Sunday, 30 June 2013

Shiplake Lock Island Summer Camp

Sue from nb No Problem left a comment yesterday about the tents we saw by Shiplake Lock.  I decided to see what I could find out about them.  The following is courtesty of Wargrave Local History Society

The island camp site consists of 18 plots. It was originally privately owned until 1891, and camping was already a regular activity there by that time, using ridge tents, and lit by oil lamps - as some still are. The land was offered for auction in 1891, for 'potential hotel development', but a benefactor named Crawford paid £836/12/8d for the land, ensured it had a restrictive covenant to preserve the camping rights, and then sold it at cost to the City of London. Due to the distance involved, the City found some difficulty in administering the island, and so in 1914 granted a £1 per year perpetual lease for 2000 years, with the restrictive covenant in place, to the Thames Conservancy. The camps were then run by the lock keepers, who hired out skiffs and punts to islanders. In the early 1900s the conservancy allowed huts to be built near the tents - as it was thought safer for cooking - but they were not to be used for sleeping. At that time, ladies were not allowed to sleep on the island, but had to retire to wooden huts on the Shiplake side. The Thames Conservancy refused - as have the National Rivers Authority and Environment Agency since - to give more than a 1 year at a time lease to the plotholders. Despite that, the community has remained remarkably static - usually plots passing from father to son. The families come from a wide area - the West Country, Liverpool, Leeds etc. Since 1945, there have been 4 marriages between island families. 

The river was quiet, apart from barge traffic, in the early post-war period, but gradually Salters steamers became oil fired, leisure boating increased with the advent of fibre glass boats, and narrow boats appeared. The Environment Agency confirm the right to use the plots in the spring each year. Each plot has a wooden hut on sleepers, to try and keep it above flood level, and boards on which the tent is put. It is always a concern as the plot is opened as to what will have happened over the winter months. The canvas is laid out on the boards, the poles inserted, and - with the help of other campers - the tent erected. Once secured, the carpets, bedding and chest of drawers can be put in place! It is a great family event - everyone having ideas on 'how it was done last year'. By Whitsun, the camp is in full swing, and barbecuing starts. Once the lock closes, there is peace and tranquility on the river in the evenings, the sound of Shiplake bells drifting on the air.

Shiplake to Lower Basildon

Shiplake (railway station) to Lower Basildon : 15 miles, 5 locks
To date : 483 miles, 277 locks

I know there's photo overload at the moment but I have the blog printed into books each year.  I don't want to forget a moment of this grand adventure and on the Thames there's been so much new to see that I can't bare to leave some of these photos out!  It's looking like this year will have to be printed into two books of six months each.

Over canasta last night I managed to pursuade Barry to get up early so we could leave at 9am.  A whole lot of grizzling ensued but he did it.  Honestly.... they miss the best part of the day.  Early mornings are often so pretty in the soft light. 

9am arrived and there was Barry, cheerful as ever, and ready to head off.  A minor miracle!  We planned on a big day of cruising so we could stay a little longer if we found somewhere we liked during the week. 

We set the washing machine to work and headed for our first lock of the day : Shiplake Lock.  This one has a hose for filling your water tank.  A lot of them only allow filling of containers so we make the most of it when we're coming to one with a hose.  When we got to the top of the lock and rounded the corner to the water point we passed a lovely little camping ground.  It's like nothing we have back in Australia.  The tents were quite large and on wooden platform bases.  They were obviously left up over the Summer at least.  It was lush and green and very pretty.

At Sonning Lock the lock keeper said they were having a problem with one of the lock gates.... we could go in but they couldn't promise we'd be able to get out.  We were separated from nb Winton's Folly as they couldn't fit in the lock with us so agreed we'd meet up with them at Tesco further along.  We got out of the lock ok and off we went.

There was a rowing regatta at Dreadnought Reach.  Three quarters of the river was sectioned off with buoys so boats going in both directions had to use the narrow section left over.  Much to our dismay this section was also used by the rowers to move down the start line.  It isn't so easy to move a narrowboat out of the way of a small boat like that!  We'd slow right down, trying to avoid the trees, and hope that they'd row away from us.

We passed the junction with the Kennet & Avon Canal.  There was a cluster of boats around the junction. 
Tesco had great moorings right out the front so we did a good stock up.  We bumped into Barry as we were heading back to the boat.  They'd breasted up to us as the moorings were full when they arrived.  They'd been held up while the lock gate was re-greased or whatever the problem was.  They'd also had a little incident on their way through the regatta.  One boat full of rowers didn't even see them and turned straight into their path and crashed into them.  Barry said half the crew managed to get their oars out the way but the other half ended up with smashed oars.  The officials apologised profusely but no harm done to Winton's Folly... shame about the oars!

At Tesco we looked for flyspray to deal with the insects inside the boat.  We do have a can that we bought the week we arrived in the UK but it's almost finished.  I took a photo of the insect spray range available... and this is a mega Tesco... not just a small one!  If someone back home would take a photo for me of the flyspray aisle in their local supermarket I'll put it on the blog for comparison.

We passed a funfair.... some bathing cows.... and a row boat in training for some challange that we now can't recall.  There was a property with several paddocks of alpaca and we saw half a dozen birds of prey lurking around those paddocks.  I wonder what they were after?  It was a huge day with lots of miles and locks.  The sun came out in the afternoon and it was just glorious.  Another fantastic day.


We looked for moorings before Whitchurch Lock but no luck.  We decided we'd try Beale Park... by which time it was 5pm.  There was one spot among all the moored boats and Mick yelled out to Barry to go in first.  As soon as he said it and we'd drifted away ready to breast up we realized we should have gone in first.  When we moor on the left we can't open our side hatch if we're breasted up with them.  Being quite a warm afternoon we thought that wouldn't be a good thing.  We saw that Sue had written in our book that there were moorings on a meadow less than half a mile further so we said we'd go and check it out.  We moored up there with bow tied to a tree and the stern out too far to get off the boat at that end but it's a lovely peaceful spot with a stunning outlook. 

What were we doing a year ago?

Mick asked me today if I could remember what we were doing a year ago.  We remembered we moved into the caravan immediately before my birthday and Mick rushed off to New Zealand on my birthday because his mum had a heart attack. I looked at the blog for this date a year ago and to my amazement the blog entry on 29 June 2012 was a "pick of the week"... a very special one!  Pick of the week "Parisien Star"

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine then that she'd be the one.  How glad we are now that she's our home!

And... out of interest... 29 June 2011 was the eve of settlement on "the house up the street".

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Henley-on-Thames to Shiplake

Henley-on-Thames to Shiplake (railway station) : 2 miles, 1 lock
To date : 468 miles, 272 locks

Just a very short hop today so a relaxed day.  It was raining when we woke.  We had a sleep in and after breakfast a wander around Henley-on-Thames.  What a lovely town it is.  We walked from our mooring to the town centre with a lady who was walking her 13 year old chocolate labrador.  She told us about some of the other events in Henley and how much she loves living there.  Henley born and bred she was.

As we passed a wooden bench seat she pointed it out to us and told us of the fellow it commemorates.  Alastair was an Aussie with a boat called "Australia's Possum" and worked at Oxford University as a porter.  He would come back and forth from Oz and moor his boat up at Henley.  He sounded like a right character and the lady said she went to his funeral when he died in 2007 and the church was bursting at the seams with mourners.

The town has many lovely shops.  We had coffee at Starbucks and checked out quite a few of the shops, picking up bits and pieces as we went.  One shop had heaps of pretty stationery and other bits and bobs.  I bought a little collection to send to my nieces back home.  Just as we were saying we haven't seen an antique store, we turned the corner and there was the teeniest shop front.  But... the shop was packed to the gills with stuff.  It was like an Aladdin's cave.

We returned to the boat for a quick lunch before we set off on our way.  More amazing properties lined the way and we even saw one that was more our scale... a tiny hut on a cute little patch of land with a mooring out front. 

Our mooring for tonight is a bit rough around the edges.  We're tied to a tree at the bow.... after a bit of pruning to remove the bits sprouting into our cratch.... and Mick had a go at the stinging nettle at the stern so we could easily get on and off the boat without touching it.

I sat to work a bit and Mick cleaned the outside of the boat and windows on the side facing the river's edge.  Nice to have clean windows!  We have rather fancy neighbours here and it's a nice wide curve of the river.  With an evening of Canasta head, we're all settled in.