Saturday 26th April
Today has been all about Red and Yellow boards. There has been less rain than yesterday, but that which bucketed it down last evening and in the early hours has added to the flow down stream. I have never seen the Thames so high when we’ve been on it.
The morning started nice and sunny and we spotted these geese and goslings up in the field near last night’s mooring, eating the grass. As we passed Culham House, just before ‘Flower Pot’ jetty at Aston, I spotted what appears to be a door into the hillside – any-one got a clue what it’s for? The house itself doesn’t look old enough to have an Ice House. Narrowboat One Moore was spotted tied to the jetty.
At Hambledon lock we met our first Red board. We discussed stopping at Henley but decided to continue to Marsh lock before making the final decision. We had not experienced many issues as we were heading upstream which is the easier direction to travel. A check on the EA website showed that it was only the stretch between Hambledon and Marsh that was Red. This sighting of Midsomer Maiden in Henley shows that we are getting closer to home. When we got to Marsh the lockie said that the next section had just gone to Red but the one after was still on Yellow.
At Shiplake lock they were awaiting the arrival of “two southbound large boats who will be held here until pilots arrive to take them downstream” The campsite at Shiplake was a very sorry site (sic). We’ve never seen it un-occupied before. Considering that Easter has just gone and May day on the horizon, there was only one tent left standing and the bases of others were being repaired. We have seen a lot of evidence of the damage done by the winter rains on this transit. Wrecked homes, trashed gardens, damaged moorings, splintered boats and fields still under water. A little extra dredging and some ditch maintenance really would not have avoided all of it.
At Sonning lock they were refusing passage to craft heading downstream. A large hotel boat, possibly one of the two mentioned at Shiplake, decided to turn round and head back upstream at Sonning.
Two elderly gentlemen in a small Sea Otter told us they were just off to the Grand Union. It was not what they said but the way it was said that made us believe they thought they’d get there by Sunday teatime. Brenda said that they may not be “just popping” to the Grand Union so they turned back leaving a single hander to sit it out on the lock landing and wait. He had fully understood Brenda’s description of the cross currents at Shepperton Lock earlier in the week.
We were told by the single hander that the K&A was now closed to new traffic so what to do? I phoned Thames and Kennet marina to enquire a 7 day mooring cost for a 62’ boat, no services needed - £175. Ouch. I then rang Better Boating to see what it would cost there - £124 plus VAT to hang on the outside of another boat. Sheesh! So we ended up mooring up outside Tesco at Reading tied to trees again.
The latest news is that all sections from London to Abingdon are now on Red boards so we’ll think about plan B or C tonight.