Indigo Dreaming

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Archive for June 6th, 2008

The Odyssey – Summer 2008 Day 3

Posted by indigodream on 6 June, 2008

Batchworth to Kings Langley (Lock 69A)

Another lazy day’s cruising – well, it was for me! This section has quite a few locks so Richard has actually had a very vigorous day especially when ‘lock wheeling’ (the boater’s term for cycling back and forth between locks). We did a lot better today as we started before midday (well, 11.40am) – the boater that’s moored in front of us this evening made the totally bonkers suggestion that you could get up at 4am now with the light and have a magical sunrise cruise – I don’t think so!!!!!!!

As always, we have a few things to report. We passed through Rickmansworth today – that will be familiar to devotees of “The Hitch-hikers guide to the galaxy’ as the place where Fenny had her revalation about the meaning of life a split second before the first earth was demolished. If you haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about then read the books – you don’t know what you’re missing!

The next bit of interest was Croxley Green – we had another one of those strange ‘displacements’ here as the canal is really very rural but above us was a high bridge carrying the tube – Croxley Green is at the end of the Metropolitan Line!

We also met several ‘floating classrooms’ today – one boat actually looked as if there was serious learning going on with a group of kids at the front of the boat with the teacher pointing things out along the waterside. The other three boats just looked like a jolly with kids (9 or 10 years old) draped on the boat roofs, dangling feet and hands into the water and generally being a health and safety nightmare! They did look like they were having fun though! Richard reckoned that he would have loved that when he was a kid; however I wondered how the teachers had got such poor karma as to end up supervising 30 kids on the boats!

You’ll be glad to know that the dog’s wounds are looking better though I’m still a bit concerned about Blue so he is still wearing his fetching blue bandage. They’ve had another energetic day as the canal has been amazingly rural and we passed through a stunning bit of landscape called Cassiobury Park (photo above). I don’t know the history of the park but it is basically a large stretch of old woodland with the canal at the bottom of a steep embankment. It’s like being in some celtic fairyland (or Tolkien’s Lothlorien!) – you can barely see the sky for the trees and the dappled sunshine gives a surreal air to the place. The trees are widely spaced and the dogs had a wonderfully unrestricted rummage round the woods. We stopped for lunch here – it was just too lovely a spot to rush past.

On a more mundane note, our search for doggie boots was in vain – none of the local vets had any so Blue will have to stick with the bandage! Blue is currently so far in my bad books it’s hard to see what he can do to redeem himself! In a 7 mile stretch of canal the found the only gap in the hedge which would take him onto the busy A41. One minute he was by the boat (we were waiting for the lock) and the next minute he’d vanished. Luckily some young fishermen had seen where he’d gone and one of them immediately ran after him and got him back – but not until Blue had reached the road and managed to cross over. Blue thoroughly enjoyed his adventure but I was beside myself – I’ll have nightmares forever. Richard, being a typical bloke, is siding with Blue – no harm was done so what great fun that was. For that they’ve both had all off-lead privileges revoked until I’ve got rid of my stress with a glass of wine!!

Earl of Essex\'s grand canal bridge!After the ‘wilderness’ of Cassiobury Park we then passed through a stretch of canal that looks like a country estate – manicured fields, restored mill houses, grand bridges and seriously nice houses, oh, and a golf course. The canal is very winding here (ok, I’ll admit I did miss one turn and had to reverse back to get the right line). Apparently the reason for this landscape is that it was once all owned by the Earl of Essex (around the time that the canal was built). Winding routes are often a feature of canals built through private land as (in the old days!) aristocrats were notoriously difficult about what got built through their estates.

We finally passed under the M25 today (photo below) so it felt as if we were out of London at last – ironically since we passed that point it’s become more urban!

Under the M25 (Junct 20-ish)

We saw some familiar faces today on nb Spirit, who we met last year on the Kennet and Avon canal at Bradford-on-Avon. Spirit is owned by a couple of guys who sold up their house, bought a second-hand narrowboat and are living on the water for a year. They’re really nice people but the main thing that bought Spirit to our attention is that it is a lovely sky blue boat with the most immaculate paintwork ever – even after almost a year’s cruising.

Two interesting bits of wildlife today were a pair of terns fishing in the canal – if you haven’t seen one before, they look like small white seagulls but they have forked tails like a swallow and are immensely graceful in the air. My ‘bird’ book says they’re common in inland waterways but I’m still blown away when I see them. The other bird hardly counts as wildlife because it was, in fact, a trained falcon sitting on the wrist of a fisherman on the towpath. Although we didn’t stop to chat, I’ve never seen a falcon up close before and it was utterly beautiful.

Oh, while I remember, the lakes that we mentioned on day 1 in the lower Colne Valley are a by-product of the old brick industry when clay was extracted to make bricks.

On a practical point – the canal books say that Kings Langley has an award winning Italian restaurant – unfortunately it’s now been converted into an award winning Indian restaurant (Richard doesn’t do Indian food – long story, you don’t want to know, really!). We ate at the definitely non-award winning Oscar’s pizzeria instead – was very disappointing.

My last tale of the day is that Indigo Dream was serenely moored up when a boat passed really near to our bow (giving us a good rocking in the process) – either deliberately or by coincidence, the passing boat’s name was ‘Close Shave’!

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The Odyssey – Summer 2008 Day 2

Posted by indigodream on 6 June, 2008

Stocker\'s LockCowley Peachey – Batchworth

We’ve had another leisurely cruise today – we have NEVER cruised without a schedule before and it’s rather nice!

We started our after lunch (unheard of for us) – the morning was occupied by Richard’s search for a puncture-proof bike tyre and for free parking in Uxbridge – this didn’t materialise! In the meantime Blue and Lou made the best of our dog-perfect moorings and had several energetic rummages in the woods interspersed with cooling dips in the shallow River Colne and long snoozes to recover and dream about whatever it is they were chasing in the bushes. This was a great mooring.

Being the first night of the cruise I didn’t sleep so well – there’s something about the noises outside being different to those at home. Every time I wake up yet again at the sound of crunching footsteps on the towpath I remind myself of Caliban’s words in Shakepeare’s ‘Tempest’ – “The isle is full of noises, sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not” – I always find this reassuring! However, this waking up at odd noises doesn’t last past the first night as the fresh air seems to be the best sedative -it’s only 8pm now and I could just nod off writing this!

It’s been the most glorious day – brilliant sunshine, hot but moderated by the cooling breeze on the water.

There were a few things that caught my eye today – at our moorings I spotted peacock and Red Admiral butterflies – made it really feel like summer! There was a profusion of birds – the usual ducks and swans but also jays, great crested grebes and the high pitched squawk of wild parakeets. Nothing rare but good to see the wildlife thriving anyway. I was captivated by the colours on a male mallard – they get so close to the boat – they’re so vibrant. Where we moored there is a pair of swans with 11 fluffy cygnets – I’d be amazed if they all survive but there is a marina opposite and narrowboaters are complete suckers when it come to feeding the birds.

A few days ago I ‘what’s in a name’ – we were particularly taken by a small cruise today called “may contain nuts”!

If I ever offer you a green salad made from plants that I’ve picked from nature then REFUSE! I’ve been trying to identify the unbelliferates which grow in profusion along the waterway. So far for the one plant I’ve guessed at Cowbane, Hemlock Water Dropwort, Angelica and Chrevil. The problem is that while Angelica and Chervil are edible, the other two are deadly poisonous! I think I’ll keep buying my salads in bags in Tesco! One plant you can’t mistake though is the wild dogs roses flowing like pink waterfalls from the hedgerows. The trees have stopped flowering now (I can tell because my hayfever’s better!) and have given way to the summer blossom.

We passed the infamous ‘Stink Hole’ today – a mooring basin which is entirely surrounded by a large sewage works. When we went past it soundly deserved its name though Richard said it wasn’t so bad when he cycled back to the car. Last year we met a couple who moored their (in nb Clumber) – they say it’s amazing what you’ll put up with when a mooring’s that cheap!

We moored up about a mile north of Batchworth Lock – by the Ebury Way – a long and useful footpath which took us back to Batchworth for the car. There are good facilities in Batchworth but for supper we went (by road!) to a fine canalside pub called the Coy Carp – really good food – we’ll call there again! No worries about towpath noises in this mooring – it is silent apart from the birds. Their chorus, together with the loud banging of ducks pecking weed off the hull woke me up at 6am! Only long enough for me to look out the window, observe what a beautiful morning it was, say ‘b****r off’ to the ducks, cover Lou with a blanket (she was a bit chilly) – I soon went back to bed and slept through ’til 9am. Richard cycled back to get the car last night so he heard nothing at 6am

Out mission today is to find a vet which sells protective boots for dogs’ paws. Both Blue and Lou managed to acquire cuts on their pads yesterday. They’re not too serious though Blue’s cut is quite deep and Lou’s is right at the base of the nail. This means they’ll take ages to heal and I’ll worry about infection hence the protective boots. Typically we have several pairs of these boots at home but I didn’t think to bring them – I don’t know why – minor wounds are a regular feature with these dogs! Other than that they’re having a great time rummaging around the footpaths – Blue now has a dressing on his side (to cover the staples) and a blue bandage on his foot – this means that he’s getting a lot of sympathy and kisses from ladies on the towpath!

Meanwhile Richard has stuck his head into the engine compartment. Our central heating uses a Webasto (supplied by BK Marine, fitted by the excellent Neil Coventry – based in Cheshire 07960 454492) but with loads of extra filters. We got an airlock after Richard changed a filter and the self bleed was not working. Fortunately Neil had fitted a little pump on the last filter so we could do a manual bleed. Thanks Neil.

Our previous share boat (Dragonfly http://www.boatshare.co.uk/dragonfly/index.htm) used to use grease in the stern gland by the kilogramme. The annual greasing of the Vetus used less than 10g of grease! We got our grease from Kings Lock Boatyard in Middlewich 01606 833633 (not a lot of money plus £1 for postage and packing and really useful advice), when they first said 25g tube Richard wondered how many we should buy – we were told one tube will last years and that seems to be spot on.

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