Stretching 346 km (215 miles) the River Thames is the UK’s second longest river, River Severn is the first. Starting as a slow trickle high in the rural Cotswolds in south-central England, the River Thames meanders through picturesque towns and villages before eventually flowing into the North Sea via the Thames Estuary. Having never been on a boating holiday before we were thrilled to work alongside Le Boat this Easter. Our boating holiday would showcase what a River Thames Cruise with Le Boat, from Benson to Windsor; has to offer families. So, if like us, you don’t know your port from your starboard, or indeed your bow from your stern…read on. And just to let you know, we didn’t know either…but we do now!
SMOOTH SAILING WITH STENA LINE
On a rainy night our Irish Sea crossing was with Stena Line on the Stena Superfast X. A luxurious ship with oodles of space and comfy seating. The restaurant had a great selection of hot and cold food, as well as hot and cold beverages. At 02.30 we all tucked into a hearty fry before heading to the cinema room to watch the movie for this crossing, Christopher Robin. For 90 minutes Mummy slept and the girls and I watched Christopher Robin (now a grown man) rekindle his friendship with Winnie-the-Pooh and friends. After the movie Matilda and Lily-Belle lay across one of the lounge bench seats and slept. Mummy and I chatted about Rosie (lay in the boot of the car) and how we thought she’d be coping. Returning to the car Rosie was more than excited to see us.
NEVER WORK WITH CHILDREN OR ANIMALS
For our River Thames cruise with Le Boat and for the very first time, we took our 1 year old Cocker Spaniel, Rosie; with us. To give you a little mental image of Rosie…she is super-cute, totally hyperactive and has serious ‘separation’ issues! Not to mention that this was her first journey longer than 30 minutes in a car, her first time on a boat, and her first time being around other people and dogs. I have to admit, I was a tad worried for what the week ahead would bring! There’s a famous saying and it goes, ‘never work with children or animals’, and we just so happen to have both in tow!
BOAT ENVY AND GRAVY BONES
From Holyhead to Benson, with a quick stop in Oxford for lunch, to walk Rosie and also pick up a few essentials; took the best part of 7 hours. Boat pick up was scheduled for 16:00 so we had a few hours to waste when we arrived in Benson at 13:00. A scenic River Thames walk, coffee at the Waterfront Café, ice cream for Lily-Belle and Matilda and a gravy bone for Rosie. After we fed ourselves there was the chance to feed the local swans. Plus, we indulged in a spot of boat watching (or envy) which soon brought our own Le Boat collection time upon us. And we were super excited for our River Thames Cruise with Le Boat!
RIVER THAMES CRUISE WITH LE BOAT
Le Boat is now in its 50th year of operation. With branches throughout Europe it’s easy to see why they’ve become so well established. With bases on the River Thames, located in Benson and Chertsey; boat selection and pick up is a doddle. The pick up location for our 7 day River Thames Cruise with Le Boat was Benson, Oxfordshire. A quiet little village that sits on river silts and gravel, just above the surrounding marshy land of Preston Crowmarsh, Crowmarsh Gifford, and Rokemarsh. A little Benson fact…in 1993, the River Thames in Benson was used as one of the primary filming locations for the sitcom Keeping up Appearances. Peaceful.
LE BOAT AT BENSON
At the Le Boat reception we were greeted warmly by the lovely Lucy. After a brief chat we were given a very thorough run down of the do’s and don’ts of boat housekeeping. Documents were signed and we were placed into the care of Slavek who would show us how to start, stop, steer and manoeuvre our 36ft vessel. Slavek also kindly took us to the first lock to show us how to operate the sluice and lock gates. From this point forward, this job would fall to the Captain’s Mate, otherwise known as Mummy! Holiday on the River Thames cruise with Le Boat here we come!
LE BOAT CRUSADER
About the Le Boat Crusader used for our River Thames cruise. The Crusader boat is from the Budget range of boats offered by Le Boat. At 11.90 m long by 3.90 m wide, the Crusader has three separate cabins each with an en-suite bathroom. This model offers a variety of sleeping arrangements (single, doubles and singles that convert to doubles) to accommodate six. The size and versatility of the Crusader is excellent, a great choice for first timers to river cruising.
Inside the Crusader
- primary steering station
- electrical system is 12 volt DC power (220 volt shore power is available on some models),
- 2 cabins with convertible twin/double beds (both en-suite)
- 1 cabin with two single beds (en-suite),
- kitchen with a stove, sink, and a fridge (freezer compartment within),
- lounge has a large L-shaped sofa, drop-leaf dining table, and a radio/CD player.
- stairs to upper deck.
Outside the Crusader
- secondary steering station,
- spacious sundeck with 360° viewing area,
- plastic patio table and chairs
WHO SAID IT’S A DOG’S LIFE?
After successfully navigating the first lock with the assistance of Slavek, we were cruising along the River Thames. Our first stop was a short distance away in Wallingford where we moored overnight beside a pub named Boat House. Once we’d unpacked our bags and familiarised ourselves with the Le Boat Crusader, our hungry bellies steered us toward the Boat House for our evening meal. Dogs are very welcome in most pubs in England and treats are often provided free of charge. Rosie, although a little nervous; settled quite well and lay under the table. Every now and then Rosie would bark at other dogs if they strayed too close. Food arrived to the table promptly and was really decent pub grub.
CHILLING IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE
Back on the Crusader we soon realised that as the April temperature fell to O°C outside, as did the temperature inside the Crusader. Thankfully the Crusader had heating which worked great when the engine was running. Our first night on the River Thames with Le Boat was very cold! The following morning we contacted Le Boat at Benson and arranged for extra duvets which Slavek kindly brought to us. Wallingford is a historic market town situated on the River Thames just south of Oxford. In the heart of the village lies the stony derelict ruins of a Norman Castle. Built in the 11th century, the castle is now grade 1 listed with just two walls remaining standing. There’s also a museum in the village with an extensive collection of Medieval and Victorian artefacts, sadly, as it was a Sunday, the museum was closed.
CRUISING ON THE WILD SIDE OF LIFE
Public mooring beside the Boat House cost £10.00 per night. After a breakfast of fresh croissants, cereal and hot buttery-toast; we received visitors port side. Four friendly ducks looking for us to feed them, which we did with freshly baked croissant crumbs. After feeding the ducks we navigated Wallingford bridge and set a course towards Windsor. I still hadn’t had my morning coffee at this point, mainly because we neglected to bring any! The Crusader pootles along at a speed of around 7-8km/h (4-5 mph) which gave us a chance to take in the beautiful and picturesque British countryside. A countryside that teems with wildlife. Swans, ducks, coots, geese, birds of prey, water voles and much more can be seen on the River Thames. There are many small islands along the river and as they are isolated and away from humans and land predators; birds use them to nest safely.
LEARNING THE ROPES, AND THE LOCKS
The River Thames between Benson and Windsor has 18 locks to navigate. Out of season the locks are unmanned and entirely Self Service. Once the full season commences many of the locks are manned by employees of the River Agency or by volunteers. In all honesty we were surprised at how quiet the River Thames was. Rarely did we pass any other cruiser boats for hours at a time. The friendly lock keepers that we encountered amused us with lock tales and stories of ‘river rage’ during the busy Summer months. Each lock we encountered was maintained to a very high standard, and exceptionally clean. The locks also have a quaint little lock keeper’s hut and a residential cottage. Next stop Goring.
MOORING IN GORING
As we moored in Goring we got chatting with a couple of ladies out waking with their children. Lily-Belle and Matilda regained their land legs and played with the children. Chatting, we soon established that one of the ladies, visiting from Australia; was born in Delgany, Greystones in Ireland…which is where my father was born, died and is subsequently buried. Seriously, what are the odds of this encounter? What a small world! Off the boat we made our way into Goring village but not before stopping at George Michael’s riverside house. The house is empty and now owned by his sisters Melanie and Yioda. People are still leaving tributes at his door to this very day! After picking up coffee, sugar, milk and a few sweet treats from a local shop, we made our way back to Crusader to continue our journey down river.
WAY DOWN THE SWAN(EE) RIVER
Between Goring and Mapledurham is Whitchurch Lock, the only lock on the River Thames that is inaccessible to the public by foot, bike or car. The lock keeper was a lovely chap named Tim whom we spent many minutes chatting with. Mapledurham is where we decided to moor for the evening. Peaceful, tranquil and swans nesting by the river’s edge. Through the Crusader window I was able to get a few photos of a nesting swan. The swan made her way to the river to drink and feed so I seized the opportunity to see if she was sitting on eggs, she was…two of them! Not wanting to disturb her, we moved the boat back out of the swans sight. The evening was spent walking Rosie, playing Uno and just chilling…it had been a long day.
MISTY MORNING ON THE RIVER THAMES
With two duvets on each bed we awoke toasty warm in the morning. A mist had descended on the River Thames and Mapledurham Lock was our first challenge of the day. The next mooring was planned for Henley-on-Thames, a journey that would take us through the beautiful locks at Caversham, Sonning and Shiplake. Beside each lock was a weir with fast flowing water. The locks, although very intimidating at first; were actually quite simple to manoeuvre the Crusader through…once we got the hang of it. Ok, so we had the odd moment where the Captain’s Mate (aka Mummy) missed roping the mooring peg, but this was soon rectified. It’s amazing how quickly the crew tow the line when you threaten them with walking the plank! The key to successfully navigating a lock is not to panic! Relax, look at the lock, select your temporary mooring peg and execute…simples!
EVERY LITTLE HELPS
Before Caversham Lock is a Tesco Extra with multiple mooring points. The perfect location to stop and do a grocery shop. Upon mooring we got chatting with a lovely local man, Sid. Polite and very knowledgeable about the river Thames, we chatted with Sid for some considerable time. There’s a significant number of unlicensed boats moored permanently beside Tesco. These boat dwellers are known locally as ‘river gypsies’ and by all means a nuisance. They have little or no consideration for other river users, or indeed for the River Thames itself. We witnessed one man nonchalantly throw litter overboard. I decided it was probably best not to leave the boat unattended. Mummy and the girls went to Tesco and I walked Rosie within sight of the boat. Back on board, and after feeding the swans that had gathered by our Crusader; our Le Boat River Thames cruise continued.
A RURAL JUNGLE
Cruising along the River Thames is a great way to be nosey and see how the ‘other half’ live! The houses that line the banks are absolutely stunning. Many of the homes have huge beautiful weeping willow trees in their garden and perfectly manicured lawns. We came across a few gardens with life size sculptures of giraffes, rhinos, lions and other weird and wonderful sculptures. On the River Thames cruise with Le Boat we passed through Sonning and spotted a house with lots (and lots) of security cameras. After stopping before Sonning Lock to fill up with water, we chatted with the lock keepers Tim (volunteer) and Nick (River Agency); who informed us the house once belonged to Uri Geller, bender of spoons! Next stop, Shiplake Lock then Henley-on-Thames.
DÉJÀ VU DOUBLE TAKE
Arriving at Shiplake Lock we had a real Déjà Vu moment as we approached the waiting lock keeper. It took us a moment or two to realise that the lock keeper was Nick from the previous lock! Turns out that many of the lock keepers man two locks at the same time and spend their day travelling back and forth between them. Again we bid farewell and continued to Henley-on-Thames where we moored alongside a play park. Lily-Belle and Matilda had the chance to burn off energy, and Rosie got a good walk. Henley-on-Thames is famed for having many famous landmarks; one of which is the grade 1 listed five-arched Henley Bridge that was built in 1711. Note to self…don’t crash into the bridge! And of course, Henley-on-Thames is world renowned for the Henley Royal Regatta…rowing, strawberries, champagne and more rowing!
TIME WAITS FOR NO MAN OR BOAT
Our stay in Henley-on-Thames was short, and with good reason. Beside the mooring point in Henley-on-Thames there was a play park and bandstand. The bandstand had attracted rowdy teenagers who were shouting and playing load music. Assuming that the noise would probably get worse as the night progressed I decided to move our Le Boat Crusader further down the River Thames. Lynne phoned a quieter private mooring at Harleyford Marina and spoke with a friendly chap named Tim. After pleading our need for WiFi and peace, we were kindly invited to moor overnight in the guest mooring. An hour and 30 minutes away, plus Hambledon and Hurley Locks to navigate; we wasted no time in leaving Henley-on-Thames. Harleyford Marina also happens to be the home of the world famous Steamboat Alaska; the UK’s oldest working passenger steamer.
MOORING FROM DUSK TIL DAWN
Dusk was upon us when we arrived at Harleyford Marina and the offices were closed. The Marina was lit beautifully and silently secluded. Mooring at Harleyford Marina cost £30 per night which is a tad more expensive than the public moorings (£10) dotted along the River Thames. The on-site facilities, such as showers, laundry room, WiFi etc are excellent and well worth the mooring fee in our opinion. Mummy used her laptop to catch up on some work, Lily-Belle, Matilda and I played Pictureka (gave me a blinding headache) and Rosie slept. I think we all slept rather soundly at Harleyford Marina that night! We were thoroughly enjoying our River Thames Cruise with Le Boat.
HARLEYFORD MARINA, HOME FROM HOME
Morning arrived at Harleyford Marina and we introduced ourselves to the General Manager, Mark Pearce. Mark had lots of information for us to ensure our journey along the River Thames was pleasant and enjoyable. Having already had our breakfast on board the Crusader, we were a tad disappointed to hear that the adjoining golf club served a very hearty Full English. Next time, next time for sure! The Crusader has three en-suite bathrooms, but as you can probably imagine, being on a boat; they are small. Personally I like a lot of space when showering. Before using the shower block at Harleyford Marina we popped a load into the washing machine in the laundry room. There was also a tumble dryer, an iron and an ironing board….whatever those are (only joking). All clean and refreshed we set sail for Windsor on a cold, wet rainy day.
COFFEE AND A COSY CABIN
The sky was dark and gloomy. Definitely not a day for sitting on the upper deck on our River Thames cruise with Le Boat. Thankfully the Crusader can also be steered from inside the cabin. Coffee in hand, I stood behind Lily-Belle and watched her navigate the straight stretch of River Thames that lay in front of us. Matilda had a turn but got bored very quickly. On the bank a crocodile lay poised ready to ambush! To keep themselves occupied, Lily-Belle and Matilda tried their hand at pointillism on a piece of kitchen roll. Pointilism, if you’ve never heard of it; is a technique in which small dots of colour are applied in patterns to form an image. Paul Signac and Georges Seurat developed this technique in 1886. Pointillism colouring kept the girls occupied for hours. Isn’t it amazing what children will do without the internet…and relatively squabble free!
ROW, ROW, ROW YOUR BOAT
Today would be our longest cruising time on the Crusader with 6 locks and 14 miles to cover to reach Windsor. And on a cold, wet and windy day; it was a pleasure to see lock keepers attending most of the locks today. Even though the weather was miserable, that didn’t stop hardy rowers from venturing out onto the choppy River Thames. I felt cold just watching them as they passed by port side wearing lycra with arms and legs exposed to the elements…brrrrr! As for us, we made a very conscious decision to stay on the boat inside a warm cabin. After what felt like a lifetime on the Crusader we could see the majestic Windsor Castle on the horizon. Rain had finally stopped and the sky was clear and blue!
FOOTBALL IS ALWAYS A PRIORITY
Arriving in Windsor I had just one thing on my mind…the Liverpool vs Porto FC game. Having checked online and found a pub with live streaming; I was a happy man. On arrival I confirmed the game would be streaming and we ordered food. Imagine how annoyed I was when the TV was switched over from the Liverpool game to the Man City vs Spurs game, livid! The food was presented beautifully but sadly, presentation was the best part of the meal; bland and tasteless. In the end we returned to the Crusader and I watched my beloved Liverpool FC play using Sky Go on my iphone. The girls sat on the upper deck and fed the swans as Rosie looked on. Swan food was purchased from a local shop at 60p per bag and we bought 20 bags! River Thames swans must be the best fed swans in the world!
BREAKFAST THE PARISIAN WAY
The morning haze was lifting and the forecast given was for a hot day, probably our best chance for sightseeing around Windsor. For breakfast we ventured to dog-friendly Café Rouge; a beautiful retro cafe with a distinctively Parisian feel to it. Our server was also the General manager, Bertrand, who was a ‘homme charmant’ with a warm friendly manner, welcoming and very polite. Breakfast was superb and Rosie lay under the table anticipating a bacon or sausage titbit or two. The full English (or should that be full French) didn’t disappoint and was served with a less than traditional Cognac. Mummy and the girls were offered ‘champers’ but politely declined. The magnificent Windsor Castle was less than 300 metres away, and a little farther was The Long Walk in Windsor Great Park.
A VERY ROYAL WELCOME TO WINDSOR
Windsor Castle is a royal residence in the heart of Windsor, in the county of Berkshire. The castle has a long standing association with the British royal family and is world renowned for its splendid architecture. The original castle was built in the 11th century after the Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror. A notable historical occasion is the great fire in 1992 in which the building was damaged extensively. Thankfully, a huge restoration project restored the castle to its former glory. I could tell you all of the historical points and facts about Windsor, but in all honesty; Wikipedia has this covered. The girls were more interested in visiting Windsor Castle than I was, they love ‘all things royal’!
THE LONG WALKIES
Having Rosie with us we weren’t allowed into Windsor Castle grounds and had to settle for the park and The Long Walk. I left the ‘Long Walk’ to Mummy and the girls. Deer can often be spotted roaming freely through the park, but sadly not on this occasion. Rosie was allowed off her leash to stretch her legs and run around the park with Lily-Belle and Matilda. The gardens are beautiful, and from Snowy Hill, the views of Windsor Castle are glorious and unobstructed above the tree line. It’s thirsty work taking photos. Beside the entrance to Windsor Park is The Two Brewers, the perfect compact pub to stop for a glass of bubbly and juice for the little ladies. Very welcome and a chance to sit, relax and enjoy the glorious sunshine.
O2 CUSTOMER SERVICE AT ITS VERY BEST
Mid holiday Mummy’s phone decided it didn’t want to cooperate any longer, dead…RIP Samsung Galaxy! Needing a phone for photos, Mummy popped into the O2 shop in Windsor. After a lengthy chat about paying bills, deals, phone options, WiFi and dongles; Mummy chose a brand new Huawei Pro P30, mainly for the superior camera. Extremely thankful to Ruari (Assistant) and Gerry (General Manager) we dropped in a box of Krispy Kreme donuts. Perfect accompaniment to enjoy with an afternoon cuppa. Ruari transferred Mummy’s contacts from her old phone to her shiny new phone. The service we received at the O2 shop in Windsor was second to none! Lily-Belle and Matilda took the opportunity to write postcards for sending home. The girls LOVE sending postcards to their schools when we’re away travelling.
MAMMA MIMI, HERE I GO AGAIN
Armed with her Huawei P30 Pro Mummy couldn’t wait to start taking photos! Having spent so long in the O2 shop evening was upon us. With recommendations from the guys at O2, we crossed the street to dine at Kokoro; a Japanese diner-takeaway. Outside, we spied a lady out walking with her dog, Bella. Just to say, we needed ‘dog poop bags, Mimi had dog poop bags! A chance meeting with a delightfully charming young lady; Omayma (aka Mimi). Mimi is half Egyptian – quarter Italian – quarter Scottish and was in Windsor visiting her ماما (mamma). We spent an hour or so chatting with Mimi about dogs, health, travel, culture and could happily have spent many more hours in her company. Incidentally, Mimi also happens to live in our favourite country, Italy. I’m fairly certain our paths will cross again in the future. When we travel we always meet lovely people…blessed!
SUSHI SIT IN
Kokoro, which translates as ‘heart and soul’ is located on Peascod Street in Windsor. With options of sit-in, takeaway or restaurant we opted to take the weight off our feet and sit-in. Matilda wanted noodles and only noodles! No matter how much we tried to persuade her to sample other Asian delights, she was having none of it! Lily-Belle was more adventurous and chose a sushi selection complete with hot wasabi! I had dumplings, sushi, miso soup and chicken in chilli sauce, Mummy scoffed fried chicken and rice with curry sauce. As a side we shared crispy spring rolls. Food was excellent as was the service.
JUST PLANE CRAZY
Walking back to our Crusader cruiser we stopped on Windsor Town Bridge to admire the stunning sunset. Windsor Town Bridge is an iconic iron and granite arch bridge that spans over the River Thames between the towns of Windsor and Eton. Planes fly overhead passing at an alarming rate of one every 48 seconds and you can see a steady line of planes heading for Heathrow Airport. Swans and ducks fly by our heads, always seeming to head toward a collision yet managing to turn before impact. The River Thames in Windsor is a bustling tourist hot spot and the river is alive with boat activity. On the boat, Matilda turned her hand to entertaining us with a little impromptu rapping. Honestly, we’ve never laughed as much in our lives! Bellyache and tears flowing down our cheeks. Hilarious!
BOATS AND BUZZARDS
After a peaceful overnight stay in Windsor, which cost £10 to moor per night; the time to make our way back upstream had come. A long walk for Rosie, swan feeding for the girls and cruising along, Windsor Castle soon disappeared from view. The River Thames is a beautiful place to relax, take in the scenic landscape and simply while away the hours doing nothing on a Le Boat cruiser. For the next few hours we sat on the top deck and watched peregrine falcons, red kites, buzzards, goshawks and other birds soar effortlessly in the sky. One thing to note about the River Thames is its abundant wildlife, if this tells us just one thing it’s that the River Thames has a thriving ecosystem. Our first boating holiday and we were thoroughly enjoying every moment on the Crusader.
A BOUNTIFUL BOWL OF SAUSAGES
Located in Cookham is a riverside pub called The Bounty. With easy mooring, al fresco dining and a children’s play area, we dropped by for a spot of lunch. Only open in the summer months, The Bounty welcomes muddy boots, dirty dogs and children. Profits from sales are put into the running of an orphanage in Africa, which is owned by the pub proprietors. The Bounty is a great ale house full of character where everyone is made to feel very welcome by the friendly staff. And in all honesty, top notch food at a reasonable price, and we even bought sausage bites for Rosie at £2 per bowl! Lily-Belle and Matilda thoroughly enjoyed playing in the small play area. Ice creams purchased we embarked our boat.
SILENCE IS ALWAYS GOLDEN, SOMETIMES IT’S SHATTERED
A little upstream from The Bounty is the beautiful and well kept Marlow Lock. On the approach the peace was shattered by loud screaming and shouting. Very loud screaming and shouting! A school tour from Belgium. On the riverbank a teacher was screaming at the school children for what appeared to be no apparent reason! Our plan to stop at Marlow was thwarted as we drew closer to the mooring point and heard the same screaming and shouting. Moored on the bank was 6 boats all with Belgian teachers and children…no space for us, we moved on! Light was fading and journey time to Henley-on-Thames was around 2 hours, not including lock time! This part of the journey was going to be tight! Would we make it before dark?
TAKEAWAY ON THE THAMES
Sailing into Henley-on-Thames the sunset was spectacular, and as quick as the sun began to set; it was soon pitch black. Mooring using the Henley Phyllis Court Rowing Club boat house lights was simple enough though. No sooner had we moored, a small boat pulled starboard. I honestly thought we were going to be moved on, but thankfully not. The boat had stopped to collect our mooring fee of £10 for the night. And r-e-l-a-x…a glass of vino for Mummy and I, and juice for the girls. Indian takeaway ordered from Café le Raj which was just 5 minutes from our mooring point. Lovely Indian food and very reasonably priced considering we were in Henley-on-Thames. Board games and more rapping from Matilda ended our night early, we were all exhausted and in need of a good night’s sleep.
STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM, YES PLEASE
Morning time arrived all too quickly. We had moored our Le Boat Crusader beside where they were setting up for the famous Henley Regatta which takes place in July. After breakfast on board, a gentle stroll into Henley town to pick up pressies. Mummy called into a supermarket for strawberries and champagne, well…we are in Henley-on-Thames, it’d be rude not too! Brunch on the top deck of our Crusader and we set sail to try and get as close to Benson as possible. The sun was out but sadly the temperature failed to get above 12°C. Feeling the cold Lily-Belle and Matilda stayed in the cabin for most of the day; only surfacing to feed swans and ducks. I steered the boat and watched the many rowers pass by on the River Thames. Once again, we moored in Goring.
HELPFUL TIP FOR A FISH AND CHIP
Mark from Harleyford Marina advised us to get fish and chips from a local pub in Goring, John Barleycorn; on our return trip. In all honesty we are spoilt in Northern Ireland for fish and chips. Just a few short miles away from our home is Joe 90’s; an award winning chippy. The best fish supper you’ll ever taste! Still, we gave John Barleycorn our custom and of course, took a cheeky drink at the bar! Back at the boat we enjoyed our John Barleycorn crispy fish with tartar sauce, chips and mushy peas. Ok, the food was pretty good, but as I said…Northern Ireland…Joe 90’s…spoilt rotten. I needn’t say anymore! After our evening meal, we began the laborious task of packing ready for our arrival at Le Boat Benson the following morning. And we also had to clean the boat and scrub the decks!
BYE BYE LE BOAT BENSON
Goring Lock to Benson Lock, excluding lock time; is around 1 hour 30 minutes cruising at 7-8 km/h. Bearing in mind we were also travelling against the flow of the River Thames. In Goring we packed, cleaned and had the boat ship-shape ready to hand it back to Le Boat. On our final morning we set a course for Le Boat Benson. Our boat pulled up in Benson at 09:30 and that was it, our cruising adventure was over. Slavek and Lucy met us dockside and we gave them each a small token of our appreciation, a full bodied Red Wine for Slavek (to drink with his kebabs, Slavek likes kebabs) and Flowers and Prosecco for Lucy. Our evening ferry with Stena Line was at 20:15 so we found a small cosy café in Benson, Country Kitchen; to eat brunch and contemplate our day.
Now, here’s how we learned our bow from our stern, and our port from our starboard:
- Bow – when you bow your head, you bow forward, therefore the bow is the front,
- Stern – steering minus a letter or three, boats steer from the back (rudder), therefore the stern is the back,
- Port – has 4 letters so does the word LEFT, and port (the drink) is red, which is the colour of the light on the left side of the boat, therefore port side is the left,
- Starboard – had nothing for this one, so take our word for it, starboard is the right.
WOULD WE GO BACK?
Before you could batten down the hatches, we’d be rockin’ the boat! We had so much fun cruising the River Thames on a Le Boat Crusader. The scenery is spectacular and the abundant wildlife held us captive for the whole journey. As first-time cruisers we can honestly say we had a blast. River cruising is not as relaxing as we thought it would be and in fact, at times, it was pretty hard. Enjoyable nonetheless. If you haven’t tried river cruising before, you should. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much fun river cruising is!
With a very special THANK YOU to (in no particular order):
- Le Boat – for your exceptional generosity,
- Rachel Gifford (Le Boat Marketing Manager UK and Ireland) – for organising our Le Boat holiday and for your great communications throughout,
- Lucy and Slavek (Le Boat Benson) – for your very warm welcome, guidance and banter,
- Jillian Frew (Duffy Rafferty Communications Account Executive) – for organising our Stena Line Superfast X return ferry crossing with Rosie (woof),
- Sid – for taking the time out of your busy day to chat with us and share your local knowledge,
- Bertrand (Cafe Rouge) – for making us feel very welcome and for a hearty breakfast with Cognac,
- Ruari and Gerry (O2 Windsor) – for your patience and for getting Mummy sorted with her new phone,
- Mimi – for giving us a poop bag, and for sharing your personal story, t’was a real pleasure to meet you,
- Tim and Mark (Harleyford Marina) – for allowing our late arrival, and for the helpful hints and tips for our Thames River cruise,
- River Agency and Lock Keepers – Tim, Nick, Andy and the lock keepers whose names we forgot to take (sorry) – for the fantastic work you do in keeping the River Thames running smoothly.
We are extremely grateful and feel blessed to have met each and every one of you. Looking forward to returning to the River Thames in the future, until then…taisteal sábháilte!
LILY-BELLE SAYS (10)
The boat was much bigger than I thought it would be and I enjoyed taking a turn to steer. I’ve never seen so many swans in one place (Windsor) so it was good throwing food pellets and attracting them to the boat. I didn’t like the boat at night because it was really cold. Great holiday and I hope we do another cruise in the future!
MATILDA SAYS (4)
I just loved taking Rosie on holiday with us. And it was really cool that Rosie could go into the café’s and eat doggy biscuits. The playground was lots of fun and I liked seeing giraffes in the gardens.
Le Boat: visit Le Boat online for boat hire pricing (damage waiver and fuel deposits are required)
Route: Benson to Windsor return
Date(s) of visit: 6th – 13th April 2019
Mooring costs: £10 public moorings and £30 Harleyford Marina
River Thames guide: full edition pdf
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