January arrived and with it some serious winter weather. First of all we had flooding from which we are still clearing up, and adding to it all, the watery landscape froze solid. Here in Oxfordshire, Benson weather station reported the lowest UK temperature earlier this month, boasting of a frosty -7c.
At the boatyard Andrew and his team managed to continue to work most days although they were distracted at times by the need to rescue customers’ and neighbours’ boats. The ferocity and speed with which the water rose clearly took many by surprise.
We were relieved that our winter preparations at our own riverside plot 'Ondine' paid off as our houseboat, which is moored there, rose in a controlled and manageable manner with the rising water levels. Thank you, Thames RiverWorks, for your invaluable assistance.
Others were less fortunate, and the Thames around Wallingford is littered with marooned boats and half-submerged pontoons.
We rescued the pontoon opposite The Beetle and Wedge (in Moulsford) just at the right moment, and the proprietor there, Ben Smith, moved with speed to clear out the boathouse bar as the water rose knee-high, managing still to serve 100 people for Sunday lunch in the main restaurant.
As it happens, I have some news from John Dutson, an Environment Agency officer, who gave a talk before Christmas to some members of 37 different boating organisations along the Thames. One of his pledges was to improve wreck removal with £100,000 reserved for this activity.
Post flooding there will certainly be a need for this kind of activity.
Other news from the horse's mouth, as it were, included repairs to Benson Lock and the walkway costing 11.5 million, which will enable the towpath to be reopened.
In the meantime the Benson Ferry, which has been much appreciated and enjoyed by locals and visitors alike, will continue to operate (with the season resuming in March 2024).
From summer 2024, EA temporary moorings will benefit from new signage and online payment advice, with additional moorings to be provided at Abingdon and Culham. A new app will also be available for lock keepers and the general public to enable better communication.
You might like to know that there are in fact still 45 resident lock keepers with an additional 24 relief keepers required to cover the length of the Thames, 17 of whom are kept on year round.
I could run a competition to ask you to guess how many boats are actually using the Thames, but I shall give you this one as a starter for ten.
There are 11,313 boats registered. Compliance is not 100%, but it is thought that compliance officers will catch the rogue 10-15%.
I loved the turn of phrase used by government quangos to mollify the general public; hence, dredging, which fell out of favour, is now to be known as "reprofiling" in order to satisfy minimum depth in the channel, which is essentially just the central 3rd of the riverbed.
In addition the locks and access steps are to be cleaned more thoroughly. I, for one, will be happy if I will finally be able to emerge from a boat delivery without a layer of green slime on my hands and shoes.
Whilst it was good to hear about all the EA's new initiatives, many feel the EA should do more to manage the floods of the River Thames, and Debbie Russell of Bates Wharf is ready to address this issue head-on.
She has started the "River Thames Flood Prevention Group" on Facebook, providing a platform for affected individuals to share stories and support each other. This group underscores the ongoing struggle many face, especially those without insurance, who are dealing with the aftermath of the floods.
Debbie's dedication doesn't stop there. Following a revealing BBC news article, she launched a petition last week, which has already garnered significant traction, receiving over 750 signatures in just seven days. This impressive response, including a substantial increase in support from the Wraysbury community, highlights the urgency of the situation. Moreover, the ATYC (Association of Thames Yacht Clubs) is set to amplify this cause by featuring it on its website.
This movement isn't just about flood management; it's a call to action against the mismanagement and neglect of the River Thames, particularly concerning the Jubilee River Relief Scheme. Debbie's initiative is a testament to the power of community-driven action and the importance of raising our voices for change.
We at HSC strongly support Debbie's efforts and encourage our community to participate. Whether you're directly affected by the floods or a supporter of river preservation, your voice matters. Join us in this crucial cause – visit the petition here and help make a difference.
Let's stand together for the River Thames and the communities surrounding it!
Before Christmas, we gave you the countdown to the eagerly awaited release of 'The Boys in the Boat', produced and directed by our local film celebrity, no other than the great George Clooney, resident of Sonning and erstwhile customer of HSC (and yes, I did have coffee with him!).
If you haven't seen the film, it is out now in a local cinema near you and promises two hours of gripping action and suspense.
True, it neglects to develop some of the themes in the book, which was such a success when published in the 90s, but nonetheless, while it will win no Oscars, it is a story that deserves to be told on the widescreen. Obviously if you are not into rowing and sport it might be less appealing, although there is something in there for everyone.
Our local Olympic rower Sir Steve Redgrave remarks, "I've seen the film twice! Great story, not as good rowing as I hoped. But in 1984, the quality of running in the film 'Chariots of Fire' didn't stop it being a great film. I'm glad I saw the film before reading the book. In my opinion the film is good but the book is better."
The scenes that were filmed here in Henley-on-Thames contain several HSC boats, so keep your eyes wide open as they are all too easy to miss amid the excitement of the rowing.
'Conny', the coaching launch in the film, used to be called 'Pietra Santa', but a coat of white paint transformed this beautiful old Gibbs into the coaching launch we see prominently featured in the film. She has now been bought by a local, so keep an eye out for her on the River Thames this summer.
If you want to see a short video of behind-the-scenes content, including interviews with George and the cast about the story, the film production and the preparation for filming, then I would highly recommend this exclusive movie featurette.
I wonder how many of the actors caught the rowing bug for real while training for, and working on, this film.
Fortunately interest in our sporting and engineering prowess remains alive and well. One of our readers, Geoffrey New, sent us these photos of his original 1920 Avro, which he has been painstakingly restoring and is now nearly ready to fly again. He states: "It is the world's earliest remaining airliner."
Historically, the British aircraft manufacturer A.V. Roe and Company has been known for producing various aircraft, most famously the Avro Lancaster bomber during WWII.
Congratulations, Geoffrey, and please advise us as to when and where we might be able to admire your handy work.
And now for something not so completely different! I received a DVD of a film shot in 1939 in Bourne End of a 25ft Andrews slipper stern launch named 'Blue Ripple' taking to the Thames on its maiden voyage in mid-winter at Andrews boatyard. The women appear to be wearing fur coats and are waving happily as a boatyard employee puts the boat through its paces.
No speed wardens were patrolling on that auspicious day. Sadly just a year later many boats like 'Pietra Santa', and possibly 'Blue Ripple' too, were commandeered for use by the homeguard for the duration of WWII. Many thanks to David and Catherine Howard for sending this precious piece of film.
'Blue Ripple' will be for sale this spring through HSC.
Henry Butt was also fascinated by certain aspects of 20th-century history and, upon finding what he knew to be a neglected Jolly boat from the Royal Yacht Britannia lying unloved in a field, took it upon himself to have it restored at his own expense in time for the 2012 Diamond Jubilee Regatta.
After its complete restoration Mr Butt decided to write The Queen about 'Jolly Brit', enclosing photos of the restoration, and one of her aides kindly replied.
'Jolly Brit' is now for sale through HSC.
February 15th-18th 2024 - Boat Life
Boat show season is starting again with the resurrected Boat Life show at the NEC in Birmingham.
Last year I found this show a little lacklustre but I did hear that some good deals were done on contemporary river craft. So it might be worth your while.
Should you choose to attend the show, don't forget to take some photos and report your findings and highlights back to us.
Late April - HSC Classic Boat Showcase
We are intending to show some of the beautiful classic boats we currently have for sale afloat on the lake at Beale Park in late April.
If you would like to be invited to this event please let us know and we will make sure that you receive an invitation. There will be more information about this in the March newsletter, but don't hesitate to send us a message indicating your interest in the meantime.
Saturday May 4th 2024 - Horning Boat Show
The first weekend in May we will be attending the Horning Boat Show in the prettiest village on the Norfolk Broads. If you live locally, or will travel there for the show, do come and say 'hello'.
June 28th-30th 2024 - The Wooden Boat Gathering
We have also just been informed that there is to be a wooden boat show at the Windermere Jetty at the end of June.
If you decide to go there, you could spend the night at the newly refurbished Langdale Chase, which has plenty of room for visiting boats.
Having been there very recently, I can recommend a relaxing stay in any of the stunning lake view rooms and a cocktail in the bar or perhaps afternoon tea on the terrace in springtime.
July 2nd-7th 2024 - Henley Royal Regatta
The following week, you could attend Henley Royal Regatta in your very own classic with a reserved Fawley meadow mooring as we have 'Verity' for sale, whose owner is offering a purchaser the opportunity to own the boat and enjoy 6 days of action-packed racing from this coveted premium viewing spot.
July 10th-14th 2024 - Henley Festival
As is customary the Wednesday after HRR will see the start of the 2024 Henley Festival.
This is the 2024 programme
July 10th - Nicole Scherzinger / Bootleg Beatles
July 11th - Dave Stewart's Eurythmics Songbook
July 12th - Gladys Knight / DJ Rylan - Late Night in Pure Heaven
July 13th - House Gospel Choir /
Ministry of Sound Ibiza Anthems with Ellie Sax
July 14th - Nigel Kennedy / Sam Ryder
General booking for the festival opens on Friday February 2nd.
Call us today to reserve a boat and a mooring!
Pure Boating booking for the coming season will be open from mid-February, so if you have a special day you would like to celebrate at the helm of one of our electric boats or in the care of one of our experienced skippers, please give the office a call or book directly on the website.