Henley to Bourne End
Last night in Henley wasn't without incident. In early evening I glanced out at the park and saw clouds of smoke rising up from a nearby memorial park bench. Initially I thought it was on fire so I wandered over to see if anything was amiss.
As I approached it was clear that the adjacent boat had decided to light a barbie under the seat, and use the slats to rest all their greasy meats. Whilst I did feel a bit of a busybody for sticking my oar in, I did point out that: 1. There is a no BBQ rule in the park, 2. Their barbie will inevitably leave greasy smuts all over the bench will will really mess up any visitors who happen to sit on it and 3 Its hardy a respectful way to treat a memorial bench. I said my bit, they thought I was a kill joy misery and the bench was messed up. Of course, they were gone before the rangers arrived the next morning thus avoiding both the £10 fee and responsibility for the damage....
Henley regatta course from Temple Island.
Tuesday morning saw Helen peruse the local shops whilst I hauled the twin tub out of the butty and set to work on the weekly washing. We set off at about 12.30, but not before I had popped into the little bookshop next to the Anchor Inn and stocked up on a couple of canal books, including a history on the Grand Junction which I will enjoy reading as we travel along it in July and August.
The regatta course was being constructed in readiness for the ladies event this weekend and there were loads of crews out warming up, putting in a bit of practice. As usual, we hugged the Oxfordshire bank had a great view back down the racing course to Henley a mile and a half distant.
Now I have been pondering my feelings for the Thames over the last couple of days, which has waned somewhat if the truth be told. It was only after I passed Marlow I realised my problem. I have been following our progress in Christopher Winn's "I never knew that about the Thames" and the last couple of days has been a journey into greater and greater excess, houses moving from the mere £1m plus to multi million and indeed tens of millions - numbers and sizes which are almost beyond comprehension. I mean, George Harrison was entitled to own Friar Park and all its 120 rooms, but what exactly do you do with so many rooms. We didn't use or visit all our rooms then we had 15!
These fantastical houses were the status symbols of lives accumulating wealth and this stretch of the river is a who's who of England past and present. But then I realised that they nearly all had one thing in common - they are dead, bodies languishing in lavish mausoleums, but if it says one thing its that you cant take a penny of it with you!
Bisham Abbey and church
Moving beyond Marlow you come within earshot of Heathrow and suddenly the scale of properties falls away and you find yourself surrounded by more modest homes - and my affection for the Thames we reignited. I was particularly taken with Bisham this afternoon. Firstly there was Bisham Abbey, now the National Sports Centre and home of the England football team. They were even holding an al-fresco meeting complete with flip chart.
Identify the girl?
Then it was the delightful Bisham Church which stands right beside the Thames. As I approached I realised that there was a photo shoot in progress, and a bride in white sitting on the river wall. There was no sign of a groom so I guess its for a wedding magazine but a house point for anyone who can identify the girl. The photographers got very excited as the butty passed behind her, offering a splash of colour in the background but I wonder how long it will take then to realise that our undies were hanging out to dry in the butty's hold! If you see the Jam Butty in a wedding magazine I suspect there will have been a spot of Photoshop activity.
We came to a stop in Bourne End, moored against the National Trust marshes site, a peaceful spot with only the occasional commuter train breaking the peace.