Friday 16 August 2019

No no no that's wrong, try turning the map upside down...

We had a lull in the bad weather, more rain was coming and the gales tomorrow.
We went for a walk.  David googled Pub Walks in the Chilterns.  

A National paper had done a feature on top ten best walks in the chilterns.  

HERE  (Follow these at your own peril)

Well the nearest to us was starting and finishing at Stoke Row, about 8 miles away.  We jumped in the car taking G&C's macs in a rucksack and off we went.  
It's a bad sign when you can't find the very first place in the instructions isn't it?

Well we did our best and asked two people who worked at the pub there at The Crooked Billet, both gave differing answers. The pub itself had one of those plaques on the wall outside, it had been used in the filming of Midsomer Murders.  We've seen a few of them.

Well we found a path and started off.  The sun shone, the birds sang and then the path turned in the wrong direction.

Sun through the trees, it didn't last.

Lovely woodlandy paths.

The instructions said to;

A walk with the promise of a meal and a drink at one of the most atmospheric gourmet country pubs in the area, where Kate Winslet celebrated her first marriage. The trail takes in woodland paths, rolling countryside and some sweeping views from Berins Hill over Oxfordshire. Don’t miss the Maharaja’s Well in Stoke Row, gifted to the village by the Maharaja of Benares in the mid-19th century.
Follow the trail north behind the pub skirting Bush Wood and Oakingham Bottom before joining English Lane. At English Farm, head west across Ipsden Heath (Woodland Trust) and on to Well Place. Then follow the Chilterns Way to Berins Hill before crossing the valley at Yewtree Brow and heading back east to the pub.

Join English Lane it says, but Reader when you get there it's one of a possible three lanes, none of which have any names on them.
Not at all annoying.

With the help of google maps when we had a signal we rather did our own walk.

David thinks the author is lazy, just sits at his desk in London and just makes it up with no respect to contours, certainly not having done the walk.

I just think he's an idiot.  I plan on emailing him and telling him so.  

But this below is English's Farm.  I would say owned by a hobby farmer.  No machinery, no debris associated with real life farming to be seen anywhere and David pointed out hardly any fences.

Restored old buildings, but for what?

Mown grass around a barn??????

 Quite a few of these pets.  No one in their right mind would breed these commercially.  Although pretty.

And I did see pretties too;

Way way off in the distance is The Thames.

Someone rich has built this, stark white, on a hill in an area of outstanding natural beauty, amazing to have got permission, David was scandalised and as we walked further away and up another hill on more and more of it came into view.
He's still banging on about it...

Now if you refer back to the pathetic instructions, we are now wanting the Chilterns Way to Berins Hill.  We never found it, instead we found ourselves in somebody's garden and hurried out onto another lane where, there was a board with a map on it of this exact area entitled 
"FOR ALL LOST WALKERS"  I can only think that this idiot writer has been responsible for hundreds of lost walkers all over the area.  
We were two more of them.

Well the heavens opened and I can testify that George and Carol keep good waterproofs.  We ended up back in the village of Stoke Row walking a couple of miles on a narrow lane in the face of speed merchant local drivers.

We passed on the pub but instead went to a village cafe which was delightful and served a very good flat white, salt beef and gherkin sandwiches  and raspberry & apple cake.

Home to SR.  packing and dusting filled the evening after we moved SR up above the lock onto the Lock mooring safe while we go north tomorrow.

In the morning we drove to Great Haywood where we met G&C and our beloved WaL which we haven't seen for three weeks prior to being on SR so six weeks in total.

She felt very small.

Its been a fabulous three weeks, really fabulous.   David loves the Thames and SR is the most comfortable boat, (especially the bed),  we have received no end on compliments about SR and no end of surprised looks when we say;

"No she not ours, we've done a boat swap!"

Thank you to George & Carol who entrusted us with their Home, we hope we've taken good care of her for you.

We filled up the car with people and bags and drove south to Goring to reunite the owners.  David and I enjoyed our last lunch on the back deck of SR, with the beautiful views here then loaded the car up with our bags and away home to our home we went.

Those babies are due in two weeks and I can't wait.  Life is going to change again.  Change is good, it keeps you young.

Cheerio for now.

Safely in a nice place.

Our time on the lovely Still Rocking is coming towards the end.  We had to get to Goring which is further up the Thames.  But in the meantime the weather was changing and a severe gale were forecast.  We had stayed the extra day at Sonning and now we had the choice of stopping at Pangbourne (And visiting The Swan where we had enjoyed a tasty lunch) but the wind was going to pick up during the day and I was anxious that with the wind direction as predicted we again might have problems mooring up with the wind blowing SR against me whilst David was whacking the stakes in.  I decided for us  that we would sacrifice the Swan and push onto Goring where geography meant the visitor moorings are more protected.
So to get to Goring in time to bag a mooring we wanted to arrive at about 11am, thus leaving Sonning at about 3am, I jest but it was a very early start.  
The beauty of doing these early starts are having the river to yourself, seeing the first ripples of the day on the water and in David's mind the top benefit is having the locks to yourself.

Jaw dropingly beautiful

Is that the cusp of autumn colours....?

This is the most unattractive start of the K&A canal.

Reading, a few early commuters and runners about but no boats.

Here at Mapledurham Lock, I had had to pick my way through copious amounts of cow poop.  Surprising to have it on the side of a lock but there it was.  

I thought it better to have the rope on the shore here.  It was quite a gentle rise.

I've snaffled this image of Mapledurham lock below, if you loo carefully, you can see that in the bottom left hand corner is the lock landing, but to get to the lock itself you have to go through the corner of a field.  Some twit last night had left the gate open so the cattle could come and do their thing all over.

The beady eyed amongst you will spot The Africian Queen on her home mooring here too, she wasn't there though today.

Baby Grebe

I can't find anything online about this postbox at Reading.  There was an earlier one at Sonning on the Listed Bridge, the local Council insisted it was removed, but this one here remains.  I like to think of it as a "Banksy" of the waterways.

The last stretch of the Thames up into Goring is very lovely.  Thickly wooded the river seems to narrow and then you realise that you are in Goring Gap, a bit like a giant funnel, you go around a bend finally and there are the moorings.  there were plenty of spaces and we nestled in, as close as we dared to a cruiser, we didn't want to leave a Git Gap on these honeypot moorings.  
We finished faffing around with ropes and David started to wipe off the roof, several boats left, it was just after 11am after all and folks were just starting their day.

I cleaned the windows and David started watering and deadheading the pots.  The violas are going over a bit now but the lavender looks good.  As the wind increases tomorrow and the next day we'll watch the lavender and maybe bring it inside.

Later as we sat on a bench alongside SR, a tiny vintage boat came up and went to get into a space next to SR, David offered to take their ropes but they were only getting out of the way of The African Queen who had just come out of the lock.  I don't blame him either.

African Queen dwarfs SR.

The forecasted rain arrived a bit earlier than we were expecting and a high level of smugness settled on me.  We snugged up and watched it lashing down thankful that we were moored up, warm, dry and comfy as other boaters were not.

Wednesday 14 August 2019

From Henley up to Sonning

Yesterday I had a fine old day, reason?  David went home for the day to play in a charity golf day.  I didn't go as we would not have left SR unattended on a river, but in the event I spent a big chunk of the day in Henley, (I had a pedicure and manicure) so I suppose SR was left alone.  
But there you are.

It was a lovely sunny day for the most part and I had a lovely afternoon reading and quenching my thirst.

The following morning the weather was grey and much cooler.   
David had moved the car first thing so it was later than we really had wanted to when we set off.

I haven't really got a lot better at watching as a bridge approaches when we are on someone else's boat, I seem to be convinced that it isn't lining up in the correct fashion, that the driver hasn't taken fully into account the flow of the river etc etc. 
I took these shots then found a reason to go down into SR where I found the stress levels much lower, this seems to go hand-in-hand with not watching.

A small breeze this morning.  Last time this year I see Henley.

Oh my god which arch is he going to use, I had my eyes peeled for other boats appearing.

Oh god, he's way off line.

Get to the right, get to the right... I'm off to put the kettle on.

Strangely, David quite likes it when I leave the rear deck too.  But it was all fine needless to say.

As we made our way to the left of the little islands in the centre of Henley's moorings, I spied this most attractive craft. I didn't look it up until a couple of days later when I zoomed in on the name.  L'Orage.


If you care to open the link you'll see that it is one of The Association of  Dunkirk Little Ships.  It has Raymond Baxter HERE  among its previous owners and along with two other gents he actually founded the Association in 1967.  

After various restorations over the years L'Orage is looking really splendid.

I had come to realise as we approached Marsh lock here at Henley, that this would be the first lock we had done on SR going uphill on our own and with me off of the boat having to operate the lock as it is on Self Service.  Although it was well after 09:00 today Marsh Lock was on Self Service.   

I went ahead to help the descending boats.  Our turn to come in and I was pleased when the helm of a trip boat behind us had come forward to operate the lock for us.  

She and her husband brought a sail away wide beam to fit out themselves a few  years ago and now its almost finished,  she was very taken with the sizeable solar panels George has on SR and was asking pertinent questions about them.  

A short wait at the next lock, Shiplake lock and above the lock we serviced the boat that is to say emptying the cassettes, filling with water and taking the rubbish out, then on again towards Sonning.

During this shortish cruise the wind had picked up somewhat.  After Shiplake lock it was a little more exposed and a lot windier.

As we approached Sonning moorings, there was one space that we thought we could get in and one we knew we couldn't.
David approached slowly and my mind was running ahead in that this wind was blowing off of the land from the intended mooring place.  
If I got off of the bow with the rope, there is no way I could hold SR on a rope while Davild banged in the stake, there are trees along the moorings but not one I could use now.       Then the wonderful sight of two other boaters coming forward to take the ropes.  Afterwards I saw that as we moored up that the wind had slightly changed direction and was now blowing in and holding SR into the mooring.  
I was very grateful for the other boaters help, certainly very grateful that the wind had changed direction.  something else I hadn't considered beforehand.

This property featured on Channel 4's Grand Design.  I loathe it slightly less this year.

I would guess at Arts and Crafts style for this house, about the turn of the C20th, but only a guess.

Quite a variety of large houses, some more attractive than others.

Now this is a cracker.  The owner has made the bed, and I've read their book on the bedside cabinet.

Who wouldn't want the whole river to see into your bedroom?

We stayed in Sonning a day longer than we had planned as the weather forecast for tomorrow the wind was stronger than today and frankly Reader I refused to move.

We spent some time that afternoon with an interesting couple from another wide beam, the husband supplies equipment to gold mining in West Africa.
You meet such interesting people when boating.

So the next day was very grey but warm.  We intended to walk down the river but on looking at the sky we turned about and walked up to the lock for a snoop.  

Self Service again.  Evidently in the high season the locks remain open on the weekends but the Lockies take time off in the week.

The skies darkened and we thought it prudent to take a detour to The Bull pub at Sonning.  Its hundreds of years old and serves good coffee.
As we picked a table under an awning for smokers the gale whipped up and leaves streamed across the table.  Suddenly the rain fell (sideways) like a monsoon and we decamped inside.  
Seemed only sensible to have lunch.

Part of The Bull.

Now I quite like Sonning, but, it has this beautiful bridge.  This wonderful bridge is single file for traffic.  This was about 3pm and its queueing.  Whoever would want to live here and constantly queue?

Queues, all day queues.

Beautiful bridge

Mixed messaging on the signage front.

We walked after the rain down the Thames path side, there is another path here too the same side as the moored boats.

This cruiser had arrived and left a classic Git Gap.

The evening was the best of the day.


Monday 12 August 2019

One out, two in.

Here are the next batch.  Our youngest daughter Verity and her Kiwi husband Mitch.  
Frequent Flyers to this blog will remember that he is the acrobat of the family.  

A few years ago when we were on the Middlewich Arm in WaL, there was a pipe bridge coming up.  Mitch was on the roof as it was a sunny day, he jumped up and leapt over the pipe bridge and then had to flatten himself quickly as there was a brick bridge....  

I also have shots of him on this blog leaping over a lock, clearing it by miles.  I understand there are videos on YouTube of a man attempting to do this and causing himself severe harm and a long hospital stay, so I do say to you all "Don't try this at home".  

Mitch is also a card shark, never challenge him to poker I warn you.

Although David had promised his girl he would pick her up from Windsor,  (This makes a much easier and heaps quicker train trip from where they live in London as opposed to Henley train station)  but in the event it was during the first match of The Ashes, that morning England were doing well in the match so I went instead.  

I haven't driven into Windsor before and I thought it would be troublesome but it was as easy as kiss yer hand, the Darlings were on the pavement outside and jumped in.
I wonder if David has heard the cricket Lisa?  Says Mitch, they've just collapsed!!
Indeed they had, three out in about 7 runs.  Oh well that's England for you.

Mitch has a love hate relationship with England cricket, if you are a follower of cricket you'll remember that England pipped them in the final of the Cricket World Cup which watched together at our house (Mitch hasn't really recovered yet) but on the plus side Mitch supports any team that is playing Australia...  I said he was a Kiwi didn't I?

Well the cricket went on to be a disaster, we won't say anymore about that.  But we had a fine afternoon playing cards, watching the Regatta and generally chewing the fat.  

We hadn't seen them for ages and ages.... 3 weeks so masses to talk about.

We played Hearts, this is a game I love (I'm not very good at it but I love it).  It is only for four players so we always play it with us when we are together.
At Christmas last year, David and I were on a roll and in the lead, Verity (Who is pretty good too) had had too much to drink and was behind.  Well Reader, Verity sobered up and we played until 2am with me ending up in second place.   

A great occasion, sadly not to be repeated this time. 

The next morning very early David was crashing about on the front deck, he thought he was being quiet... Ha!  Come biking with me he says so uncharacteristically I did. 

Just like he always says, no traffic about at this time of day as we took the road into town and the main Henley Bridge where we spotted this going on;  

Waves of swimmers going off in groups, this last group were quite young.

We took the lane that runs parallel to the river to try to get in front of all the supporters who were walking alongside their friend swimming.

If you can make it out each swimmer has an orange float which is secured to their waist plus a brightly coloured hat.

So this is 'The Henley Swim', held annually, they enter the water here and finish at Marlow, that takes them through three locks and 15 kms.  

We talked to a man walking when we rejoined the path and he was walking alongside his wife, they had driven down from Manchester the previous day.  I asked him if she needed vaccinations for river swimming but no.....

She competes all over the country, sometimes in lochs in Scotland, has been doing it years.  

I think about 1.5 miles hereabouts.

This was the shore at Hambledon Lock, the first lock, the swimmers have to get out unaided, this is a refreshment station for them.  They then are directed about 100 metres to the other side of the lock, where they re-enter the river.

Mostly they just jumped back in and away again towards Temple Lock.

The friends and families followed on but David and I took a different way.  I'd never seen The Flower Pot pub at Aston, almost on the river.  Years ago there were moorings here making it accessible to boaters but now only small cruisers can get in.  

I thought this cottage could be the oldest I saw this morning, I know it has a brick skin on it now, but I was looking at the beams.  This was in Aston. 
Cute village, way too small for me.  

David showed me an old farm yard behind the pub, this was where he had seen a man feeding Red Kites very early one morning, he estimated 40 or 50 of them.  We were too late today to have seen him feeding but there were lots of them flying about and sat in the trees calling out for more please.

The yard was teeming with them

Masses of them in the surrounding trees

David took me on the scenic route back via Remenham village and then as the crowds had gone, back on the path into Henley again

SR, curtains drawn still.

When we got back later to SR, they were still asleep, ah bless.
Next on the entertainment schedule was Dragon Boat Racing, or practicing anyway.
All competitors looked big, strong men and women, I don't know if that's needed to join.

After a gentle morning we all went walking  we quickly discovered that the footpath on this side of the river is fenced off so we retraced our steps and walked up into Henley to see the boats etc,



Fabulous (Except for the cheap plastic chair)



Not many of these about today, GR that is for King George, the present Queen's father.

David and I left them to view and we returned to the boat to get lunch ready for them.  Just a short visit for them this time.  

Verity had requested WaL for August Bank Holiday weekend months ago then her two sisters announced their pregnancies (Both due on the very same day Reader) which is at the end of August, so all those plans went out of the window.  

David did the short flit back to Windsor this time.

Lovely to have them with us.  When David returned he watched the highlights of the cricket, it didn't improve things.