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Below Bill Ayling shares with you some of the things that come to mind as he walks his dog Fudge around Purley on Thames

September 2017

The Young Swans

In July I wrote about the disappearing swan’s nest, and the fact that we haven’t seen many cygnets about this year. It was with pleasure therefore that we saw three young cygnets swimming with their parents in the lock on Sunday morning. The young birds were a little chary at first about taking pieces of Eileen’s bread, which she tossed out for them and the adult swans. It might have been that they were equally wary about the presence of Fudge, standing on the bank with me, straining on the lead, barking and staring at the pieces of bread in her normal greedy fashion. The sight of food being tossed needlessly (in her view) into the water to be gobbled up by those creatures which hissed at her and flapped noisy wings, obviously annoyed her.

Ever since we have had Fudge, which is now over three years she has been the greediest beagle we have ever known– and that’s saying something! Of an evening she will let me know when it’s six o’clock, she is an excellent watch dog when it comes to time! When she sees me going to her food container, in which we keep her meal, she starts bouncing up and down in her excitement like the proverbial rubber ball. She is so anxious to get to her food, she is continually knocking at the hand, in which I hold the plastic beaker in which I measure out her food, and sometimes she’ll knock it clean out of my hand. This makes it difficult to get all her pellets of food into her basin without them spilling over the ground. Not that that worries her very much, whether they are in her bowl, or scattered over the floor, she’ll eat them from wherever they land!

Fudge in the water

We are finding it difficult, now that the weather is warmer, to keep Fudge from jumping into the river at every opportunity. She doesn’t actually swim, but simply wades back and forth in the water, causing little ripples to spread over the surface. She then drinks copious amounts of the stream. The strange thing is she’ll drink from the river, from puddles, even from the bird bath, but not from her water bowl, unless she actually sees me freshly filling it.

We do realise that drinking from the river is bad for her, but as soon as we let her off the lead, she’ll slip away and no matter how loud one calls or what inducement offered, she won’t come back until she has plunged into the river.
When we get her home, her tummy and neck, have a through towelling before she is allowed to have any food. She will stand patiently waiting for her drying. When that is finished she will start bouncing up and down, anxious for her treat.

A “new “face at the Lock

Well, not exactly a new face, but a replacement to Danny who has left Mapledurham Lock and moved onto locks anew. It was a pleasure to see the face – what there is visible of it behind a new beard – of Gerrard. Gerrard was the temporary lock-keeper who stood in for Lane on a few occasions. It’s a pleasure to hear his soft Irish brogue again, and we are delighted that this time he is to be the permanent lock-keeper at Mapledurham Lock. The Thames Company are getting the cottage ready for him to move into.  I understand that a new bathroom will be fitted, and as soon as that is done, Gerrard will reside permanently in the lock-house.

Previously Gerrard was responsible for doing a lot of excellent work in the gardens of the lock. He weeded, dug and planted flowers as well as clipping the huge privet hedge. It was he who made the gardens so colourful and attractive.

It is thanks to Gerrard that people are now able to sit on the wooden seats which line the lock basin, without having the twigs from the hedge behind them poking through the back of the benches.

No matter how busy he is with boats passing through the lock, Gerrard will always give a friendly wave, and a merry greeting to passers- by. In one of my stories, “Donald and the Leprechaun”, Gerrard makes a passing appearance – I’ll have to include him in another story.

Tales of Mapledurham Island

People who have been kind enough to buy, or read my book, “Tales of Mapledurham, Island” have asked where Mapledurham Island is. They are under the impression that it is the strip of land where the flow emerges from the small island on which the water-mill is sited. However I regret to say my Mapledurham Island no longer exists, apart from in my imagination.

The stories were originally written for my great niece, Scarlett, who lives on the coast in West Sussex. So far I have written approximately fifty of these “tales”, and Jane, my niece has very kindly formatted twelve of them for me. She has sent them to Amazon who have printed them in a book called “Tales of Mapledurham Island”. If anybody is interested in what things could have been like fifty years ago, they may obtain the stories through Kindle Books at the princely sum of 99pence or £4.99 in paper back! Advert now finished!

Rubbish and litter

No! This heading does not refer to the previous paragraph, but instead to the deplorable amount of litter and general rubbish left on the river bank and in Bucknell’s Meadow. Here, in this charming little village, litter   is making both locations an eye-sore. Bags, bottles, bits of food and junk which are left lying about from where thoughtless youngsters have had an evening picnic – or worse. Why they can’t take their trash home with them, or leave it in a convenient bin, is beyond me.

Most mornings, quite early, Eileen goes out with Fudge for a walk along the river bank. She invariably takes with her a pair of rubber gloves and two plastic carrier bags with which she collects most of the debris left lying about from the previous evening’s jamboree. It is not just Eileen, but other dog walkers with a sense of community pride who collect the rubbish left by these inconsiderate, unthinking, uncaring, and negligent yobbos. Sorry, if I’ve gone OTT, but I’ve run out of adjectives!

A cruise upon the river

A cruise or trip upon the river is not an unusual sight, but seeing an amphibious car skimming downstream certainly is. The car/boat was manned by a crew of four wearing American soldiers-type curved headgear and camouflaged jerkins.  They came out of the mill-race into the river and sped towards Reading, pursued by a larger boat which resembled a flat-bottomed landing craft. The second boat had half a dozen men aboard. They also were wearing the same style of helmets and military dress. This squad was equipped with some form of rifle.

In the morning of the day on which we saw the vessels there was a continual sound of rifle fire coming from over the hills. I thought it was people hunting rabbits, or mink. That it could have been an invasion did not occur to me, but having seen the two martial vessels, and the arms they were carrying I was left wondering…

Thank goodness Fudge was not having her paddle in the river as they passed, the bow-wave would have wetted her ears!

A Word of Friendly Advice

For Goodness sake be careful if you should park in the Workingmen’s Car Park in Pangbourne. Do please make sure you buy a parking ticket. The other evening, at precisely 7.40 Eileen and I parked the car. As it was after 19.00 we didn’t think it necessary to purchase a parking ticket.  This used to be the rule, which we assumed still applied. We should have read the notice which read “Twenty-four Hour Parking”.

While I sat in the car Eileen bought the fish and chips. We left the car park at 7.56. I know the exact times because three days later a letter arrived from a PO Box in Chorley, Lancs, advising that we had not purchased a Parking Ticket and fining us £60, which if we did not pay within five days would be raised to £100. The fact that I hold a Blue Badge made no difference.

This made the Fish and Chips the most expensive we have ever had. In future we shall go to the “Lemon Plaice “ in Tilehurst, the food is excellent, and the other important factor is that  you don’t have to pay to park the car after 19.00 hours!

Bill Ayling