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Sunday, 31 July 2016

Brentford backwaters.

Last night was very still and the sun made a good show of the apartments opposite.

I went for a walk round Brentford this morning. I loved this Beehive on top of the Beehive pub. You could have thought it was a mosque from a distance.

This is Soap House Creek and the house it refers to is that on the far right of the photo. It was a company called the Thames Soap Company owned by the Rowe family. The house was built in 1720 and the Rowe family moved in 1806 when they bought the area to expand their business. It then became Peerless Pumps and also the first police station in Brentford. The creek has a lock gate on it and seem to be very high class moorings.

This is the first time I have been up close to the Wave sculpture that welcomes you to the Grand Union and it is covered with etched fish as in a shoal of fish.

Looking very much like a Dutch or French canal this is the entrance to the Brentford Creek.

Just off Brentford bank is Lot's Ait. This was owned by the Thames Lighterage Company to build and repair their lighters that worked on the rivers, docks and canals of the capital. It opened in the 1920's and was one of the last tidal boat yards to close. It is now being slowly redeveloped by John Watson who is set to rebuild the original yard and also provide residential moorings. There are some very nice vessels there at the moment.

This is Waterman's Park and is due to be redeveloped. The park is to remain but the rag tag collection is to be moved off as they are illegal according to the Hounslow Council They are to spend £5.45 million on a new 'marina' for 26 berths that will displace the 40 residents currently. Mind you there seems to be about 60 boats there at the moment, some of which surely couldn't, or shouldn't accommodate anybody.

This is the monument to historic events of Brentford. These are the crossing of the Thames at Brentford by Julius Caesar in 54BC , The Council of Brentford which settled dispiutes between King Offa and the Bishop of Worcester in 781, the battle between Danish Canute and English Edmund Ironside in 1016 and then the Battle of Brentford during the Civil War in 1642 when the Royalist won a skirmish here at Brentord but failed to win through to London that would have maybe won the war for them. The monument is made from two pillars from the original old Brentford Bridge in 1909. It stood at the end of Ferry Lane but kept getting covered with coal that was unloaded there. It was moved further up Ferry Lane in 1955 and then to it's current spot in 1992.

There is a network of footpaths on both banks of the creek which are great to wander about on off the beaten track. This is Thames Lock from the bridge above. Next to the road bridge there is a footbridge that takes you down to creek level.

I walked over to the site of Brentford Dock, despite the many signs warning it was residents only, and came across the lock. It doesn't look like the lock is used that often but I looved the old mechanism on the other side. I thought it may have been from a bridge across the lock pit as we have ones a little similar in Hull.

However I came across this photo and it seems to show the same  mechanism being worked in anger for the last time by these two worthy gentlemen in 1964.

The marina in the old dock was opened in 1980 after the housing estate was built over the extensive sidings around the dock. The arches on the far side are an original feature. there was a covered warehouse too. It was used as a transshipment from lighters and narrow boats to railway.

It was opened by what became the Great Western Railway to a design by Isambard Kingdom Brunell and was started in 1855 and completed in 1859. Being the GWR the railway scale was their very large 7ft guage. On the peninsula to the wave sculpture there is still a section of track from a siding and that is the huge 7' guage.

Off the creek are several little cuts that follow flood channels and there seems to be a lot of work going on their along with several moorings for offices and residents.

The tide was flooding as I walked past and could see what looks like the midships section of a container lighter. The stern section is moored to buoys on the Thames outside Brentford Dock

At the bottom of Cathernine Wheel Road, the site of another soap works, lays the Brewery Tap pub and Johnson's Island. Hidden away is a little set of moorings for short and low air draft boats that can't get much more secure.

A narrow boat was just heading down to Thames Lock to pen out to the Thames. There are some great boats with plenty of space moored up here and their moorings are lovely and quiet. That is if you discount the planes above.

Brentford guaging Lock today with the River Brent over flow channel to the right.
Just a little busier in 1962/63.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

River recall.

A short post tonight as I am feeling bereft, Helen has left me. Well she has gone home for a couple of days to carry out her training as a volunteer for Hull City of Culture 2017. It is getting ever closer. I did mine a couple of weeks ago and came back energised by it. As they said to us, the thing most people who went to the London Olympics are the volunteers, and yes that is very true as I did go down for a day. There has been a programme on TV recently about the build up to the Opening ceremony from the volunteers view. When you think that the organisation for that event that lasted for a month or so, not counting the training, rehearsals etc, and then think what it will be like providing volunteers for hundreds of very different events, large and small, over a whole year it will be a very different thing. I am looking forward to it now, but it will mean that we don't get so much time on the canals and rivers.

I am sitting at Brentford visitor moorings and we should now not be venturing on to another river this year. Well not a 'proper' river as the Grand Union in these parts is actually a canalised River Brent. I can there fore reflect a little on our time on rivers etc this year. All rivers have limited places to stop and so sort of become a way of getting from A to B. I enjoyed the River Avon despite limited places to moor up.

With the limited moorings and the windy nature of the river I'm not sure I would want to here in the school holidays.

As it was we managed to meet one of the few boats we had met when rounding the Hook and also being followed by another. There are some lovely towns and villages to explore when you do stop though and well worth the time.

We then penned out on to the River Severn which is obviously a bigger scale all together. We headed up river with a stop at Upton which we found to be a nice town. It was good to see that there is still some commercial traffic no matter how small it is.

The banks are largely higher and wooded but you do get some great glimpses of the distant hills. We acted as a tug to a broken down narrow boater and so made an unplanned call in Worcester before heading up and leaving the Severn for the Droitwich Barge canal.

After making our way down the Oxford Canal we entered the Thames at Oxford. This had been our objective, if we had one, for the year. We headed upstream to find the source! The river again had fewer moorings spots but luckily we were still out of peak time so managed to not get stressed by it all. The river is nothing like that of the London area and was even more windy than the Avon with some beautiful stretches.

We made it as far as we could and this is the Round House at the start of the Thames and Severn Canal. It will be a fantstic journey when they get this canal open. I hope I am still able to transit it though.

Heading back down past Oxford the river gets wider and more regal and stately. The towns on the banks get more expensive too. There are some great spots to go and have a look round, and to be sure there are loads that we missed this time round so could easily justify coming back again

We had an abortive trip up the Bsingstoke Canal when a lock stoppage defeated us for time so the next leg was the River Wey Navigation. This seemed to have more places that you could just moor up to the bank at and Guildford and Godalming were nice places too

It was then back on the River Thames and from Weybridge heading east. We had planned to stop a night on the passage to Teddington but the planning went a little awry when sorting dates and times out. It meant in the end we went straight to Teddington and then the next day onward to Brentford. It is good to see that there are still new bridges being built over the Thames like this one at Walton on Thames

The passage from Teddington to Brentford is extremely easy and takes only about 90 mins at the most. Leave about 30  mins before HW Teddington and make sure that Thames Lock Brentwood is manned and bob's your uncle. The river is now taking on the look of that through London it's self, wide and populated. The entrance to Brentwood Creek is easier now there is the wave sculpture on the point too.

Our time on the rivers has been very enjoyable and we have seen many new navigations this year. We are looking forward to being back on the canals proper after what seems such a long time. Mind you after a few dozen wide Grand Union Locks we may be wishing to be back on the Thames with the keeper come push buttons.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Quick march to Kew.

Today was dedicated to plant life, we are off to Kew Gardens. I*t is only a little over a mile walk from the moorings at Brentford and we followed the Thames Path to stay off the main road.

There appears to be a fair amount of repair and building work going on in the area of Brentford Creek. Behind  Brentford Ait there are lots of moorings of a variety of vessels. It is an interesting walk to take as there are wrecks of boats and factories and new luxury apartmets and restaurants too.

We entered Kew Gardens via the Elizabeth Gates and we were soon looking round Kew Palace. This was where William III and his wife Charlotte and their 15 children lived for part of the time. George was the mad or farmer king and when he was ill he stayed here. It was a lovely place actually, on a human scale and the reproduced decorations were very 'liveable'. We also visited the kitchens.

There seemed to be lots of these sweet chestnuts trees around the gardens.The bark is sculptural and they are statuesque trees.

This is a Henry Moore sculpture, a classic, and is a reclining woman and baby. I thought she had a skate board!

This peacock was stalking around the cafe area by Victoria Gate until it was chased by several small children and then it flew up onto the roof.

The Palm House is a fantastic building and seems to be much better inside since our last visit a few years ago. The building was built by a ship builder and this maybe why we have the rounded shape of an upturned hull.

Inside the Palm House the atmosphere is frequently misted and the walk up the stairs and the walk at height is really warm but gives you a great view of the palms from above.

The vistas were enhanced by the Victorian style bedding at the start near the Palm House.

We were on an organised walk around the Gardens for an hour and we saw this guy walking up the path. We then recognised him as a friend of our daughter Adam Hepworth. He is an actor and musician and is appearing in Wind in the Willows that is being staged in Kew Gardens for several weeks. It was great to see him and catch up very quickly as he was just off to a dress rehearsal.

In the Princes of Wales Conservatory Helen was very impressed to see this Tequila Agarva and is the one that they crop after about 10 to 12 years to get the nectar and sap that they then distill to make the spirit.

This is a lotus flower. You can tell it is a day old as it is pink. Apparently on the first day of the flower it is white and smells of pineapple. This attracts a certain flying beetle that is the pollinator. Once they are present the flower closes and traps them. They then have to get coated with the pollen. The next day the flower opens. Gone is the smell of pineapple and the flower has turned pink, not now so attractive so the beetle flies off to fins another white flower! Isn't nature wonderful!

This is a new installation at Kew, The Hive. It is supposed to represent a swarm. Inside are lots of LED lights and sounds. It seems that they are linked to an actual hive where the vibrations of the bees themselves are converted to sound and light. We couldn't get near it for folk but it seems that you can take a stick, slot it in a hole and hold it between your teeth, stick your fingers in your ears and then feel the vibrations directly.

The rockery gardens had plenty of water running through them and reminded me of the Kyber Pass in East Park, Hull.

At the north end of Kew Bridge on the way home we stopped at the Empress pub. It has a great selection of beer and cider and had a good vibe to it. The food menu looked good to. Just down the road we saw the Museum of water and steam that is full of steam engines apparently. This is the chimney of the pumping station. Just a bit further down the road towards Brentford is the Musical Museum. This has a comprehensive collection of self playing musical instruments from little music boxes to mighty Wurlitzer organs. Who knew that there was so much to do in Brentford. After a dry day we also went to have a look at the Brewery Tap pub down by the creek. The beer wasn't as good a choice as ther Empress or the Magpie and Crown on the High Street bu they have Blue Grass nights every couple of weeks.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Hot foot to Hampton.

Today was the day to go back up river and see Hampton Court, but this time on the train. It was roughly the same length of time to get there by bus or train, despite having to got to Clapham Junction to change trains. On the train it was only £14-95 return for the both of us so we let the train take the strain.

Does anybody else get upset with this latest tendency at these sort of attractions when they give you the entrance price and if you didn't know better you would pay up not knowing that it includes gift aid. They used ask if you would like to pay the gift aid price, and even before that they asked you to fill a form in so they could get the aid back themselves. At Hampton Court, and they are not alone, the fact that it includes gift aid is in very small print and the real cost is also well down the list and in small print too. The person on the till didn't tell us about the fact that we could have the cheaper fee if we wanted.

Once in we went straight to an 1100 performance about HenryVIII and his first two wives that took us round several of his apartments. It was very good indeed. So much so that we had our pack up lunch, no flask, and went to see another by them regarding Shakespeare and King James I/IV. This was also very good too and I would recommend them when you visit. The rest of our visit was a bit of a dash round with the audio tour. As there is very little in any of the rooms in the Palace I would think you must have an audio guide or a guide book to get any information much at all. The rest of the blog will largely be pictures as I can't remember too much information.

This is gateway that passes from the Base Court into the Clock Court

This is a mantle pier at the side of a fireplace in the Georgian part of the Palace when George I and II took residence between 1714 and 1737. 

Apparently the folding of linen napkins to form images was started in the courts of Germany and as the Georges descend from Hanover it was natural that it came to England.

The painted ceilings in some of the apartments and this is one of the retiring rooms.

This is the Fountain Court and has the wing built by William and Mary around 1689.

This is the clock that gives the Clock Court it's name. As you can see it is an all singing and dancing time piece.

The Tudor building shows off it's opulence with the many fireplaces and hence chimneys too. The height of luxury in the day would be to keep warm and every room had a fireplace. I just love the sky line of chimneys that all look different.

The glass building houses the Great Vine that was planted by Capability Brown in 1768 and still produces grapes today that can be bought in the shop in September. I wonder how much they will be?

This is part of the kitchens during Henry VIII's time. This alleyway is actually the fridge of the time. The narrow alley means that the sun doesn't get in to warm it.. The doors are through to the cool rooms where items are kept.

This is one of the 'plaques' above the entrance to the Chapel Royal. The chapel was a lovely spot and it is amazing to think it has been in use for over 500 years.

This is just a carving above a window of the William and Mary wing of the Palace.

This was our picture in one of the pier glasses in the William and Mary Chambers from 1689.

This is one of the gates that is at the bottom of the Privy Garden. It was set out by Henry VIII but re-designed William III and Mary. These gates are by Jean Tijou and are fantastic. It looks like some of the others are in the priocess of being restored to this condition.

This is the East Front of the William and Mary apartments with the privy gardens in front. Once completed William was upset that he couldn't see the Thames so he had the garden lowered at the far end.

The gates by the road and entrance to the Palace has these fantastic sculptures.

Clapham Junction is the busiest rail junction in the UK and one of the busiest in Europe with between 100 to 180 trains passing through every hour between 0500 and 0001. We only had about 5 minutes to wait at Hampton Court Station and about 15 mins at Clapham.

On the walk back from the station through the Butts and the Market Place I saw this on a house backing on the river next to the canal. It was built on the site of an old mill, and in fact the weir and the water controls can still be seen. It was built in 1904 in the arts and crafts style. Down starirs the space was divided by folding screens into two classrooms where the children could be taught etc. Upstairs there was accommodation and when required boat wives could use them during childbirth. It closed in 1978 and is now a private residence. It was a good 'boaty' end to the day. As we walked from the station it started to spit with rain, but we were back aboard before it got heavy enough for it to get us wet. A very nice day and as we were at Hampton Court Palace for six hours I think the entrance fee actually worked out well worth while.