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

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