Off to Windsor to See Liz – 24th July 2019

We didn’t manage to get a photo of Hampton Court Palace yesterday as we moored in at 8.30pm when the light was fading. We rectified that issue this morning by taking Toque up the bank to do her morning ablutions and check out Henry VIII little folly. The place was still all locked up as it was early.

We let Toque out of our sight for one second and she slipped through a gap in the fence and into the gardens – oh, no!! Just as we were starting to scratch our heads one of the gardeners appeared and said he was opening the gates to go through so we could get her then. As he was doing that she slipped back through and thankfully not having done a deposit whilst there.

This gave us the chance to get a photo of the palace without the bars. See, having brought her with us does have pluses.

Fras went around to the front of the palace to take a photo but it is much more appealing from the river side. Henry only ever came to the palace via the river.

We knew we had a huge day ahead of us as we were behind because of the delay yesterday at Brentford. Our calculations meant we needed to get to Windsor tonight which meant seven hours of cruising.

There was certainly a lot to keep us entertained as we moved along. Some of the houseboats started to become rather grand.

There were many beautiful homes that came down to the rivers edge and the gardens were immaculately kept. Didn’t get any photos of them as too busy hanging onto the tiller.

One houseboat we had been keeping our eye out for was the Astoria. It is a grand houseboat, built in 1911 and David Gilmour of Pink Floyd fame purchased the boat in 1986, because he “spent half of his life in recording studios with no windows, no light, but on the boat there are many windows, with beautiful scenery on the outside”. He recorded many a best selling album from here and still does.

We passed under many of these stone bridges which were built over a 100 years ago and yet manage to allow the modern day traffic to still use them.

We did six locks today and the beauty was that they all had lock keepers which made the transit through them very quick. One of the strangest things we saw was this coxed eight appear out of the lock as the gates opened. It just looked weird and according to the lock keeper, it is quite common.

We have just included a quick view of around one of the locks and how busy they can be but having said that, what we experienced today was not considered busy. We were surprised that they put yogurt pots in with us but you could tell that their owners were very nervous about our presence and kept as far as possible away from us as they could.

With the main tower of Windsor Castle in view we noticed just how low the planes are above the castle and town. It must drive Liz batty. She is not going to be ultra impressed when the new third runway gets built.

As you start to come into Windsor you follow alongside Home Park which is part of the castles grounds and they were a pleasure to be near, not just for the view but also the shade that they provided as by now we were boiling.

All unmarked mute swans on the Thames are owned by the Queen per a tradition that began in the 12th century. Though the swans gracefully floating along the River Thames through Windsor, England may appear wild and free, they actually fall under the ownership of three distinct, dignified entities. Queen Elizabeth II, inheritor of the ancient title Seigneur of the Swans, can lay claim to any of the unmarked mute swans within the open waters of England and Wales. But on the River Thames, she shares her stock with two medieval livery companies, the Worshipful Company of Vintners and the Worshipful Company of Dyers. In the 12th century, the Crown declared itself the owner of any and all mute swans within England to protect its supply of what was then considered a delectable delicacy. However, in the 15th century, the companies Vintners and Dyers were given rights to the beautiful white birds on the Thames. To claim their swans, the two companies would carve distinct marks into their beaks.

Though technically still in effect across England and Wales, the Queen’s all-encompassing mastery of the unmarked mute swans is really only observed on some stretches of the Thames, particularly the area around Windsor. The birds are counted and claimed in the annual Swan Upping census, a tradition that’s now roughly 900 years old.

Each July, three teams of Swan Uppers representing each of the swan-owning entities board their traditional rowing skiffs and embark upon a five-day mission to count the birds. They use their boats to surround the swans, then scoop both the adults and cygnets from the water to weigh, measure, and tag them. The two livery companies still mark any fowl they wish to claim, though they do it with leg bands rather than carvings.

Now, the long-running tradition is more about conservation than preserving a potential food source. Swans are no longer commonly consumed, though one of the Queen’s birds was illegally barbecued and eaten in 2013. Others have also been shot by vandals.

We were desperate to find a mooring tonight with a bit of shade and we hit pay dirt. It did cost us £10 for the night but money well spent. If you look closely, you can see the guard dog on the front of the boat that we have employed to guard Ange De L’Eau.

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