(67) Swanning around in England – Mid July 2014

Our main reason for returning to England in mid July was to join the Swan Upping for a couple of days.

Peter had for many years organised the support/towing boats for this historic and colourful event on the River Thames before we embarked upon our new European boating life.

Royal Swan Upping, Shepperton Lock.

We joined some of our old friends for a drink at the ‘Weir’ pub in Walton- on-Thames on Sunday evening and were able to secure lifts on various boats for the Tuesday and Wednesday legs of the event.

On Monday I took a train to Winchester for the inevitable dentist’s appointment, while Peter met up with another Peter (Cane) for a motor cycle afternoon in the Surrey hills.

Trying out my friends bike for size. I’ll stick with the BMW.

On Tuesday in fine weather, we motorcycled to Cookham where we left the BMW and our bike gear in David Barber’s boatyard and joined the Swan Uppers for lunch at the Ferry Inn.  Cookham had been a favourite stopping place with our previous boats and Peter was keen to sample his favourite pint – Brakspear’s Ale at ‘Bel and the Dragon’. Sadly, they no longer serve it and the weak lukewarm lager shandy was very disappointing.

However, the lunch at the ‘Ferry’ was very good and with a decent bitter on tap. We enjoyed meeting up with the Uppers and Towing crews many of whom we had not seen for five years.

Mary and Colin (Gray Lady) had invited us on board for the afternoon’s cruise to Marlow and very pleasant it was too. Peter particularly enjoying it from a less responsible position, having handed the role over to Colin back in 2009!

Leaving Cookham, picking up the Queens and Dyers.

Rather enjoying being a spectator !

At Marlow after mooring up at ‘The Compleat Angler’, we all adjourned to the ‘George and the Dragon’ for drinks before spending the night with our hosts at their lovely home near Henley.

‘The Compleat Angler

The next day we reconvened at the ‘The Compleat Angler’ in Marlow for coffee and pastries on the lawn, while David Barber (the Queen’s Swan Marker) and the two Barge Masters gave one of their conservation talks to children from a local school.

That done we all set off towards Henley, our hosts for the morning being Jan and Mike on ‘Kyrenia’ with Jan’s son Toby crewing. The sun shone all day and there were many broods ‘upped’ en route.


Our welcome and slightly late lunch was at the River and Rowing Museum in Henley, followed by another lovely afternoon cruise, this time in the almost empty press launch ‘Ariadne’ up to Sonning.

My brother Paul’s old boat ‘Knave of Hearts’.

Nicci enjoying the afternoon on the Press Launch.

After a few drinks in the ‘Bull’, it was time to bid farewell to the support boat crews and join the uppers on their coach back to Moor Park Hotel, Cookham for the night. We had some pub grub and then later that evening Peter enjoyed a few more ‘proper’ beers with a few of the Swan Uppers till closing time.

It had been a lovely couple of days renewing old friendships and participating in such a traditional event. Everyone had been so welcoming and generous and we wished them all well for the remainder of the week.

The rest of our time in England was spent catching up with friends and family and then all too soon it was time to return to Belgium and resume our barging travels on board ‘Aurigny’.

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