Bridges

When we were in Marlow, we had a little walk through the fair aiming to visit the attractive bridge. We grabbed some ice cream on the way.

I don’t know if it was because there was a fair on or if this was normal Saturday stuff but the bridge was very congested with traffic. It is narrowed so large vehicles can’t go over but many of the cars had only a few inches to spare, rather like going through a lock gate, and that slowed things down considerably. They have to slow to go through the arches in single file too. We didn’t have such issues though as there is a footpath on each side of the arches, plenty of room to pass and stop to look at the view.

Many a town is twinned with another but this was the first time I have heard of towns being bridged with another, though Buda and Pest are a good example of thoroughly bridged towns. Marlow is “bridged” with both of them.

Marlow twinned with Marly le Roi, France and bridged with Budapest

The next day we drove under it. The Thames is so much wider than the canal, and deeper, that the bridges are much higher, as well as wider arched, when arched, to allow large boats through. We had a much easier time of it than the cars above. In the Marlow suspension bridge the arches are only on the road and are on top of the bridge in stead of under it, though the stone supports do carry on below.

Driving under the Marlow suspension Bridge

The bridge is very elegant and was worth a visit. Mostly there are miles with no bridges and there are occasional passenger ferry crossings, but I liked this new, nature inspired footbridge, a more delicate bridge was possible as it was going to an island mid stream so not too long.

Footbridge over the Thames with metal reeds incorporated into the design

Footbridge over the Thames with metal reeds incorporated into the design fron the other side

As we head towards London the bridges get longer and more frequent. There is quite a variety of transport to see over the bridges and sometimes, lights to tell you which arch to go under.

We moored up at our booked mooring near Teddington Lock ready for the early reserved passage. We have no fondness for the early morning but that’s when the tide was so we would have to go then. We popped into Richmond to find a post office and went over a wooden pedestrian bridge. Workmen were dismantling some scaffolding. The bridge was closed at night so we didn’t go out for an evening meal, we didn’t want to get stuck on the wrong side. We had an early night. We didn’t sleep that well. The narrow boat we had seen a few days earlier expressed how we felt.

Narrow boat Barely-A-Wake moored outside Hampton Court

The early morning sky and mist was worth getting up for and the lock itself was no trouble. The light was lovely and we saw a grebe and lots of geese and cormorants on the way.

The next bridge of note was welcoming us to the other Thames Lock, at Brentford, with the estuary successfully behind us. The lockkeeper helped us through and from then we were working our own locks.

Blue Canal and River Trust van crossing the bridge before Thames Lock

We were now going upstream so we were going to be a bit slower and with the very heavy rain there seemed to be lots of water against us. The first lock we had to work after Thames Lock was push button controlled and was quite a challenge to the brain and only one gate opened each end. The next one was a physical challenge. The winding was okay but opening the lock needed four of us and crossing the lock gates (there was no easy bridge at this one) over the gushing water was slightly unnerving. I had to do so at both ends, both with cascades. We were handily with another boat, but their crew were more reticent about crossing over the gates.

Approaching the overflowing lock.

One lock had an actual separate bridge but it was still quicker to use the lock gate. I met a canal and river trust worker there. He offered to help but didn’t have a windlass so I was crossing over to wind the paddles, even though he had gone to that side to open the gate. He was telling me that he was there as a group were coming to do gardening. I thought he said they had come from Skye which was a long way to come to do gardening, then as he said it was a company thing to do some charity or voluntary work, I realised he meant the people were coming from Sky. I told him I was more familiar wit the island than the company as I had holidayed there many times. In fact the year I was born I was overdue and my dad was itching to get off but needed to wait until I was born and so we went to Skye when I was 10 days old. By the end of the holiday I had been longer in Skye than any where else. All my memories of going there were on the frequent ferry and I have never used the bridge to Skye. It sounds a lot less enjoyable. I always loved the breath of fresh air that the ferry provided, the escape from the long drive and the knowledge we didn’t have far to go.

We were back to smaller bridges on the canalised River Brent but I was amused to go under an “Underground train” bridge. Shane pointed it out.

Underground train going over us

There was no further help from volunteers. We reached the top of the flight and I was very hungry, but there were a couple more locks round the corner. Our buddy boat crew wanted to investigate a Brunel bridge ahead. As we went through it looked a very ordinary bridge but later then I saw a wooden structure advertising it as three bridges. Further along a man on a bike was looking for the interesting site and I pointed him to where the information boards. He had gone past without noticing. We moored up and the other boat went on but Shane helped them through the lock. The promised rain came down soon after, then when the sun came out I went to look at the bridges. I remembered I had recently seen a statue of Brunel at Paddington station when returning from Lille. The road bridge is very unremarkable but the three bridge claim is that there is a railway below the canal and we had gone over a small aqueduct and the road went over us at the same time. I took a picture of the aqueduct and railway from the road bridge. The railway had had a smaller bridge over it too in the past.

We moored up one lock further on and escaped the rain again. We fitted a walk in and had sunshine and black clouds. It wasn’t the prettiest area with a large skip boat nearby. Shane saw oil on the water, or so he thought. Then he realised it was a reflected rainbow. That meant there was rain nearby.

Our companions through the locks since dawn had been soaked the day before with a schedule that meant they had to press on regardless and had clothes drying inside their boat. I wonder if they managed to find a safe spot before the rain. It was nice and cosy with thunder and lightening outside convinced us staying put was the best option even if it means a longer drive to our booked mooring. After our early start we might be unusually early to bed and early to rise.

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