The Long Journey Home – Part 16
Wednesday 20 June 2018
Aceing The Thames
We left Abingdon early as we knew we had a long day ahead of us. We were aiming to complete The Thames leg of the journey and get onto the Kennet & Avon Canal. This was a tall order in anybody’s book but the 2-Day EA Licence was driving us like Neptune’s trident at our backs.
All Manner of Craft
The Thames is wide (I know, I mentioned this before. It’s a big thing when you’ve just got used to a canal!) and its diversity of use makes life interesting. There are narrowboats but they are in the minority. It’s something to do with a flat bottom and lack of manoeuvrability.
Small launches abound, one of which was called The Hobbit (more Tolkien references). It was small and brown and shot past us like it couldn’t wait to get to Mordor and the Black Riders were at it’s back. Rowers, in abundance. Every school and college had a boat house and every lesson was rowing: practical. Large GRP vessels with outboard motors appropriately named as: Seabreeze III or Mistral IV or Sea Mist I. Kayaks – we met and shared locks with four Americans who were travelling the length of The Thames day-by-day. Finally, giant luxury cruisers the size of small houses. Some giant houses along the riverbank had boats the size of small houses moored in their own slipway. You can hire these large boats for holidays but in discussing one such boat with a guy at a lock
“It’s our first holiday on a boat. We chose the wrong one didn’t we? It’s great travelling in a straight line at 5 knots but as soon as you slow down, it’s like being on ice. There’s no control! We just aim and bounce off the sides. Ha Ha”
Great guy. We passed them again as they were moored up on the bank. They seemed to be having fun
On and on at speed, the small current of the non-tidal Thames was ‘with us’. Past riverside properties whose sole purpose was to try and make passersby envious but we drove by. Cocking our hats at them, smiling and happy to have The Thames to ply.
We had planned to stop at Wallingford but it was busy and by the time we had seen a possible mooring (anchoring to a ring on a high bank wall) we had passed by, so went on towards Goring. Likewise, Goring was ‘full’. We had to continue on. Eventually pulling in at Child-Beale Wildlife Trust, we found an un-spoilt riverbank, deep enough to easily moor at. We ate and drank and moved straight on after 20 minutes. Past more rowers and large houses such as Maple Durham House. By this time, as we approached Poplar Island, the only other people we saw were fishermen, travelling upstream to find a spot for the evening. One thing that did amaze was a vast wall that went up and up: 50-100ft to the railway line that ran above the river – it had a post box you could put letters in, from a boat!
We Made It!
On into the outskirts of Reading, desperately trying to reach Caversham Lock. We did! It was unmanned, a large pleasure cruiser was just coming up. We waited for it to clear the lock, I drove in and mu successfully operated the the electronic lock gates. Down and out. We were still on The Thames but we’d made it. The Kennet mouth was mere yards away. A turn to starboard and we were off The Thames and onto the Kennet.
Be aware that the mooring outside Tesco at Reading is under the local Council’s control and ran by a parking consortium who charge and enforce a £9.50 charge for mooring daily. If you need to shop at Tesco (as many boaters will after just negotiating The Thames) you will have to pay £9.50! This makes it an expensive shop. There are no facilities and the decking is slippery. This to us seems greedy of the Council and spoils boating. Avoid if you can.
The Jolly Angler
That evening, we went to The Jolly Angler a great little basic pub at the junction of The Thames and the Kennet & Avon Canal. It should be frequented more than it was. Great host and people who were in there. One of the beer pump handles had a red dragon on it (more Tolkien references? Although Smaug was golden)
“What’s this beer?” (I’m a sucker for a dragon)
“I must get rid of that, everybody asks for it. It means that pump’s off!”
Ah well, I had a pint of the local bitter and it was delicious.
The sun was going down and we had another long day ahead of us. It would be a different type of day, swapping the width of The Thames for the narrowness of a canal once more. sleep would be welcome.
Here ends The Long Journey Home – Part 16
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