Monday, 29 September 2008

Mon 29th September - Beale Park to Maidenhead

Yes, check the date above, and yet Waitrose have put up their christmas displays. I guess there's no point me getting insensed about the same thing every year, but whilst I know some people can't get enough of the festival of consumerism, it's far from my favourite celebration, and could it please be put back to the traditional twelve days rather than the current three months?

Rant over, back to the boating. Beale Park was as lovely first thing as it was last night, a thin layer of mist drifting across the water. I set off in time to reach Whitchurch lock at around nine, and make swift progress through the day. I'd met a couple of boats over the past few days rushing to get on the the Kennet & Avon before they closed county lock for a month, today. Reading wasn't very far on, had I left Abingdon earlier on Sunday I could have got that far too, had I been going on the K&A... yes, I've confused myself, too. Basically progress downstream on the Thames is a lot quicker than canals, I've done 32 miles today in around nine hours.

Anyway - the hanging gardens of Tilehurst:

This is actually a brick sided railway embankment going down into the river, but looks great, especially with the autumn colours - no, not bored of orange and brown leaves yet.

Reading seems to mark the start of affluent commuter land, with a lot of houses alongside the river, often on land only a foot or two higher than water level. It's good to see that lessons are being learned from recent events, as shown above, although our predecessors who built their settlements on higher ground had it right to start with.

Meanwhile a reminder of how the other half (ok, a smaller fraction than that) live - this houseboat was advertised as a 'weekend cottage':

I headed on straight through Henley & Marlow; at Temple lock, a little before Marlow, this sign tells me I'm more than half way from Oxford to Brentford:

I had been told to look out for a memorial bench (Thames locks are covered in them, they really are) dedicated to 'Olive and Twig Branch'. Didn't get a chance to look, really as I went straight in without any faffing, but would have been interesting to follow up the conversation I'd had earlier.

I also passed 'Elizabeth', who I'm sure I've seen in magazines for being an old leisure canal boat, ans for also looking quite extraordinary:

I've moored tonight in Maidenhead, below Boulter's lock. There were prettier moorings above, below the Cliveden estate, but I quite fancied a poke around the town in the morning (let's face it, I haven't been a in a charity shop for a while) and it seemed sensible to stay somewhere accessible. As established, I have plenty of time, as it seems daft to get 'home' stupidly early this week. OK, 'home' as in Brentford, the triumphant (ok, unlikely) return to Iver will probably be a week later, as I've promised a few local people a trip.

32 miles, 5¾ flg and 12 locks

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