I think it’s safe to say we were both nervous of cruising on the Thames. Not only because of the sheer size of it, but also because it runs through our capital and some of it is tidal and therefore requires extra onboard equipment, and we are beginners in this world.
We settled back into marina life at Penton Hook for a couple of weeks. And what a luxury it was! Our inverter on the boat is still not working so when we are ‘on the cut’ we have no mains at all. We have the ability to charge our phones and iPad through an ingenious cigarette lighter device Ed has conjured, but nothing else. No tv, no hair straighteners, no wall plug in charging, nothing. So you can imagine how nice it felt when we had mains power – we could watch TV, do washing, charge our phones, the lot! Needless to say, a part of me never wanted to leave. It’s amazing the things you take for granted in a house, I can tell you.
So leaving this ‘lap of luxury’ and heading back out onto the cut felt like a bit of a chore, and a scary one too. Back onto the Thames. So far our only experience of this great river was going from Weybridge to the marina and although we had been pleasantly surprised at the ease of the locks and the friendliness of the lock keepers, we were very much going into the unknown. But wow, we did not expect to fall in love like we did!
We set off early and as we left Staines-upon-Thames, we were reminded of the immensity of the river. It’s width alone always surprised us compared to the canals we had been used to. We sailed on through and could quickly see we were approaching a beautifully historic part of the area. We cruised past Magna Carta Island, a place that is strongly rumoured to be where King John sealed the famous Magna Carta back in 1215. Then, after a couple of winding bends we came to the beautiful Windsor. We glided past the rolling grounds of Windsor Castle and the grand signs politely advising people that absolutely no mooring (stopping and hitching the boat up) was allowed were adorned with the Royal motifs. Then we saw it. Windsor Castle itself. I personally am never disappointed when I see it. It’s far more beautiful than Buckingham Palace in my opinion and I was super excited to see the flag flying which meant someone was in residence. So we gave them a wave and carried on. In awe with the beauty of the place.
We then carried on past Eton College and navigated for a long day past so many beautiful sights along this magnificent river. We never had to worry about making way for other watercraft like you do on the canals, we just moseyed along on our merry way. It was a long day for us as we covered a lot of distance but it really wasn’t a problem as there was no way we were going to get bored of the variety of sights. But we did eventually become weary and tired and it would soon be Jemima’s bedtime. So we agreed on a place to stay for the night; Cookham.
I think it is safe to say that this place was a hidden gem for us and my personal favourite place on our journey so far. We moored up alongside the river where we were met by a really friendly lady who took our £10 overnight mooring fee from us and told us all about the village and the amenities it had. We stopped overnight and then ventured into the village the next day for breakfast and to purchase some provisions.
The people were friendly, the village was ‘oldy worldy’ and the village store was to die for. So cute and had everything you would need. I left Cookham really feeling like I wanted to live there. The photos I took sadly really did not do the place any justice. Lesson for myself; take more photos! (There is a little video of our stroll down a road there on our instagram account though if you want to see that).
The following day we left Cookham and sailed on along this magnificent river. We eventually came to Henley-on-Thames, where the world famous regatta had finished just days before. We had both longed to see the town and we were fortunate enough to get into a free 2 hour mooring in the centre of town which allowed us to go for a little stroll (and a coffee of course!)
Henley was full of life and personality. Bunting adorned the streets from the regatta and the people were buzzing around like little bees. There was a prominent campaign to ask cars to stop their engines when stationary which I found interesting, and I admired it as they were clearly doing their bit to reduce emission ingestion by their inhabitants. It’s a really lovely place and well worth a visit. If nothing else, to see the insanely beautiful waterside properties that lined the river. Another place I want to buy a property in!
From Henley we sailed on towards Reading, where our time on the Thames ended and our journey onto the River Kennett began. I can’t begin to explain how surprised we were by the Thames and how much we both loved it. We were sad to leave and look forward to getting back on it soon, after our Kennett and Avon adventure.