For the last few days we’ve headed off on walks rather than planning to visit a specific attraction. On one day we wandered down the South Bank and the Embankment past some of the most recognisable parts of the city. I needed somewhere to sit and wait for a phone call from my GP about sorting medication. Couldn’t have found anywhere better than right opposite the Houses of Parliament with Big Ben donging away in the background.
After Paddington we moved on to Islington where we were extremely lucky to find a free spot to moor – someone was just pulling out as we arrived. It’s provided us with a great base for exploring the East End – and it’s right beside a good pub – the Rosemary Branch.
Last Sunday we headed out to walk to Brick Lane for another treat from Beigel Bakes. While we were strolling through Bethnal Green we came across this colourful and joyful celebration of the Bangladeshi New Year with its performances, parades and food stalls.
Just up from where we’re moored we spotted this flowery boat which my mate Nige christened ‘the boat-anical gardens’…..
…and in a park near Angel, this artwork in a tree.
Always something new to see. We’re planning to stay here for another couple of days and do some more exploring. I reckon a visits to a few markets are on the cards – including Billingsgate if we can manage to drag ourselves out of bed in time!
One of the top items on our London ‘bucket list’ was a visit to Tower Bridge. Diane from Ferndale (otherwise known as the twofer queen) had given us a booklet, available at overground stations, that contains two for one offers on London attractions provided you produce a British Rail ticket – any British rail ticket. We rather nervously tried it out (on account of the ticket we were using was for a trip to Saxmundham) but there was no problem – they just glanced at the it before allowing us in at half price – bargain! We arrived early and there wasn’t much of a queue but, as you go up in a lift in batches, it was taking a while to get people through so we took their offer of climbing up the wonderful Victorian staircase.
I don’t know exactly how many steps we toiled up, but it was worth the effort as we got to see the building from the inside.
When we reached the top we went out onto the two high level walkways that offered spectacular views both across London….
…and beneath our feet on the glass floors.
By the time we left and headed down to the Engine Rooms, we saw the bridge in a completely different light as we’d looked down from the windows and viewed the people and traffic from a totally different angle. You can’t actually see anyone standing on the glass floor when you’re back on terra firma but we waved up anyway.
Gordon was in his element in the engine room, where one of the two engines was steaming away gently.
After we left and headed to The Draft House for lunch there was some drama on the bridge. Police cars blocked off the road and an ambulance was parked on the bridge. Apparently there was a ‘jumper’. I couldn’t find any information on news sites about the fate of this poor soul. Apparently it’s such a common occurrence in London that it doesn’t warrant any column inches at all. A brief moment of inconvenience, then everyone proceeded about their business as if nothing had happened.
A couple of weeks ago we parted company from Ray and Diane at Kingston Upon Thames…….
…and were joined by Linda and Richard from nb Mary H to head down the tidal Thames towards London.
The jaunt up from Brentford to Bull’s Bridge was a hot one but made much easier by having company working the locks.
We detoured to Uxbridge to pick up some fuel and gas and had a lovely tow path barbeque to say goodbye to Linda, Richard and of course Muffin, before they headed north.
Having got our fuel, we turned around and headed south to London where we were joined by my daughter Ellie and received a visit from my grandson Jamie and his girlfriend Nicky. Kensington Gardens are close to Paddington and it was a lovely day so we had a stroll before heading for a cooling drink at a local pub with a familiar name.
On a recommendation from Jamie we headed down to Brick Lane the next day to sample a salt beef bagel from Beigel Bake. The bagel was the best I’ve ever tasted and the market was wonderful!
The next day we took a walk along the canal from Little Venice to Camden.
Gordon attempted to introduce Ellie to the joys of bunny ears in photographs…
…though I don’t think she quite grasped the concept of it.
On Ellie’s final morning we were joined again by Jamie and Nicky and we headed for a brunch at Cafe Laville which sits on the Regents Canal, astride the entrance to the Maida Vale Tunnel.
A lovely start to our London stay.
Last Sunday, we headed for the lovely mooring at Manor Park in Shepperton to meet up with Ray and Diane from nb Ferndale. It’s an incredibly popular mooring and there was only room for one boat. No problem, we breasted up so that we all fitted in very nicely. We were preparing ourselves for our joint trip up the Basingstoke Canal but, no sooner had we arrived, than we received a call from the Basingstoke Canal Trust that threw all our well made plans out of the window. One of the locks on the Brookwood Flight was broken and would need to be drained before they could begin to assess the damage. We were due to start up on the following Tuesday and they couldn’t guarantee that we’d get any further than the first flight. The curse of the Basingstoke had struck again! Two attempts and two failures. Still, we were with friends, on a beautiful mooring and were soon joined by Sue and Andy from nb Festina Lente along with Sue’s mum Betty.
On our first evening I made pasties and we managed a tow path picnic (photo courtesy of Ray & Diane)
We planned a more complex extravaganza the following evening. Sue had given me a few foody magazines earlier and I’d found a recipe for Bourbon Biscuit Brownies. It was a perfect opportunity to try them out. They didn’t come out too bad at all!
During the day we tootled into Shepperton for a wander around. Sue and Andy used to live there and took us to view their old house. They were too embarrassed to pose right outside so we had to make do with a photograph from across the road.
In the evening, everyone had cooked bits and pieces and we had a feast! We had intended it to be out on the riverbank but unfortunately the weather decided differently so we adjourned inside Festina Lente.
Sue’s mum, Betty, seemed to enjoy herself, as did the rest of us.
By sunset, the weather had cleared up nicely and it was a lovely peaceful scene.
The next morning we went our separate ways with us, along with Ferndale, heading back south while Festina Lente made her way north.
Hopefully we’ll see them in Mojacar next March, unless we happen to bump into them on the waterways again later in the year of course!
Sonning is the first lock you meet on the Thames when you come out of Reading and to my mind it’s the prettiest on the river (although all of them seem to be well kept). Someone’s gone that little bit farther here and it’s a pleasure to use.
We headed down to Henley, where we met up again with the crews of Ferndale and Festina Lente…..
…got photographed by Ray doing our three wise monkeys impression….
….walked into town for lunch and spotted a fire.
It was in one of the outbuildings of a restaurant and was quickly sorted, with minimal damage, but the street was closed off just in case.
The following morning was misty so I went for a stroll towards Marsh Lock – a wonderful, peaceful and beautiful way to start the day.
The sun had come out fully by the time we set out with Gordon having managed to bag his first crop of winter logs.
It was only a day after the end of the Regatta and all the paraphernalia was still in place…
….with preparations well underway for the Elton John Concert that evening.
On our way to our evening’s mooring at Cookham, we spotted No Problem XL and Still Rockin and were waved to furiously by Carol, George, Vic & Sue.
I was pleased to see that they’d found a way to subsidise their new builds – but was sorry not to be able to stop and buy an ice cream from them as we had to move on. Next time perhaps.
From Thrupp, we moved back down to Oxford where we were treated to a surprise visit from Sharon and Richard from nb Oakapple – they’d come in on the bus, seen that we were moored there and popped in to say hello.
Their cruise was taking them up river to Lechlade and ours down river heading for The Basingstoke, but we manged to arrange a meeting at the Days Lock Moorings close to the village of Dorchester. It’s a wonderful spot to stop as you’re right beside Wittenham Clumps which provides some incredible views.
We were also treated to a flying display by a couple of the kites that seem to be so common in this area.
On the following day we were joined by Ray and Diane from nb Ferndale and headed off to have a look at Dorchester – the Oxfordshire village, rather than the Dorset county town. On the way we passed an archaeological dig which is examining Dorchester’s Roman past.
We’ve visited the village of Dorchester before but still couldn’t resist a walk around the abbey and a visit to the George Hotel.
The weather was beautiful and Gordon, Diane and I took the slightly longer way back to the boats…..
…where we had a look at the other claim to fame of Days Lock – the bridge that plays host to the World Pooh Sticks championship.
We parted company from Sharon and Richard next day and headed off with Diane and Ray, who shared the locks with us as for a while as we headed for Reading.
Unfortunately when we got there we were hit by what we’ve come to think of as the curse of the Basingstoke when our starter motor literally went up in smoke. On the positive side, there was a place within walking distance where Gordon was able to source a new one and we were only delayed by a day.
When we heard that our friend Elaine had given the go ahead for visitors, it didn’t take long to organise a trip to see her. Luckily, three boats worth of us were already in the same spot which make it rather easier. The crews of Ferndale, Festina Lente and Ewn Ha Cul, set out from Thrupp in a hire car. Andy from FL undertook the driving for the whole trip!
We broke our journey for brekkie at Aston marina and met the final two members of the party, Roly & Bev from nb Klara.
All in all 8 boaters in happy hats descended on her private room in the hospice in Macclesfield to spend some time with the lovely Elaine.
Elaine took all of this in her stride – the staff were a bit shell shocked when we arrived, but loved our attire so much that some of them were considering that the hats might make a perfect addition to their uniforms! It was wonderful to see Elaine and spend a couple of hours enjoying her company. I hope she enjoyed our visit as much as we loved seeing her and that we didn’t tire her out too much.
When Paul arrived with their friend Wendy, who’d flown in from Mojacar, we took it as our cue to leave and headed off to our hotel to prepare ourselves for an evening meal in Sutton Hall.
The following day we visited Elaine again in the morning and then called in to see Paul at his camper, before we headed back down south.
It was a flying visit, but we were all glad that we had the chance to make the trip and spend some time with Paul and Elaine – and the doggies of course!