Thursday, 27 August 2015

Posh houses and a hitch-hiker

The Thames from Windsor to Marlow is really beautiful and we've had another good day's cruising.

There are some fantastic hotels

and extremely big, expensive houses

 Even this boat-house was rather grand

But this huge thatched house was my favourite of the day

Boulters Lock had some spectacular floral displays.

These Angel's Trumpets were stunning and I wish we had enough room on the boat as I was seriously tempted to buy one.

We've seen an awful lot of cormorants today. This one was sunning itself while another 6 were perched on the adjacent posts.

Just past Cookham Lock we were flagged down by a very well spoken elderly man in a rowing boat. He had a tiny battery powered outboard engine on the back but had flattened 2 batteries and his third and last was dying with another mile or so to go. He asked us for a tow to the next lock where he was meeting his wife at the very posh Compleat Angler Hotel for afternoon tea and we gladly obliged. He wasn't dressed like this when we picked him up though. He changed out of tatty shorts and t-shirt into slacks, shirt and tie and blazer en-route which was no mean feat in that tiny boat.

He was really enjoying the ride and even came up Marlow Lock with us, much to the amusement of the lock-keeper and the 2 huge cruisers who came up with us.

We dropped him off at the hotel but first he made sure his wife got plenty of photos of his unorthodox arrival. I hope he enjoyed his afternoon tea it looked very nice on the website - starting from £27.50 each

Bye for now

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Windsor Castle

We arrived in Windsor late yesterday afternoon and had only just got settled when the mooring warden came calling for his £8. When you consider how much it would have cost for us to stay in a hotel I reckon that's a bargain.

It was raining a bit this morning when we set off to go to the castle, but by the time we got there it was an absolute deluge and as we got inside the grounds the deluge changed to a thunder storm. It was so bad that they had to cancel the guided tours of the tower in case of lightening strike.

I felt sorry for this poor young member of the Queen's Guard. It was absolutely tipping it down and while he was nice and dry in his guard box the rain didn't stop people wanting to have their photos taken with him and several young girls were trying their hardest to get him to react to them. I suppose he must be used to it as he never batted an eyelid at their antics.

The state rooms were rammed with soggy tourists and we were half way round with only 10 minutes to go until we needed to be at the meeting point for the tour round the grand kitchens that we'd booked. I asked one of the guides which would be the fastest route out, but he said it would take us at least 20 minutes as it was so busy. When I explained why we needed to get out quickly he took us a short cut through some of the rooms that were closed off to the general public and we arrived at the meeting point in plenty of time.

We'd seen parts of the castle not normally on view and then were pleasantly surprised to find that we were the only ones booked on the 12.45 tour. They normally take 20-30 people but we had the tour guide all to ourselves. VIP treatment indeed! Unfortunately you're not allowed to take photographs inside any of the castle buildings so I "borrowed" these 2 from Google Images

The tour was really interesting and definitely worth doing if you get the chance. As we got back to the meeting point after our tour the next one was just about to start and that was full. It must have been our lucky day!

We gave up after the kitchen tour as we were soaked through but the tickets we'd bought lasts for a year so hopefully we'll be able to go back in better weather when we come back next year.

Bye for now

Monday, 24 August 2015

Kingston to Laleham

We had an early start yesterday and arrived in Kingston upon Thames at 9.30. It was the Belgian Grand Prix and we needed to be sure of a good spot to get satellite reception so we could record it while we were out and about.

It's a very busy stretch of river with all manor of trip boats, including this stunning Mississippi style steam wheeler the New Southern Belle.

If you'd like to hire it for an afternoon party cruise prices start at £1000 for 4 hours...........

I was very impressed with Kingston. We haven't been here before and its a lovely town with lots of shops, both national chain stores and small independents. We also had a late alfresco fry-up outside one of the many cafes and restaurants that line the streets.

Kingston also has this wonderful piece of street art called "Out of Order"

As soon as Roger had finished watching the Grand Prix the rain stopped and the sun came out for a perfect late afternoon cruise past Hampton Court Palace. There's free 24 hour moorings right outside but we only stopped long enough to take a few snaps.

The chimneys are really intricate, made by true craftsmen brickies.

The only bit of litter we've seen since we've been on the river - makes a change from the empty cans of White Lightening you get beside the locks up north...............

Lock-side topiary at Molesley Lock

Not only is the litter more up-market, the house boats are too. Some are larger than the house we used to live in many moons ago.

We spent the night at Walton where this unusual boat came past late evening

It's rained for most of today but that didn't stop us carrying on to Laleham where we're staying for the night. Before we stripped off the waterproofs we took Chico for a walk through the village checking out the houses and gardens.

One garden wall was covered with this beautiful passion flower

and while I've seen the flowers many times before, I've never seen the plant bear fruit. They were the size of apricots and perfectly ripe. According to Mr Google they're edible when totally ripe but will give you a bad stomach if slightly under.

Bye for now

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Finally onto the Thames

For the first time in ages we managed to pair up with another boat to travel down Hanwell Locks, which was really good as they're stiffer and heavier than any we'd encountered before on the Grand Union. The owners of Flora Dora had done the Thames crossings many times and were a mine of information for us, unfortunately though they were only going half way to Brentford and I struggled with the last few locks on my own.

CRT seem to be having problems with people leaving the gates open round here as there were signs on every lock, but to be honest I can understand why they're left open as they're just way to difficult to operate.  One was so heavy Roger had to get off the boat to help me close the gate.

On Thursday Roger phoned the CRT office at Brentford to book our passage through Thames Lock onto the tidal stretch of the river and go to Teddington on Saturday. The woman he spoke to said we didn't need to pre-book but to turn up at 8 am as we'd have a 2 hour window to get to Teddington.

So yesterday morning we were up at 6 am  (yes you read it correctly, we were up at 6 )  and arrived at Thames Lock at 7.45 where we were joined by another narrowboat "Brigand".  At 8 am the lockie arrived to start his shift and was surprised to see us as we should have been told 6 am. He couldn't appologise enough and told us this woman had done exactly the same thing to 3 other boats on Friday morning. He did offer to come back at 6.15 pm if we wanted to go out then, so we went back up to Brentford where we spent the day cleaning the boat and generally just killing time.

We also had a really good lunch in the Magpie and Crown on Brentford High Street.  It's a CAMRA award winning pub with a small food menu and an extensive stock of beers. The homemade pies were delicious.

It's a shame we couldn't do the passage in the morning as it was one of the hottest days of the year and would have been perfect for a long day's cruise once we'd got through Teddington.  We got back to Thames Lock ready for the 6.15 pm tide and were joined by Brigand and another 2 boats. The river was as smooth as silk and we really enjoyed ourselves.

 We were quite tempted to drop anchor beside this pub at Richmond to listen to the band.

Richmond Park was very busy with people picnicking and and having BBQ's. This elderly couple were doing it in style with their table and chairs and bottle of champagne

We also saw several of these boarders and met a couple of lads in canoes who were playing chicken by paddling across the river in front of fast moving boats.

It only took us 45 minutes to get to Teddington and all 4 of us easily fit into the lock. After the heavy Hanwell locks it's going to seem like a holiday here on the Thames where the locks are done for you.

We managed to squeeze onto the visitor moorings no thanks to a narrowboat which had moored right in the middle of a 100 yard space and refused to move up as he was going out. We were helped in by a couple off a "hippy" boat and Brigand doubled up with us but the other narrowboat couldn't get in and had to go further up-river to try and find a spot. It really is the case that you shouldn't judge people by how they look or by the state of their boat. They were really nice and friendly, unlike the guy who wouldn't move his new shiny boat.

Bye for now

Wednesday, 19 August 2015


We've walked so many miles this week while we've been out sightseeing that today we thought we'd have a nice easy day and go for a cruise.

We left Paddington early and turned up the Regent's Canal through St. John's wood

with it's huge canal-side mansions

and the Zoo, however the only part of the zoo visible from the canal was an aviary

This is the Feng Shang Princess floating restaurant beside Cumberland Basin in Primrose Hill

The trip into Camden was almost as weird and wacky as Camden itself, what with water skiing beef eaters

and cows on balconies

not to mention pirates

It was still early when we arrived at Camden Lock and there were hardly any gongoozlers about. It was a totally different scene on the way back though with people surrounding all the locks.

This signpost beside the lock shows our next major destination, we're booked into Liverpool in October.

This moorhen had made her nest right beside St Pancras Lock. She must have been sitting on eggs as nothing would shift her, not even when a day boat full of screaming kids stood right beside her pointing and trying to prod her

We moored up at King's Cross for lunch before turning round and retracing our steps back to Paddington for the night. We're finally leaving London tomorrow and much as I've enjoyed the city, it'll be nice to get back into the countryside again soon.

Bye for now