Reading

The Wallingford £5 fee collection man came round bright and early. The boat in front had already left. We thought it was fair enough paying for a night because we had stayed there for several nights during our first winter out and no one collected the money. Maybe it wasn’t worth it in the winter? He said that the man on the boat behind who was so stressed the day before had gone to hospital with an angina attack in the night. People think it is an easy matter to take a boat along the canal and river but it’s really very hard work and a lot of people find it incredibly stressful. (Alan and I have met people who have hired a boat and just moored it in one place for most of the holiday because they found it too hard to cope with.)

It was a lovely morning for moving along, nice and calm with glowing colours. Cleeve Lock was self service and extremely easy to operate now that the new systems are in place. At Whitchurch Lock the Salters Steamer that was following us was made to wait for the next locking which surprised us: usually they are waved through first. When we came to Mapledurham Lock we were second behind a small cruiser and the steamer pulled up behind us. The lock keeper came along to ask if we minded the steamer, which had picked up some passengers while it waited, going ahead of us, which we didn’t, and thought that we would have lunch while we waited for the next locking. The steamer went in, then the cruiser, and then the lock keeper waved at us to say: Why aren’t you coming? There was plenty of room for us to fit along the side of the cruiser and the stern of the steamer.

It was sad to go straight past Pangbourne without stopping. We had really enjoyed our time there in the past. It’s a lovely village and a nice open mooring with good views. There was an incredible selection of wildlife today: Egyptian geese, countless grebes, cormorants and several paddocks full of black and white alpacas.

The lock keeper at Osney had told us that we would reach Reading by lunch time and it was 1.30 when we went through Caversham Lock. The moorings outside Tesco were full but a boat pulled away as we approached so I ran in for a very quick shop, before we continued through Blakes Lock and on to the mooring outside Reading Gaol. The water level was very low and as we went round the last steep bend into the mooring straight we went well aground. We had to push at each end of the boat with the pole and boat hook for quite a long time before we were off. (Very amusing I’m sure to the guys working on the two boats already there.) When we had moored, with relief, we asked them how we would get out again tomorrow. Straight ahead under the bridges of course (how dumb we must be was the subplot). All very well, but last time we tried that the water was high and we couldn’t get under the bridge and it was hellish getting around.

After a visit to a friend we went for a meal at Bel and the Dragon, where we had a memorable evening three years ago. (Alan managed to key in a £1000 tip for the waitress in the hand held card machine. Luckily she pointed it out!) The food wasn’t as good as the previous time, though it was OK, and the service was much less friendly.

Today we did 18.72 Miles, 5 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2991.68 Miles, 1961 Locks, 177 Swing Bridges, 117 Lift Bridges, 57 Tunnels

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