Anjodi, cruising along the Canal du Midi, painting by Stanley 


Hello ,

welcome to the August edition of the lock-keeper.

It's high summer here in Europe, and lots of lucky folks are on vacation as we speak. The Gobarging team have managed the odd day off, but generally we are all busy ensuring that the season goes well for our clients.

In this month's lock-keeper, we announce the winner of our La Belle Epoque competition and hope you all enjoyed reading about and viewing the pictures in our Burgundy photo galleries.

We have an article on Actief, one of our Barges cruising the beautiful and tranquil upper Thames in England.

Malt whisky competition winner Jane Wallace and husband John enjoy a quiet drink of classic malt and tell us a bit about themselves.

We then tell you about the latest acquisition to our luxury barge fleet, La Dolce Vita which cruises the Veneto Lagoon in Italy.

To celebrate this wonderful new holiday destination, we have a new La Dolce Vita competition, where you can visit our new Venice photo gallery and get the opportunity to win a cruise for two on La Dolce Vita.

There are various news items and offers, so, please read on and enjoy the August lock-keeper. I look forward to hearing from you, and seeing you at our website, where you can find out all about GoBarging and keep up to date with the latest news as it breaks....

please read on and welcome aboard,

best regards,

Derek Banks, Chairman

Derek Banks - Chairman

in this issue:

Waxing Lyrical

Malt Whisky winner

Belle Epoque competition winner

August competition


back issues:

july 03

august 03

september 03

october 03

november 03

december 03

january 04

february 04

march 04

april 04

may 04

june 04

july 04

(please note that past competitions are now closed)

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Waxing Lyrical About the Upper Thames
The Thames is England's greatest river. It flows for over two hundred miles across the heart of the country, from the Jurassic limestone of the Cotswolds to the clays of the London basin and the estuary.

Populated since the Stone Age, the Thames valley has also been at the heart of English history. The Romans were probably the first to recognise the river's strategic and cultural importance and it was they who gave the river its name, Tamesis.

Today the Thames is many things; a country stream, a rural river in a delightful landscape, a powerful waterway winding its way through history and a royal river, inseparable from the history of England.

Actief's journey is through the upper reaches of the Thames. This is an area officially designated of "Outstanding Natural Beauty". Old bridges, remote locks and pretty stone cottages with riverside inns, handsome churches and old manors make up Actief's route. With commercial traffic only coming up as far as London, there is nothing to disturb the river's tranquillity.

This stretch of the river without doubt the most beautiful and fashionable part of the Thames, beloved of artists and writers alike. It's also the cleanest major river in Europe where salmon and trout are to be found among the many other fishy inhabitants and freshwater mussels seek sanctuary on unsuspecting boat hulls. On a warm summers day you can lean over the bows and see water cabbages and eel grass swaying on the river bed..

Actief's journey starts at Shillingford Bridge where the river ambles through low lying meadows in a wide valley bounded by distant hills. Before too long the ruins of a Norman castle are visible from Actief's deck as she approaches the largely medieval Wallingford bridge, whose seventeen arches stride across the water meadows. A short ride further downstream and Actief passes two large smoothly rounded hills, each surprisingly regular and crowned with a clump of trees. These are the Sinodun Hills which house the remains of an Iron Age hill fort on their peaks and are a powerful and primitive element in an otherwise domestic and agricultural landscape.
Continuing on the meadowland gives way to gently rising hills, broken only by woodland. Passing the twin villages of Goring and Streatley, the scenery gives way to an ever narrowing valley with steep tree-lined sides as the river enters the Goring Gap. With little or no road access the drama of this valley can really only be enjoyed from the river.

Actief's first stop is in the famous village of Pangbourne, home to Kenneth Graham, author of Wind In The Willows. From here guests leave the rural tranquillity for an afternoon of culture in Oxford, but once the river journey recommences it is easy to see where the inspiration for Toad, Ratty and Mole came from.

Almost immediately Actief sails under Whitchurch Bridge, a long and rather pretty white iron toll bridge linking Edwardian Pangbourne with medieval Whitchurch. Here the riverfront is dominated by the old mill, a grand mellow brick building of great beauty. Drifting on, Actief passes Hardwick House, one of the oldest houses in the Thames valley and thought to be the inspiration for Toad Hall, and so continues her journey until reaching the hidden away village of Mapledurham. Here guests enjoy a private tour of Mapledurham House and Water Mill. This wonderful Elizabethan mansion is still home to the same family who can trace their residence on this site directly back to 1490. The 500 year old Mill is the only remaining working water mill on the River Thames.

Set amidst wooded hills, Henley is the centre point of Actief's journey, a beautiful small town of largely medieval and Georgian properties, through which the river dominates. Actief's private mooring is at the finishing point of the famous regatta mile, outside the Leander Rowing Club, and from here guests visit the award winning River and Rowing Museum and explore the town.
henley regatta

Leaving Henley on the long and straight Henley Reach the river enters the sweeping bend that carries it into a rolling landscape of attractively wooded hills and on to Hambleden Lock, overlooked by the delightful Hambleden Mill, dating back to the 16th century and now converted to residential property. From Hambleden the river's winding course flows through Medmenham, where the former abbey was infamous in the late 18th century as the setting for the fabled activities of Sir Francis Dashwood's Hell Fire Club. The members of this hedonistic secret society comprised scions of the greatest families in the land. Indeed Sir Francis himself became England's Chancellor of the Exchequer..

After Medmenham there are two locks close together. The first, at Hurley, is a pretty spot where the river breaks into several water courses, creating a series of islands. The village of Hurley is half hidden by trees but it's medieval splendour is still visible and enjoyed by Actief's guests as they leave Actief for a scheduled visit. The second lock, Temple, is named after the Knights Templar, long connected with the part of the river where nearby picturesque Bisham Abbey is sited. Today Bisham Abbey is famous as a national sports centre but it has an important place in English history being founded in the 12th Century and being part of the divorce settlement for Henry VIII's lucky 4th wife, Anne of Cleeves.

Cutting it's way through the Chiltern Hills the river continues downstream to Marlow and under the prettiest suspension bridge on the river, built in 1835. Marlow is a town with many attractions but there is no doubt it's seen at it's best by the Thames. The lock is in a lovely setting by the crashing weir just below the bridge.
Marlow weir from Marlow bridge - click here to go to virtual tour of Marlow
click on the image to view a 360 virtual tour of Marlow.
The next village is Cookham, and below Cookham the river divides to form Formosa Island. From here the magnificent Cliveden woods run unbroken to Maidenhead and it has been said that there are few places in England to rival the beauty of the Cliveden Reach. Rising dramatically high above the woods and river, is Cliveden itself, perhaps the most famous house in The Thames Valley. Now ranked as one of the world's top hotels, Cliveden has a long and exciting history of political intrigue, artistic life and social scandals. Actief enjoys the privilege of a beautiful private mooring at Cliveden, by Spring Cottage, a place frequently visited by Queen Victoria in the 19th century, and forever linked with the Profumo affair of the early 1960's.

Leaving the stunning grounds of Cliveden, Actief cruises through Maidenhead and under Isambard Kingdom Brunel's railway bridge. Built in brick with two graceful arches, which at 123 feet are still the longest and the flattest brick arches in the world, this bridge was a wonder of the modern world on it's completion in 1839. After Maidenhead the Thames goes through one of its complete changes. Gone are the steep banks, the flanking hills and the glorious beech woods. Instead the landscape opens out and the Thames becomes a truly regal river as it approaches Windsor with one of the most famous skylines in the world, of the castle high above the water.

This is a sample of Actief's journey. It concentrates on the beauty of the cruise route rather than on the tours to be found in Actief's Itinerary. But there is much more: because of the cleanliness of the river and the rural tranquillity of the Upper Thames, the area is rich in wildlife, flora and fauna. The river is dominated throughout the summer in particular, by pageantry from traditions such as Swan Upping to many regattas both large and small, traditional craft rallies and many other events. It offers a unique perception of traditional English countryside, which cannot be replicated from any other viewpoint.

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Our Malt whisky winner

Jane and John Wallace enjoying a Classic Malt
Our Classic Malt whisky competition winner Jane Wallace told the Lock-keeper;

'My husband, John, and I both previously worked for the paper industry. He was a paper mill manager for Weyerhaeuser in Washington state on the West coast.

I worked for a manufacturing company that supplied that industry here in North Carolina on the East Coast. We met about 12 years ago when John was asked to speak at a meeting for my company. After a long distance courtship we eventually married in 1995.

Following our retirement five years ago, we moved here to the North Carolina mountains. He built our timber-framed house, which overlooks a small river. Each season is different and a treat within itself. From our deck and windows, we enjoy watching all kinds of wildlife, including deer, ducks, wild turkey, an occasional mink and a multitude of birds. Gardening, hiking, biking and entertaining friends are some of the ways we spend our time. John is an accomplished woodworker, while I enjoy cooking and reading.

Our town, Sparta, is quite small, a place where there is actually no Wal-Mart nor movie theater. The way of life is slow, and we thoroughly enjoy the pace.

It's been a couple years since we traveled abroad. Previously we took a wonderful barge trip through the champagne region of France. For our honeymoon 9 years ago we chartered a boat and sailed ourselves through some of the Greek islands, which was truly an adventure. Your Go-Barging newsletter tempts us with its write-ups of intriguing trips. Sometime in the future we anticipate going to Scotland, Holland and perhaps a return to France. It was a such a pleasant surprise to be one of the winners of your July contest. We're both Scotch drinkers and will enjoy sharing the bottle with friends while toasting Go-Barging.'

La Belle Epoque
July competition winner

La Belle Epoque, luxury barge cruise in BurgundyWe had a great new competition for July.

You could win a cruise for two on La Belle Epoque, cruising in Burgundy, during either late season 2004 or early season 2005.

All you had to do was visit our La Belle Epoque competition page, visit our latest Burgundy galleries, answer a few simple questions and enter the competition.

You'll find the winner at
La Belle Epoque winner

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La Dolce Vita
GoBarging Venice

La Dolce Vita cruises past Venice and the famous Piazza San Marco with its Campanile bell tower
Derek Banks writes; 'Venice has had an alluring appeal for me since 1961 when at the age of 9 my parents took me to this fascinating water-surrounded city for my first visit. I never forgot what contrast and charm this amazing venue has and we are delighted to launch La Dolce Vita for 2005.'

Now nearly 40 years later we are lucky enough to launch our first hotel barge La Dolce Vita, originally a Dutch vessel which has gradually made her way through the canals of France and around Italy and up the Adriatic to the calm waters of the Venetian lagoon. Our unique cruise not only visits Venice's well known and lesser known attractions but also encompasses the outer islands of Torcello, Burano and Murano, as well as cruising the unknown and beautiful, canalised Brenta river.

La Dolce Vita is a charming 6 passenger vessel with a crew of three, and she is the only hotel barge cruising our unique route. the Venice Lagoon - Laguna VenetaThe lagoon surrounding Venice, the Venice Lido beach, Hemingway's influence, the fabulous Villas on the River Brenta all compliment the attractions of Venice itself where one could spend at least 6 months enjoying the amazing Renaissance architecture before venturing inside some of the buildings to discover the works of Canaletto, Tintoretto, and many other Italian masters. Weeks of research into our itinerary promise a fantastic cruise aboard Italy's first hotel barge.

La Dolce Vita is far from the largest vessel in our fleet but she has three comfortable cabins, two with doubles and one a twin. All are en-suite, the vessel is air conditioned and there is a good sized sundeck for outside dining or just watching all that fantastic Italian architecture floating past. Venice of course is a jewel in the crown of the Venetian lagoon one cannot help wondering why it has taken us so long to realise the potential of this vibrant region. Our route is a mixture of canal, river and lagoon following the ancient trade routes used by the Romans and the early Mediterranean settlers before them. As well as the incredible delights of Venice itself, where the history goes back over 2000 years with some architectural features dating back even to the Byzantenial era, the additional opportunity afforded by hotel barge travel becomes obvious as we create our own schedule oblivious to the hustle and bustle of other visitors to Venice.

La Dolce Vita and Venice represent probably the most exciting new addition to our fleet in the last 5 years (after Scotland!). The crew are led by Massimiliano who is our skipper and your host, this tall charming Venetian comes from a family of mariners and will really look after you. He is assisted by a chef and housekeeper and guided tours are taken along the way.

In 2005 we will start in April and continue until the last client has gone home!

Visit our new
La Dolce Vita web page and take our Venice photo gallery tour.

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La Dolce Vita
August competition

We have a great new competition for August. To help us celebrate, you can win a cruise for two on La Dolce Vita, cruising the Venice Lagoon, during season 2005.

All you have to do is visit our
La Dolce Vita competition page, visit our new GoBarging Venice gallery, answer a few simple questions and enter the competition.

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Magna Carta is available for charter throughout the winter period.

For September and October Charter bookings on Magna Carta Cruises:

1. First new deposited charter booking for September or October 2004 receives 20% discount

2. Second new deposited charter booking for September or October 2004 receives 10% discount
(DIscounts do not apply to any Theme Cruises Supplements)

3. All bookings both charters and individuals (not to be used in conjunction with above offer) may choose either to have a complimentary Saturday Nights accommodation pre or post cruise at the Stafford Hotel in Central London or each individual may choose one complimentary health treatment at the Runnymede Spa to take place during their cruise.

For November and December Charter bookings on Magna Carta Cruises:

There will be a special mystery offer for the first Theatre Cruise and first Murder Mystery Cruise charter bookings taken for November and December this year.

Meanderer late season availability and offers:

5th September - All cabins available
17th October - All cabins available
24th October - SPECIAL BARGE and LEARN FRENCH WEEK - see below for details. One cabin sold - one single available (sharing), one twin/double cabin available

The price for all remaining space is just $2345 per head (based on twin or double occupancy).

We have teamed up with the French language school "Coeur de France" in Sancerre to promote "barge and learn French" weeks. The format for the beginners weeks will be similar to our regular program but will include a daily session of around two and a half hours tuition with a professional tutor aboard Meanderer. The tutor will also accompany the guests on their excursions and encourage them to use the French they have learned. Books and training notes will be provided and are included in the price.

The tuition is aimed at beginners as it would be tricky to match up a group of mixed level students. However, if you have interest from a more advanced level group, Coeur de France are definitely qualified to develop them further and we would be happy to discuss it with them to work out a specific plan.

Charter price for four, five or six guests is our regular price plus a 5% surcharge to cover all tuition fees. Charter bookings are available any week that we have open (see above).

For detailed course information, take a look at the Coeur de France web site:

If you have any suggestions, feedback or barging stories to tell us, then please
e-mail us. We'll be glad to hear from you and share your inputs in the lock-keeper. There will also be some spot prizes for good submissions...What would you like to read about next month..??

Why not email this edition on to a friend, and let them share the fun. New subscribers can sign-up here, and are very welcome. More people are joining every day, so let's keep building a great Barging community..!

That's about it for this fourteenth edition, and hopefully the above articles have whet your appetite for that well-earned luxury cruise..!

Please visit barge cruises and have a look around, or follow the individual links above.

The next edition of the lock-keeper will be out in September, 2004, so we'll see you then.

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