Swanee River

Looking out the window yesterday morning I saw a group of Egyptian geese, showing off their long pink legs. I noticed one was ringed but the others not. Looking at their face markings, the ringed one was adult. I wondered how they find them all and ring them or if they just select a few. They look quite comical strutting around and pecking at the grass. The one with the dark ringed eye has a silver ringed leg. You may just have to take my word for it.

Egyptian geese walking like an Egyptian goose.

We wanted to get a few miles done -Shane had his sights on Windsor. Rain was expected in short showers, but nothing prolonged. In fact it became a bit of a confusing morning of donning a raincoat and immediately the rain would stop and you get too hot in a coat, so you take it off, and repeat. We did want water though so we went to a water point before a lock. We thought another boat was going to it and we were confused by their manoeuvres. I was trying to stop and wait. Shane was pointing but I didn’t know what side of the jetty I was to aim for. The other boat had been aiming for water too but changed its mind and eventually headed away so we could moor and fill up.

When we wanted to head to the lock I started to pull out to go to the lock bollards only to find a large boat we had seen earlier had arrived very quickly through the nearby bridge and I had no intention of crossing its path. The lock keeper came over to help me get the rope back on as he now told us the approaching flotilla were not going to wait to get in and they all just swept past, covered in flags and swan banners and some had a swan feather in their caps. I asked the lock keepers permission to enter his territory and take a photo or two of the royal crews. Of course the CR flag is all shiny and new, a first swan upping experience for me and the flag – time for getting the rings on the new cygnets and they all belong to the monarch. There was plenty of room for us in the lock but they got it to themselves.

At the next cycle of the lock we went in. As we were still at the water point mooring rather than the lock queue, I looked across at the lock bollards as another narrow boat, Willum, had appeared. The driver gestured for us to go in first. When we were roped up, she was holding the rope herself at the side and we had a chat. She preferred the locks where you control it yourself on canals. She was a lone boater and I noticed an advert in her window for giving courses in helming. I could be confident she was a good driver. And a very polite one too so it was a pleasure to share a lock with her. We left first but she was ahead of us in the next lock and from behind I could see she had a Women On Barges flag so we chatted about that too. I said I was in the group but did not have a flag. She had not yet seen anyone else with a flag. I told her I had and that is how I heard about the group, by asking so someone about their flag. She commented she didn’t have a proper flagpole. It was just tied to her tiller. The lack of wind meant it wasn’t fluttering.

A true blue WOB (Woman on barge) heading out of the lock with Willum

Although the Thames is wide, there are times when it can feel crowded. Two boats were approaching us at speed on a corner and they were level with each other. Once one had overtaken, then the much larger one behind it signalled that it was about to turn around with its horn and began to make a turn towards us. I slowed and hoped to wait for it to finish, but they waved me past in stead, so I hurried past. We are far from the fastest boat, one of the slowest in fact. I passed and it took a while to turn but by the time we had reached the nearby bridge it had almost caught up with us and held back to follow me through the arch before overtaking once they were through it, with a wave. We were to see that boat a few times. We saw the flotilla moored up for lunch at The Swan and as I was driving into the next lock a short while later a boat called to ask me if they were still at The Swan. We were ahead of them into that lock.

We managed to squeeze in to a mooring opposite the royal park at Windsor. Shane wanted to stretch his legs so we had a walk in to Windsor. A friendly jogger warned us, in short breaths, that the path was blocked by a fallen tree but it was possible to get round. I stopped to look at the roots and later to check out some butterflies.

The wooded path came out on to a bridge over the river. It was an attractive old stone bridge, with recesses on both sides to allow pedestrians to pass, rest or take in the view. Unfortunately a vehicle had smashed through one of them and there was a pile of stone in the river. I hope the bridge had no pedestrians just resting there. I had a good view of the castle from there.

Shane knew the flotilla had a timetable and they had passed us at the mooring spot and were due at the next lock. When we got to the lock there was a crowd of spectators and the lock also had a press boat in it. They had a wooden tray with two levels, a base and a layer with holes into which were slotted glasses. These were filled with wine and the tray passed from boat to boat, reminding me of communion wine trays, though the glasses here were much larger. One of the royal swan markers bid all the swan uppers to rise and toast the king. If he is in charge, does that mean I have seen yet another red admiral? One of the vintner boats was called Clare. Later I remembered an artwork of toasted king done for the coronation.

Once the ceremony was done and they had left the lock we went to Windsor and had an enjoyable relaxed dinner at a Thai buffet, having pleasant chats with other customers. Bells started pealing in the nearby curfew tower and the guy at the next table observed the castle had its flag flying, suggesting royals were in residence. Perhaps they come to watch the upping.

Curiously we saw hardly any swans yesterday. Today we had plenty of other waterfowl, cormorants, grebes, Egyptian and Canada geese, a cute dark duckling and mum, coots and a swan hiding amongst some other birds. They just can’t quite hide.

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