Thursday, 18 September 2014

Home Counties Cruise: Day 13

We slept a bit later again today, and it was almost 9 before we set off.  We stopped after about 10 minutes at Cartbridge Wharf, to fill the water tank and start a wash load.  A while before we left, a little National Trust tug had passed, pushing a wide flat piled with stones.  When we got to Papercourt Lock, it was moored up, and the guys with it were just heading off over a field.

The majority of the locks were in our favour today.  At Pyrford Lock there's an elsan in a little shed, with a hand pump on the outside.  This apparently brings up river water for rinsing -- but I couldn't get anything out of it at all.

As we passed a field of steers, one of them seemed to be in a very bad mood.  It chased a swan, which of course just took to the river.  A dog walker seemed a bit concerned it might take against her black labrador.  In one pound I was surprised that a heron stayed exactly where he was as we approached; they normally take off and land just in front of the boat.  Then as I passed, it caught a fish.

Just before Parvis Bridge is a little boat yard which is rather attractive.  The other side of the bridge is the Byfleet Boat Club; a man there said he'd been told by Kathryn from Stoke Bruerne to ask me something -- but couldn't remember what it was!

Just before New Haw Lock, three swans took off and headed towards us, before landing again.

We stopped for lunch just below Town Lock in Weybridge, partly because we knew the lock keeper at Thames Lock would be on his lunch break.  As we were getting ready to set off again, a towpath walker stopped to talk; he complemented us on the boat, saying it was very subtle.  He said it didn't scream 'look at me I'm retired', or 'look at me, I haven't got a job'!

Just before Thames Lock is a block of rather attractive flats.  We particularly liked the long balcony on the top floor.

At Thames Lock we could go straight in.  It's a two stage process, as outside the lock is another pound of varying water levels, to ensure boats can get over the cill of the lock.  Once in that pound, more paddles have to be raised, and another big gate opened.  One of the lock keepers commented that the Thames seems very low at the moment.

As we've got a few days in hand, we've decided to spend the weekend on the Thames.  So we turned left straight into Shepperton Lock, which was open and ready.  I said to the lock keeper that we needed to buy a licence, so he said to tie up the boat and go to his office to do the paperwork while the lock filled.  We bought a week, which isn't much more than a daily licence.  Next to the lock is a cafe, and as the sun was now out, there were plenty of people enjoying tea and cake.

We moored for the day a little further along on Sheperton.  It's been really hot this afternoon, and various people have talked to us as they sat on the bench alongside the boat.  We've been busy, washing the roof and the towpath side of the boat, both of which were very dusty after such dry weather.

10 miles, 8 locks.  (155 miles, 108 locks)

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Home Counties Cruise: Day 12

 The water meadows at Guildford really are lovely, even though the town and a fairly main road aren't far away.  We slept later than usual, and it was after 9am before we set off, heading for the end of the navigation at Godalming.  At the first lock, St Catherine's, a couple of National Trust staff armed with buckets and brushes, were cleaning what they called grafitti off fences and bridges.  It turned out to be marks made to point runners in a charity event, which are supposed to wash off in the rain; unfortunately, it seems they don't.

There's a railway bridge and a pipe bridge, where there's lots of work going on.  It seems they're installing a new pipe over the river, and there are floating pontoons carrying an office and a canteen.

There were two more locks up to Godalming.  At the final one, a day boat crew from Farncombe Boat House were under instruction -- and very good instruction it was too.  We shared the lock with them.  At the end of the navigation we turned and moored up.  At Godalming Wharf there's an old building, and Iona, a horse drawn trip boat.

We made a visit to the neighbouring Sainsbury's, which has been completely rebuilt since we were last here.  Then we had a visit from Katrina, a colleague of Adrian's when he worked in Godalming a long time ago, and her partner Stef.  As it was gone 12, we had a very relaxed lunch together, catching up.

It was 1.30pm when we set off again, retracing our steps downstream.  The locks are much more gentle going down, even though there are big paddles and they empty quickly.  There are some very very tight corners and sharp bends.  The tightest have poles with rolers, to help the horse rope go round the bend.  One just south of Guildford is so accute that you think you're going to meet yourself coming back.

We passed the spot where we'd moored on the water meadows; three boats were moored there, another was just stopping, and a fifth was just arriving.  At Millmead Lock in Guildford we had a big audience of parents and toddlers watching us go down.

At Bower's Lock, the exit is a right angle turn.  A bit further along there's a bridge, immediately followed by a turn of more than a right angle.  Half way round I thought it was easier coming downstream;  then the turned seemed to go on and on, and I realised it was just as difficult.  The next bit of towpath is alongside a very impressive drive, lined with railings, and with signs warning of guard dog patrols.  It leads to Sutton Place, an early Tudor house which is privately owned; it was once owned by Paul Getty.

Triggs Lock, our last of the day, was the 100th since we left Paddington.  Like all the locks on the River Wey, it has its name attractively engraved in the gates.

We continued to Worsfold Gates, on the flood locks normally left open.  We moored up just off the end of the lock landing.  The paddles of these seldom used locks are very simple: pull up and use a pin to keep the paddle raised.

We'd not been here long when staff from Farncombe Boat House arrived from the other direction with a boat they've just bought and plan to do up.  It's now moored just behind us.

Tomorrow is our last day on the Wey, and we'll be back on the Thames.

14 miles, 10 locks.  (145 miles, 100 locks)

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Home Counties Cruise: Day 11

We had a very nice evening with Alison and Nigel at The Anchor at Pyrford, hearing about their boating exploits getting to Gloucester (where we haven't yet been).  It was great to see them and catch up.

This morning was very misty as we left our mooring by the pub and headed for the lock.

The next lock is Walsham Flood Gates, only used in times of flood, so we could sail straight through.  It's the last remaining turf sided lock on the Wey, and is really very pretty.

We recognised Newark Lock because of the ruins of the priory nearby.  We've walked quite a lot of the Wey, as it's close to home, so we've probably done this section on foot.

Papercourt Lock comes next, and has a large weir alongside.  There are warnings of a strong flow, but today it wasn't too bad.  After rain, it must be a different story, though.

I'd been speaking to a man who appeared at the lock, and was interested in why we opened the paddle only on one side.  He said he was with a hotel boat, and they'd been told to open the paddles on both sides of the lock evenly.  After leaving the lock, the hotel boat arrived, and it was obvious why that would work:  it was Tranquil Rose, which is a widebeam.

By trial and error, we've come up with a way of working the locks which is gentle on us and the boat.  The National Trust (which owns the Wey) suggests using ropes and the bow and the stern, but that's not really very practical when there's only two of us.  The paddles are very fierce, though, and make a very strong pull towards the front of the lock.  So we put the boat at the very back of the lock, rope up the stern on the yellow bollard right by the balance beam, and have the centre line round a bollard and back to the steerer.  By opening the paddle on the same side as the boat, and doing it slowly, things stay pretty calm.

We stopped for water at Cartbridge Wharf, and as we realised that we'd got nothing for lunch (having failed to put the bread machine on), I walked into Send to find the shop.  That part of Send has very little to recommend it.  By the time I got back another boat had arrived wanting water, and as we appeared to be almost full we set off again.

Worsfold Flood Gates are next, and are also pretty, and left open.  At Broad Oak Bridge there are two very sharp turns.  At the first one we met a boat coming the other way.  At the second, I wondered whether we'd actually get round in one, as the corner is more than a right angle, there's a weir drawing you over, and there's immediately a bridge with a central support.  We did get round, though.  By now the sun was out, and the river looked lovely with the sunshine through the trees.

We stopped for lunch just above Bower's Lock, which was surprisingly quiet given that the A3 is very close to this section.  I've driven up that part of the A3 thousands of times, and didn't even know that lock or the next one were there.  What was very familiar, though (although it looks completely different from the water) is Stoke Mill, home to the Surrey Ad.

Soon we were going under the A3, and into Guildford proper.  Dapdune Wharf is a National Trust centre, but it's closed on all the days we're here.

Next comes a part of the towpath we're very familiar with -- past old converted mills, under the bridges which make up Guildford's gyratory system, plus more pleasant older ones, and past the church on side and Debenhams cafe on the other.

Millmead lock was the last of the day.  It's actually on the Godalming Navigations rather than the Wey.  Above it, Guildford Boat House is closed and looks very sad.  We carried on round the corner and moored up at the water meadows at 3pm.  Since we've been here, two day boats from Farncombe Boat House have been past, both at high speed.  One of them set off from only a hundred yards away, so those little boats must have fantastic accelleration.

10 miles, 7 locks.  (131 miles, 90 locks)

Monday, 15 September 2014

Home Counties Cruise: Day 10

At not long after 7 this morning, boats started to move down to the lock to get the tide down to Brentford and Limehouse.  By the time we were having breakfast, many of the classic boats we'd seen at St Katharine's Dock yesterday arrived on the morning tide.

It was gone 9 before we set off, and we moored up not long after on the John Lewis moorings at Kingston, for a quick visit to Waitrose.  We also started a wash load.  At Molesey Lock, a rather large boat joined us in the lock.

Above the lock is Dave Gilmour's floating recording studio.  A man was giving it a bit of a wash.

We waited ages for Sunbury Lock.  The main lock is closed for work, so they're using the smaller, manually operated lock instead.  A little way above is the new Walton Bridge.

Just before Shepperton Lock we turned left for the River Wey.  The actual entrance to the river looks impossibly small.

We'd arrived on the dot of 2pm.  A widebeam was waiting outside the start of the navigation, but the lock keeper waved us through first.  You have to go into a pound below the first lock, so the water level can be raised to give us clearance over the cill.  When there was enough depth, we were called into Thames Lock.

We bought a three day licence (which as it was past 2pm lasts until Thursday), and we set off.  There are some nice houses alongside the river.  These two are radically different next door neighbours.

The entrance to the next lock at Weybridge is through a bridge with a very tight turn.  At Coxes Lock there's a huge converted mill alongside, and a very strong by wash.

New Haw Lock was our last of the day.  Then we went under the M25.

Immediately afterwards is Woodham Junction, where the Basingstoke Canal goes off.  It's part of the navigation I see frequently from the train, when I go to work from Guildford Station.

We've moored up by the Anchor at Pyrford, as we're meeting Nigel and Alison, who used to be co-owners of Debdale with us.

15 miles, 6 locks.  (121 miles, 83 locks.)

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Home Counties Cruise: Day 9

We weren't due out on the tidal Thames until mid afternoon, so we had a cooked breakfast, and then got the DLR to the Tower of London, to see the ceramic poppies marking the more than 800-thousand people who died in the First World War.

The installation won't be finished until 11 November, and more poppies were being 'planted' today.

We noticed that there was a classic boat festival going on at St Katharine's Dock, which is almost next door to the Tower.  There were lots of fascinating boats to look at, and we were impressed at the good quality information boards next to each one.

Back at Limehouse, we made final preparations for our trip.  My former colleague, Peter, who came to see us off three years ago came for a repeat performance, and as I haven't seen him for a while we had a good catch up too.

We were due out of the lock at 2.45, and on schedule the lock was prepared for us.  We were joined by Mick on Jubilee, who needed to go in a convoy as he doesn't have a VHF licence.  Within a couple of minutes we were entering the tideway, with Jubilee following behind.

Immediately I felt the river was much rougher than the last time we did the trip on Briar Rose, three years ago.  Then the stretch through Tower Bridge had been surprisingly calm; today it seemed very lumpy.

The reason may have been the amount of boat traffic, perhaps because of it being a Sunday.  The ribs in particular create a lot of wash -- indeed that seems to be the whole point of them.

Peter had got on his bike after we left, to try to get to Tower Bridge before us.  He later sent me a photo of us passing HMS Belfast.  We look very small!

There were lots of City Cruisers boats around.  One came right up behind us before turning onto a pier, and another made Jubilee look very tiny.

A few things have changed since we last did the tideway.  Beyond Blackfriars Bridge is the Bismarck, with a camoflage paint job.  And further up near Tate Britain there's a large wooden hippo.

It's always quite exciting going past the London Eye, under Westminster Bridge, and past Parliament.  There were lots of tv and radio trucks on the bridge, to cover the cycling Tour of Britain.

We made sure Jubilee was always within sight behind us, although sometimes he seemed quite a way behind.  He later said that at times we seemed to speed away from him, and then he'd catch up -- although neither of us changed our engine speed at all.  It must just be the flow of the tide through different bits of the river.

Before long we were passing through Richmond Bridge, where the half tide barrier had already been raised.  Richmond itself was very busy with people making the most of a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Then we were at Teddington.  A boat was already going up in the lock, and then it was our turn.  A cruiser and a narrowboat from Brentford arrived and came up at the same time.

We moored up just after the lock, and my colleague, Paul, came to meet us.  I went back to the lock office to buy a licence and pay for our night's mooring.  Then the three of us adjourned to the pub for a drink and a meal.

20 miles, 2 locks.  (106 miles, 77 locks)