Monday, 30 June 2014

On to the end of the Lee navigation

Friday 27th June
In spite of the odd shower it was hot again all day.  The pub, though the food was poor, had a lovely setting; if it had been warmer last night we would have sat outside and enjoyed this lovely view.
1 lee above dobbs weir
Having finally found a water point yesterday we  found another almost straight away just below Feilde’s lock – on the lock mooring.  They are not really well placed around here!  although it has hardly been busy (apart from the moorings) with very few boats on the move.  There was an elsan point as well, so we emptied/topped right up.
Above Feilde’s lock is the mouth of the Stort.  We had already decided not to go up the Stort as we don’t have enough time on this trip.  By speaking to other boaters, we know that the Stort is beautiful, much like a winding canal with reedy edges so not a lot of mooring, but it’ll have to wait for the future.
13 stort mouth
Stort mouth was followed by an industrialised area until we got to Stanstead Lock.  As with most of the locks on the Lee so far, it was against us and with a widebeam ahead both gates were open.  At least they had left the swing bridge open – it swings across the lock and carries a small road from a private mooring area.  As we filled the lock, a chap drove up from the moorings, clearly well used to it, and kindly dealt with the bridge for himself as we left the lock.  The woman waving is from the boat waiting to come down.
4 closing swing bridge over stanstead lock  5 crossing the lock
The banks have suddenly changed to be more like ‘normal’ river banks, which is reedy and weedy with few mooring opportunities.  There were a few spots, taken of course, and one likely area which was too shallow to get in when we tried it for a lunch stop.  Meg needed to get off so we moored before Ware on chains down by the water level – not the easiest! Of course after we’d had lunch we found lovely moorings closer to the bridge.
When we entered Ware lock, a narrowboat appeared at the top and immediately came to offer help – the gates on the Lee are mostly very heavy.  I may not be being fair here, but we have only been helped on the Lee by fellow-boaters from the narrow canals.  Lee-ites, though very friendly to speak to, will happily leave the gates open (as is normal practice in these parts) even when they can see someone is coming up behind them.  This has happened a couple of times, and with widebeams, so that means both top gates have to be closed!  Probability theory says we should have the locks in our favour half the time but it’s not happened yet.  Anyway, thank you Hunter’s Moon!
We had been warned about a sharp left turn on the approach to Hertford Lock, but were still caught out – the sign is so small that by the time you can get close enough to read it you are wrongly placed and have to reverse.  Can you see the sign?  It’s just below the pointy bush to the left of centre.  Until you get this close you can’t see which way the navigation actually goes.
6 oops easy to miss the turn
Hertford lock is a difficult one as the bottom gates leak and you can’t open the top gates unless both paddles are fully open – and one frequently gets stuck and is waiting for repair.  But we got through, continued to the end of the navigation at Folly Bridge and turned in the pretty pool just above it..
8 turning at head of navigation
All the proper visitor moorings were taken but we joined another visitor on rings hung in the wall outside Starbucks and Waitrose.  As there was a damaged storm drain sticking out from the wall we could only use one ring, so we tied up with just the centre rope.  Only one more narrowboat arrived and tied up to some railings nearby with quite a climb to get off.
We went for a stroll round Hertford, which is an attractive place.  On Waitrose’s wall is a fantastic mural, ‘Wallace meets Rousseau’.  It reminded us of the famous Rousseau painting popularly known as ‘Tropical Storm with a Tiger’ and depicts the painter with Alfred Russel Wallace approaching through the jungle.  It was painted to commemorate the centenary of the death of Wallace, who was a naturalist and intrepid explorer, especially in South-east Asia and Indonesia, and arrived at the theory of evolution independently from Darwin, though Darwin published first. This link is to the Natural History Museum’s biography of Wallace:   DSC_0630
We went for a walk round the Castle Gardens which are pretty and well cared for.
9 castle gardens hertford   11 postern gate hertford castle
There is a stone commemorating the first meeting of the General Synod of the English Church in 673AD, which was held nearby.
12 commemorating first general synod 673AD
Then Dave got on with some varnishing while I went for a run, discovering an enormous parkland area on the other side of the river, stretching down to the lock and beyond.  Dave took Meg for a long walk down there later on once it had cooled down a bit.
This is a really quiet place to moor once the shoppers and strollers have gone home – unless it’s a fine Friday night! the clubbers started going by soon after 1 and didn’t all disappear till getting on for 2.  We heard a local householder ask them to be quiet and getting roundly abused so we put up and shut up – if you moor here it’s very easy to step on the roof and we didn’t fancy being jumped on!  Where’s the rain when you need it?
5 locks, 7 miles

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Where are all the water taps?

Thursday 26th June
It’s looking like another hot day so Dave took Meg for a good walk round Ramney Marsh before we left this morning.  We moored above Waltham Town Lock, where the moorings are much more attractive than below (can’t remember whose blog we read that on but thanks for the tip!)  We did the shopping and had a brief wander round the Abbey ruins, having a look at King Harold’s (supposed) final resting place, but decided to spend more time here on the way back.  I forgot the camera and phone, so no pictures this time.
It’s very hot but Meg and I had a walk down the flood relief channel before we had lunch and carried on.  The navigation is very straight with locks a mile or so apart, with tantalising glimpses of lakes either side through the trees lining the river.  There aren’t a lot of weirs but they are generally attractive and seem well guarded – this one is above Enfield lock.
1 weir above enfield lock
The rectangular shapes this side of the barrier seem to be planters of some kind – some houses with gardens running down to the water have these instead of a mooring or fishing spot, some planted up with water plants, some not.
We have been looking for a water tap since leaving London and have failed to spot any of the ones marked in Nicholson’s.  The service station at Waltham Town lock has no tap though it had everything else.  We finally found one lockside in Carthagena Lock.  So we thought, no-one around, we’ll just fill the water tank before filing the lock in case someone comes along and wants to share – but the one boat we saw coming towards us arrived at the top ….. so at least we had a part-fill.
We had hoped to moor above this lock, but the moorings were full and the banks suddenly turned into proper river banks, so we went on up Dobb’s Weir lock and found a nice mooring above.  And near the pub!  It’s the Fish and Eels, a very attractive pub in a lovely riverside setting, with excellent beer.  Shame about the food!  We don’t complain very often but when they asked how our meal had been we told them the truth.  We didn’t want a free pud and asked for the bill – delighted to find they had taken the drinks off the bill.  It’s a Vintage Inn which seems to be a large chain – we’ll be avoiding them in future!
6 and half miles, 7 locks.

I've just edited a spelling mistake and noticed this is our 100th blog post!

Friday, 27 June 2014

Onto new waters again – the Lee Navigation

Wednesday 25th June

We set off around 9 down the 3 locks of the Hertford Union canal, making a brief visit to the little shop at the top lock.  We met another boat coming up, so the bottom locks were set.  They had started a couple of miles up the Lee and were going all out to get to Uxbridge tonight – we went less far in two days and thought we’d done long days!  At the bottom lock is an amazing graffiti wall.

1 graffiti wall hertford union bottom lock  2 graffiti wall hertford union bottom lock

As we turned onto the Lee Navigation we got a view of the Olympic Park with the stadium (currently being altered for West Ham United) and the sculpture the ‘Orbit’.

3a stadium and sculpture

We had been warned that this section would be weedy and it was!  We stuck to the middle but had to stop a few times to remove the ‘moustache’ of greenery from the bow or to put the engine into reverse to clear the prop.  I was trying to recognise the Lee from when I was taken as a small child to buy cake for a treat when visiting my grandparents in the early 1950s, but there doesn’t seem to be any building older than 30 or 40 years, though a couple of likely spots offered themselves – one a cluster of tower blocks, the other a row of new terraced houses.

There are an enormous number of moored boats along Hackney Marshes.  Some have coot nests in their tyre fenders and others also didn’t look as though they move much!  We came up behind a weed-cutter boat which we had seen passing as we came down the bottom Hertford Union lock.  It was extremely noisy but as we approached Tottenham Lock it arrived at its mooring (coffee-time) and let us pass. Not a good background for contrast I am afraid.

5 weedcutter below tottenham lock

Above Tottenham lock the weed problem diminished.  We continued to Stonebridge where we moored above the lock for lunch – a long way above as there were so many moored craft.  We could have stayed there for the rest of the day, but the wind was blowing directly from the chimney of the Edmonton incinerator.  They tell us there is nothing toxic in the emissions but we don’t really believe that so on we went.

8 edmonton incinerator

Tottenham and Stonebridge locks are both paired, with one lock at each being electrically operated.   Pickett’s lock is manual (and the enormous Pickett’s Lock Centre is nowhere near the lock, which is quiet).  Ponders End again has one of each, and Enfield, where there is only one lock, had manual top gates and manual bottom paddles, but the bottom gates were opened electrically.  So I had to carry the sanitary station key and windlasses to every lock as we had no idea what was coming up.  There are miles of pylons along some of this lower stretch of the Lee.

9 pylons marching up the lee navigation

We moored a few hundred yards above Enfield lock in a quiet area by Ramney Marsh, which isn’t at all marshy but is a large mown field and a larger area of rough grass with mown paths.  We walked back down to the lock as there is a Tesco Express in the ex Ordnance factory on the other side.  This is where the Lee Enfield rifle and other small arms were made.  It is being redeveloped into offices, housing and other businesses.  It’s been another mostly hot day, but once again there was a shower in the evening.

10 miles 8 locks

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Too hot for Paddington Basin

Tuesday 24th June

If the weather had been cooler, we would have tried our luck at Paddington Basin, but the boat gets too hot during this weather to leave the dog for more than an hour.  So we decided to crack on to Victoria Park and get ready for a trip up the Lee Navigation.

In the West Kilburn area there is an elaborate canalside garden with statues, decorations on the wall and two rows of clipped bushes.  Someone clearly spends a lot of time keeping it tidy – unfortunately the bushes obscure most of the artwork from the canal.

1 elaborate garden decoration regents canal

Closer to Little Venice, there were some World Cup supporters in evidence on boats and also the tower blocks, with huge flags draped over balconies.

2 world cup flags on tower block kensal rise     2 world cup flags on tower block kensal rise

Little Venice was crowded as we passed through, though we didn’t have to wait at the tunnels and things quietened down quickly.  We had a good view of a warthog as we passed the zoo, then at Camden Locks there were 3 volunteers so we were through all three in under half an hour – Deb only had to work the bottom gates of the middle lock.

5c hard work camden locks

As we approached the bridge by the Pirate’s Castle a trip boat was stationary in the bridge ‘ole to warn us of a traffic jam just through the bridge – a punt was right in the way of another trip boat.  We moved right over for the trip boat to get past and all was tranquil again.

5 punt tranquil again

We stopped briefly for lunch at King’s Cross, and went on down to Victoria Park.  One of the lock gates was so heavy I had to call on a willing passer-by but otherwise it was all straightforward.  We couldn’t moor on the first stretch by the park where we were last time, but went down the lock and turned onto the Hertford Union, where after a few hundred yards we found a mooring near the Gunmaker’s Gate.

We took Meg into the park for a walk but again it was very hot.  She went to get a drink from one of the ponds

6 muddy feet in victoria park

but unfortunately put her feet in some extremely stinky mud!  Luckily we had brought water with us so she could have a proper drink and Dave could use the bowl to give her feet a wash.  On the way back we spotted one of the community gardens which are springing up all over the place – Vicky’s Veg Growing Group (Vicky being the local name for the park). 

7 vickys veg growing group   8 vickys veg growing group

Victoria Park is also known as the People's Park and it is certainly used by a huge number of people.  During our walk, and when I went for a run later, we saw strollers, parents and kids, sunbathers, dog walkers, cyclists and runners, skateboarders and stunt bikes in the skatepark, people working with laptop and phone, and individuals doing yoga.  Last time we were here there was a military fitness class taking place, a guy practicing dancing on in-line skates, and boats out on the boating lake.  And still it wasn’t crowded!  It’s a quiet place to moor if you ignore the cyclists rattling the paving slabs as they go by.

7 and a half miles, 8 locks.

I forgot to mention on Sunday 22nd’s blog what I saw on the Slough Arm when I took Meg out early – this hexacopter.

1b  hexacopter slough arm

It has 6 rotors, is about 18 inches across and is operated by remote control.  The two guys flying it were glowing with enthusiasm – it has a camera and they are about to take it to France.  But it looks like a drone to me and I can’t help but find it rather sinister.  Though you’d know about it if it came snooping – the motors are very noisy.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

A wedding and Wormwood Scrubs

On Sunday (22nd June) Chuffed stayed in the marina while we drove up to a family wedding near Cambridge.

I started the day with a short run with Meg along the Slough Arm – even though it was only 8 on a Sunday morning the M25 was busy where it crossed the canal.  But we saw a kingfisher for a good start to the day.  We got togged up in our wedding finery and had a good drive up to a little village called Melbourn, where we left Meg in the care of an excellent day kennel for the afternoon.  Such a betrayed look as we left her!  but of course she was absolutely fine.  We had a brilliant day catching up with family and although we missed the speeches when we went to pick Meg up we made it back for the cutting of the cake and the dancing!

Here we are (in the centre) with my two sisters and their spouses;

11 long clan 2

and the rest of the photos are only of family interest!  We had a great time in fabulous weather. 

On Monday (23rd) we didn’t rush to leave, not having got back till after 11 the night before, but after filling the water tank and emptying a cassette, and putting our finery back in the car, we were still away by 10.30.  It’s not the most exciting of routes into London, and we’ve done it before, so not a lot of pictures.  But here’s one of Chance taken as we reversed out of our berth;

1 chance in packet boat

and a view of the Wembley arch.

2 wembley arch

We stopped at the Alperton Sainsbury’s for some supplies, then continued to Kensal Green where we moored at the Mitre Bridge end, furthest from the visitor moorings.  The reason for this was Wormwood Scrubs!  Until we researched London moorings for their dog-walking potential, we had no idea that there are acres and acres of common land and sports pitches as well as the prison.  It was 5 minutes to the bridge, then 5 minutes over the railway and down the road to the nearest entry.  Meg had a great time hurtling around after her ball. 

3 scrubs 1  4 scrubs 2

After a while she got too hot so we strolled on down to the grassland area where they have the closest breeding meadow pipits to London.  There are polite notices asking people not to use certain paths to protect the nests from disturbance – they are ground-nesting – in here somewhere …

5 scrubs 3

We were really surprised to see such a huge area of relatively wild land so close to Paddington.  There was the prison of course -

6 scrubs prison

and if you turned to your left here you could see the Post Office Tower and the Shard.

Back to the boat in time to shut up the cratch as the rain started!  It did cool the air but not by much.

14 and a half miles.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

The tranquil Slough Arm …

…  though probably not if you’re cruising it!

We arrived back at Packet Boat marina after a fairly easy journey considering the heat and summer Saturday traffic.  Unsurprisingly, the boat was like an oven.  Not for the first time we wished we had Houdini hatches!
We are not moving till Monday, as tomorrow we are travelling to a family wedding near Cambridge.  So after a rather late lunch, we took Meg for a walk along the Slough Arm for a couple of miles.  If you ignore the motorway noise, it’s calm and peaceful, and very attractive too apart from the odd patch of litter.  This is the view from one of the three aqueducts we crossed.

aqueduct slough arm

We had wondered whether it was worth taking the boat to Slough, to say we’d done it, but changed our minds quickly …..

weedy slough arm  really weedy slough arm

There was a lot of blanket weed as well as the ‘proper’ water-weeds.  And it’s not just boats that would have a problem – this terrapin wasn’t having an easy time of it at all.  I took this picture on our way out, and he hadn’t got much further when we returned half an hour later.  Perhaps he was just sunbathing.

terrapin slough arm

The water was very clear where there was no blanket-weed and we saw hundreds of fish – some really tiny fry, but a couple of shoals of little perch, and also bleak, rudd, bream and a couple of small pike.  I had a go at taking a snap of some perch, but without much luck.  However Dave spotted this lovely fish – it was quite big and he thought it might be a chub or even a barbel.  Update:  a couple of people have pointed out that it's a carp - thanks to both.

maybe barbel

We won’t be taking Chuffed up the Arm, and it’s too weedy for fishing, but it’s nice enough for walking.

towpath slough arm

Back at the boat now for a glass or two of something chilled!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Packet Boat marina and home

Friday 6th June

Apart from the OK-looking pub (which we could have walked to from the quieter spot before the bridge) there was just one redeeming feature about this mooring and that was the view from the saloon window.

1 redeeming feature of greenford vm

A little bit of loveliness.

An hour further on we passed the moorings where had hoped to be last night – plenty of room, if only we had gritted our teeth and carried on! We needed fuel, so hovered in the middle of the cut at Willowtree watching the dance of the Black Princes as they were hauled into new positions, then pulled in.

As we cruised on to Bull’s Bridge junction we passed this delightfully painted boat, Watson, Holmes & Co. The building to the left of Sherlock is Baskerville Hall, in case you need a clue!

2 watson holmes & co

We arrived at the marina at lunchtime and moored at the wharf to wait to be told where to go.  3 entering packet boat marina

Meg was delighted to be off the boat and enjoyed a run around with the resident dogs!

4 meg plays with marina office dogs

The poor little pug had to keep stopping for a rest and the other one just couldn’t keep up with her.  I tried for a photo at closer quarters but the camera couldn’t keep up either!  We got moored up quite quickly but had to go in bow first as the wind had got up just enough to be a nuisance.  We looked across to the next pontoon as we were tying up and what did we see but Chance, almost directly opposite!  I hope we’ll be able to catch up with Doug and James at some point.

Dave walked down to West Drayton station to go and pick up the car from Froud’s Bridge and was back within 3 hours – the quickest pick-up so far.  We went to the Waterside restaurant for a meal and enjoyed a quiet evening in spite of the aircraft.

8 miles, no locks

Saturday 7th June

Dave wandered round to settle up with Maeve in the office and we spent the morning emptying cassettes, walking the dog and general cleaning and packing in between heavy showers.  We will be back up again in a couple of weeks to use the marina as a base for travelling to a family wedding near Cambridge, then we’ll be off on our travels again – though we’ve not decided where to go yet.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

A long day standing

Thursday 5th June

We are booked in at Packet Boat marina on Friday so it’s time to go.  We were on the move by 9 – as we untied the ropes NB Amelia approached from the lock so we were set up to share for the rest of the locks.  He is a single-hander who keeps his boat upstream on the Lee Navigation and was on his way to Kensal Green, having left Tottenham at 7 this morning!  On the way to Acton's Lock we passed Container Ville, business units being created out of containers; they are behind the decorated screen.

1 business units in containers at shoreditch

As we worked the lock, our companion told us he had turned down a request from a hire boat to share locks as they mess about and would ‘slow him down’.  He seemed happy with us, though I am sure the hire boat would have been ok too – the ones who don’t know what they are doing are usually keen to learn!  He warned us he travels quite fast – he feels that as his boat is sometimes rocked by boats travelling too fast there is no reason for him to slow down either .…  (see comments on No Problem’s blog for 6th June for more on this topic!).

At Sturts’ Lock we were slightly alarmed to be sharing the lock with a family of swans.  They would not be enticed or chased out, so we had to fill the lock very slowly, watching them all the time.  The adults were completely unconcerned, continuing feeding and the mum even took the babies to the back of the lock at one point – Dave have to keep a careful eye out so they didn’t get stuck or even squashed between the boats.  As soon as the lock was nearly full, they assembled at the point where the gates join and were out as soon as we started to open the gates! They clearly have done that before!

2 swans in sturts lock

We didn’t catch up with them for 200 yards.  We passed many interesting things along this otherwise grotty bit of canal.  There are often pretty mosaics on the walls of buildings, a school had a vegetable garden of raised beds in the shelter of a wall, and this school had parking for the teachers’ bikes on the second floor and the playground was on the roof!

3 school has playground on the roof

At the King’s Cross moorings, the Chelsea Fringe planting was finished, and more things were happening at what we thought was some kind of art installation on our first pass through.  Now there were workmen adding what seemed to be a table to the seats in the tenty bits, and a pile of short rolls of those planted bank supports you often see these days was waiting on the side.

5 working on the arty seats

Thee was also a group working on planting up an island .

6 and planting up an island

At St Pancras lock, our companion pointed out the listed water tower and gas holder, which had both been moved and rebuilt to accommodate all the new building in the area.  The string of lights in front of the water tower are the St Pancras Cruising Club’s.  I took a zoomed-in picture of the gasholder to show the ironwork (with cranes in the background). 

8 listed water tower at st pancras    8 arty listed gasholder

Here is another example of interesting/odd things we saw today – no pictures from the way down the other day as it was pouring!  These unusually designed flats were shortly before Kentish Town lock.

9 strange flats kentish town

Camden was busier than before.  Though still not crowded, there were plenty of people watching or walking or eating (or all three) and also a couple of volunteers working on clearing debris from the lock who helped us through.  The guy leaning on the gate was on his first day and hadn’t yet been issued with a windlass, so had to borrow.  His training was yesterday – he certainly seemed to know what he was doing and very cheerful to boot.

10 camden lock

We had hoped to take on water at Little Venice but it was too crowded.  We should be ok till tomorrow though.  More stuff to look at on the way – this guy was cleaning the 6th floor windows supported by a climbing harness.  13 cleaning 6th floor windows

  The collage was made from rubbish!  Bits of rope and plastic mostly.14 collage of rubbish

Our companion had steamed on ahead to grab a mooring on the rings at Kensal Green and waved as we passed.  We stopped at the far end for a quick lunch stop and to let poor patient Meg off for a while before cracking on to try and get to the grassy park area near Willowtree marina for the night.  We had several views of the arch of Wembley stadium.  This was taken close to the aqueduct over the North Circular (which is a lot wider than I remember in the early ‘70s when I used to drive round it in my 2CV!)

15 wembley stadium

We had been on the go all day, mostly standing, and were getting very tired so rather than going on for another hour we moored at Greenford visitor moorings.  Big mistake!  We should have stopped about half a mile earlier.  There was a lorry depot close by (thankfully we were far enough away not to hear the beeps when they reversed, but they all went over the bridge not far ahead of us) and several factory air-con units added to the noise.  Things quietened down after midnight when the lorries stopped and some of the other noise reduced too – but it all started again soon after 5.  Apart from on the South Oxford when we moored at the Rock of Gibraltar opposite  the lorry depot – another 5am start – this was the worst mooring we’ve ever had for noise.

7 locks, 14 miles