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Laleham & Staines

It was yet another beautiful sunny morning when we got up and prepared to leave our Runnymede mooring. We didn’t have any particular destination in mind when we set off as we had no particular needs to meet. We passed through Staines or Staines upon Thames as it is now known and shortly after found a good mooring on the edge of Laleham. After taking a short walk into the village we decided to walk back along the Thames path into Staines. For people of a certain age, Staines is synonymous with “Ali G” and the “Staines Massive”. This notoriety is apparently why the town changed its name and rebranded itself in 2012. Staines upon Thames is actually quite a nice place to visit, there are many shops and restaurants all within a very small, central area. We walked there and back and then visited the Three Horseshoes in Laleham before retiring for the evening. On our second day in Laleham we again walked to Staines, this time with some shopping bags ready for a bit of a big grocery shop at Waitrose in mind. We did that, caught the bus back to Laleham and then walked in the other direction to Chertsey lock.

Our final verdict? Laleham is a good place to stop, good mooring in a quiet location with a decent local shop and pub. Easy to walk or to get the bus to Staines (upon Thames).

Runnymede

After leaving Windsor, we made our way to Runnymede. The river skirts around the Royal estate at Windsor, passes by Old Windsor and then gets to Runnymede. In the two days that we spent at Runnymede, we did so on an ideal mooring – ideal from the point of view that it was exactly the right length and at the right height for us to step on to the bank – we visited all the memorials there and also went to the royal estate farm shop. The latter was a bit of a disappointment really. We had expected that it would be selling produce from the crown estate but in reality it was selling nothing that couldn’t be bought in any independent fruiterers. We didn’t buy much but one of our purchases was supposedly a dozen free range eggs. As eggs go they were no better than a basic supermarket offering, pale yolks and a bland taste.

The real attraction of Runnymede is that it has a number of memorials. One dedicated to President John F Kennedy which stands in an acre of land which has been gifted to the American people. There is the memorial to the 20,000 airmen and women who died during WW2 and whose bodies were never recovered for one reason or another. Of course Runnymede is most famous for being the place where the Magna Carta was signed and there is a memorial there to commemorate that event. The memorial was actually paid for by the American Bar Association because the Magna Carta is the foundation of the American Constitution and as such it means more to the American people than it probably does to the citizens of the United Kingdom. Interestingly enough, despite the fact that many nations have constitutions which are based on the principles laid down in the Magna Carta more than 800 years ago, the UK has no written constitution!

Here are the pictures.

Fifty steps, representing the fifty states of the US lead up to the JFK memorial.

JFK Memorial.

An example of the lists of missing airmen from WW2.

US memorial to the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215.

The Jurors, modern art representing the principles at the heart of the Magna Carta.

The Jurors

The City of London away in the distance.

Windsor Castle from the top of the memorial.

 

Dopplegänger

A doppelgänger is a look-alike or double of a living person, sometimes portrayed as a paranormal phenomenon, and is usually seen as a harbinger of bad luck. In other traditions and stories, they recognize one’s ‘double-goer’ as an evil twin. Doppelgänger is a German word. In modern times, the term twin stranger is occasionally used.

The word “doppelgänger” is often used in a more general sense to describe any person who physically or behaviorally resembles another person.

I once knew somebody who claimed to have met his doppelgänger by chance in a pub. I asked him how he felt about it and he said that it was exciting, it fact he had been beside himself all evening!

Caxton has a doppelgänger and it arrived in Windsor a few hours after we did. “Eclipse No.2” is a Hudson boat by the look of it and although the shells are different, the paint schemes are so similar it’s uncanny.

Caxton looking resplendent after a bit of a makeover.

The doppelgänger!

 

Windsor & Eton

Not only had the heavy rain persisted all afternoon and evening, it was forecast to continue until mid afternoon the following day. With that in mind, we figured that we would be staying put another day and perhaps venturing out in the late afternoon. When we awoke the next morning, the rain had passed over and the forecast had been modified to reflect this so we got up and moved on.

It was a dull day and a little cool as a result but we were only intending to travel for a couple of hours, hopefully getting a mooring in or around Windsor. Everything went to plan and we found some space on an island near the railway bridge which carries the line into the central station. It is only a short walk from there to what is probably classed as the main commercial area of Windsor and when we got there it was absolutely heaving with tourists. We had been going to visit the castle but decided that we would leave it until the following morning when it would hopefully be a bit quieter. The road that wraps around the town side of the castle is full of pubs, restaurants and shops selling tat to the foreign tourists. The railway station must have been a grand affair when it was originally built but today most of the concourse has been converted into an area with more restaurants and shops although in fairness, it’s all a bit more upmarket than the main street and it looks pretty good.

Later in the day we walked over the bridge, into Eton and along the main street toward the famous school. It was tea time and consequently the street was becoming busy with the boys emerging from their classrooms. All wore uniform of course, some in blazers and the rest in tail coats. Having done our little bit of sightseeing we returned to the boat and had dinner.

Our mooring was against a bank which was a little higher than the gunwales of Caxton so the fenders had been carefully placed to make use of some wooden uprights below. The ropes were tight so we hoped that we could withstand a bit of movement as other boats passed by. This turned out to be a forlorn hope! Boats on the Thames never slow past moored boats and that’s fine because the water is wider and deeper than that of the canals. Trip boats seem to be exempt from the 5mph speed limit and with the amount of water that they move, it wasn’t long before the fenders had been pulled out of position and we were being banged against the wooden side. When I mentioned the speed to the mooring warden, he acknowledged that there was a problem and he blamed it on the fact that the trip companies were employing young people to captain their boats. Eventually the trip boats stopped running for the day and we were able to settle down for the evening, the peace only being interrupted by the aircraft taking off from Heathrow, luckily there are only two of them every minute! The trains were noisy but there are only two of them every hour so not too bad. Just to complete the noisy and bumpy picture, the parkland island mooring is the overnight resting place for geese and Canada geese, well until 4.30am when they wake up and make a racket that sounds like a pack of dogs barking. They only quieten down when they jump into the water and that makes waves so the boat starts banging again.

On our second morning we got up and made our way to the castle for opening time at 9.30. We were a little taken aback when we saw that there were hundreds of other visitors all with the same idea of beating the crowds.

Tourists milling around outside the castle walls.

Well we stood in line, paid our money and spent the next couple of hours touring the castle and I’m happy to report that it was well worth the visit. The standard of workmanship throughout is excellent and the quality of the items on display is the highest to be found. It’s all very well organised but they have to be to cope with the vast number of visitors who attend each day. We took pictures of the outside of the buildings but there is no photography allowed in the state rooms or St George’s chapel.

 

After our visit we did a bit of supermarket shopping before returning to our mooring where we sat out another afternoon on the noisy, bumpy mooring.

Cookham & Maidenhead

All good things must come to an end and for us that meant us ending our stay in Marlow on Tuesday morning. We untied just before ten and pushed the bow out into the stream before executing a U-turn and continuing our journey downstream. A few minutes later and we reached Marlow lock where there was already a large cruiser descending. Three more cruisers were waiting to come up and by the time we were ready to go in, we had been joined by two more narrowboats. Once clear of the lock, we led the procession until we reached Cookham a little over an hour later. We were surprised to find rings on the bank when we tied up between two wide beam boats.

A few minutes later and Sue spotted this vessel passing, no photos because as it passed us, a cruiser stopped to ask about the mooring fees and completely blocked the view.

We of course wanted to explore the village but I also wanted to buy a new power supply for our mobile broadband router which had failed earlier in the morning. It’s a bit frustrating really because I have two or three at home that would have done the job but no spares on board. After checking train times we walked to Cookham and then on through to the station and caught a train to Maidenhead where there is a branch of Maplin.

Cookham is very picturesque and there seems to be an abundance of pubs but on this occasion, we did no research and passed them all by. Maidenhead was less inspiring, nothing really bad but after spending time in places like Abingdon and Marlow, the bar has been set pretty high! Anyway, our mission was successful and Maplin provided us with the necessary bit of kit. We did take time to wander around the town centre but other than a clock tower near the railway station, there wasn’t much to hold our interest. On returning to the station, we could see that the platforms were full of schoolchildren making their way home. We shared the carriage with about a dozen of them and what a racket they made! We were so glad when the eight minute journey back to Cookham was over and we got back to some peace and quiet. There were a few raindrops in the air as we walked back and we knew that rain had been forecast so we didn’t dally in the village except for a few minutes in the church. Our timing was good because we had only been back on board a few minutes when the light drizzle became heavier and heavier.

A couple of days in Marlow

Our next target destination was the town of Marlow but first of all we had to get through Henley on Thames. As we have done on recent days, we got up and got going by eight o’clock, this time hoping to get through Henley when the level of river traffic would be low. Expecting the worst, with the regatta only four days away, we made our way into the town and under the bridge. Once through the middle arch of the bridge, we followed the sign which directed us to the left hand side of the river and then we kept to the left hand side of the channel allowing the rowing teams plenty of space between us and the main racing area. It was quite hectic despite the early hour but it all went smoothly and we were glad to reach temple island, knowing that we had reached the end of the racing area and had run the gauntlet successfully.

There had been the odd light rain shower in the first hour of our trip but they hadn’t amounted to much so overall our journey to Marlow was a pleasant one. Finding a good mooring on the Thames is not as easy as on the canals so we couldn’t believe our luck as we passed the park above the bridge. A cruiser pulled away and left a space that looked as if it might just be long enough for us. We turned midstream and attempted to make land in the space between a narrowboat and a small motorboat sitting behind a large cruiser. As in Wallingford, there was little room to spare but we got in although Sue had to move and then re-tie the motorboat before we could finally secure our mooring.

Marlow is another of those places that neither of us have been to before. In fact, I don’t think that we would know anything about it if I hadn’t accidentally driven through it a couple of years ago and thought that it looked like a lovely town.

Our mooring was adjacent to a park and we could see that there was some sort of event going on. Upon further investigation we discovered that there was going to be a triathlon taking place the following day with proceedings beginning with competitor registration between 5.30 and 7.00am! After exploring the town’s main shopping streets, we returned to Caxton and had lunch on the front deck. Our parkside mooring meant that we were part of the scenery and also a tourist attraction so once again we found ourselves being observed by and commented on by visitors to the waterside.

Caxton’s Marlow mooring.

Sure enough, on Sunday morning at the prescribed hour, we were awoken by a tannoy announcement letting us know that we could register for the triathlon event. Within minutes, Sue jumped out of bed and was getting herself ready, determined to be among the early starters. Her bike was sitting gleaming on the bankside ready for the cycling section, she had already pulled on her wetsuit ready for the swim in the Thames when suddenly something didn’t seem quite right. I opened my eyes, and realised that after the initial tannoy announcement I had fallen back asleep and Sue lay still slumbering next to me, completely oblivious to the dream sequence that I had just experienced.

We got up at seven and watched the swimmers who passed between our boat and a couple of floating markers in the water. One swimmer passing by asked Sue if there was any chance that she had a bacon sandwich for him!

Triathlon swimmers just outside our side hatch.

We pottered about indoors until just after eleven when we set off into town and found our way to The Coach. This restaurant is owned by the TV chef, Tom Kerridge and has a slightly unusual approach to serving food. There were very few customers when we arrived at 11.30, lunch service doesn’t start until noon so we had our pick of places to sit. We chose a couple of bar stools in front of the kitchen and had a chat with the head chef who had studied at the University of Leicester. The dishes are varied and are ‘starter’ size and we were told that most people would order two or three dishes each. We had difficulty in choosing from the menu, the dishes all looked appetising but you can’t have them all so we decided to order five of them and share. The dishes were brought to us one at a time and in no particular order. Sitting where we were, we could see the food being prepared before being hand delivered to us by whichever chef had put it all together – very intimate indeed!

After lunch we returned to Caxton and just took it easy for the rest of the afternoon and evening. The structures that had housed the organisation of the triathlon were being pulled down and the crowds were dwindling as we reflected on our couple of days in the wonderful town of Marlow.

A Red Kite hovers above us.

On Monday morning we decided to stay for another day and explore the town more fully when there were fewer people around. We wandered over the bridge and visited the Compleat Angler hotel and spent a bit of time on their terrace overlooking the river. At lunchtime we visited the Marlow Bar & Grill and had another lovely meal in lovely surroundings.

We eventually returned to our mooring and sat in the sunshine just watching the world go by.

Sue keeping a watchful eye on the activities of the river.

This swan bossed the others on this stretch of the river.

Sonning, Wargrave and Henley on Thames

As predicted, the weather changed in the early hours of Thursday morning and we awoke to a much fresher feel to the air. At eight o’clock we were treated to a thunderstorm directly overhead with half an hour of heavy rain thrown in for good measure. It didn’t last and by nine o’clock we were able to untie and continue with our journey.

It was an enjoyable cruise and although the weather had changed somewhat, it was still sunny and warm with the temperature eventually settling in the mid twenties. We passed through between Reading and Caversham but there were very few boats on the move so we really only noticed a few around the locks.

We eventually tied up above Sonning lock and then took a walk into the village of Sonning which is mainly on the Berkshire side of the river. On the other side of the river is The Mill at Sonning which is a hotel / theatre / waterside bar and we had a little nosey around there too. There’s not much to the village but we did visit the local church and of course the village pub.

The Bull Inn at Sonning

The church at Sonning.

There is a tea room, well tea garden really, at Sonning lock so we stopped by and had some afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea at Sonning Lock.

Sonning is home to the current Prime Minister, Theresa May but there are a number of other local celebrities to potentially bump into including George Clooney, Uri Geller and Jimmy Page – not that we saw any of them on our travels.

On Friday, we were up and on our way again by eight o’clock, this time aiming to visit Wargrave and Henley on Thames. Again, we saw very few boats on the move as we travelled along and since we were uncertain of gaining a mooring in Henley itself, we were happy when we saw a Caxton sized space on the Wargrave Lashford moorings. As I showered and got changed, Sue went off and investigated the surrounding area and when she returned, she had worked out the best way to get to Wargrave. We started our walk just after eleven and headed off towards the village. The first part of our journey was fine, an easy walk along a tarmac covered road, Willow Lane. Once on the main road however, we faced a narrow pavement overgrown with stinging nettles. Eventually we reached the village itself having successfully dodged both traffic and the stinging vegetation. There are shops and pubs in Wargrave but it is not a very big place to spend much time in so we carried on walking and found the church. We didn’t spend too much time there as the village flower show was on and exhibits filled the church itself.

A Morgan sits idly outside Wargrave church.

Again we carried on further down the lane and got to the railway station where we waited for a train to Henley. The station has a single platform and the train just seems to shuttle back and forward between Henley and Twyford.

The train duly arrived and we made the eight minute trip to Henley on Thames. With the regatta due to start in a few days time, we were keen to see the river and how we would find our way through the area.

Ready for the regatta.

The riverfront in Henley.

The river front was already transformed into a sporting venue but it all seemed clearly marked out so having seen that we should have very little to worry about, we stopped at the Angel on the Bridge and had some lunch.

The service was quick and the food was good, so suitably fortified we went off to explore the town centre and very good it was too with many small shops to take our interest. The local butcher, Gabriel Machin and Waitrose provided us with a top up to the larder and after all of that we caught a bus back to the end of the Willow Lane.

Like Sonning before it, Henley is also home to a number of celebrities. We are currently moored near the singer, Vince Hill’s house and a few hundred yards away from the home of the late Paul Daniels.

 

Goring on Thames

Ah, Monday morning! The best morning of the week now that I have retired. We decided to move on, Wallingford was nice but we didn’t think that there would be too much to hold our interest for another day. It was again around eight o’clock when we set off and after taking on water at Cleeve lock, we dropped down through that and Goring lock and tied up on the visitor moorings there. Goring also turned out to be a beautiful village so we decided to spend a few days there, apart from anything else we wanted to try out the NHS electronic prescription service. We explored the village and had lunch in the John Barleycorn pub; my Steak & Ale pie was an amazing home made affair and well worth the money. After visiting the local pharmacy and getting their details, Sue called our surgery at home and ordered the precriptions. On Wednesday morning we were able to collect them without a hitch so no complaints about that service at all.

There are a selection of small shops, pubs and cafes in Goring but we decided on Tuesday that we would catch the train into Reading because we weren’t planning to stop on our way through. The village station is only a ten minute walk from the river and the trip to town is a short one.

We had a look around the town centre and spent a bit of time in the museum, there’s an interesting collection there including a copy of the Bayeux tapestry. Our favourite part was a section dedicated to Huntley & Palmer, the biscuit making company. By one o’clock, the temperature was baking and there was no respite from the heat of the sun whether directly shining or radiating from the masonry.

Reading church and town hall.

We wandered through “The Oracle”, a bright modern shopping mall and ended up next to the river Kennet. There are a number of bars and restaurants lining the waterside including a beach bar. It’s difficult to know how well it does normally but on days like this, it really looked the part.

The beach bar on the river Kennet.

Reading waterfront.

We passed it by and took cover in an air conditioned restaurant where we had a long, leisurely lunch.

When we eventually returned to our mooring, the sun was beating down directly on the cratch making it unbearable to sit out there. The coolest place turned out to be inside with the slight breeze blowing through the boat. We went for another walk later on when the heat was starting to subside and discovered George Michael’s house which is adorned with tributes from fans from all around the world.

George Michael’s house.

Fan’s tribute to George Michael.

Our second discovery was the Swan at Streatley, a hotel which is undergoing a major refurbishment but which also has an air conditioned bar. Too late to be of much benefit that day but with Wednesday forecast to be even hotter, Sue was forming a cunning plan.

Wednesday dawned much as the forecasters had predicted so after getting ready, we walked up to the village and collected the prescriptions. Next stop was the Swan for lunch. They are now at a point in the refurbishment that means that they can’t actually serve food but they are selling sandwiches and salads prepared in the cafe on the Goring side of the bridge. We weren’t really bothered about lunch, we just wanted somewhere to escape for the three or  four hours that would bring the most heat – 33 C as it turned out!

Interesting boat outside The Swan at Streatley.

After malingering in there for most of the afternoon we returned to Caxton and sweated out the rest of the evening, the only comfort being the knowledge that the following day would bring fresher weather and lower temperatures.

Wallingford – aka Causton

Sunday promised more fine weather with rising temperatures so we got on our way just after eight o’clock. After passing under Abingdon bridge, I could see a small boat near the bank and as I approached, the person on it advised me that there were rowers heading upstream and asked me to keep over to the right, which I duly did. A few minutes later and the rowers came into view, no problem as there was plenty of room. Suddenly, the boat in the centre of the channel started to veer off course and was in danger of crossing our path. He was very soon at an angle of about thirty degrees to the bank and the line of the other boat. I changed course and being still concerned at his wayward path, slowed down and sounded my horn. At this point a girl in another motorised boat which should have been advising the rowers, decided to wake up and shout a warning to the crew. Disaster averted but of course their stroke had been interrupted so one of the crew decided that he should unleash a string of obscenities as they passed by. We didn’t retaliate, there didn’t seem any point. These guys are pumped up with adrenaline, testosterone and probably steroids too but the main issue other than them believing that they own the water is that where normal people have a brain, their skull cavities are stuffed with sausage meat.

Anyway, after that bit of excitement we had a peaceful trip down river until we reached Wallingford and as we approached the visitor moorings, a narrowboat pulled out and left a Caxton sized gap. I didn’t think that there was enough space but Sue thought otherwise so we gave it a go and we just squeezed in between two cruisers.

Tucked in between two cruisers.

The bank was filled with people sitting enjoying the beautiful Sunday sunshine and a few were swimming either side of the bridge.

Children enjoying the river.

We locked up the boat and walked into town and what a lovely place it turned out to be. Wallingford is one of the original locations used in the filming of TV’s Midsomer Murders, Causton as a matter of fact.

Wallingford market place.

Marketplace.

St Peter’s Church.

St Mary’s street cat.

St Mary’s street.

After a wander around, we returned to the riverside and sat in the cratch while watching the activities in and out of the water.

The Boat House after sunset.

Oh no, not another election!

Our fifth and final day in Abingdon coincided with the annual election for the post of “Mayor of Ock Street”. This event has taken place for centuries in the town, more details here.

While waiting for the result we took a final walk around the town and also spent a little time watching the local cricket team in action.

County Hall museum

St Nicholas church

The old Police Station.

The Old Anchor Inn.

St Helen’s church.

The cricket match.

In full swing.

We made our way to the Brewery Tap in Ock street and waited for the count to take place, once ready everyone made their way to the car park  for the announcement.

The Brewery Tap

Now after all the elections and referendums of the last few years, I’ve become conditioned to the aftermath so I wasn’t quite expecting what happened next. The result was announced by the runner up and he graciously admitted defeat, congratulating the winner and telling the assembled crowd that they had made an excellent choice.

Runner up graciously cheers the winner.

The new mayor of Ock Street

Contrast that with Clinton bleating that Trump’s win was a mistake and possibly illegal, Corbyn claiming that he had somehow won the election with less seats and fewer votes than May, Remainers thinking that the slight “leave” majority wasn’t enough so Brexit should be cancelled and Sturgeon losing the independence vote and asking for another on the “best out of three” principle.

Abingdon Morris men

The musicians set the tune

The victory parade.

The Mayoral election was, therefore, a breath of fresh air and after watching the ceremony reach completion we left the Morris men to dance on into the evening while we returned to our mooring.

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