Monday 3rd October 2016 Monday is a day for a river Cruise. A BIG River Cruise. nb:Black Bart has descended Brentford Gauging Locks, slowing passed house boats lining these Brent waters. Bart gets in the queue behind two already waiting narrowboats. Only ten minutes later, at 3.00pm (almost precisely) Bart & one floating companion cruise into one Brentford Thames Lock. 3rd narrowboat moves into tuther lock. CRT Lock-Keeper very quickly has us swimming into the last stretch of the Grand Union Canal leading nb:Black Bart & river ‘mates’ to
Grand Old Father Thames. Craft all turn sharp right, on a South tack. 3rd narrowboat now in the lead, accelerates away from Bart & lock companion. Care ?? No mate. Bugger Off then. We are Happy to just trog along. Not pushing Lister. Chuggen is the name of today’s swimming of the Wide & Beautiful River Thames.
Glorious !! Absolutely FANTASTIC !!! Aaaarrrggh !!!!
1st Mate (Roxy) doesn’t even sulk any moor when she has to wear her most colourful jacket from her wardrobe. Looking GOOD !! We convoy of (now) two swish past Isleworth Ait. This Wonderful three and a half hectare island in the Thames is one of the London Wildlife Trust’s more unusual reserves and is rarely visited by humans. It is remarkable for its tall canopy of mixed woodland of mainly poplar and willow, rooted on an area of ground that is regularly flooded. The island provides an undisturbed sanctuary for a variety of birds including treecreeper, kingfisher and heron. Among its other important residents are several rare beetles and two rare species of mollusc, the two-lipped door snail and the German hairy snail. Richmond Lock soon follows, although we manage to dodge the chamber as levels are sufficient to swim on by. Our companion is having a tittle trouble. a very large ‘bit’ of tree is caught across their bow & will not leave them alone. Bart slows down to give advise & moral support. The suggested swift changes of direction & varying degrees of ‘revs’ works. Boaty manoeuvres getting a few strange looks from pedestrian’s crossing the bridge above. All OK. Thank goodness. Were considering coming along-side & trying to force the ‘stick’ away. Poor people were nervous enough aboat this tittle jaunt before this obstructional issue. Off we go again…. holding a moor ‘true’ course.
Big rail & road bridges pass overhead, two flower pot islands & then Richmond Ait watch us chug by.
Marvellous Richmond waves to us before Glover’s Ait & Eel Pie Island are ahead of us. Now they is behind us. Eel Pie island has about 50 houses with 120 inhabitants, a couple of boatyards and some small businesses and artists’ studios. It has nature reserves at either end. Twickenham tries to hide behind Eel Pie, but we know she be there. Teddington is already appearing on the horizon. Bit of a shame. It’s only 4.30pm & we two narrowboats are swimming into Teddington ‘launch’ lock. The first pound lock, built by the City of London, opened to river traffic here in 1811 and it was located beneath the steel footbridge by the lock. Due to problems with water levels caused by the removal of the old London Bridge, a new lock was built a short way downstream in 1857 – this is the current ‘launch’ lock. Later in 1904 the huge ‘barge’ lock was built alongside the launch lock. This new lock is a mere 198.12 metres long (650ft) and (as the launch lock), 2.68 metres (8ft 10in) deep.
Dosh is handed over after successfully bartering for a brief Thames license. Thankee lock keeper for raising Bart & Co safely ‘up’ from the tidal flow. Black Bart steams (almost) out of Teddington Launch Lock cruising for not much over ‘alf-n-er. Kingston-upon-Thames is a pleasant location for night indeed. Large chips are hunted for & gathered to enjoy with the simply gorgeous steak pie Skippet has created within the cosy confines of Bart’s Galley. Truly Scrumptious !!
We do like the moorings here. A comfy nights rest is most welcoming after all that excitement & fun !!
Tuesday 4th October The day is slow & relaxed. A wonderful sunny day is warming us nicely. A lovely wooden cruiser has moored behind Bart so Skip is chitty chatting with the Skip. Yes, an-udder one. There be loads of those beasts in this ‘ere waterway world that we crew of three partake. Much is discussed including tings aboat 12v USB sockets/adaptors, modems, batteries & battery management equipment to name but a few. Particular concerns aboat condition of a fairly new domestic battery seem to have been alleviated. Tis late afternoon & Crew decide a Barty swim is called for. Lister awakes, lines slipped & cruise, we all do…….. Leaving Kingston-upon-Thames behind (aft) Bart swims by Surbiton where Raven’s Ait sits mid-channel. The river widens to flow round & past the residential Thames Ditton Island which flushes Bart & crew onto
& through Hampton. On the way, we pass a most famous Palace,
admiring it’s architectural grandeur & amazing array of chimneys. Hampton Court Bridge guides Bart to & up the 6’1″ Molesey Lock which spits crew out & past Ash Island (tree covered & with a boatyard), Tagg’s Island (has a lake with river access and private moorings for big houseboats & surrounded by trees), the smaller Garrick’s Ait (a combination of residential, trees & moorings) & onto (not quite literately) the generously proportioned Platts Eyot (or Ait) (covered in a combo of woodland and light industry). The River Thames certainly has many an island/ait/eyot enjoying it’s flow.
The almost miniature Grand Junction Island (tree-covered with six weekend chalets) & Sunbury Court Island (25 houses & bungalows) are the next to wave Black Bart & crew on their way to & through the 6’2″ Sunbury Lock. Were lucky the Lock keeper was there & ‘processed’ our ascent. Tis almost six & tis getting very dingy. He should have been on his way home. Cheers Mate !!! Chink ! CHINK !! CHINK !!!
Mr. Nice L.Keeper says we can moor at the far end of the lock moorings for the night. Thanks again !! This will do very nicely for a rest of darkness. Skippet is preparing wonders of scrumptiousness while Skip disappears onto the island created between the lock & weir paths of the Thames finding wood. We like wood on Bart. Tis transported back to Base & the bowsaw helps reduce the two ten’ (foot) plus lengths into moor manageable lengths for storage. Will need to be chomped down to squirrel (the fire/stove at Bart’s fore) size later. Time fore a snooze or two bloggets. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed-bugs bight.
Wednesday 5th October We enjoyed yesterday’s early evening cruise of six miles & two Big Wide locks. Today we is getting off early (in boaty/Barty terms). We wave to our very helpful Mr. NL Keeper as he returns to work on his bike. Bart, Lister & friends have been prep-ed for a fair old jaunt. Off We Go…. Walton-on-Thames is soon behind us as we dodge the curvaceous Shepperton flows using Desborough Cut (dug between 1930 and 1935) D’Oyly Carte Island (woodland surrounding Eyot House) presides
just before the watery junction with the River Wey where Cap’n Bart Aaaarrrggh !! commands we ascend the 6’8″ Shepperton Lock. We do what we is told. Sum-tyms. Pharaoh’s Island (14 homes with individual moorings) splits the river just roand the corner, before we make our very wibberly wobberly way what is technically called a very curvy wurvy flow. Skippet doubles up as volunteer lock keeper extraordinaire to guide Bart’s 4’0″ ascent of Chertsey Lock. The first of several where there be no ‘pros’. Doesn’t matter. Skippet is a Pro !! A moor gentle snake like flows our craft through Laleham & 4’0″ Penton Hook Lock. (Seaman) Staines keeps a watchful eye or two as we cruise on through, passing the small inhabited Church island, sneaking under the fat M25 & into Bell Weir Lock. Now here there be a ‘pro’ lock keeper. Not the most talkative or friendliest of chaps. Talking to other boaters shows it is not just us. We think he pushed the ‘SUPER-FAST’ lock fill option, trying to sink or at least bash Bart against the lock walls. We struggled to keep Bart’s lines secure. Maybe he doesn’t like narrowboats. Maybe has just doesn’t like people. In the wrong job ‘mate’. Moron !!
We escape in ‘one piece’ & make for the 5’9″ Old Windsor Lock, via Magna Carta Island (supposedly one of several contenders for being the place where, in 1215, King John sealed the Magna Carta). Friary Island (inhabited, with aboat 40 houses) guides us to the lock where we join nb:Unruffled. Haven’t seen a co Yelvertoftian for ages. Howdy Folks. Great to see you too !! Lock companions jaunt along ‘New Cut’, passing under Albert Bridge
& give our Queen a BIG Wave
as we quietly swish by a most Royal of Palaces.
The Thames locks vary in size. They are all BIG. The 6’7″ Romney Lock is VERY BIG. You could fit loads-o-Barts. We convoy of two are soon up & cruising along the next level passing by Windsor to the South & Eton to the North. Posh roand ‘ere Mate. We make it past the racing horses before raising 4’10” in Boveney Lock. We is not long moored opposite Bush Ait, behind Unruffled. Mad. It has been very windy today. Pleased to be finally rested for the evening & dark hours. We have ‘leaped’ seven BIG WIDE Locks & swam/swum (what ever you like) for eight ‘ers covering nineteen miles today. We is in early stages of recovery when new neighbours land behind Bart.
A Proper boat. ‘Daybreak’ is a fully rigged Humber keel. A Beast !!!
A Fantastic sailing Barge for her owners of almost forty years. Most Impressive !!!
Thursday 6th October
Daybreak is off to Teddington. Black Bart is off to where we does not know. Yet. Lister chuggen, warming up. Fore & aft lines slipped. nb:Black Bart is off on a cruise, leaving the still moored nb:Unruffled behind. We have meandered for aboat eight furlongs when we whizz by Queens Eyot (became property of Eton College in 1923 on a ninety-nine years lease from Colonel Victor Van de Weyer) & Monkey Island (which after an interesting history is now home to a hotel). “Eyot” is old English word and is the definition given to a small island or islet mostly found in rivers, and is pronounced ‘eight’.
Having ducked under the M4 we is arising a lowly 4’9″ in Bray Lock, before swishing by Bray island & four further (unknown) islands which lead Bart to & up a (Massive) (not really) 7’10” Boulter’s Lock. This chamber has fed us into Cliveden Reach, home of Bavin’s Gulls or Sloe Grove Islands (a group of four wooded islands nestling in the shadow of the Cliveden Estate). The Long but relatively shallow 4’3″ Cookham Lock soonest is here, leaping Cap’n Bart Aaaarrrggh !!! & his crew high enough to continue on their way via the big swishes of Cookham & Bourne End where we do not suffer last year’s game of dodging sailing dinghies tacking right across our bow & nearly get themselves hit broadside. Amazing to sum that 24+ tonnes of narrowboat can’t stop at the ‘flick of a switch’ or the ‘pump of a brake pedal’. Strange that !!! Gibraltar Island (of which there are two house a few dwellings including the 2014 ‘Grand Designs’ Floating House which is ‘secured’ by four dolphins arranged close up to the sidewalls).
One has to comment on the most strangest of creatures & characters one meets whilst ‘playing aboat on the river’. Not sure where the gondolier has disappeared to though. Think he remembered to stand up when he/she fell in , but tis quite deep here, so probably didn’t help much. Cannee see any bubbles Cap’n. Aaaarrrggh !!! Too late. Cap’n Bart commands craft & crew to continue on our quest…..
We the crew of three & our reliable steed are soon climbing the 7’1″ Marlow Lock & passing a Most Impressively Large Weir. We slosh by the Delightful Marlow before climbing 4’1″ Temple Lock & Only just roand the corner (almost), the baby 3’5″ Hurley Lock. Old pals (nb:Ziggy) from our River Trent experience last year are traveling the other way, towards Old London Town. Quick ‘passing through’ chat ensues. Then we is on our way again. These locks just keep-a-coming. & most of them with-out lock keepers. Lucky we have our only very experienced Lock Keeper Extraordinaire on board to ‘step into the breach’. Black Boy Island (and the adjacent Frog Mill Ait presented a problem to navigation because the towpath was on the other side of the island from the main navigation channel. Hence tow lines had to sweep over the islands, often with the result that barges were pulled onto the shore) leads us safely onto (not literally) & past Magpie Island (a typically green & tree covered plot) which marks the last few furlongs swim to the 4’9″ Hambleden Lock, which is luckily long enough to allow Bart an’udder like sized narrowboat to sneak in behind the Monster that be the Magna Carta Hotel Barge. We all swish roand to port & straighten up to swim by Temple Island (lies at the start of the course for Henley Royal Regatta & includes an extravagant fishing lodge designed by the english architect James Wyatt, constructed in 1771) & along the wide straight course to a famous rowing town where the river guides us through the central of five arches that date from (1786) the most recent Henley Bridge. Rod Eyot (populated with ten chalets and a brick cottage) almost in the shadow of the old (new) stone bridge invites us over to the ‘main land’ to check out visitor moorings. Tis getting dingy & will be dark within the ‘er. £10 a night. We’re Not paying that. Blooming cheek. We motor away from the costly berth & rejoin our recent lock companion to nip up a mere 4’4″ of the wee Marsh Lock. The wooded, green lands that be Ferry, Poplar & handbuck Eyots are swiftly dealt with enroute to our chosen free mooring at Lower Shiplake. Just aboat squeeze into a tight leafy ‘spot’. Two sturdy looking trees is very ‘andy for(e) & stern lines. Crew needs to chill. That were eight BIG WIDE Locks & chuggen for an-udder eight ‘ers covering twenty two miles. We is just a tittle ty-red. Ciao (for now).
Friday 7th October For ‘eavens skip. K-Nacker-ed. Can’t we ‘ave just a bit of a rest. Just a tittle one. Please ?? OK. We enjoy a slightly slower start to the day, but only very slightly.
Sorry crew !! Need to ‘get-on’. An ‘Unnamed’ wooded Eyot hardly separates us from our first (5’1″) Shiplake Lock. There be even moor soon after, being Phillimore Island, The Lynch (a strange one), Hallsmead Ait & Buck Ait. Lovely. Just moor trees. Lovely (again). We are enjoying moor & moor curvy meandering as we cruise the delightfully wonderful River Thames. Yes it is. Nothing like the waters flowing through central London. Even though those ripples are special in their own way. Just not for Bart World.
Hey. Skip. Can I come down now Please ?? Getting a bit dizzy up ‘ere Cap’n.
Love the swans & the (not canada) geese. A medium 5’4″ Sonning Lock (by sonning Eye) lifts us to the final run-in
to Reading via View & Heron Islands where a (paid) (not true, unpaid volunteer actually) lock-keeper (Yeh !!) operates the 4’9″ Caversham Lock. Fry’s Island, Pipers Island, St. Mary’s Island, Appletree Eyot, Poplar Island (many a tree witnessed) slowly disappear behind us & we eventually arrive & make a successful entry in preparation for 6’9″ watery lift that be Mapledurham Lock. We is sharing with an’udder nb & now, having just arrived in time, very sensible, careful newbies who is not sure there be enough room for their hired fat plastic cruiser. We encourage them to come in & join us. Most impressed they don’t have the moor typical ‘gun-ho’ blind confidence approach that some have, which only causes problems, at best.
Who dat dere ??
After gently cruising in & secured fore & aft (as is standard practise in these locks) we is arising Sir Lock. We recon it were aboat sixteen moor furlongs & Bart & lock companions with the aid of the most nicest of Lock Keepers (who actually lives in the lock keeper’s cottage) (How Fantastic, but unfortunately very unusual in this age) aids our safe passage (no that’s not the stern passage) up 3’4″ & through Whitchurch Lock.
Cheers Mate !!!
Only a few ‘ers later & Cap’n Bart has “Had Enough”. Secure the lines crew do. Only the crew of two do.
1st mate just want to play ball as is her usual request (if it not be ‘the stick’) upon our arrival at a new berth-de-la-moor. It be sum-wear called Beale Park. Very nice. That were just five BIG WIDE Locks, chuggen for six ‘ers & only swimming fifteen miles today. Arrivederci…..
Saturday 8th October Sabato it be. That’s Italiano to sum. Caio. Come-stai ?? We is not staying for the fishing competition that be aboat to start ‘ere at the park so we is making a break for it. As per Cap’n Black Bart’s orders, Lister sets a fast (for us) pace.
Do like the old train bridges. No Choo Choo’s crossing our river path today though.
Only a couple of sailing dinghies criss crossing our path today. easy peasy !!!
We Is Cruising !! Goring Lock lifts our team 5’10” and we is on our very (all relative folks) speedy way again. Delays ensue at the very close, next Cleeve Lock. All 2’3″ of it. That’s water height/level change, not length or width. Silly Billies. Bart wouldn’t fit in there if that were the case. Many udders wouldn’t fit either. Newbies. A couple unsure how to negotiate their first ever lock in their hired boat are lock keeper-ed by Bart’s very own resident expert. A Fine job indeed !! We is steaming (almost) the next nigh-on fifty furlongs. Yes. Blooming miles of it mate. Smoking…..
On our swim towards Wallingford the Rowers are out. Loads of ’em. singles, two, fours & eights. Lost count how many crew are out. Buoy those eight’s are Super Fast. Absolutely flying. You have to try & stay just right of centre channel to allow crews rowing past in both directions & oncoming boats (in difficult positions on a couple of occasions), keeping an eye to the fore & an eye aft all the time. Glad Bart managed to stay out of trouble & not make any trouble for all these other river peoples. That was interesting for an ‘er or so. Can relax now we have escaped their rather long rowing practise course.
Smoking. Again. Speed & from the fore chimney too. Yes we have two, but only the fore is smoking for now. Benson Lock floods Bart to a higher (6’2″) level where we continue our river (fast-ish) progress even allowing for the Shillingford Wiggerlies. Popping down to Dorset, we skip roand Dorchester using all 5’2″ of Days Lock to leap a tittle higher.
Clifton Hampden. One of many different styles of Thames bridges to enjoy.
Clifton Lock’s 5’3″ is a fair while later, leading us into Clifton Cut which bypasses a moor torturous, older watery path & aboat an ‘er we have arisen our final 7’11” (a pretty big one) Culham Lock for today’s cruise. As we is filling the old aqua-tub moor newbies arrive & assistance is offered & welcomed, in the art of Big Thames lock negotiation, in the upward sense. We trust your journey was a relaxing, enjoyable one & all the crew wish you a comfortable & pleasant onward travel….. to where ever you final destination is or may be. Who knows ?? Who cares ??? We might. We might not. That is for you to wonder. If your bovered… Bovered Mate ?? No me neiver. As Bart is speeding up to whizz along Culham cut we be spying wood. Quick, drop the revs Lister. Change gear & Bart reverses before pulling the bow gently unto a tree. Crew transfers a few bits of wood onta’ roof & we is off again. Last part of today’s chuggen jaunt & we have arrived in Abingdon, having passed Nag’s Head Island (which sits in the middle of the two Abingdon Bridges) & to the Great moorings for visiting boats of all shapes & sizes & lovely town to-boot. We are actually berthed ‘on’ Andersey Island (created by a division the river between the main navigation channel and the ‘Swift Ditch’ backwater which used to be the main course of the Thames until navigation was diverted to Abingdon, it be one of the largest islands on the Thames at 273 acres). Tis a Lovely Place to ‘hole-up’. Today it were six BIG WIDE Locks & chuggen for an-udder eight ‘ers covering twenty three miles & assisting newbies at different locks. OH ! MY !! GAUD !!! We Cannee Take much moor of this Cap’n !!!!
Sunday 9th October Sunday is a day of rest, relaxation & recovery. At least, this Sunday is. The first in weeks. Lost count of how many miles, how many locks & how many hours we have been swishing along the Wonderful River Thames. Cap’n Black Bart is a kind fella indeed. Aaaarrrggh !!! Late start followed by eggs & soldiers. Yummy !! Haven’t had our staple Sunday morning diet for ages. Don’t know what’s been going on. We have a wander into the splendid town of Abingdon to check a few tings our & make sum important acquisitions. Later on out comes the bow saw & a wee bit of chippy chopping goes on. Need to prep some of the wood-stock as old squirrel (the fore’s stove) can become a hungry beast now the chilly nights are drawing in. Time to cosy up for the night.
Monday 10th October Monday is to be our last day on the River Thames in this the year of 2016. Cap’n Bart gets us all up early including Old Lister & friends.
We is on our way, leaping (almost) up all 6’2″ of Abingdon Lock & making our way, leaving the bears behind. We are amazed to see a
Kingfisher flying about & not hiding, landing on surrounding trees as we is chuggen through the water. Have only occasionally seen these wonderful tittle birds whizz by Bart & disappear long before the camera can even be turned on. Not today. Photographs do not do this colourful creature justice. At least we managed to record his/her existence. Somethings just make our day. One of those magic moments in Bart World. The densely tree covered Lock Wood Island (presides on the reach above Abingdon Lock, just downstream of Nuneham House) takes us onto the pleasantly quiet (free of many possible rowing crews & their sleek craft) waters of Radley. This moor straight(ish) flow guides
Bart & crew all the way to the MASSIVE (Yes, is a Large chamber this one) 8’10” Sandford Lock. We are joined by an’udder crew & their craft. This is a lovely big lock, as the water comes in from underneath, along the full length of the chamber, rather than rushing in from the upper gate sluices &/or ground paddles. Muchly H2O rushes in filling the chamber very quickly but our steeds hardly move aboat. Usually, you are playing with the fore & aft ropes trying to keep things in control as the turbulent waters try to shift your craft aboat all over the place. Much moor pleasant this one. Fiddler’s Elbow Island (largest of a set of islands upstream of our recent not insignificant water lift) & (the unusually tree covered) Rose Isle following quickly, help Bart negotiate a few wriggly sections of
flow which take us to the almost dinky 2’9″ Iffley Lock where our passage is aided by one them rare beasts. A Lock Keeper. Not seen many of ’em on this trip.
We the crew of three
(from Bart World)
make safe rower-free passage
through calm waters of
college rowing clubs
(unusually silent today)
to Folly Bridge Island
Our last few furlongs of Thames famous ripples continue to wriggle aboat as we make pleasantly steady progress to a tallish 6’3″ Osney Lock. Our last lock of this river experience. Safely ascended with Skippets exemplary lock keeper skills administered Cap’n Bart comments lines be secured
as we moor along side East Street ‘on’ Osney Island (surrounded by the River Thames, Osney Ditch and another backwater connecting the Thames to Osney Ditch). After a most enjoyable meet with a boaty friend from the local & some shopping for grubs we enjoy the afternoon sun. Tis late afternoon & we decide to make the brief swim off the River Thames from our current berth, via Oxford Junction, under the very low railway bridge, sharp turn left & prepare to ascend the narrow & aptly named Isis Lock. Goodbye old Father Thames. Sad to see you go, but We Will Definitely Be Back……
Black Bart has cruised West/North-West, to Oxford from Brentford Junction, swimming 100 miles of the River Thames crawling through absolutely no tunnels, ascending 33 BIG Long Wide lock chambers (& dodging one), Swimming by too many aits/eyots/islands to remember, sailing over no strange channels called aqueducts (we think), swimming along embankments (not really sure aboat that), through numerous cuttings (or that either) & Swimming (mostly) fastly, but carefully under 68 bridges.