Thames Region Virtual Cruise Day 1 Chiswick to Hampton Court

It’s a beautiful morning, the sun is shining, the birds are singing and all is well for this virtual cruise.  Our start is our home mooring at Chiswick Quay Marina, London. The marina was developed in 1974 from an old barge port, when a developer built the houses which surround and own it. Its a great place to moor, giving access to the sea through central London, or up the Thames for a cruise like the one we are just starting. Sinemora is 2nd from left.

Locking out has to be spot on as we only have 4cms of space on either side. Its not a problem on this windless day, as we nose out and see who’s going to join us.

Don and Marjorie Walker arrive, after a 4am start from South Dock marina and a scenic cruise through London.

Oshun (Hadyn Vaughn) and David and Pam Harrison on their Broom 37, Bonny Rose, came up the Thames to join us, and were able to show that even fairly elderly Brooms have a good turn of speed if the need arises.

Richmond Footbridge and Lock are reached next. Constructed in 1777 and enlarged to take more modern traffic in the1900s the bridge contains sluice gates, visible and in place. They are raised two hours either side of high water to allow free passage through the arches. At this state of the tide the lock on the Right ‘Surrey’ bank has to be used - for a fee of £8.

The lock was opened in 1894, and was built to allow large barge traffic to pass up or down river at longer stages of the tide, but care is needed as down stream becomes practically impossible at low water.

This all brings back memories for Sally Greenhalf on Broom 30 Mykallia, who’s come all the way up from the Medway. Sally told us a little history:

'Here are photos of Richmond Lock, and the “backwater" at Thames Ditton showing the bridge to the island with Taggs boatyard as it used to be.

I lived on a boat there with my parents when I was about 10 yrs old (in the late 50s), so it holds a lot of fond memories.  The boatyard was my playground and remained in the same funky condition until a couple of years ago when it was demolished to make way for luxury apartments. Thanks for keeping me in the Thames loop.'

Above Richmond, the river runs smoothly through Kingston on Thames. Here, according to Roger Pilkington, who took his small boat through in the 1960s, the Kings Stone, from which the town takes its name, is still there. Seven Saxon kings were crowned here, with good reason for not holding their coronations in London, as it was still then held by the Danes.

 We’re now nearly at Teddington Lock and might just catch a glimpse of Teddington Obelisk, on the Surrey Bank. It marks the boundary between the PLA and the EA areas. Just upriver is a small private mooring in the wrong place, as we are now in EA territory and a Thames licence is required! Those of us coming up river can buy a licence, for a small ransom, from the EA office at Teddington Lock. The jurisdiction of their predecessors didn’t always stretch to far, with a Bill of 1771 not allowing lock building any further downstream than Maidenhead Bridge. However, by 1810 plans were in place to build the lock, and it was completed the following year, at a cost of £2,2035 10s and 71/2d. In today’s money that's about £1,575,000. By 1905, after several rebuilds and restructuring, the locks were as we know them today. There are three locks and a roller system for punts and canoes etc. and through the lock, on the right bank, is a long mooring area.

It was here, at Teddington Lock, that the original Dunkirk Little Ships fleet was formed to help with the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940.  Its normally worth a stop-over, and a suspension bridge connects the lock to Teddington itself, on the left bank, and Charm Thai on the High Street, or the nearer Tide Cottage for pub grub, but we decide to push on to Hampton Court for the night.

Oshun and Bonny Rose at Teddington Lock:

Above Teddington Lock, at Thames Ditton, a fuel station hoves into view, advertising diesel. Its closed, however, and has been for some time, so those needing fuel will have to make it to Shepperton Marina on the next day, which not only provides fuel but most other things a boater could wish for, too.

A good day of cruising is further enhanced as Hampton Court Palace comes into view, our stop for the night.

The gates to the palace are just like the streets of London - gold! They impressed my sister, Val and husband Neil, who joined us for this part of the cruise, all the way from Perth, WA. Built in 1515, the wiley Henry VIII knew what he was doing when he picked a fight with Cardinal Wolsey, the owner, who gave it to the king to curry favour. It became Henry’s favourite palace, handed down to this day to the present Royal family and the Crown Estates. Its the sort of deal many families would keep quiet about, but its a great place to stop, with lots to see and plenty of good pubs nearby, and good food too, including Siam Paragon for Thai, or the Mute Swan for good pub grub. However, the moorings directly alongside the Palace are now controlled by DE, a car-parking enforcement company, on behalf of HCP. Somewhere there is a small notice about this fact, and a telephone number to ring to pay the mooring fees. Failure to spot and pay leads to a fine, the EA controversially, in view of the GDPR Act, apparently providing information about the offending boat. Its £100, reduced to £60 if paid within 14 days. Some brave soul may want to test the legality of this cosy arrangement.  Safer souls will pay up or moor elsewhere, although its not too bad if you know the system.

One option is to moor alongside the big Brooms at TMYC. They look really large if, like Don Walker, you’re in your other boat, a little Freeman 22.

We chose to moor at the Lock at Molsey and were blessed with a sunset that matched the end to a beautiful day’s cruise.

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