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.

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