Saturday afternoon in September, and up and down the river young couples were saying ‘I do’ to their betrotheds, on lush lawns, in marquees or partying along on paddle steamers, everyone seemed to be getting married. Seven Hamptoneers did their best to add a little extra interest in the background of the wedding photographs, floating along the river behind the happy couples saying their vows!
It was a muggy, overcast day as we headed upstream from Windsor, navigating the charming little misnamed backwater ‘Cuckoo Weir’ before joining the broad green waters of the Thames around the race course on the first leg to Boveney lock. There is a new portage here with pontoons for getting in and out and rollers if you have a canoe or skiff. The lock was set up for a wedding with blue ribbons strung everywhere and the happy couples names ‘Emma + Fenn’ marked out by little rocks embedded in the grassy bank. We pressed on upstream, Stephen, Derek, Amanda, Daniel, Dave Kew and Houram who was on his first club trip. There was a little flow against us but we maintained a steady speed past all the wedding venues including Monkey Island and a smart restaurant at Bray Marina, but mostly the river is bordered by large lush trees dipping down into the placid calm waters. Motor boats would come past in small fleets as the locks opened and closed causing a few waves but otherwise we had the river to ourselves together with the swans, geese, ducks, coots and Kingfishers.
At Bray Lock we had a short break and one of our party who was feeling a bit tired decided to not go any further so just 6 of us headed on under the graceful sweeping arches of Brunels railway bridge and the many arches of the old Maidenhead road bridge. We paddled serenely past a series of tree clad islands to the gardens by Boulters lock where we stopped at a delightful little cafe by a pond and fountain for some lunch.
Refreshed and energised from our tasty paninis, coffees and Eccles cakes we paddled back downstream as the sun tried to show its face, not very successfully. Some of the wedding groups had moved on by now into party mode aboard a variety of boats with live jazz bands or string quartets. The leg from Bray lock to Boveney lock is about 4 miles and we were all glad to have a short break before heading back down the backwater to Windsor.
A very pleasant day out on the river, with a total of about 14 miles paddling.
(Pictures (and photo shopping) courtesey of Daniel Bownds