Sunday, 12 April 2009

To Cliveden Deep

Sunday 12th April 2009

The Thames lock keepers start at 9:00 am in April, although you can operate the locks yourself out of their working hours. We knew that we were nearly an hour from the next lock downstream, so set off soon after 8:00. Yet again it was drizzling as we set off. A couple of miles after our start I spotted something in the river ahead of us – it was a fully grown female red deer, swimming across the Thames. It reached the left bank as we drew level with it, and it scrambled out of the water and disappeared into the undergrowth.
Soon after that we saw field after field of some kind of south American quadruped in shades varying from nearly black through brown and cream to almost white. I think that they were alpacas, and so I assume that they being breed for their wool.

We kept on all day without a break, passing through pleasant, historic looking towns, past marinas, boat parks and boat yards. Once again there were rowers out – rowing eights usually accompanied by a man on a motorised tea tray with a megaphone. Always the eights are athletic young women – do the men not need to train? At one point I saw a double kayak slowly gaining on us from behind. When I first spotted them they were some distance behind, little more than a dot on the river, but round every bend, along the straights they kept behind, slowly getting closer and closer. When they eventually passed me on the inside of a bend I was astounded to see that the canoeists (kayakers?) were a woman and a man, both of whom were quite a bit older than me.

Henley was amazing, the regatta is not until the summer, but you feel that the whole of the town is geared up to nothing else, everything is just waiting until that point.

Passing Temple Island

The display of wealth and property has been far more obvious as we have moved downstream, the houses have become more and more ostentatious, as have the boat houses. Today there have also been far more, and far larger, boats around than previously. That may be partly because today is Easter Sunday, but it is doubtless also that we have been moving more into the moneyed areas. The day has been characterised by sharing of locks, mostly with large plastic cruisers. The lock keepers have been very efficient at packing the boats in, and contrary to the colourful characters that we met yesterday, there has been far more conformity between them – only one stands out from the others in my memory. Are the idiosyncratic lock keepers confined to the upper reaches of the river, or do the upper reaches create more colourful lock keepers?

Above Hurley lock we passed a meadow where I had a good go at drowning my future husband nearly 30 years ago. A group of family, friends and some work colleagues had gone for a picnic there, we all got very drunk and were swimming and messing about in a couple of inflatable boats. Alan pulled the cork (sic!) out of the inflatable that I was paddling about in, so it promptly sank - so my brother and I threw him in the Thames and sat on him. I didn't know then that he was not a competent swimmer - or really much of a swimmer at all - and it was only later that he confessed how terrified he had been. I should add that I did teach him to swim some years later.

Entering Cliveden Deep

We eventually moored in Cliveden Deep, just north of Maidenhead. Finding a mooring on the Thames is not as easy as on the canals, as the moorings get filled fairly early in the day. As we saw some good moorings, leaving it to the next possible place might have left us with nowhere to moor.

We are now moored about 16 miles from our home as the crow flies - the closest we got today was about 14 miles from home.

Miles: 33.9; Locks: 11

Total Distance: 177.5 ; Total locks: 106

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