Our next target destination was the town of Marlow but first of all we had to get through Henley on Thames. As we have done on recent days, we got up and got going by eight o’clock, this time hoping to get through Henley when the level of river traffic would be low. Expecting the worst, with the regatta only four days away, we made our way into the town and under the bridge. Once through the middle arch of the bridge, we followed the sign which directed us to the left hand side of the river and then we kept to the left hand side of the channel allowing the rowing teams plenty of space between us and the main racing area. It was quite hectic despite the early hour but it all went smoothly and we were glad to reach temple island, knowing that we had reached the end of the racing area and had run the gauntlet successfully.
There had been the odd light rain shower in the first hour of our trip but they hadn’t amounted to much so overall our journey to Marlow was a pleasant one. Finding a good mooring on the Thames is not as easy as on the canals so we couldn’t believe our luck as we passed the park above the bridge. A cruiser pulled away and left a space that looked as if it might just be long enough for us. We turned midstream and attempted to make land in the space between a narrowboat and a small motorboat sitting behind a large cruiser. As in Wallingford, there was little room to spare but we got in although Sue had to move and then re-tie the motorboat before we could finally secure our mooring.
Marlow is another of those places that neither of us have been to before. In fact, I don’t think that we would know anything about it if I hadn’t accidentally driven through it a couple of years ago and thought that it looked like a lovely town.
Our mooring was adjacent to a park and we could see that there was some sort of event going on. Upon further investigation we discovered that there was going to be a triathlon taking place the following day with proceedings beginning with competitor registration between 5.30 and 7.00am! After exploring the town’s main shopping streets, we returned to Caxton and had lunch on the front deck. Our parkside mooring meant that we were part of the scenery and also a tourist attraction so once again we found ourselves being observed by and commented on by visitors to the waterside.
Sure enough, on Sunday morning at the prescribed hour, we were awoken by a tannoy announcement letting us know that we could register for the triathlon event. Within minutes, Sue jumped out of bed and was getting herself ready, determined to be among the early starters. Her bike was sitting gleaming on the bankside ready for the cycling section, she had already pulled on her wetsuit ready for the swim in the Thames when suddenly something didn’t seem quite right. I opened my eyes, and realised that after the initial tannoy announcement I had fallen back asleep and Sue lay still slumbering next to me, completely oblivious to the dream sequence that I had just experienced.
We got up at seven and watched the swimmers who passed between our boat and a couple of floating markers in the water. One swimmer passing by asked Sue if there was any chance that she had a bacon sandwich for him!
We pottered about indoors until just after eleven when we set off into town and found our way to The Coach. This restaurant is owned by the TV chef, Tom Kerridge and has a slightly unusual approach to serving food. There were very few customers when we arrived at 11.30, lunch service doesn’t start until noon so we had our pick of places to sit. We chose a couple of bar stools in front of the kitchen and had a chat with the head chef who had studied at the University of Leicester. The dishes are varied and are ‘starter’ size and we were told that most people would order two or three dishes each. We had difficulty in choosing from the menu, the dishes all looked appetising but you can’t have them all so we decided to order five of them and share. The dishes were brought to us one at a time and in no particular order. Sitting where we were, we could see the food being prepared before being hand delivered to us by whichever chef had put it all together – very intimate indeed!
After lunch we returned to Caxton and just took it easy for the rest of the afternoon and evening. The structures that had housed the organisation of the triathlon were being pulled down and the crowds were dwindling as we reflected on our couple of days in the wonderful town of Marlow.
On Monday morning we decided to stay for another day and explore the town more fully when there were fewer people around. We wandered over the bridge and visited the Compleat Angler hotel and spent a bit of time on their terrace overlooking the river. At lunchtime we visited the Marlow Bar & Grill and had another lovely meal in lovely surroundings.
We eventually returned to our mooring and sat in the sunshine just watching the world go by.
As predicted, the weather changed in the early hours of Thursday morning and we awoke to a much fresher feel to the air. At eight o’clock we were treated to a thunderstorm directly overhead with half an hour of heavy rain thrown in for good measure. It didn’t last and by nine o’clock we were able to untie and continue with our journey.
It was an enjoyable cruise and although the weather had changed somewhat, it was still sunny and warm with the temperature eventually settling in the mid twenties. We passed through between Reading and Caversham but there were very few boats on the move so we really only noticed a few around the locks.
We eventually tied up above Sonning lock and then took a walk into the village of Sonning which is mainly on the Berkshire side of the river. On the other side of the river is The Mill at Sonning which is a hotel / theatre / waterside bar and we had a little nosey around there too. There’s not much to the village but we did visit the local church and of course the village pub.
There is a tea room, well tea garden really, at Sonning lock so we stopped by and had some afternoon tea.
Sonning is home to the current Prime Minister, Theresa May but there are a number of other local celebrities to potentially bump into including George Clooney, Uri Geller and Jimmy Page – not that we saw any of them on our travels.
On Friday, we were up and on our way again by eight o’clock, this time aiming to visit Wargrave and Henley on Thames. Again, we saw very few boats on the move as we travelled along and since we were uncertain of gaining a mooring in Henley itself, we were happy when we saw a Caxton sized space on the Wargrave Lashford moorings. As I showered and got changed, Sue went off and investigated the surrounding area and when she returned, she had worked out the best way to get to Wargrave. We started our walk just after eleven and headed off towards the village. The first part of our journey was fine, an easy walk along a tarmac covered road, Willow Lane. Once on the main road however, we faced a narrow pavement overgrown with stinging nettles. Eventually we reached the village itself having successfully dodged both traffic and the stinging vegetation. There are shops and pubs in Wargrave but it is not a very big place to spend much time in so we carried on walking and found the church. We didn’t spend too much time there as the village flower show was on and exhibits filled the church itself.
Again we carried on further down the lane and got to the railway station where we waited for a train to Henley. The station has a single platform and the train just seems to shuttle back and forward between Henley and Twyford.
The train duly arrived and we made the eight minute trip to Henley on Thames. With the regatta due to start in a few days time, we were keen to see the river and how we would find our way through the area.
The river front was already transformed into a sporting venue but it all seemed clearly marked out so having seen that we should have very little to worry about, we stopped at the Angel on the Bridge and had some lunch.
The service was quick and the food was good, so suitably fortified we went off to explore the town centre and very good it was too with many small shops to take our interest. The local butcher, Gabriel Machin and Waitrose provided us with a top up to the larder and after all of that we caught a bus back to the end of the Willow Lane.
Like Sonning before it, Henley is also home to a number of celebrities. We are currently moored near the singer, Vince Hill’s house and a few hundred yards away from the home of the late Paul Daniels.