I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Thames Promenade, Reading (River Thames) – Saturday 27th September

We were woken up about 6.30am by voices and banging.  Neither of us went to investigate but when we got up later Wallingford riverside was abuzz with people, sculls and pontoons!!  It was the Wallingford Long Distance Sculls race.  I looked it up on the internet and discovered that there were 575 teams registered which were divided up into three races.  Races 1 and 3 were over 4,250 metres and race 2 was over 1,500 metres.  There were so many divisions that I couldn’t even start to list them but basically there were Quads, Coxed Quads, Double Sculls and Single Sculls.  Crews are timed – they don’t race against each other.  As we moved down river the rowers were getting down to the start for the first race and were lining up in numerical order – the highest number we saw was 250.  It much be a logical nightmare to organise all the rowers and, of course, make sure they all start in order!

Wallingford Long Distance Sculls

We took on water at Cleeve Lock which on self service.  Way back in the 1580s a flash lock was recorded at Cleeve, named after a cliff, or clift - a cutting of a channel by water. This weir was converted into an oak pound lock in 1787.  In the 1900s, the lock keeper was a man called John Willey. John fought for his country during the Great War and won the Distinguished Service Medal. Unfortunately, he drowned in the Thames in April 1919, having suffered, according to the coroner, 'a temporary aberration of intellect'!  Apparently
The river island adjoining the weir walkway is owned by Pete Townsend of The Who rock band.

Cleeve Lock

Next was Goring Lock which is one of my favourites.  I always love looking back at the weir and the lovely houses behind it.  The lock itself began life, records tell us, back in the 1500s as a flash weir. It was constructed by the local mill owner to provide him with a head of water to drive the water wheel. A side benefit was that it made the water deep enough for river craft. It became a timber pound lock in 1787, costing, it is said, £1,000 to build.  When Goring Lock was rebuilt by the Thames Conservancy in 1921, it was built with a very obvious difference - it had a pair of middle gates. This was to save water and enable river craft to travel faster through the lock. The middle gates were removed in 1981.

Goring Lock Weir

We stopped at Beale Park for lunch.  Strangely enough neither Richard nor I have ever stopped there before – so a first for us but we will be back!

Whitchurch Lock was on self-service with two boats already in and one waiting to come up.  That must be the busiest we have seen recently.  Whitchurch Lock began life as a flash weir in 1580 and was converted to a wooden pound lock in 1787. The manual beams were removed in 1966 when the lock was converted to electro-hydraulic operation.  The Lock House is the only surviving one of its type - the arched window design is the same as when the house was built in 1829.

Whitchurch Lock

I commented on our way up that Whitchurch Bridge looked as it was almost ready to open and it is now with pedestrians and cars crossing.  The toll is 40p for a car.

Whitchurch Bridge

It was then down the lovely stretch to Mapledurham Lock.  The Lock has been linked through the ages with the nearby corn mill - the only water mill working on the River Thames today. The mill appears in the Domesday Book, so it follows there was a dam or weir here in 1086, one of the earliest recorded on the river.  Mapledurham Lock made history in 1956 when it became the first mechanical lock on the River Thames. It used an early type of electro-mechanical system although it wasn't very successful and was converted to hydraulic operation in the 1974.  Apparently the famous film The Eagle has Landed was filmed in 1976 partly at Mapledurham Mill.

Mapledurham Lock

We moored up at Thames Promenade at Reading again.  We thought it might be busy on a Saturday but there was only one boat and I’m pretty sure that was there last time!  While we were mooring up Muffin managed to fall in!  I told him to go ashore just as Richard pulled the bow ropes in which made the stern go out so suddenly there was a bigger gap than he anticipated and splash!  Richard fished him out while I kept the boat from squashing him – he then went dashing madly around drying himself off!

As we were sitting out on the grass a hot air balloon appeared from behind the trees.  It’s Steve’s tomorrow so I thought it was rather appropriate.

15.27 miles
4 locks

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