Monday, 31 May 2010

Rickmansworth to Kensal Green

(Posted by Cath, using Alan's account).

A grey and overcast day after yesterday. The alarm went off as usual at 7 am, and again, I had difficulty in surfacing from sleep. I've had a difficult couple of terms at work, and I'm falling asleep all over the place. Alan got up and took Charlie up the towpath for his first walk of the day, while I levered myself from bed and got dressed.

Quiet mooring just below Lot Mead Lock

A cuckoo was calling loudly on the other side of the canal, so I drew the curtains back to see if I could see it. Unfortunately not, I got a view instead of a young man in pyjamas scratching vigorously at his undercarriage while having a smoke on the front deck of his boat - why do some people seem to think that they are invisible when on a boat?

At Batchworth lock, I was steering when two portly, older Asian gentlemen appeared to one side of the lock and started to limber up and do stretches. I have to admit to being fascinated - one was dressed in loose joggers and had a woolly hat pulled down over his ears - the other was wearing a jacket and a flat cap - were they planning to run? Alan had wound the paddles and I was steadily descending, but I wanted to watch the men, so I found myself standing on tiptoe as they slowly disappeared. Unfortunately I will never know, but my last view of them was as the stouter of the two, in the jacket and flat cap, lay down on a bench and started doing leg raises - I sank down with a final sight of his trainers.

Black Jack's Lock

The rather deep Denham Deep Lock

It stayed dry, if overcast, all day. We headed south aiming to stop at Uxbridge for fuel, then, soon after we came out of Uxbridge lock we suddenly remembered that Uxbridge chandlery is shut on a Monday. We pulled over and did some frantic ringing around to find somewhere within range of our rapidly depleting diesel that would sell us some. Willowbridge on the Paddington Arm is open on a Monday, and quoted a good price.

We passed a number of Canal World Forum boats as we headed south. Some in their home locations, others on the move.

After Cowley we had many lock free miles - not great for Charlie the Dog, he was cooped up, as he is usually gets several walks a day - done between series of locks over a couple of miles each time. Charlie is walked along the towpath, then is tethered safely at the side while we work through the locks.

Then along the Paddington Arm to Willowbridge Marina where we filled with diesel, and then found that the price that they had quoted us was 'without any tax'. Hmmm... quoting a price that no-one could possibly legally purchase at. We paid considerably over the usual price, and wouldn't have filled the tank if we'd know it was so expensive.

We finally arrived at Kensal Green at about 6 pm, and took Charlie for an extended walk to make up for his incarceration all day.

Kensal Green overnight mooring

Lot Mead (near Rickmansworth) to Kensal Green
Miles: 24.5 , Locks: 9

Total Miles: 46.0 , Total Locks: 54

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Winkwell to Lot Mead (near Rickmansworth)

(Posted by Alan)

Winkwell to Lot Mead (near Rickmansworth)

A very different day to yesterday, despite a near identical mileage, and similar lock count.

For a start we have shared locks all day, having worked on our own all through yesterday. Three different boats shared at various times, all rather bigger and shinier than Chalice.

Our last shares were with fellow Canal World Forum member "terryvanman" who has bought a very nice boat from another Forum member, but one where there was a sad tale to tell, as the builders had gone under during its construction, placing enormous stresses and extra expenses on the guy who had commissioned it. This seems to have led to him never realising properly his dreams of life afloat - not a nice story, but at least the boat has found a good home with someone who is really enjoying it.

Another major difference about today has been the weather - largely sunny all day to replace yesterday's rain - no need to light the coal fire today, and the sun block even came out.

We have stuck remarkably well to the schedule proposed by the excellent CanalPlanAC web-site, ( Although an excellent planning tool, we usually find things that happen on the day mean we never quite adhere to their suggestion, but for the last two days we have, albeit completing today rather faster than they suggested.

Even the single hander ahead, towing some kind of lifeboat conversion, leaving all gates open and many paddles up, did not seem to slow us, although we were on his tail by the time he called it a day in Cassiobury Park.

Previous overnight stops around the Rickmansworth area at this time of year have usually meant fairly sporadic sleep due to the huge hoards of Canada Geese in the area, (we have had disturbed nights at Batchworth and Stockers in the past). Only time will tell whether a decision to stop short of Batchworth will lead to a quieter night, but there seem to be less noisy birds around.

Our mooring spot has given us a chance to explore some of the Ebury way, (a path / cycle track on ther bed of the former Watford to Rickmansworth railway branch), and for Charlie to get much needed exercise. This caused us to loop round the back of the short canalised section of the Chess that still acts as a mooring basin, and is accessed via a lock parallel to the usual Grand Union one at Batchworth. I realised I had never seen this arm before, and found it quite different from what I assumed. I was also surprised to learn there was once a further lock and arm off of it, long since abandoned.

Tomorrow presents a bit of a planning quandry - I doubt we really have time to get into London proper, and even the popular moorings at Kensal Green seem an ambitious target. I guess we will be looking for a spot part way along the Paddington Arm, but must admit appealing spots are rather few and far between. Before then, a fill of fuel is a must, if we are not to find ourselves short in London, where there really are no canalside sellers to speak of.

Winkwell to Lot Mead
Miles: 10.8 , Locks: 21

Total Miles: 21.5 , Total Locks: 45

Saturday, 29 May 2010

A Whitsun Trip - Heading to London

(Posted by Alan)

Cook's Wharf to Winkwell

This will be brief, initially, but having got this far, I am determined to post some trip notes on the day they actually happened, not 3 or more moths retrospectively.

Having had only a token trip at Easter because of my injury, we were determined to try hard for Whitsun.

So, despite some engine problems, (possibly!), we are heading South down the Grand Union towards London.

We managed to get packed and onto the boat last evening (Friday), but too late to leave our home mooring. However this gave us a much earlier start than we could possibly have managed had we not overnighted on board.

I know there were parts of the day where it did not rain, but somehow they seemed to be few and far between! However this did not daunt us, and after a while you almost stopped noticing!

Heading South of "Bottom -side" lock, in steady rain.

This is the first time we have attempted a serious trip South from the mooring we moved to late last year. It has added 9 locks, and several miles, including Tring Summit to such a trip, and it's quite a surprise how long it took to just get to where we would previously have started from. (Of course the reverse of this is that when travelling North we have less to do, and can be somewhere sooner.)

Waiting for the attractively named "Sewer" or "Sewerage" Lock

The price of two drinks in the Three Horseshoes probably came close to breaking new records for us, but a reasonable wine in a large glass never seems to be the cheapest option!

Cook's Wharf to Winkwell
Miles: 10.7 , Locks: 24

Total Miles: 10.7 , Total Locks: 24

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Aylesbury Again - A Very Different Trip From Last Time

(Posted by Alan)

These brief notes on the past 5 months have at least got me up to the last trip from the current one - in fact to only last weekend.

Our engine has been doing a few strange things, and after musing its problems on Canal World Forum there were several votes that we needed to take it for another reasonable length trip, and observe what it did.

Well anybody who knows us and our boating habits will know we do not even need an excuse that big to set off somewhere!

Aylesbury is probably our best choice of a weekend trip from the new mooring. Although 18 locks for less than 8 miles travelled each way, all but two of those locks are narrow, so it's not that hard work.

Passing Bates' Boatyard at Puttenham

The Aylesbury Arm is remarkably rural

Proud dog owner!

Well it's not normally hard work, unless temperatures rise well into the 30s, as they did that weekend. Boy was it a scorcher, and the paint on the roof and handrails of the boat got so hot they were almost "no go" areas, making operations take rather longer in some cases. Plus we were only two handed - our third regular crew member often doesn't get very involved, but if he's there he can be wheeled out if our exhaustion sets in, (well, sometimes!).

Leaving Aylesbury on the return trip

Charlie finds some much needed shade,

We failed to prove anything more about the engine issues. It was highly intermittent, but, of course, we already knew that. So next trip has no better guarantees about what could develop.

Aylesbury and return
Total Miles: 15.2 , Total Locks: 36

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Starting to Get A Bit Easier - Early May Bank Holiday Weekend

(Posted by Alan)

I'd love to be writing all these up properly, but I think it's more important at this stage to stay brief, and get something in to bring us up to date. (At least some of this one relates to the calendar month I'm actually typing in - progress indeed!)

Buoyed up by the Little Woolstone trip at Easter, Cath realised we could squeeze in a similar length trip around the Early May Bank Holiday weekend. I was still not up to serious locking, and Cath was sufficiently exhausted from school, (circumstances having caused her to work through twice her normal amount of coursework marking), so the only serious proposal was to go North again, similar to what we had done 2 or 3 weeks previously.

Beautiful first morning to awake to at Slapton.

Possibly one of the worst "canal" pub signs ever - do the "artists" never study their subject? (Real narrow-boats never have organ pipes out of their roof)

Busy time at Three Locks - Chalice enters bottom lock.

In fact we got a bit further this time, and didn't turn until above Cosgrove lock.

The weather wasn't great, and trying to find pubs that would feed 3 fairly fussy vegetarians, and let us bring a dog in proved tricky. However if the pub has it's own dedicated mooring, the dog can be left settled on board, and easily checked from time to time, then it's problem solved!

My pelvis remained tired and painful, (well, let's be honest, my entire leg did), but by now I was even walking ahead with "Charlie" lock-wheeling, whilst Cath could steer on some stretches.

Cosgrove and return
(4 boating days)
Total Miles: 52.1 , Total Locks: 32