Taking a trip along the Thames at Wargrave
PUBLISHED: 10:36 24 August 2015 | UPDATED: 10:42 24 August 2015
Jan Raycroft and Maureen McLean discover they like messing about on the river at Wargrave, particularly in the perfect boat and glorious setting
Gliding down the Thames towards Henley from Wargrave, you start to notice a lot of things. There are the obvious sights such as smiling occupants of boats heading in the opposite direction giving a cheery wave, while from the bank a heron scrutinises those passing by.
Within a few minutes you spot something happening on your own boat too: it’s you! This would be the perfect time to take my blood pressure as it has to be one of the most relaxing experiences we can enjoy locally. With sun glinting on the water and the purr-purr-purr of the steady craft, all we need is Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World playing in the background to complete the picture.
That blood pressure might have blipped, just for a second, when Ben Caddick, co-owner of Val Wyatt Marine at Willow Marina with wife Lisa, invited me to take control of the craft, but it turns out that even someone who suffers untold anguish when faced with a tight parking spot can safely steer one of their smart Interboats up and down the Thames.
The Caddicks declare “You’re a natural!” but they can probably say that to all their boating newbies because it really is that easy, all helped by the controls on the boat and the time you have to get things right.
Back on dry land at Val Wyatt Marine we are greeted by their dog Scuba, truly the only black Labrador I’ve ever met who doesn’t like swimming, so hovers on the bank, well away from the edge, rather than perform one of those traditional show-off Lab leaps into the river. Actually, this is a good quirk, as it’s one of the last things you need when running a waterside business offering mooring and maintenance at the marina, buying and selling of used boats, plus sales of the fabulous Interboats and other ranges. The latter has been particularly successful: one of the other things you notice along this stretch is just how many boat fans have caught on to the advantages of Interboats, from small craft up to some magnificent examples.
Pop in to an extraordinary, truly local shop
We can’t leave Willow Marina, where even the offices are based in a remarkable floating suite, without mentioning The World’s Best Shop, that’s our own new nickname for The Local Larder, recently opened there by Love Henley founder Alison Hussey. It’s perfect for the passing boat folk with its little café, deli and superb selection of local produce, but well worth visiting by those of us who stay on dry land.
Already 43 of her suppliers are based within 30 miles and you’ll find the likes of raw honey from Sheeplands Fruit Farm, sweet treats from Eton’s Fudge Shop and Wargrave’s Antes Chocolate Factory, local milk, ice cream, organic fruit, bread, eggs, meat, gifts, picnic hampers and much, much more in a perfect spot where the furniture is recycled and even the cutlery is biodegradable.
Boating made easy
The story of how the Caddicks ended up at Wargrave is a fascinating one, with all the elements of ‘rat race escape’. Lisa’s father, Alec Baylis, had run a tobacconists at Maidenhead, and when he sold that concern in the 1970s discovered Bill Wyatt, son of Val, was selling the boat trading business, so decided to buy it.
Lisa grew up with boats , but enjoying little more than trips up and down the river until offering to help with the business in 2011 when her father had a heart attack. She was a chartered accountant in the corporate world and could see the potential at Val Wyatt Marine so went full time.
Within six months Ben, with a high profile telecoms background, had also swapped the business suits for casual boating wear: “I’d never had anything to do with boats until then, but now can’t imagine doing anything else,” he says.
As we go through a few of the numbers it quickly becomes clear that owning a boat is nowhere near as expensive as many people think. For the price of a ‘city style’ second family car you can pick up a brand new Corsiva boat at Val Wyatt, with Interboats and Intercruisers filling the mid-market to more ‘luxury’ slots. Then, of course, there are the deals on exceptionally well maintained used craft.
Add in maintenance, a river licence, mooring and fuel and we are still talking the annual equivalent of a football season ticket. You can cruise up and down for perhaps 10 hours on £15 worth of diesel. It occurred to us that a family investment in a boat – with shared costs – would make this a bargain leisure buy.
Want to easily fulfil a few dreams? See www.valwyattmarine.co.uk.
• Novels featuring the Berkshire section of the River Thames - Our section of England’s longest river has featured in many novels, so let’s turn some pages with a look at these literary records