Rowing down the river

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Update posted by Martin Wainwright On Sep 22, 2018

Clemmy and I went out together this morning for the first time since arriving at Chiswick together with Penny, the Commander of Land Support, a week ago. In 90 minutes of pootling between Osney and Iffley locks, we had five times as much rain as the quarter of an hour of drizzle on the seven day Thames voyage itself. I persevered to get some idea of what the journey would have been like had the weather been unkind. My conclusion was that I could have hacked it but at the expense of my almost miraculous freedom from blisters. It is impossible to stop the oar handles getting wet in prolonged rain, and that spells digital doom.

Meanwhile, the most excellent rowing website Hear the Boat Sing has run a couple of articles on Clemmy's, Penny's and my trip which you can read, given the time and interest, on this link here and this one here. I've been very impressed by the number of rowers who read HTBS, and very good and wide-ranging it is. Thanks ever so much.

Finally, I am keeping this funding page open because, at over £7,500 so far, you have been wonderfully generous. I am not asking for more from noble souls who have already given, but if you know any millionaires or have time to network at all, both I and the Treehouse Project would be tremendously grateful. Work looks like starting in May next year but they still need to reach the full budget. At the moment there is enough for a modified proposal but I am absolutely certain that between us we will get the full whack. Their overall page is on the link on my main page, but I'll repeat it in this link here.

Thanks again everyone, so much! And here's Clemmy again with her new 'Done it' flash.


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Update posted by Martin Wainwright On Sep 16, 2018

So it is done! But only after the edgiest moment of the expedition when Penny the Land Support Commander and I slid Clementine off her rather high pontoon at Richmond into what resembled a mill race. My failure to consult the phases of the Moon meant that I was unaware - until I met the Richmond waterfront crew on Thursday evening - that the tides are currently very strong. Wobble, wobble, nearly-tip and whoosh. I was rapidly the small object in the second pic, rocketing off towards central London with no extra power needed from my ageing, and now quite tired, limbs.

Having said that, you do need to have some extra power just to steer and avoid boats, bridges etc. Luckily I had mastered this when my cousin Lucy Skirrow unexpectedly hailed me cheerily from the bank and, in a very deft and lightning manoeuvre from some muddy stairs, slipped £90 from her family and my dear Uncle Tim under the spider straps on Clemmy's stern.

I whirled past the somewhat-feared (by me) Richmond half-lock easily in time to beat the 9.20am shutting of the weir sluices, and so into the Tideway stretch governed by the Port of London Authority's rowing code which I described in the last update. You can maybe imagine my nervous state if you look at this page from that code which was bearing on my mind:

But I have learned to trust and admire the PLA and their note that such dramatic situations are rare was reassuringly true in my case. Throughout my 90-minute slalom from the half-lock to Chiswick Pier, I met no large powered craft but only a lot of scullers, pairs, fours and eights, all of whom treated me with great kindness and encouragement. That said, you need to keep a constant watch. I scraped the first of the invaluable red buoys which mark your lane but otherwise managed to keep well clear of everything. Indeed after 20 minutes or so, I was used to the unsettling system where you proceed mid-river with boats passing you on either side in both directions.

My other tidal experience was nosing in to a shingle bank to text the Land Support Team and realising after ten minutes or so that Clemmy and I were firmly aground because the tide had fallen so fast. This led to the final reappearance of the bung problem; the bung-tip protrudes below her hull and forces the bung open when she is flat on terra firma. There wasn't time to sort things out, so I proceeded onwards for the last 20 minutes with Thames water (yuk) slopping round my feet.

And then, bliss! Shouts, cheers and toots from the bank, and a stylish (I boast) curve towards Chiswick Eyot to sweep back in to Chiswick steps and the site of the now-vanished Vosper Thorneycroft motor torpedo boat yard.

It remains to thank everyone who has helped in so many ways, to say how VERY much your generosity has meant to me and the Treehouse team and to offer up paens of praise to the weather gods (15 minutes of drizzle over seven days), the incredible lock keepers of the Environment Agency and staff of the PLA, and above all to PENNY THE COMMANDER OF LAND FORCES, seen below on her own progress through a Thames lock, albeit in friends' somewhat larger boat, without whom this would have been quite impossible. xx M

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Colin and I are still madly cheering! So is Badboy the cat. We wish we had your energy. Very well done! Steph Shaw

Stephanie Shaw

Update posted by Sep 17

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Huge congratulations, Martin! A splendid achievement all round!

Sue Mendus

Update posted by Sep 16

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Update posted by Martin Wainwright On Sep 15, 2018

Chiswick Slipway today - Huzza! More tomorrow. In the meanwhile, as always, BIG thanks to everyone M - and the Vital Land Support Commander, P

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Actually Steph, I’m wondering about rowing up to Lechlade next... Thanks so much for all your wondrous support xx M

Martin Wainwright

Update posted by Sep 16

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Yippeee! Uh, they forgot to tell you: you missed a bit and have to row another 50 miles tomorrow. No worries, mate, you can do it before breakfast! Cheerily, Steph

Stephanie Shaw

Update posted by Sep 15

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Update posted by Martin Wainwright On Sep 14, 2018

Evening all - and I can't tell you how encouraging it is to start tomorrow's tidal leg just £13 short of £6,500 for the Treehouse Project (including the £100 given by friends who preferred not to use the online system). I'm also still feeling warm and cosy because of my reception at Richmond; I hope the waterfront crew who helped me there will take it as a compliment when I say that they reminded me of Philip Pullman's Gyptians on the Oxford canal or the water-travellers in Joanne Harris's Chocolat.

One of them, known as Boaty Jo, kindly made this YouTube film, if you would like a reminder of this old dear:

Meanwhile, the indomitable Commander of the Land Forces and I have an early start tomorrow to get Clemmy and myself through Richmond half-lock before they raise the sluice gates two hours after high tide. Here's a diagram showing the complexity of this wondrous Victorian device:


After passing that, I have shortish spell of hugging the starboard bank in my usual fashion before entering what amounts to a contraflow which allows racing boats to do what they call 'Working the Slack', which means using the quietest water when they are rowing against the tide. Here are a couple of maps and a diagram which will be vital for me tomorrow, from The Port of London's Rowing Code.


This one shows the principle of Working the Slack, with the orange arrows the strongest area of tide and the pink dotted line showing the racing boats' route. The one below shows where it applies:




And finally, here are the lanes. Mine is the green one second from the bottom; or as the PLA well puts it, the starboard side of what amounts to a river within a river. Please wish me luck, and patience from all other boats.





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Best wishes for your final day Martin, a brilliant achievement for you and your support team. Lovely to see a map of the lock and weir; as a sprog I used to catch sticklebacks next to the half-weir in ’Old Dears Park’. Hope you hug the towpath for the final stretch. Great promo video - relieved to see that you are wearing a life-jacket! Martin K

Martin Knops

Update posted by Sep 15

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Update posted by Martin Wainwright On Sep 13, 2018

A week after slipping away from the Wolvercote millstream on Port Meadow, Clementine is resting on a pontoon outside a floating puppet theatre, a hundred miles down the Thames. She and Penny and I are gearing ourselves for the voyage's finale on Saturday, when the plan is to row through the high tide window at Richmond half-lock, probably around 9am, and allow the ebb tide to take C and me the five miles to Chiswick slipway, hopefully by 11am or so.

This may be an, um, exhilarating experience according to the waterfront team from Eel Pie Island and Richmond who found me Clemmy's exotic berth. "It's not you, it's the moon," said David who was painting the theatre barge. "It's big at the moment and so are the tides. You may be doing four knots." That's about four-and-half mph which is well above my usual rowing speed. I just hope that I can stop.

The last three days have been pretty much an idyll - indeed I had to backtrack when I told one of the many cash donors en route that I was having a marvellous time. "In that case, I'll have my money back," he said. He was only joking, I am glad to say. Here are some of the sights with which the river from Marlow to Teddington is packed,: Hammer's House of Horror near their Bray studios, now the swanky Oakley Court hotel and Christine Keeler at Hanky Panky (actually Spring) Cottage in the stunning Cliveden gorge; Stanley Spencer's Cookham and a lookalike statue of Richard Dimbleby at his former home on Ray Mill island in Maidenhead from which he yelled at speeding boats; the spooky mansion on D'Oyle Carte island near Weybridge and an aerial view of same; and the stunning gates at Hampton Court, a mansion designed to be approached by boat, plus the Runnymede Bridge which takes the M25 roaring over the murmuring Thames.

After slinking beneath this huge set of spans, plus a similar one for the M3, I reckoned that I was in the low emission zone. Actually on the Thames you are always in a low emission zone; the perpetual though often hidden presence of walkers on the Thames Path is a deterrent to making unseemly bodily noises when rowing.

As always, every day adds to the people to whom I owe thanks and on this leg, the Clemmy team are specially grateful to Mark of the Eel Pie Island Boatyard, his right-hand man Captain Barry, Dave the Boat Painter and all at the Barge Puppet Theatre. Also Molesley Boat Club, home of Olympians, who hosted Clemmy the night before and their very nice former committee chair who came out specially to inspect her after reading this on the website Hear the Boat Sing. Plus my marvellous cousin Andrew Skirrow who shouted 'Martin Ahoy!' from the bank at Teddington much to my amazement and then helped me clean and re-insert Clemmy's slightly leaking bung. He had been at the fearsome-sounding but actually very efficient Teddington Locks to see if I had been through, adding in view of all the flags etc: 'You won't miss him' Thus, when I sculled up after bidding Andrew farewell, I was genially greeted by the lock keepers: "Ah, we've been expecting you'.

Please think of me on Saturday morning when I hope that those barriers in the pic below of Richmond half-lock will be safely down


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I will be thinking of you, Martin. What a great adventure! What a great cause! What a great achievement!

Sue Mendus

Update posted by Sep 13

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Update posted by Martin Wainwright On Sep 12, 2018

Hi all! The expedition is bedded down only five miles from Teddington locks, with Clemmy also snug at kind and generous Molesey Boat Club. Today's 17 mile row from Old Windsor featured water like glass, the first, brief drizzle in the whole voyage and an eerie cruise through the riverine suburbia of Shepperton and Walton-on-Thames where everyone eslse seemed to have disappeared.

Dosh continues to be handed over,including a tenner deftly transferred to Clemmy by means of one of her oars. The plan now is for a penultimate row tomorrow to Eel Pie Island and a grand finale ar Chisick on Saturday afternoon. More soon!





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Martin Well done indeed! We love the notion that you were pulling in the (blade) puddles of Morris. How is the licorice holding up? All the best Peter & Juliet

Peter Johnson

Update posted by Sep 13

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Update posted by Martin Wainwright On Sep 11, 2018

Hi all!

Just in case you thought that this was all about rowing, here is this morning's put-in at Marlow:


And here, below, is the hop-out at Datchet after 17 miles of mansions, kingfishers anid loads more dosh for the fund:


More soon..

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I am so impressed by your energy - not only the rowing but all that "manual handling"! Once again, many congratulations - you are amazing. Avril x

Avril Collins

Update posted by Sep 12

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Update posted by Martin Wainwright On Sep 11, 2018

I am back on the river shortly and comms may be restricted until Friday when I hope to arrive in Teddington for the final pull to Chiswick/Hammersmith on Saturday. So here's a little history for you, thanks to Penny and my friend Cathy Collis who brightly reminded us that the great William Morris went this way before, albeit with much more drama and in the other direction.

I Googled this episode which Morris famously fictionalised in News from Nowhere, but was unsuccessful until the excellently helpful William Morris Society gave me hand. They sent this short but marvellous, jotted description of the voyage by Morris himself. It's only 12 pages and highly entertaining but I'll cherry-pick a little in case you are short of time. Here's a cartoon by Dante Gabriel Rossetti of Morris fishing at the manor to set the scene:

Struck by the Thames' link between his town and country bases, Kelmscott House on Hammersmith Mall and Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire, Morris hired the bulky houseboat The Ark from Salter's of Oxford (who still thrive) and an escorting rowing boat called Albert. Rowed sometimes by hired men and sometimes by members of the party and then towed by pony for long stretches of the Thames, Morris, his wife and two daughters, four friends (including the famous tile designer William de Morgan) and a housemaid set out from Hammersmith on 10 August 1880 and arrived at the manor late at night on 16 August, their way lit by a solitary candle in the bow. Did this inspire Edward Burne Jones and Morris's engraving below? Charon's weird rowing style may be not unlike mine:

Morris's wife Jane scribbled in pencil on the manuscript: "A noteworthy feature of this voyage was that everyone perpetually gave orders in a very loud voice and nobody paid any attention to them." Passers-by paid attention avidly, however. Morris writes of the Ark's stately progress through the middle of Maidenhead regatta: "The Ark was sculled majestically through a crowd of inferior craft and passed under Maidenhead bridge not without dignity and amid considerable excitement".

Other dramas included an invasion by swans, the loss of oars, candles and briefly members of the party in the water and many comments about the rate of tolls at the locks and the price of food, including one very large cucumber. The boat grounded several times, collided with others and experienced what Morris describes mysteriously as 'the curious incident of Miss May (his 18-year-old daughter) and the apricot'. In spite of it all, they made swifter time than yours truly. I hope that the link works so that you can enjoy the full thing.

Incidentally, so that you don't think I'm getting big-headed about my adventure, our friends Tom Collins and John Broadhurst some years ago rowed a double scull from Henley to Oxford in eight hours. I took three-and-a-half days. On which note, here's another famous rowing pair, a little toy we've had for years which fascinates our grandchildren who take meticulous care of it:

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Martin, You are too kind. Our time was in excess of 11 hours and it was a coxed double - so no steering.!! I doubt very much whether the majority of your supporters quite understand what you are acheiving. Magical and beyond respect. I will read your words to Tom later today. JB

John Broadhurst

Update posted by Sep 11

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Update posted by Martin Wainwright On Sep 10, 2018

Phew! I'm on a rest day and can catch up with you properly. Actually, it's more of an Admin Day as Penny and I superstitiously left arrangements from Marlow onwards until now, in case I collapsed early on. I'm delighted to say that the opposite has been the case. I could happily get back into Clementine this morning, largely thanks to the kindness and friendliness shown to me all the way. Over my 68 years, I have consistently found that the good in people hugely outweighs the bad, and a project like this brings out the good time and again. So thank you once more!

Here, above, is the card which Penny gave me and Clementine before Days 1 and 2 which took me over familiar ground; my practice recces since March covered the 30 miles between Godstow and Cleeve locks. Highlights included beautiful Rose Island, once a pub and now the sort of house I used to fantasise about (practical P deflating my dreams with the sensible question: 'Who would do the cleaning?') Interesting experiences include my descent into Sandford lock, the deepest on the Thames. I also met the Oxford Uni women's VIII who were kind but didn't specially comment on my technique; and when I was picnicking on the bank near Wallingford, our friends Peter and Juliet Johnson suddenly turned up by chance in a hired launch which raised my slightly tired spirits greatly.

Day 3 saw me benefit greatly from other boaters' help in three locks on self-service, a system I couldn't do on my own because the wharves are too high for safely leaving Clemmy. Then I sped past some cheery swimmers doing a David Walliams (what a guy!) between Goring and Pangbourne. I kept wondering where Reading was but it finally put in a brief appearance at Caversham lock where, as well as the caramel bar which I mentioned in the last update, the keeper gave me a handful of pounds left by a boat which passed me earlier but hadn't wanted to throw the money in case they missed. From here I had the wonderful blessing of a following wind. Lying back and raising my oars so the blades were vertical, I allowed it to blow me most of the way to Sonning - arriving in the pic below, with treasures from passers-by and (for my grandchildren) from my picnic cove at lovely Mapledurham.

Day 4; and the wind was still benign all the way and I reached Marlow unexpectedly early, at 5.30pm. En route, a crew from RAF Benson handed a lovely hot sausage butty with ketchup and a chocolate biccy for afters, reaching down from their mighty cabin cruiser in midstream. The kind owners of Jan IV did the same with some money and I had another slightly perilous exchange at a lock. But as the gentleman there said: "At least these new notes will float".

In case you think that I am having an entirely jammy time, I went through Marsh lock at Henley with every inch of water occupied by boats much bigger than Clem, even busier than the scene at Boulter's lock in Edward John Gregory's famous Victorian painting, shown below. The lock keeper handled the very busy Sunday traffic brilliantly - very grateful thanks to him, and to the Environment Agency for finding such stars. Shortly afterwards, the wind was less helpful by blowing down one of Clemmy's two masts, briefly entangling me in my washing line of naval signalling flags. Luckily, nothing went overboard and I have started my rest day by glueing the mast's socket pad on, so everything should be back in good order when I leave Marlow tomorrow.

I have gone on long enough but could rhapsodise for many hours about the beauty and interest of the Thames which still comes freshly to the sailor although it has been so often and so well described. Let me just say that a lovely sound which accompanied me as I floated, very tired, into pretty little Sonning was - yes - the Wind in the Willows. It got me fantasising about a short story where people had Great Expectations of Life at the Top hindered by Pride and Prejudice, and so on. More when I can but MANY THANKS again.

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Update posted by Martin Wainwright On Sep 09, 2018

Hi again all and BIG thanks once more for breaking through the £5000 mark. I have another £300 given along the way, sometimes in perilous ship-to-ship exchanges, plus a chocolate bar from the kindly lock keeper at Caversham. The pics show leaving Moulsford and arriving at Sonning with the help of a lovely passing family. More soon.

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Hello lovely passing family: thanks for helping my old colleague! Cheers Steph

Stephanie Shaw

Update posted by Sep 09

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Martin Loughlin

Backed with £30.00 On Oct 12, 2018

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Hoping that you reach your target. An incredibly worthwhile cause.

Rosanna Whitehead

Backed with £20.00 On Oct 12, 2018

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Many Congratulations on a tremendous achievement for an inspiring cause.

Patrick and Jayne J

Backed with £100.00 On Oct 11, 2018

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This is made up of direct donations in the last three weeks, including from our lovely neighbour (and fellow Knit-and-Natterer) Donna, fellow passengers on the Park & Ride and 3 pals from Norther days - thanks VERY much all. We're now over the £8,000 mark - onwards to ten!

Martin Wainwright

Backed with £183.00 On Oct 07, 2018

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Anonymous

Backed with £25.00 On Oct 02, 2018

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Anonymous

Backed with £25.00 On Sep 28, 2018

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Monumental effort, Martin. Well done!

John Morton

Backed with £100.00 On Sep 23, 2018

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Backed with £15.00 On Sep 23, 2018

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Backed with £50.00 On Sep 23, 2018

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Backed with £20.00 On Sep 23, 2018

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