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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