Windsor to Bray: Messing about on the River
I’ve been feeling chained to my writing desk since the start of the year, and by the end of last week I’d had enough.
So, I got seriously radical (for me these days) and decided to take the day off and escape somewhere lovely.
I didn’t fancy a lot of hassle, so I got a bus to Windsor for a day trip.
Leaving home early I hoped Windsor wouldn’t be too busy with tourists at that hour, leaving me long enough to stroll around and enjoy myself before the streets thronged with occupants of our Global Village.
I know, I often have adventures on buses as many of you might know, but this time I went upstairs (double-decker buses have their uses), to escape the maddening crowd.
Being up so high afforded a fantastic view of huge country houses with their large landscaped gardens, endless green and cultivated fields, and little chocolate box villages.
The countryside on the way was beautiful, lush, and green, and with a cloudless sky overhead; not even the endless take off and landing aircraft at Heathrow (flying overhead every 30 seconds or so), was going to spoil my escape.
Not having my usual Canon camera with me – it is on the blink – I had no option but to take my phone camera. I was uncertain as to how any photos I took might turn out.
I’ll let you decide.
The Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle was about to take place when I arrived and the main road leading to the castle was closed off.
Rather than wait about 20 minutes for it to be re-opened, I got off the bus and decided to walk the rest of the way,
stopping long enough to watch the Coldstream Guards leaving their barracks (The Victoria Barracks) to march to the castle.
I strolled towards the castle in the rising temperature wondering how on earth the Guards coped with their uniforms and busbies.
Too late; the tourists had arrived early as well. I was not going to manage to take photos unimpeded by strangers popping into them.
The last time I visited Windsor, and had a proper look round, including inside the castle, was when our son was about six years old. I can recall the visit really well for a few reasons:
Our son thought he was going to turn into a Knight once inside the castle. Only knights were allowed to go inside them after-all.
The Queens Doll’s house impressed the heck out of him but he couldn’t understand why anyone would want one.
The car broke down on the way home, and we had to wait for few hours until the RAC (Royal Automobile Association) turned up to fix it. Thankfully we were saved from the indignity of a tow home.
And, it was the day Elvis Presley died.
I wandered up the main street but after a while gave up trying to take photos, the crowds were already swelling,
and so I retraced my steps and headed towards Eton.
I’ve not been to Eton for many years either, and was surprised to see the town a little worse for wear, and many favourite pubs and restaurants gone.
Some of its old charm seems to have been lost, which is a pity.
On the whole it was still enjoyable however; some of the buildings retain their magic.
I was sad to see that The Cockpit, an ancient pub I recall from many moons ago, was boarded up and for sale.
Notice the pair of stocks still outside the building.
Here are some photos of Eton, which was still quiet when I was first there.
I noticed, looking in one Estate Agent’s window, that the average price of one of these riverside apartments (below) is £1.2 million.
The apartments overlook where the river boats moor, and operate their businesses, so I’m not sure if I’d want one; looking out on all the boats and tourists queuing for them is not something I’d pay that amount for.
The boat rides go to various destinations and back. You can take a 40 minute ride or a 2 hour ride. You can pre-book a seat on several trips going up and down the river in both directions.
I decided to go for a 2 hour ride from Windsor (Boveney) to Bray and back.
Taking in almost 5 miles of picturesque Thames scenery with lots of historic sights along the way.
Passing little islands with some fabulous houses belonging to the rich, and sometimes famous, their grounds sweeping down to the water’s edge, the boat glided along peacefully, the sound of the water lapping the sides and the birds singing overhead, it was sheer bliss for me.
The boat was not crowded and I sat on the top deck – on the right had side going down and the left coming back. We passed river boats, barges, and the higher end of the market vessels; chic white and slick.
Some anchored alongside the banks where their owners disembarked to picnic under the afternoon sun.
Afternoon tea (cream tea), could be taken on board, if pre-booked – which I didn’t – and all manner of drinks and beverages were available including Pimms and various ciders.
I treated myself to a long cold cider and it was really welcome as the sun grew hotter.
I took dozens of photos but cannot add them all here obviously. There were some amazing houses – Jimmy Page (Led Zep) had one on the river until not too long ago. I could just about see the red brick building through the trees, but I missed getting a photo as someone’s head kept bobbing up in the way.
Suffice to say it was something else!
The house on the left (below), once belonged to the Ballet dancer, Dame Margot Fonteyn. Her mother purchased it for her in the 1950’s. Sadly some years later the M4 motorway was situated a stone’s throw from her home. Not her idea of peace and quiet I am sure.
On the right (below), is Monkey Island Hotel. The island was originally attributed (apparently) to the paintings of various monkeys on the ceiling of a pavilion on the island, erected by the 3rd Duke of Marlborough; or a fanciful corruption of ‘Monks Ait,’ since there was believed to be a monks’ cell there. It is now a 1st class hotel.
Somewhere in these parts Three Men in a Boat (Jerome K Jerome) had their sad lunch of beef with no mustard and an un-openable tin of pineapples, which was consigned to a watery grave.
We came across an Indian Wedding celebration on the lawns, sweeping down to the river, of a huge house. I think we’d missed the ceremony and were passing during the reception. It was so colourful, with lots of red and gold sari’s and the white of the men in their outfits. The water was filled with rose petals – confetti I guess.
If you look closely you will see the petals floating on the water in the second photo.
We went through a Lock on the way there and back. I’ve never been on a boat going through one before and it was magic. It took quite a while for the water to drop and rise again and other boats were queuing behind ours.
We sailed past Boveney Church, dedicated to Mary Magdalene, dating from the 12th century. It is rarely used as a church now, but more by Movie and TV companies who like the Medieval religious setting.
The 1990 Robin Hood movie with Kevin Kostna and ITV’ Inspector Morse were filmed there.
We sailed on past The Bray Film Studios – now derelict – where so many Hammer Horror Movies were made. The buildings are an extension of an old house called Down Place, which was taken over by Hammer Films in 1950. The original house stood there from about 1518 – records of the property purchases go back to then.
The present building to which the studios were added dates from 1750. The most famous occupant was Jacob Tonson, a London bookseller, and founder of the Kit-Kat Club, at first sight a gathering of men of influence, letter and the arts, but in fact a society formed for the defence of the House of Hanover at a time when it was feared there might be another Jacobite claim to the throne.
Way back when (in my other guise in music) I recall meetings with Hammer Films regarding music for soundtracks and other matters. It’s sad to think of the buildings being demolished soon and the links with Bray gone forever.
I could list the sights and add photos for so many lovely and historical points of interest on this trip but that would mean pages and pages…I don’t want to bore you.
Here are a few more photos I took on the trip. I do hope you enjoy them and that if given the opportunity to visit Windsor, Eton and take the boat trip, you will grab it.
I had a fab day out.
I got lots of fresh air, enjoyed the sunshine, and tranquillity of the river, and managed to blow away lots of cobwebs from my fogged-up brain.
Now it is back to the writing desk and
my novel. Refreshed and ready to go.
Thanks for being here.
Catch up again soon.
All photos are (c) Jane Risdon 2015 All Rights Reserved.