So we start our 2011 Awards with three nominations for Best Day’s Cruise, which in chronological order are
1. March 28th. River Thames- Brentford to Hampton Court
It was an unseasonally warm and sunny day when in the company of Rick, Marilyn, Simon and Carrie we cruised out onto the tideway at breakfast time and Herbie took us effortlessly up towards the big lock at Teddington while we were entertained by views of the posh bits of Richmond and all that. Down this end of the Thames there is plenty to see, and on the rising tide the river is calm and the going is easy. This was a first go on the tideway for R,M &C who soon overcame any fears and settled down to enjoy the day. Then after a shopping stop at Waitrose on to Kingston for a truly scrummy lunch at Riverside Vegetaria followed by tea and cakes on the river bank. Simon and Carrie had to go but the rest of us cruised gently upstream round the big bend at Hampton Court to moor up right beside the Golden Gates of the palace where we disembarked for a tour of the beautiful gardens in full spring bloom.
Good weather, good cruising, the best company, excellent lunch, a superb mooring spot at the end. A strong contender.
2. April 8th. South Oxford canal - Heyford to Banbury
A special day. The first ever visit to Herbie by my big brother Graham and sister in law Jackie and we could hardly have picked a better spot. This is arguably the prettiest stretch of this canal and there are plenty of locks including the strange lozenge shaped ones on the river stretches. Lift bridges too of course. Graham was taken with the scenery and asked “Are all canals like this?” “Oh yes” I lied. I think we did 14 locks that day so there was plenty to do, but the weather was gorgeous and we had a lovely picnic at lunchtime.
3. October 6th – Birmingham and Fazeley canal – Curdworth to Farmers Bridge
A daunting prospect beforehand, especially since I had been in A&E in Sutton Coldfield in the early hours of the morning! A mere 9 miles, but 27 locks.
Would we be molested by bandits in Aston? Would we arrive before dark? Well, I’m here to tell you it was brilliant. Rick was with us to help out as crew and we flew up the lock flights grinning from ear to ear. This trip is mostly urban and industrial but endlessly fascinating.
Coming up the Farmers Bridge flight under roads and office blocks was a great experience, plenty of gloom, but no doom. Then arriving at the top in probably the swankiest bit of Birmingham was the icing on the cake.
Three superb cruising routes, all very different. Which would you choose? The winner announced tomorrow.