one - Garston Lock and the site of our wife swapping!

There was a boat waiting to come up, so Boatwif and I had to climb down the ladders to get back on board - we were, however, on the wrong side of the locks for our respective boats.  Down we went onto the 'wrong' boat, a quick shuffle forward by the Captain, a quick transfer and domestic harmony was restored!  These ladders are never that easy, but even more tricky in a turf sided lock, but we made it safely.  Definitely a good reason for not wearing good clothes!

The view as we left the lock - very leaky top gates

Our guide book states - 'The M4 impinges briefly.  You can marvel at it's ugliness'.  We were grateful for the former and would not argue with the latter.

Shortly after you go under the M4 the guidebook has an alert in Red Bends!  There is not much more to be said!  Thankfully we did not meet any boats until just before the last bend, but it had to be at a point where a tree considerably narrows the navigation.  A little patience and we all got through in safety.

 The forecast for tomorrow (today as I type) had been checked and a decision was made to stop at Burghfield by the Cunning Man Pub.  As we pulled in The Captain was heard to utter ' I need a Mobile Pin' - Boatwif obliged!

Chris, Monty and I went off for a walk in the sunshine.  Back along the towpath, turn left and round part of the many gravel pits that are along this part of the Kennet and Avon.  This one is Theale Water Sports Club.  Visually delightful in parts

but audibly it was not so good - for about a mile you are walking with the traffic on the M4 just a few feet to your left.

Monty had to be on the lead more than usual, but that did give me a chance to snap this cheeky chappy.

This confused us - a car in a very secure locked compound.  It was a good mile down the track from the water sports centre and you need a key code to get into the track.  There is no house or any other building anywhere near and

they weren't going in or out the only other way, so who does it belong to, why is it there and why the need for so much security??

At last we were away from the motorway, over the K&A on the above bridge and across this last field avoiding the presents the geese had left behind.  It is part of the national cycle way - the uneven ground and narrow path did not slow some of them down

but I am sure this did - well briefly!

We were back on the tow path and came across this rather handsome beetle - I am afraid I have no idea what type it is

Back across the river again and a view of our moorings - we were glad we arrived when we did

Chris and I then popped up to the pub to book a table leaving Monty with Sue and Ken - note the pathetic face at the window and the 'dog gate' erected to stop him following us!

The biggest downside to this mooring - who's responsibility is this - C&RT or the local council? Boaters' rubbish which I am sure they should not have left there,  but the bin has obviously not been emptied for quite a long time.  How bad does it have to get before someone does something about it?  Breaking news - sometime today the rubbish has gone!

And who was our Stalker?  Waiouru!

And so to today:  This says it all!

Even Monty does not want to go anywhere!  Accuweather did seem to think the rain might stop around 2pm - it is now 13:45 with no sign of it letting up, but we will have to go out eventually whatever the weather does.  I think Monty will need his coat.

And nb Waiouru? - she is still here too!