IT’S BEEN something of a busy year in the Smith household – what with my son starting a new job, my daughter announcing that she is going to get married next February (requiring attendance at wedding shows and help with the planning of receptions etc), the hot water tank in our house deciding to leak copiously all over the place (requiring emergency plumbers), deciding to paint the outside of the house (requiring an entire bank holiday weekend) and the like.
So brother Alan, my wife, Julie, and I have had precious few opportunities to take our old Seamaster cabin cruiser, Terra Nova, out on the river this summer.
However, we decided that we had to make time to get out on the water a couple of weekends ago and how wonderful it was to be puttering along the Thames in September.
It really is a great time of year to be cruising – the weather was pleasant, the lock keepers all had time for a chat and, for much of the day, we had the river more or less to ourselves.
We headed off upstream from Shepperton and took in the newly completed works outside Weybridge Ladies’ Rowing Club. The Environment Agency has kindly provided some splendid new boat moorings on the Weybridge bank of the Thames along with improved disabled access to the water’s edge and the ferry that crosses to Nauticalia.
But while I’m always grateful to see new moorings, the bank does now look extremely bare. I do hope the EA are still planning to replace some of the many trees that were cut down prior to the work taking place. It’s always been a lovely place to take a stroll because of the leafy avenue and it would be nice to see it returned to as near to its original state as possible.
Another thing that struck me was the number of anglers relaxing by the riverbank – there were dozens of them. I have to confess that I’ve never got into fishing but as we motored gently along it occurred to me that it must be a great way to clear your mind, enjoy the wonders of nature in the fresh air and concentrate on using your skill to decide where the fish might be lurking.
We stopped for lunch and a pint at the Slug and Lettuce by Staines Bridge before heading off through Bell Weir lock and past Runnymede and up to Old Windsor.
And looking at the moored boats as we passed, I had to chuckle at some of the inventive names skippers use for their craft. One of my favourites has always been The Office (as in ‘I’m just popping down to the office, darling – shan’t be long’). But I also had to smile at a narrow boat called R.G.Bargee, a cruiser with the name Cirrhosis of the River and a large blue vessel called, somewhat bizarrely, Not Now, Kato. Great stuff.
On the return journey, we enjoyed the best of the day with the sun coming out and Terra Nova behaving herself impeccably.
It’s trips like this that remind you just how precious leisure time can be – to be with people you love doing something you like on a stretch of the Thames which takes some beating for beauty and diversity.
I must do it more often next season.
Next week, my good friend Bob Gently will be writing Riverwatch but I’ll be back the following week with a review of some nautical books that have recently landed on my desk – including one delightful tome by local author Val Lewis about ship’s cats.