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Friday, May 30, 2008

Brentford to Dapdune Wharf, Guildford.

Thursday 29th May.

Brentford to the Pelican Pub on the River Wey. 18.3 miles………. 9 locks
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When you know you are going to do the Thames, what do you pray for at night?
Sunshine and calm conditions, and that is exactly what we woke up to at 6am, we could not believe our luck, after the past few days of wind and rain.
So it was with a spring in our step that we made our way through the Brentford Gauging Lock which is electric and down to Thames Lock which we were booked into lock out at 8am. Now for me this is a major first in my life, cruising down the Thames, so when I say I was awe struck I really mean it. Keith however was much more laid back about it all as he and his family have cruised the Thames for many years. To use the Thames locks you must tie up in the lock and turn your engine off, so I was on the bow and Keith stayed on the stern. We locked out at 8am and turned to go up the Thames, with NB Sorted and NB Halcyondays behind us locking out at 8.15am. I was totally amazed out the sheer scale of the Thames. Yes I have seen it in photos and on TV, but I have never cruised on it. I was taken aback by the scale of the river and some of the boats. I stayed on the bow with my life jacket on, just in case we should need to put the anchor out. I got to see first hand some beautiful scenery and waterfowl. Everywhere we looked there were Herons, Great Crested Grebe, Egyptian and Canada Geese.We went through Teddington Lock and moored up with NB Sorted and NB Halcyondays to go and pay for our licence, not only did we have to pay for a 15 day licence, we also had to pay for the coal we were carrying which was another £50 on top (Ouch). Still it would all be worth it. I did sell two bags of coal, so that made up for the toll on cargo he he. We said goodbye to our fellow boaters and had not gone more than half a mile, when we were flagged down by another boater on a large boat, which looked like it was in need of some TLC, the gentlemen on board asked if we could give them a tow as they had run aground. So it was Hadar to the rescue dah dah dah LOL. Keith secured their stern rope to our stern and put Hadar into reverse whilst they did the same with their boat, and hey presto it pulled their boat off of the mud. With a cheery thank you from them, we said fair well and set off once more. Being it is half-term this week there were a lot of kids out in boats with local boat clubs, learning how to sail. Catch them young that’s what I say. There were also a lot of pleasure boaters out in their gin palaces and on trip boats.But it all added to the enjoyment. It was really lovely not having to do the locks, a kind lock keeper did all the work, although it is hardly work, they just press a few buttons. One lock keeper we almost put to sleep with the thump, thump of Hadar’s engine. He reckoned he could nod off to her engine quite easily.We ate lunch on the move and enjoyed watching the gongoozlers taking photos of Hadar. It was almost as if they had never seen a working boat before. We had thought about stopping at Hampton Court Palace, but as it was still early in the afternoon, we thought we would carry on to the River Wey. Not only that with it being half-term the place would be very busy. So we will do it another time. The weather had now decided to turn from a glorious day into one where rain began to fall, at first it was light but it soon turned heavy, so no photos at this point. We arrived at the fork, River Wey to the left and Shepperton lock straight on, so we turned onto the River Wey to be met with a very angry weir coming from the Thames. Keith’s words were “This should be fun” and it was. Keith revered Hadar’s engine into life and she ploughed through the turbulent water, sliding as she went but making it seem pretty easy. Oh deep joy at having a powerful engine. We arrived at the first lock on the River Wey and met the lock keeper Dave, Keith did the necessary paperwork and we were on our way. The River Wey and Godalming Navigation was built in 1653, it was built 100 years before Canal Age. It runs for 15 1/2 miles from the Thames at Weybridge. The Godalming Navigation, opened in 1764 and runs a further 4 miles to Godalming. We only did one further lock before mooring up outside The Pelican Pub, where we had a nice evening meal, before settling in for the night. It had been a long day but a very enjoyable one.

Friday 30th May.

Pelican Pub to Dapdune Wharf, Guilford. 13 miles….. 8 locks.

8.50am we set off from the pub on a dull but dry morning. It looked like we would be in for a nice day weather wise. So we would be doing the River Wey Navigation to Guilford and it was certainly beautiful. At the first lock we were greeted by a fantastic mill, which is now apartments in a beautiful position. The only drawback is the sewage treatment yard next door.The lock gates are easy enough; it is just the winding of the paddles which is hard work. When we signed Hadar in with the National Trust who owns the navigation, they gave us a long handled windlass to operate the paddles. The problem I have is I only have short arms and you have to operate some of the locks leaning over the canal, so it can be a little precarious. Another thing you are told by the lock keeper when you set out, is you do not need to shut the gates. You are supposed to tie up in the locks and turn your engine off. When opening the paddles you have to do it really slowly because the force of the water is incredible.
We pasted the Basingstoke Canal junction as we carried on with our journey; there were a few other boats on the move in the opposite direction. But sadly there was only one lock in our favour through the day.
We noticed that the banks are full of bamboo, what they are missing are the panda’s LOL. There is also a lot of rhododendron, which are now out in bloom. A bit of colour in a lot of green.The Wey is beautiful and gives some stunning views along the way, it also gives you some very tight turns as well, one of which has an under current making it very difficult to enter the lock. Keith did struggle with that, but managed to manoeuvre Hadar into the lock chamber.
We finally moored up at the Dapdune Wharf at 3.50pm and were immediately into conversations with visitors to the Wharf, one family coming from Hamburg. Keith checked in with the Wharf Warden to make sure it was ok to stay, which it was and we sorted ourselves out with dinner. I spent the evening cleaning the boats brass and now I am sitting here typing this before bedtime.

Wildlife we saw today.
Herons.
Buzzards.
Mink.
Roe Deer.
Swans and young.
Mallards and young.
Damsel flies.
Dragonflies

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Brentford.

Wednesday 28th May.

Last night we had very heavy rain plus rumbles of thunder, and the morning did not look too bright when we opened up the back cabin doors. Through out the morning we had drizzle. I used the sanitary stations washing machine to do another wash at £4.30 for a wash I thought it was worth doing it, because washing towels in our compact machine takes ages. I did not however use the driers, because they cost £4.30 for half an hour of drying, which I felt was extortionate. Washing done and lunch out of the way, Keith and I thought we would take a walk and see what Brentford had to offer. There are several good shops, including Somerfields for provisions. We then took a walk along the Thames Path. Which was an adventure in itself.It was really beautiful, the tide was rushing out to sea and we had views of the Thames bottom. What amazed me was the size of some of the live aboard boats and the different sorts. We walked down to Kew Bridge near Kew Gardens and stood at the centre of the bridge watching the wildlife. We saw The Egyptian Goose with young, the usual heron and Canada Geese; we also got to see the London Parakeets which seem to live on one of the islands. Needing a drink we found a street café and enjoyed a coffee whilst chatting to the owner, she was really interested in the fact that we travel around and live on our boat all the time.
We walked along Brentford Road and saw The Kew Bridge Steam Museum Tower and decided to go and have a look around. It cost £5 for adults and £4 for others, which was pretty good value for money. It was actually very interesting finding out how water was supplied to the capital by steam engines, and what happens to all our waste.
One of the photographs was really worrying. It showed what lurks in the sewers and clogs it up.
Do you know what clogs up our sewers more than anything else?????Cooking fat is the worst offender, and this pile was several feet thick ewwwwwwwww.
Some of the steam engines were really beautiful and still work to this day.Kew Bridge Steam Museum is well worth a visit, even for a woman he he he. I found it very interesting. Keith enjoyed playing with some of the exhibits.These photos are not brilliant as I took them on my mobile. With this exhibit Keith had to try and make steam to raise the water level and save a duckling. At weekends and Bank Holidays they have the 160 year old Grand Junction 90 inch engine working; this engine stands three stories high.
We arrived back at the boat and took on water, ready for tomorrows locking out onto the Thames.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Northolt to Brentford

Monday 26th May.

Northolt to Clitheroe’s Lock Brentford. 9.1 miles…….. 9 locks.

Yesterday with the weather being so foul we did not bother moving, we did however watch many who were moving in the heavy rain and strong winds. Thinking thank goodness we are in the dry and warm. Ha ha if only we could say the same about today.
We awoke to rain and windy conditions, but the weather forecasters did say it would brighten up, so we decided we would make a move and head to Bulls Bridge for some food shopping at the 24 hour Tesco.
Unfortunately due to the weather conditions I was unable to take any photographs. We set off at 9.20am, in drizzle and breezy conditions hoping for the best. It was not long before the drizzle turned to heavy rain and strong gusts of wind, but we had made the decision to go and go we would. We arrived at Bulls Bridge and left the Grand Union Paddington Arm at 10.20am and found a place to moor alongside Tesco, where we went and did a food shop. By the time we got back to the boat, the weather had not improved any, infact it had got worse, so leaving the mooring to head for Brentford was something of a task, but Keith pointed Hadar in the right direction, whilst I put the shopping away.
The time was getting on and lunch was called for so we stopped above the first of the locks, where there is a sanitary station (Norwood Top Lock) to empty the toilet and get rid of rubbish. I took advantage of a few minutes to make us something to eat and a coffee. We met another boater and his wife taking on water, it was nice to know we were not the only mad people out in such dreadful weather ha ha ha.
Having taken on sustenance, I had 10 locks to operate. First one being Norwood Top lock, which I needed to use the BW key on to undo the padlocks. Despite the heavy rain the locks were actually not too bad to do, and because they were close together I walked between them. There is a rare intersection of canal, road and railways at the top of the Hanwell Locks 91 to 97 which are a flight of locks. During the Hanwell Flight we rescued a baby moorhen chick stuck in the lock, sadly we could not see its parents, but left it in the hedge where it could get dry. I hope the parents find it. The Hanwell locks run a long side what used to be a mental asylum. At the bottom of the flight the River Brent joins the canal and wow it flowing fast due to the amount of rain we have had over the past two days, Keith swung Hadar into the flow and she just took off down the canal enjoying the chance to fly LOL. Under the M4 where you we also saw a cast iron bridge dating back to 1820, it really is pretty. The weather was absolutely dreadful, I only wish I had the photographs to prove it, but it did not dampen our spirits. I was still enjoying the lock work, but was well aware of the hazards of the high water and strength of the wind, it made for an exciting time. We arrived at the 10th and last lock of the day Clitheroe’s Lock and found out that we would be going no further today as it was in flood. No amount of trying allowed us to get the gates open, due to the force of the water. So we moored up and will wait to see what the morning brings. Both Keith and I had wet bits, but on the whole our wet weather clothing stood up well. I did however have very wet feet, so my steel toe capped shoes are leaking grrrrrrr. The one thing about cruising in such awful weather, there are very few people moving. We battened down the hatches for the night and rode out the bad weather.

Tuesday 27th May.

What a contrast to yesterday. It is dry to start with, and the sun is trying hard to poke through the overcast skies. It is also very mild, more noticeable was the fact that the water level had dropped and the roar of the water over the weir had died down to a moan. We needed to take on Pet food for Mog and Dog, so Keith took the trolley and I had the rucksack as we set off down the towpath to Pets at Home, near the Gauging Locks at Brentford. We like to keep a good supply of pet food onboard, so that if we are ever stuck anywhere, we have no worries about running out. Whilst walking that way we wanted to see if we could moor up above the gauging locks ready for Thursday’s trip down onto the Thames, but because it is a 14 day mooring, people are just sitting there and not moving. It does kind of make me wonder why they have not made some of the moorings only for boats going down, like at Limehouse Basin. So we did our shopping and went back to the boat. An hour or so later a boat came up through the locks and we grabbed the opportunity to head down now that we could get through and see if we could moor up, which we could so we are now moored near the gauging locks.
It is really quite pretty here, there are a lot of brand new apartments and non residential moorings, keith said "None of them were there when he last came through here". We are moored at the top end of the moorings, near the old sheds.
Having moored up and chatted to the lady on the boat in front, Keith noticed a couple of BW guys and police down near the gauging locks, but did not take much notice of it at the time. It was not until I walked down to the sanitary station to use the washing machine, that I found out that the whole area was taped off and was told we a body had been discovered in the water. So no one was going anywhere either by boat or foot. I finally got to wash our saloon rug and was leaving the station when I got chatting to a gentleman on a boat near the station, he told me that he had walked that way three times during the morning and not seen anything. We were then there to witness the body of a man being pulled out of the water by the police. It was a little un-nerving to say the least. My first thought was OMG, some family is missing a son, father, brother etc, they either never came home last night, or they will not be home for their tea this evening. It actually made me feel really sad.
Having pulled the body out of the water they then set up this white and yellow tent over the body. It is now just gone 4pm and they are still there, so it has been almost 5 hours since the body was discovered. My thoughts go out to the family who have lost a loved one.
We are staying here until Thursday morning when we have to be down at Thames Lock for 8am.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Roydon to Northolt.

Thursday 22nd May.

Roydon to Ponders Lock (South Island Marina) 10.9 miles…. 11 locks.

We woke up to a brightest morning, and I woke up with a sore throat arghhhhh, that is one thing I hate. But the show must go on, so after walking Paddy and having breakfast we headed off at 8.25am with the hope that the day would be kind to us.Having enjoyed the River Stort Navigation, we turned back onto the River Lee Navigation and down through Feilde’s Weir Lock. Some of the locks had been with us; we were joined at one of the locks by a small boat, which was going down to Broxbourne for lunch. We would leave the locks first and he would follow.We left him at Broxbourne at the Lee Valley Hire Boats.We passed by the climbing wall at the Herts Young Mariners Base again, and this time they had some young people climbing in the sunshine.It really made me want to get my climbing gear out and go and join them.
We passed all the Nature Reserves, stopping below Waltham Town Lock to take on water and get rid of rubbish. The is actually some really good moorings there, which can be used to go and see Waltham Abbey and Museum, there is also a very good little café next to the BW Sanitary Station, £3.99 for a full English breakfast.
After that we were in the valley of the pylons or so it seemed. They were everywhere; this was the run down to Ponders Lock. One thing we saw which we had never seen before and that was a tree swarming with gnats. There were thousands of them. This photo does not show them very well, but it was the best I could do.Yayyyy the last lock of the day was Ponders Lock, and look what Keith took a photo of.Yes it is a crayfish. He certainly had sharp eyes to see it.
Our mooring was at the South Island Marina, we were invited to stay the night by Michael Pinnock Jnr, as we asked him to make us a proper back cabin chimney and we were there to collect it. The one we have is a Midland Chandlers chimney, which is absolutely no good whatsoever. Charlie off of Elder kindly helped us moor alongside him. He made us feel very welcome as we enjoyed a good old natter with him. We will head off again in the morning.
We have seen no end of wonderful wildlife today. All the waterfowl we saw had youngsters; the waterways have become a crèche for the next generation. Noticeably we saw a lot of Housemartins picking off the flies, whilst skimming the water. We enjoyed chatting to people passing by or taking photos of Hadar. Some wanted to ask about her and how old she was. We were even asked if we would sell her. I told the gentleman “Not in a million years, or for any amount of money”. It was a fantastic days cruising.

Friday 23rd May.

Ponders End to Victoria Park. 9.2 miles……..6 locks

We spent a peaceful night at South Island Marina, so many thanks to Michael Pinnock and to Charlie. We set off at 8.40am having said our goodbye’s and Keith dropped Paddy and I on the towpath, so we could walk to 2 miles to the first lock and set it ready for when Keith arrived, as it turned out when we got there some BW guys turned up to let some water down through the pound as it was 6 inches down, so they did all the lock work for me. Now that was a result and I was not about to refuse the help. So Paddy and I climb back on the boat and off we went.
Now whilst we have been out we have seen some interesting boats of all shapes and sizes.
This one caught my eye on the way up and again on the way back down.Two narrowboats, but they have been welded together like a catamaran; they look just like battle ships, with their battleship grey livery and portholes.
Another boat we liked the look of was this tug. Clearly and old boat, but kept in very good condition.There were three electrically operated locks on today’s cruise, one of them being the broken Stonebridge Lock, but as we were to find out, none of them were working. BW in there wisdom had shut the electric ones off, due to people getting stuck in them, so we had to use windless power instead. Oh my god were they hard work. I spoke to one of the BW guys and he told me the reason for shutting them off. I told him it would have been useful if you had put signs on the locks saying they are out of order. He agreed that would have been a good idea. Thankfully I am pretty fit, so I just about coped with operating the manual locks, but goodness knows what would of happened if I had been a good few years older, there is no way I could of worked them on my own. Keith did help with the winding gear on a couple of them as it was taking me ages to wind the paddles. On the last of the electrical locks, which we had to work manually, it took 20 minutes for the double lock to empty, because one of the paddles was not working.
Instead of continuing down to Limehouse Basin, we turned right onto the Hertford Union Canal, were taking a short cut LOL.This canal borders Victoria Park, which is very pretty. At the first lock we were mesmerised by a painting on the wall.Somebody has clearly got talent. Now many of you know I am not one for graffiti, it is a blot on the landscape I feel, but this is real urban art. It must have taken the person who did it many hours. It was certainly more appealing to the eye than a blank wall.Having exited the lock, we got hailed down for a bag of coal, which was a bit of a surprise, because I sold my last bag of coal at the beginning of April ha ha. Still every little bit helps.
So after the last lock of the day and we found a mooring by Victoria Park at 1.20pm, Keith sat on the top of the boat whilst I made lunch. We had only been here 10 minutes or so and there were police on foot and in cars in and out of the park. One approached us and asked if we had seen two youths on a motor cycle. Keith had seen them riding it through the park. It turned out they had stolen the motor cycle and the police were in hot pursuit. Keith was able to give the policeman a brief description of the youths, who had ditched the bike and were now legging it down the towpath, so the policeman took up the pursuit on foot whilst colleagues of his were in looking for them in their car. A police van had recovered the bike not far from us. A shot while later one of the policeman came back to tell they had caught one of the youths and the other was somewhere in the park. It would have been like looking for a needle in a haystack. We will wait to see if they need a statement from Keith.
Later on into the afternoon, another boater was chatting to Keith about Hadar’s engine, and his greyhound took and interest in Marmite, so much so she jumped onto our boat and tried to grab Marmite, who was on her harness and sat in the door way of the back cabin. I immediately tried to fend the dog off, but she made another grab for Marmite so I pushed the dog and she fell into the canal, which had not been my intention, I wanted her to get back onto the towpath. Her owner did nothing to grab his dog off of our boat or control her, I being a caring dog owner pulled his greyhound out of the water and gave her back to him, whilst he stood and looked on. I then made sure that Marmite was ok; she had jumped down into the cabin and was sat on the mat. Thankfully she was none the worse for wear. But I was not happy at all with this man and his dog, I don’t blame the dog, she was doing what came naturally to her, I blame the owner. The dogs owner did thank me for getting his dog out of the water and he put her on his boat, but he did not apologise for the upset his dog had caused Marmite. I do wish dog owners would control their pets better.
We are spending a quiet night inside. Marmite seems ok.

Saturday 24th May.

Victoria Park to Black Horse, Northolt. 15.5 miles……8 locks.

We were greeted with a lovely sunny morning. Both Keith and I slept like logs; it was really peaceful by Victoria Park. We had thought it may have been noisy with the weekend’s festival going on, but their music finished early and all was quiet. As we were both awake early we got up and Paddy got an early morning run in the park, with all the other dogs out and about. 8.10 am and we were off to Paddington Basin. I know the heading says Black Horse, Northolt, you will see why later.We soon found ourselves at the junction of the Regents Canal and the Hertford Union (Ducketts Cut), Keith turned Hadar right onto the Regents Canal and we said goodbye to the Hertford Union for this year. Awaiting me was the first of 8 locks for the day, and no sign of anyone to share the locks and the work with. But for what ever reason it seemed to have been an easier day, the locks did not seem half as hard as they had done when we came down.
Along the Regents Canal you see a few Gasometers, some of them date back to Victoria times and are quite ornate in their decoration.We could tell it was a weekend and a bank holiday one at that, as there were boats coming from all directions, we even saw Fulbourne another working boat. But still no other boat to share the locks with.
Islington Tunnel and Keith got me to take the tiller. I got my first experience of steering Hadar through with him on hand in case I should totally screw it up LOL.I did have one wobbly bit at the beginning, but corrected myself without hitting the sides. Keith reckoned I did really well, so yayyyyyy to me for that one. I look forward to doing another now. I am lucky with Keith; he has a lot of patience and is a good teacher.
Through out our cruising we see some lovely places, and even some of the new apartments have a style of there own, but these places we saw were very odd, they looked like something from out of space.I would imagine they were built sometime ago, and who ever designed them had a sense of humour.
The breeze was really picking up and the cloud cover was getting heavier.
We had to pull in just before London Zoo, as we had some rubbish around the prop, but having cleared that we past London Zoo and Snowdon Aviary, which was extremely busy and look they have a new exhibit.No your eyes do not deceive you; they are people ha ha ha. Ok only joking, you can walk through the aviary. But it just tickled me that they were the ones behind the wire and we were on the outside.
Onward we travelled past blow up bridge and through the two small tunnels, until we reached Little Venice once more and back onto the Grand Union Canal, now this is where decisions were changed, Sorry Lady Banana. We had planned on stopping at Little Venice overnight, but because it was only 11.30am and Sunday’s weather forecast was so awful, Keith suggested we carry on. So Lady Banana I am sorry we will not get to meet up this time, but we will be back.As you have already seen from other postings, we see some interesting art sometimes and this piece of art has been done by a local artist using canal rubbish.They depict canal things, such as swans, dragonflies, Narrowboat etc and look fabulous.
We then past over the North Circular using the aqueduct, nothing new on that road, the traffic was queuing and it is the weekend.So our day ended when we reached the Black Horse pub near Northolt and found ourselves a mooring. By this time there was a gusty wind and it looks like the weather is on the change as the weather forecasters promised. We shall see what happens with the weather and decide in the morning if we are going to more or not.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bishop's Stortford to Roydon.

Monday 19th May.

Firstly it was only a matter of time before either Mog or Dog fell in, and yep it happened on yesterday evening.
Marmite is now officially a boat cat.She was on her harness and lead, playing on the bank so we left her to get on with it whilst we got on with boat jobs. I saw her walk through the engine room and out the other doors, the next thing I heard was plop and lots of scrambling on the side of the boat. Paddy immediately ran to the engine room doors and looked out. I followed suit to find Marmite trying to climb the hull of Hadar (That was never going to work). I grab her by her harness and pulled her into the engine room and out the other side, dripping water everywhere ha ha ha. I should not have laughed, but she did look very funny.This is her shaking a back leg to try and get the water off LOL. Having dried her off with a towel, she spent the rest of the evening washing herself and sleeping. I dare say it will not be the last time she falls in. I thank the lord though that she had her harness on. Poor Mog she did look a sight.
Ok so it’s Monday again, blimey where has this month gone?
We went into Harlow on the bus. From our mooring we were close to a bus stop and caught the 510 to Harlow bus station, which cost us £10 on an explorer ticket, which is 20p cheaper than a normal one for returns for two people. Not only that the explorer ticket allows you to take up to four people on the £10 ticket, anywhere in the area so is good value for money.
We arrived at the bus station, which was like a concrete jungle and very 1970’s, as was the first part of the town. It was actually quite depressing and even the people walking around in the town looked depressed. We both found it very disappointing and like with so many towns and cities, you see the same old shops in everyone you visit. We did enjoy a coffee in a café that would have looked the part in Eastenders. Lunch was eaten in a Chinese Buffet, the food was absolutely amazing, definitely the best on so far. They had over thirty dishes just on the lunch menu for £6.90 each all you can eat. We are getting a taste for Chinese food LOL.
Neither of us expects that we will bus it into Harlow again as it was just not very inspiring. I would say it most definitely needs revamping and in a hurry.

Tuesday 20th May.

The sun was out, but it was most definitely not very summery. When the sun shone it was warmish, but brrrr when the sun went in. I walked to a local shop to get a few provisions. Dawns Groceries and Garden Centre, is a good little store and has pretty much everything you could need for a top up shop. It does not take cards though, so you do need either cash or your cheque book, which I found out as I finished packing my rucksack. The gentleman at the till was very nice though and trusting, he said “Take your groceries back to your boat and come back and pay me by cheque, you look trustworthy to me”. I of course said I would be back in 10 minutes. Isn’t it nice to think there are some trusting people still left in this world? Once I got back to the shop we had quite a conversation about the river and what needs to be done to incorporate it more into the town.
Neither Keith nor I planned on doing much for the rest of the day. Come 8pm and our friend Christina and Ian arrive from Ipswich, which is a good hours journey. Firstly we gave them a guided tour of Hadar, and explained how everything worked. I think Christina was over whelmed, with the whole boat thing. It was wonderful though that they had come and seen the boat Keith had talked about for so many years. Christina said “She never really thought Keith would fulfil his dream, but was so pleased he had”. Having done the tour and the talk, we then made our way to the Tanners Arms, for a well deserved drink and an evening of chatter. It is amazing how time flies when you’re having fun with friends. Before we realised it, it was 11pm and time for them to drive back to Ipswich. Whilst chatting in the car park, we saw a fox out on the hunt, he was not bothered by the fact that we were there. We enjoyed a wonderful evening with Christina and Ian, and if they are reading this.
Thank you so much for taking the trouble to come out and see us and the boat. We hope we can do it all over again sometime.

Wednesday 21st May.

Bishop’s Stortford to Roydon. 11.3 miles…… 13 locks.

The sun was shining and we were off on our way at 8.30am, destination Roydon.The BW guys were out cutting back the vegetation; they have their work cut out as it is now quite over grown along the towpaths. We have noticed that on our trip up and now back along the River Stort Navigation the Hawthorn is full of bloom. There are absolutely masses of it growing along the banks of the Navigation.This bush was heavily laden down with blossom. When the breeze gets up it is just like it is snowing, with the blossom lying on the water. Also in flower is the yellow Iris (Yellow Flag).Can you spot the duck in this photograph?I spotted her by accident; she was nesting high up in this rotting tree trunk, if she had not moved her head I would never have seen her in time to take this photo. I pity the poor ducklings when they hatch out; they will be sky diving down to the water.
In a previous posting I told you about sculptures out of stone and wood along the towpath. We found out that they were part of the 2007 Sculpture Trail.This one was done by Nicola Burwell in Concrete.
Amongst the plant life out in bloom at the moment along the Navigation, is the Common Comfrey. Everywhere we look we see it.
We enjoyed a good days cruising, seeing other boats moving in both directions, which made a change as we have been seeing so few boats on the move. We arrived at Roydon at 2.55pm and moored up near Roydon Mill. Opposite us is a swan nesting and her partner was very interested in Marmite sitting at the Galley window. Luckily I had the Perspex in otherwise I reckon the cob would have had a real go at her. She just enjoyed playing pokey paw with him ha ha.We will spend a quiet evening at Roydon, and move off tomorrow.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Friday 16th May.

The day started as it had ended raining. So Paddy was quick at doing what he had to do, before he made an about turn for the boat. It started out really miserable, but by 10.30am the rain disappeared and left an overcast sky. We put on our coats though and went for a walk in the park, where they have a Fun Fair set up for over the weekend. That got us to thinking that the place we had moored may not be as quiet as it was last night. Still we carried on walking and wanted to have a walk onto the Castle mound, but it was locked to the public, which is a bit of a shame so with that we went back into the town for a walk around in the dry. Bishop’s Stortford is quite a surprise, I was expecting a quiet market town with shops around the edge of a market square, and it is not like that at all. It is actually a sprawling town, with the old mixed with the new. The new being Jackson’s Square, which has high street stores undercover. We were walking a long the high street, when I saw a face I knew from the TV and papers. He was one half of the designers of Princess Diana’s wedding dress. David Emanuel walked past Keith and I, whilst he was chatting to a companion. Amazing who you see whilst walking in a small town. Although there are a few high class clothes shops in Bishop’s Stortford. As with walking around any town we got thirsty, so had a nice coffee and toasted tea cake in an old style street café Lancasters, before heading back to the boat, where we made the decision to move Hadar back down the canal ½ a mile, to a quieter mooring. Where we were moored had apartments on the opposite site to the towpath, and building of new apartments going on.

It also means it is easier for our friends to come and see us, as there is The Tanners Arms where they can park their car, and we can all enjoy a drink whilst we catch up on all the news since we left Felixstowe. As we rounded the bend to the new mooring sight, we saw the BW guys we had been seeing for the past few days, and Keith asked if it was ok to moor the boat where were wanted to go. We were told that it was no problem and it would infact be quieter. So maybe the 14 day mooring gets a little rowdy at weekends. I had been a little worried after I saw three pairs of Police Community Officers patrolling past our boat yesterday. Having cut back some of the vegetation, so we could see the edge of the bank, we moored up with our very own concrete steps, ideal for paddy to get on and off the boat. So this is the mooring for the weekend, we have the road one side and Tanners Wharf the other, which is like all other places being built in Bishop’s Stortford Luxury apartments.

Saturday 17th May.

As we opened the doors to the morning, the sun was trying it’s best to poke through a very overcast sky, so it did not bode well for the days weather. Paddy did however get a dry walk, we spent the day doing very little as the weather was not the best, infact it was so chilly and damp we lit the fire. Due to a poor TV signal our DVD collection came in very handy for the evening.

Sunday 18th May.

The sun is out and it is a beautiful morning. We plan on having Sunday Lunch out at The Tanner Arms, and probably watching a good old Sunday movie like El Cid or The Alamo, that we will decide later. Have a good Sunday see you next week.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Roydon to Bishop's Stortford.

Wednesday 14th May.

Roydon to Sawbridgeworth. 7.1 miles…. 9 locks.

Before I begin today’s journal of our cruise, I wanted to share this photograph with you of Marmite. It shows just how hard her life is at the end of a days cruising.The most she did was lie on the back counter after we had stopped. Now that is the life I reckon don’t you?
So today we planned to get from Roydon to Sawbridgeworth, not far but still locks to be done and tight bends to be got around with our 70ft boat.We left Roydon Mill behind and headed off into the countryside, with the first lock (Roydon Lock) coming up straight away. As had been the case with yesterday, the top gates were left open, so they had to be shut before I could open the paddles to let the water out. Thankfully the lock itself was easy to work. After the lock you cruise past Hunsdon Mead nature Reserve, which looked a picture as the meadow was covered in Buttercups. It is extremely beautiful countryside, with stunning views.No photograph will ever really do it justice. The swallows, house martins and swifts were gliding over the water catching flies for their breakfast, and in the distance we head our second cuckoo in the past couple of days.We arrived at Little Parndon Mill, which has a dove cote on the back; the rear of the building is not as splendid as the front. Anyway whilst doing Parndon Lock, we got chatting to a couple of the owners of boats who have their boats moored at the mill, it is a beautiful place for a mooring. The gentleman owns NB Saltheart and works for BW, so was very obliging in helping to close the lock gate after we left. The lady owns NB Orion. The front of the building is beautiful and well looked after.Just after Parndon Mill Lock, we had Burnt Mill Lock, perhaps the name explains why there is no mill there today, but it also struck me funny, because the Essex Fire brigade were also above the lock, practicing what looked like a river rescue.
But everything stopped whilst we negotiated the lock and them.For whatever reason, there seems to be very few boaters on the River Lee or Stort Navigations and yet they are both so well worth doing. On saying that though we did meet 3 boats coming back from Bishops Stortford, two were hire boats from the Lee Valley Hire Company and one was a private boat. But it is still really quiet, not at all what we are used to having spent 3 years on the Trent and Mersey.
Something else we have noticed this past couple of days is the carvings along the way.
They are either in stone or timber.This one say’s “Man may come and go but the River goes on forever” awww that is sweet. They are beautiful and I will take more pics of them on the way back.
We found ourselves skirting past Harlow, which cannot be seen from the river, but it has some 18th-C houses in the old town, but over the years that has been swallowed up by the new town, which was first started in 1947 and has become an area for the London over spill.
We wound north eastwards up the valley, where we reached Harlow Mill, which is a large pub with a huge garden, but cannot be seen to well from the river. We headed under the A11 and the noise of the traffic and found our way into Sawbridgeworth. There is a visitor mooring site, but it was totally unsuitable for our boat. There was a willow hanging over the mooring and the wall was too high for us to get Paddy off of the boat, so we continued up through Sawbridgeworth Lock and found a shady mooring just after exiting the lock, this will be our mooring over night. It was 12.50pm and time for a spot of lunch. After that we took a walk into Sawbridgeworth, to see what it had to offer in the way of shops. There is a Budgens for provisions, a couple of charity shops, a number of pubs, post office, bookies, pharmacy, dentist, vets and other odds and sods, so not bad if you were in desperate need. Yes we did go into the charity shops, but they had nothing we needed today.Back at the boat it was time to allow Mog and Dog out of the saloon and onto the back counter. Mog duly allowed me to put her harness on, this time without moaning. It was then a race to see who would jump on to the back counter first. You may have guessed that Marmite won. Paddy settled himself down in the sun, whilst Marmite decided inside was perhaps better, somewhere in the shade.It’s just as well the stove is not lit at the moment huh. Still it makes her happy and she has found a cool spot for the afternoon. A pleasant day spent cruising through some lovely countryside. I will say though that the BW man was right when he said that there were not enough visitor moorings, there are not. If they want more visitors to use this part of the navigation they need to sort that out.

Thursday 15th May.

Sawbridgeworth to Bishops’s Stortford. 4.2 miles….. 4 locks.

Overnight we had not gotten the rain that the weather forecaster predicted, so we woke up to a dry morning, but the temperature had dropped and it was overcast. The shorts went back into the cupboard and the trousers came back out, as did the coats as it looked very likely that we would get rain. We enjoyed a very peaceful night on the mooring, so we both got a good night sleep, that was until around 5am, when Marmite decided she was awake, so she wanted everyone else to be as well. She pounced on Keith and I and began her Meowing to get our attention. Neither of us what that amused and sent her off with a flea in her ear.
It was as we headed off at 8.45am that the drizzle began to fall, so no photographs today. I will take them on the way back weather permitting. The drizzle was not that bad and at times we only had six drops of rain. Over the past few days we have gotten used to seeing aeroplanes flying over head as they go into Stanstead Airport. Usually it would be either Ryan Air or Easy Jet, people jetting off on their holidays probably.
We over took the BW guys on their work boat again, that’s the third day in a row we have seen them.
Even though the weather was not what we had become accustomed to, it did not spoil the scenery at all. The second lock (Spellbrook Lock) lies near Walbury Camp, said to date back to the Iron Age, it cannot really been seen from the river, as the endless trees shield it. At the third lock (Twyford Lock) of the day, a gentleman came out of his house, just to listen to the engine. He came and joined us at the lock asking about Hadar’s history. It is so nice when people are genuinely interested, it seems he used to own the butty Meteor sometime ago and has a love for the working boats.
On the Stort Navigation there are a number of Nature Reserves and today we passed by Rushy Mead Nature Reserve.
As you come into Bishop’s Stortford you are met with some industrial buildings and a lot of new building work going on, most of which appears to be apartments. These have replaced the old timber yards and maltings.
We took on water and emptied the toilet and then found a mooring on the 14 day stay. We are the only boat here, so plenty of room.
So this will be home for the next few days, as we have friends coming to visit us.