Monday, 27 April 2015

Weybridge Byfleet Pyrford and Walton

Fri 24th April

Weybridge to Byfleet

After a peaceful night on the Weybridge Wall we set off across the Shepperton weir stream, which was quite calm today, and into the Wey Navigation.  The Pound Lock was open, so we went in and tied up.  The water level was low and it was difficult to get off at the stern, so James got off at the bows and went to find the lockkeeper. He discovered that the access gate to the office was padlocked, and all the black railings had recently been painted, with a sign saying “wet”. He had to make signs through the window to attract attention. It turned out in the end that the paint was dry.

The Pound Lock at Weybridge

Lex was the guy on duty.  Apparently Dave Towlson, who used to be the lockkeeper, and Tracey, who used to be the assistant lockkeeper, had swapped positions, and Dave was leaving, and was taking some time off.  We found out later that it was Dave’s back that was causing him problems.

We bought a 3-day licence, which came to £34.20, after deducting 10% for being members of the National Trust.  We cruised up the river section, and noticed that the bank by the lock bollards opposite our house had recently had new piling and back filling.

The two Wey bridges

We delved in the locker for the long reach windlasses, which we hadn’t used for a year. James went up the footbridge and saw that the lock was open and ready, so he beckoned Hazel in. We moored temporarily at the top of the lock. There is a road running alongside the canal here, so it not a good place for overnight, but the depth is good.

A few minutes later our friend Willy came along the towpath, so we caught up on some local news.

We walked back over the Old Wey Bridge to Portmore Quays, and knocked on our front door for our appointment with our tenants, Ali and Elena.  We were warmly welcomed and shown round the house.  They have it looking good and there were no problems that we could see, except the oil stain on the drive that we knew about.  They are changing the culprit vehicle in a few weeks, and they have someone lined up to clean the block paving after that. 

Portmore Quays

We went round to see Paul and Rosie at No 8 for a quick catch-up, before going to No 5 to see Sid and Christine.  We took them to lunch at Prezzo, where we had a very nice meal.  Hazel went to collect a prescription that had been ordered, while James went back with Sid and Christine to collect some paperwork before returning to the boat.

Sid and Christine

There were two other boats now moored beyond ours. We seemed to have started a trend.  There was another boat just disappearing round the corner out of sight.  We never caught up with them, so the two locks were against us.  We noticed that our old mooring place was occupied by another boat, but there seemed to be two other spaces available on the line.

Coxes Mill and Lock

We went through Coxes Lock with no problems. We didn’t see any baby birds here, but there were some geese nesting. New Haw Lock was next and then the long straight section past all the moored boats.  We saw Chas by his boat under the M25, and cruised on past the Basingstoke Canal junction to Byfleet Boat Club, where we moored up and were greeted by Adrian.

James washed the port side of the boat.  He had done the starboard side at Runnymede.  We put the hood up as rain was forecast.

4 locks, 4 miles

Sat 25th April

Byfleet to Pyrford and return

The boat was wet from the rain in the night, so we dried off the hood and lowered it.  Brian and Jackie Glover were boat hire stewards, and they were getting the boats ready, but the sky was overcast and hopes for a busy boat hire day were low.

We visited Stuart and Julia at TLC for some toilet blue, and Hazel bought another tiller pin to replace the one that is at the bottom of the Grand Union Canal near Yelvertoft.

Dave and Caryl Ingoldby arrived as planned, and joined us for a cruise up to the Anchor at Pyrford for lunch.  By West Hall Farm we saw a fox in a field of rabbits.  We also met David and Jane on Rowan and had a few brief words.  We saw them again on the return and paused for a slightly longer chat, before returning to Byfleet Boat Club.

Dave and Caryl

Dave and Caryl left us, and later on Greg came with Jasmin and Claudia, and we all went for a meal at the Harvester in West Byfleet.

Back at the boat club, very little was happening. Few people were around, and there was no social chat going on in the clubhouse.

Moored at Byfleet Boat Club

0 locks, 3 miles

Sun 26th April

Byfleet to Walton

The weather forecast has been changing. Two days ago, Sunday morning was forecast to be wet. Yesterday morning it was still forecast wet, and we prayed that it would be dry for our journey to Weybridge.

This morning it was cloudy, but not raining. Our prayers were answered.  We left early, before anyone else was around, and spotted two tree creepers near the railway bridge.  We also saw Chas briefly as we passed his boat.  New Haw lock was open for us.  One of the bottom gates is very difficult to open and close, because the beam is too short, and the end of it is in bushes.

New Haw Lock

Near the canoe club we saw a sandpiper.  At Coxes Lock we had to fill the lock first. While we were doing this, Richard Fox came along the towpath. He is the leader of King’s Church, Addlestone, and it was good to catch up with him.

We moored just above Town Lock, where we saw Willy once again.

We walked to the Methodist Church, where some were expecting us, and others weren’t.  The main absentees were Jose and Lili, who were away.  There were several changes, including work going on in the garden at the back, where an unused patch of undergrowth was now a paved barbecue area.

After the service we walked to Morrisons to do some shopping before returning to the boat for lunch.   There was one boat below the lock, and two others came down through the lock while we were there.  The Thames Lock closes for lunch, re-opening at 2pm, and we thought we would be in a queue.  However, when we went down through the lock, and passed our house, the other three boats were all tied up, so we were first.  We found Helen McNamara walking along the towpath with her dog. It was good to catch up with her, as she had not been at the church.

With Helen at Thames Lock

As we approached the lock, we were beckoned straight in by Paul, the Sunday volunteer, who then locked us down. As we left into the Pound Lock, a wide beam was coming up, so we changed places. 

Shepperton Weir stream was very calm, and we cruised down Desborough Channel and under the new Walton Bridge.  The old bridge has now gone, including the leg structures that used to divide the channel.

Walton Bridge

The towpath moorings at the Anglers were fairly full, but there was one space on the quayside by the pub, which was just right for us.  We set off on foot for Walton Methodist Church, where there was a farewell service for Mike Deacon, our superintendent.  The worship was led by Breeze – very good. There were various preaches and speeches, including a humorous presentation by the youth group.  It was followed by tea, and it was a good day.

After lots of farewells, we walked back to the boat, and tried to find a better mooring. The rest of the line there was full, and we spotted Madam, a boat owned by our friend Louis. We couldn’t see anyone aboard, so we continued downstream, and moored on Desborough Island, near Kate Winslet’s house.

The mooring wall was very high – level with our roof – but it was peaceful.  Hugo spent a lot of time ashore.

Peaceful mooring on Desborough Island

Hugo enjoying the undergrowth

5 locks, 6 miles

Tomorrow – on the tide to Limehouse.  Then via Camden and Regents Park to Little Venice for Cavalcade next weekend.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Wallingford to Weybridge

Sun 19th April

Wallingford to Beale Park

A bit colder this morning.  It even looked like rain, so we took a brolly as we walked into the village to go to Ridgeway Community Church. We have been here several times before, and it is always worth the visit.  The church is very involved in the community, and this time there were reports back from the HOTS team (healing on the street).  The worship was excellent, and the talk was inspired, dealing with spiritual warfare. We are asked to make a stand in the face of the enemy. Ephesians 6.  They had a bring and share meal going on and invited us to stay, but we had to move on. 

Part of the worship team at Ridgeway Community Church

We went to Waitrose for some shopping, and then paused at an Indian restaurant for a buffet, which was freshly prepared and very good.

Wallingford Bridge

We set off, wrapped up in warm clothes, heading south. The stretch from Wallingford to Cleeve Lock is one of the longest reaches with little of special interest. One arch of Gatehampton Railway Bridge was closed to traffic as they were making repairs. Brunel’s original bridge was duplicated to add more tracks, so now there are two bridges ten feet apart. To make repairs to the brickwork, the engineers had erected walkways suspended between the two bridges.  As the ferry is now closed, would it be possible to construct a Thames Path footbridge here I wonder?

Gatehampton Bridge maintenance works

The platforms between the two bridges

We saw a kingfisher, and a few kites, and we had to negotiate a sailing club’s manoeuvres.

The sailing club challenge

There was very little on the river. The lockkeeper at Cleeve said he was also covering Goring, so when we got there it was self-service. 

Goring Lock

As we left there, we lit the fire for the first time for ages, and by the time we arrived at Beale Park to moor up, it was going nicely.  Then the sun came out!!!

We saw our first baby birds of the season – Egyptian Geese.

Cows near Beale Park

Moored at Beale Park

Reflection art

It was all a bit too open for Hugo who likes his bushes.  Too many geese as well, who were making lots of noise defending their territory.  There were also some unusual bird noises coming from the wildlife park, where they have tropical birds, owls, flamingos etc.

2 locks, 10 miles

Mon 20th April

Beale Park to Hallsmead Ait

Morning Mist at Beale Park

Reflection art

 Reflection art

Thick mist on the water this morning, and a heavy dew.  The mooring pins were tough to pull up, as the ground was full of water, and as the pins were withdrawn, a vacuum was created, making a satisfactory sucking noise.  The pins then needed to be rinsed in the river, as they were very muddy.

Setting off from Beale Park

We had a lovely cruise down to Whitchurch Lock, past the Swan at Pangbourne, where the “Three Men in a Boat” finished their adventure.  Below Whitchurch Lock the refurbished toll bridge was looking very smart and freshly painted.  Then past Pangbourne meadows and the alpaca farm to Mapledurham, where we emptied two cassettes. The rubbish facility was closed.

The Swan at Pangbourne

The refurbished toll bridge at Whitchurch

Alpaca Farm
 Sleeping grebes

Mapledurham House and church

After Mapledurham there is a long straight reach alongside the railway near Tilehurst before the site of the Reading Festival, and the omni-present huge gathering of swans that herald Reading. 

Caversham Bridge

We moored opposite Caversham Boat Services, on some handy rings. Hazel went to Aldi to stock up, while James walked into the centre of Reading to visit Sweeney and Todd, the pie shop.  With two pies in a bag, he returned triumphantly to Aldi to help Hazel finish the shopping.  These pies are superb, and worth a special detour.

Sweeney Todd

Back on board we had a brief lunch, and set off in pursuit of another narrowboat which went past, so that we could share Caversham lock.  They were heading for the Kennet and Avon Canal.

Opposite Tesco we spotted a pair of Australian black swans, with two cygnets.  It is good to know they are breeding again.  We saw a family of four cygnets here a few years ago.  We also saw several other families of young birds: Greylag geese, Egyptian geese, Mandarin ducks, and Mallards.  Others were on their nests: Mute Swans, Coots and Moorhens.  One Canada goose was nesting on someone’s thatched roof.

Greylag family

After Sonning lock we found a mooring on Hallsmead Ait, one of two islands we like to use upstream from Henley.

James managed to pick our first wildflowers: summer snowflake.  We have not seen these before, as we are not usually out in April. They are like giant snowdrops, and form great carpets of white.

Summer Snowflake

Summer Snowflake

Hugo Sniffing around at Hallsmead Ait

4 locks, 12 miles

Tue 21st April

Hallsmead Ait to Cliveden

We are having amazing weather for April. A lovely sunny morning greeted us as we set off once more downstream. 

Morning reflections

Reflection art

At Shiplake Lock we filled up with water and disposed of the rubbish.  It is a great shame that there are not more recycling opportunities when we are boating.  We have two bins on board, and always separate the recyclable material from the landfill bits, and then we find three huge wheelie bins all marked “general waste”, so it all gets put back together again.  One would have thought that an outfit like the Environment Agency would have arranged a recycling facility at all their rubbish disposal points.

We continued our cruise down through Wargrave with its huge houses, and then Marsh Lock before gently floating down through Henley.

Riverside cottage with mooring

Paddle steamer at Henley


Then it was the mooring rip-off area, where you get charged £8 if you stop even for a few moments. This goes for five miles, through Hambleden and Medmenham to Hurley.  We always see red kites along this stretch, and this time we saw four swans in formation flying overhead.

Hambleden Mill and weir

Red Kites

Swan flypast

We didn’t need to stop for the facilities at Hurley, and we shared a lock with a working open tugboat, sixty years old.  He was working on a job that necessitated him moving up and down through Hurley and Temple Locks.  He had already come up through both locks earlier with no problems, but as we came to Temple Lock we discovered that it was now being operated manually, because the electrics had failed.  Without power, the way to open the sluices and gates is hydraulically, by turning a wheel many many times.  Before the locks were all changed over to powered self-service, many of the locks were operated in this backbreaking way. We thought those days were over, but not today.

The dreaded wheel at Temple Lock

We continued our journey through Marlow and past the dog walking field at Bourne End where there were 19 dogs this time. The final lock of the day was Cookham, which leads through to the spectacular wooded cliff, which accompanies Cliveden Deep for a mile downstream to the islands known as Bavin’s Gulls, where we planned to moor.   We found a delightful spot where we were able to put our chairs on the grass and relax for the afternoon.

Marlow Suspension Bridge

Cookham Lock

Cliveden Reach

Cliveden Islands

Hugo surveys his island

7 locks, 17 miles, 1 mouse

Wed 22nd April

Cliveden to Runnymede

The boat was in shadow this morning so it was good to start cruising and move to the other side of the river where the sun was shining. We noticed a large amount of mistletoe on the trees along the bank, perhaps more visible because the leaves of the trees aren’t fully out yet.

We also saw a dredger at work at the entrance to the Jubilee River, ensuring that future floodwater does not affect Maidenhead, but instead rushes straight down to flood the good people of Datchet.

 Mistletoe at Cliveden Deep

Dredging at the start of the Jubilee River

At Boulter’s Lock it was good to renew our acquaintance with Rob the lockkeeper who always encourages us with his strong Christian faith.  Then we continued our journey through Maidenhead, under the road bridge, and then Brunel’s railway bridge, which apparently has the longest brick-built span in the world.

Leaving Boulter’s Lock

Maidenhead Bridge

Brunel’s sounding arch

At Bray Lock we shared with a boat called the Venturer, which used to belong to an Oxfordshire charity and had a hoist and platform for wheelchairs.  It had been named by Prince Charles, and there was a picture of him inside.  It was now privately owned by two guys, and on the platform were two motorbikes.  They had had some very long days, and were hoping to get to Uxbridge by this evening. They had started at 5am.

They were slower than we were so we overtook them soon after leaving the lock.  A cruiser pulled out of Bray Marina ahead of us, and they were going faster than we were. So the three boats were gradually getting wider apart.  At Boveney Lock, the cruiser went in, and, to our surprise, the gates closed.  We soon realised why, as the hotel boat Magna Carta was waiting to come up.  We then shared the lock with Venturer.

 Boveney Church

Waiting for Magna Carta

At Windsor we spotted a full size model of a Hurricane aircraft as a memorial to the planes designer who lived nearby.  Then we were in Romney Lock with Venturer and another narrowboat.

A Hurricane at Windsor

The Venturer at Romney Lock

After Old Windsor Lock, we paused at the Bells of Ouzeley to meet Mary Sibley for lunch.  Her husband Jim is in hospital having brain surgery today to remove a lump. We heard later that the operation had been a success. We passed Ankerwyke Priory, where there was some work going on to get the site ready for the forthcoming Magna Carta celebrations.

 Ankerwyke Priory

We stopped for the day at one of our frequent mooring spots behind a big brown warehouse at Runnymede. Apart from the aircraft heading into Heathrow, and the noise from the M25 a mile away, this is quite a pleasant place.

The brown warehouse at Runnymede

5 locks, 13 miles

Thu 23rd April

Runnymede to Weybridge

James washed one side of then boat before we left, and the chap from the only other boat came and chatted. He moors in Penton Hook Marina.

As we approached Bell Weir Lock there was a large fibreglass hire boat already descending, but very slowly.  We realised it was self-service, but the sign had not been changed.  James offered to close the bottom gates for them so that they could be on their way, and then he walked to the top gates and started to fill the chamber, with the plan that Hazel would take the boat in.  It was very slow to fill, and two other boats appeared from upstream.  Hazel decided she wanted to operate the lock and James would steer, so we changed places

One of the other boats was a white cruiser, and the other was a narrowboat called Mystic Moon. The lady owner said she was going to spend a month in London talking to people about death!  She was going down the tideway to Limehouse on Sunday.

The cruiser left us after Penton Hook Lock, and we stayed behind after Chertsey Lock to use the water tap.  There was an amazing assortment of adaptors and connectors from the tap to the hose.

 Leaving Chertsey Lock

Plumbing nightmare

Chertsey Bridge

Egyptian Goose in Flight

We had Shepperton Lock to ourselves and found a mooring place on what we call the Weybridge Wall.  We then had a pleasant sunny afternoon relaxing, before meeting our good friends Graham and Sheila for a meal at the Old Crown.
The Weybridge Wall

Graham and Sheila

4 locks, 7 miles

Tomorrow: we go into the Wey for three days, with lots of appointments and pub meals with friends, plus a visit to our home church on Sunday.