Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Thames in flood

After three months of being stuck just outside Reading because of high water levels on the Kennet, we were finally allowed to continue our travels on 8th March 2013.  Here we are setting off through the first lock on that morning:

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We were going to be the first boat through Reading town centre for three months and were a bit nervous.  After going through the first lock we were back on the river Kennet and it still had a strong flow.  We rounded one corner and there was a tree across our path.  The current was so strong that we couldn’t stop and slewed sideways into it.  It didn’t budge and in the end we managed to straighten up and get it shifted by attacking it head on at the crown.  This worried us even more as it seemed clear that the current was still too strong and there was nowhere to moor between here and the river Thames the other side of Reading. 

The final lock before Reading town centre is County lock; here it is a week previously with water still flowing right over it:

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A sharp right hand turn has to be made to get into this lock to avoid a weir.  The current was so strong it took our back around and we were wedged half in the lock entrance and half across the end of the weir.  We could not shift it.  Fortunately there was a team of firemen on diving practice and it took about 10 of them pulling our lines to swing us round to get fully into the lock.  Their instructor thought it was mad that the canal was open as it was flowing fiercely through the town centre but we had no choice but to continue.  We must have been scared as we didn’t take any pictures. You can see how rough the river is the other side of the lock here:

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It was hair raising going through the Oracle shopping centre in the middle of Reading but we made it and finally got onto the Thames and immediately moored on the Tesco moorings.  We were the only boat around so had our own private entrance to Tesco:

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Each lock on the Thames has boards indicating rising or falling water levels.  Red boards mean no travelling and you would be daft to as your insurance would not be valid and it is very difficult navigating a narrow boat in strong streams.  After visiting Tesco we walked up to Caversham lock and it had red boards displayed.  More rain was forecast so we didn’t really want to stay moored where we were.  We phoned a marina the other side of the lock and they had a space for us.  It took ages battling against the current but we finally made it through the lock into Caversham. 

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The marina was on Frys island so we had to get a little ferry boat across.  We ended up being stuck there for four weeks before the red boards went down in April.  Chris and Lauren both visited us during that time and poor old Diesel was on his last legs so was wearing a coat all the time:

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Lauren lives in Caversham and could check the boat as she walked past it on her way to the station each day.  Here is a picture she took one morning near the end of our stay when the water was calmer:

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And as a reminder to us this is how the Thames at Wallingford looked that winter:

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