Sunday, 1 August 2021


Today's Navigations - Grand Union, Thames

An early start with our appointment at Thames Lock set for 7:15.  

We left the pontoon below the Gauging Lock just as the remaining boats for today's exit started to come down.

Despite being semi tidal, this reach is the permanent home to quite a few houseboats, some rather large and one with quite a roof garden.

 By the time we arrived at Thames Lock there was already a queue - behind as well as in front.

The friendly lock keeper enabled boats to pass through as quickly as possible - by the time we took this photo he had a.ready retreated into the cabin to control the sluices.

Actually it only took us about 15 minutes to reach the front of the queue and we were down and setting out towards the Thames itself.

The actual junction is marked with a distinctive sculpture - more helpful when coming in at Brentford as it is not easy to distinguish the entrance from a distance.

We were clearly leaving central London behind us. Sadly, as you can see, today was overcast for much of the day, making it harder to take good photos, so we will have to make do with what we have!

Around the corner the first landmark was Syon House. In the past when we have come this way early in the year much more can be seen, but even this rare gap in the trees still obscures much of the house.

The careful timing of transits through Brentford helps to ensure that we could pass under Richmond Bridge when the tidal barriers are set open. At other times it would be necessary to use the lock at the side and pay the necessary fee.

There are numerous rowing and sailing clubs all along the Thames - here 'Canoeing Control' was open for business with one customer carefully studying the route to be taken! We had to take a lot of care and continual vigilance to avoid the many different users of the water - we will show a gallery of some of them at the end of the blog.

Most of the more eccentric floating homes have now been 'disappeared' from the river banks but this amazing structure still remains.

There are also many 'splendid' buildings - some of them, with outstanding architecture (and some not so great!) This one houses Radnor House School, an independent fee-paying school for boys and girls 9-18.

This isolated lock has puzzled us before. We eventually found an answer, courtesy Wikipedia. At the start of the 20th century, the land owner, the Earl of Dysart, leased out he land for sand and gravel extraction. In the 1920s a short canal was constructed, leading into a lagoon, to assist with loading barges. The operation closed in the 1960s.

We went up through Teddingon Lock where licenses have to be shown or bought. We only needed a one day transit licence to get us through to the Wey Navigation tomorrow. We moored above for a break as well as the visit to the lock office.

Teddington has three locks side by side. A small skiff lock is now rarely used and in the middle is the Launch Lock whish takes most present day traffic. A third barge lock, much larger, completes the set. As we were moored a large trip boat came down and we saw it use the Barge Lock.

We continued upstream until we reached Hampton Court where there was enough room for us to tie up for lunch. The mooring is right outside the splendid gold leaf gates with the historic building in the distance.

In the afternoon we began with Molesley Lock (and a stop to use the water and elsan points) followed by Sunbury. This lock was not operated by a lock keeper and one of the boaters waiting to come down kindly worked the controls for quite a packed lockful. Once the gates were open there was a mad dash for open water.

We passed under the modern Walton Bridge and then had a decision to make. Desborough Cut is a straight artificial channel that was created in 1935 to aid water flow and reduce congestion. In the past we have always taken this route but the original, meandering route remains open. As our new Waterway Routes map shows three 24hr mooring we thought that there might be  a chance that we could find somewhere convenient for an overnight stop. The first was completely empty but rather shaded by large trees. So we carried on, knowing that we could easily come back around the block to this one if the others did not work out.

As it happened, there were still a couple of spaces at the next mooring, Lady Lindsay's Lawn. We grabbed the best one, at the end of the line, with some relief.

Lindsay's have owned the nearby manor house for some time (with a few gaps) In the mid 19C, W S Lindsay sponsored the construction of a railway to give the local area better connections to London. Initially the terminus, Shepperton Station, was in the middle of nowhere with for a long time, only a hotel for company. By the early 20C, housing started to emerge and the shape of Shepperton as it now could be seen. We have found one or two references to the family (such as this one) we have yet to discover anything about Lady Lindsay. Anyone out here know more?

And here is that random gallery of water transport we promised earlier. From stand up paddle boards to pretend paddle steamer trip boats, the variety we saw today - and avoided colliding with any of them - seemed to us to be remarkable. It was certainly a popular activity for the first Sunday in August, despite the cool, cloudy weather. So many people enjoying the water and open air.

16.7 Miles - 5 Locks

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