Tuesday, 27 July 2010

And from the Lee on to the River Stort

(Posted by Cath)

Waltham Abbey to Sawbridgeworth

It's been a very warm and humid day, relieved by occasional (mostly light), and very welcome showers.

Alan took Charlie for a walk before I'd even woken up. We were a bit late getting started, and I walked up through the next few locks with Charlie. I was very surprised by the size of the blackberries growing - although Jessica had told us that they were very good along the Lee and Stort.

We were working up with two other boats, a narrow boat and a 30 foot GRP boat.

The three boats at Aqueduct Lock.

We carried on to the Stort, with the GRP boat following. The locks are narrower on the Stort - 13 ft 3 inches, too narrow to get two boats side by side. However, as our boat is 50 foot, and the locks are about 85 foot long we thought we could fit the GRP boat in behind us. We could, but the locks fill so violently that we were being thrown all over the place and we were worried about causing damage to the fibre glass boat. As they could travel a lot faster than us, and we knew they only had a few locks to go we suggested that they went ahead of us, and we carried on alone.

The Stort was opened for traffic in 1769, allowing access for the farmers and markets of Essex to the River Lea and from there London, and the rest of the world.
An attractive cottage, at Brick Lock.

At Roydon we went under the low rail bridge. We took the chimney off - just in case - Alan, who was steering, had to duck.

The banks of the rivers are covered with Himalayan Balsam, an invasive non-native plant which was introduced in the 19th C and quickly spread along waterways. It's considered a pest, but the flowers are bright and attractive.

The River Stort becomes narrower and very meandering, particularly after Harlow, requiring considerable concentration to make sure that you don't meet with another boat coming the other way. In fact, we only came across one day-boat out of Broxbourne. Given that the country is in recession and more people are supposed to be holidaying at home we don't understand why there is so little traffic on the river.

We rounded one corner to be faced with a river full of children in canoes, and nobody seemed to have noticed that we were bearing down on them. We reversed, and the instructor herded them off to one side, although one girl clearly hadn't grasped the difference between 'forward' and 'backward'. The centre also had kids jumping into the river as part of the many activities that were going on - the children all looked like they were enjoying themselves.

We kept on until Sawbridgeworth, where Alan and I took Charlie into the town while we shopped. We ate here two years ago, but were sad to see that the excellent pub appeared to have changed hands, and is now a very different type of establishment. So we ate curry on the boat - followed by blackberry and apple crumble, made with very local, and very fresh blackberries.

Waltham Abbey to Sawbridgeworth
Miles: 14.6, Locks: 15

Total Miles: 83, Total Locks: 87

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