Left Nick in boat world while I drove for the first time in nine months, rode the clutch all the way down to sunny Hove for the dentist. Thank you Mummy. Covered an astonishing amount of miles with family stop offs in between. Back on the river, lots of boat activity. The weather has finally taken a turn for the better and warmed up – yay.
Set off as early as we could possibly manage, just before eleven. Through some lush countryside before stopping for a water fill in readiness for our Guildford sit in. Stuck behind a hotel boat for most of the morning we floored the throttle and just about made it in time for our SFR schedule in town lock. Faith and Daisy onboard, Sar left to feed the meter at which point we had a horrifying thought we may have been left in charge for the weekend – thankfully she reappeared, Nanny to boot. Walked up into Guildford High Street, glad to report nothing much has changed since September other than the opening of Joules…Henley and Marlow watch out. Apple bobbing, Kim’s game, colouring, chipolattas – the gremlins were in bed with ipad TV by the time Nick arrived with supper. Sitting happy under the willow on Guildford Meadow, this is as close to home as we can get – the place needless to say.
Woke to silence, no rain hammering on the roof. Moved up through the first lock, pulled in for water. Liking the National Trust’s all or nothing lottery approach to locks – paddles lowered but gates left open…you either get a really easy deal, or have to sort a previous lock inhabitant aftermath before starting over for yourself. Not so keen on the endless gate paddles, they have to be inched up in order to avoid slamming the boat into the far wall.
Travelled through Walsham and Worsfold flood gates, permanently open other than in times of heavy rain. Had got used to the speed moving down stream on the wide expanse of the Thames, now travelling up river through winding countryside our mileage guessometer needs adjusting, by lunchtime we’d managed a pathetic two miles.
All very beautiful, locks are immaculately maintained with water planters bursting with greenery. Stocked up with a supply of logs this afternoon, still lighting a fire each evening despite it almost being June. Mists rising from the water tonight all looking quite Everglade, hard to imagine Guildford town centre is three miles away.
Not enough blue sky to make anything today. Walked Murk in the rain, met a lock keeper hurrying out to crank open the weir. Lunch in The Anchor http://anchorpyrford.co.uk/, watching narrowboats shuffle past, crewed by drowned rats.
Negotiated a fairly treacherous route into West Byfleet, along a lane used as a rat run for the M3 and M25. The iphone had a funny idea of how far 1.7 miles should be. Quick Waitrose dash and out again…20 minutes of West Byfleet was enough. All calm back in canal world. By evening the rain had cleared, chimneys twisted smoke into the sky as a new street of neighbours lined up for the night.
Never dreamt we’d use the full seven days of Thames license and love every minute. Windy this morning, really windy. Washing machine spinning we left Runnymede. Stacks of boats waiting for every lock, generally being smacked about. With the locks getting bigger the keepers grew more fastidious about lock etiquette: move forward as far as you can; bow and stern lines on; engine off – all fine except some boats don’t start first time of asking, so we waited while a non-starter was hauled from Chertsey lock. Moored for lunch, waves lapping. Untied and turned, heading for Shepperton lock, the boat was at a strangely wonky angle in the wind, all very nautical and probably not something a narrowboat should be doing.
Shepperton gates opened, revealing a cat’s cradle of waterways and boats. Full throttle on to cut across the mayhem, headed straight for the River Wey and Godalming Navigation sign. In and scammed for yet another license, we filled with water. Sticker in our ever growing window display, Wey windlass on the roof (it just has a longer handle) we headed off. Soon at Coxes lock, built in 1651, the deepest unmanned lock on the navigation. Beside the lock stands a mill and pond, generally regarded as industrially the most significant mill on the Wey, over the years a variety of goods were produced, most notably flour. The wheel finally stopped turning in 1983, it’s now apartments complete with private gym and pool.
On further, deeper into the countryside. Had several attempts at mooring only to hear the grinding, gritty, shunting noise meaning we were on the way to getting stuck. Finally tied up in a cluster of boats opposite Pyrford Marina. Knackered, windswept and rope burnt hands, the forecast looks grim – let it rain.
Hugely busy this morning, boats speeding past, most of which we caught again waiting for Old Windsor lock. Crammed in behind a bunch of cruisers, letting go of the stern line would have resulted in a crumpled fibreglass explosion. Texting while you hold the rope gets them worried. Soon arrived at Runnymede. Painted the pole/hook and re-painted the crash damage. Nick turned his nose up when, half joking I suggested we might swim. Five minutes
Read and learn SFR…Runnymede is where King John sealed the Magna Carta in 1215. Other representations of freedom and liberty are hidden amongst the woodlands. 50 steps lead to the Kennedy memorial, set on an acre of land gifted to America in 1965.
The Air Forces Memorial is a whole different kettle of fish, up and up we climbed passing people collapsed on benches until we reached the hill-top where the sun beat down on the sombre, still, white building. From up there Wembley, Heathrow, Windsor Castle and the M25 looked very toy town.
Monaco Grand Prix was interrupted from time to time by humongous cruisers flying up alongside the boat, discussing -between swigs of champagne – whether they might more alongside, think we’ve mastered the ‘Not Welcome To Moor Alongside’ look as nobody did. Bank holiday weekend cruiser madness has gone to bed.
Left beautiful Cliveden, never did see the mooring fee buggy. On through Boulters lock. Boats of all shapes and sizes, drifting, whizzing, chugging about, most heading upstream to Hurley. A short trip from Cliveden to Windsor racecourse where we did a U-ey and stopped for much needed water. On and down into the centre of Windsor, the castle sat high above the Thames. Moored up an arm, the ticket attendant appeared from under the bridge like a troll. Set off in search of food. Although we know Windsor quite well it feels totally different arriving by boat and walking from the river. Did a bit of
window shopping, then ventured into the enormous space age Waitrose. ‘Someone’s paying for this,’ Nick looked up at the gigantic silver lettering as the escalator climbed, 15 minutes later we descended, understanding exactly who was paying for all that jazz.
Back to the boat, took Murk for a walk into Eton. Arriving home the guys in front had almost completed their roof top larger empties decoration from bow to stern, swarms of children were spilling over from the mini-fair; three whole days of Cliveden tranquility meant this sort of activity was an assault on our senses, so we untied and set free into the sunset. Well freeish, took about an hour to get through 237ft long Romney lock as the electronic sluice gates were temperamental.
They promised a horrid day and it was. Cold and rainy. Walked through the woods, along Green Drive and back past Spring Cottage. Almost decided to move after lunch, then it poured some more. Boots on, and off, and on again, we finally gave up and turned our attention to the damp-stained ceilings. The whole deal seems to have dried out, so by process of elimination we’ve concluded two people and a dog and showers and boiling rice, produces too much condensation for a poorly spray foamed roof cavity boarded with ply.
The most obvious solution is to pull the ceiling down and put a new one up. Sadly the ceiling was the first thing up, meaning walls would hit the deck. Today the bathroom ceiling got undercoated and so far it’s looking alright. The rest of the boat might follow.
Having enjoyed the Cliveden experience yesterday, today was Cliveden’s turn to experience Marpessa2 in an uncontrolled smoke zone. This evening guests can watch smoke signals rising from the valley.
Could get used to this back garden, technically open to all National Trust members but the 172 cliff side steps down to the river are the equivalent to razor wire for the oldies. Walked the bits we hadn’t done this morning and collected our tour tickets for the afternoon.
Walked the gardens, stood on the terrace looking down on the boat far far below, always a relief to see it’s still there. A hotel now, there are plenty of places you shouldn’t venture as a non-guest but just pretending you’re meant to be there seems to do the trick. With just about every King and Queen having visited at some point; Queen Victoria who enjoyed tea in Spring Cottage was appalled, when in 1893 the American Astors parted with $1.25 million and moved right in. In 1906 Waldolf Astor’s father gifted the estate to his son and Nancy Langhorne, by the 1930’s the Cliveden Set had burst into life and estate parties became a hub for the liberal social elite.
With crowds of oldies gathering outside the West wing we dawdled for a while, a lichen door with PRIVATE stamped on it only took a little shove and there, tucked just behind it, the infamous pool where Christine Keeler enticed her man.
Inside the house we struggled to hear the guide over the rustling of pocket tissues and the sucking of menthol decongestants. Dodged waiting staff, butlers, bellboys and guests – it wasn’t long before we stood in the Great Hall, now the main lobby. People watching was better than the tour itself. Finally into the dining room where Churchill declared he may have been drunk but Nancy was ugly and he’d be sober by morning. The room also hosted to the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday and was where Princess Diana was first introduced to Dodi. Then we waited while the oldies zimmered out into the Spring rain.
Attempting to top the Cliveden experience with a Scandal download, 3G good, iphone on window, ipad fully charged, there’s hope.
A second look around Marlow this morning. Under the bridge before skirting an enormous weir leading into Marlow lock. No keeper on duty, so with a hired cruiser taking the main mooring we were left marooned on the floating pontoon until they finally figured which button to press.
Selected the channel into Cookham lock (the other three all lead to weirs), beautifully surrounded by enormous trees. Out, round the corner, the water met again and the river widened out. Trees kept on coming, gigantic chestnuts so heavy with blossom the lower branches skimmed the water. Looking for the three elusive Cliveden moorings we saw a narrowboat tied in amongst the trees. A few hundred yards further down we saw another gap, when they say moorings they don’t mean signage or rings or bollards or piling – more just a clearing in the trees.
Pegs hammered and ropes tied, we walked Murk up through the
bluebells and along a vast straight stretch of grass where Cliveden residents once rode or took carriage rides. Left the house towering 130ft above the Thames and wound back down through the leafy banks, where, in a pool of sunlight sat Spring Cottage http://www.clivedenhouse.co.uk/spring-cottage/. It was here, in the swinging summers of the early Sixties, that the osteopath Dr Stephen Ward came a-weekending with the likes of Christine Keeler, Mandy Rice-Davies and Yevgeny Ivanov. Along came John Profumo, Secretary of State for War, who became infatuated with Miss Keeler after discovering her frolicking topless behind the high walls of Cliveden’s swimming pool. Keeler and Profumo were staying in Spring Cottage when the scandal broke. Just five trees away, it’s an enchanting place to sleep. Hoping to see ghosts of a quintessentially British affair.