Sunday, 31 May 2009

Waltham Town to Hertford to Broxbourne

25rd May 2009
Another very sunny day, we were keen to try to get to Hertford, having got as far as this. The river is far more rural here, with woodland and fields flanking the river. At one point I could hear a cuckoo calling in the woodland to the side of the lock, then as we carried on again I could hear its call moving through the trees parallel to the river. Although I searched the tree tops I couldn’t see it, then suddenly it broke cover, still calling the whole time, and crossed the river right in front of the boat.

Near to Broxbourne there is the hazard of hire boaters. Families in little motor boats, either dawdling in front of a long row of boats, or zipping around in front of your boat, not knowing how hard it is to see something under the bows from the back, or that 20 ton narrowboats are not equipped with brakes.

At Carthagena lock, which is hung with baskets of attractive flowers, a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses pressed me to take some leaflets – I suppose it must be more pleasant along the river than going from door to door.

At Feilde’s Weir the very attractive River Stort branches off to the right, but we continued on the Lee, which becomes more and more attractive the closer you get to Hertford. It becomes increasingly rural as it flows through wide wooded valleys, while the towns are filled with attractive buildings along the riverside.

The lock at Stansted is extremely deep, and fills very violently. I was hard in reverse and was still being dragged forward towards the top gates – we were told later that it is not a good idea to open the paddles more than half-way.

Attractive buildings overlooking the river at Ware

As we approached the last lock near Hertford there was a large group of boys, aged perhaps 12 – 14, jumping off the bridge below the lock, and swimming round to the lock landing. They arrived at the landing just as we did, much to my consternation, as they didn’t seem to think that the boat posed them any danger at all. They helped us push the lock gates open and we headed on into Hertford, which is strikingly attractive from the river.

Row of houses overlooking the river at Hertford
- we moored under the trees on the right

We winded just above Folly Bridge (very low, we took the chimney off), and went to moor outside the shops. There is a row of very attractive terraced houses opposite to the shops, and many people were sitting out in their front gardens or along the river bank enjoying the sun. While the river is very attractive it is also very clear, and it is possible to see a lot of rubbish and detritus which could cause the propeller a lot of damage.

So, when I went off to Waitrose for a few supplies, Alan began to fish below the back of the boat with a boat hook. When he pulled very large cafe umbrella out of the river a round of applause came from the other bank, then when the shopping trolley came out there was a roar of approval.

The Starbucks umbrella was dumped, dripping and weedy onto their forecourt area, while the trolley was returned to Waitrose. “Wasn’t that in the river?” asked the assistant that Alan passed it to.

Back at the boat I unloaded the shopping while Alan started Chalice for a quick getaway. Starbucks employees had discovered their umbrella, and were standing over it, pointing at the boat. As we headed off we half expected to see it launched back into the water behind us.

The boys were still jumping off the bridge at the lock, and some of them seemed to be considering jumping into the rushing waters as we emptied the lock – fortunately sense prevailed, as if any of them had got into difficulty it would have been impossible to stop the flow quickly since the lock gear is all hydraulic and needs to be wound many turns up and then back down again. One of them tried to suggest to the others that they jumped onto the boat roof, but none of the others took up that idea. It puzzles me that anyone would think this acceptable – would they be happy if I came and stood in their house?

The Fish and Eels pub - opposite the weir

We moored at the Fish and Eels (isn't that a weird word) near Broxbourne, and ate at the pub, although they had very little food choice left as they had had a very busy day, however, we did manage to get a couple of suitable vegetarian meals. There was a short shower of rain while we were eating, the first rain of our trip, then at 8:45 the bar staff came around and said that the pub was shutting at 9:00. It was no problem to us, and we had been told that we could moor overnight, so we went back to the boat and tried yet again to get the Internet to work. At 11:00 we could hear raucous laughter, so looked out of the boat to see what appeared to be a private party, with a barbecue, going on in the pub garden.

Miles: 20.3 , Locks: 15
Total distance: 82.8 miles , Total locks: 78 locks

Kensal Green to Waltham Town

24nd May 2009
A bright and sunny morning, we ate breakfast watching the families of Canada Geese with long trains of goslings eating the grass. There seem to be so many of them on the waterways - do they have any natural predators? Then a police helicopter arrived circling repeatedly over Kensal Green Cemetery, so we pulled pins and left to avoid the deafening clatter.

We stopped at Little Venice for the services, and I walked around to Paddington Station to the Sainsbury’s which, being small, has much longer opening hours than the big shops on a Sunday

Kensal Green Gasometers - we saw lots of these - all apparently unused. They seem to listed buildings, and at Paddington they are being incorporated into an open space for new housing

Camden - housing that seems to have been based on the back end of a 1950's caravan.

Then on through the sunshine, past the Zoo, and through the three locks at Camden Market. There were huge crowds of people around the market, and along the towpath – in particular we were impressed by the numbers of cyclists and runners.

Victoria Park, Regent's Canal - Old Ford Lock

Hertford Union Canal - one and a quarter miles, 3 locks - Chalice enters the middle lock

Chalice at the bottom lock - the graffiti says 'Don't hate'

Through Islington Tunnel, then into the Hertford Union Canal (aka Duckett’s), and onto the river Lee, where there is massive amounts of construction going on, and vast cranes tower over the Olympic building sites. As we continued north through Tottenham, towards Picketts Lock and Ponders End there are huge reservoirs to the right of the river, which supply much of London’s water needs, and huge electricity pylons march across the landscape from the power stations. There are also sewage treatment centres and an incinerator plant in this area, so you need to think about where you plan to moor. I was pleased to see so many people cycling along the towpath here.

We pressed on, despite being fairly tired, until we got to Waltham Town Lock, where we moored.

Locks: 18, Miles: 22.10
Total Locks: 63 , Total Distance:62.5 miles

Saturday, 30 May 2009


We had a lot of problems with Internet connectivity while we were away, and while it was sometimes possible to access the Internet, it was difficult to upload anything to Blogger. Over the next day or so I will upload the blog posts that I couldn't upload or save to Blogger while we were away.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

To Kensal Rise

23 May 2009

Batchworth to Kensal Rise

Ye Gods!!! The geese at Batchworth - a constant cacophony all night.

Away about 8:30, and south, although it seemed slow progress. We passed nb Tafelberg (from Canal World Forum) coming north from Widewater lock.

Chalice at Black Jack's Lock

At Denham Deep there was a family locking up with three fairly young children running around the top of the lock. None of the family seemed to know what to do, and the parents were on the boat, with the engine off, poling the boat back and forward in the lock as it filled. I was a bit worried about the kids - especially by such a deep lock. It turned out that this was their third ever lock, and they didn't seem to have been given any advice about how to lock through safely - so we did a quick "how to do this safely" talk. What they really needed was someone working through a few locks with them, but we were going in the other direction. As they were setting off the woman asked Alan if they would be able to get to Tring and back by tomorrow evening.

We stopped off to speak to Roger Wakeham at Denham about our engine and the odd noise that it is making. He listened carefully and pronounced that we have a 'lazy cylinder' - one cylinder misfiring occasionally, not terminal, it should do the trip round to the Lee and back with no problems. He's given a suggestion for what might cure it (service the diesel injectors), and if we've still got a problem once we've done that we'll take it back to him for more serious work.

Paddle boat - how do they steer it?

At Uxbridge we refilled with diesel at the chandlery and I got a copy of "The Amateur Boatwomen", by Eily (Kit) Gayford about her work with the women 'trainees' during the war. I've been looking for a copy for a while, and although it is not perhaps the most rivetting read, I'm very interested to find out some of the background behind what I've already read in "Idle Women" - Susan Wolfitt and "Troubled Waters" - Margaret Cornish, two of the wartime women 'trainees'. The first day of her initial training trip with Grand Union boat people was from Bull's Bridge to Berkhamsted station, in around 12 hours - effectively the same trip as we've just spent close on two days doing. Although she did it in the ice in February.

We were planning to head for Little Venice, but when we got to Kensal Rise by the gasometers at about 7:30 pm there were a couple of moorings left, so, being tired we decided to stop rather than risk going on and then having to come back to find a reasonable mooring.

A very pleasant, sunny day.

Daily: 23.6 miles, 8 locks

Total: 40.4 miles, 45 locks.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Southbound again

22nd May 2009
Berkhamsted to Rickmansworth
It’s been a long day, not a huge number of miles, but an awful lot of locks. No arguments with anyone!!

The sun has been shining, and I can now see that Alan is sunburned – so I guess I probably am too.
Chalice in Boxmoor Lock

We’ve taken it in turns to work the locks, and today, for once, Alan has done far more of them than I have. He now understands why I tend to fall asleep so early in the evening when we are boating.

It's been a good day for anyone using solar power, this set-up also heats the water, although we did wonder how this would go under some bridges

I bought a ‘slowcooker’ at the recent Cowroast moorings charity auction. Since we don’t have a lot of battery power on the boat, or a high powered inverter, I can only have a very low-powered one. I’d been looking for a while on the Internet, but all of them were far too high powered to use on the boat – then this one came up at the auction. It’s only small, but quite large enough for the two of us, and I pressed it into use today for the first time. I made up a vegetable stew at lunchtime, then put it on to cook. Every time I looked in through the window I could see it simmering away – despite the fact that it is only 100 watts. We ate the stew with grated cheese, and some bread, and it was really delicious. However, the biggest advantage was that it was ready as soon as we moored, and I didn’t have to do any cooking when I was tired and very hungry. Now I have to find out what else I can cook in it.

Today: 13.5 miles, 27 locks

Total: 16.8 miles, 37 locks

Whitsun Half Term

21 May 2009
Cowroast to Berkhamsted
I work on Thursdays but not Fridays this year. So it’s possible to get away on a half-term break on Thursday evening, but only by being fairly organised – something we are not terrifically good at.

I was home at 4:00 pm, and began throwing clothes into a bag, grabbing shoes, boots, coats, hats, etc. I’d already written a list of things to take out of the fridge – the rest being left for Michael, our 19 year old son.

We got to the boat by about quarter past five, and were into the lock outside the marina at about 6:00 pm. Fortunately the weather was fine, sunny, with no strong breeze. I was working locks, Alan steering.

Everything went well, although we had to turn most of the locks. When we got to Gas Two in Berkhamsted, we were in the top one of the two locks, winding the paddles to go down – we could see the lock below us was set ready for us, with the gate open. Someone appeared at the lower lock, shading his eyes against the evening sun, looking up towards us, then began to turn the lock against us. Given that the locks are very close together we felt this was unreasonable behaviour.

We arrived at the lower lock well before the other boat was going into the lock, but decided not to say anything about it. It’s always a difficult call, we’ve had people turn locks against us in the past, but what do you do – ignore it, and allow them to think that they can continue to behave like that to everyone else, or do you complain and risk them getting stroppy. In the past discretion has always won, although recently friends have said that you shouldn’t let people ride roughshod over everyone else.

For various reasons we did raise the issue politely with the bloke, who looked sheepish and apologised, but were then subjected to a tirade from his wife – including a catalogue of excuses and blaming us although it had been them who had breached etiquette. I’m all for a quiet life on the canals, I don’t generally complain about things, but I’ve seen more and more of this recently. What should you do? I’m not sure that the right thing to just allow other people to say ‘stuff you, we don’t want to wait, we’ll behave just how we want’ – and then intimidate anyone who complains. However, there is also the opinion that life is too short to get worked up about things like this.

We moored by the Rising Sun in Berkhamsted, ate, then popped in to the ‘Riser’ to see some friends who were there – however, we didn’t get the chance to talk to them. We were talking to a bloke about the music on the CD ‘jukebox’, when it became obvious that Alan had been at school with his brother, who is in the same line of work as I am, so we ended up speaking to him for a long while.

3.3 Miles, 10 Locks