open the curtains

and take a look out the window if you want to know what the weather's like

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Henley Pre-gatta

Aston Ferry – Hambleden Lock – Remenham – Henley-on-Thames (where?)

25th June 2012 (the Regatta took place between 27th June and 1st July)

Aston Ferry is ferry-less. There is a puddle through the whole middle of the wishing gate. A heron lifts off from the near bank of the Thames. Greylag geese have two goslings, grey and lagging behind. Canada geese, four: strangely green-looking things like they’ve been rolled in lichen. Ducks are free-riding the fast flowing stream, or paddling sideways to the quieter eddies at the sides. Something garden bird-shaped makes a straight flight across from the water meadow to the tree-line on my left. Unremarkable in size and flight I catch a glimpse of its blue and orange. I haven’t seen a kingfisher for years.

Here the river is wide. Boats are forced to navigate through Hambleden Lock, which controls the flow through the gap between the west bank and one of three small islands in the curve of the river. Reaching out from the other side of this island and stretching diagonally downstream and across the river to Hambleden Mill on the opposing bank is the weir. The metal access bridge feels fragile and temporary – though I know it is both strong and relatively permanent – a utilitarian scaffold frame with narrow walkway, steel railings and gaps underfoot between the metal treads through which the river can be seen. It is a strange feeling to stand over the middle of the river, watching it, hearing it, smelling it, feeling it, all round you: through those railings and below that framework. I feel slightly detached, standing still above the full force of one of the wettest June’s on record gushing through beneath. Continue reading


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River Fal 4: Mylor Church Haven

Trefusis to Mylor (where?)

Rounding the bend past Trefusis Point the water is momentarily hidden behind a thick border of trees and I’m startled by a sharp snap followed by voices seemingly close by. A handful of yachts are passing, the wind catching the slack in the sails and rolling through them like stage thunder with the crew hurrying to pull them taught again as they go about. One boat seems blown so far over in the water it looks like it might be about to capsize, but its handlers clearly know what they’re doing and are just making the most of a choppy wind to make a sharp turn. It’s Falmouth Week, and the daily regattas mean there are more sailing craft on the water than usual: over 450 yachts, dinghies, keelboats and traditional vessels racing over eight days in the Carrick Roads and Falmouth harbour. It’s the biggest regatta in the south west and lands over 80,000 extra visitors on Falmouth and the surrounding area during this week compared to the rest of August.

The Restronguet Sailing Club at Mylor is predictably packed with well-funded holiday makers looking like walking-talking adverts for Musto and Joules in their co-coordinated his-and-hers clothing ranges. The marina circling around in this sheltered bay off the Carrick Roads has over 400 moorings, and it will be used as the practice site for the Olympic sailing later this year. Known as Mylor Yacht Haven, but labelled Mylor Churchtown on the map, the two are fairly accurate pointers to the main attractions of this village. I find the dense concentration here of all things yachting a little daunting, so I head for sanctuary in the churchyard.

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