Sunday, 30 July 2017

Reading to Cliveden Reach

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.

Blakes Lock

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.

Sonning Lock

Sonning Bridge

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.

Stormy skies 

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

Water Art

 Hallsmead Ait

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

 Twisted Wood

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.

Marsh Lock

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.

Henley Bridge


 Race start

Umpire boat

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.

Marlow Bridge

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

No ropes

 Floating cars

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.

Paper Moon

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

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Woolhampton to Reading

Sun 23rd Jul  Woolhampton

We got to the station in time for the 0832 to Newbury, and the overhead display said that the train was on time. Then a few minutes later a mysterious voice came seemingly out of the hedge “We regret to announce that the 0832 Great Western Service service has been delayed”.  Yes she did say service twice. There was no information about how long for, or why.  After another ten minutes, we pushed a button on an information machine and spoke to another voice, who said the train was delayed by eighteen minutes.

Eventually it arrived and we took the 11 minute ride into Newbury, which had taken four hours by boat.

We found a Wetherspoons for breakfast, and eggs royale was not possible, so we had salmon and cream cheese on a bagel.

We were still in time for the 10am service at St Nics, where we saw David and Frances once again, and enjoyed meeting some other people as well. The text was psalm 150, and the subject was praise.  There were some great songs played well by the musicians.

Kids on percussion at St Nics

We headed for the Newbury Canal Festival on Victoria Park, and found Peter and Lin wearing Beatles wigs, and John and Barbara in their boating outfits. We had some food from the stalls, and sampled some excellent cider in the beer tent.

Beatles wigs

While we were chatting to a young couple at our table, we spotted Babs and went to say hello. Then we saw Jim Sibley and bought him a beer, just as David and Frances arrived. What a sociable time we had.

We gave away one of John and Barbara’s Bibles to the people on Manasseh plus some other literature to various people.  Then Chris and Sally Buck arrived. It was good to see them again.

 Duck race

Heavy rain had been forecast but, apart from a couple of light passing showers, the rain held off until packing up time.  A lot of people came on board Ichthus and Gospel Belle and it was a very successful event.

We were expecting Amanda to visit us from Poole, and she arrived soon after 5pm, at which point it was raining and we were on Ichthus.  We went in her car back to Woolhampton and tried to park in the Rowbarge car park. The place was packed out and we parked in the last remaining space.  We enquired about a table, and were told it was all booked until 7.30pm. “That’ll do” we said, and we took all the things we needed back to the boat.

When returned to the pub at the appointed time, the place was nowhere near so full, and we had a pleasant meal.  We arranged for Amanda to leave her car there until the next day, as she had decided to stay on the boat overnight and cruise a short way with is in the morning.

James went to find a post box to send a letter to Kier.

No boating today

Mon 24th Jul  Woolhampton to Ufton Meadows

After rain in the night, James went to buy some milk from the village shop, which was open this time.

We managed to be first away from the mooring, although another boat had passed us and gone down the lock.  James and Amanda set the lock, and then James took over steering while Hazel went to operate the swing bridge. Despite all the stories about mishaps at this lock, there was no trouble getting out of the lock, into the stream, and through the swingbridge.

Woolhampton Lock

Woolhampton Swing Bridge

There were some awkward trees hanging low over the water where the river section zigzags, and CRT really should send a team out with a small boat and a chainsaw to deal with it.

We arrived at Aldermaston and took the boat down through the very large lock, and immediately turned left to gain access to the facilities. This was inconvenient for the five fishermen who were set up on the mooring bollards, so they moved.


The tap is at the far end, after the small building, and there is no bollard where it is needed, so we had to tie on with the centre line and stern line.  The elsan disposal place is just a hole in a concrete floor – not very nice.  The rubbish bins were OK but there is no recycling here, so despite separating everything out as we always do on the boat, everything ended up in the one bin.

When we were almost finished, Stella, a widebeam moored where we were last night, came down through the lock and needed the water point. We moved out, turned round and moored on the end of the line, leaving them room to go where we had just been.  They had friends arriving to meet them, and then they left.  We had lunch, and when we had almost finished another boat arrived, My Diadem. It turned out that they (Clive and Sally) were Christians and had met several of our team already. We exchanged details and leaflets, and then yet another boat arrived who needed the facilities. We set off through the lift bridge, and said farewell to Amanda, who went to the station and caught a train back to Woolhampton, a four minute journey.

Farewell to Amanda

We carried on past lots of hire boats, through Padworth Lock and Swing Bridge.  Towney Lock comes next and is deeper than most and the following half mile is lower than it used to be, which took away the need for Ufton Lock, which used to be less than 2ft deep, and is now de-gated.  Ufton Swing Bridge was our last obstacle before finding a pleasant mooring on meadows, tied to trees.

Moth Mullein


Ufton Swing Bridge and the old lock

Hazel put out the washing to dry.

Later on, Ozzie the fuel boat came past and we bought some diesel from him. The trees made it very awkward and he doesn’t have a bow thruster. He lost two gas bottles off the roof, but fortunately they were chained on.

Manasseh going past

Ozzie in the bushes

 More bushes

4 locks, 4 miles, 2 swing bridges, 1 lift bridge

Tue 25th Jul  Ufton Meadows to Reading

Mist on the meadow

Misty morning

There was a mist over the meadows this morning.  We had heard that tomorrow was forecast to be wet, so we decided to go straight into Reading rather than pause halfway.

Moored on the meadows

Greylag geese

Champagne Charlee passed us very early, long before we were ready to move.

At Tyle Mill Lock and swingbridge we discovered that there wasn’t quite enough room for the boat between the lock and the bridge, so we had to leave the lock gates open while James operated the swing bridge, coming back later to close up the lock.  Ozzie’s fuel boat was moored by the facilities.

Tyle Mill Lock

Tyle Mill

At Sheffield Lock we had an example of the irregular shaft sizes on the paddle gear. They do not fit the usual windlasses.

Sheffield Lock

Too tight

 Too loose

Red Admiral passenger

Sulhamstead Swing Bridge was a push and shove one, but Theale Swing Bridge was smoothly operated with a key.

Garston Lock is turf sided, like Monkey Marsh Lock, and it has a WWII pillbox each side.

Garston Lock and pillboxes

Inside the pillbox

Turf sided


M4 graffiti


Old Mans Beard flowers

There is a river section with sharp bends leading down to Burghfield, and the trees need to be cut back as they overhang just where the boat needs to be to get round the corners.

Burghfield Bridge

 Pennywort on the final river section

At Southcot Lock we caught up with Champagne Charlee. The two lads were new to boating, having just bought the boat a few days ago. Every action was slow They were hoping to get to Oxford by this evening until we pointed out that it was already gone midday, we are not yet in Reading, and it takes thirteen hours from Reading to Oxford.

We went first from the lock, and we waited ten minutes for them at Fobney Lock. As we were ready to exit the lock, another boat was waiting to enter from below, so we used the ladders to get back on board.  We were so far ahead by the time we got to County Lock that we went through without Champagne Charlee.

County Lock

Through the Oracle we noticed several changes even since we were here a few weeks ago.  They now had a beach bar, with sand, deck chairs and swing seats.

The Oracle

On arrival at the Abbey Ruins, we found Paws 4 Thought, with Tony and Pat. We thought they might be here.  They were going for a meal at Zizzi’s to celebrate their ruby wedding.

Paws in Reading

We had moored under the horse chestnut trees which dropped blossom on our boat a few weeks ago. This time there was a squirrel chewing conkers above us, scattering bits all over our stern.

Moored by the abbey ruins

Bits of conker

We went for a meal at Cosmo, a buffet restaurant where the food was good, but it was very busy and a bit of a scrum as people wandered around trying to decide what to eat next.

When we returned to the boat we found that John and Barbara had arrived on Ichthus, but they had gone out for a meal (as one does in Reading).

It was a warm evening, and some of the Reading human wildlife were playing moron music through a ghetto blaster at a high volume on a bench not far away. Thankfully they departed at about 10pm.

8 locks, 8 miles, 3 swing bridges.

Wed 26th Jul  Reading

The rain arrived as forecast at around 8am.  Two boats arrived and one of them found a mooring.  Wearing their waterproofs, John and Barbara left on Ichthus, announcing that they were heading down the Thames. This left space for the second boat.  A third boat arrived soon after, Lincoln Imp, and we invited them to tie alongside Gabriel.

Hazel went off to the shops and Specsavers. James wrote up the blog, and went to M&S for some jeans. His old ones have fashionable splits just above the knee, because they have had a lot of use and the fabric is very thin.

The rain had finished and we met up for lunch at some street stalls near Tesco Express, before returning to the boat.

Two young lads later walked along all the boats, trying the side doors.

No boating today. No pics either.

Next:  Out onto the Thames and floating gently down the stream towards Weybridge.