On our recent trip downstream from Dorchester, we had learned that there was a community art project on show on the Whitchurch Bridge, which crosses the river Thames at Pangbourne and connects Pangbourne in Berkshire and Whitchurch-on-Thames in Oxfordshire. The bridge is a toll bridge, created by of Act of Parliament in 1792.
We moored on Pangbourne Meadow and had a light lunch before walking back to the bridge. Pangbourne meadow was busy with lots of canoeists cleaning, working on, carrying and using their canoes.
There was an amazing display of craft on the bridge, all with a river Thames theme and I have simply posted some photographs below which you might like to browse.
Congratulations to all those involved for their hard work and the great result they achieved!
We managed to pull ourselves away from our beautiful mooring at Dorchester on Thames and began our journey back towards Caversham we have an appointment we need to keep next week.
We had arranged to meet our friends, Sue and David at the restaurant Rossini at The Leatherne Bottle just upstream of Cleeve lock, with a view to returning to the restaurant for dinner later in the day. We got permission from the restaurant for their car to be left in the car park and headed off up to Wallingford for lunch.
As we left the mooring, the skies were grey but we were pleased to see a couple of narrowboats heading the other way, the surroundings making them look more majestic in some way.
We were soon headed under the beautiful Moulsford railway bridge , built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in the 1830’s.
When arrived at Wallingford we found Town Wharf moorings to be full. We tried to get on boat to move to one end of the large space but when we realised that his handling ability was limited, we decided to turn around, go back under the bridge and find a bank side mooring somewhere downstream of the bridge.
Wallingford is a quintessential English market town and today was Country market day so we headed into town and had a nice lunch.The ladies shopped and the men returned to the boat to savour the views.
Looking upstream from the mooring
Wallingford Rowing Club
At Wallingford, you are very close to RAF Benson so the helicopter traffic can be quite busy at times but we’ve never found it to be too intrusive. We were flown over by this Chinook as we were relaxing.
We were ready to leave the mooring so I went onto the bank to remove the springs and warps when I heard a splash. I looked up to see a lady and three children in a state of panic as their black labrador had fallen into the river. The bank was about 5 feet high and he was struggling to try to get himself out. I am not a fan of boat hooks generally as I have seen a few accidents as a result of them being used inappropriately. However, I have also recovered a couple of my hats and caps and a fender or two using a hook so fortunately, I had bought one for Steel Away just the week before. The dog was fitted with a harness collar so I was able to locate the hook inside his harness and hoist him up out of the water, much to the relief of his family. He thanked me by shaking himself off and soaking me in the process! The lady thanked me numerous times, the dog was happy again so we all departed feeling good.
We moved on downstream and took up the mooring at the Leatherne Bottle, where we enjoyed a superb meal. Sue & David left for home and we returned to the boat for a night-cap in beautiful surroundings.
The following morning, we headed back to Caversham and on the way, just upstream of Cleeve lock, we passed a beautiful Dutch Tjalke, named Hiljo, who was almost at the end of her journey from Friesland, Holland to Lechlade. Her owners, Martin & Sarah, should be very proud of her and themselves. She is a beautiful boat.
We enjoyed a pleasant cruise from Cleeve Lock to Caversham
We left Dreadnought Reach in brilliant sunshine and soon cleared through Caversham lock on our way towards Dorchester-on-Thames for a visit to the Abbey. Once we had passed through Mapledurham lock, we passed a small farm with lots of Alpaca’s in the field.
Mapledurham lock and weir
As we continued on, we approached Whitchurch Lock and as it was on self-service, we moored on the lay-by and got the lock ready for ourselves. We made an uneventful passage through the lock. Whitchurch is a very pretty, traditional Thames lock complete with lock office and lock keepers house alongside. It was originally built as a wooden pound lock by the Thames Navigation Commissioners in 1787. The Lock House is the only surviving one of its type – the arched window design is the same as when the house was built in 1829.
We were soon passing under Gatehampton Railway Bridge, one of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s masterpieces carrying the Great Western Railway across the Thames. It was built in 1838 (at the same time as Moulsford Railway Bridge a little further upstream).
We were soon navigating the Goring Gap and shortly afterwards arrived at Goring where we moored alongside and spent a very pleasant three night stay to facilitate a visit from our daughter and her husband. The mooring here is free for 24 hours and then £5 per night with the maximum stay allowed being 3 days. It is necessary to log your arrival with http://www.ThamesVisitorMoorings.co.uk. It is a very pleasant mooring just east of the lock. We also paid a visit to the late George Michael’s house in the village, which is still something of a shrine. We ate at the John Barleycorn and won’t be going back again!
We were joined at the mooring by Karanja, a Piper 49M and her lovely owners, Verne and Roy. We enjoyed a long wine and chat session in the evening before heading off the following morning.
We left our mooring and passed through Goring lock whereupon we entered the shortest reach on the Thames – the river between Goring lock and Cleeve lock is just over half a mile long and this is the shortest distance between locks on the river.
We motored on and soon we were passing under the second Isambard Kingdom Brunel bridge on our trip – Moulsford Railway Bridge. This is another masterpiece. It is constructed from red brick with Bath stone quoins as four elliptical skew arches of 62 feet (19 m) span and a headway height of 21 feet 8 inches (6.60 m). The bricklayers must have been very talented!
We then arrived at Wallingford, where we moored alongside at Town Wharf. The mooring here is £5 per night and although the sign states that the maximum stay is 24hrs, we were informed by the mooring superintendant that we were welcome to stay for three nights, which we were pleased to do. Wallingford is a nice town with antique shops, shops, pubs, a Waitrose supermarket and some nice walks for which you can get a leaflet from the Tourist Information Office in the Market Place.
From Wallingford we headed on to Benson Lock, which again is a pretty location and of ample size. We were soon through the lock and heading towards Shillingford, passing Benson waterfront on the way.
As we approached Shillingford, Ange was at the helm and with a little encouragement, decided that it was time for her to be at the helm as we negotiated a bridge. She continued at the helm and made a perfect passage through the arch.
We soon arrived at Dorchester-on-Thames where we were able to find a very peaceful mooring just west of the junction of the river Thame and the Thames. We visited the village and Abbey before returning to the boat where we enjoyed a BBQ in beautiful surroundings and hot, sunny weather!
After spending many hours thinking about, designing, producing and co-ordinating the fitting of my motorcycle platform, today was the day when I finally got to load up my bike. Loading it was very straight forward using the ramp which stores under the platform and it was easy to secure the bike into into the bike grab (which holds it upright), using ratchet straps and a handlebar tie down system which compresses the forks slightly and holds the bike firmly into the grab.
Finally, I fitted an overall cover to protect the bike from the Canada Goose droppings!
We have spent many hours trying to decide how we were going to solve the issue of window coverings for the wheelhouse windows. We wanted something that would be visually attractive and serve the triple purpose of partially blocking out the sunlight when we are sitting in there, blacking out the windows when anyone is sleeping in the occasional double berth in there and to hide the interior from prying eyes when we leave the boat unattended.
The difficulty in choosing was that the wheelhouse folds down to accommodate access under low bridges and it has three arch topped front windows.
We were offered many suggestions of different possibilities by different people but we were having great difficulty in deciding what would suit us best.
In the end, after much deliberation, we decided that 25mm aluminium venetian blinds would be the best solution for us. We contacted a local blind supplier who visited us and quoted £1200 to supply and fit the blinds. This was a little more than we had anticipated so I was prompted to measure each window and see what I could buy the blinds for. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could buy all eleven made to measure blinds for £300! Even better, I could order them and they would be delivered next day!
Measurements checked and double checked, I ordered the blinds and they duly arrived next day. (www.web-blinds.com). Me being me, I had them fitted the next day, am very happy with the results and even happier that I was able to save £900 as compared to the supplier’s quote.
The blinds have given the wheelhouse a much more homely feel as well as serving the purposes we were looking to achieve.
Henley is arguably one of the nicest towns on the river. It is also a favourite haunt of ours from the 1980’s when we were on the Thames with out 27′ Fjord cruiser, “Mikarla of Welwyn”
It also happens to be a couple of hours cruise from our berth at Dreadnought Reach, which is very convenient when we have day visitors.
We were fortunate this week to have our daughter Becks, her husband Trev and their dog Fudge on board for a day so you can guess where we headed to. We both feel that we could never tire of visiting Henley and this was another enjoyable trip.
On the way we passed through Sonning, Shiplake and Marsh lock and of course we passed the impressive Shiplake College although this time we were fortunate that the rowers from the college were occupied elsewhere!
As we were arriving in Henley, Fudge took the opportunity to check the place out from the port gunwale. He’s very comfortable in his new lifejacket!
The ladies went shopping while Trev and I enjoyed a cold beer on the aft deck which also gave Fudge a chance to keep his eye on the local duck population.
We then left Henley………..
and headed back to Lashbrook Eyot, where we moored for lunch opposite some of the multi-million pound houses in Lower Shiplake, before heading back to Caversham.
We also welcomed our youngest daughter Laura and her partner Mark to see the boat this week, but as time was short, we headed to Henley by car for dinner. However, we managed to squeeze in a quick walk to Marsh Lock before eating.
We are making good progress in completing the loading and personalisation of Steel Away.
One item we were particularly interested in sorting out was some sort of cover for our hob, which, as you can see from the photographs, is located on a peninsular worktop in the galley, facing towards the saloon.
After much research I was able to come up with a solution from Hob Covers Direct. (www.hobcover.co.uk). They offer a fair choice of styles and sizes and after some e-mail communication with the helpful owner of the comapany (Colin), we placed our order and 48 hours later we were in possesion of our hob cover.
I have now fitted it and we are very pleased with it. As you can see, it serves 3 purposes:
1. A neat finish over the hob.
2. A splashback when cooking.
3. Some additional work space for food preparation. (We cover it with a vinyl cloth when using it for this) to protect the stainless steel.
Once again, we have no connection with this company other than we have received a good product at at competitive price and excellent service. On that basis alone, we are happy to recommend them.
We woke up to another beautiful morning on Wednesday so decided that we would take a trip in the direction of Mapledurham and take the opportunity to “play” with the boat, see how she handles in close quarters and generally get to know a bit more about her characteristics.
Before we left we were visited by our resident heron apparently looking for his breakfast.
Soon after leaving the marina we passed through Caversham Lock where the lock keeper was busy re-painting his white health and safety lines. During the course of our chat with him he told us that the river was considerably busy this week than last and no doubt it would be even busier as Easter approaches.
We were soon passing under Caversham bridge
and then on towards Tilehurst.
The lock keeper at Caversham had advised us that the next lock (Mapledurham) was unattended and that he was going to lunch at 1pm so we decided to turn around just before Mapledurham and head back to Caversham.
We duly arrived at Caversham Lock just before the keeper’s lunch break and passed straight through.
We had time to play with the throttle in the lock and confirmed that we experience a fairly powerful prop kick when entering forward gear, resulting in the stern moving to port quite a lot whilst operating in the restricted water of the lock. Valuable information for preventing scratches to the hull in the coming months! We played some more in the wider river and the kick was still present but much less noticeable.
We returned to the marina and spent some time cleaning the boat before relaxing on the stern deck and witnessing this beautiful sunset.