Saturday, 28 August 2010

The Tideway

Hampton Court to Brentford
5th August 2010

This was the section I had been both anticipating and dreading. Under normal circumstances I would have entered the tidal reach without a second thought, but suddenly by confidence in Wand'ring Bark had been shaken. Just supposing the Centreflex Coupling fails half way down - what then? Common sense says it will be fine but still there is that niggle of doubt in my mind.

Richmond on Thames

Hey ho, no turning back now so we cast off from Hampton Court Visitor Moorings at 8.45am and made our way down to Teddington, passing Kingston upon Thames under a vivid blue sky. Every panorama seemed to justify a photo as we made our slow 180 degree turn round the boundary of Hampton Court Park.

Richmond bridge

The flotilla of minders

I was very relieved to find three other narrowboats making for Brentford, so we explained our problem and asked them to keep and eye on us, and help out if our power failed. They took their shepherding responsibilities to heart, boxing us in and never letting more than a boat length of water emerge between us.

Teddington Lock

Crossing onto tidal waters always feels like a major step, be it in London or the remote reaches of the Trent. If passing from the canals to the river felt like a move to a foreign land, this was like a change of continent. We were soon out of Teddington and bearing down on Richmond Lock. As the tide was less than a foot off top the weir was raised and we raced by, only realising it wasn't a bridge when we saw the barrier folded up above us.

Richmond lock and weir

The ebb tide grew stronger and within 30 minutes we were being pulled along on a strong current and 2ft of mud was showing at the margins - the cruising speed boosted by 3 mph to about 8mph.

The tidal reach is barely five miles long and with the current assisting us we were at Brentford Locks in about 45 minutes. All four narrowboats turned and increased power to drive ourselves out of the ebb, performing quite a balletic movement and remaining in close proximity to each other.  Suddenly the tidal pull was gone and we were in the approaches to Brentford Locks, and back in BW waters.

Back in BW waters

The lock keeper was aware of our impending arrival and soon had the lock open for us, lifting us onto the diminutive River Brent. Then it was on to the next self operated lock and into Brentford Basin, complete with a regional BW office and full services. If we come this way again we may well use the extensive 14 day moorings as a base for exloring this end of London.

BW welcome

Jeff is no botanist and decided to stay with the boat whilst Belle and I went off to take a look at Kew, which we last visited in 12th April 1987 - my birthday a year before we got married.

Locks into Brentford Basin

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