|Good Morning Sunshine|
There is plenty of eye-candy cruising on the River Thames. I’m talking grand old houses, boat houses in a sizable garden (the garden was asking for it!) where the river laps its banks, leafy weeping willow trees, flower pot pubs with moorings, and the list goes on.
|Hotel Boat. Look out canoeists|
The Thames banks of Bray property have cloned wooden launches that look perfect for powering sedately across the river to visit the neighbours, lunch at the pub, or attract the paparazzi to shoot photos of one Aussie as he voyaged towards Her Majesty’s lock up.....
|Example of a wooden launch at Bray|
The ‘Yoghurt Pot’ aka ‘Tupperware’ aka ‘Plastic’ abounds on the River Thames. The rental variety has a pseudo French name (Le Boat) and is a high-rise water holiday at speed. The happy people will wave as they tear past us slow paced steels! The privately owned ‘cloud dusters’ are not outwardly friendly to steel and are rumoured to avoid sharing the ‘self service’ Lock by shutting the Lock Gates as the shapely Bow of steel approaches. The fear of a-steel ‘kissing’ a-plastic might have disastrous consequences......
From Teddington to Sheepwash Channel in Oxford is a total of 94 ¼ miles (where are the kilometres in this country?) and 23 Locks. It really didn’t feel like 23 Locks but the book says it is! Past Reading, many Locks appear to have ‘Self-Service’ notice in situ. The Locks with a Lock Keeper full up with water quickly (We were going up all the way!) and a fast full means a strong hold is needed to keep the boat close to the Lock wall. It is surprising how much the thick boat rope stretches when under tension. (Any physics bod will know how this occurs. Me and physics are not close friends.) The self service locks are on slow fill mode. One unattended Lock had canoe school practising in the Lock pound which is totally unsafe as boats cruise into that area to moor for the Lock as do craft exiting the Lock! The instructor was not happy with us for suggesting he act responsibly and not train kids in that danger zone.
|Hampton Court Palace|
Mooring on the R. Thames is different to the Canal. To get information about moorings on the Thames is like getting water out of a stone. There are moorings and if you a R. Thames-phile you will know where you can get the freebies. We loved the 24 hour free mooring, officially sign posted at Hampton Court. We got the last mooring and had to ‘wind’ DB to face in the opposite direction so we could safely disembark off her stern. We didn’t like the Mississippi Style Stern Wheeler tourist Boat that went past twice every daylight hour. It caused us to lurch and curse. That is DB lurched. I suppose it was helpful in people not overstaying their mooring. Della was happy to have Hampton Court Park as her playground at our doorstep and she came alive with her green tennis ball play and meeting all the people walking by. The next morning on Della’s pre-breakfast walk, an inquisitive worker man stepped out from behind the high plastic barrier to enquire about Della and her breed. Obviously he recognised quality and I am talking about Della. Having answered his questions I said I wanted to take a photo of Hampton Court Palace and he said I could step behind the barrier to get an unobstructed picture.
|Hampton Court Palace|
Then it was back to DB, untie and head up river in the direction of Windsor. We met briefly with Bubbles, a friend of Chris, at Walton-on-Thames and walked into town to fill our trolleys with disposable ballast i.e. stock up DB’s pantry. That evening we found a free mooring at Runnymede and had another park on our doorstep. Della was up for more Ball chasing and catching. She really likes to catch the ball and her tail wags frantically when she hears the words Catch, Fetch, More? She is not always reliable with fetching the ball and will, sometimes, stubbornly stand there when the ball thrower has done the long throw!! Catching the ball has 100% Della involvement.
|Don't just talk about the Green Ball.....|
Windsor is 5 miles from our mooring in Runnymede and we stopped near The Bells of Ouzeley in Old Windsor to pick up Phil for the short trip into Windsor and down Memory Lane for Chris.
Between Albert and Victoria Bridges we got views of Windsor Palace in the distance.
The towpath loses contact with the Thames River for less than ½ a mile in the vicinity of the Palace grounds. In Windsor, itself, moorings were mostly taken and it was no possible to squash 68ft into 50ft but we found a perfect spot as it happens and we could assemble the canopies. We didn’t expect moorings to be free in this location and it was within the hour that we got a ring on DB’s bell. Yes we could stay at this mooring and an official receipt was given for Windsor Riverside Mooring £8 per 24 hours which included discounted entry to Windsor Leisure Centre.
No problem. I could walk into town and Della had another green space for her Ball work-out. She, also, took herself across the park to see if any picnic people had housework opportunities for her. In fact we didn’t notice her missing until we put up the canopies Where’s Della? A sharp clear finger whistle from Chris always gets Della racing back to him. In her younger days she was rewarded with a tasty treat....Pavlov’s dog!!
Next day we had rain but Thames cruising meant the canopies could stay up and we could keep dry as we moved along. Tee hee!!! Phil’s fleeting visit was over and he walked into the midday cloud and we untied our ropes and headed to Cookham. No particular interest to stay in Cookham but the light of day is only so long.
The only available moorings were just past the Sewage works and we moored by a friendly privately owned high-rise ‘plastic’. It turns out we were officially in Marsh Meadow and moorings were £5 per 24 hours and £1 more as a steel boat! I was not impressed. It was a high bank and no poles or rings to tie on to. Am I expecting too much?
|What happened to the light of the silvery moon?|
The River Thames was slowly losing its appeal. We pay for a short-period license to use the R. Thames. A 7 day license is £79 and a further 2 day license was £44.50. Yes the longer the time you spend on the R. Thames the cheaper it is. The automated locks are fantastic and the Lock Keepers and Volunteers are, in general, helpful and understanding. Well worth paying a license for. The moorings are a different kettle of fish.
|Mooring fee sign|
After Cookham we put in a long cruise to get us closer to Henley-on-Thames. We knew there would be a mooring fee collected in Henley so pulled in for the night alongside a field between Medmenham and Hambleden where a Public Footpath and the towpath are and on every tree by the river a cheap sign is hammered stating Mooring £6 per day. We arrived late in the day and moored up and were very reluctant to pay for a site if someone turned up, which they did. I ignored their first attempt at making contact with us. The second attempt I answered the door and queried the collector from S.R.B Moorings. Why do you charge a mooring fee and what do you do for the fee? He responded in a surly way stating he collects mooring fees for Westfield Farm. He has been doing it since the 80’s and thank you good evening. Next day as we cruised through Henley-on-Thames S.R.B Moorings were ubiquitous with their mooring signs. It has left a bad taste in my mouth. I would be happier to pay a rural fee if you could look like you are not just a back shed bloke and put a few rings or posts in the ground to make the moorings fit for purpose. You don’t get the thumbs up from me.
We found 5 out of the 8 moorings we used on our voyage to Oxford were free. Above Sonning Lock is 24 hour free mooring as is Beale Park between Mapledurham (I like that name) and Goring Locks, and Culham Cut before Abingdon. Abingdon also has free 24 hour moorings but can be busy if you are not there before 1500 hrs!
We have cruised the R.Thames from Reading to Dukes Cut in 2011 on our first voyage on Nb Avalon Mist from Devises on the Kennet and Avon Canal to destination Mercia Marina, Trent and Mersey Canal.
This time, on DB, we enjoyed the easy river cruise at the wheel.
|Sometimes I steer and can take a photo at the same time!|
Even I enjoyed taking the wheel from time to time. I know one day it is our plan to cruise the Thames to the head of the navigation at Lechlade and I would certainly enjoy doing the trip to Reading to get to the Kennet and Avon Canal. Back on the R. Thames I would motor it from Sonning to Runnymede and Runnymede to Hampton Court. The tidal Thames is a repeatable experience. Brentford to Limehouse return is on the cards.
Now the Oxford Canal beckons.