Friday, June 04, 2010


So, I was up by about 7:30 this morning, and I had another double-decker ham and cheese sandwich for my breakfast, with some yogurt, and I made a double-decker roast beef and cheese one for my lunch.  I was out of here by about 9.


My first destination was near the start of the Jubilee River, but it turned out to be a complete bust.  Very industrial and not at all pretty or interesting.  So, I moved on to destination two, Boulters Lock.  This is a lock on the Thames, located in Maidenhead, and it is the place my buddy I met at the Jubilee River yesterday had recommended that I visit.


The lock was interesting because it is located right next to a road, and the approach to the lock runs along the road for a ways.  It was strange to see car traffic, pedestrian and bike traffic, and boat traffic, all sort of next to each other.  There is an island there, called Ray Mill Island, and a fancy restaurant that looks downriver from the lock.  The island is open to the public, with a parking lot across the road and upriver about a hundred yards.  So, I parked in the parking lot and paid my 50 pence (about 70 cents) for three hours, and went back to the lock and across to the island.


The island was like a big park.  It was pretty, but a bit too parklike for my taste.  At the head of the island was Boulters Weir.  In Photos24, there is a picture of a sign that explains weirs.  Basically, a weir is a dam that establishes the water level for the stretch of river upstream from it.  Where there is a weir, there has to be a corresponding lock, for boat traffic.  They come in pairs, like the bears – a lock and a weir.


This weir was interesting to me because it has a canoe flume.  This is a structure for kayakers and canoeists to “shoot the rapids”.  I think the kayak people take it even farther and navigate across the artificial waterfalls of the weir.  See Photos24 for a picture of the canoe flume at Boulters Weir.  As I understand it, the kayakers wait for the river to be extra high, with extra high flows, and then they seek out the weirs that give them the most fun.  People sure do a lot of interesting things in the name of entertainment.


After I had seen enough of Ray Mill Island and Boulters Lock, I went back to the car and drove upstream to the town of Cookham.  It is also on the river, so I thought I would see if it provided an interesting path along the river.  I found a place to park and went looking, but it turned out that there doesn’t seem to be any good way to access the river at Cookham, or at least, I couldn’t find it.  The Thames path (see Photos24 again, for a picture of a sign about the Thames Path) seems to use the streets as it goes through Cookham.


So, I bailed out on Cookham, and followed signs to Clivedon (seems to be pronounced as if it didn’t have the “e” in it).  Clivedon is a huge estate on the river.  The house is now a very fancy hotel, but the gardens are open to the public, and I thought it might be interesting to wander around there.  When I got there, it cost 8 pounds (about 11 bucks) to wander around, though, and it seemed very crowded with school holiday families, so I passed on that.  I looked at the map, and it would have been a lot of walking, with lots of people, in formal gardens, and I decided that wasn’t for me.  I did use the rest room there, though, which I appreciated.


By this time it was approaching lunch time, so I went looking for a good place to eat.  I had forgotten to bring my map, though, which sort of limited me.  I had noticed when I was at Boulters Lock that the Thames path runs along the river upriver from there, and that stretch is supposed to be pretty, so I went back to the same parking lot.  I still had about 45 minutes on my parking ticket, so I was going to just take my chances if I stayed longer, but as I was getting out of my car, a woman asked me if I had a ticket already.  She had only been there for 20 minutes, and she was leaving, so she offered me her three hour ticket.  So, now I was good for another 2.5 hours, if I needed it.


I took my lunch and headed up the river.  It was a nice walk, but without the fancy houses that made yesterday’s river walk so interesting.  It was the back yards of less fancy houses on my side, with just trees across the river, and then it was fields on my side.  It was also getting pretty warm, and much of the walking was in the sun.  I was looking for a place to sit, but the only bench I came to was not only in the sun, it had a couple of women already sitting on it.  So, I plunged onward.


After a while, I asked a woman walker coming toward me if there were any benches up ahead, and she said yes, there was a very nice one ahead.  I neglected to ask how far it was, though.  I knew it was about 2.5 miles to Cookham, and I hoped the bench was before that.


After another 15 minutes or so, I stopped at a little bridge that was in the shade and had a thick metal railing I could sit on.  I took off my outer shirt and cooled off for a little while.  I asked another walker about the elusive bench that was supposed to be ahead, and she said it was only about another ten minute walk, so after I got cooled down, I went onward again.  I was hoping that this promised bench would be in the shade, but wasn’t extremely hopeful.


I finally got there, and it was indeed in the shade, and it was a lovely spot.  Interestingly, there was a little sign on the bench that it had been donated by a group called the East Berks Ramblers.  I thought that was appropriate, since this old rambler was looking for just such a bench.  See Photos24 for a picture of the bench and my view from it.  I enjoyed my beef and cheese sandwich, my crisps, my cookies, and my Diet Coke, while I watched the river traffic and the view. 


I watched a woman in an adjacent field who was trying to put a bridle on a horse.  There were about a dozen horses in the field, but she obviously wanted a particular one.  She kept slowly and calmly walking toward that horse, and the horse would avoid her and wander off.  The woman just kept at it, slowly and calmly, and eventually the horse let her approach and put the bridle on.  It was probably a routine they had gone through many times.  I thought it was interesting how she never moved quickly and never spooked the horses, but just kept up her slow, measured approach.  I think she was talking to the horses all the time, too.


Eventually it was time to head back, so I timed it this time.  It was about 35 minutes of walking from my lunchtime bench to where the car was parked, so I had my exercise again today.  Today’s pictures are disappointing, after the large batch of them yesterday that got such rave reviews by my readers.  Maybe the river wasn’t a picturesque, or maybe it was me, but they just aren’t nearly as satisfying today.  Not many bird pictures, either, although I did get a good binocular look at a Long-tailed Tit, a bird I especially like that I haven’t seen very often.


I got “home” early and put my jeans in the washer/dryer.  After wearing them every day for over 5 weeks, it seemed in order to do so.  I sat around here, did some computer stuff, processed my pictures, and attempted to take a shower.  Unfortunately, I never could get the shower to work.  I decided eventually that it was just broken, so I took a bath.  It has been many years since I had a bath.  The tub is pretty large, which was a good thing, and I didn’t get stuck in it.  There is something about sitting in my own dirty, soapy water that leaves me feeling less than clean after a bath.  Maybe you are supposed to run another tub of rinse water, but I didn’t do that, being unsophisticated in the ways of taking a bath.  Give me a shower any day.  I remember when I came to Britain the first time, in 1971, almost everywhere I stayed only had bathtubs, not showers.  Mind you, I was staying in very low end lodgings then, and the bathrooms were always down the hall, but still, I think that baths were the “thing” here, in the early 70’s.


There is a bird species here that is constantly calling, and I have been trying to get a look at it.  I suspected Chaffinch, but the call seemed a little different than I was used to.  I think there must be regional differences, though, as it did indeed turn out to be Chaffinches calling.  The call is somewhat different than the recorded one on my RSPB CD, though, which is why I think there must be regional differences.  Here at my bungalow, they are literally calling constantly, all day long.  It seems late in the year for them to be looking for a mate, so I don’t know why all the calling.


While I was processing my pictures a little while ago, I heard a different bird call, and when it kept repeating, I went out to see what it was.  The first thing I saw was one of the Ring-necked Parakeets, at the top of a tree a couple of houses away.  I got my camera and tele-extender lens, and I got off two shots before it flew away.  In one of them, he was looking the other way, but the other one was a good pose.  It is a very poor picture, but it is the only one I have gotten so far of the species, so I have included it in Photos24, for your enjoyment and for my own memories.  Then, soon after that, I saw the bird that had been making the unusual call that had brought me out.  It was a Magpie, and I think it was a distress call.  A sort of mechanical sound.  I got my best picture of a Magpie so far, so that is in Photos24 as well.  It isn’t great, by any means, but I like it anyway, and it is the best I have been able to get so far.  Maybe they will be tamer in the London parks.


I am thinking of London now, my final stop on this adventure.  The weather forecast is pretty bad.  Rain by tomorrow afternoon, and pretty much a chance of rain from then until I leave on Thursday.  Of course, the forecasts have been absolutely terrible, so I will probably get some interludes of dry weather during my London stay, but the heat wave is ending tomorrow, it sounds like.  I want to walk in the parks and along the Thames in London.  I want to visit the National Gallery to visit a couple of pictures I really like that are there.  It is like a pilgrimage for me, to visit Renoir’s “La Premier Sortie” in the National Gallery, every time I am in London.  It has been about 14 years, I think, since I have been in London, and I will be interested to see what changes I notice.  Johanna gave me a ticket for a ride on the London Eye for Christmas, so I hope to be able to find a decent weather window to do that.  If you don’t know what the London Eye is, then Google it, or click here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Eye


If clicking is too much trouble for you, it is a 443 foot high Ferris wheel, on the south bank of the Thames.


So, tomorrow morning I need to pack up, load up the car, and drive the hour or so into Central London to my final digs, a studio flat in Kennington, on the south side of the Thames.  I have visited London at least 20 times over the years, and I have never stayed in the same neighborhood twice, so this is my chance to get to know a little about the Kennington area.  It will be my first time staying south of the river.


The pressures on me tomorrow will be several.  I need to find my way, I need to deal with the traffic, and I need to get there in time to drop off my stuff at my flat, and still get to the car rental place by 1 PM, when it closes.  Not simple, but it should all be doable.


That’s my story for today, and I’m sticking to it.