Thu 27th Jul Reading to Hallsmead Ait
After rain in the night, we made a fairly early start. There was no sign of life from Paws 4 Thought or Lincoln Imp as we left the moorings loop and turned left into the main line. As we arrived at Blakes Lock, a lady spun the wheel and set the lock against us. She had seen James but hadn’t seen the boat apparently. We were not in a hurry, and they were hirers so we’ll forgive them. It gave James an opportunity to pick some blackberries and gather some plums.
As we approached the mouth of the Kennet, there were two boats coming upstream, a cruiser and a narrowboat. We pulled out and turned left, keeping well in to the side. The cruiser carried on towards Caversham. We pulled in to the Tesco moorings, tying to a tree at the stern and a ring at the bows. The other narrowboat pulled in behind us.
As we were still tying up, Hugo made a bid for freedom, and James caught him as he was disappearing through some railings. We hadn’t planned to be here all day. We were just doing a bit of shopping.
When we were ready to leave we phoned two nearby boatyards, trying to locate some more logbook pages, but neither of them had any. We still have a few days to go before we have to use an A4 sheet.
We saw no sign of Paws 4 Thought. We cruised downstream on the long straight to Sonning, steering round several rowers under instruction.
River Thames once more
Two boats came out of Sonning Lock, and we were the only boat going down. Sonning Bridge was normal this time – no silly post boxes or doors on the brickwork.
We had a pleasant cruise down with the flow, seeing several kites as we went, as well as three species of geese, cormorants and a kingfisher. We didn’t see the black swans this time.
There was a space for us on Hallsmead Ait. It was a little bit short, and James had to wade through nettles to get the bow rope round a tree, but Hugo was pleased with the choice, and was soon off exploring.
Our island mooring
After we had had lunch on board, there was a very heavy down pour. Hazel shut the back doors, and later we found that our (very wet) cat had been shut out. She thought he was on the bed.
We had seen on Water Explorer that Petroc (Geoff and Gill) was moored at Henley, and we sent them a text to say where we were. We should see them tomorrow. We also saw that Paws was now moored at Sonning, as they had planned.
2 locks, 5 miles
Fri 28th Jul Hallsmead Ait to Henley
We left the island, passing the other moorings, and keeping to the left of the Lynch as well. There were no other moorings available so we had made the right choice yesterday.
The first priority was the facilities area at Shiplake, where we found Paws 4 Thought, waiting for water with two other boats. We emptied cassettes and rubbish but water was not so urgent for us so we moved off, saying farewell to Tony and Pat, as they were heading back to Reading to get fuel.
Farewell to Paws 4 Thought
We cruised down through Shiplake Lock, and past Wargrave and the huge houses at Lashbrook. We saw a dabchick and a kingfisher, as well as the usual kites, buzzards, three kinds of geese etc.
Marsh Lock had lots of Gongoozlers, and several boats waiting to come up.
We kept to the left of Rod Eyot, and soon saw Petroc moored. The moorings were fairly full, but we spotted a place further down, and turned round to face upstream before mooring. When we tried to get in we discovered under water obstructions. Then the boat above said they were leaving, so we took their place. There were no convenient rings, so we used mooring pins at bow and stern, with the centre line on a pin in case the pins pulled out with the wash from passing boats.
Gill from Petroc came to see us and said they were going to see the film Dunkirk later and would call for us as they came past. We decided to join them as rain was forecast and it seemed a good thing to do on a wet day. We bought tickets on line, and after lunch we all set off for the Regal cinema, next to Waitrose. On the way we bought our mooring tickets from the machine in the car park.
Henley mooring charges
It was very informal at the cinema. No one checked our tickets and the seats were comfortable arm chairs. The film was full of amazing effects, particularly the sound track, which at times was reduced to a heartbeat, and at other times had unexpected loud explosions and gun shots. There was not much story line – just a snapshot of the action at Dunkirk, from the point of view of soldiers waiting to be rescued, spitfire pilots, and the little ships. A film worth going to see in the cinema, as it would not be the same on telly.
Afterwards we decided to have a meal in the Giggling Squid Thai restaurant. We had ordered our food and were drinking a beer when the manager came out and announced that the gas supply had failed. So we went up the road to the Thai Orchid. The place was much darker, and the service less friendly, but the food was very good.
2 locks, 4 miles
Sat 29th Jul Henley to Marlow
Marsh Lock Footbridge near Henley
We discovered remnants of a mouse on the back deck this morning. We said farewell to Gill and Geoff as they went past on the way to a cooked breakfast, a Saturday ritual for them apparently.
Gill and Geoff with Hazel
We left the mooring, and headed upstream, returning round the other side of Rod Eyot to go down through Henley. There seemed to be a lot going on today. There was a large marquee and a finish sign set up near the rowing museum, with Macmillan Nurses banners everywhere. There was a regatta on – not the Royal Regatta, but the Henley Town and Visitors Regatta. The races started at 8am and went on until 7pm, with races every three minutes. Our route therefore took us to the left of the regatta course.
We caught up with two boats in Hambleden Lock, and followed them to Hurley, where we paused to fill the water tank, empty another cassette, and get rid of rubbish.
We shared the lock with another two boats, and followed them through Temple Lock, just half a mile downstream. Then there was the wide reach past Bisham Abbey, and the approach to Marlow.
There were no spaces on the moorings, except for a white cruiser that was moored right in the middle of a longish gap. We politely asked them if they wouldn’t mind moving forward or back so that we could get in. They kindly moved back, so we went in front of them, facing upstream, behind a wide beam. There are free moorings here, with space for about five boats. Immediately downstream are the Higginson Park council moorings where you get charged a fee, currently £12 – even more expensive than at Henley.
Moored at Marlow
We had lunch on board, and started to see some Macmillan walkers coming past the boat. They had started in Windsor and would finish in Henley, where we had seen the marquee set up. We went into the town intending to visit Waitrose, but found that it had become Sainsbury’s. We took the opportunity to buy some wholemeal breakfast muffins, which we have only found in Sainsbury’s or Morrisons. We also found a good place for breakfast before church tomorrow. We plan to go the Anglican church by the bridge for their third service of the day at 1059. The music at this one apparently is led by a worship band. The previous one has a choir.
We returned to the boat just as the rain started. The Macmillan walkers were coming in higher numbers now. We guess there must have been several hundred. Each walker was meant to raise a minimum of £250, so it was quite a good fund raiser. Later the rain became heavier, and some of the walkers had waterproof capes.
Macmillan walkers in the rain
The widebeam in front started playing loud music from their stern and all we could hear was the base thump. Hazel went to ask them to turn it down, which they did.
We have never stayed on these moorings before, and we were very pleased we did this time. We have usually stayed below the lock on the Environment Agency 24 hour moorings, but they are close to the very busy A404 which crosses the Thames nearby, connecting the M4 at High Wycombe with the M3.
2 locks, 8 miles, 1 mouse
Sun 30th Jul Marlow to Cliveden.
Dawn at Marlow
We walked into town and went to the Chequers for breakfast. While we were there, we saw from the window a succession of amphibious vehicles driving down the high street. You don’t normally see more than one at a time.
After breakfast we went to Sainsbury’s local for a few bits and then to the church by the river. We were 25 minutes early, so we sat on a seat in the churchyard, and we could see several of the vehicles entering the water using the slipway further down.
The service was good, with some modern songs led by a team that had just returned from New Wine. The talk was based on the story of Zaccheus, who completely changed when he encountered Jesus.
The worship band
We did not need lunch after a filling breakfast, so we returned to the boat and set off straight away. Ten minutes later we were in a lock queue - the first this year for us. It was caused by the huge number of amphibian vehicles that had launched in Marlow, and gone straight to the lock. Someone said there were 75 of them from all over Europe. There were only two small ones still waiting, but there were seventeen boats, including six large fat three-storey cruisers waiting when we counted. It took an hour and twenty minutes before it was our turn to go into the lock.
Lock Queue at Marlow
When we did, we were sharing with two smaller cruisers, and a gleaming varnished wooden boat that had been used for a wedding in Henley yesterday.
Leaving Marlow, we entered the long section past the “pink house” and through Bourne End and Cookham. We spotted a boat called Wisecrack, which used to belong to Ernie Wise.
We saw one of the amphibians coming back, and another leaving via the slipway at Cookham. None had gone through the lock at Cookham, so they must all have left by that slipway.
We emptied a cassette and some rubbish before using the lock, and we saw Paper Moon coming out of the lock. Mike and Jeanette said they were out for a few days before returning to Byfleet Boat Club for a fun day taking place next Saturday.
Then we were through the lock and out into Cookham Reach, where we moored on one of the islands. We noticed that there were some new National Trust signs on other islands saying that mooring fees apply. Later two guys with NT badges came and relieved us of £5. It would have been £10 if we had not been NT members.
Island in Cliveden Reach
Despite the warnings of thunder and heavy rain, it was a beautiful sunny evening.
We contacted a few people and arranged to go to Byfleet Boat Club for their fun day.
2 locks, 5½ miles.
Next: heading for the Wey Navigation