The Thames again – Marlow to Hampton Court
You left us in Marlow and this is also where we pick up again. Our friends of over 40 years, John and Linda Raddon, whom I first met in the late 70s when working on planning for the 1981 Census, were coming to join us for the day.. They actually met at work, too. We had some great times. So much laughter and youth. So much youth!.
We don’t see them very often, nowadays, but keep in touch largely via Facebook. But we were in their home town so of course we were going to see them.
It was the first time either of them had been on a narrowboat and we had a lovely time. The weather had looked a bit iffy according to the forecast but we managed a whole day with no rain.
We went through Marlow lock, with its dramatic weir and on through Cookham Lock down to the beautiful stretch of the Thames that houses Cliveden- now a luxury country-house hotel but formerly and most recently owned by the Astor family. It is now managed by the National Trust.
Cliveden saw the very first performance of Arne’s “Rule Britannia” in 1740. It has also seen its fair share of romping, from the Duke of Buckingham’s affair with Anna, Countess of Shrewsbury in around 1730 to the more recent Profumo affair in the ‘60s.
It is very beautiful indeed and we had a very pleasant lunch there, joined by a couple of swans.
After lunch, we We went around the eyot to turn round and slowly made our way back to Marlow, where we dropped John and Linda off. It had been such a lovely day, with us all dropping back into that easy friendship as if the years had not intervened at all.
Linda had knitted a sweater for the boys. They looked very handsome indeed and we were delighted with them. She has an Etsy store if anyone is interested. She also does a nice line in beautifully knitted cable knit headbands – cosy for your ears when on a winter walk.
And so we said goodbye to them and turned round again to make our way back to the place we had spotted earlier to moor for the night, near Bourne End.
There were several boats moored there and we only managed to get in when some gent on one of the boats offered to move up. We got our stern on and our bow floated free, until the next morning when the kind folk who had moved up left, so we were able to moor slightly more conventionally!
The spot was very close to the railway line that is the course of “The Marlow Donkey”, which runs between Maidenhead and Marlow and has quite an interesting history.
The trains run quite regularly, are very often virtually empty and do this weird revving up thing just by the moorings, where there is a very casual- seeming and manual level crossing. They do stop at night though, which is a blessing!
It was such a pleasant mooring, Donkey notwithstanding, we stayed another night. This prompted another visit from Linda with her 90 year old Dad, who lived in Castle Street as a lad and had many interesting tales to tell. And a very sprightly 90 year old he is, managing the rather large step up and down onto the boat unaided and with ease. What a guy! I’m only sorry I didn’t get a picture!
We had discussed where to meet with our next set of guests and decided that where we were was an ideal place – and only £5 per night. We decided to bimble back down to Cliveden and see if we could get a spot on one of their eyots for a couple of days..
Once again, Fortune’s golden face was gazing upon us and we found the perfect, I say the PERFECT spot. An eyot all to ourselves! We could let the boys roam at will, knowing they’d be safe. There was good WiFi and the only fly in the ointment was that our solar panels would be in shade for much of the day. A small price to pay, we felt! This was a 9.5 mooring! They are rare.
Every time a boat went by, we tensed and only relaxed when they passed on by. We really didn’t want the company of another boat! We are not – as you will know – anti-social, but just one night in solitary splendour was all we asked for and got.
I busied myself with making a batch of Welsh Cakes and a Bara Brith while Paul worked. There may have been the odd snooze too….
The NT website makes it easy to pay for moorings and so we were set for two nights. It was so very quiet at night. almost idyllic and we loved our time there – even when another boat rocked up on the other side of the eyot, the next afternoon.
On Thursday morning we made our way back to our Bourne End mooring. There would have been room for us if we’d had a major boat reshuffle. In the boating world. silly gaps between boats are known as “git gaps” – by some. I, of course, would never be so unladylike.
But a lovely chap, who was literally (and I mean that because I saw it happen!) just swallowing his last morsel of breakfast, volunteered to move up as he was just leaving. How lucky was that? For us anyway!! Especially as we had a grocery delivery arriving there the very next morning and guests the next afternoon!!
I started my boat work, putting everything back in the places from whence they came, but the serious work started after Paul finished work. Cleaning every surface until it sparkled inside and out. Our guests will never notice but we’d know.
The groceries arrived on time and so did our guests – my brother Bruce and our nephew Lenny (11). Linda had very kindly offered a space for Bruce’s car for the duration of his stay and also to bring him back to the boat, sans car! A perfect solution to the knotty “where do we leave the car, safely” conundrum. We were very grateful indeed.
We decided to stay the night where we were, as we’d paid so as to give us that flexibility. I made us a fish and chip supper while the boys played pétanque. You may be interested to know that I am a medal and competition winning (in France, no less!) pétanque player and we both have our own set of “competition“ boules which have to be registered with Pétanque England before you can play competitively.
We had a game of The Game before bedtime, which was an early one for all of us.
On Saturday (7th August) it was a bit rainy and we had a fairly lingering brekker. Bruce popped out to get a paper, by which time, the rain had more or less cleared.
We were bound for Cliveden again, as Lenny rather fancied his own island. Lenny steered for while, and proved to be pretty good. Like many kids before him, he soon got bored, though.
Alas, when we arrived at the eyots, someone had taken our spot. It was always a risk. But we found another nice spot on another eyot (there are four, two of which are nature reserves). Not solitary, but pretty secluded.
It had been a funny, showery/drizzly day but Lenny was pretty determined to have a swim. Nobody – least of all me – wanted to join him but he was undaunted. Needless to say it wasn’t a massively long swim! But kudos to him for having the cojones to do it. Well – before the swim!
We had bought a cheap fishing rod to see if Lenny would enjoy fishing. It took Paul a fair while to set up the rod and Lenny was itching to have a go. Sadly, set-up time was of a longer duration than Lenny’s fishing attention span. Once he realised that time, quiet and patience were involved, he was offski – back to a screen of some kind. We tried but failed.
On Sunday we had the usual eggy breakfast before forging ahead – uncharted waters! We dropped Lenny and Bruce off to get the Sunday papers in Maidenhead, before passing under the renowned “Sounding Arch”. This is the railway bridge, commissioned by the Great Western Railway and built by that darling of the Industrial revolution, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. At the time of building, had the widest and flattest arches in the world, and there was much speculation as to whether the arches would be up to the job. The fact that they are still standing and in use today is testament to Brunel’s genius. But they also have interesting acoustic properties, which we attempt (and pretty much fail!) to demonstrate in this video.
We passed through Bray and saw the renowned Waterside Inn, one of the few Bray establishments not owned by Heston Blumenthal, instead being owned by Alain Roux, son of the late great Michel Roux. I suggested that Bruce buy us Sunday lunch there but he said there was no point because it was probably fully booked. Oddly, he said the same about Cliveden. I wonder how on earth he knows? Some App I suppose?
And it was just after breakfast that we spotted it. David Attenborough would have been beside himself! We managed to get a rare shot of the Lesser Unspotted Peri-teenage Boy in the act of washing up! See how startled he looks!
We saw the old film studio at Bray, which were clearly undergoing some restoration, which was really nice to see.
We ended up mooring at the head of Dorney Lake, by the Eton Boat House. (///soils.herds.things). As it was a sunnier day, Uncle Paul was persuaded to go swimming with Lenny. Again – not for long!
Monday saw us pottering down to Windsor, where we moored for a while. The chaps all went ashore, while I did a spot of housework, had a shower in solitude (bliss) although I had forgotten to put the water heating on and it was – let’s just say refreshing!
We left Windsor and made our way along to Runnymede, where we found a mooring in light drizzle (///roofs.shirts.turkey) . It was on the Heathrow flightpath and near a main road, but surprisingly quiet overnight.
We had a Chinese takeaway, which was a bit of a game with a poor phone signal and drivers not following instructions providing frustration, followed by a short hike for Paul, who was collecting it. In the drizzle. But it was very tasty and we all fell upon it with gusto.
The next morning, Paul and Lenny went for a bit of a hike to the nearby RAF Memorial with the boys, while Bruce and I cleared the breakfast things and had a bit of peace. They returned flushed and pretty tired – a good walk across a large field, 155 steps up to the top and could not go in with dogs! Oops.
We set off on a day which looked quite promising, weather wise. We could but hope! By lunchtime it was very warm and sunny and when we moored, near Chertsey, we all fancied a swim. Out came the trusty ladder and first in was Bruce!
It was very refreshing and Paul, Lenny and I managed to stay in a little longer than my wussy brother!
The next morning saw the departure of our two guests. Bruce had booked a cab to take him back to Marlow – just under an hour by car for what had taken several days on the River. He retrieved his car from John and Linda’s and then drove back for Lenny and their gear and off they went. We were sad to see them go, as we’d had a lovely time. But – as ever after we have had guests on board – we heaved a sigh of relief too. And we had a couple of day’s grace before our next set of guests.
We set off further into London, getting as far as Hampton Court, where we stayed the night (///soils.vocab.every). We’d decided to save going though London for another trip, which we’ll definitely do because it’s well worth it. But Molesey Lock was lock Number 44 of the 45 locks on the non-tidal Thames so we’d pretty much done it – although we didn’t make it to Waterloo Bridge this time!. Perhaps we should have called this post Hampton Court Sunset?
We had a quiet night on the visitor moorings and set off quite early, retracing our steps through Molesey Lock – the last lock before Teddington Lock, gateway to the tidal Thames and back up to Walton on Thames where we spent the night bankside (///talked.stamp.skip) and had a rather delicious Wagamama courtesy of Deliveroo.
We had booked a night, with hook-up, in Walton Marina for Friday night and made the very short hop in no time at all, during Paul’s lunch break. The manoeuvre into the marina was quite a tricky one, involving reversing into very tight spaces between very expensive fibre-glass boats, but Sumps did it as if he’d done it every day of his life. I was very proud – and there were quite a few watching him, believe you me! The Marina has a very busy café called The Boathouse and we popped across there for lunch. A toastie and some Lemon Polenta cake. Very tasty and great coffee.
We wondered whether it might be a tad noisy over night as it was close to Walton Bridge and the busy A244, but it was a very quiet after all. We decided we liked Walton Marina and as we left on Saturday morning, we met a lovely couple that we’d spent some time with at Cookham Lock, trying to get water – nice to see them again!
And we left with fully charged batteries and a full water tank to boot. But where we went next will, of course, be the subject of our next blog, although here is a big clue!