Mysteries, murders and movies

After a week at Beale Park watching the jubilee celebrations, we took the opportunity for a night on Pangbourne Meadow (so I could restock the fridge without having to carry the shopping down the towpath). I would have called a water taxi but the standard of boat building in these parts leaves a lot to be desired.

Lessons on how not to build a raft

Despite the dodgy rafts, the prestigious Pangbourne college, has historic naval links, but in 1939 it was the Royal engineers took advantage of the meadow and used the area to train in bridge building. However the Whitchurch bridge is still standing (Whitchurch being on the Oxfordshire side, Pangbourne is in Berkshire) has stood on the site since 1792. When it was first built the ferryman received £350 in compensation for loss of trade. Its one of only 2 remaining private toll bridges over the Thames. (Swinford being the other)

Whithurch Bridge

But with the sun shining we set off -our destination, Shiplake lock charging point.

Sometimes its well worth waking up at 6am

Our first chuckle of the day came when we saw two heads popping up out of the water, we realised they were divers, I duly called out what are you looking for?…. “Bodies” came the reply. It turns out they were filming for Midsomer Murders. I suspect Firecrest’s photobombing shot will end up on the cutting room floor.

Hope they didnt find any bodies

Filming was obviously the order of the day, because we saw these two capturing the moment

They were probably estate agents

and this swimmer who was either being chased by a submarine, or was well prepared to sue any boat that cut the corner too close for comfort.

Swim cam

Or perhaps just keeping a look out for anyone going the wrong way.

Sentry duty

but the two things that puzzled us the most, was seeing a letter box built into the railway embankment wall below Mapledurham. Who was going to use it to post letters and who was going to collect them.

Thats an odd place for a letter box

Then we saw another built into the Sonning bridge arch which caused me to ask Mr Google for some answers. The Sonning post box was is an art installation, just the front of a box, put up by the artist, Impro, in 2013, the Mapledurham post box appeared in 2016 but is probably a copycat prank with no one claiming responsibility.

Sonning Bridge

but as I’m posting about bridges, we couldnt pass through this area without mentioning Christchurch footbridge in Reading.

Christchurch bridge

Completed in 2015 linking Reading and Caversham, and if like us you like a few facts and figures,
it is 123 metres long, the mast is 39m tall. Is made up from more than 455 tonnes of steel,
A 68 m river span weighing approximately 200 tonnes and supported by 14 pairs of cables,
1,100 metres of reinforced cable attached to the main bridge mast, supporting eight separate steel sections
A 50 tonne mast sitting 39m above river level, supported on nine piles 750mm in diameter and 19 metres in length.
On a hot day, a mast that expands 3cm as it warms up.
A bridge deck which expands up approximately 6cm at the middle of its river span on a hot day.
A bridge deck is only 380mm deep – about the size of a car steering wheel
234 LED lights – 39 of which are colour changing – alongside its white LED walkway illuminating lighting.

I wonder if it will last as long and look as good as the brick bridges in a few hundred years.
We had been warned that there was absolutely no mooring to be had in Reading, however we spotted this gap, which leads directly to the entrance of tesco. I took advantage and restocked the ballast, eg, if theres a shortage of tinned tomatoes or other heavy bulky goods, we’ll be ok

Reading continual moorers

Weve got used to seeing some pretty prestigeous boats but obviously not all boats in Reading wanted to be seen

Spot the boat

We made it to Shiplake Lock to recharge our batteries. And our final mystery of the day….

Hurricanes and Typhoons overhead

One of the things we’re enjoying about being on the Thames is the excitement of wild mooring. Can we find a bank where we can get the stern in close enough for me to clamber off with my dignity intact, and long enough that we can get the bow tied off securely?

We’ve mastered the art of tying up now

And preferably one that we wont be charged for. One of the things we’re not so keen on is the uncertainty of not being sure we will be able to moor roughly where we want.

Yes, that’ll do nicely

Beale Park hit the spot, and with a 4 day weekend approaching the river was suddenly coming alive with craft of all shapes and sizes, so we happily tied off to the convenient overhanging trees and settled down to watch the world go by, even if the weather was a bit dodgy, we even had a kingfisher family living directly opposite which provided a lot of entertainment

Thankfully Thursday dawned with clear sky and mist rising.

But alas although it remained clear over Buckingham Palace by the time the fly past was dispersing over Oxfordshire it had clouded over, we’d also got a few storm clouds above. But we still got to see quite a few of the planes that had saluted Her Majesty.

Some formations were better than others

We were able to take a very pleasant walk along the river and down Shooters Hill into Pangbourne village. We couldn’t help but notice a series of very interesting looking houses. It turns out they are known locally as “the seven deadly sins” of Pangbourne. They were built in 1896 to house the seven “lady friends” of the then Prince of Wales, who became King Edward VII

4 of the seven deadly sins

Pangbourne has a regal past with Bertwulf, King of Mercia being granted lands here in AD 844, Athough nowadays his allotted spot is on the village sign, underneath a Viking longboat, (frequently referred to as narrowboats by saxon gongoozlers)

The sign also pays homage to local resident, Kenneth Graeme, who wrote Wind in the Willows (although the book had already been written before he moved here) but its thought that E H Shepard based his drawings for the book from sketches done around this section of the river. It is a very pretty village.

St James church

Theres a brilliant butchers Greens of Pangbourne who boast having the best pies. I think we have been spoilt with good butchers recently, because we both agreed it was excellent so much so that we bought a second for our onward journey

Sadly prices are no longer in shillings and pence

On Saturday, whilst we watched Rod Stewart massacring Sweet Caroline at the platinum concert, I kept noticing the sky over London, and sure enough that same sky was all aglow over Firecrest.

But despite the red sky at night Sundays weather wasn’t condusive to us sitting outside for a “river party” so we ended our jubilee celebrations with a hint of a rainbow.

now, how long can I keep my bunting flapping for. Will we be celebrating Her Majesty’s century in 2026 or even her 75th Jubilee in 2027. Part of me hopes so, but by then I will try to devise a way to stop the pennants flapping onto the roof.