Sunday, 28 June 2009

Braunston Historic Boats 2009

We went to the historic boat gathering at Braunston yesterday - Saturday 27th 2009

These are some of the people who we met up with, there were others, but they managed not to be in the photos.
L to R: Sarah, Daniel, Jim, Alan, Jan, Cath, Neil and David.

We took hundreds of photos, so I decided to put some of them onto Photobucket - here is a fast slideshow for anyone who is daft enough to want to see all of them (warning, there are 141!) . I know that there were other people at Braunston who we didn't get to meet up with, some of whom I know, some I don't. If you recognise yourself in any of the photos, I'd be delighted if you'd let me know.


Or there is a link to the slideshow on Photobucket here
Where you can see them full sized, and choose your own speed.

Friday, 12 June 2009

On the Thames - without Chalice

Friday 12th June 2009
A few weeks ago Alan went on a river boat trip to Greenwich with some friends. Having seen that the Thames is not actually a white water ride, he was keen for me to see it, so that we could plan a trip from Limehouse to Brentford at some stage in the future.

We had a great day out, we caught a boat from Westminster Pier, out past the Thames Barrier, then back again. There was a commentary on the boat, which was amusing, although given the inaccuracy of what we were told about the canal system beyond Limehouse Basin made us a little wary of the rest of the information. The whole trip must have taken about 3 hours, then we went for a meal in Covent Garden, and spent some time wandering around London before returning home.

Having said that I'm not sure that I'm totally convinced that taking Chalice on this section of the Thames is a great idea, some of the trip boats have considerable wash.

These are some of the photos that we took of our trip.

View along the Thames towards Westminster Pier

The London Eye - with some of the large Thames trip boats

Alan having a bit of a sit down outside the National Theatre.

A replica of the Golden Hind - next to the Pickford's Wharf building

Many of the old wharf buildings are preserved as luxury flats - very different to how it all must have been 100 years ago.

The Mayflower Pub - which (according to the commentary on the boat) commemorates the Pilgrim Fathers' Mayflower, which was built in the dockyards here at Southwark

Passing the Tate Modern and the Globe

The Tower of London - Traitors Gate clearly visible

We were told that you can get to Bristol by going through these lock gates (yes, but you'd need to come back onto the Thames at Brentford). Also that you could get to Scotland, apart from a three quarters of a mile section of canal that has been filled in!

Back in the 1970s my brother lived in a flat on the 14th floor in a block on the Isle of Dogs. it was one of four identical buildings that towered above the surroundings. We knew it as "55 in the sky", and launched rockets off the balcony on Fireworks Night.
My mother always refused to use the lift, as people seemed to consider that it was a toilet, and the floor was awash with urine, so we always walked up when visiting him. The whole place was extremely sordid. I was amazed to realise that it must be one of the four buildings dwarfed by the other buildings now. That's Canary Wharf in the background.

Approaching the Millenium Dome

There is a Thames Barrier Control Zone, and as we passed the Millenium Dome our boat had to radio for permission to pass into the zone.

Going through the Barrier

Looking back from the Thames Barrier towards the Millenium Dome.

One of the barriers was in the 'maintenance position'. Usually they are in a channel on the bottom of the river.

The entrance to Bow Creek, the end of the River Lee - see the earlier post about Bow Locks.

These huge 'hangars' next to the Millenium Dome are the 'David Beckham Football Academy'.

Next to the Dome is this strange sculpture. It turns out that it is the 'Millenium Man'. If you squint at the picture with your eyes screwed up you can just about see that there is the shadow of a man in there.

Approaching the Naval College at Greenwich.
Were we were joined for the rest of the return trip by a large number of children from a French school in London, all wearing reflective vests with the school's name. It was quite strange to hear them talking, one asking a question in fluent French, another answering in London accented English, then saying something else in equally good French. They seemed completely at home in either language.

About to pass under Tower Bridge again.

HMS Belfast

Looking back to Tower Bridge, past HMS Belfast.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Kings Langley to Home

29th May
For our last day this turned out to be one of the hottest and sunniest of the lot.
After breakfast we set off North again, passing through Nash, where the demolition of the old paper mills seems to have stalled. There doesn't seem to have been any change since we went through at the end of the Easter break.

Once again we took turns to change from steering to working the locks every half a dozen or so locks. Then I began to realise something. When I'm working the locks, it's common for people passing to make a comment like, "typical, he's expecting you to do all the work". I had sort of thought that this is because, in general, women do tend to do the locks. However, while steering the boat I had several of the many gongoozlers call to me, "I suppose he's leaving you to do the difficult work".
I realised, it doesn't matter what I'm doing, people make a comment to suggest that I am doing the 'real' work, while Alan is skiving. What I haven't yet worked out is - WHY?

At Winkwell we passed several 'Reach Out' boats from Kings Langley, returning to base after being out for several days. I had the opportunity to talk to a young man from one of the narrowboats as they worked down through the lock. He was a pleasant and personable lad, who told me that there were 12 of them from an Essex youth group, who made a week's trip to Aylesbury every year. They were of all ages from year 7 (age 11) upwards to young adulthood, and they seemed to be really enjoying themselves. A couple of the older boys were lying sunning themselves on the roof - which, given the heat of Chalice's roof in the blazing sun, I was surprised that they were actually able to do.

Being passed by the Mikron Theatre at the Rising Sun lock in Berkhamsted

We carried on through, not stopping for breaks, and eating sandwiches as we worked.

Two locks from home a couple of lads on mountain bikes sped past on the towpath. With a screech of brakes the second one slewed the bike around to face me. "Hello, Miss! I didn't know that you lived on a barge," he grinned cheerfully.

"I don't, I just go out on in the school holidays." (I didn't feel that it was time to explain that it isn't a barge.) We continued for a while having a pleasant exchange, and talking about what he was doing the following Activities Week at school, until he decided that he had to catch up his companion. As we left the lock Alan said that my pupil seemed quite pleased to see me - I agreed, but have to admit to being somewhat puzzled, since this year I've had several major run-ins with this boy. All kids are different outside of school, I suppose.

Arriving at Cowroast - a perfect evening.

Although this has been hard work, and we didn't have time to stop and really appreciate the places that we went through this has been one of the best breaks that we have had in ages. We've had a really great time, and I can't wait for the next opportunity to get away.

Miles: 9.5, Locks:24
Total Distance: 155.7, Total Locks: 150

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Uxbridge to Kings Langley

28th May
A bright sunny day again - we were really lucky with the weather most of the time.
On the whole this was a day with no problems, no major events.
We stopped for milk and other essential supplies at Tesco's in Batchworth. We took it in turns steering and working locks - and some of the time we had the battered old bike, "Margaret", off to lock-wheel.

I do wonder if BW is going to do anything about the attrocious state of Iron Bridge Lock in Cassiobury Park - it leaks so badly that it is virtually impossible to open the top gates. Ditto the gate paddle on the upper one of the Cassiobury pair - it's been out of action for at least four years.

We caught up with a boat moving north when we got to Hunton Bridge and worked through several locks with them, although they seemed to have fuel problems, and were moving very slowly. They were aiming to get to the M25 to do some boat painting under the road bridge.

We got as far as lock 69A, and then spent ages debating where we were going to moor up. I won, and we moored soon after the lock. We ate dinner sat on the roof, then Alan decided that he was finally going to emulate the boaters on the Thames, and sit on the roof drinking in the evening sun. Alan looking happy and relaxed.

I have to admit that I thought he was being a prat, so asked a couple of passing young women how stupid he looked on a scale of 1-10. This backfired seriously on me, as they said he didn't look silly, but looked happy and relaxed.

The sun went down in a completely clear sky, and the lights slowly came on in the back gardens across the canal. Kings Langley looked gorgeous.

Miles: 14.8, Locks
Total Distance: 146.2, Total Locks: 126

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Victoria Park to Uxbridge

27th May
After our efforts the previous day we were a bit slow to get started, especially as it was raining heavily again. So, a hearty breakfast of porridge, and off into the rain. The lock sides seemed particularly slippery, so we worked slowly and steadily. Coming through Camden was in complete contrast to the huge crowds of the bank holiday Monday.

By the time that we had got to Sainsbury's at Kensal Green the rain had abated, and I went to get supplies. It's huge, and I don't really like supermarkets that I don't know, I can never find what I'm looking for.

After Hampstead Road Lock (Camden Lock), there are no more locks until Cowley, a distance of some 19 and a half miles.

Boat Andrina - two boats bolted together

When there are no locks I often end up doing the steering, but this time we took it in turns, sometimes with the other one sitting on the roof so that we could talk. At one point there was a green woodpecker grubbing in the towpath, as we approached it flew on, its yellow rump flashing as it took off. It settled, then seeing us approaching again it flew on another 50 or so yards. This happened several times until it finally realised that it could end up going a long way if it kept to those tactics, and it circled off to the right.

We eventually got to Uxbridge, and I was completely exhausted after the previous day, so we moored outside the General Elliott, and let them do the cooking for us.

Locks: 8 , Distance: 25.6 miles
Total Locks: 106 , Total Distance: 131.4 miles

Monday, 1 June 2009

Dobb's Weir to Victoria Park

26th May 2009
Heavy rain when we woke up, but it eased as the day progressed. We had consulted Canal Plan AC and decided to try to make Victoria Park that evening.

At Pickett's Lock we were surprised to see this load of long scaffolding planks being moved. One of the men explained that they were moving them from below the lock - where they were delivered - to one of the electricity pylons further upstream. Scaffolding is being built so that the insulators can be replaced. Between them the men had been provided with only one windlass, which needed to be thrown back and forwards across the very wide lock - we were expecting it to end up at the bottom. I loved their ex-military boat that they were using to push the cargo along.

We decided that we needed water and to empty the toilet cassette, so went to pull in at the services above Stonebridge Lock. Alan steered in slowly, and I jumped off the front with a rope, which was fortunate, as he suddenly found that the prop was fouled with spirogyra, which was floating in huge mats. He shouted to me, and between us we managed to stop the boat cannoning into the back of the boat that was at the water point. The owner of that boat told us that there was no point in trying to use the elsan point, as it was blocked (as it was the previous time we were there), and that the rubbish disposal was disgusting. While we were filling with water Alan spent a lot of time trying to remove the spirogyra from the prop with a boat hook. While it looks like green hair, it is very tough, and took a lot of removing.

After filling with water I steered the boat into the lock, spotting a cyclist heading past with a trailer behind, with a toilet cassette. I called to Alan to explain the problem with the elsan disposal, which he did. "Well, what am I supposed to do with this then?" he snarled. "How am I going to deal with it?" We were only trying to save him a wasted trip, but he managed to make it seem like Alan had personally put the services out of action.

The Lesney 'Matchbox' Factory - about to undergo demolition.

In Tottenham there seemed to be many groups of Orthodox Jewish men, standing or walking, while they talked. A Jewish family fed the ducks on the river, waving to us as we passed. A group of Muslim women dressed all in black crossed a field in one direction, gathering their scarves around them in the blowing wind. In the other direction a group of black clothed Jewish men passed by talking earnestly. On the river a fridge-freezer floated by - someone had presumably thought that they could dispose of it easily, forgetting that it was filled with insulation and would float.

When we got to Hertford Union Canal, shortly before 6 pm we had made good time, and realised that we could be tied up at Victoria Park in not much over half an hour. However, as we were locking through the first lock a passing cyclist shouted that the pound above the next lock was completely empty.

Alan went to investigate. It was true, we were stuck. We rang BW, but they were on answerphone by then. As the pound is a very short one we considered letting water down from the pound above. I went to look at the pound - it was completely empty, only a bare trickle of water in the middle, running around the traffic cones and other debris. It might only be a short pound, but it would take a lot of water to fill, and we had to have at least 2' 6" over the tops of the rubbish at the bottom. After consideration we decided that this might ground some of the many boats in the top pound.

We could stop where we were, and hope that BW sorted it fairly soon in the morning. However, this is one of the places on the canals where there is an alternative way of getting to the same place - albeit several miles round. Looking at the map we were in a position that we could turn around, continue down the Lee and Limehouse Cut, and moor in Limehouse Basin. Then we could carry on from there up the Regents Canal in the morning. So we set off into unknown territory again.

We went down through the massive Old Ford Lock on the Lee, although we had a moment of panic when the bottom gates wouldn't open, but turning the key to OFF and back on again worked.

Having passed huge numbers of boats up to this point we were surprised that there were none here. Not moored, not moving. Then Alan found the reference in the Nicholson's Guidebook that said that the Limehouse Cut that we were moving along, was 'semi-tidal'. What did that mean? How much 'semi-tidal'? Perhaps that was why there were no boats around.

Fortunately we also had another edition of Nicholson's - which said it is 'no longer semi tidal' - but it took us a while to find this out, in the mean time we were looking for tide marks on walls.

Three Mills

We passed Three Mills - old powder mills, and the Bow Locks onto the genuinely tidal section of the River Lee.

Bow Locks

Part of the way along Limehouse Cut we passed a large squat - most of the flat windows were boarded up, but it was covered with graffiti proclaiming it as a squat, and with loads of activity going on along the landings in front of the flats. People were carrying mattresses along the landings, moving about, or just waving to us passing by.

We eventually reached Limehouse Basin, which was filled with large, expensive looking GRP boats, and a few narrowboats. There were not many visitors moorings, they were all filled, and there was no-one on the boats, so we were reluctant to breast up. By now it was about quarter to eight, and I calculated that we still had another hour and a quarter of light.

Looking at the map again we decided to make a run for it up the Regent's Canal, to try and make it to Victoria Park after all - only five locks, perhaps a mile and a half. However, we didn't bargain with the problems we would encounter. The locks only had slow filling ground paddles, and some of the anti-vandal locks were broken so that we could only fill the locks on one ground paddle. There were groups of male youths hanging around the locks, and while they were generally friendly, all the local houses had bars on the windows and CCTV cameras.

The light was fading fast and large groups of young men were wandering past in an aimless way, as if they didn't really have very much to do.

Through the fourth lock we felt a degree of relief, the only lock left was the one by the boater's community at Victoria Park - nothing more could slow us up. At which point we heard sirens, and came upon a part of the towpath roped off with police officers standing to prevent anyone passing. The first one looked at us as if he felt he ought to tell us not to go on - but then seemed to decide that there wouldn't be much he could do if we kept going.

Finally, we got through Old Ford lock on the Regent's Canal (yes, same name, different lock), and eventually found a space that was just long enough to moor the boat, although it meant tying to some railings. We tied up under a completely clear sky, just able to see to tie the ropes. It was 9:40 pm - we'd got where we had planned, but it had taken a good three hours more than we had expected.

Locks: 20 , Distance: 23 miles
Total Locks: 98 , Total Distance: 105.8 miles