Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Hampton Court

Today's Navigations : Wey Navigation and River Thames

The forecast strong winds were already in full force by the time we were ready to depart. Nevertheless, it was a bright sunny day making everything look cheerful!

The wind did not make too much difficulty along the Wey navigation - actually most of the remaining section is an artificial cut, up as far as Town Lock.

West Hall retirement home we noted on the way up last week but it still looks incongruous with the ultra modern structures alongside the old hall. Strong fences and thick shrubs suggest that they want to keep river folk at bay. The pictures on the web site of the accommodation inside look rather splendid!

Our plans to go up the Basingstoke were finally abandoned as we sailed past the start at Woodham Junction.

Immediately afterwards we went under the huge M25 viaduct. Some of the graffiti must have taken some effort and not a little skill to create.

As we approached New Haw Lock a small cruiser came up behind us and shared the lock. They were not over talkative. Christine popped to the nearby shops for a newspaper whilst Mike operated the lock. Although Christine returned almost as soon as the lock was empty, we let the cruiser go ahead, but it was not a long section to Coxes Lock.

We were more than a little surprised to see the boat ahead shutting the top gates just as we were approaching and they made no attempt to let us in. Conversation was even less on the agenda! Coxes Mill did, however, look very splendid against the bright blue sky.

We successfully emerged from the narrow entrance to Town Lock and then avoided the pile driving work boats close to the new road bridge.

At Thames Lock, the end of the Wey Navigation, we bade farewell to Mandy, the friendly and helpful lock keeper (her husband was also helping today as their small child was being looked after by grandmother!). There was just enough water over the cill so that she did not have to operate the pound lock for us.

By now the wind was rather strong so we stopped on the moorings below Shepperton Lock at the junction and had an extended lunch break. The forecast suggested that the wind speed would reduce by mid afternoon and by 3.30 we felt that it was safe enough to give it a go. If it proved too difficult there were several good moorings we had noted on the way up but our aim was to reach Hampton Court for the night.

As we waited, Christine spotted the sign on a bench just outside the boat and insisted that an appropriate photo be taken! Just in case you cannot read it, a close up . . .

Mostly the wind was coming from behind us, adding to the good speed we were making down river. Occasionally a more exposed stretch led to gusts being quite feisty - once or twice the boat had a distinct heel over to starboard!

The first experience was as we came out of the more sheltered Desborough Cut into the wide expanse at Walton bridge.

But steering was not especially difficult and at the two locks the landing were on the down wind side making the approach easier.

Hampton Ferry and Church are shortly before the second lock. At this point some very dark clouds arrived and it seemed that we would have a sharp shower before they passed. However, apart from a few drops it remained dry and once the clouds had passed over bright skies returned for the evening.

Almost choppy on the landing above Molesley Lock. As we waited for the lock to fill we took advantage of the sani station alongside.

As we waited for the lock to empty, Christine managed to take a photo of a pretend
paddle steamer as it arrived at the landing stage just below the adjacent road bridge - and then it turned to go back downstream again.

The approach to the moorings at Hampton Court was not easy. There was plenty of space and Mike made for the first part of the landing but came in at too sharp an angle and the speed of the water dragged the boat too close to the small cruiser moored just below.

So, he backed off to make a fresh approach but as he did so a trip boat came upstream at full tilt, not looking as if it intended to allow for our manoeuvre! Hence we had to come in a bit sooner than was optimum. Although we did come alongside where intended to, the bow did bump a little harder than we should have done! Still, we are here now.

As dusk gathered, Christine took a walk along the towpath to see the gates and fence being restored - a before and after shot.

The clear sky meant that we had a good sunset.

10.6 miles - 7 locks

Monday, 30 March 2015


Today's Navigation - Wey Navigation

The day began quite bright with plenty of blue sky but sadly this did not last long and by mid morning it was overcast and remained that way all day. But at least we kept dry.

Mike walked into town to pick up a paper. On the way back he discovered that the busy road close to the river, Millpool Road, was only built in 1961.Before that the main road south was along Quarry Street, which runs at a slightly higher level. At the town end stand St Mary's Church, parts of which are pre-Norman. At one stage it was a bit longer than it is now and the end of the chancel jutted out into the road - or perhaps the road and houses developed leaving a narrow way. It is said that George IV objected to delays on his way from Windsor to Brighton and the church was shortened for his benefit!

We set off, through Millmead Lock alongside the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, but initially only for the short distance back to Dupdune Wharf as we really needed the services. It turned out that the reason that Godalming services are locked is becuse of a problem somewhere along the pipe that pumps out from a septic tank, underneath Sainsbury's car park for 200 metres. As yet they have not been able to locate the leak.

Whilst Mike sorted out the boat, Christine walked to the nearby shop for some more milk - just in case.

As a result it was midday before we set off once again - by now the grey sky had arrived as this photo of the wharf left behind us shows.

At Stoke bridge there is an impressive former mill building - now home to the Surrey Advertiser. The navigation takes a sharp left at this point and the direction only appears at the last moment - the route under the bridge in the photo only goes to a weir. We passed through Stoke Lock but pulled into the layby/mooring just above the next lock to have lunch.

Below Bower's Lock is a sharp bend but the steerer's problem is the flow of water actually pushes boats away from the lock landing just below the lock. As a result, Christine had to walk around to another landing on the opposite bank.

The rest of the cruise was uneventful and, as it was so overcast, there are few interesting photos - we did not spot anything special that we missed on the way up.

We phoned Pyrford Marina to see if their chandlery stocked replacement gas cylinders for Mike's lifejacket but they shut at 4.30. We reached the lock just before the marine at 4.20 so Christine quickly set off and caught them just before they closed. Although they made every effort to fit a replacement, it seems that there are just too many different types!

By now there was a threat of rain so we looked for a mooring not long after - as with a lot of the river, the banks look very inviting for a mooring but much of it is shallow. As we did not want to push on past Woodham Junction (it is a bit built up around that stretch) we settled for a quiet location but having to deploy the gangplank once more.

From here our original plans have fallen apart as the Basingstoke Canal has lock stoppages until Wednesday. We have made enquiries and it is possible that we will go down the Thames to Limehouse, rather than turn through Brentford where we came through earlier in this trip. However, we shall have to see what the weather does as very strong winds are forecast for tomorrow which may limit how far we get beyond the end of the Wey Navigation at Shepperton Lock.

11.3 miles - 7 locks

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Guildford Cathedral

Today's Navigation - Going Nowhere

The clocks went forward last night so we were short of an hour's sleep! This was accentuated by the fact that we were quite late back from the theatre last night and then dallied about getting to bed.

As forecast, the weather today has been wet but the rain has never been very hard. It was not enough to deter us from our plan to visit the cathedral on the hill above the town. It took about half an hour to walk - there are no suitable bus routes.

On the way we spotted a sculpture depicting Alice and the White Rabbit. Lewis Carroll lived much of his later life in Guildford and is buried here.

It was a traditional service for Palm Sunday, including a procession around the cathedral (thankfully around the inside of the church as it was both windy and wet outside at the time! we also had the long Passion narrative gospel, sung to a setting by John Sanders. There was quite a substantial congregation.

Afterwards we walked back down the hill - rather easier than coming up! (The last part of the climb was a steep path and steps!) We stopped off to pick up some more milk and then Christine wanted to spend a £5 loyalty voucher for Debenhams - which she did by making a purchase of £9!

That's it for today - the rest was spent lazily on the boat, having lunch, doing very little and then preparing for roast beef dinner!

Our main challenge now is to re-plan the remainder of our trip. The Basingstoke is still reported as shut until 1st April which would leave us very little time to explore other than the first flight of locks and return.

So, dear reader, if you want to know what we decided (so would we!) you will just have to follow the next few blogs.

0 miles - 0 locks.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Back to Guildford

Today's Navigation : Godalming

We only planned to return to Guildford today, not much more than a couple of hours cruising so there was no need for an early departure! It took until mid mornings before we were ready to do our weekend shopping - we are not sure when we will next be able to find a supermarket.

Although we moved across to the wharf to be next to Sainsbury's car park, we first walked into the town centre. It is a very pleasant little high street with a lot of small shops. Also today there was a small market.

We were tempted by some of the offerings from the stalls but then found most of what we needed at Sainsbury (this is the down market supermarket for Godalming - the other one is Waitrose!)

Another sign of the cultural context was this sign outside a pub at the end of the high street. Looking in the estate agent windows, it seems that a fairly modest house on the town starts at around £0.5 million.

The sanitary station on the town wharf was not accessible. Although our BWB Watermate fitted the main lock, it was also fastened by another lock which we could not open. Just as well we are not desperate as even the water point was inside.

We set off and passed through Catteshall Lock but stopped for lunch on the approach to the next lock. Another portion of the latest soup as well as one of the loaves we bought yesterday.

On again and there were only two locks before we arrived at the Meadows south of Guildford town centre.On the proper river sections, speed downstream seemed almost out of control. Fortunately we had been under the lowest bridge on the way up, with just about 100mm clearance so it was not as worrying as if this was our first passage! Controlling the boat to a slow speed was not really a possibility!

There were some young families at St Catherine's Sands today but they did not look very warm!

We opted to moor at the Meadows for the night rather than return to Dapdune Wharf, at least for a change but also because it is a little closer to the theatre.

Alas the show, which Christine favoured, was sold out. It was in the Mill Studio which only has a small performance space. The other option was at the Electric Theatre, a play called Blue Stockings. It was almost sold out but we did manage to secure a couple of tickets which we will pick up when we arrive.

The theatre was built in the space once occupied by the town's electricity station and is mainly used by various amateur arts groups - in tonight's case the Guildbury Players, a group originally formed in 1963. It seats around 180 people and even though we were on the very back row we could see and hear as well as anywhere else.

It proved to be an excellent production and the play itself is very new, first performed at the Globe Theatre in 2013 was written, as a first play, by Jessica Swale. It dramatises the circumstances, in 1896, of the earliest women seeking to graduate - this group all attended Girton when there was almost total prejudice against women being educated. A snippet from a lecture by Dr Henry Maudsley, founder of the famous Maudsley Hospital, set the tone right from the outset. It as a striking reminder of what had to be achieved in the past century but there was much in the script that has resonances for today, not just in relation to the opportunities for women. The ability of a ruling class to dictate a way of life for all others has perhaps changed little.

4.5 miles - 3 locks

Friday, 27 March 2015


Today's Navigation - Wey and Godalming Navigations

We made a very slow start to the day! By the time we returned from the theatre last night there was not really time to write up the blog so that was the first step. We also used the usual facilities but also had a little more of a look at the displays around the wharf. For £3.75 standard admission, we would have been a bit disappointed. There is not a lot to see and several of the displays are very dated and not always working as indicated.

The restored barge was brought back after having been found rotting away when the National trust took over the navigation. It gives some idea of how much larger they were than the traditional working narrow boat. From this displays it seems that families did not live aboard and the tiny cabin (probably large in comparison with a narrow boat!) had a large range, lots of small cupboards to stow things away and two benches with flip down backs that turned them into bunks. A crew of two would take the barge down to London where it would either deliver or collect cargo and then return a few days later.

The rudder seems huge but it does have a long tiller arm but even so it must have taken some effort to steer in a strong current or around a sharp bend.

Just about 11 o'clock we eventually cast off but only went the short distance to the visitor mooring in the centre of town. We tied up once more and set off do to some shopping. The supermarkets in the centre are all 'Local' types with limited and often expensive stock. However, Christine did spot a specialist bread stall where we snapped up two different loaves, a pork pie, a savoury, an almond croissant and a Danish pastry. Oh, and at the last minute Christine was tempted to add a luxurious chocolate slice to the list!

Back at the boat we had lunch before setting off once more, just over two hours after we arrived.

The former electricity works have now been converted into the Electric Theatre - oddly part of the Mill Studio part of the Yvonne Arnaud has recently added a hydroelectric turbine to generate from the weir stream that still flows underneath.

A picture of the Town Wharf from the river - here we could see why it is not suitable for mooring as there is a large sign indicating an underwater obstruction. The new building over the road is described by the National Trust as being unsympathetic to its heritage site! Despite their opposition it was nevertheless approved by the planners. Perhaps there was no other way of fitting in the widened road which carries a lot of traffic.

A view of the Yvonne Arnaud theatre from the river, just approaching Millmead Lock.

According to Nicholsons, St Catherine's Sands is 'popular with children in warm school holidays' but was quiet today. We were not sure whether the sign was a warning or an invitation!

The flat flood plain certainly helps to create a scenic route as the river meanders from lock to lock.

At the next lock we had a good chat with the lengthsman who was tidying up the lock area ready for the season (all the gate painting seems now to have been done as we found 'wet paint' signs everywhere!) He has worked on this navigation for 40 years. Just before leaving, Mike wanted to take his usual photos but the camera battery ran out as he did so. He quickly went inside and changed to a new one but in his haste scraped his head on the hatch as he climbed out. Ouch! he did not realise quite how much blood was smeared around until after he had taken the pictures and both Christine and the lengthsman were startled by Mike's appearance. (No photo thank goodness!)

Guns Mouth is the junction with the former Wey and Arun Canal. Some parts of this important link to the south coast have been restored but there is plenty of work yet to be done before anyone can complete the journey. For now, the short section from the junction is a useful mooring for a number of boats.

After the last lock at Catteshall it was a short distance to Godalming Wharf where the navigation comes to an abrupt end, with barely enough space to turn boats around. Although much of the bank along this river looks good for mooring, it is often shallow as it proved right at the end and it took a while to tie up and then the gangplank was needed for easy access. At least there are some supermarkets to hand and we will be able to stock up again tomorrow.

Amazingly, as we were trying to moor, a man came by and let us know that we had left one of our windlasses at the last lock. Since it was Mike who was the culprit it was especially kind of Christine to volunteer to return and recover it.

4.9 miles - 4 locks