Thursday, 14 November 2019

Party time ...

Our third granddaughter Joanne's birthday is the day after her mum's and this weekend Sharon is 50 and Joanne is 21... 
so Saturday (9th November) was party time ...
Sharon and Joanne
We had an absolute blast, meeting up with family and friends, lots of noise, dancing and fun until late!





These photos are not the best ... they're stills from a video taken by our son Mark ... but you'll get the drift of the evening ...





Sunday (10th) was our beautiful daughter Sharon's actual 50th birthday ... and present opening day for both of them ...

Sharon with a wide-eyed Dave waiting for everyone to gather before opening those presents


and Joanne who has waited patiently for mum to finish opening presents and cards before she starts on her own collection.  Joanne's birthday is tomorrow (Monday 11th) but there are no pictures of her actual day because ... she was jetting off to Rome ... a lovely surprise present from her boyfriend Bryan.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Up north ...


Thursday (7th November) our bags were packed, the hire car had been collected and ...


by 9-am we were on our way from Hambleden Marina, through the autumnal leafy lanes, on the first leg of our journey to bonny Scotland ...





After a night of very heavy rain there was lots of lying water on these narrow lanes, but the sun was shining through the canopy of trees and life is good ...
George saw deer crossing the road behind us through the rear-view mirror as we climbed the Chiltern hills on the approach to the ancient village of Ibstone
9:25 and we're turning onto the M40 
 We stayed overnight with George's sister near Market Drayton and by 7:45 on Friday we passed by the parish church of Ashley to continue our journey.

The drive was uneventful, thankfully.  
Along the M6 where there is lots of work going on (no change there then), but the managed system in place kept the traffic moving.  Then onto M74, M8 through Glasgow and the A760 into Largs.  The views through the Lake District etc were amazing although the temperature outside dropped a couple of time to 3° and was only 6° at its highest throughout the five hour journey.
 12:45 and we're dropping down the Haylie Brae into Largs.
 I'm always excited to see the wonderful views over the Firth of Clyde ...
 to the Isle of Cumbrae

It was too early to book into our accommodation and we'd arranged to meet family at the Bosuns Table at Largs Yacht Haven where granddaughter Joanne was on duty today ...
 View of Largs from the Yacht Haven






Son in law Joe, daughter Sharon and their youngest Alice arrive at the cafe from ...






 Alice's graduation ceremony ...  Congratulations Alice!

At 3-pm after coffee and cake, we left the cafe to book into SugarPop Cottage ... a four bedroomed, spacious, delightful cottage near the centre of Largs and were later joined by the rest of the Palin family, Mark, Ange, Lucy, Dan, Ed and Pip!

Tomorrow is party time!

Monday, 4 November 2019

Settling in at Hambleden

We've certainly been busy since arriving, catching up with household tasks that had been neglected due to the uncertainty of will we, won't we, prior to Thursday last week when we decided that was the day we should move here.

But there has still time to look out of the window and take a couple of bus rides ..

 Friday (1st November) houseboat Gypsy Willow was brought into the mill stream and moored up in front of us ...
and another wide beam arrived too ... the owner wintered here last year too but in a narrowboat
Saturday we went by bus into Henley just two miles away for a few bits and bobs ... lovely autumn colours as we wait at the bus stop
 Sunday (yesterday) the pheasant arrived ... he does make me smile, the way he struts about as if he really does own the place!
and the kingfisher of course, always a welcome sight, perched on the top of the widebeam in the bright light ...

and today ... nearly caught up with all the laundry etc ... need to go into Marlow too ... and we're off for a long weekend and a big party in a couple of days.

Friday, 1 November 2019

Will we, won't we ... can we, can't we ... we did!

We're now safely ensconced in our winter mooring at Hambleden Marina ... phew!
Wednesday (30th October) was the day we had hoped to make the journey downstream to the marina from but all the reaches between here at Reading to beyond Hambleden Lock were back on red boards ... no go areas. 

We walked down to Caversham Lock to take a look at the flow from the weir stream, and because we'd not done it before ...

 walked over the weir to View Island where we could see that the water from the open sluices was ferocious.

 through the woodland paths ...

 View Island is a joint venture between Reading District Council and the Environment Agency for the conservation of wildlife and for the pleasure of local inhabitants.
This tree carving saw us leave the island and walk back to Still Rockin' discussing what we'll do for the remainder of the day.  A decision was made to go into Reading as there was a couple of items we needed to source.  The day was successful and we had lunch out at Bills to save me having to cook at home ... brill!

Nothing had changed on Thursday either and we took another bus trip into Reading via Hambleden to look at the flow there ... it didn't look too bad, we've certainly seen it worse than this.
We had lunch out again too, this time at Burgers in Marlow on the way home as we had some post to collect.  Another day not having to cook!

Friday ... we've had a few dry days and when we checked the EA's listing found that all but one of the reaches we needed to cruise were on stream decreasing boards; we rang Sonning Lock Keeper who informed us that the reach below was no longer on red ... we can go ...

 There were about five young adolescent swans looking for food at 9:20 as we got ready to cast off.  

We took down the pram hood over the stern deck ... one less thing to worry about should we get pushed/pulled into any tree branches or, heaven forbid, get too close to Sonning Bridge supports ... let's hope not!

 Leaving our mooring by the park and winding to face downstream ...



as the cygnets took to the air and we descended Cavendish Lock an fought our way through the extremely strong weir stream





Looking back as we pass Tesco and the entrance to the Kennet and Avon






and continue in the sunshine although the breeze had a bite to it.

Sonning Lock next where we pulled in on the lock landing and George walked down to the bridge to see what the flow was like.  When he returned and said he felt that it would be fine so I walked down to the lock as it was on self service.  The lock keeper appeared and said that he'd see us through and we got chatting whilst George brought Still Rockin' in.  I mentioned to the lockie that my worst nightmare would be if we met another boat coming through the bridge as it's on a very awkward bend in the river.  The lockie hesitated for a moment and said that there are two boats coming upstream but that Shiplake is quite a distance away and that we would be ok and I relayed that information to George ...





so out we go ... I was more than a bit anxious



Saying cheerio to the lovely lock keeper who is waiting to move with his family into the lock house behind him which is currently undergoing some renovation work
It's not far from the lock to the bridge and after a few minutes we heard a long toot from a horn ... boat or car? We sounded our horn and slowed down a little ...
 and there was dutch barge Elsie coming through ... I went inside ... I didn't want to interfere with how George would handle this manoeuvre ... 





we passed a bit close as this picture shows through the nets of the kitchen window



and through the cratch (at the bow) I could see that Still Rockin' was now being lined up for the largest arch ...






straight through the middle ... easy, peasy!





There was a bit of a flow from the weir as we past ... all good.

 Looks like a mill pond

 Shiplake Lock


 Apart from motoring through that weir stream all was good
 Early in the afternoon the sun broke through and took the chill from the air
We can see a hire cruiser moored slap bang in the middle of the landing at Marsh Lock (Henley) and there's also a small motor boat heading that way too.  There is no-one on the hire boat, so we'll share the lock with the small boat.

Whilst I set the lock George goes to the tail gate to look at the weir stream.  The motor boat comes in first and I asked him to go to the end and tie up on the right as George prefers to line up in a lock on the left because that's where the steering wheel is.  Unfortunately as George brought Still Rockin' round the hire boat the strength of the weir dragged the bow over and there was a glancing blow on the lock's leading wall ... only paint, no real damage done.
The weir stream at the tail of the lock doesn't look too bad from here but it was deceiving ... it took George a lot of revs both in reverse and forward to get Still Rockin's stern close to the landing to allow me to reboard.





in actual fact it was really rough ...
 but lots of revs got us safely through

 Onwards ...


 through Henley on Thames ...
 to the last lock of the day ... Hambleden


I had to smile while waiting for the lock to fill, at this pair of Mallards eating an apple.  The apple eventually got close to the edge of the lock and dropped in ... it was quite funny to watch them both standing there looking for it.  They both dropped into the water and were still there when we left
 Waiting for the lock to empty
 Hambleden weir

 That's Hambleden Marina as we leave the lock and there's a motor boat coming upstream preventing us from turning left into the mill stream ...
 so we continue downstream ...

 until we could wind (turn around) ...
 we need to turn right now immediately past the bush down this side of the two cruisers 

 a tight squeeze but at least the river is high as we're usually dragging the hull along the bottom when we arrive here!
 bend round to the left now ...






and we can see our pontoon 
 Five and a half hours after setting off from Reading ...
 this is home for the next five months.

What else would make our home-coming better?


The local kingfisher came to say welcome!