Boats held up in River Thames as floods continue


For a sailor it’s the hardest thing in the world to sit on the dockside watching a fair wind or a fair tide go to waste. For us it was the latter: I coveted the passage being made by branches, gas bottles and the ubiquitous trainer as they hurtled eastward on a fast flowing deluge-swelled river under Halfpenny Bridge at Lechlade in Gloucestershire, the head of the navigable River Thames.
But my son Richard, 7, and I had been denied passage by the cautious Environment Agency lock-keeper at St John’s Lock, the highest lock on the River Thames and the first barrier to our proposed passage down to salt water aboard El Fideldo, the smart Drascombe Lugger kindly loaned us by Sarah Black of the RYA’s Green Blue environmental campaign.
We had planned the voyage to raise the flag for environmental concerns yet so far the only wildlife witnessed by Richard were the pugilistic customers of a riverside tavern, biding their time in booze as they waited for the river water to subside from their homes.
And instead of crystal clear trout filled waters playing around El Fideldo’s 19ft of hull, she has a dirty five o’clock diesel oil shadow around her waterline. Meanwhile I have fended off propane bottles – the rogue containers of the Upper Thames – from her hull. Seven boats have sunk at Riverside Marina, Lechlade: all filled to the brim with last Friday’s downpour.
Richard and I waded along the famous Shelley’s Walk, which runs from St Lawrence Church to St John’s Lock, where the poet wrote his Summer Evening in an English Churchyard in 1815. Never in recent memory has it been under water. We went to check on the red danger boards: we cannot move until they come off the lock gates.
En route a tractor passed carrying a young mum and her new born baby.
People kept looking anxiously to the west and the Cotswold Hills which could tumble more flood water down into the Thames.
On the way back from the lock it started raining again.