Sunday, 26 March 2017

Ella's River Thames Cruise - Week 6

Monday 20th March - day in Abingdon

We spent one more day moored in Abingdon, the rain had started and we decided to stay dry.

The river cruiser 'Reading' was on a practice run up to the lock and back again.  Getting ready for the season which will start with the Easter holidays.

Tuesday 21st March - Abingdon to Wallingford

The sun was shining and we decided to leave the calm of Abingdon and continue our journey.  Can you spot the camouflaged narrowboat?

The river winds its way through the countryside and  the last remaining Didcot Power Station's 3 cooling towers appear to move around in a bewildering fashion.

Th iron work of the railway bridges span the river and although many dislike them, I find them strangely attractive.

We are beginning to see large river fronted residencies with boathouses and private moorings - how the other half lives!

At 'The Waterfront' is a huge hire base full of river cruisers for hire.  Come the Easter weekend these boats will be out and about on the river, at the moment they are safely tied up!

Benson Lock was our last lock of the day. Up until now we had either shared a lock with another boat or a lock keeper had been on hand to operate the lock for us. 

Here the lock was self service - we had to do it ourselves.  The river locks are very large and are all electric, it is a case of pushing buttons in a set sequence in order to open or close sluices and open or close the gates.

We successfully negotiated the lock and arrived in Wallingford where we moored up in front of the bridge.  Wallingford Bridge has 17 arches although only five of them span the river.   

We spent the afternoon walking the Wallingford Historic Trail.  It was a fascinating walk and we learnt that Wallingford has been in existence since early Anglo Saxon times as an important crossing point of the River Thames.

It  also doubles as Causton, home to Inspector Barnaby of Midsomer Murders fame and Agatha Christie, crime novelist, lived here for 40 years in Winterbrook House on the outskirts of the town.

The view from our boat at 4pm in the afternoon and

at 9pm in the evening.

The church lit up is St Peter's Church which has an unusual open work spire built by Sir Robert Taylor in 1777.

Wednesday 22nd March

Spent a quiet day here in Wallingford as the weather was wet and windy, and we didn't feel like moving the boat.

Thursday 23rd March - Wallingford to Goring

The weather was better than yesterday, dry but cloudy and we decided to push on to Goring.

Many of the universities have their rowing clubs along the banks of the Thames.  We haven't seen many boats out rowing though!

Much of the bird life along here is very different to what we are used to.  

I have looked these up and believe them to be Great Crested Grebe, but please correct me if I am wrong.

The river has many islands in it and sometimes you can go both ways round the island, in other cases you can only go one way because it is too shallow.

Moulsford Railway Bridge was built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and is actually two bridges linked by little cross arches.

At Cleeve Lock we stopped to fill up with water.  On the River Thames most of the water points are at the locks and they all have their own hoses ready to use.  Very helpful!
The blue boat is an Environment Agency boat, the company responsible for the river.

We moored up for the night just below Goring Lock.  Goring is in Oxfordshire and on the other side of the river is Streatley in Berkshire.

My first job was working as a Mobile Librarian for West Berkshire and one of our stops was in Streatley, I think we used to park up in the carpark at the Bull and use their toilets!! 

The Swan at Streatley used to be a hive of activity on a warm summers day.  Now it just looks tired and very neglected.

We explored the villages both sides of the Thames.  The Mill House in Goring had a shrine to George Michael who died there on Christmas Day.  He owned the house for about 10 years and it seems he was well known in the local shops and pubs.

Friday 24th March - Goring to Henley

A pleasant day. so we set off nice and early as we planned to have a much longer day.

This really is a glass box out over the river!

Kenneth Grahame, the author of 'The Wind in the Willows' spent much of his life in Pangbourne and was inspired to write the story by the beautiful river scenery.

The Toll Bridge just past Whitchurch Lock was built of iron in 1902 and was rebuilt in 2014, and will cost the average motorist 60p to cross it.

As we were approaching Reading we saw a post box in the wall, very convenient if you have a letter to post from your boat!!

These menacing looking birds are, I think, cormorants.  They are fish eating water birds, and look quite a sight in flight.

Approaching Caversham Bridge in Reading. I met Dave in Reading and lived there whilst working as a Mobile Librarian.

We spent many a weekend here with our girls when they were in the Sea Cadets. They would come to this part of the Thames to take part in canoeing and boat pulling competitions.

We then passed through Sonning Lock where we spent many hours walking with the girls and our first dog Sam.  Dave and I were married at Sonning Church in 1982.

Passing through Sonning Bridge you see the Great House on the right, Dave's sister Janet had her wedding reception there, Lizzie and Laura were only small and Annie was merely a twinkle in my eye!

We, once upon a time, hired a boat from here with the girls and Dave's mother, a small river cruiser.

Henley Sailing Club where Dave's father and brother both had sailing dinghies here, Dave remembers vividly acting as crew for his brother and hating every minute of it!

We moored up for the night in Henley, again another familiar place, we used to walk with the girls and Sam along the towpath to the lock and back again and stop for an ice cream on the way back!

A very handsome Sternwheeler Boat, the largest passenger vessel 
on the Upper Thames was moored up,looking very smart and getting ready for the summer trips along the river.

Saturday 25th March - Henley to Marlow

This beautiful building once belonged to William Henry Smith, the founder of W.H. Smith and was referred to in the book 'Three Men in a Boat' by Jerome k. Jerome.

Anyone for ice-cream?

Danesfield House was built by a Manchester millionaire who made his fortune in soap, with a view across the river to a static caravan site!!!

Hurley Lock lies quietly amongst  a group of wooded islands, very pretty.

We moored for the night in Marlow, under the striking suspension bridge and after the lock.  The church to the left mirrors the church in Henley, also to the left of the town bridge.

The New Orleans paddle boat was waiting at the lock to come through, quite an impressive sight!!

Here it is having come through the lock and passing Ella, the wash was amazing, we had to hold on tight!

Sunday 26th March - Marlow to Windsor

Happy Mother's Day!  Today we set off through more familiar ground, Bourne End, Cookham all places we have visited in our past.

Cliveden, now a national trust property, dates from 1851.  It was owned by the wealthy Astor family and gained a dubious reputation in the mid 1930's when the owners showed signs of allegiance with Nazi Germany.

Boulter's Lock in Maidenhead was another favourite place to visit.  Dave went to school at Maidenhead Grammar school for Boys and returned to the same school, now known as Desborough Boys School, as the Headmaster in 1996.

On the approach to Boveney Lock we passed Boveney Chapel, dating from the Norman Conquest it largely gleaned it's congregation from river bargemen.  It is now cared for by the Friends for Friendless Churches.

Windsor Racecourse then comes up on the right of the river and we have made it to Windsor!!  We turn the boat and moor up alongside an island for the night.

Our sense of achievement knows no bounds - originally we thought we would get as far as Oxford, then we thought Reading and then we decided to carry on to Windsor.  

My enthusiasm for cruising on the river has gone from wondering what all the fuss is about to actually really enjoying the whole experience.  nbElla has handled amazingly in a wide range of conditions and we are delighted with her performance.

From here we retrace our steps stopping in different places on the way back to Oxford and ultimately Audlem, but not for a long while yet!!!

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