Friday, 4 June 2010

Widewater (near Harefield) to Apsley

(Posted by Alan)

This part of a return trip from London always means a steady stream of locks, seldom that far apart, but never that many miles covered in any day. We were in no great rush to leave our pleasant mooring at Widewater, but knew there would be a steady effort required if we were to stay reasonably on target for the journey home.

We soon became aware that we were following a boat fairly closely, but it was a few locks before we caught them sufficiently that they held back and waited for us. This proved to be an excellent arrangement. Normally Cath and I are perfectly happy to do lots of locks alone, but with my recovering pelvis I was only doing a relatively small number, putting much of the hard work on Cath, who is herself very over-tired.

The couple we caught up proved to be a very efficient crew, with a superb R. W. Davies boat, (not a "Northwich Trader", as it predated all of those). They do a big trip out each summer, but because they are based on the Lee and Stort, they always have to do the push up the Grand Union. They were a very efficient crew, and I was able to shadow their boat and come in simultaneously with it at virtually every lock, which massively speeds progress.

Passing very efficiently up through Cassiobury Park

It was as well that they worked so well, as most locks were not in our favour, and many top gates had to be closed before they could be made ready for us. However we knew that by King's Langley they intended to stop, whereas we needed to carry on for quite a bit further, to give a good chance of being back "home" in good time. I commented to Cath that we needed to continue to take things slowly as we worked alone, as we were now tired. At the very next lock, we pulled close to the side below it, but as she stepped perfectly sedately from the boat into the recently mown grass, her foot went down one of the many dodgy holes that exist, and she fell to the ground with a cracking noise. "Did it hurt, badly?" - "Yes", but she could still wiggle the foot in all directions, and eventually managed to stand.

It's at times like this we are glad we both feel equally confident "at the tiller" or "on the windlass", and we changed over, and I then hobbled around, to tackle the next few locks, whilst Cath steered sitting on the side of the rear hatch. Actually, to be fair, son David who tends not to get too involved in operations, did turn out and help considerably - just as well, as we eventually caught another boat who were painfully slow.

We had intended to push forward to the supermarket at the middle Apsley lock, as supplies were low for an evening meal, but then I remembered that the new development on the old John Dickinson's site at Apsley has some canalside restaurants and bars. That was just what we needed in our current state of tiredness and self-destruction, so we moored below the Apsley locks, and went and enjoyed a meal cooked for us.

Cath and I used to work at the John Dickinson's site, when it was a sprawling mass of generally unattractive industry and warehouses, and back then I doubt we could ever have imagined it as a thriving residential area with marina, bars, restaurants, shops and even a new pub. It is, apart from the locks, the original bridges, and a small retained part of the mill buildings, absolutely unrecognisable from it's persona of 30 years ago.

Chalice moored at Apsley, with Marina and Restaurants behind

Middle lock, small part of original mill, and new Paper Mill Pub

We did wonder if it was unwise to moor near a pub that was doing a roaring trade on a balmy Friday evening, but either the customers were quite well behaved, or we were too tired to notice!

Widewater Lock (near South Harefield) to Apsley
Miles: 12.8 , Locks: 19

Total Miles: 105.2 , Total Locks: 102

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