On 31st January, we finally completed the mammoth task of replacing the entire electricity and water supply around the marina, which we’d begun in September last year. The services hadn’t been upgraded since the marina opened in the early ‘80s and were really no longer adequate for the needs of our moorers. (And Ian was getting very bored of multiple daily visits to the main fuse board every time the circuit breaker tripped!)
This was a huge undertaking, as trenches had to be dug across the whole site – many by hand because of the location. That presented a challenge in itself: finding contractors who are prepared to hand-dig is not easy. Once we’d got a new electricity supply for the site, 800m of cables and water pipes were laid in the trenches and smart new bollards were installed by the moorings. We have to say, Stuart Baines from RMCS did a superb job of project-managing the installation of the bollards and we’d highly recommend his services.
At the same time as this work was going on, we put in new SOS stations and replaced many of the wooden landing stages, as well as doing a lot of general tidying up. So, although there are still a few jobs on the list that we made when we arrived at the marina, we’re getting there!
One of the most important jobs on the very long list we made when we took over the marina was refurbishing the bridge to the island. A general lack of maintenance over the years since it was first built in the early ‘90s had been further compounded by mild damage suffered when a boat underneath it caught fire!
So, as well as giving it a much-needed aesthetic facelift, we wanted to make sure the whole bridge structure was fully compliant with current Health & Safety standards and providing proper services to the island moorings.
Over a period of two weeks, we reinforced the structure, painted it, replaced all the stair treads and walkway deck with an anti-slip surface and put up safety guards. We also had a cable tray fitted to support the new insulated water pipe and mains electricity cable.
And we’re very pleased with it. The only downside, as our son pointed out, is that he can no longer play ‘Pooh sticks’ from the top. More outings to Halfpenny Bridge have been promised!
At the weekend Lechlade Marina hosted a rally for The Steamboat Association of Great Britain (SBA). Eleven beautiful steamboats of different ages, shapes and sizes were launched on the slipway and moored with us. There was also an electric Frolic 21 and a traditional styled diesel cabin launch. One or two intrepid boaters stayed onboard overnight, to the amazement of some of our moorers.
The air was filled with the traditional scents and sounds of the steam age: coal fires, steam being let off and the occasional whistle. Saturday was a perfect summer day. The steam boats headed down river for lunch at The Swan at Radcot, before returning to the marina in the early evening. Their arrival was announced by a chorus of whistles. On Sunday, several boats went upstream to explore how far they could go. Others enjoyed quiet runs between St John’s Lock and the Riverside Inn. Sadly, the weather brought a rather swift end to the weekend when rain stopped play.
The SBA rally enhanced Lechlade’s participation in Steamboat Sunday, a day organised by the Consuta Trust and National Lottery Heritage Fund to promote interest in steamboats. Ian has been a member of the SBA for a number of years and was delighted when the opportunity arose to invite members to bring their boats to Lechlade. The SBA Members chatted to many moorers who showed great enthusiasm and interest in the boats. The organiser commented on how welcome they had been made to feel by our moorers, for which we thank you. We hope to see many more of these beautiful boats being launched on the marina slipway again.
Throughout the winter the tidy up around the marina made good progress. We are continuing to repair or replace landing stages. The project to refurbish the loos and showers has been completed. Everyone is being very enthusiastic about the new facilities which also include a cassette loo emptying point and marina office.
Now the 2019 boating season has begun. We have had two very busy, but fun, weekends, made even more enjoyable for everyone by the glorious weather. A week ago, Barry Tuckey (www.mjtcranes.co.uk) brought his crane to the marina and lifted the cruisers that had been stored on the land over the winter back into the water. On the same morning, two new wide beam boats arrived by lorry and were lifted into the water, taking up their moorings on the river front. With the ongoing work around the entrance to the marina, it took some impressive precision driving, closely assisted by Barry Tuckey’s team, to manoeuvre the 60′ long and 12′ wide boats through the gates and into position for lifting.
The warm and sunny Easter bank holiday weekend was the busiest that we have seen the marina. The atmosphere was one of enjoyment, relaxation and enthusiasm for the start of the season. The slipway was also in demand over the weekend with a variety of boats being launched. Some headed to moorings elsewhere in the area, some enjoyed day trips and others were starting longer trips down the Thames.
We are now preparing to start the next phase of works around the marina, which will include repairs to the bridge and replacement of all the electric and water hook up points.
As January draws to an end, we are wondering where the month has gone. As ever, we have been very busy in the marina continuing to tidy up areas, renew landing stages and generally start preparing for the spring. However, there are some projects that we just can’t do ourselves. One such project has been completed this month – the tree safety work. In the summer we had a tree safety survey prepared. All the trees in the marina were numbered and plotted on a map and recommendations were given for any work required.
Over the last two weeks experienced and very skilled tree surgeons from Cotswold Tree and Access Hire have been climbing up and down trees all over the marina, carrying out long overdue maintenance. Several trees had to be felled as they were dangerous, dead or dying, sadly Ash die back had been found to affect a number of them. Others required a fairly substantial reduction in size to prolong a healthy life. Many of the rest required dead wooding and general pruning. The men were fearless, climbing high into the trees and skilfully wielding enormous chain saws to safely take down the required branches, lowering them to the ground on ropes that had been thrown or fired up into neighbouring trees – it was extraordinary to watch how effortless they made it look, and I think they enjoyed the work too!
Autumn has truly set in. On sunny days the chilly weather has produced boats that sparkle with frost, and on damp days the Thames glides along lazily underneath a mantle of mist. The river is not yet at full flow, but it is the time of year when those who live aboard permanently start preparing for the Winter months. Lechlade Marina too is still hard at work with the planned renovations on the marina buildings and with the general tidy up that was started in the summer. This has included the removal of a number of disused boats that has given way to some much-needed space.
However, there is much more to the marina than just its buildings, the trees here have all been surveyed prior to surgery or in some cases felling. This will remove any neglected and dangerous specimens and prolong the life of the trees remaining, many of which enhance the local environment and include some rarer species.
A healthier environment encourages wildlife to visit, and this is plentiful along this stretch of the Thames with a variety of animals that include water voles, kingfishers, red kites and egrets. We have had rare sightings of otters in the summer months, and at present, the familiar call of tawny owls can be heard almost nightly in the trees above the boats establishing their breeding territories within the area.
The renovations are producing an ever-changing landscape here at the moment, and in doing so they are slowly revealing the natural beauty of this marina that has been hidden for so long.