Saturday, 20 October 2012

Toby & Suz's wedding

What a Wonderful Wedding

The sun shone brightly through the swan hatch on the morning of 12th  October 2012, spreading light and warmth throughout our narrowboat. I gazed over the canal and saw the green of the trees giving way to the wonderful golden yellow, orange and red hues of autumn. These were reflected with perfect clarity on the tranquil water. I marvelled at how lucky I was to experience such magnificence. That's how my day began on Toby and Suz's wedding day.

Ian and I bumped into each other more than usual as we jostled for position in the bathroom I wanted more time and access to the mirror as I carefully put on my make-up while Ian was simply trying to complete his morning ablutions. Next, I pulled on the now unfamiliar stockings, and wriggled into my cocktail dress while Ian put in cuff links and knotted his tie. We looked at each other and chuckled with excitement. It had been quite some time since we had dressed in anything other than boating attire.

We swapped the gentle pace of the canal for the frantic rush of the motorway as we drove towards Godalming where the wedding was to be held. Arriving at the hotel an hour later, we stepped into another world. A dozen or so people were in the lounge of the hotel and we assumed that they were invited guests to the wedding since they too were dressed to the nines.  We all looked a little out of place at eleven o'clock in the morning. After checking in to the hotel and depositing our overnight bag in the room, we wandered towards the group of splendidly dressed guests. Jo and Steve greeted us warmly as if we were long lost friends and we soon found  ourselves chatting amiably with these strangers while we all waited for the coach to arrive  (courtesy  of the meticulous, almost military-precision  wedding planning - someone with an eye for detail had been very busy).

On the coach, we began to wonder if the driver knew his way after we had, more than once, gone round a roundabout and retraced our steps. Did the driver have a meter running or was he giving us a grand scenic tour? We eventually arrived at Gate Street Barn; a collection of converted barns clustered in splendid grounds - the wedding venue. We were all directed towards the barn where the ceremony was to take place. Inside, the decorated barn with its majestic oak roof trusses was set up with seating arranged either side of a centre aisle that led towards a draped  table at one end. Cameras had been set on tripods and were pointing towards the table in mute expectation. This is where the ceremony was to be conducted. 

As Ian and I moved towards some empty seats we saw friends whom we had not seen in a very long time -too long. Helen & Jerry and Craig & Jemma with baby Polly. We switched direction to head towards the group and were soon embracing and chatting as if we had only seen each other the day before. At that moment, Toby walked through the rear door. Looking dashing in his wedding suit, he had a startled expression on his face like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a car. We all laughed and reassuringly wished him well as Craig - the Best Man - ushered the dazed groom towards the decorated table at the end of the aisle.

One o'clock; we were asked to find our seats and an expectant hush descend over the assembled guests. After the obligatory 5 minutes delay the doors at the rear of the barn opened and Suz appeared on the arm of her uncle Eddie. She was radiantly beautiful in an exquisite, simply styled cream gown topped with a delicate lace bolero jacket, which all perfectly accentuating her tiny frame. Pure happiness shone from her eyes as her gaze fell on her beloved Toby. He, in turn, had eyes only for his lovely bride as she glided slowly towards him, accompanied by Uncle Eddie and followed by four, identically dressed, delightful young bridesmaids. I felt a tear of happiness prickle behind my eye as I thought of our own special day nearly 10 years ago.

The atmosphere in the barn was electric as well as solemn while we all shared the happy occasion and the Registrar started the proceedings. All through the ceremony, Toby displayed a nervous excitement while Suz appeared calm and composed. We were all to see how nervous she really was when she fluffed her vows and had to start again a number of times!
After the signing of the register, the Registrar introduced Mr & Mrs Smith to the assembled guests and the happy couple walked down the aisle together, hand in hand and with an air of excited expectation, hardly taking their eyes off each other. They were starting their new life together as they meant to go on.

Drinks and canap├ęs were served in the adjacent Pheasantry (another barn-like building) while the barn was cleared and rearranged for dinner. Between photographs, Toby and Suz circulated and the guests chatted and caught up on news and gossip. We found that Helen is happily pregnant with her second child, expected in January, and Jerry couldn't hide his pride. Jemma and Craig are besotted with their lovely daughter Polly while Toby and Suz are gaga over their dog Jessie.

In no time at all, the barn was transformed from a wedding venue to a banqueting hall. Toby and Suz had opted out of the traditional 'high table' with all frills and were placed among their guests which is so typical of their unassuming, easy-going character. The speeches began and once again, breaking with tradition, the bride kicked them off with a lovely speech of her own; again so typical of the pair.

After the banquet had finished, we were once again directed towards the Pheasantry where guests mingled and the unusual, penguin-adorned cake was cut. While this was happening, the barn was efficiently transformed into a dance hall and the band 'The Mixtape' set up their equipment.

The band leader announced that Toby's Mam would introduce the happy couple to their first dance. A hush descended as Billie's beautiful yet powerful voice rose and filled the hall. The guests stood transfixed as she sang and after a while the bride and groom took to the floor. It was a wonderfully intimate moment as Mother, Son and Daughter-in-Law shared the floor. Billie's blessing on the union couldn't have been expressed more poignantly as she wrapped a silk ribbon of vocals around a couple who had eyes only for each other. All too soon, the spell was broken as Billie's voice faded; bringing the song to an end and others took to the floor. Let the dancing begin. In no time at all, it was carriages at midnight and time to return to the hotel.

I shall never forget that beautiful wedding that was so precisely planned but reflected Toby and Suz's relaxed yet adventurous attitude to life. I pray that the happiest times of the past are the saddest of the future for you both. 

Monday, 3 September 2012

Lechlade to Maidenhead...

I have been firmly wrapped across the knuckles for not writing a blog for nearly 2 weeks. David has been checking on a regular basis.
‘How do we know where you are if you don’t blog to tell us?’ he complained. Rightly so!

We reached Lechlade on Friday 17th August. Although the river had risen by 6 inches over the past few days the yellow warning boards on the river Thames indicated that the stream was decreasing. The current was flowing strongly.

At St John’s Lock, the first lock on the navigable Thames, we availed ourselves of the provided sanitation facilities before cruising the last half mile. As we waited for the lock to empty and clear of craft, we chatted to the lock keeper. ‘You turning at the Roundhouse?’ he asked us. The waterways guide book had indicated that this was the start of the navigable section of river and also indicated a turning point.

‘Good luck on that!’ the skipper of the boat in the lock looked up at us sourly. It appeared that his experience was not good. ‘And there isn’t much in the way of mooring either, the current and wind is too strong to get close to the bank.’ We should have taken more notice of what he was saying.

Clearing the lock, we continued on our way, noting the available mooring as we went. When we reached the Round House took the advice the lockkeeper had given us. He told us to take a wide turn, clockwise, to use the current to assist the turn. As soon we started the turn, as the bow was swept away by the flow of the stream. I watched in anxious fascination as the trunk of an overhanging willow came closer and closer. I noticed the red, green and blue paint that marked its scarred trunk and realised that we were about to add ours to it. It was quite obvious that this tree had accidently been hit by boats on numerous occasions and judging by the bright paint, not too long ago either.

The bow was turning but not fast enough as the current swept us broadside towards the tree and with a sickening thud, we connected, but not with the side of the boat. It was the cratch that took the brunt of the impact. The left side cratch board came off its hinges and slipped over the side of the boat. I watched it helplessly as it sank beneath the surface of the river but I was too occupied with trying to save the rest of the cratch boards to be able to do anything about it.  The bow continued to swing and in another moment it was clear of the tree but the cratch was demolished and there was nothing I could do about it.

Ian got the boat back in control, continued the turn and moored alongside the river. I took up the boat hook and back tracked along the river bank in the hope that I could find the missing panel. As luck would have it, the highly varnished oak floated and the glass was intact. I laughed with relief at the sight of it and didn’t even mind too much as the nettles stung my legs as I retrieved it. Clutching my prize tightly, I returned to the boat to survey the rest of the damage. On closer inspection, we considered ourselves very lucky. Screws had sprung, dowel had popped and hinges had spread but the wood was still intact. It took Ian no more than half an hour to replace and repair and unless you had been told, you would not have noticed that anything was wrong.

With the unfortunate accident behind us, we looked for an overnight mooring and despite the wind and strong flow of the river; we found an ideal mooring close to Ha’penny Bridge (so named because of the toll once taken) on the edge of a field and slid into our new berth easily. Phew, enough excitement for one day, but without a doubt, we would never forget our introduction to Letchlade.

The church can be seen for miles and in the evening as the dusk gathers, the spire lights are switched on and the spire rises ghostly but majestically into the night sky.

Lee brought James and Phoebe to join us on Sunday 19th.  We had arranged for them to stay with us for a few days and I had been looking forward to that. I was able to get all my ‘housework’ done on the Saturday, the day before they arrived which meant that I could spend some real quality time with them.

After lunch together, Lee joined us for a walk along the Thames path which took us from Ha’penny Bridge to St John’s lock along one side of the river and back along the other  before he took his leave. As the evening gathered, the children settled down to enjoy their summer holiday with us, starting with a spot of fishing.

On Monday, we left Letchlade behind and set off for Newbridge. When we reached Shiffield lock, I showed the children the ‘bug hotel’ while Ian topped up the water tank. James was more interested in helping the lockkeeper to operate the lock as he had done at each lock along the way and at Shiffield lock, Phoebe got into the spirit of things and helped as well; much to the lockkeeper’s delight. We moored in a lovely spot alongside a farmer’s field just half a mile past Newbridge and it was here that James caught his fish. He was so excited that he almost dropped it back into the river before I could get the camera.

Phoebe and I had taken a walk along the river while the boys were fishing. We took off our sandals and paddled in the cool river (which was quite welcome after the heat of the day) and played ducks and drakes with smooth flat pebbles, sending them skimming over the surface of the water.

Tuesday brought us to Godstow and we moored next to the remains of Godstow Abbey which was founded in 12th C and enjoyed many royal benefactors before it was ruined during the Dissolution of Monasteries in 1539 and finally destroyed by Fairfax, commander of Cromwell’s New Model Army in 1645. James and Phoebe expressed much interest in the historical value of the ruins and spent time exploring and taking photographs to send back to their Daddy.

Leaving Godstow on Wednesday morning, we cruised through Oxford and on to Abingdon where we were lucky enough to find a mooring right next to the Splash Park and heated swimming pool. Needless to say, we didn’t see much of the children for the rest of the day.

We were joined on Thursday by Granny (my mother) and Terry, her gentleman friend; and after exploring the delights of the park and remains of the abbey (another victim of the Dissolution of the Monasteries) we had a long lunch together. As soon as the older couple had left us, the children were once again nowhere to be seen as they amused themselves in the play park.

All too soon, Friday came around and Lee returned to collect his reluctant children. He did however have a surprise for them so they were not too sorry to leave us as they headed for a new adventure of their own with Daddy and friends. I was able to get my housework and shopping done just in time for the arrival of Jo and Chris (Ian’s daughter and son-in-law) with their daughter Hollie, on Saturday morning. They were to spent the bank holiday weekend with us and also join us for the next leg of our river adventure; from Abingdon to Day’s lock near Dorchester-on-Thames.

Still moored alongside the splash park and heated pool (Abdingdon Town Council allows 5 consecutive days free mooring), Ian and I were able to show Jo and Chris (and of course Hollie) the points of interest that we had by that time become quite familiar.  Towards the afternoon, Jo went in search of a swimsuit for Hollie so that she could go into the swimming pool but by the time she found something suitable, Hollie had gone to sleep and only awoke as the pool was closing. Never mind, Tomorrow is another day – or so we thought.

On Sunday, the plan was that Chris would move the car to Dorchester-on-Thames and run back thereby getting his exercise as well as sorting out a transport problem. In the meantime, Jo would take Hollie, attired in her new swimsuit, to the splash park. But best laid plans…the splash park would not open until 11:00am by which time we were expect to have set off to meet
Chris on his run back. Jo and I sat on the grass and watched Hollie explore the now dry splash park and later took her to the play park for a ride on a swing.  As we pulled up the mooring pins and set off, the fountains of the splash park came to life. Oh well; another time perhaps.

Chris did very well on his run and met us before we had left Abingdon. This gave him the opportunity to enjoy the countryside he had just traversed from a new perspective. I must say that it took us a lot longer to get to our destination of Day’s Lock at Dorchester-on-Thames than it had taken Chris to run from there to Abingdon. Before joining us, Chris had discovered that Day’s lock was the site of the World ‘Poohsticks’ Championships, held in March. This unique event was the brainchild of a former Lockkeeper, Lynn David, who introduced it as a means to raise funds for the R.N.L.I.  

After lunch, Jo put Hollie into the buggy and we set off to explore the roman town of Dorchester. If we thought Hollie would sleep we were wrong. She was more interested in her new surroundings to want to miss anything.

Bank Holiday Monday

Before leaving us, Chris and Jo had expressed a wish to see the Wittenham Clumps, a site of an ancient hill fort and even though it was threatening to rain, Jo put Hollie into the baby carrier which she strapped to her front while we donned rain jackets and we set off. The ground was very wet after recent rain and the sky was heavy and brooding but that didn’t deter us. Hollie tried valiantly to stay awake but all too soon she succumbed to sleep.
Views from the clumps are well worth seeing and we were not disappointed
Dodging rain showers and cold weather, Ian and I made our way down the Thames from Day’s lock to Maidenhead where, a week later, we were to meet Jo and Chris again in an entirely different venue as we all watched the rowing events of the Paralympics at Eaton Dorney.

Monday 3rd September and the weather is much improved. Is this the summer we have all been waiting for? I certainly hope so.

Ian and I are once again on our own and enjoying the tranquillity of the river. The school holidays are at an end and the traffic on the river reflects that. The beauty of the River Thames is not to be matched anywhere – in my opinion. It was at Cookham Lock that we passed David Walliams while he swam the Thames last year. Was it really a year ago? The tranquillity of the river certainly makes it hard to believe.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Newbridge to Radcot

With brooding sky overhead, Ian and I watched Carol Kirkwood’s smiling face on BBC Breakfast. Her message was not as bright as her smile as she presented the weather forecast for the day; projections of heavy showers and wind for the afternoon. We had about 4 hours cruising to do before reaching our intended mooring point so a little after eight we pulled up the mooring pins and set off.  The clouds overhead were heavy and grey but it was warm and still. However, a little after this picture was taken, the heavens opened and the rain came down like stair-rods. 

It was as if God had switched on a power shower and He was laughing at us “You might run but you cannot hide.” I scrambled down into the cabin to get Ian’s rain coat then closed the cratch covers as the rain poured in. A few moments later, as quickly as it started, the rain stopped and the sky cleared a little, but only a little. I made a cup of coffee and was determined to enjoy as much of the day as I could.

Ian pointed out the electric blue flash of a kingfisher as it darted away, scarcely skimming the water as it went. As if in contrast, I then saw a ponderous heron push out its long neck and almost topple over as it lifted its ungainly body into the air, then awkwardly flapped up and over the trees while pulling in its neck and leaving its long yellow legs training behind.

As we reached Shifford lock it started to drizzle again but the welcoming lockkeeper opened the lock for us. Moments later the lock slowly filled and as I chatted amiably to the lockkeeper, I noticed a beautifully crafted ‘bug hotel’ in the gardens and commented on it. It was a beautiful structure topped with bird nesting boxes. I also noticed the house martins darting to and fro obviously feeding noisy young ones. It didn't take much to guess that the lock keeper enjoyed his natural surrounds.

The river continued to meander through isolated meadowland with sharp twists and turns in places, the boat leaving a boiling wake behind it. By mid-morning the air was warm and still and even though the clouds were low and brooding, it was probably the best place to be in all of England. We soon passed a long line of moored boats just before the 18th century Tadpole Bridge and even glimpsed a tiny scrap of blue sky but it didn’t last long.

The Thames continued to meander as the sky became heavier. Light showers gave way to the promised heavy rain and by the time we reached Radcot, our stopping point for the day, we were both soaked through. The lockkeeper at Radcot Lock told us of a good mooring spot where the farmer didn’t charge for mooring and we found it easily. The herd of cows that occupied the field slowly moved off leaving us with a spectacular 'front garden' view for the rest of the day. 

By mid-afternoon, the rain had abated, the clouds lifted and the sun began to poke through although the wind did pick up a bit. Perfect time to write a blog but poor internet connection prevented me from publishing it.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Abingdon was full of surprises. We discovered that Abingdon on Thames is Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited town. Recent archaeological finds have proved that people have been living there continuously for 2,600 years.  Abingdon was occupied by settlers of the Bronze and Iron ages and was a flourishing town in the Roman period, which in turn gave way to a Saxon settlement and when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1538, Abingdon Abbey was the 6th richest in Britain.
The bridge over the Thames (close to where we were moored) is over 550 years old. The Thames, which has always been an important part of the town, is a focal point for many recreational activities.
Mooring was plentiful and the town really makes boaters welcome with full boating facilities (such as water, refuse and sanitation point) at the picturesque Abingdon Lock. The well-kept river frontage faces open fields and sports grounds. Public facilities such as a self-cleaning toilet and refuse points are provided. Mooring is available for 5 consecutive days so we made the most of it and spent time exploring the town.
We were directed to a children’s splash park and entrance there was free! Fountains of different shapes and sizes pop up out of the ground and switch on and off at various intervals allowing children to run through them, so even tiny tots who can’t swim (and some who could barely walk) can join in the fun. We found it difficult to get Daniel out of the splash park; he wouldn’t even be bribed with an ice-cream! The only shadow was that he left his glasses there somewhere and although we searched all over and asked other people if they had seen them it was to no avail. They are well and truly lost.
Tanya and David joined us on Saturday. They had come to collect Daniel at the end of his week with us but they too found it so pleasant that they stayed most of the day enjoying the good weather.
On Monday 13th we pulled up our mooring pins and moved on promising ourselves that we would return when we had our other grandchildren, James and Phoebe, with us. We continued upstream through Oxford. Above Oxford, near Kings Lock, the river bends to the left towards Lechlade while access to the Oxford canal is a right turn onto the weir stream and through Duke’s cut. We headed towards Lechlade and found pleasant mooring above Eynsham Lock. The day had given us some heavy showers and the sky was a brooding grey as we hammered in the mooring pins.Below is a picture taken from the Swanhatch on Winedown.

Since today promised variable weather, we planned a short stretch, mooring just outside Newbridge. We didn’t see much of the promised showers and enjoyed the sunshine, even taking in picturesque walk along the Thames path.

Friday, 10 August 2012

The weather is gorgeous at the moment and we have been making the most of it. We have been moored above Day’s lock on the River Thames just a mile outside the Roman town of Dorchester. The wide open fields have been great for Daniel to run around in.
The peace and tranquillity are reflected in the pictures.

Here is Granddad showing Daniel how to untangle his fishing line...again!

Great Expectations
If we didn't call him in, I am sure he would still be there looking out for that elusive fish!

When we called Daniel in for dinner, the swan thought we meant him and came to the hatch for his share.

A wonderful sunset completed the perfect day.

Don’t you just love the irony of this photo. I am not sure who exactly is in danger, boaters or fish!

After leaving Day’s lock, we made our way upstream towards Abingdon. Our intention is to get to as close to the source of the Thames as possible. Again it was a perfect day. Our only concern was that the fuel gauge couldn’t make up its mind as to how much fuel we had. One moment it showed that we had ¼ tank, the next it showed that we had ¾ tank. We had filled up in Aldermaston 10 days ago so we thought we had ¼ tank.
As we approached Abingdon, we saw the Woolwich motor and butty pair of working boats Archimedes and Ara, plying their trade. As they drew close, I hailed them asking if they could supply us with diesel.  They acknowledged in the affirmative and we turned to go alongside.
Here we were in the middle of the river Thames, breasted up to this old working pair taking on diesel. Talk about mid-flight refuelling, this was mid-flow refuelling.  I was too busy holding on to the centre rope to take photos. Pity!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

I can’t believe that it was a week ago that we left the marina. After an interesting first day, things settled down into a relaxing rhythm
The swing bridge at Theale is about halfway between the marina and the river Thames so we had a comfortable day’s cruising. Between locks, I was able to sit back and enjoy the beauty of the countryside as it slowly slid by. The sun beat down warmly without being too hot.
I was standing on the stern of Winedown with Ian as we passed under the M4 motorway. The vehicles overhead rushed passed and probably didn’t even notice that they were crossing a canal. I waved heartily but my greeting wasn’t returned. The heads of drivers and passengers alike didn’t even turn in our direction; they were absorbed in their own world. The worked out gravel pits that are now filled with wildlife brought a degree of serenity that was in total contrast to the busy M4.
All too soon, we were on the outskirts of Reading where the waterway, a river, is shallow, narrow and fast flowing. The section that flows through the Oracle shopping centre is controlled by traffic lights. After opening the lock gates at County Lock, Ian pressed the button on the traffic lights and they immediately turned green so we were able to continue, taking the tight bends easily as we wound through the Oracle and out of the other side. Just before Blake’s lock the canal split and we took the left hand (port side) turn to moor on the courtesy mooring at ‘Bel and the Dragon’ restaurant . It was here that we met daughter Jo and baby Hollie for dinner.  The convivial atmosphere, excellent food and friendly staff is a must for any discerning diner to sample. Tanya, David with grandson Daniel met us at the same point at lunchtime on Friday to spend a long weekend with us. 
We quickly stowed their baggage and in no time at all, we had cleared Blake’s lock and turned onto the Thames. Before we could sit back and relax, we had shopping to do so we moored up outside Tesco – very conveniently – and quickly filled our basket with the supplies we needed, anxious to be away as soon as possible.

Mooring just beyond Mapledurham lock, we relaxed on the front deck with sun-downers while we caught up on all the news before starting to cook dinner. The flocks of Canada geese honked loudly just to let us know that they would not be left out of the conversation. The beautiful mute swans glided alongside the boat expectantly waiting for a morsel of bread.
A leisurely start the following day saw us traverse the three miles and a lock before we moored at Beale Park. Daniel couldn’t wait to get his fishing rod out but to be honest, it was more like… Daddy spent the afternoon untangling fishing line than Daniel quietly fishing.  Every now and again, Daniel would disappear and on his return he would regale us with fisherman stories. The fishermen along the riverbank must have been thankful to see the back of us when it was time to call Daniel in for dinner.
Sunday and we had planned to spend the day in Beale Park. Ian locked up the boat and as we were about to set off the heavens opened and we ducked under the covers of the cratch. Thinking that the shower would only last a few moments, we were content to huddle together watching the sky.  Thunder crashed and lightning flashed and the rain pelted down. Half an hour later we were still huddled together wanting for the storm to pass.  Just as we were about to give up the idea of going to the park, the sun peeped out from behind the dark cloud. A few moments later it was as if there had never been a downpour – except the soggy grass underfoot. The sun shone brightly and warm and we scuttled off down the path towards the park entrance before the weather had a chance to change its mind. The Wildlife Park and gardens didn’t disappoint and we even had a chance to celebrate the summer holiday with a cream tea.

On Monday 6th, Tanya and David left us to return to work( leaving Daniel to spend a week with Grandma and Granddad) but not before we had had a lovely lunch at Bel and the Dragon. Once we had waved them goodbye, we set off once again through Blake’s lock and headed towards Pangbourne where we moored for the night.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

A New Adventure

August 1st 2012

Narrowboat Winedown left the marina at Frouds Bridge shortly after 1:00pm. It doesn't matter how many times we leave the marina the feeling is always one of suppressed  excitement and today was no different. It was the start of a new adventure - our summer holiday.

I smoothly tucked the bow into the flow of the Kennet river at the mouth of  the marina, swung the tiller hard over and increased the engine speed. We cleared the 90 degree turn easily.

About 100yds up river from the marina entrance is the K & A canal; another 90 degree, blind turn. Taking the corner wide, I increases engine speed  and swung the tiller over again to swing the stern around the corner. Ian immediately started to gesticulate and I realised that a boat was coming around the blind corner. I pulled hard of the gear leaver to select reverse, and increased engine speed again. The heavy, old, Lister engine throbbed happily in response; it loves hard work, but I wasn't thinking of that as the 60ft narrowboat slowed. I saw the bow of the other boat and it too was slowing but neither boat slowed enough. The two button fenders attached to each bow kissed lightly and gently bounced each boat back. I continued to reverse back down stream and let the other boat pass. In all the time we have been in Frouds Bridge Marina, we have never met another boat on that corner - Oh well, first for everything.

We continued without further incident towards Aldermaston lock, the sun putting in an appearance and warming our backs. At the lock, we passed a hire boat that was just setting off. The people exchanged greetings and commented on the sunshine. When the English summer puts in an appearance, it's spectacular, nothing can beat it.

We were heading for Theale in no particular hurry. Along the way we passed narrowboat Aquarius moored on the side of the canal, and later saw that they were following us. At Sulhamstead Lock, I noticed that Aquarius was a short way behind so we waited at the lock for them to catch up and share the lock. Just as well we did.

Leaving the lock, they called out cheerfully 'See you at the next one,' to which Ian replied,
'We will be mooring near Theale swingbridge for the evening. We will wave as you go by.' Famous last words...
The mooring at Theale bridge was very busy so we headed for a space that would just accommodate our 60 ft length. The current on this part of the canalised river was flowing strongly and struck the stern forcing it broadside across the canal  and in no time at all we found ourselves jammed sideways across the cut. A couple on narrowboat  'Cats Whiskers' were just mooring up and ran to help us as we struggled to regain control of our boat. Roger grabbed our bow rope while his wife hauled on the centre rope but to no avail. Roger grabbed his bargepole and nimbly traversed the gunwhale of Winedown  to help Ian free the stern while I went to help Christine with the centre rope. I noticed the cap she wore had 'First Mate' embroidered on its crown and thought how she had unselfishly  become our first mate.

We all struggled to no avail and at that point, narrowboat Aquarius rounded the bend, saw our predicament and pulled into the bank of the canal to lend a hand. As we all tugged and pulled, prodded and pushed against the barge poles, a pair of young cyclists rode up. 'Need a hand?' the young man asked me, leaping off his bike and grabbing the centre line that I was struggling with . 'Yes please.' His friend ditched his bike and grabbed the rope as well.  All in all, it took us a good 20 mins to get the boat under control and securely moored at Theale swing bridge. A huge THANK YOU to all for your help.