Sunday 13 August 2023


Today's Navigations : Thames, Grand Union

Although Teddington Lock is manned 24 hours a day, departure time is governed by wanting to pass through Richmond without having to use the lock (that is when the sluice gates are lowered so that boats can go straight under the bridge. It is also important to ensure arrival at Brentford when the tide is right and also (these days) staff are manning it. This is only possible for two hours at each tide. Another factor is that the time ensures that we make the passage mostly on an ebbing tide. 

There was some discussion amongst the boaters moored above Teddington Lock awaiting passage. Various times had been given and the CaRT website is unfortunately unclear about whether the times it gives for a booking are either departure from Teddington or arrival at Brentford. After making the booking a few days ago, we were convinced that we should depart Teddington around 13:47, but others thought 12.30! At that time we cast off and moved down towards the lock but another boat which was waiting on the short lock landing had been told 13:15! Connor is a boat mover and readily helped us to tie temporarily alongside his boat.

But then, at 12:20, one of the lock staff came and beckoned us to come on it - we did check as we came into the lock but, although it was just a little early, we were encouraged to go. Another boat moored next to us also hurriedly joined us, towing a small dinghy.

The main lock office looks rather like an old fashioned railway station!

A plaque records when the current lock was built and opened, in 1838 - actually there are three locks of varying sizes alongside each other. We were using the middle sized one. (Note the greengrocer's apostrophe!)

Eventually we were let loose to complete our long journey down from Oxford to Brentford.

As we left, we could then see the entrance to the largest of the locks.

A short distance below the locks is an obelisk that marks the boundary between the responsibility of the Environment Agency (successors of the Thames Conservancy) and the Port of London Authority.

Radnor House is an independent selective co-educational day school.

Marble Hill is a Palladian style house, now in the care of English Heritage.

The former Royal Star and Garter Home is an important landmark for boaters coming down stream. Built in the 1920s, it provided care for injured servicemen but closed in 2011 as it proved unviably expensive to upgrade its facilities to modern standards. The house was sold to developers and is now a set of very upmarket apartments.

There are several bridges at Richmond but the first is by far the most elegant!

We were now right under the flight path into Heathrow. Planes from every direction merge some distance away to make the final approach. The runway is only a short distance away (as the plane flies!) Planes of many different airlines and sizes follow each other at about 90 second intervals.

Asgill House is another in the Palladian style - it is now leased from the Crown Estate as a private residence.

The next two bridges, one rail one road, are quite ordinary in appearance.

Sluice gates under Richmond Bridge were first introduced in 1894 to keep the water from here to Teddington at half tide level. navigation is still possible when the gates are raised by using a lock at one end of the bridge (but this costs!)

We were now on the lookout for our turn at Brentford which is not easy to spot. The distinctive sculpture marks the corner but is hidden by a bend and trees until almost the last moment. It is advisable to move over to the left side well before the turn. especially if the river flow is much stronger than today. At least we had the boat mover ahead of us to confirm our navigation!

Now on the Grand Union, the locks feel quite tiny than those on the Thames! The boat mover had a wide beam so had to go through on his own. Meanwhile, we had to keep station below the lock as there is no landing stage here. We came through with another boat that left a little bit after us but made good speed. The good news from the lock keeper was that there would be a volunteer at the Gauging Locks to see us through (they are also powered). This might mean that we could defer until tomorrow having to go back to working the locks for ourselves!

As we neared the locks we were surprised when he waved us into the right lock (as we saw it) but we were soon through and looking for a mooring space for the night. We were not confident that we could find somewhere before the next lock . . .

Every time we have been this way before we have seen a former canal transhipment warehouse just before the next bridge. It has always looked in a sorry state even though a number of boats managed to moor underneath the canopy! Today we were surprised to see that it has recently been demolished and redevelopment is beginning. Another site just before this one has already had an apartment block built there.

It would seem that planners believe that the residents in the new buildings will want to have access to the area on the opposite side (where GSK have their large office) and a new footbridge is almost complete.

Just around the corner, in the shadow of the A4 West Way, spotted a mooring space that was free - not a common occurrence until much later up the Grand Union. It might not be an idyllic location but at least it means not having to work one of more locks today. We had already done most of the preparation for tonight roast dinner before we left Teddington (based on leaving an hour later) so we had an unexpected couple of hours being lazy! Most of the noise (it being a Sunday) came from the constant stream of aircraft into Heathrow.

6.4 Miles - 3 Locks (plus one bypassed)


  1. I’m a bit confused by your references to the half tide barrier at Richmond Bridge and what you mean by raised and lowered — because you said that when the barrier is raised you can’t go through the bridge and have to use the lock. In fact when the barrier is raised it’s out of the water, and the bridge is passable. It’s when it’s down that you can’t go through. Back in 2011, coming from Limehouse, we got there slightly too early and watched the barrier being raised from the water to its holding position under the bridge. It then dripped on us as we went through. Photos here:

  2. Thank you for sorting out my up from down! perhaps another time I will stick to open and closed, it's safer! I have never actually seen it closed, though as we always obey the lock keepers for timing!