Sunday, May 31, 2009

What a day….

Today’s plan was (i) to get off reasonably early, (ii) get to Shepperton around lunchtime, and (iii) find somewhere to moor and chill for the afternoon. That leaves us just 2 locks and 10 miles for Monday to get to Teddington.

i and ii went OK, it all went horribly wrong at iii.

It was another bright sunny morning when we set off from Runnymede. Bell Weir Lock was our first stop, and we shared it with another narrowboat. Arriving just before 09:00 meant the lock keeper did the work for us.

Bell Weir Lock
We were joined by the second team on the Thames Meander in punts. We met the first team on Friday the 22nd May. Over the 2 weekends they are heading to Shepperton. It’s tough on these lower stretches though, the poles are barely long enough.

The river runs through Staines, with good moorings at several places, mainly on the north side.

Moorings outside the Outback Steak House and The Slug and Lettuce Inn.

Leaving Staines there are a couple of boatyards, and a big marina on the loop of Penton Hook. This loop is cut short by the lock cut, leaving an island.

Chertsey Lock comes next, with a long weir to the right on the approach. Below the weir there are several moored boats, and I asked the lockie about how vulnerable they are in high water. “Very” was his reply. They shouldn’t actually be there, but the land is privately owned and it’s difficult to move them.

Chertsey Lock. Note the umbrellas over the control consoles…
We took 20 minutes below the lock filling the water tank, supervised by this Egyptian Goose.
Just past Chertsey Bridge, there is a row of apartment blocks on the bank. Somehow, I don’t think they blend with the river scene. In fact, Prince Charles’ “monstrous carbuncle” quote comes to mind….

Ugly apartments. The "porthole" windows are supposed to echo a nautical theme, I guess.
And a row of houseboats. This one takes the prize for being different…
It started to get really busy as we got to Shepperton Lock, but I wasn’t worried; we’d be moored soon, watching them all go by. Or at least that was the plan.

Shepperton Lock. EA should really charge for spectating...
Couldn’t see any suitable spots as we exited the lock, so we went off down Desborough Cut, the channel that cuts out the loop of the Old River around Desborough Island.
Still nothing suitable, so we doubled back along the Old River. The only moorings on this stretch were overflowing, so after getting mixed up in a sailing race, we came back out again at the bottom of the lock.

Sailing dinghies all over.
Mags managed to get a “Geese in a row” shot.
We made the decision to press on, through Sunbury, to have a look at a couple of possible sites shortly after the lock.

There was a long queue for the lock when we arrived, longer than the lock landing in fact, so there were a couple of craft milling about. I managed to get off with Meg and a long line, to hold Seyella into the bank as we edged towards the lock. The lockie did very well, he managed to get 11 boats in at once.

It didn’t help us though. Still couldn’t find anywhere to stop, so finished up at the next lock, Molesey.

On the way we passed the boatyard on Platt’s Eyot. This was once the home of Thorneycroft’s, who built 170 motor torpedo boats here during WWII.

Platt’s Eyot
Carved Dolphins and cannon on an island near Hampton
We dropped down Molesey Lock onto the very busy stretch alongside Hampton Court Palace.

Mags in Molesey Lock
Hampton Court Palace from the river.
There are moorings not far downstream of the bridge, but they are always popular. So I was amazed to see a Seyella sized gap between 2 cruisers. I swung across the stream and headed in, drifting beautifully to a stop right in the gap. No more than a foot either end, the chap on the boat behind was holding his breath till I’d got lines ashore.

So that’s it, moored in the shadow of one of the great houses of London, built in 1514 as a private residence by Cardinal Wolsey.
After Wolsey’s fall from grace in 1529, Henry VIII took over the house, spending more time here than anywhere else.

For more info on Hampton Court Palace, go here.

Meg’s not so happy here. Passing boats are creating a lot of wash, making us sway and bounce. She’s more of a canal dog, where the water generally behaves itself better. It’s the smaller ones that make the most wash. The large trip boats hardly bother us at all.

I've noticed that the Lock Keepers are not so inclined to chat as their counterparts further upstream. Much more businesslike, less casual. May be the weather, the volume of traffic, or having to work on a sunny Sunday. Still, there are worse jobs.

Locks 6, miles 14

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