Kingston on Thames
Admittedly, especially after some of the places that we have recently visited, the sound of spending almost a week in Brentford dock doesn’t sound like a very exciting prospect. We stayed on our mooring from Sunday afternoon until Friday morning and it was a really good experience. As described in the previous post we spent Monday visiting Kew Gardens. The forecast for Tuesday was for heavy rain so we decided to stay put and wait for it to arrive. It came eventually but not until late in the afternoon, meaning that we had squandered most of the day; not that we had given up any plans to do anything. In the evening we noticed that the boat was listing, despite being at the bottom of the Grand Union, this stretch is still a river, the Brent. When we had tied up two days earlier, we had noticed that the water level was quite low and that with the amount of silt, we were actually sitting on the bottom. As we moved around the boat, strange noises came from underneath the baseplate, no doubt as the suction between it and the mud broke allowing water to bubble through. The heavy rain had quickly caused the water level to rise by around 9 inches and by eight o’clock, the ropes had tightened and created the listing to the port side. It only took a few minutes to slacken the ropes and rectify the problem and when I checked again a few hours later, the level had stabilised and we were able to go to bed in peace.
Wednesday was spent locally; a grocery trip to Morrisons, boat cleaning inside and out, chatting with other boaters and rounding the early evening off with a drink on the balcony of the Time Café Bar which overlooks the Brentford gauging locks.
When we had travelled from Teddington, one of the boats in the lock with us was a widebeam called “Miss T Morning”. We had moored near this boat on a couple of occasions as we had travelled down the Thames although hadn’t actually spoken to the crew. After leaving the lock, MTM zoomed off and had soon left the rest of us behind but as we reached Richmond, saw that they had pulled over on to a grassy mooring. We hadn’t factored in the possibility of mooring in Richmond with it being on the tidal section so we assumed that they knew the area, knew that there would be little mooring and had made sure that they were getting whatever there was for themselves. Nothing could have been further from the truth as I found out when I was approached by the owner whose name was Dave. He told me that they had in fact broken down and that was why they had pulled over. Their “mooring”, as nice as it had looked to us as we passed was an enforced one and they had spent the next 48 hours adjusting their lines as the tide came in and out. Eventually, they had managed to get a tug to pull them off the river and through the Thames lock and they were now sitting between that and Brentford gauging locks, still suffering with the movements of the tides although I suspect to a lesser extent than when on the Thames. RCR had been to inspect the engine but their analysis was inconclusive so a marine engineer was due to visit next. Dave said that all parties: RCR who had recently carried out the service, Betamarine who had supplied the engine and the boat builder were all trying to wash their hands of the problem. Very frustrating for the owners considering that the boat was just over a year old. As for the outcome, we’ll probably never know unless we bump into them later on our trip.
Thursday dawned bright and sunny so we walked to Richmond, some two and a bit miles away. The walk took us through Syon Park and passed by Syon house, the ancestral home of the Dukes of Northumberland and very nice it was too. It took us less than an hour to reach Richmond where we took a closer look at the weir that we had passed over just a few days earlier. As the tide goes out, the weir is created by dropping barriers from the bridge and this maintains a navigable level between Richmond and Teddington by holding water upstream; during this time, through traffic must use Richmond lock. When the tide comes in and the levels equalise, the weir gates are lifted allowing normal navigation.
Richmond itself has a bit of a seaside town feel to it, possibly because the streets slope down to the river and there is evidence of flooding near the water’s edge. It didn’t take us long to walk around the town and as it was still quite early, we jumped on a bus and visited Kingston again. The town was quieter than it had been the previous weekend so we were able to do a bit of shopping and have some lunch down by the waterside. After lunch we caught the bus back to Brentford High Street and walked back to the Docks.
The area around the dock is and has been redeveloped and although there is still building work going on, by this time next year it will be fully surrounded by apartment blocks. These are luxury apartments and the cheapest are over £400k for one bedroom accommodation! The area is well lit and quiet at night, pedestrians pass by during the day between the nearby Holiday Inn and the railway station so it’s all relatively peaceful save the noise from the railway and the ever present planes in and out of Heathrow. Full services are available including a pump out for those who need that facility. All in all it is a good mooring for anyone waiting to get on to the Thames or having just left it.
Braunston is only 93 miles away!
On the third day of our stay at Hampton Court we decided to visit Kingston on Thames. The previous two days had been very hot and sunny but despite the fact that this one was heading the same way, we decided to walk to our destination. Kingston turned out to be a revelation, a wonderful riverside town with a vibrant waterfront, a town centre market and a fabulous range of shops. After exploring for a couple of hours we had lunch and did a bit of clothes shopping before walking back to our mooring at Hampton Court. One of the reasons for our visit had been to check out possible moorings in Kingston and to find out more about the regatta which was scheduled for the following day (Saturday). The regatta didn’t look to be anywhere near as big an event as Henley had been but nevertheless we left Kingston with the idea that we would probably struggle to find a mooring the following day.
It was 7.45 when we got up on Saturday and within a few minutes, Caxton was turning around mid stream and heading back to Molesey lock. Locks on the Thames are of course little effort so this trip up and back presented no problem to us but would allow us to refill the water tank and to empty all of our cassettes. After winding above the lock we dropped back down and passed by the mooring that we had been occupying for the previous three days.
This stretch of water is another one which is very busy with trip boats but at this time of the morning we were untroubled by such craft. It didn’t take long until we were on the approach to Kingston and we could see that there would be plenty of space to moor as long as we could manage to hammer our pins into the small space between the concrete edge and the pavement. At the second attempt we managed to find a suitable spot and with a bit of brute force using the sledgehammer, we were sorted. The mooring arrangements here are with the local council and are for 24 hours only but free of charge.
After wandering into town and doing a bit of food shopping, we returned to the boat, had some lunch and then walked to Teddington lock. We wanted to make sure that we knew what to do the following day when we dropped down on to the tidal Thames for our journey to Brentford.
One of the few niggles that we have had about mooring on the Thames is the quality of the mooring places. GRP cruisers are adorned with huge fenders and sit higher in the water than narrowboats and it seems that most moorings are designed for them. Our mooring at Kingston was no exception and it was impossible to protect our boat from the concrete edge. We were pleased to discover that there is a chandlery at Teddington and despite the fact that we had very little time left on the river, we wanted to buy a big fender to improve our mooring both for that night and for in the future.
The Boat shop is a fabulous establishment, a proper boater’s shop. On the canal system we are used to and probably take for granted, the ability to find such places without trouble. On the Thames it is a different story so finding this place seemed like finding an oasis in a desert! We got what we wanted and more. The proprietor is a smashing bloke and a font of knowledge as far as boating, the river and the local area is concerned. More importantly, the prices there are very reasonable, especially for this part of the country. The shop is just over the bridge from the lock and is well worth a visit, they also have an ebay shop (click here) so online shopping is also possible.
We walked back to our mooring along the north bank of the river via Thames Ditton with a slight diversion through Kingston town centre where the annual Youth Arts Festival was in full swing. By the time we had returned, the activities of the regatta had long since ended and the trip boats were all tucked up safely for the night but we positioned our newly purchased fat fender anyway in anticipation of it all kicking off again in the morning.
At 2am Sue was awakened by voices outside, I wasn’t aware until I heard her open the hatch and ask the young people sitting on a nearby bench to either be quiet or move on. They expressed surprise that anyone actually occupied the boats but it still took the threat of a call to the police to make them go away. Unbeknown to us, the occupants of a nearby widebeam, wb Flub, had also been awoken but by the sound of someone on their roof! They did call the police but no officers showed up at all. Fortunately there was no damage to the boat or indeed injury to the crew.
So our experience of Kingston was a bit mixed, the town itself is a great place to visit but it would be better if the police had a bit of a presence along the riverfront after dark.