We awoke to a grey morning, but on the upside, it wasn’t raining when we cast off from Boulter’s lock at 09.00. Our spirits were high, as we were getting much further each day than we had first thought we would. We still planned carefully though, making sure that we didn’t overstretch ourselves. However, it seemed much easier to cover the routes we had planned, and still manage to moor for the evening by about 18.30. At last our evenings consisted of more than moor up, eat, and then sleep.
The weather was variable for most of the day, we started off in fleece tops, stripped down to ‘T’ shirts at one point, only to find ourselves a little later scrabbling around for waterproofs when the heavens opened just before Marlow lock.
Another novelty was being able to stop for lunch. We had spent many days on the continent eating on the hoof, which we decided in the end contributed to our extreme tiredness by the end of the day, so today we stopped at 13.00 in Henley-On-Thames. We moored up near to the lock, although we had to be careful, as the water was a little shallower near to the bank at this point. We cast off again at 14.00.
We had planned to meet Mark today, a work colleague, he was going to drive down bringing his folding bike to a point where he could then access the Thames path and cycle the rest of the way to the boat. We kept in regular contact via text as to our progress and eventually met him at 15.30 at Sonning bridge, just before Sonning lock. Mark was the first person we had seen that we knew after three weeks on our journey. It really felt like we were coming home now (although at this point Martin had not met Mark before). He swiftly folded up his Brompton and joined us for the journey back to Caversham where he had left his car. After a cup of tea we cast off again at 16.00, and Mark became part of the crew helping us out at two locks, and enlightening us with some interesting points about the area.
After we had dropped Mark at Caversham at 17.15, we made our way towards Mapledurham. This was to be the last lock of the day, which was self service by this time. So, instead of Martin operating the lock, and me hanging on to the ropes, we swapped roles, and I had my first experience of operating a lock. As it happened there was a hire boat coming in before us going downstream with a number of relatively novice sailors on board with one dog who although friendly, seemed to be a reluctant sea dog (or should I say river dog), at the first opportunity he was off the boat and happily sniffing around the gardens at the lock, and eventually he had to be coaxed to get back on the boat. Glasses of white wine were precariously perched around the boat, but the occupants seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, they were off to Henley-On-Thames for the evening. So, my first experience of operating a lock was OK, and I got to experience operating it for both upstream traffic and downstream traffic.
We managed to reach Pangbourne meadow moorings at 18.50, another lovely setting for us for the evening. We walked through the meadow and up to The Swan a nice pub by the river for our evening meal and got back to the boat just as the light was fading. We checked our route for the next day, and I started to feel a mild excitement at the prospect of reaching Oxfordshire, and possibly reaching the city Oxford (the best county and city in England, as far as I am concerned) tomorrow evening.