Back in 2012, as some may recall, we did a 3 week tour of the Canadian Rockies. We met some lovely people, and meet one couple (Bob & Barb) quite regularly, but until this weekend we had not managed to meet up with Martin & Rachel Smith, with whom we had found a pretty instant rapport on the trip. We had been in touch fairly regularly by email but finally we had a date, a venue and a plan. And a new tow car to boot! We set off feeling excited and also a little apprehensive – three years is a long time. What if they or we are not the same?
The Chertsey C&C site is right on the Thames by Chertsey Lock and was a first for us but not, I suspect, our last. The fact that it seems to be on the Heathrow flightpath would not deter us. It is otherwise quiet and very easy to get to. We had a reasonable Friday evening journey up the A3 and round the M25 and arrived on site to see the Smiths already in situ. They had kindly reserved a space just opposite them and we were swiftly set up and raring to go. And we needn’t have worried – it was as if the three years had been just a couple of weeks ago and we soon fell into our old easy conversation. We went to the Smith’s van for drinks whilst the lasagne I had made was heating and then we repaired to our van for dinner. We had a very pleasant evening, retiring fairly early as we had an early- ish start the next day.
We set off in our car for the short journey to Datchet, where we were scheduled to pick up our boat for a day on the Thames. We were hiring a little cruiser from Kris Cruisers, which we found easily. Whilst the weather could not have been described as jolly fine for boating, it was reasonably bright – although there was a chilly breeze and grey clouds were threatening. We decanted our stuff for the day from the car, sat through the briefing and were off towards Windsor and beyond. Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats (The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham – an old favourite of mine). And so it was. I had forgotten how beautiful the Thames is and we saw a great variety of birds – Kingfishers, Herons, Swans, Geese, Great Crested Grebes – even Cormorants – as we made our way upstream.
We passed through several locks – stopping at one for a comfort break as there were no facilities at all on board. It was a nice little boat and we all had a go at steering and took our turn on the ropes. We passed through Windsor, and went upstream as far as Cliveden – of which there were great views – before we turned round and tied up to a tree for lunch.
After a short lunch break, we turned round and retraced our steps back towards Datchet, past Monkey Island and the imposing Oakley Court Hotel and thence back to Windsor, where we got great views of the Castle. We saw some amazing and probably hugely expensive riverside properties too, one of which had the largest TV screen I have ever seen! We also saw more wildlife – quite unexpected.
We arrived back at the boat yard a little earlier than planned so we went downstream for a way, having fun turning large circles on this wide bit of the Thames. All too soon, though, it was time to hand the boat back. We’d had a lovely day but were now looking forward to a cuppa and perhaps a little snooze before dinner. Lovely.
We had a selected a dog-friendly pub – The Alexander – in nearby Weybridge and had a lovely meal there and then it was back to the site and to the Smiths’ van for a nightcap or two. It got late! But a good time was had by all. We left on tiptoe and fell into bed, tired and happy.
The next day – Sunday – was a beautiful day. Bright and sunny – ironically, the perfect day for a trip on the river. We breakfasted on eggs, borrowed from the Smiths and then began the packing up process. Martin & Rachel were staying a extra night, so we joined them for a coffee before taking our leave, vowing not to leave it 3 years before we met again. I seem to recall some mention of an awning for the Smith’s motorhome at various times over the weekend. I must ask them about that some time……..