From Being The Only Boat To…. 23rd June

Batter and Bowler Bridge to Shepperton Village Moorings, River Thames

Another early start for us. The Woodham flight is open from 9:30, however Mike the lock keeper had said he’d be there from 9. It’s quite a distance to the locks so we set off hoping an hour would get us there in time.

Cobham Road Bridges profess to be low, but we know that they aren’t! More gardens to nosy at, not such big houses today. Lily pads, a big tree house with a full flight of steps and now we can say we’ve been to both Ripon of Greywell Tunnel.

Mike filling the top lock for us

As we approached the top lock of the flight Mike could be seen, the top paddle raised filling it for us, it had taken us a bit over an hour. Today we’d be on our own going down the locks, all other visiting boats having left the canal yesterday, not strictly true as there is one in the dry dock up at Deepcut. We’d not wanted to miss out a wander around Woking, maybe somewhere there was more to it than just the shopping centre, but we’d not found it yesterday.

Bucket and wafter

Mike was here to close up after us down the flight, ashing up the locks. His long pole and what I’d call a wafter on the end would come out at every lock. The wafter is more like a rubber rectangle that is used to waft up silt from the bottom of the canal to fill any gaps in the gates. Along with this is a bucket of tree bark. I asked if they used a specific bark for the job, he didn’t know what trees it came from, just that it was left to rot down for three years before being used and that there was never enough of it.

Today we were to close the bottom gates and leave a paddle up, ensuring the lock would stay empty. One gongoozler exclaimed at how much the bottom gates leaked, the newer gates never getting long enough with water behind them for the oak to expand. I suppose that doesn’t really matter as the only time the locks are filled is when a boat is coming through, yes it means they take longer to fill, but its the top gates that need to hold the water back.

Above photos before we arrived with no leaking. After we’d opened the top gates.

Arriving at a lock, a bottom paddle needed lowering. The lack of leakage through the top gates obvious. Then the top paddles raised filling the lock, gates open, boat in. Mike asked us to leave a 2 foot gap between the top gates and then lift a bottom paddle to close them, this seats them better on the cill. Once the level in the lock was getting towards the cill you could see the difference that ashing up makes. He then waggles his wafter around in the silt above the lock, this gets pulled in by the water leaking through the gates and closes up some of the gaps. More stubborn gaps require the tree bark, a handful at a time, sometimes a bucket full at a time. As it’s dropped in above the gate you can see the spouts of water go brown for a second or two, then they reduce in size. Once Mike had finished there were only a couple of small spouts of water coming through the top gates. Quite impressive.

There were plenty of people out for walks, lots watching, lots wanting to help with gates. Lots of comments that they’d been walking the canal for ten years and never seen a boat. Well to see boats on the locks you need to first be there on the right day and at the right time. So if you only walk the locks on your way to and from work, you’re very unlikely to see boats.

Approaching the last lock

Kath had always thought the canal was unloved, but after working through the locks with us she now knows they are very much loved and cared for.

At the bottom lock we thanked Mike for his work then headed along to Woodham Junction and the M25. We beeped our horn as we were about to turn onto the River Wey, no-one coming, we’ve got used to that.

New graffiti under the M25.

New Haw

New Haw lock needed turning, we were back in the land of leaving the gates open on locks as you leave but with all paddles down. The cranked lock beams took some closing, as Oleanna could get into the side at the lock landing Mick could lend a hand with the top gates and paddles.

Approaching Coxes Lock we could see a small cruiser waiting to go in and a small electric rib coming out. We joined the cruiser to go down, clinging onto our ropes tightly so as not to squash them. Weybridge Town Lock was set in our favour, down we went back onto the river turning left to head down stream.

Wonder how much bark it would take to stop that leak?
Below Coxes Lock

There was room above Thames Lock for us to pull in. 12:45 we’d have lunch and wait for the lock keeper to have hers too. Just gone 14:00 we pushed off and headed towards the lock landing, a beep was heard from below the lock, the lock keeper came from her office and walked down to chat to the arriving boat.

I could hear that she’d clocked our arrival, she closed the stop lock bottom gate, asked the crew on the waiting boat what their draught was, once the chap at the helm understood what she’d asked he said, ‘Oh 2 foot something!’ Hold onto your ropes when I empty the lock were the instructions, then Oleanna would come out of the lock and they would then go into it whilst we waited for them on the offside. The crew onboard had all the gear and no id…….!

Time to sort our transit licence out and return our long reach windlass. The lock keeper wasn’t happy, ‘I don’t like being Beeped at!’ I don’t blame her. More boats arrived below the lock, breasting up and sending crew to get their paperwork for a licence, they didn’t beep!

Down off the River Wey

Down we came, off the River Wey. We pulled out of the lock and kept to the far side, leaving enough room for the waiting boat to go in. The lock keeper waved them on, the crew ignored her, had they not heard? She tried again, still nothing. I relayed her message. The chap at the helm refused to move off the mooring until we were out of the way, except we needed to be where they were! He refused for a while longer but eventually relented as there was nowhere else for us to go. We pulled up onto the stop lock mooring and started to fill with water. The lock keeper would come and let us out once she’d penned the other boat up.

This took really quite sometime. The two ladies from the waiting narrowboats walked up and had a chat on their way with paperwork. It turned out we’d been at Watford with the lady from NB Spruce Goose last year, we remembered each other. The boat in the lock seemed to sit there forever, the stop lock was emptied for us and we could be on our way again onto our third navigation of the day. We wished the narrowboat crews fun on the Wey, maybe they’ll get to go up the Basingstoke when the temporary repair is done at lock 27.

They’d warned us that the Thames was busy. We were sort of prepared for this. Sailing boats, paddleboarders, cruisers everywhere at the junction, nowhere to moor. We’d carry on to round the back of Desborough Island and hoped for a space there.

The junction below Shepperton Lock had been busy but nothing compared to what we found round the back of the island. A sailing course with many boats weaving in and out of themselves, cruisers of all different sizes weaving in between too. ‘Remember the Basingstoke Canal!?!’ Mick said as the shock of a sunny Sunday afternoon on the Thames dawned on us, maybe we should have waited another day.

How many boats? Hardly a peaceful activity

Round the bend to the park moorings, there were two spaces. Mick called out to the small cruisier that was following us, we wanted to wind to face upstream and pull in. We aimed for the second space , they went for the first, thankfully no boats got in the way of our manoeuvres. Spikes in, Tilly you have 2 hours! At bloomin last!!! I did think that Tilly would look at all the boats and decide it was far FAR too busy to bother with this outside. However I was wrong. Our mooring was a 20 ft dash across the grass to some friendly cover and sideways trees which then had trees TREES!!! Wonderful trees that I could climb! Not just look at through the window!!!

Another boat squeezed into the gap behind us a woofing woofer onboard. I chatted to the chap and warned him that Tilly was out. He was great and did his best with his feisty Collie blocking it’s way off the boat and always on a lead when off. Only one visit for Dreamies from Tilly. She was reminded that she was meant to be home I know but I’m busy! Around 7pm, an hour after cat curfew she came home. She was reminded that shore leave was given under trust and that other pussy cats have ended up with far more shore leave than they’d planned!

Just the day for a roast chicken! At least we’ll be able to have the leftovers cold as the temperature is set to increase over the next few days.

A message from NB Olive late afternoon. No sign of Liquorice. Rangers will be putting out a trap tomorrow, phone numbers have been left at properties nearby and several people will be keeping an eye on the trap for them. We’ve all got our fingers and paws crossed for Liquorice.

10 locks, 7.9 miles, 3 waterways, 3 navigation authorities, 2 lefts, 1 straight straight on, 1 wind, 1 mooring quickly grabbed, from being 1 moving boat, 2 there being 4535345 moving boats, 2 boaters in shock, 1 blown bow thruster fuse, 1 roast chicken, 2 hours into 3, 1 happier cat, 1 mooring status changed, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval, 0 for the Basingstoke, not one!

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