We woke up early to a glorious sunny and calm morning, perfect for our Thames Tideway cruise. Ian and Karen, of Nb Tacit fame, joined us for the cruise having left home at some unearthly hour in the middle of the night.
Due to yesterdays cancelations there were now 10 narrowboats and a cruiser going out this morning. John the Lock keeper came round and gave everybody the order in which they would enter the lock, based on when they made the booking and his ability to fit most boats in the lock. We were in the second lock with another boat moored between us and Autumn Years. This lock is different to all the others we have encountered as it does not have paddles but allows the water to run out or in depending on the tide around the sides of the gates and finally between the two gates as they open. Despite our concerns it was a pleasant experience.
As we left the lock we turned up river and I radioed London VTS ( Vessel Traffic Service) to advise them that Autumn Myst with 4 people and a dog on board were in transit to Brentford. We were soon in our stride cruising gently up river with the tide. Ian had recommended that we didn’t rush this first section as it contains some of London’s most famous sights and we could always make up the time on the later part. He was right, even at normal canal river cruising speed, we were moving quickly with the tide passing The Prospect of Whitby pub and the River Police pier, with the majestic Tower Bridge coming into view.
Next we passed the Royal Navy’s pier and then there is something very moving about seeing and passing through the centre arch of Tower Bridge.On the other side there are views of City Hall on one side, the Gherkin and other famous skyscrapers on the opposite bank. The girls sitting in the cratch could see the flow of Commemorative Poppies on the Tower of London devoid of tourists at this hour.
HMS Belfast is moored on the river and the Golden Hind (replica) is in a dry dock little further on. On this stretch of river there are always lots of bridges in front and behind you. Luckily the traffic was very light enabling us the take full advantage of this magic sight seeing trip.
There are so many features to photograph and chat about that it would fill a blog for a year but I will mention just a few. Like the Globe Theatre, The Millennium Bridge, The OXO Building, the London Eye and a mere glimpse of St Pauls Cathedral.
Of course one of the spectacular views is of The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.
There are some interesting and expensive houseboats moored along the route and several of these were tipped up as the tide had gone out and were now just coming back to level, must be a bit disconcerting if you have had a drink the night before. The iconic Battersea Power Station can be seen from afar.
We passed by Chelsea Harbour with its hotel and large suites where I had been lucky enough to stay once when I was working in London, brought back frightening memories of having to go back to work!! Harrod’s Depository is well know from the Boat Race course on TV. The Ship Inn nestled among some larger buildings and then our Brentford turn came into view just around the corner from Oliver’s Ait bringing a sad end to our magical cruise up the Tideway.
Our thanks have to go to Ian and Karen who kept up a fantastic running commentary throughout the trip on all the sights and history of the Thames. In fact our own personal guides to the River Thames.
They were planning to leave us at Brentford but when we said we were carrying on to Bulls Bridge they could not resist the temptation to join us and help the girls with the locks. So with their help we were soon moored up and tucking in to lunch prepared by June in the last lock free section. It is amazing how clear the water becomes once we had climbed the first lock of the Hanwell Flight, so clear that you could read the number plate of a car at the bottom of the canal.
We said farewell to Ian and Karen as they set off on their journey home and then had to find a local vet for Jimmy as Guide Dogs had phoned with the results of his tests and we needed to get him some medication. I found a lovely Vets in Hayes who were able to fit me into the evening surgery; so we moved across to the other side of the canal so that I could walk Jimmy the 20 minutes down it to the practice. He was soon sorted out and we walked back to the boat tired and exhausted but thrilled to have had such a fantastic experience.