Saturday, 28 November 2009

Thames Raid Day 4

Day 4 dawned, there was a fine mist rising from the water, drifting across from the weir, which made everything seem etheriel. People rose, took their turn with the loo key and quietly made their preparations to move on.
Its worth noting that during this entire cruise there was very little discussion. There was talking, chat humour, banter, all that stuff, but there was almost no discussion. No debates about what, when, where, would be best and what if? No bloody what-if's! No risk assessment no planning no schedules no time-lines.
People just quietly got on with it. They were independent. No-one forgot their tin opener. If there was a problem it was solved, if someone needed some help they got it, very quietly and with no fuss.
We moved on. Down under the bridge at Abingdon and away.

Another glorious day, this is Middle England at its best and that's something coming from a Scot. We spread out, by now the whole group were in a rythme. The early-birds got away and soon spread out. We didn't wait for each other at locks, if you were in sight the lock keeper would probably wait, if not, you got the next one. The ZZZd s came along behind, sometimes caught up most times didn't. Nobody bothered we just rolled along.

This section of the river is very up-market. The Houses with their rolling lawns down to the waterside looked beautiful and expensive. The view from the river is more than slightly marred by the "NO MOORING" signs. An Englishman's home is indeed his castle and the Thames hereabouts is his moat. The boats also tend to be in the higher price bracket. Once down below the lower bridges the boats get bigger with flying bridges, and all sorts of of equipment better suited to off shore cruising. I'm left wondering how many ever actully make it out into the tidal reaches of the Thames Estuary.

There's a bit of a dearth of decent pubs along this stretch, I got all excited when I eventually saw the Shillingford Bridge Hotel looming majestically in sight, hoping that the front runners had done the decent thing and stopped for a pint. However as I got closer it was plain that this was yet another place which had shunned the casual river traveller. The high steel pilings along the bank made landing impossible, onward ever onward.
With no decent watering holes the group had pressed on into Wallingford, our stopping point for the night. Theres a little beach in the park just under the bridge and we gathered there.

We had been invited to spend the night at Chris P (S) 's rellies who own a waterfront property with enough space to let us all camp. We'd arrived in Wallingford just after lunchtime which seemed more than a trifle early for polite company so we wiled away the afternoon, above you can see Chris IV having a kip under a tree in the ever versatile Octavia.
Just above the bridge there is yet another waterside pub in an idillic position, needless to say its a mega chain selling plastic beer and food at inflated prices. It also had NO MOORING signs along its water frontage. I don't get it.

Chris P (S) headed down to his rellies to prepare them for the onslaught of twelve or so smelly boaters and one large dog. Some were beginning to get worried that they would take one look at us and put up the Private Keep Off signs. Contingency plans were being hatched.

Slowly, one by one, almost by stealth we slipped down the river and pulled our boats up their slipway.
The Water Gypsy encampment was erected with the minimum of fuss, the early arrivals bagging the best waterside pitches. I for one felt a bit like a trespasser, waiting for the gamekeeper with the shot-gun to appear.

It goes without saying that we were made very welcome.

Not only did they provide almost limitless hot water but they also put on a fantastic BBQ.
In the late afternoon we got chatting over the fence to a lovely lady who showed lots of interest in our trip and seemed to know that we were heading to Beale Park. It slowly dawned that I recognised her face, this was Kathy Mansfield, world famous boaty photographer, who happened to live close by.
Kathy, possibly taking pity on her neighbours as much as our group promptly offered the services of her bathroom to the long queue of rather smelly boaters who by this time were standing around hopefully clutching wash-bags and towels.

Here she is clutching that camera and trying not to get too close.

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