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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Wargrave Marsh to Aldermaston.

Thursday 12th June.

Wargrave Marsh to Reading. 15.3 miles and 6 locks.

Last night as we were closing up the boat for the evening, the Paddle Steamer we had seen earlier in the day passed us with a party onboard. They even had a band playing oomph papa for those who were listening.Those onboard seemed to be to busy drinking and talking to actually hear the band playing their heart out. The boat looked stunning as it went past.
So onto the mornings cruising to Reading. We left our peaceful mooring at 9.15am, it was a chilly morning, overcast and it looked like there was rain on the way.Both Keith and I were wrapped up against the wind and chill, but were looking forward to the mornings cruise. We have noticed a number of thatched properties along the river, and they look wonderful. I have always thought of thatched houses being in the countryside, as I grew up in one. But to see them a long the river was really lovely.The scenery along this part of the river was not as stunning as we had seen further back.
As we arrived at Shiplake Lock, the heavens opened. There was I stood on the bow with the rain thundering down, Keith was not fairing any better on the stern. The Lock Keeper had the best place he stayed in his hut whilst it was at its worst. As the lock gates opened to let us out, the sun came out just like that. It was as though someone had turned the tap off.
There are islands along this part of the river. One of the islands appeared in the program ‘Three men in a boat’ with Griff Rhys Jones and friends. They moored up on one of the islands, where Griff cooked lunch whilst the other two took the boat to the pub.You can still moor up on the islands, but they do seem rather overgrown at the moment. Along the Thames there are numerous boatyards and brokerages and this morning we saw another with a fabulous boat up for sale.What was lovely about this one was the fact that it was not white like most of the gin palaces, but it will set you back £215,000 for the pleasure of owning this beautiful boat.
On the approach to Sonning Lock, yep the weather suddenly took a turn for the worst, with rain drops the size of golf balls and then hail to match. Yes I said hail in June arghhhhh. Someone had turned the tap on again but this time it was on pressure wash. Not even the Lock Keeper was prepared to brave this deluge. Handling the rope on the bow was not pleasant due to the bow being slippery from the hail stones, so it was gently does it. We tied up and were followed in by a Dutch barge, they were struggling in the conditions, and it took them a few attempts to throw their ropes over the bollards. Just as the Lock Keeper was about to open the paddles the deluge subsided and the sun came out, but we were all soaked through, not even my waterproofs coped with that amount of rain. But the sun soon began to dry us all out. I stayed on the bow on the run down to Reading and our mooring. We found a mooring right on the junction with the Kennet and Avon Canal.
Having had lunch we took a walk into reading to see what had changed from when Keith last visited with his fathers boat in 1994. Reading is made up of all ages of buildings dating back to the Victorian era, but it is spread out and does not have a centre as such. Keith was really surprised to see all the changes made, what with the Oracle Shopping Centre and other new shopping areas. But Reading’s shops are the same as any other shopping centre. We took a walk around the Abbey Ruins, which are now just fragments of what would have been a superb building built back in the 12th-C. The abbey was built by Henry 1st and lies on the edge of Forbury Park, they are actually doing some work on the walls to stop them decaying any further. You can still see the 13th-C gate house, it was once the Abbey school where is said that Jane Austen studied in 1785-7. We did not get to see the Museum; we will leave that for another day. After walking back to the boat and having had a coffee, we took our rucksacks to Tesco to get a provisions shop done. So a very busy day for us both and tomorrow we head onto the Kennet and Avon Canal.The perfect end to a perfect day was the sunset at 8.30pm.Friday 13th June.

Reading to Aldermaston. 10.2 miles and 11 locks.
Some say that Friday 13th is bad luck, but it is only bad luck for those who have bad things happen to them on that day. I personally do not believe it. So when we woke up to a bright sunny morning, I knew it was going to be a good day.
We untied our ropes from the mooring rings at 8.55am and turned Hadar onto the Kennet and Avon Canal.No sooner had we turned onto the Kennet and Avon Canal, we were at Blakes Lock waiting for the lock keeper to operate the wheels and let us in.Once in and out of the lock, we carried on along the river which cuts across the middle of Reading, so all facilities have easy access. As you run through the centre of Reading which is narrow and has some twisty parts to it they run a traffic light system.You press the button on the lights and wait for them to turn green before you set off. It is a really simple but great idea and would work well on other parts of the canal system.
We skirted around the Oracle Shopping Centre and lots of cafes and eating places. Keith did not recognise any of it from when he last came through Reading.
It wasn’t long before we were out of Reading and enjoying the countryside once again, by the time we reached our third lock of the morning Fobney Lock, NB Sunshine was already there and had emptied the lock ready to go in, so we joined him in the lock and for part of the journey. The gentleman onboard was on his own, so was glad of the help, although he did keep asking if I was ok doing the work on my own.Keith told him “She charges to work locks for other boaters”, it made him laugh.
Isn’t it funny how you can spend a couple of hours in the company of another boater and yet none of us exchanged names. That happens so often that you only know the person by their boats name and that was the case today LOL. We enjoyed a really nice time cruising up through the locks and through the swing bridges with NB Sunshine and hope that we will cross paths again some day.
Under the M4, with its noisy traffic and petrol fumes. We were then into Garston Lock, which is one of only a few turf sided locks left.It is not so much turf these days, as weeds and river plants, but never the less still pretty and interesting to look at. We left NB Sunshine just after Theale Swing Bridge where he moored up for the day.
All but one swing and lift bridge is operated with the BW key, so is easy peasy to do. It really gives you a sense of power when you make all the noisy traffic stop. They have to wait for the barriers to go down and the bridge to either lift or swing and cannot move until it is all closed again and the barriers come up, now that is power to the boater yayyyyy. Along our route we saw a few of the old gravel pits, which have been turned over to nature. The last Swing Bridge of the day was at Aldermaston Wharf, which is where we found ourselves a place to moor. We decided that we would go for a meal at The Butt Inn near Aldermaston Wharf. If you are ever in the area go and have a meal there it was fantastic. I am happy to sing its praises because the food was sublime and the service was excellent. We then came back to the boat for a coffee and soon it will be bedtime. So goodnight everyone see you over the weekend.

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