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Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Cunningman to Child-Beale

Friday 20th June.

The Cunningman to Reading. 5.6 miles and 5 locks.
A beautiful morning greeted us, when we opened the cabin doors and no early start today. Keith fired up Hadar’s engine at 8.30am and we left for the Thames or so we thought. We got to Southcot Lock and coming up behind us was another of the Reading Marine Co hire boats, so I duly opened the other gate to let them in. They were only going down to reading and turning around, but it meant we could share the lock work, especially as they had 6 people onboard.
There were a few boaters about and all going in the other direction. The M4 and the railways are evident on the way into Reading; their noise breaks the peace and tranquillity.There are some beautiful water meadows and old gravel pits which have been turned over to the wildlife along the way. We came to Fobney Lock and the old water work, at the bottom of the lock the weir stream is extremely strong, and care has to be taken when exiting the lock.We then wiggled our way along the river towards Reading and County Lock which was running with some ferocity, as you exit the lock you need to press the button for the traffic lights, they turned immediately green so us and the hire boat made a dash through Reading past the oracle Centre towards Blakes Lock and the lock keeper. At this point the hire boat had to reverse back to turn around as the lock keeper could not allow them to go through without a Thames licence, we however carried on into the lock where there was a sign up for the Reading Water Fest, which is on Saturday for the one day, you pay £10 a boat, with that you get a plague for the boat and free entertainment.The lock keeper told me that they were short of boats for this year’s event. But we were going to carry on to Tesco do our shopping and go to Child-Beale or were we?
We left the Kennet and Avon and were back on the Thames where we managed to find a mooring for Tesco. The boat moored in front of us NB Liberty Bell owned by Barbra and Dave told us that the Harbour Master had just spoken to them asking if they would like to join in with then Reading Water Fest as they wanted to swell the boat numbers a bit, so Keith and I decided that hey why we don’t join in as well. So he rang the Harbour Master to see if we would be welcome, he was only too pleased to have a working boat at the event and told Keith he would find us a mooring. We firstly did our shop at Tesco, and then along with NB Liberty Bell turned around on the Thames to head back up the Kennet and Avon Canal and through Blakes Lock. We then turned into the Abbey Back Water, where the museum is and found the Harbour Master who directed us to a bank side mooring, he asked us if we would go into the boat parade tomorrow, and of course we will. So far we have met up with Carol and George the Fender man on NB Penny; they have their border collies Jan and Millie with them. Having settled in and met a few boaters we had our dinner before going to watch a performance by the Mikron Theatre.We gathered together our chairs and coats as it had been trying to rain and headed into the Abbey Ruins, where the Mikron Theatre had set their stage for the performance of Debtonation which was all about the UK’s addiction to Credit and the chaos it causes when you are in debt.It was a fantastic performance by the four actors; there were lots of laughs, but also food for thought. Keith and I really enjoyed the evening, despite the heckling coming from Reading prison. The prison over looks the ruins and some of the inmates decided they wanted to join in with some colourful language. It made me think “Now I know why I am out here enjoying myself and you are banged up in there”. Still it did not spoil the evening for us or anyone else there. Afterwards we headed back to the boat for the rest of the evening.

Saturday 21st June.

Not a good start to the morning as it was heavy drizzly rain, so it was a wet beginning to the Reading Water Fest. People were bustling about putting up gazebo’s for their stalls, whilst others were helping with bins and notices. The show would go on despite the weather. Come 11am when the Fest opened to the public, the skies were trying hard to brighten up. Even George the Fender man was not put on by the weather; he was sat by his boat making a fender.It was quiet to begin with and it looked like it would be a washout, but as the weather improved so did the number of people turning up to look at the boats. Come 12 pm we got ready for the boat precession, we were at the rear with the steam boat Surabaya. We had to follow all the other boats out of the Abbey Back Water, back onto the navigation and then back into the back water by the museum, passing the announcer who gave a description of each boat and its history.There were some people in costume and that included two ladies and two gentlemen from a local theatrical group who come every year dressed up, this year the ladies dressed as tarts, they look brilliant.A reporter from the Reading Chronicle came to interview us about Hadar and her history, taking shorthand notes to take back to the paper, so we may appear in print.
We had a fantastic day; the weather did improve with the sun appearing from time to time. If you like small boat festivals then come to Reading. It is a friendly festival where you will be made most welcome. We both agreed we would come again as it is so well organised in conjunction with the council. People of all ages and denominations were milling around the site today, there was something for everyone young or old. Keith and I enjoyed chatting to people who wanted to know about the boat, her builder and the engine and will as I have said come again to the Reading Water Fest. A Reading Councillor asked if we would allow the Reading Mayor and his party onboard to see what a traditional Boatman’s Cabin looked like, this also included a mayor from Ireland, Reading are twinned Clonmel, Ireland and have been since 1994, and every year the Irish mayor comes over to the water fest. So we welcome the party onboard and I gave them a guided tour of the cabin.Coming to small festivals like Reading’s means you get to know people and make long time friends.
Having had dinner we both put our feet up to watch the football, unfortunately though neither of us was very good at keeping our eyes open, so come 9.15pm we both got ready for bed.

Sunday 22nd June.

Reading to Child-Beale. 9.7 miles and 4 locks.


We had thought we may stay put today, it being a Sunday. But everyone else seemed to be moving off, Carol and George had left early, so having chatted with Dave and Barbra who were about to go, we decided that we would go and visit the River Museum and have some lunch at the Back of Beyond pub, which is a Wetherspoons. The museum is free to enter and is only small, but was very nice all the same. At the Back of Beyond we both enjoyed a roast dinner with a drink thrown in for £6.49 each. Both roast dinners came with all the trimmings and were very good value for money, I could not finish mine. Having walked back to the boat we made the decision to go despite the fact the wind had got up, but the sun was shining so off we went out of the Abbey back water and down to Blakes Lock.Now did you know that Blakes Lock was named after Robert Blake – mayor and mob leader, he owned a wharf on the north bank of the river Kennet. In 1720 he was the mayor of reading and opposed the opening up of the Kennet and Avon Canal to Newbury, his fear was it would bring a loss of trade. Because of this fear he led a mob of over 300 people to Burghfield where they destroyed a part of the canal works. But the canal company at the time threatened him with prosecution, so he decided to be the one to keep the peace and used his influence to prevent further violence.
History lesson over, we entered the lock with Pearl Barley a lovely boat with a Perkins engine in it, which gave off a growl when it was revved into life.Both boats then turned onto the River Thames and off we headed towards the first lock of 4 for the day for us. NB Pearl Barley would be carrying on as they have two days in which to make Braunston. Caversham Lock was the first Lock, where we slotted in side by side. We passed Caversham and several small islands on the river and passed Mapledurham and its big house which is still owned by the Blount Family and has been since they purchased the original manor in 1490, the present manor was built in Elizabethan times.We arrived at on the outskirts of Pangbourne where they were holding a canoe regatta, so care had to be taken not to mow them down, we did have to wait whilst a little girl was rescued after her canoe capsized and she was alone in the water, but all ended well and we cruised into Whitchurch Lock and out the other side and made our way to Child-Beale where we found a mooring, this was none to soon as the wind had been getting stronger throughout the afternoon, it was making cruising difficult at times.
One of the quirky things we saw today was an amphi jeep, in other words a car on water. I kid you not.We arrived at Child-Beale and the Beale Park moorings, but we will not be visiting the park this time, not when it costs £8.50 an adult to probably see things we have already see at London Zoo etc, so we will be on our way in the morning, destination unknown yet.

3 comments:

LadyBanana said...

Hi Jo, lovely catching up on your adventures again.. Some wonderful photos as well.

It makes my life feel so dull, repetitive and boring..

Keith & Jo said...

Hi LadyB, thank you for popping in, it is always nice to hear from you.
Aww I am sure your life is exciting but in a different way. our life is anything but boring that is true. It is a new adventure everyday.

Jo x

Keith & Jo said...

Hi LadyB, thank you for popping in, it is always nice to hear from you.
Aww I am sure your life is exciting but in a different way. our life is anything but boring that is true. It is a new adventure everyday.

Jo x