Thames Region Virtual Cruise Day 2 Hampton to Staines

From the historic setting of Hampton Court Palace, today we’ll be cruising to our overnight stop at Staines, the historic limit of the City of London’s jurisdiction over the river.

We’ve heard that a group of members is hastening to catch us, having been delayed downriver enjoying Pimms, mixed by Louise Busby, at Chiswick Quay.

Better late than never, and at least they weren’t delayed by Richmond Lock, which John and Gill Oldham had once experienced, during their Thames Days, when the lock renovation closed that stretch for quite some time back in 1994.

Just before we left Molesey Lock, a Dunkirk Little Ship locked through, heading up river to join an ADLS meet on Truss’s Island.

Just above Molesey lock is Garrick’s Ait, and, on the right, Garrick’s Temple, built to house a statue of Shakespeare, which is now somewhere in the British Museum

Its a lovely building in a charming setting, but most boaters will more likely admire the lovely house-boat “Astoria’ just before. Built in 1911, by Fred Karno (yes, truly) it was acquired by Dave Gilmore in the 1980s, as a recording studio, through the fortune he made as Pink Floyd’s guitarist.

The New Lock, to the left as we approach, was built in 1927, to ease the strain barge traffic was creating for the Old Lock, opened in 1886, and not large enough to handle the increase in traffic.

 The barges used to head up to the River Wey in great numbers, but traffic virtually ceased in the 1960s. Sailing is popular along these waters, and rowing too, and all will expect to take right of way over motor cruisers, so beware - they can be pesky devils.

Just through Walton-on-Thames, on the left bank (right hand side going up of course) is the entrance to Shepperton Marina, and fuel for those who need it.

After this there is a nice amble through the old stretch of the river that Gill and John Oldham knew well from their early boating days on the Thames.

But we'll take the more direct route, straight ahead using Lord Desborough’s Cut, named after the then Chairman of the Thames Conservancy, who opened it in 1935, all the effort in building it saving about 3/4 of a mile over the old way. The straight cut also provides transit marks for a speed check - its 8kph (about 5mph). Nobody has yet explained why the most important river in England has a speed limit in kph, most boats either using knots or mph to measure their speed. This will, of course, change in December!

At the top of the cut is D’Oyly Carte Island, named after the eponymous impresario of Gilbert & Sullivan operas. His plans for using it as a destination for water trips from his Strand Hotel were stopped when he couldn’t get an alcohol licence for the property he built there, and it was eventually sold by his widow, Helen. It was on the market again in 2019, for £3.2 million, and maybe still is if you’re after a riverside residence where both Gilbert and Sullivan stayed in the day.

Beyond the island, is the start of the River Wey, opened by Sir Richard Weston in the reign of Charles II, with 12 locks to Guildford. By the time barge traffic declined, the whole of the Wey was in the hands of the Stevens shipping family who, in 1963, gave in to the NT.

If you haven’t disappeared up the Wey, it won’t be long before you get to the bridge just before Chertsey Lock.

According to Louise Busby, the middle arch gives the best headroom - so best head for that!

A foot ferry runs from just by the lock and connects the Thames Path, saving a good slog in the process, and Nauticalia is adjacent. Apart from the obvious,  its also good for ice creams.

The  lock Island houses Weybridge Mariners, and the weir stream is significant as its the most southerly point on the River Thames. A little higher up on the left bank is a good mooring point which was being used by the steam launch ‘Surta’as we passed.

Higher up we’re joined by Andrew and Celia Cotter, who had been watching the ADLS flotilla form up.

Before Penton Hook Lock is the entrance to Penton Hook Marina, a popular mooring point for lots of BOC members. Up through the lock is the re-claimed Truss’s Island, where Su and Chris Knight point out the pelican which visits annually. There’s a story there somewhere!

Just beyond is our stopping point for the night, Staines. its name, as many a Scotsman could point out, is a corruption of the word stone. The stone in question is the London Stone, for seven centuries the marking of the start of the City of London’s jurisdiction over the navigation of the Thames, and the point at which the Lord Mayor of would arrive in his great barge to drink the toast ‘God preserve ye City of London’, before handing out money to anyone in reach, a popular occasion with the locals.

 Until the 19th century when decorum overtook tradition, it was here that Sheriffs and Aldermen where seized by the watermen and bumped on the Stone, thus conferring on them the status of Free Watermen for life. As with the tradition, the stone, with its inscription from 1285, is sadly no longer here, having been saved from vandals by the placement of a g.r.p replica, the original being removed to the safety of the Old Town Hall.

Just before Staines Bridge is the Swan Inn, with its mooring place, and the resting point for Sinemora and other, for the night.

Some though, led by Celia and Andrew Cotter, head for the Thames Lodge Hotel. Humm, they’re from around here. Do they know something we  don't? 

Tomorrow we will cruise the historical centre of the Thames, Windsor, Runnymede and beyond.

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