Tuesday 10 August 2021


Today's Navigation - Thames

There had been yet more rain overnight but by the time we awoke this had cleared and we had a  very pleasant sunny day.

We left our overnight mooring - as we were heading downstream at this stage we opted to make a round trip, going down to Desborough on the old river and then back up the artificial Desborough Cut.

At the end of the cut we passed the small, private, D'Oyly Carte Island. It was bought in the 1890's by the famous producer of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. He had hoped to build a hotel here but he was refused permission to serve alcohol so built a quirky house for himself instead. After a decade of lying idle it was sold very recently to a developer who plans to restore it to its former glory.

At the end of the Cut we arrived back at Weybridge Junction yet again, but this time went up the lock. After leaving the lock we tied up just above so that Christine could go and buy our visitor licence whilst Mike took advantage of the sanitary station!

There are numerous small island along this part of the Thames where side channels leave a small area isolated. Many have been developed with houses that have excellent views. Access is not easy as most only have a footbridge, others not even that. Splendid isolation is one thing but how do you take delivery of a new washing machine? Or your delivery from Ocado?

We saw that this houseboat is for sale. The agent's website tells us that it has two bedrooms and looks from the photos is to be very smart inside. It has mains water, electricity and sewerage as well as parking spaces and an allotment! All for £275,950, which seems remarkable reasonable for this area.

Passing under Chertsey Bridge, the first of several wide crossing we encounter today, including two motorway bridges.

The next lock, Chertsey, proved rather a challenge.As we arrived the gates were being opened slowly before the boats coming down left. As they passed they tod us that there was no power nor lock keeper and it had to be operated manually. Three of us took turns (pun intended)at turning the large wheel that operates the hydraulics for the gate sand sluices - both ends! As we were coming up the lock two engineers arrived to fix it but not in time for us.

This definitely qualifies for our Unusual Boats gallery, albeit in the houseboat class (most of them are weird anyway).

Michael Dennett Boatbuilders, father and son, are famous for the incredible craftsmanship they bring to the restoration of old boats, typically Thames river craft. Their website shows some marvellous craft brought back from almost certain extinction.

After seeing a long succession of houses both older and modern, all carefully vetted for their design by the local planners, it was somewhat of a surprise to come across a new park home development waterside. There will eventually be around 36 homes in what is really a rather small space. But what was even more surprising was the up to half a million price tag for what in the end is a two bedroom mobile home.

A very pleasant mooring alongside Lammas recreation park, just off the main line of the river, gave us a good lunch break. Only the first part of the water edge in the above photo is open for moorings, just enough for two or three boats.

Bell Weir Lock took a little while as the two engineers we had seen earlier (we would see them three times altogether!) were now in attendance here with similar problems. However, this time there was a lock keeper to ensure that waiting boats were able to pass through - eventually!

Just above the lock we spotted this property for sale - in fact it is the right half of the semis, three bedroom and, as the agent says, in need of modernisation. It was originally the property of the water board whose adjacent pumping station lifted water from the river into the Staines Reservoirs Aqueduct. From there the water flowed for some 8 miles to the reservoirs built just over a century ago to improve London's water supply.

As we passed Runnymede was encountered the first of French's trip boats - many more were yet to come. The section of the river through Windsor has long been popular with all types of leisure activities. At this time of the year the boats would be expected to be fully booked but the pandemic has clearly limited numbers.

Kris Cruisers is the base for a large fleet of day hire boats - we have seem most of he at one time or another today, all clearly being enjoyed by groups, often multi-generational families and sometimes being steered by one of the younger members of the party. By now, most were on heir way back to the base.

We now began to pass by the long waterfront of the Crown Estate which is part of the grounds to Windsor Castle. Notices male it clear that anyone with lese majeste to attempt to moor will be hauled of to the Tower of London immediately!

We were now rather keen to find an overnight mooring spot. This is not an ideal place to be stopping as it is so very popular. Some-boats have the ability to occupy rather more than their fair share. We saw several places with sufficient space for us to moor were it not divided into two! We continued under the main Windsor bridge.

There was no chance at the remaining free places and we now searched along the council frontage of the Brocas. We came to the end with no success but spotted space just beyond the apparent end. We looked carefully but could not see any dreaded No Mooring signs so eventually, tentatively, came alongside. We ended up a little way from the bank but nevertheless grateful to find somewhere. Mike had not finished tying up when along came the delightful moorings warden! She told us that we were OK to moor there - a permanent boat normally occupies the space - and she would be back a little later to collect the fee. And indeed she did.

Trip boats continued until mid evening - the bright yellow Duck tour among them. Their website is keen to point out that, unlike some more notorious tours elsewhere, their vehicles are new 21st century manufacture not WW2 leftovers.

15.7 Miles - 6 Locks

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