Tuesday 22 August.
Leigh took herself off to the grooming parlour this morning to get her claws done. Now, she would describe it as a beauty salon I guess but I’m not in the mood to indulge her. Apparantly she is off to Germany in a few days, instead of being her usual casually dressed self with noorverylittlemakeup self she has to smarten up – like the old days.
This afternoon Leigh and Tom strolled up to H.C.P. and had a walk around the gardens. Leigh wanted to walk through the maze but on arrival could see they charge (quite a lot, too) for this, so she decided against it. She and Tom agreed it was a bit money-grabbing actually as the cost of yesterday’s ticket was around twenty-pounds each. Surely activities like the maze and the Magic Garden (which is aimed at children) should be free? Neither are, which would make for a very expensive outing if you have two or three children or grandchildren. Yelp!
They also visited the ice-cream hut on Hampton bridge…for the third day running. According to both of them the ice-cream is super-creamy and pretty much the best (certainly as good as any) ice-cream they have ever tasted. The ice-cream seller is a really nice guy too; the fact that he remembered them on their second visit means he is in tune with customer service – a big plus for Leigh.
This guy has a little trailer as opposed to a traditional ice-cream van and is on the H.C.P. side of the bridge – a must-visit if you are ever in the area!
Woofs, Martha X
Monday 21 August
Hampton Court Palace
It’s been a very good day! Leigh worked while Tom took us for a good walk this morning, so that the two of them could take a few hours to visit Hampton Court Palace knowing that Rosie and I would be tired enough to leave home-alone. As long as we have had a good walk before being left human-less, we’re happy enough spending the first half hour chewing our chews and hunting for biscuits. We then nap on-and-off until our humans return. Being home-alone is relatively new to us. Whilst travelling Europe in the car and caravan we couldn’t be left at all – Rosie would howl and I would bark!
Nowadays we only howl and bark once we hear their footsteps nearing the boat – just to remind Leigh and Tom we are capable of creating chaos if they were to leave us too long, or too often. Yelp!
Both humans were super-impressed with Hampton Court Palace; it is absolutely huge, rich in architecture and history, and has the most amazing grounds – making it super-interesting for me and Rosie. Imagine all those Royal hounds whose paw-steps we are walking in?
A dedicated kitchen garden, a fountain garden, a 20th century garden, pond gardens, a knot garden, a magic garden and a maze (great fun for humanpups), a rose garden and old-old trees – some the shape of huge mushrooms. You name it, this place has got it. The grounds are some seven-hundred-and-fifty acres – so plenty of space for all these different themes!
Originally a medieval manor, Thomas Wolsey – Lord chancellor of England at the time – transformed Hampton Court into an ostentatious and enviable home. Only a few years later, Henry VIII (a tad jealous, I imagine) ‘assumed occupancy’ and began having work carried out on what was now a Royal Palace.
The building has several influences Tudor – the original red-brick house – Baroque – designed by Sir Christopher Wren – Renaissance and Georgian, with morethananod to Rome with plaques depicting Tiber and Eros at the entrance and busts of Roman gods in the courtyard.
I can’t do H.C.P. justice in my jottings, so have added a link for anyone who might be as enamoured with the place as Leigh and I are. We have declared it one of our ‘spiritual homes’; to wander the outside is enough to make our tummies turn over and our hearts to rise to our chests.
Leigh, Tom, Rosie and I went for a walk in the park at the back of the palace this evening – strictly on lead because there are deer roaming free. It was wonderful to walk through the wilder part of the park, watching the deer – heads down as they nibbled away – and seeing the stags looking regal with their crown of antlers. There is even a golf course in the park for those humans wholiketospoilagoodwalk. As a canine I do think it must take some self-control to stand there for ages with a stick and a ball, raising your arm and pretending to hit it a few times, or taptaptapping when you are near the (what looks like a) teenyrabbithole. Why not just throw it and race like crazy to be the first to find the ball instead? Much more fun!
Woofs, Martha X
Sunday 20 August
East Molesy to Hampton Court
A thirty-minute cruise meant that we arrived at Hampton Court around eleven-o-clock today; on-time and on-plan…that must be a first!
Tom was quite excited to spot the recording studio of David Gilmour of Pink Floyd as we cruised today.
The very exciting news was that my humans spotted a mooring between a rather tall cruiser and a narrowboat right outside Hampton Court Palace – we are literally neighbours.
As Tom steered into the rathertightspace, the man on the narrowboat told us he was about to move on so we could take advantage of the extra room. In fact, when he did leave, we pushed back into his mooring as the mooring we had taken was a little short for Very Pinook – meaning her bow had a tad too much movement for comfort.
The couple on the narrowboat are liveaboards who are consistently cruising (like us) and we think we may well bump into them on our way home in the autumn, as they are heading back to the Midlands for the winter too.
The couple on the cruiser – Peter (an ex G.P) and Diana have been boating for forty years and are heading home next weekend. They were quite fascinating to chat to (so Leigh tells me). For fifteen years they lived on the river. Yes, actually on the river in a floating house; Leigh went all dreamy when they told her, until they explained about the morethanoccasional flood when the toilets stopped working, the fact that they often had to wear wading wellies to get from the house to the car as the water in the garden was so deep, and some of the other trials and tribulations of living on a river.
Having recounted this, they agreed when they were younger – and more inclined to be ‘happy to cope with’ the winters – they both felt living on the river was just wonderful. I must admit, as we have cruised past river-homes Leigh and I have had a yearning to experience living in one. Rosie doesn’t like water at all and Tom looks at the practicalities so…
Leigh took a few photos of river houses – they vary in style and ‘kerb-appeal’ immensely.
Looking out from the boat this afternoon I would say this is the most up-market mooring we have experienced so far. Leigh tells me she could spend a day just staring at the chimneys and brickwork – and I fully understand. There are chimneys and then there are Hampton Court chimneys. The quantity and the style of these are a sightforsoreeyes with their patterns and twists in the brickwork.
We plan to visit the Palace and gardens over the next day or two, but for today we have simply enjoyed a lazy Sunday. Strolling over Hampton Court Bridge for coffee and cake after lunch was enough activity for us. My humans admired the little antique shops and likened the area to Moseley Village on the outskirts of Birmingham – just a tad more upmarket I guess. I would describe it as ‘alternative and cosy’.
Woofs, Martha X
Saturday 19 August
Shepperton to East Molesey
Leigh started the day by taking Rosie and me for a short walk as I’ve been limping this morning. I guess I need my metacam for a couple of days which usually sorts me out. She then went for a 5k circular run and discovered the village of Old Shepperton which is very pretty. Boasting a lovely Church, some pretty houses and no less than three pubs within a 2 minute walk it is a village that Tom would have enjoyed visiting!
My humans had intended on travelling the short distance to Walton-on-Thames this morning. No guesses for betting who it was that wanted to visit this town! Unfortunately this section of the Thames is pretty short on moorings and we struggled to find one anywhere near the town. We were pretty impressed with the newly built Walton Bridge though!
As we passed through. W-o-T the river became pretty busy with skiffs because the Thames Valley Regatta was in progress.
What we do find bizarre along this stretch of river is that there are some huge green signs (without actually mooring you can’t read the tiny print) that basically tell you, ‘You cannot moor here’. Bizarre!
Now, just to confuse the boater, the signs have mixed messages. Some tell you, ‘If you are mooring in the vicinity of one of these you will be charged £100 per day’ (not the exact words used). Others explain that you can moor for £10 a day – as long as you call the number on the sign – otherwise you will be charged £100 for mooring.
Why not just have a large ‘No Mooring’ sign instead of two signs that look very similar? I wonder if the ‘authorities’ want to catch people out in order to boost funds?? After all if you encounter the £10 a day sign and moor up, on your next stopover you may not realise you are on a £100 a day spot; not reading the small print could leave you with a large hole in your pocket. Yelp!
Because East Molesey was a definite £10 a day mooring we decided to hole up for the day in order for Leigh to make a dent in the editing of my second book. At first glance neither Leigh nor I were terribly impressed with East Molesey. On further investigation it’s not a bad area. We enjoyed a couple of walks, some very pleasant weather and a peaceful night.
Woofs, Martha X
Friday 18 August
Runnymede To Shepperton
Although I am very impressed with the variety of houses (and breeds of ducks and geese) on the Thames, I have felt a little samey today!
Huge glass cubes, cute little chalets, houseboats, park homes, tooclosetogether houses -‘sold off gardens’ have resulted in a couple or three houses being built on one plot – and the most beautiful, jaw-dropping houses have been sighted.
Leigh and I have no idea if we would like to go back to living in a cottage, a house, stay on Very Pinook, live on a houseboat or just pitch a tent in the wood anymore. Yelp!
The weather has been dry with some really sunny spells which meant that we could enjoy a good walk when we eventually moored between Chertsey and Shepperton. In fact the very pretty lane we ventured down ended up in Shepperton at a pub called the Thames Court.
The humans stopped for a drink and booked for dinner. Talk about taking advantage of opportunities that arise! According to both of them they would recommend this place – the food was good and the service excellent. The pub started out as a private residence for the Dutch Ambassador; hand painted Delft tiling, oak panelling, and a couple of beautiful fireplaces are evidence of what must have been a stylish home.
Woofs, Martha X
Thursday 17 August
Windsor to Runnymede
Runnymede – birth of the Magna Carta and…American monuments? Mooring up at Runnymede this morning we were quite excited by the history of this place. In a field in Runnymede, by a (now 2500 years old) Yew Tree, the Magna Carta was signed by King John. This was the first document in writing to announce that the King and the government were not above the law, yet there is very little to pay tribute to this.
There is a board depicting the history of the Magna Carta and a monument provided by the Americans. There is a Statue of Liberty (of sorts) dedicated to the assassinated President Kennedy of the U.S.A.
Oh, and there is a memorial to the Air Forces of the Commonwealth although we didn’t actually find it. Yelp!
All in all a bit disappointing. Tom wondered why a visitor centre has not been set up here and why it appears that we Brits haven’t provided more in the way of monuments and memorials – after all the drawing up of and the signing of the Magna Carta is a huge historical occasion.
Woofs, Martha X
Wednesday 16 August
Cliveden to Windsor
We have spent a good part of the day walking. You might think Rosie and I would be super-happy with that but…walking in Windsor is just too busy to be enjoyable for me. The castle is pretty impressive and the town is cute with cobbles and old buildings but some places are – dare I say it – a bit nineteen-fifties seasidey. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a kiss-me-quick hat. There are some lovely tea-rooms and eating places and I would definitely advise visiting Windsor if you haven’t been but…Eton (just over the bridge) is another story.
As we sauntered over the bridge into Eton I am positive we all visibly relaxed.
Antique shops, gentleman’s outfitters (yes, I know that could be deemed ‘sexist’ nowadays but…) and quality-goods shops live here. The famous college for privileged boys is grand and I just hope the boys that attend realise what a privilege it is to go to school here.
I understand that a school is still a school, and it is down to the teachers to inspire, but I also beleive that a school set within such elegant surroundings, and a school-building as interesting as Eton, must have some influence on its pupils. After all, we even have T.V. programmes focused on the significance of ‘Location, Location, Location’
Woofs, Martha X