Tuesday 26 September
Hampton Court Palace to Chertsey Meads.
Because we are doing the reverse of part of our journey I thought I would take a break from writing for a few days, but…
Cruising from Teddington, through Walton-on-Thames, towards this evenings mooring in Chertsey Meads, we sighted a bicycle in the river. Not in the river as ‘been dumped in the river’, but an actual human cycling on the river!
Dhruv Boruah was riding a home-made bamboo bike (a sustainable material, so I like this guy more and more) and is one of four guys who make up ‘The Thames Project’; raising awareness of the phenomenon of plastic.
The aim, I believe, is to remove plastic bottles from the river Thames, then to share the number of bottles removed on a daily basis. In addition they want people to pledge to re-use plastic bottles – as opposed to using them as a ‘once-only/throw-away’, object. It’s a great idea and I hope that Canal and River Trust and various river authorities pick up on the sheer amount of plastic bottles (and, worse for boats, plastic bags and sheeting) in the water; if the authorities started an awareness campaign, and also dredged the canals more frequently, many boaters would be saved the cost of repairs to rudders, bow-thrusters and badly damaged bottoms…
Tom managed to have a quick chat with the guy – do I call him a rider or a sailor, I’m not sure – to tell him he was doing a fantastic job; the amount of times Tom has had to stop, mid-river, and open up the weed-hatch, or pull over to go elbow-deep in the freezing water to get at the bow-thruster, or propeller, simply to pull out a load of plastic is beyond annoying.
The other fact I thought I should share with you is this. You may remember reading way back that Tom had been told, ‘Boat’, stands for ‘bring out another thousand’? This last week or so have proved this correct. The cost of the recent repairs to the bow-thruster, new battery for the bow-thruster, service and fuel polishing, has indeed, cost around a thousand pounds. Yelp!
I’ll need to sell a lot of books to help pay my share.
Woofs, Martha xx
Monday 25 September
Teddington to Hampton Court Palace.
We are back at one of our favourite moorings this evening; Hampton Court Palace. In contrast to the weather we enjoyed just a few weeks back when we were moored here it is very autumnal today.
The leaves are changing colour; the ground is mushy and the sky is oh-so-grey. One thing that doesn’t change is the water. I love the reflections of the riverside and the overhanging trees although the constant rippling does mean I need a few more walks. I am sure I don’t need to explain more…
Leigh has spent the day working whilst Tom took the tiller and braved the weather. We took a quick walk down the river after lunch. I was hoping to sneak a late evening walk through the park at Hampton Court but I don’t think that is possible due a large sign on the gate stating, ‘No access between 9pm and 8am due to deer culling’. Yelp!
I guess we will hear gunshots this evening which will make me feel sad and helpless. I know culling has to happen, but I experienced this once on a walk in the woods surrounding Ragley Hall in Alcester. The noises are something else. Poor deer.
Woofs, Martha x
Sunday 24 September
Limehouse to Teddington.
It’s been a wonderful day today. Perfect weather; warm, clear blue sky, very little breeze and a cruise down the tidal Thames from Limehouse to Teddington lock.
Before we set off we had a quick walk into Poplar to get some groceries. As we crossed the road we saw thousands (and it was thousands) of motorbikes coming towards us. Apparantly they were riding out to raise awareness of Prostrate Cancer; it was thrilling to see so many different motorbikes, scooters, side cars and even an old racing car. Most of the riders were jauntily dressed; bow ties, high-heels, suave suits, and one guy in an early-twentieth-century bathing costumes made the procession a spectacle not to be missed.
As we exited the lock at Limehouse the water was morethanalittle choppy. Lots of traffic appeared to be the cause; once we had left the banana boats and tourist-trip boats behind the water eventually became calm and pleasant to navigate. I hadn’t realised there were so many beautiful bridges on the Thames – I counted at least twenty-one! The most iconic bridge has to be Tower Bridge – a sight that I believe most people in the world would recognise.
Buildings like the Shard, make for a stunning skyline. I still maintain that, although modern architecture can be mesmerising, The Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey are show-stoppers. Leigh and Tom have seen this buildings many times but it wasn’t until today that they really noticed the gold on the roof of the Abbey. It glistens, sparkles, and demands that you take notice of this beautiful building and it’s rich history.
Battersea Power station demands attention too. A beast of a plant that rises from the water and you feel the strength and energy emanating from here, just by looking at the buildings.
My favourite sightings (apart from those aforementioned) were Albert Bridge, the OXO building, H.M.S. Belfast – a huge, dark-grey, elephant of a ship – and the many beautiful residential Dutch Barges and old yachts that you see moored here.
Leigh did a stint at the tiller – she loves being on open water, so to speak – and we all felt very exhilarated and appreciative of the adventures we have been able to experience over the last four-and-a-half years.
Woofs, Martha xx
Saturday 23 September
My, oh my, oh my. Tis a dogs (hard) life for sure. Our humans have walked, walked, walked, and walked today. All the way from Limehouse to Tower Bridge and then back. Rosie sat down several times on the way home. Leigh even carried her a short way. How else can a canine protest? Humans are real eejits at times, they just don’t know when to stop; although I did hear Leigh and Tom saying it’s time to rethink how far they walk Rosie – after all she is nearly thirteen now. She even took advantage of a photo opportunity to lay down on a wall, poor girl!
The fun part of the walk was walking along historic cobbled streets that would have been the very streets that seamen, Chinese immigrants, old dogs, and various tradespeople would have walked many years ago. My nose was going tentothedozen. Limehouse and Poplar used to be true working-class areas and I love the history of these places. The name Limehouse originates from the 14th century when lime-kilns would have served the shipping business.
Our ‘home mooring’, which is at Tardebigge, has some recently discovered lime-kilns which are undergoing exposure. The Tardebigge kilns provided lime for the tunnels, built to enable cocoa and such to be transported via the canal to Cadbury’s in Birmingham. A bitofacoincidence I reckon!
Limehouse is an area that Leigh and I would never have had on our ‘to-visit’ list, yet, we loved it.
Originally a ship-building, rope-making and other merchant business area, Limehouse is now very trendy; many of the street names reflect the old trades too.
Leigh and Tom ate at ‘The Grapes’ this evening. It is rumoured this is the oldest pub in London. The Staff used by Ian McKellen’s character, Gandalf, in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy of films takes pride of place on the wall behind the bar. The food was superb, but the waitress sullen. Tom said he felt as though he was being ‘served’, but not ‘offered service’. Yelp!
In and around Limehouse the many appealing pubs and restaurants make it an area well worth a visit for a night out! A gastropub aptly named ‘The Narrow’ (as it is located on Narrow Street) looks very swish and is owned by the chef Gordon Ramsey.
It certainly makes you think about things when you visit these old, established, but much changed, areas. I noticed a sign saying that the Violet Girl would have been a regular sight in Limehouse. Leigh explained that Violets were commonly used to try and mask the aromas that would have been a constant in those days.
Woofs, Martha x
Friday 22 September
A quiet day was needed for both humans today. We decided to explore the area of Limehouse after waking quite late.
The weather has been really mild today, so on passing a rather nice Italian cafe, Vesuvious, we turned back in order to sit outside in the sun. My humans ordered brunch, coffee and juice (Leigh is avoiding caffeine for a few days). Rosie and I lay down, enjoying the warmth of the pavement.
It was nice to wander around with no particular destination in mind; it allowed Rosie and I to reawaken our senses as we strolled though a couple of parks, and around the swishy Limehouse basin.
The huge warehouses in this area underwent a change of use, from commercial to residential, around nineteen-sixty. In more recent years, with the redevelopment of Canary Wharf, and the waterfronts of Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool etc. the developers moved into Limehouse. I must admit, they have made a super job of this area. It really is very, very nice. There is a rather interesting art installation (I think that’s what you would call it) under an archway. It provokes thought about the contrast between ‘possesions’ and ‘homelessness’ – well, that’s my take on it! See the photo below…
Leigh and Tom went out for an early evening drink tonight; ‘The Grapes’ is leased by the actor Sir Ian McKellen, and was recently featured in the television series about Prunella Scales and Timothy West’s narrowboating experiences.
Rosie and I stayed home. You could bark ‘Not again – poor girls’, but we are actually getting used to it!
Woofs, Martha x
Thursday 21 September
Dobbs Weir to Limehouse.
Today was a super-long travel-day; ten-and-a-half-hours for Tom. He was dog-tired by the time we arrived at Limehouse. Leigh had no idea we actually were at Limehouse because she had another migraine come on around three-thirty this afternoon. She can only think her migraines have come back because she hasn’t been wearing her magnets. It’s a long story but she tells me she is putting all of her magnetic jewellery back on tomorrow and never taking it off. Migraines to humans must be what crates are to canines. Horrid!
Woofs, Martha X
Wednesday 20 September
We’ve had a funny few days really. Sunday morning saw us cruising up to Dobbs Weir on the river Lee and here we still are. Our bow-thruster stopped working properly a couple of weeks back; intermittently it would simply quietly whir, instead of growling.
Now, for those of you not familiar with the term ‘bow-thruster’, this is a device that helps push the front of the boat left or right, giving the helmsman (usually Tom) more control over the boat: it proves very useful when trying to control the boat in tight situations. A bow-thruster is not a necessity but a nice-to-have. Old sea-dogs often refer to them as ‘Girly buttons’ – sexist, but hey, Leigh, Rosie and I take this as a fun, throwaway comment. We get a bit tired of the P.C. Police!
Around lunchtime today the reconditioned bow-thruster arrived and Tom popped it back into its home in the bow.
We four cheered; we have thirty days to get back to Tardebigge and at four-miles-per-hour (plus stop-off days to sight-see) we should just do it.
Whilst here we have had some lovely walks across the weir and down the river. Just over the road from the pub is a gigantic lake, which Tom thinks was born out of an old gravel-pit. The edge of the lake makes for a good walk as I like to investigate the gardens backing onto the lake. I’ve noticed trees are starting to turn, blackberries and hedgerows are dying off but the apple trees are full of fruit right now. It’s Mother Nature at work, allowing something to die, in order to give birth to others.
Talking of dying, Leigh told me if someone had offered her euthanasia yesterday she would have taken it! She had a full-blown migraine start around eleven in the morning. It began while she was on a business call. Within half an hour the text on her computer had blurred and a kaleidoscope of colours were flashing past her line of sight. She took her pink migraleve tablets and went to bed – hoping to ward off the intense head pains of a migraine.
Unfortunately, the headache from hell still arrived. Leigh can never quite describe the pain; ‘pressure’, ‘stabbing pains’, and ‘a bottle-top, being screwed on so tight that the bottle would break’, are the best she can come up with.
Seeing her pain, Tom massaged her neck and shoulders with a magnet, which helped, but it wasn’t until around four-o-clock this afternoon that she felt she might be over the worst of it, and in need of fresh air, so we went for a stroll. Tom also popped out to a supermarket to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables which Leigh is craving after her migraine!
The most wonderful thing happened late this afternoon. Just back from our walk, Leigh and I were sitting in the stern of the boat when we spotted a Kingfisher. This electric-blue and orangey-red little bird is a joy to behold. It flew back and forth, like a gymnast’s bright ribbon thrilling us with graceful movements and flashes of colour.
We are setting off early tomorrow morning – heading towards London so I’m off for an early night!
Woofs, Martha X