Friday 1 July 2005

Honey - Windsor to Hampton Court

Friday 31st June 2005
Windsor to Hampton Court
River Thames

19 miles
8 Locks
7 hours

The last stretch down from Windsor isn't the most beautiful. From Windsor one is escorted by an endless procession of jumbo jets descending from their ariel stack to the runways of Heathrow Airport.

The river starts to enter suburbia as you pass under the M25 and the character alters with each passing mile. Its not unpleasant, nor does it assume the drain like qualities of the Trent but the magic is lost and it becomes a mere route to a destination.

The latter stages are home to houseboats of all shapes and sizes, the most famous of which belongs to David Gilmour, serving as Pink Floyd's recording studio. All was quiet as we passed - I don't think that they wished I was there.

We made a final visit to a sanitary station at the lock above Hampton Court Palace, and then sought out a suitable mooring where we could leave Honey pending Mr Primrose's return. We passed the palace and its landing stages on our left and moved down the river some four hundred yards, at which point discovered an ancient flight of concrete steps descending to the water, all covered with scrub and weeds. This looked like a good spot so we turned Honey to face the current and moored her up using every rope and mooring pin. The mooring was alongside the deer park and next to a gate in the perimeter wall, which facilitated a fantastic evening stroll in the park, before contacting a taxi to ferry us to Euston Station the following morning.

Honey was completely invisible from the riverside path, so invisible that I received a call from an agitated Mr Primrose a few days later asking what I had done with his boat. I heard him crunching down the gravel path and told him to stop when he drew levelwith the pub on the far bank. Then to look down and see if he could see any ropes leading into the bushes. With some trepidation I waited for him to pull on the ropes, fearing that they would emerge with a frayed end and no |Honey. In shouldn't have worried, Honey was safe and sound and was moored a mere 200 yards from Mr Primrose's trade stand. Perfect!

Honey returned to the Midlands two weeks later, with Mr Sealess taking her to Banbury, mid way up the Oxford Canal. This leg was not without incident, as her alternator failed and needed a replacement. I received regular updates by mobile phone and was relieved when I could hear the thwang, thwang, thwang of the Lister pounding away in the background. I was less encouraged when the call started with an erie silence and the wind rasping across the mouthpiece - never a good sign. If anything, Mr Sealess's return journey was better than our downstream trip. He continues to rave about the journey, undertaken during a particularly difficult period of his life and the experience shines like a beacon of pleasure in a season of darkness. The final leg was undertaken in a series of hops my Mr Whateley and his son, ending with a mooring in Stone, which was as close to Tatton Park as time allowed.