Friday, 31 May 2013

Thatcham to Newbury, with a hint of blues.

They ("They", being the Met. Office.) have promised us a fine weekend. I wonder what odds I could get off William Hill?
Yesterday, between the showers, we sauntered up to Thatcham town centre.

The whole place is just one huge post war housing estate, even the town centre is a modernist nightmare, virtually no original buildings left. On the plus side, there are three Co-ops, take your pick, and a Waitrose, plus a butchers. Handy if the victuals cupboard needs restocking.
This morning we set off for Newbury.

We had been moored just below Monkey Marsh Lock, the other turf sided lock still extant on the K&A.

The greenery in this lock is rampant, definitely no turf.

Three little landing stages each side, so it's a case of lasso the top of one of the uprights and hang on as the lock fills.

Jill looking thankful that we made it through without mishap, or perhaps just glaring at the swing bridge about a hundred yards upstream.
So we are now at Newbury, Just above Greenham Lock. Jill has gone up to the laundrette with the weeks dhobying and left me boat sitting, so it's feet up and blues playing loudly on the dvd player. Right now it's Junior Wells blowing harp on "That's alright Momma", my dear lady is not overly fond of the blues so I must make the most of her absence.

Watch this space...........

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Ephemeridae and H.S.T.'s

What a wet Tuesday it was, at least the local flora is bursting into fecund life.
Today was another short hop,

after Oxlease swing bridge it's amazing we went any further, it took both of us to shift it and even with all our weight we couldn't close it totally. Much as I like the K&A, nobody could call this end of it user friendly.
For the last few days we have been in the middle of a major mayfly hatch,

these are a couple who crawled onto the boat after we moored. It is amazing to watch the birds swooping on them for a nice high protein meal, not only the swifts and swallows but even the local sparrows are fluttering over the water in attempts to snatch a decent mouthful.
More rain forecast for tomorrow, how unusual. May stay here at Thatcham for the day, even though the moorings are rather close to the station

and the neighbours are a bit noisy.

Watch this space..........

Monday, 27 May 2013

Woolhampton? No problem.

As we set out this morning the sun came out, promising another all too rare warm day. We had set our target as Woolhampton.

At Tyle Mill Lock we stopped for water, next to this WWII pillbox, now home to a colony of Daubenton's bats.

Tyle Mill has the swing bridge and lock in close proximity, the best bet is to set the lock before swinging the bridge and then sail straight into the lock. Jill encountered a rather impatient white van man who made rude gestures at her as she worked the bridge, so, she claims, she smiled sweetly at him. I've seen her sweet smiles, they can freeze the blood of the hardiest.

At Towney Lock we were caught up by "Twowestis" who were heading home to Newbury. It certainly makes lock working much easier, the K&A locks not being noted for their ease of operation.
Woolhampton is famous, nay, notorious, for the problems transiting the swing bridge and lock pose.

For a kick off the full force of the river is channelled through the bridge, the lock is a couple of hundred yards further upstream. Perceived wisdom is to send someone ahead to set the lock before opening the bridge and making a dash for it.

Unfortunately, as you approach the lock entrance, the river comes in full force under the bridge on the left, pushing you sharply across

towards this boat. At least it's well protected, more tyres than an F1 team.

A view taken from the bridge just before the river debauches into the lock cut, gives some idea of how fast the water is moving.
With much application of throttle I managed to force her round and got into the lock without hitting anything. All this takes place under the critical eyes of the patrons of The Rowbarge as they sit in the garden of that hostelry, one wonders what those unfamiliar with boating think of it all.
That was enough for one day, we moored above the lock. In the woods we could hear a cuckoo calling, the first we've heard this year. Perhaps he was just commenting on our mental state?
We had just finished mooring when I espied a young lad peering through one of our portholes, so we invited him and his family to have a look at the boat. Oliver and Jane, it was a real pleasure to meet you and the boys.
Bad weather forecast for tomorrow so I feel we may remain here for a day or so.

Watch this space.............

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Turf sided lock and our first K&A swing bridge.

The Cunning Man at Burghfield. Excellent food, excellent beer and friendly staff, what more could one ask?
We had heard nothing from C&RT about the fallen tree so yesterday three boats crews got together and attacked it ourselves, cleared enough to ease a boat through if you kept tight to the towpath.

As we had already decided to lunch at the Cunning Man we stayed put and as I enjoyed my  postprandial somnolence Jill took this photo' of a pair of mandarins.
After our obligatory fry up this morning, Sunday brekkers being sacrosanct, we set off for a gentle cruise, no rush or lock counting.

Just a meander past flower bedecked water meadows on a morning of glorious sunshine.

Second lock of the day was Garston Lock, one of the two turf sided locks left on the K&A. I had big plans for lots of photo's of it, but there was a boat waiting to come down and they had opened the bottom gate for us, so it was rather more hurried than I would have liked and the camera got left on the shelf. Just managed the one as we departed. "Turf" sided is a gross misnomer, anything less like turf would be hard to imagine, the sloping sides are covered in rampant weeds, not a blade of grass in sight.

Once through Theale Swing Bridge, Jill caught five cars as she swung it, plus a cyclist and a jogger, we moored opposite the remains of

Shenfield Mill.
It is but a short stroll from here to Theale, once a major stop on the Bristol to London road but now bypassed by the A4.

There is a handy Co-op here as well as four pubs and more takeaways' and sandwich shops than you can shake a stick at. Having topped up our milk supply and enjoyed a pint of St. Austell brewery's Tribute in The Crown we returned to the boat, passing a sign that seems to be seriously taking the mick, considering the weather we've been having.

Watch this space............

Friday, 24 May 2013

Tim Berrrr!!

What a rotten day, rain and gales all day. Not to worry though, tomorrow is going to be fine so we will be moving on.

Ah, has anyone spotted the problem?

Perhaps another day here, at least we have The Cunning Man.
We've 'phoned C&RT so, we wait.

Watch this space..........

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

We swap the Thames for the Kennet.

All I can say about our meal out is, brilliant. The food at Shaun Dickens at the Boathouse was amazing and the staff could not do enough for us, Jill's pudding, Basil Baked Alaska, even came out with "Happy Birthday" written on the plate in chocolate. The restaurant is just behind the Salters Steamers office and has a view of the river. Not cheap, in fact expensive, but for a special occasion, perfect. Would definitely go back.
This morning we set off for Reading.

At Sonning the old bridge crosses the river while the weir stream

pours in from the right, which makes negotiating the centre span a tad awkward.

We just managed to avoid the bridge pier, we thought that would do for today's thrills but we were wrong.
After the usual discussions we changed plan, instead of stopping at Tescos we decided to head straight for the Kennet and Avon.

Just before the junction we came across a junior dragon boat race, the kids were having a great time, even if they weren't managing to move very fast.

So we turned left and were soon through Kennet Mouth and passing the local flock of swans.

An international gathering, an Aussie, a Canadian and the local mute swans.

Blake's Lock, the first on the K&A. has somewhat unconventional paddle gear, I won't say unique because if I do someone will immediately inform me of another lock with the same.

This must be unique, press the button to change the traffic light, shame there is nowhere to land to get at the button, it's a case of hoping you can get the boat close enough to reach it. Jill gamely hung off the front and managed to get a finger on it before the current pushed us away.
Then it is up revs and push against the current swirling through the narrows of The Oracle, Reading's shopping centre.

Eventually you arrive at

County Lock, which provided the day's second set of thrills. As I started to enter the lock the current from the weir pulled the back end out and I ended up  bouncing off the lock island and having to power round to get in. We made it though. Definitely my least favourite lock.
After that we just pushed on for Burghfield and The Cunning Man. I suspect we will stay here for a day or so as the weather for the next couple of days does not look good.

Watch this space..........

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Today is Jill's birthday.

Approaching Henley.
That's all for today as it's Jill's birthday, (She will always be twenty one to me.) and I've got to shake the creases out of my posh frock 'cause we're going out for dinner at the best restaurant in Henley. My wallet's cringing already but she's worth every penny.

Watch this space.........

Monday, 20 May 2013

Windsor to Marlow, passing Bavin's Gulls.

We set of just in time to be at Boveney Lock as the lockie came on duty and were soon through and on our way.

Not far above the lock we passed this charming little church, St. Mary Magdelene, and that is all I know about it. Mental note to Google it when I get time.

St. Michael's church at Bray was once the benefice of a vicar notorious for his weathervane ability to change his beliefs and politics to ensure that he retained the living, immortalised in the satirical/folk song.

"And this be law, that I'll maintain until my dying day sir,
That whatsoever king may reign, still I'll be the Vicar of Bray sir."

So goes the chorus.

At Maidenhead the river is dominated by Brunel's railway bridge, the brick arches of which are the widest and flattest in the world, each arch having a span of 128 feet and a rise of only 24 feet. It was built to carry the old Great Western broad gauge and still carries the Bristol to London main line to this day.
Once through Boulter's Lock you are into the Cliveden Reach,

Considered by many to be the most beautiful stretch of the river.

It is dominated by Cliveden House, made notorious in the 1960's by the cavortings of a government minister and a lady of negotiable affection.
As we passed the oddly named Bavin's Gulls Jill managed to get a decent picture of

a pair of Egyptian Geese with five goslings. We've been surprised by the number of these geese we've seen lately. Lot's of Mandarin Ducks as well, they are obviously becoming a well established breeding population.
We made it as far as Marlow today and are moored just below the lock.
Henley tomorrow?

Watch this space.........

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Last day at Windsor.

As we set off into town this morning we heard the mellow sound of a steam whistle and putting off from French's wharf was the steamer Streatley, another ex Salters boat.

It was clearly on a private charter as many of the passenger were in Edwardian outfits and there was a rather good trad. jazz quartet tootling away.
We made it as far as the castle entrance,

took one look at the stationary queue and decided that, as the castle has been there for a thousand years it would still be there next time we visited Windsor.
As partial compensation there were some classic cars on display down by the Royal Station.

Did they really produce Anglias in bright red?

Compare American and British ideas of luxury motoring in the 1960's.

Nash Advanced 8 Coupe.

Yours for £18,000. All classic Jags should be British Racing Green.

Windsor has a fountain to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee and here it is.
We've enjoyed our couple of days here, even if we did not achieve plan A. Just watching the tourists is an entertainment on its own. Looking at the prices in the shops is even more amusing.
All being well we move on tomorrow.

Watch this space....................