Friday, 24 October 2008

On the 'road' again

Cowroast to Home Park Mills - Friday 24th October
We had planned to go down to London, maybe with our son David's help, and meet with some friends who live in Wiltshire, who would then stay with us for a few days, and help us work back to our home moorings. However, our friends are having an extension built and are having problems with builders. As they want their building problems sorted before the winter they have regretfully decided that they could not meet with us this week. After some deliberation we decided that we wanted to go to London anyway - and hopefully we'll be able to meet our friends somewhere for some boating together next year.

Nothing is ever very simple and our original plan was to do an hour or so travelling on Thursday night, but after getting my car back late from its MOT, and all the things that we needed to do, it just didn't happen. We did the packing, went to bed some time after midnight, and got up at 6:30 to finish things off. We left the house at about 8:30 and Chalice left the marina an hour later.

It's four weeks since we were out with the boat on our trip to Aylesbury, and autumn is really with us and the corners above the top gates are filled with a floating mat of yellow leaves, occasionally with small bobbing crab apples from a nearby tree.
South of Cowroast the locks come thick and fast, with only the occasional pound that give you time to make coffee or a sandwich. At 10 am the sun came out, and stayed out for the rest of the day - it was cold, but sunny.
At Bushes Lock a smiling man approached me and asked if the boat was nb Chalice - I had a brief moment of complete puzzlement - how did he recognise the boat - had he known the previous owners I wondered? How did he know, I asked. No the answer was, obviously, far more sensible. He had seen the post that Alan had made on the forum last night to say that the boat was travelling south today, and while walking north along the canal was keeping an eye out for us. We had met with Batavia from the forum, whose boat we later passed in Berkhamsted.

Around the next corner we passed the final Jam 'Ole Run boats heading north again after Alan saw them earlier this week.

As we passed through Gas 2 lock in Berkhamsted, Alan was standing on the foredeck of the boat and looking up towards me when two brilliant blue kingfishers flew only feet above his head, and along the length of the boat before flashing over the balance beam of the boat and into the bushes above the lock. Alan hadn't seen any of it, but I was completely astounded to see them so near in to the middle of the town.

Jam 'Ole Run

At Canal Fields, opposite the supermarket in Berkhamsted a boat was across the canal - it had pulled its pin at one end, we pushed it out of the way. I went to do some quick shopping, Alan lit the fire, and then went to put the pin back on the drifting boat.

South of Berkhamsted we nearly had complete disaster strike - the prop seemed to be fouled with something, possibly just a mat of leaves, and our weed hatch is a nightmare to get through, particularly with a hot engine, so Alan decided to see if there was anything that could be freed from outside the boat. He took his glasses off while he poked around under the boat with the boat hook, so that they didn't fall into the canal - then he promptly stood on them. For various reasons he only has one pair, and without them he is unable to read anything, or do very much at all. He took the mangled frames and carefully bent them straight, but it really is time that he went and got a couple of new pairs.

Alan steering through Boxmoor in autumn sunshine.

We kept on south, wanting to get far enough to be able to meet our son who was planning to join us from university for the weekend. We needed to be near enough to the railway that we could meet him, but not so near that we were disturbed by the trains. Then steering through Boxmoor, while Alan cycled ahead lockwheeling, I had one of those brief moments of complete peace - life is often a rush, there are many things that worry or stress me, but I know that out with the boat I will find the occasional island of complete contentment.
Chalice Passing Banstead south of Apsley - the boat from the (appalling) film "the Bargee", in which Harry H Corbett (as Hemel Pike - "the Bargee" passed through the Dickinsons Paper mill, with the female workers leaning out of the windows of the offices and waving to him.

Many, many years ago Alan and I worked at John Dickinsons (well, let's be honest, he worked, and had the misfortune to have me in his team - I didn't want to be working there, and so somewhat immaturely I didn't very much). The lock at Apsley was in the heart of the factory, and our office overlooked the lock (or to be honest again, it wasn't so much an office, more the corner of a warehouse that had been breeze blocked off from the fork lift trucks and the racks of paper products). Nowadays, the lock is surrounded by attractive housing but I can't pass through the lock without remembering the old factories which still displayed their faded wartime camouflage, and the strange business practices which even in the 1970s were long outmoded.

We finally moored above lock 70 - Home Park Mills at a little after 5 pm. I mixed up a sponge pudding and put it on the stove to steam. David arrived at Kings Langley station and we went to meet him at the station, then back to the boat for dinner.
10 miles, 25 locks one swing bridge

Home Park Mills to Denham Deep Lock - Saturday 25th October 2008
Very cold this morning, but the fire was still just alight, and Alan quickly had it blazing again.
At Lady Capel's Lock we saw a boat approaching, which Alan thought might be Fulbourne, which he knew was travelling north. A man approached the lock from that direction, so I asked him if he knew if it was Fulbourne - he turned out to be Tim Lewis, so we met up with another forum member - nice to meet you Tim.

It's been a pleasant, but not really sunny day. We've taken turns to steer, or cycle, although cycling has been fairly difficult on the wet muddy towpath strewn with leaves. Our towpath bike is a £3 special from the tip - a rusty folding bike with small road wheels, so cycling on mud means the back wheel regularly sliding about beneath you.
At Iron Bridge Lock in Cassiobury Park, Watford

At Lot Mead Lock the boats Ara and Archimedes were delivering coal, so we bought a bag of coal from them - this photo shows them when we passed them later on.

Moored above Denham Deep lock

12 miles, 17 locks
Total: 22 miles, 42 locks

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