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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Winkwell to Hunton Bridge.

Thursday 2nd April.

Winkwell to Hunton Bridge, 5.7 miles, 12 locks and 1 swing bridge

Our mooring began early again. The Canada Geese were honking loudly, which started a flurry of birdsong and then Marmite decided that it was about time we woke up.
At 9.10am we left the Winkwell overnight mooring. I walked up to the Three Horseshoes Inn swing bridge to open it. To operate ithe bridge you need a British Waterways Key, you then press a couple of buttons and the work is done for you. Being around the time of the rush hour though, when the barriers came down it was not long before there were queues of traffic both sides of the bridge. But I had the key and the power over the gas guzzlers, and they could go no where until Hadar had gone through and I had shut the swing bridge and allowed the barriers to rise up. We cleared Winkwell and Boxmoor Locks and were operating Fishery’s Lock, when a lad on a bike joined us. He was on lock wheeling duty for NB Marshalls, which was just entering Boxmoor Lock above us. So we said we would wait for them at Frogmore End Lock.
What followed made our days cruising extremely pleasurable. It was all down to the company that joined us. NB Marshalls had a crew of five onboard, they were John and his four grandsons, who were hoping to make Limehouse Basin for Saturday, because they had a party to go to. It was going to be the 30th Birthday of John’s business and a party was organised for him, his family and the staff. So John and his grandson’s had been doing long days, in order to make it on time taking the scenic route.At times I felt like I was abandoning my job doing the locks, but John’s grandson’s had everything under control and kept telling me to get on the boat as they were ok doing the locks. I did from time to time, manage to shut gates or open paddles, when they were not looking LOL. I am not one to argue with strapping lads, who are able and willing to work hard. As we left each lock, one of them would jump on the bike and cycle to the next lock to get it ready for us both to enter. It worked like clockwork and good progress was being made. At Apsley Locks, we had to empty the toilet cassette and John left the boys to move the boat whilst he went to the supermarket to get eggs and bacon for their breakfast, he would catch up with us at Nash Mills Locks. The cruise past Hemel Hempstead is really not to bad, as it is not really that built up. On the approach to Nash Mills Locks, we could see a boat getting ready to move off, so we let the gentleman know we were travelling with another boat down as far as Hunton Bridge, he nodded his acknowledgement, so we thought he would wait for NB Marshalls to pass him, as they were right behind us, but oh no he just pulled out right in front of them, meaning they had to go into reverse to avoid hitting him. As we got to the lock, I stepped off the boat to open the gates and this man thought it was his opportunity to sneak his boat in ahead of NB Marshalls, but Keith saw what was coming, so he sat in the lock entrance, thus holding him back. John arrived back from his shopping trip and I explained to him what had happened. John asked the man what he was doing and told him that we were travelling together, and that you do not just pull straight out in front of another boat. It was at this point the man seemed to behave like he was either not listening or did not understand the error of his ways; he said he was trying to reverse his boat, which was absolute rubbish. It was a little tense for a few moments, but having waited for this man to move his boat we then preceded down the pair of locks and left him behind. The canal follows the railway almost continually, and there are some very pleasant stretches in between the locks. At Home Park Lock there is a lake which hugs the side of the canal. It has its very own Nessie.The peace of the canal was then broken by the roar of the M25 overhead.
Our last lock of the day was North Grove Lock, which was where we said cheerio to John and his crew. We really enjoyed our time with them and so thanked them for all their help, chatter and laughter. It was a pleasure to share the cruise with such good company and the weather was kind to us. After a chilly dull start to the day, the sun was now shining as we pulled into Hunton Bridge. The only drawback is the mooring is a little shallow, so we are not moored close to the bank. Paddy will have to make a leap of faith when it comes time for him to go for his evening walk. As the afternoon wore on, I went stick collecting for the back stove in the copse by the boat. There was plenty of dry wood available to be broken up and I managed to fill two carrier bags. As the afternoon has worn on, it has become chilly so we have now closed the boat up for the day.

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