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Kingston on Thames

On the third day of our stay at Hampton Court we decided to visit Kingston on Thames. The previous two days had been very hot and sunny but despite the fact that this one was heading the same way, we decided to walk to our destination. Kingston turned out to be a revelation, a wonderful riverside town with a vibrant waterfront, a town centre market and a fabulous range of shops. After exploring for a couple of hours we had lunch and did a bit of clothes shopping before walking back to our mooring at Hampton Court. One of the reasons for our visit had been to check out possible moorings in Kingston and to find out more about the regatta which was scheduled for the following day (Saturday). The regatta didn’t look to be anywhere near as big an event as Henley had been but nevertheless we left Kingston with the idea that we would probably struggle to find a mooring the following day.

It was 7.45 when we got up on Saturday and within a few minutes, Caxton was turning around mid stream and heading back to Molesey lock. Locks on the Thames are of course little effort so this trip up and back presented no problem to us but would allow us to refill the water tank and to empty all of our cassettes. After winding above the lock we dropped back down and passed by the mooring that we had been occupying for the previous three days.

This stretch of water is another one which is very busy with trip boats but at this time of the morning we were untroubled by such craft. It didn’t take long until we were on the approach to Kingston and we could see that there would be plenty of space to moor as long as we could manage to hammer our pins into the small space between the concrete edge and the pavement. At the second attempt we managed to find a suitable spot and with a bit of brute force using the sledgehammer, we were sorted. The mooring arrangements here are with the local council and are for 24 hours only but free of charge.

After wandering into town and doing a bit of food shopping, we returned to the boat, had some lunch and then walked to Teddington lock. We wanted to make sure that we knew what to do the following day when we dropped down on to the tidal Thames for our journey to Brentford.

One of the few niggles that we have had about mooring on the Thames is the quality of the mooring places. GRP cruisers are adorned with huge fenders and sit higher in the water than narrowboats and it seems that most moorings are designed for them. Our mooring at Kingston was no exception and it was impossible to protect our boat from the concrete edge. We were pleased to discover that there is a chandlery at Teddington and despite the fact that we had very little time left on the river, we wanted to buy a big fender to improve our mooring both for that night and for in the future.

The Boat shop is a fabulous establishment, a proper boater’s shop. On the canal system we are used to and probably take for granted, the ability to find such places without trouble. On the Thames it is a different story so finding this place seemed like finding an oasis in a desert! We got what we wanted and more. The proprietor is a smashing bloke and a font of knowledge as far as boating, the river and the local area is concerned. More importantly, the prices there are very reasonable, especially for this part of the country. The shop is just over the bridge from the lock and is well worth a visit, they also have an ebay shop (click here) so online shopping is also possible.

We walked back to our mooring along the north bank of the river via Thames Ditton with a slight diversion through Kingston town centre where the annual Youth Arts Festival was in full swing. By the time we had returned, the activities of the regatta had long since ended and the trip boats were all tucked up safely for the night but we positioned our newly purchased fat fender anyway in anticipation of it all kicking off again in the morning.

At 2am Sue was awakened by voices outside, I wasn’t aware until I heard her open the hatch and ask the young people sitting on a nearby bench to either be quiet or move on. They expressed surprise that anyone actually occupied the boats but it still took the threat of a call to the police to make them go away. Unbeknown to us, the occupants of a nearby widebeam, wb Flub, had also been awoken but by the sound of someone on their roof! They did call the police but no officers showed up at all. Fortunately there was no damage to the boat or indeed injury to the crew.

So our experience of Kingston was a bit mixed, the town itself is a great place to visit but it would be better if the police had a bit of a presence along the riverfront after dark.