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The Thames


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I commence this short notice of Fishing Stations with y. a description of the Thames; first as being undoubtedly the most important river of England, and secondly, as being more particularly, the scene of the London Angler's piscatory achievements. At the beginning of the present century it would have been comparatively difficult to inform him where to go to really enjoy his favorite amusement; for then, it would have required some considerable outlay of time and money to diverge to any great distance from home, or from the county in which he resided. In the present day, however, the position is somewhat different. Railroads and steamers have opened out an entirely new world of adventure and recreation, and his ambition is consequently, stimulated to the highest pitch. For a comparatively trifling cost, the angler can explore some of the finest districts of the most unfrequented parts of the north in search of the princely Salmon, and the enormous Lake-Trout, which before the present age of quick travelling, were seldom placed within reach of his rod and line. The Thames, however, is par excellence, the London Angler's River; few streams containing a greater variety of fish, and the varied scenery on its banks being of unrivalled beauty. Owing to the Steam Navigation, Gas Works and Sewers, the Thames Salmon which, a century since, was noted for its splendid flavour, has been entirely driven away from the river; which will, notwithstanding, be one of the finest fisheries, in England, in the course of a few years, if the vigorous efforts now being made by the Thames Angling Preservation Society be persisted in, for the artificial breeding and rearing of Salmon, Trout, and Grayling. The ultimate result of the introduction of Salmon again to the Thames is of course at present very problematical, as, for the reasons already given, it remains to be proved whether they will be able to pass through the pools near London, on their passage to the sea. and return to the breeding beds; although when the Main Drainage Works are completed, the water may be brought to a state more nearly resembling its original purity. It is considered by the Society that without any great expense or trouble, nearly 100,000 Trout may be hatched and reared annually for the Thames. The young fish grow rapidly, and should Pisciculture be carried on with spirit, even making allowance for the ravages committed amongst them by their mortal enemy the Pike, the river will still be well stocked with Trout; as although unsuited for many reasons for breeding them successfully by itself, without management, yet the Thames supplies abundance of suitable food and haŤ all the conditions required for healthy development as is sufficiently shown by the large weight and splendid quality of the Thames Trout. Should the attempt with Salmon and Grayling be as successful, it will not only greatly exalt the character of the fishery, but will still further establish the. value of the Society, through whose exertions so glorious a result has been achieved.

Two streams contend for the honour of the parentage of this noble river, the source of one being known as Thames-head (which is about 376 feet above the level of the sea) and that of the other as Seven Springs; the former would seem at first sight to have the best claim to the title, the source having always been called Thames-head by the inhabitants of the neighbourhood, and the stream itself having always been called the Thamas, for some distance before it meets the other branch, which has always been called the Churn; the latter however bears the palm as regards both its size and the distance of its source from the main river. Thames-head rises in u field close to a bridge over the Thames and Severn Canal, known as Thames-head bridge, and is about three miles southwest of Cirencester; the stream is first traceable near Kemble where a supply from one or two other springs enables it to spread into a pretty brook, it then passes Somerford and at Ashton Keynes it is joined by the Swill-brook, which rises about four miles from Tetbury; it now flows on till it is joined by the Churn above Cricklade. The Churn rises near Leek hampton Hill, about three miles south of Cheltenham, at Seven Springs, which from its situation and the greater quantity of water that constantly flows from it, seems to have a greater claim to be considered the "very head" of the Thames. Unlike the other stream this is exceedingly picturesque at its starting point, and continues so for a great part of its course. From Seven Springs it runs past Cowley, Colesborne, under differing Wood, through the rich grounds of Rendcombe, North Cerney to Cirencester, through which town it flows; it then runs for some distance along the Crieklade Road, by Addington and South Cerney to the foot of Hailstone Hill, and joining the other branch about a mile above Cricklaile, they flow on together as the Thames. The length of the stream from Thames-head is about ten miles and the length of the Churn from Seven Springs is about 20 miles. Near Water Eaton it is joined by the Ray and tolerable Perch-fishing is to be found. By the time it had reached Inglesham the river has increased considerably in size, having received two rather important brooks, the Cole on the Wiltshire side and the Coin on that of Gloucestershire; near Inglesham Weir (which is the head of the navigation on the Thames) it is joined by the Thames and Severn Canal by means of which the navigation is continued through the Western Counties. This Canal which joins the Stroudwater Canal near Stroud is about thirty miles long, and was finished in 1789, before which time the Thames used to be navigated. up to Cricklaile by barges of light draught, built for the purpose, but now the upper course is left to the undisturbed use of the fisherman and the miller. Near

Lechdale Bridge

it is joined by the Lech; from St, John's Lock past Buscot Lock there is good Pike and Perch-fishing, and plenty of Roach. Following the road from Radcot Bridge we come to

Faringdon

where is a station on the Great Western Radway. Near here is the celebrated Yale of the White Horse, Wayland Smith's Cave, and the Blowing Stone, in the estimation of Berkshire men the next great wonder to the White Horse; the blowing stone is a huge sort of natural trumpet, being a large block of stone pierced in a curious manner, this when skilfully played may be heard at five miles distance, and connoisseurs, it is said, can tell by the note where the player comes from. Returning to the river, the next noticeable part we come to is Tadpole Bridge, and passing several small weirs we arrive at the village of Standlake, where it receives the Windrush. There is good bottom-fishing along this part of the river past Appleton and Stanton Harcourt. The Church here and the Harcourt Chapel contain monuments well worthy the notice of the Antiquarian. On the Berkshire side, about a mile and three-quarters from the river is Cumnor, immortalized by Sir Walter Scott in Kenilworth; but the Haunted Towers and even the very walls, are gone, and all that is left is but a portion of the foundation. A mile below

Ensham

the Evenlode falls into the Thames; and below King's Weir is Godstow Bridge and Lock, near the bridge are some ruins, not large nor very picturesque; but they will l>e looked at with some interest from their connexion with Henry II. and the fair Rosamond. At Godstow Weir some good Trout and Perch are occasionally taken, Between

Oxford

and Iffley the Thames is joined by the Chiswell. At Sandford Lock Pool a Pike weighing twenty pounds was taken with the spinning-bait, May, 1856. Below Nuneham Courtney and

Abingdon

the river is joined by the Berks and Wilts Canal (leading to Bath and Bristol, and communicating with the Thames and Severn (anal) and by the river Ock. About a mile below Days Lock near

Dorchester

it receives the river Thame. Dorchester is interesting as having been the site of a Roman Station of great extent and consequence; its high and palmy state was during the seventh century: the old abbey is still remarkable for its length and architectural features. Passing Shillingford Bridge we come to the noted Pike-fishing station of

Wallingford

This town can boast of its antiquity and its ancient importance; in the Castle of Wallingford William I. before proceeding to London after the battle of Hastings received the homage of the Archbishop of Canterbury and others. It was to Wallingford Castle that Matilda fled during the long struggle between the Empress-queen and Stephen. The castle was last garrisoned during the great Civil War. when it was taken by Fairfax and demolished. From Wallingford Lock we follow the river past Streatly and Coring to Whitchurch and

Pangbourne

where it is joined by the Pang which contains some very fair Trout and Perch; there is also some capital fishing hi the main river. The fisherman here is Champ, and the Inns, the Elephant and Castle, and the George. There are some good Trout at the weir at Maple-durham, but it requires careful fishing. The scenery is very beautiful past Purley to

Caversham

where there is a splendid stretch of water, but what with the netting and the influx of fishermen from London, via Reading (which has the advantage of three railways) the angler must not expect a very large take, the fishermen here are Freebody and Piper, and the Inns the White Hart, the Railway Hotel, &c. Some good fish may occasionally be taken in the Kennet which joins the Thames between Caversham and Sonning, at this latter place are some large Barbel and Roach. The fisherman is Bromley. Below this at Shiplake Lock it is joined by the Lodden and both at Shiplake and Wargrave there is good jack-water, heavy beds of rushes and weeds that it is almost impossible to net.

Henley

is reached by a branch of the Great Western Railway, the distance from town, by rail, being 36 miles. The Perch- fishing is remarkably good, some having been taken weighing three pounds and a half and sometimes more. The Inns are, the Angel and the Red Lion; the fishermen K. and W. Woodley, &c. At Hambledon where there are two weirs some good Trout are occasionally taken, there is also first-rate Perch-fishing near Culham Court, from the grounds of which the windings of the Thames are seen to great advantage, and extensive views are obtained of the wood-crowned undulations of the Chiltern Hills. Lower down the river is

Medmenham abbey

This was founded about, the year 1200, but the commissioners appointed by Henry VIII. to enquire into the state of the smaller monasteries found it in such a ruinous state that, the monks having no objection to remove to a larger establishment, it was appended to Bisham and suffered to linger on till it perished altogether. The walls were afterwards strengthened and it was converted into a dwelling, and so remained till the middle of the eighteenth century, when Francis Dashwood, Lord le Despencer resolved to found an order of monks in accordance with the character of the times, chosen, not how ever from the poor and unlearned but from men of rank and position, and literary fame, who took the name of Franciscans from the christian name of their superior. "Fay ce que voudras " was the motto inscribed over the door, where it is still to be seen, and in accordance with it these monks did what they pleased. The feelings of the neighbourhood were at length so outraged by the practices of this "band of brothers " that the society was suppressed. Every trace of the Franciscans was afterwards carefully removed from the walls, and the abbey is again a peaceful dwelling. The river from this part to Cookham abounds with fine Chub, which find capital retreats under the bushes which overhang the river, which is of considerable width with strong beds of weeds affording first-rate harbour for large Pike. At New Luck is a wide weir with a strong run in the centre; at another and smaller weir at the side I have taken some large Perch with the spinning-bait. Some good Barbel may also be taken at the edge of the ran with the leger but the bottom is very foul. Passing Harleyford and Hurley we come to

Temple lock and weir

At the foot of which some good Trout may be taken with tine tackle; and when there is no water running over the weir (as sometimes hapens when an extra supply is required for the mills), the footsher may have first-rate sport with Chub, which find a harbour under the sill of the weir. Below Temple Mills we come upon the fine beech groves of Bisham and a curve in the river shows us the Abbey and Church. As we approach the town of

Great marlow

the Suspension Bridge has an exceedingly light and graceful appearance, standing out as it does from a background of dark trees and round-topped hills. The Inns at Marlow are The Anglers, George and Dragon and Crown. The fishermen are W. Rockell, White, Shaw and Jones. In the Lock Pool, I have taken some good Trout and Perch with the spinning bait.

The best way to fish this water is to write to a Marlow fisherman, a day or two previous to starting, directing him to meet the angler at the Marlow Road station on the Great Western Railway (which is 29 miles from London), close to the water-side, the railway bridge crossing the river at this point, and then fish the water well, up to Marlow. The scenery about here is very fine, especially if seen from the top of Quarry Wood, which overlooks the country for miles round; and the view of the Thames, with Marlow Church and bridge, the mills, and the numerous aits with which the river is studded, is extremely beautiful; as are also the views to be obtained for the next five or six miles past Cookham, Hedsor, Cliefden and Taplow. The fishing from Temple Mills to Marlow railway bridge is preserved by the Marlow Angling Club, but is free to anglers. The river Wick joins the Thames near

Cookham

where there is a station on the Wycombe branch of the Great Western Railway. The Inns are the Bell and Dragon and the King's Arms. The next fishing station is

maidenhead

which is 23 miles from town by the Great Western Railway, and 52 miles by water from London Bridge. The Inn is the Orkney Arms, and the fishermen, Andrews, Wilder, &c. Some little distance above the bridges. Boulter's Lock and Fool, where some good Trout are occasionally taken; also Jack, Perch, Roach, &c. Below Maidenhead we come to the pretty village of Bray; this name will recall the memory of its vivacious Vicar, who " whatsoever king did reign, would still be Vicar of Bray." Close to the river is the George Inn, and the fisherman is Woodhouse. Below Bray is

Monkey island

formerly the residence of the third Duke of Marlborough, who erected on it the Temple and Pavilion; the latter containing the celebrated Monkey Room, with its numerous paintings of monkeys in various characters, from which the island takes its name. This property is now conducted as an hotel for fishing parties, etc.; the Pike fishing in the neighbourhood being very good.

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Pictures for The Thames


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