Running behind with my blog posts. Here is the first of two update posts.
We finished our time on the Wey and Godalming Navigations on Tuesday 18th April travelling the last few miles from Pyrford, before rejoining the Thames.
From there we travelled along the Thames from Shepperton to Reading, where we turned on to the Kennet and Avon navigation.
Tuesday 18th April
Pyrford to Runnymede
We had about 3 hours left of our time on the Wey to still do. At the first lock of the day, we saw a boat entering the lock and happily they waited for us. It seemed to take forever to reach the lock as we were passing a long line of moored boats. The crew of ‘A Frayed Knot’ made good partners, as we quickly worked our way through the remaining locks. After the last lock we had to wait for a while in the pound, so that the water level could be raised and we could be released.
As we returned to the Thames our locking partners turned right heading for Brentford whilst we continued our way up river. After passing through 2 more locks we pulled on to the moorings at Laleham for lunch and to warm up. The wind had quite an icy edge to it and we never really warmed up all day.
Our original plan had been to finish at Laleham but as we were ahead of time we decided to carry on to Runnymede. We opted for the free EA moorings which are behind a sports centre but nice and quiet away from the road.
Having moored up we headed off for a walk to explore the Runnymede sights. There are several National Trust mooring areas here which cost £7 per night but are close to a busy road. We felt that our free moorings were much better.
Runnymede is of course famous as the location of the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. There is a memorial but it was paid for by the American Bar Association. From there we headed up a hill and through woodland to the memorial for over 20,000 World War II RAF and Commonwealth personnel whose bodies were never found. Cared for by the War Graves Commission it is a poignant reminder of the price paid for our freedom. It is thoroughly fitting that it is located at the Magna Carta site.
Wednesday 19th April
Runnymede to Dorney
With clear blue skies and the end of the icy winds, it was a much warmer sailing day today.
We continued our way up river passing the Windsor Great Park. The Queen was staying at Windsor but she didn’t come and wave to us.
Our plan had been to sail through Windsor and moor at Dorney and then walk back along the river to visit Windsor. However when leaving the lock channel we spotted that the only free mooring spot in town was vacant. There is space for just one boat and we happily grabbed it.
Windsor and Eton
It was just a couple of minutes walk to both Windsor and Eton from here, so we set off to explore. Neither of us are very good at doing towns. Angela has to be dragged kicking and screaming in to shops (some people would say that is why I married her). We did the high street in about 10 minutes and then walked up towards the castle. The ticket queue stretched down the road and round the corner.
So after a few photographs and a bite of lunch that was Windsor done, now on to Eton. There are several Gentlemans Outfitters here, each selling clothing that most of the population wouldn’t be seen dead in. A loud purple tweed jacket is definitely not my style.
I’m sure there is a great appeal to the area for many people, but how do they put up with all the planes? About every 2 minutes (not exaggerating) a plane flies low over town on its descent to Heathrow. They are so low you can read the airlines name on the side of the plane.
In the end, we were back at the boat in about 90 minutes and on our way again. It was just a short hop to the free EA moorings at Dorney. Are you getting a theme here? The word ‘free’, we are from Yorkshire after all and have a reputation to live up to.
If the name Dorney rings a bell, it is because it is the site of the rowing venue from the Olympics. Typically we spent longer walking around the area than we did in Windsor and Eton. The rowing lakes are now mainly used by Eton school and it was busy with boats. It is quite hypnotic watching a good crew in synchronised action.
Thursday 20th April
Dorney to Temple Lock near Marlow.
Back to a cold wind today and even a few brief showers.
The scenery today has been a mix of wooded countryside and expensive riverside houses. We have been quiet surprised how many stretches of unpopulated land there has been along the Thames. However Maidenhead gave an indication of what may happen. One of the islands is being heavily developed in 3 stages with properties priced between £500k and £2 million.
We passed by Cliveden, the house only briefly visible from the river. There are extensive wooded grounds but we contented ourselves with seeing it from the boat.
A quick stop in Marlow for food supplies and then on a short distance to overnight moorings, just before Temple Lock.
Life of Luxury
We have seen a large barge called Magna Carta a few times over the last couple of days and we watched it squeeze into the lock with very little room to spare. This luxury boat runs 6 night cruises on the Thames for just 8 people. They have their own chef on board.
The cost for 2 people in a double suite is $10,700 (About £8400). We would be happy to offer an authentic narrowboat experience for just half that price. Any takers?
Friday 21st April
Temple Lock to Sonning
We were both up about 6am this morning for some unknown reason. We ended up setting off about 7:30 and had done 2 locks well before a lock keeper clocked on.
By mid morning we were in Henley. Almost every tree within 3 miles had signs showing the cost of mooring. Out of town it was £5 rising to £10 nearer town. I’m guessing that will jump up during the regatta.
As we approached the lock we had to be very careful. An adult and 4 children in a rowing boat were trying to moor on the lock landing. They asked if they should to go in to the lock first. We patiently explained that it might be safer if we went in first, as we could easily crush them if we had a problem.
After a lunch stop at Shiplake we continued to Sonning. The approach by river is very scenic and there was a good stretch of mooring after the lock. It’s a lovely little village but the road was very busy and many cars seemed to be going needlessly fast.
3 swing bridges
Coming Up Next
Turf sided locks, scalloped locks, strong currents, running aground. All this and more as we leave the Thames and travel along the Kennet and Avon towards Bath