Saturday 25 July 2015

A Visit to Boulters Lock & Ray Mill Island

Earlier this week I took an extended lunch break and headed down to the river to see the Swan Uppers pass by. Even though I live walking distance from the Thames, do I ever go for a stroll along the riverside? No, I do not. Going to see the Swan Upping was a great opportunity to (re)discover just what I've been missing.

I reached the river at Maidenhead Bridge (built 1772-77, apparently!) and headed towards Boulters Lock where the Swan Uppers were scheduled to arrive at about 1pm.

Maidenhead was a fashionable resort in the late 19th and early 20th Century, with people boating along the Thames and taking tea at the riverside hotels. The Thames at Maidenhead pops up in a W.H. Auden poem about love and the area appears in one of my favourite films, Kind Hearts and Coronets, as the place where Ascoyne D'Ascoyne takes his mistress for their (fateful) weekend away.

Just next to the bridge is the now derelict Skindles Hotel which used to be notorious as a place visited by people having affairs!

It was a gorgeous sunny day, perfect for a walk along the river - though it was a bit breezy so I had to keep a firm hold on my hat to stop it blowing in the water.

I love that Three Men in a Boat -themed weather vane. Jerome K. Jerome was not a fan of Maidenhead, judging from the mention it gets in the book!

Boulters Lock was immortalised in this painting by Edward John Gregory. When I was a kid, there was a big re-enactment of the painting for the 100th anniversary (so much fun!). I was rather sad that the painting wasn't on display when I visited the Lady Lever Art Gallery this spring (the gallery was undergoing renovations at the time, boo).

Next to the lock is a very unusual telephone box - a green one! This type of kiosk was the first standard type introduced by the Post Office. The box was installed by the lock in 1926, then restored and moved to its current location in 1979. Apparently there are now fewer than 50 green kiosks left and very few as old as this one.

I arrived at Boulters Lock with plenty of time to spare, so I went for a wander around Ray Mill Island. This part of the Thames has lots of small islands on it, and Ray Mill Island (formerly the site of a flour mill - as you might have guessed from the name) is now a public park.

I have fuzzy memories of feeding the ducks here when I was little and there were lots of families out enjoying the park when I visited - including one kid who loudly announced that this was "the best day ever!"(so cute).

The park is a lovely place to explore and you get a great view of Boulters Weir from the island.

There's also an aviary!

And lots of cute guinea pigs! 

After a good look round the island, it was nearly time for the Swan Uppers to arrive so I headed back to the lock to buy an icecream and wait for them to arrive.

You'll have to wait until my next post to see photos of that... so be sure to pop back on Monday! :)

UPDATE: Click here to read about the Swan Uppers.


Anonymous said...

A pity I have to be the first to comment after almost 6 months.
I spent most of my youth in maidenhead, and a good part of adult life,, most of which was in the riverside area. Yet to watch swan upping though...
Guess it was always on my doorstep like the museum that few maidonians ever enjoyed. Consider a book perhaps, as there is a wealth of interesting stuff to tap

Bugs and Fishes said...

Thanks so much for your comment! :) The rise of social media has definitely taken its toll on the quantity of comments here on my blog.

I think it's often the way that people neglect the things that are right on their doorstep. I know I have in all the places I've lived! Especially living so close to places like London & Oxford, they can exert such a magnetic pull that you don't notice all the interesting stuff to see and do closer to home.