Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A grey start, but a brighter finish.

Overnight rain had passed over by this morning, but it’s legacy was a grey, breezy morning.

The last bend we came around last evening is very shallow, in fact we touched bottom as I cut it a little close. We weren’t the only ones. A cruiser cut it closer than us, and went hard aground. Luckily Imperial Princess was on hand to give them a tow off.

Rescue operation.
We were off this morning at 08:30, arriving at Benson Lock about 30 minutes later. Just as the lock keeper came on duty. I had a chat with him while he filled the lock, it turns out he comes from Bradford, but now lives down here on his Dutch barge near Goring.
He told me something I hadn’t realised; all the water level management on the river is done by hand. Each lockie is responsible for maintaining the head of water at his respective station, keeping in touch with those above and below on the navigation.
The system in use at Rushey Lock that I commented on earlier and that I now know uses “Rimers and Paddles” is the earliest type, later ones use rotating gate sluices, similar in operation (but not scale!) to those on the Thames Barrier.
Thanks for the info, Ian.
I’ve found that most of the guys on the locks, if asked, will give you any amount of information. In fact it’s difficult to shut them up sometimes. We found the same on the River Weaver. These people are inordinately proud of their jobs, and delighted to share their enthusiasm and experience.

Benson Lock

Wallingford Bridge is the next major landmark, with the ornate pierced spire of the church alongside.
The first stone bridge was built here in about 1250, and has been rebuilt and modified several times since.
In 1646, during the Civil War, four arches were removed and substituted by wooden drawbridges. It was restored in stone 100 years later, then had to be extensively repaired in 1812 following flood damage to 5 arches.

Gatehampton railway bridge, built by Brunel in 1839.
Just south of here the river cuts through the Goring Gap, with the Berkshire downs on the left bank and the Chiltern Hills to the right. It drops through Cleeve and Goring locks in quick succession, the first locks after a long 6½ mile pound.

Through the Gap to Cleeve Lock
And the picturesque weir alongside at Goring Lock.

Still sandwiched between the hills, the river winds past Beale Park, site of the Thames Boat Show, and home of the wildlife sanctuary.

Near Beale Park.
There’re some excellent moorings here against the water meadows on the right bank.

A ¾ mile broad reach, past some fine houses on the Pangbourne/Streatley main road, ends at the wide weir next to Whitchurch Lock.
We’ve not seem many sad looking craft on the Thames, it must not be “the done thing”. So this boat, “Triad”, was a surprise. And a shame, I hope she’s being refitted.

Approaching Whitchurch Lock and weir.
It would be quite hairy getting onto the lock landing in flood conditions; it sticks out across the weir stream.

After the lock we pulled over for the night, on Pangbourne Meadow, administered by the National Trust. It’s a popular spot, there’re a few boats here tonight.
I had a walk up into Pangbourne, with Meg, this afternoon. It’s a useful stop for supplies, with a Somerfield, Post Office, Fish and Chip shop (called The Laughing Haddock!) and a handy DIY shop. A pity it’s got a busy main road running through it.

There's a lot of Thames info on this excellent website, check it out.

Locks 4, miles 12½

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