After a night spent mainly in the company of my blocked nose and hacking cough, Captain Virginia didn’t want an under-the-weather Franco to have to deal with a Thames lock manually, so we left Windsor at 9:00 AM, when the lockkeepers should be on duty. With the flow of the river, it should be a relatively short cruise to the locks at Teddington, so there was no rush anticipated.
A few years ago, Francine and I had visited Richmond park to see something of the Red Deer rut. Whilst there, we were also interested to see the local feral population of Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri) which had established themselves there, possibly from captive escapees. We had heard their distinctive squawk whilst moored in Windsor and now began seeing them,sometimes on birdfeeders, as we cruised along. Clearly the parakeets’ initial bridgehead has spread. [Apologies for crappy distant photo on the run.]
The cruise was pleasantly uneventful and we were making good progress so we stopped at a riverside pub with a moorings in Kingston upon Thames for lunch. The menu looked good, including mussels and chips, or moules et frîtes as we Francophiles prefer to call it; Mrs. Virginia sounded particularly keen on those. Then we heard a lady exiting the pub muttering to her companion that the kitchen was closed and no food was available. Blast! 15 years ago we’d done a 1-week canal cruise with the Virginias and had twice failed to get food at canal-side pubs. This pub at least had an excuse – the pub’s kitchen was undergoing emergency maintenance. Fortunately an alternative existed; we wandered around the corner to a second pub and had a very decent lunch there.
Lunch over, we re-boarded Juniper, pushed off and continued on to Teddington locks. Yes, locks, plural. Teddington has three locks. There is the so-called Skiff Lock, a small lock for day boats and the like, the original “Old Lock” which I think we’ll be using, and the immense “Barge Lock” measuring an astonishing 670 feet long, or thereabouts – that’d take a time to fill. We tied up at the locks’ chargeable moorings and went to pay the lockkeeper.
Even Capt. Virginia is now looking forward to getting back onto the canal system. This may have something to do with issues navigating the River Thames, which can be a tad challenging for first timers. First of all, there are frequent side channels which can make it tricky to discern the main channel ahead. On the correct channel there are frequent swarms of rowers/scullers, all of whom are going the way they aren’t looking and many of whom are young, inexperienced, and prone to wandering all over the river. Even the experienced rowers going in a more predictable straight line do so with oars almost as wide as the river. Assuming you manage to avoid the rowing traffic going along the river, there is the occasional sailing club with dinghies tacking [a.k.a. zigzagging] haphazardly back and forth across the river with gay abandon, knowing they are in the right and that it’s up to the 16-ton, 62-foot, slow-to-respond narrow boat to avoid them. The dinghy sailors reminded me of French cyclists who can never be culpable.
We’ll be aiming to go through Teddington Old Lock at about 8:00 AM tomorrow.