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The Odyssey – Summer 2008 Day 4

Posted by indigodream on 9 June, 2008

Kings Langley to Berkhamsted (below Lock 52)

The moorings at Kings Langley started worryingly with some of the local youth generally horsing around on the towpath. I know we shouldn’t tar all youths with the same brush (after all, one saved Blue’s life on the road!) but it always sets the alarm bells ringing. We needn’t have worried – the mums in King’s Langley obviously have very efficient curfews and by 10.30pm the moorings were deserted, peaceful and quiet. The temperature dropped overnight and though we were snug under our duvet both dogs got a bit chilly. Richard got up early and wrapped them in blankets – by the time I got up they were toastie dogs!

Lou lounging by a lock!The dogs were very tired today and didn’t show anywhere near as much interest in their surroundings as in previous days. They live in the moment so they’d splurged all their energy on the first few days and haven’t paced themselves for the whole holiday. They’ve spent most of the day asleep on the sofa – Blue has been using Lou as a cushion – this is unusual – Lou normally sends him packing. It just shows how exhausted they were. Blue has managed to get back into my good graces by being cute and thin – his ribs are sticking out and I’m worried that he’s not eating enough. But his enthusiastic scoffing of the best part of a tub of fried rice from the local Chinese takeaway soon put an end to that idea!

Richard is not quite as thin as Blue yet but he has lost weight – I’m very impressed by his exercise regime as he’s done a lot of locks today, has cycled between most of them as can frequently be seen doing press-ups etc on the locksides!

Anyway, on to what’s caught our eye today. The first bit of note was Apsley Basin – about an hour’s cruise from Kings Langley and utterly civilised – lovely moorings, good looking housing developments, very hospitable looking pubs – the works! We will aim to moor there another time though we know that we couldn’t have managed another hour last night. This civilisation lasted into Hemel Hempstead which was as typical an English town as you could imagine – with people practising at the cricket nets and a cricket match going on at the local ground. I was highly amused by the cricket – I’ve never sent the fun in it, but when I saw one of the fielders leaning on a tree and lighting a cigarette I realised that cricketers agree with me! Maybe that’s why the national game lacks that certain something……

I want to make note of a pub for the future – The Fishery – by lock 63. It was crowded with eaters and the smell as we went past was mouthwatering! We decided not to stop but it’s on our ‘must visit’ list!

Comfrey!On the wildlife front, today I successfully identified a plant! Typically, though, it’s another poisonous one – Comfrey! It grows in abundance along the canals and has a beautiful purple flower. I know about Comfrey because I had to write a report on it when I worked for the RPSGB many years ago – a council member had a bee in her bonnet about banning it for internal use. Apparently, it’s good for wounds and bruises etc when used externally but causes liver failure if taken internally! Not much on the bird front apart from three orphaned moorhen chicks by our mooring – we’ve been feeding them off the boat but they’re being intimidated by male ducks – it’s a jungle out there! We also have 6 tiny ducklings at the moorings – the canal is fraught with danger for these as we actually saw a tiny duckling being dragged under by a pike last year.

There was abundant human wildlife along the towpath today – it’s easy to lose track of the days on the water and we’d completely forgotten that it was Saturday! It was great to see the towpaths being used – it’s another way of keeping the waterways alive. I wasn’t so enamoured of the two young couples who draped themselves over a lock gate and generally made a nuisance of themselves – Richard handled them with great patience! We had the usual question of “can we have a lift” but “sorry we can’t because our insurance doesn’t cover it” seemed to work well.

Sign at Sewer LockThere were very high water levels coming up to Berkhamsted with water cascading over the lock gates. At the aptly named sewer lock this was due to an outfall of very foamy water. In other places we’re not sure whether this was because of the recent rain or because someone’s not using the locks properly. I guess we’ll find out when we eventually reach a dry pound (the stretch of canal between locks)!

Our target for the day was Berkhamsted – it’s another very civilised town which has made good use of its waterside with a number of very attractive pubs, parklands and, this time, a waterside Waitrose! It also has a great water point (a canalside tap where boaters can take on water) next to a garage so we could pop in for milk and other provisions. I was so disappointed though when the Costa Coffee sign on the garage proved only to be a self-serve coffee machine – I’d set my taste buds up for a caramel latte to while away the 40 minutes or so that it takes to fill our water tank! The water point signage is in Esso’s standard style so Richard wondered if this was a clever company wondering what will happen when red diesel goes to some funny self declaring tax land.

Berkhamsted\'s totem poleBerkhamsted’s got a lot of history but unfortunately we didn’t stop to read the abundant information boards along the canal today – maybe we’ll saunter into town tomorrow to get more info. However we did see the large carved totem pole – the genuine article imported from Canada many years ago by the owner of a local timber yard (the yard is now housing but the totem pole’s been left as a great feature).

Several boats passed us while we were filling up with water – we didn’t think that any of them were going particularly fast but a boat moored opposite still got dragged off its mooring. Luckily the wind pushed it back to the bank so Richard could secure its mooring ropes (there was no-one at home!).

We’re now comfortably moored in Berkhamsted in almost the exact spot that we occupied two years ago. It is peaceful, adjacent to a park for the dogs and next to a fast running but shallow stream, which was previously used to grow watercress (now good for doggie sploshing!). Most importantly though, the mooring is near to an excellent Chinese takeaway. We’d kept the menu so very efficiently rang in our order, collected it and had a fine dinner and a chilled bottle of wine up on deck wine chatting to random passers-by – magic!

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