We're still in Paddington Basin and will remain here for the allowed seven days. Yesterday was wonderful, having all four of our children aboard - oh what fun we had! Sadly, due to a family bereavement, Kim had to return home early this morning. The rest of us took a trip to the colourful Camden Market.
Thursday 9 September
We managed to get up and off by 0930hrs (an amazing feat for us) to get to Reading around lunchtime. Once again there was an abundance of locks and swing/lift bridges to get through, but we were so lucky as they were all in our favour which sliced at least an hour off the journey time. Even more fantastic was the weather - a glorious, mostly sunny day once again!
Glorious sunshine on the weir bridge just after Tyle Mill Lock
Sulhampstead Swing Bridge was jammed open, with just enough room for a narrowboat to negotiate - pity a widebeam that may want to pass through
Sandra operates the automatic swing bridge at Theale
Sheffield Lock, the second scalloped edged lock, and Ganston Lock, the other turf sided lock on the Kennet & Avon Canal
No shortage of water for this lock
These guys were doing a flow rate survey of the canal, but wanted to confirm a plant they'd found as being hops - luckily Barry had paid attention at the (extended!) Wadworth Brewery Museum tour to recognise a hop when he saw one!
What a perfect combination - a canalside property complete with a narrowboat tied alongside
When the sun was out it made for very pleasant cruising
All the bricks surrounding Fobney Lock are stamped very clearly with the manufacturer's name
County Lock (number 105), the last lock before Reading with only one more before the Thames
Amazingly, we got to Reading just after midday (we were expecting at least a four hour journey), and as Jill wasn't arriving till around 1400hrs, we had time visit Specsavers and see if their website was correct and they really do exchange with a no quibble, no fuss guarantee within three months of purchase.
I'd written down the whole sorry story, from the production line of their Banbury store on a busy Saturday, to the debacle with the delivery, to the trying on the glasses and knowing I couldn't use them but the girls in the store in Oxford persuading me they were fine when I clearly knew they were anything but! I've tried on and off to get used to them, but to no avail, and really didn't want to waste my hard earned money!
The unusual (maybe unique?) traffic lights on the canal at each side of the central city - obviously to avoid collisions?
Reading prison as viewed through the Abbey ruins, and one of the newer buildings in the city
This time it couldn't have been a more different story - Reading Specsavers rocks!!! From the minute I went in I was embraced by a calm atmosphere, and could sense the experience and quality of the people working there. They were courteous beyond belief and extremely helpful, listening to my ramblings and allowing me to change not only my lenses from varifocals to single vision, but also the frames - I'd had to pick some larger ones when I'd been persuaded to go for varifocals and subsequently chose ones I didn't like under pressure of time!!
Ant was my man throughout the experience, no rushing through and making hasty decisions that I'll regret later, just very pleasant and understanding - thank-you. Fingers crossed now I can pick up my glasses on Saturday in Reading, or the following Saturday in Sutton Coldfield while I'm there, and actually find them wearable and have improved vision with them on!
While waiting for Jill to arrive, we briefly visited the Museum as it had free admission. Shortly afterwards we heard from Jill and she picked us up to find somewhere to park her car for a couple of days - often easier said than done with no prior knowledge of places! The Railway Station car park was £21 for 24 hours (ouch!) and although nearby car park looked promising at £8 for overnight, after we'd parked up and were walking out the security guy said "...actually we're not open on a Saturday so you'd have to pay a £50 call-out charge to retrieve your car" - well that kind of defeated the object so it was back to the drawing board. I left them to it and took some of Jill's bags back to boat, while they eventually found a car wash place that charged £30 for two nights stay, including a wash and valet - yahoo!
Sandra (modelling the new frames along with price sticker) and 'Ant'
Jill gets to help with one lock before we enter the Thames once more
After all the palaver we emerged late onto the Thames. However it was such a beautiful evening it didn't matter, and Jill made the most of it trying to catch some sun. We purchased a 15 day license from Sonning Lock, though we'll only be on the river till next Thursday when we need to go through the tidal section before I go to Birmingham for the weekend - it's £93.50 for 15 days or £27 x 7 for a week - utter madness!
The Reading offices of Oracle Software - sponsors of the Oracle America's Cup yachting team and the 'Oracle Centre' in Reading
Our original plan was to moor at Sonning past the lock. "Moor on the left," said the lock-keeper, "it's free. Moor on the right and Uri Geller will charge you £10 a night." Apparently he gives the money to charity, having bought the moorings to try and prevent boats leaving their generators on all night, though I fail to see how charging them stops them doing that?
Sonning Lock our first lock on the Thames today
The recommended moorings were in the shade underneath trees. As the sun was still out, with just a few scattered high clouds, we decided to continue to Henley-on-Thames before dark.
There really were some incredibly swanky homes along this stretch, with people such as Paul Daniels, and Vince Hill living in the vicinity. I'm sure there must be many more famous people around these parts; it's always unbelievable to see how 'the other half' live ...
Beautiful riverside home - or is it just another boat house? Jill holds us steady in the lock
Reaching Shiplake Lock we found two cruisers and a narrowboat coming up who'd been stuck at Marsh lock since 1430hrs (it was around 1830hrs now) due to a lock gate coming off its hinges, so it was fortuitous we didn't get there earlier! I believe things happen for a reason, so if you're stuck in a traffic jam or a train is late, it's best to just chill because you're obviously not meant to get to your destination so quickly. Admittedly it's not always easy to be so pragmatic!
Shiplake Lock - a narowboat leaving after a frustrating wait further down river
This one has it's own 'waka' (Maori name for a large canoe)
Humongous house - along with a narrowboat, we'll have this one please!
Jill and Barry chill at the stern with a gin and tonic and a rum and coke - well it was after 1800hrs by this time!
This house looks like it's out of Disneyland then on past 'The Angel on the Bridge' pub at Henley
We finally moored in the centre of Henley-on-Thames, for £8 a night. Following dinner on board, we went out on the town searching for a pub with some atmosphere, but weren't too hopeful. Those we saw initially had only a handful of folk sitting quietly within, seemingly lacking any resemblance of congenial atmosphere until we happened upon 'The Row Barge', a 16th century traditional pub hidden away, which turned out to be one of the best pubs we've been to this year. Once again it was a person/people who made it so, from Giles the barman to Richard, one of the overnight guests, there to organise the famous 'The Henley Show', taking place the following day.
Time passed so quickly that we didn't realise for a while we were part of a 'lock in', and remained chatting and drinking merrily till 0030hrs, at which time Giles was tired and suggested Barry take his beer with him and keep the glass - he willingly obliged and we strolled happily back to the boat and fell easily into a deep slumber after a very long but memorable day.
Barry chats to some influential locals at 'The Row Barge' lock-in - and the glass filled with beer he got to 'take away!