You Came

We were heading for Reading and the further we go along the Thames, the wider and tamer it seems to be. We continue to see cormorants and they seem to fly closer and one encircled us before landing and diving. The bird count seems to go up as we reach the town, they know where the bread is, though one swan seemed to be trying to eat weed off our rudder and followed us along plunging it’s neck underwater. It didn’t seem interested in being fed by us at all. The geese looking for food from a man at the side, trying to film them, were so interested they came on to the bank and followed him along.

Swan looking for something to eat below the boat

Canada Geese and goslings keen to be fed

As we were coming towards the places where Shane hoped to find moorings, a pigeon landed on the roof, and then another. I don’t think it wanted fed we have been under many bridges with lots of pigeons and they have never attempted to come aboard before. This wasn’t even where there are lots of them. Then a gull landed too and all while we were moving along.

Two pigeons and a gull on the roof as we are driving into Reading

Finding a mooring seemed quite tricky. It wasn’t all that late in the afternoon. We had had a pretty tricky lunch mooring, with me tying to a tree at the bow and a wide stretch on a spike at the back, swapping to a longer rope and requiring a touch of nettle clearing while Shane was trying to hold the boat in the flow and pass me items as it was hard for me to get back on the boat. We thought marked moorings in town would be easier and there might be rings or bollards available. There were plenty of boats but it still looked like they were using spikes.  We found a slot we fitted in and there was a good solid straight edge,  but it was still lined with brambles and nettles at one end, involving tying on to an underwater chain and a spike at the other and careful walking along the edge to get on and off choosing a safe route for bare legs. There are notices up saying how to pay on line. Shane was having difficulty navigating the payment system when I got a message from my sister Anne saying they had just discovered they could use their freedom pass all the way to Reading. And we were now right there. Various complications of where and how long you can moor meant they shuffled some other plans at their end and we found a day that suited us both.

We had a tour of Reading to check out where the station was and look at the next stage of travel. It was just as well as it was not straightforward with a traffic light system and several choices of route that it was as well to have researched. We discovered a very scenic spot to moor with rings and nobody else there beside the abbey; checked out a short but scenic route to/from the station through the ruined abbey and gorgeous gardens plus another mooring spot that was free outside a supermarket. We could save that in our back pocket for when we didn’t need to be close to the station.

Cygnet at the abbey wharf
Maiwand Lion Memorial to soldiers who died in Afghanistan in Fosbery Gardens
Reading Abbey ruins
Armoured Heart Statue incorporating blades from knife amnesty in central riverside Reading

We found a nice pub for an evening meal too and had a circuitous walk back to our parkside mooring, seeing a number of converted boats that had innovative designs and were definitely long term moored. The next day we set off for our new abbey mooring before the 24 hours were up and we turned into a pumpkin or something. The rules were complicated. We had a close encounter with a cormorant at the new mooring and on the way through the locks found even younger cygnets and flowers in unexpected places.

Cormorant taking off beside us in Abbey wharf
Clover and daisies growing in the lock gate reflecting on our windows on the way past
Very young cygnets sitting outside another lock

Both locks were staffed though one said it wasn’t so I did half the work until he joined me then he finished off, letting me back on the boat. The lock flowers there were unintended but elsewhere in Reading they were deliberately putting floating rushes and flowers planted along the parts the canalised River Kennet in town.

On Tuesday morning I got rid of our old crusts to some geese and was very pleased to be getting up close with Egyptian geese, which I have only see further south. The Abbey wharf had a resident couple. The Canada geese chased them away in the water so the adult decided he would get more on land, while the juvenile kept its distance on the water. Later they both hung around the bow for a little more.

We picked up Anne and Richard at the station, despite careful planning, there was still confusion. Two south entrances/exits is a bit confusing, but no-one got lost. It was cool and cloudy but we were all hopeful of the sun coming out. As Anne is the one who has got me into writing poetry, it was a bonus to be moored beside Oscar Wilde Walk which is beside Reading Gaol, which they recognised, before we told them about the Wilde connection. The railings have his poetry about imprisonment written on bars. The angle you are looking from, significantly affects the ability to read it, but I thought it was worth the effort.

Over coffee and cake, we offered them the option of wide river Thames with a few mostly staffed locks, or unexplored River Kennet territory with hand operated locks. They opted for the narrower more hands on approach. They had a busy day ahead.

Starting the cruise, from Abbey Wharf, as we mean to go on, in good spirits
A dull day brightened by good company

Anne was chief photographer and soon recognised monkey flower as one of the colourful additions to the water to bring nature to the city. She caught a cormorant drying itself and a long line of teenage ducks.

We had quite a zigzag early on and soon reached the new signals, water traffic lights, which look like a pedestrian crossing and are to make sure there is only one way traffic in the section that Shane described as a log run. There was nothing coming so we didn’t need to tie up to the jetty this time.

All went well and Shane let us all off to work the lock. It is such a long time since I had done one I forgot to check the other end and the gates were wide open, some expert I turned out to be! Once we had worked it we saw that three boats were waiting to come in so we were lucky to have had no wait at the traffic lights. One of them gave advice about a particularly difficult lock ahead that would need three crew members out to move the gate. He wasn’t wrong!

Richard and I fell into a regular pattern of locking, though the locks were far from regular, being different mechanisms from each other and fierce flows in every one. We had to wind slowly and Shane had quite a job controlling the boat, even then.

As predicted the sun came out for the afternoon. Anne had hurt her back the day before so was sensibly not risking the leaping, winding and pushing of heavy gates, required by lockers but she did excellent driving in the strong currents. I know she was quickest (youngest) of all seven of siblings to pass her driving test so she must be just as fast a learner on a tiller as behind the wheel.

Relaxing in the sunshine, with Anne at the helm

We got to our target of Theale which had a range of pubs and chose The Fox and Hounds where we enjoyed a fine meal and drinks until we had to hurry along to the station so they could have their surprisingly swift journey on two trains and a bus back home. We are glad they came and are welcome back any time but may be we will get to London first.