Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Archive for October 19th, 2009

The Odyssey 2009: Day 58

Posted by indigodream on 19 October, 2009

Saturday 10th October

Pitstone Wharf to Bourne End

The view from our overnight mooring - beautifully ploughed hills...

The view from our overnight mooring - beautifully ploughed hills...

For some reason I didn’t take any notes today – maybe because we’ve been too busy locking! Mind you, we’ve passed through another of my favourite flights today – Marsworth.

I had a good deed to do before we left the moorings though. We had a relaxed start to the day and I took the dogs for their morning walk. I walked back with them towards Seabrook lock, in time to catch up with the crew of a day boat that had just left the based at Pitstone Wharf. They seemed a little uncertain on how to operate the lock so I talked them through it while the dogs had an extended rummage. I’m glad I did – questions along the lines of “and should we close the paddles afterwards?” made me speculate on how long the water would stay in the pounds! I’m sure they were fine but I am a little dismayed by apparently how little instruction hirers are given.

With dogs well walked and in good spirits, we set off from our scenic mooring spot. It was chilly at first, but the sun soon came out and it was a perfect day for messing around on the water, as we and a horde of towpath walkers agreed on.

Rummaging at Marsworth

Rummaging at Marsworth

The dogs had yet another big rummage up the Marsworth flight – we kept them on board for the first lock as there’s a road nearby, but thereafter it’s safe. They had a great time though we almost left Lou behind – she just wanted to loaf around in the lush grass, toasting her belly in the sun – she had to sprint up the towpath to catch up at the next lock. It was a magnificent sight – she’s still pretty speedy, even at 7 years old with a gammy knee.

We enjoyed the flight as well – there were lots of walkers and fishermen around (mainly fishing in the nearby reservoirs, so no conflict between canal users today). It’s a very sociable place to cruise. When we first came here three years ago I was much bothered by the gongoozlers, but I’m an old hand now. If you’ve done Camden Locks then you’ll never complain about too large an audience again! But the audience in Marsworth very ill-informed – they seemed to think that Richard deserved all the praise for his muscle-building work at the lock gates and failed to notice my immaculate 1-gate lock entries 🙂

That's enough of that - tired dogs coming on board for a rest

That's enough of that - tired dogs coming on board for a rest

I had a quick look down the entrances of the Aylesbury and Wendover Arms, recalling their loveliness from our 2008 odyssey and turning away a little regretfully. We did achieve something we’ve been intending to do for the last three years – stop at the blacksmith’s studio at Bulbourne Wharf when it’s actually open and find out how much their barbecue stands cost. The blacksmith, Paul Elliott, calls himself an ‘artist blacksmith’ and there are certainly some beautiful items here. Richard took a fancy to a magnificent bell on a wall mounting – unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, it wasn’t for sale (long story) – Mr Elliott thought we wouldn’t get much change from a £1000 – apparently bell metal is rare and precious stuff and yes when we looked on the web that is about the price. We were after something a little more modest – a stand for the half-barrel that we use as a barbecue – we’ve spotted them in the yard before but we’ve never passed during opening hours. The artist himself was like every artist we’ve ever met, with only one foot in the mundane world; we almost got a price and almost got a build time and we definitely got the email/website address (www.blacksmithonline.co.uk) – apparently if we order via his secretary then she sorts everything out and makes sure he does the job! That’s another task for the winter – something tells me we won’t be having many more barbecues this year, well, not unless we fire up the wood burning stoves as well!

The Marsworth flight is very beautiful

The Marsworth flight is very beautiful

The trees that we passed yesterday were as flamboyant as dancers in their multi-coloured leaves, and as keen to shed their summer clothing as a kissogram with three stag nights to cover. The trees in the darkly wooded Tring cutting are much more matronly – still clothed in sombre green and not willing to shed a single garment until all the boaters have turned their backs. It’s very beautiful here but a little too chilly in the shade to tempt us to stop awhile.

There’s a station at Tring and we briefly considered going back for the car as we cruised along the long summit; but it was too nice a day for the car shuffle. Better to stay on board and enjoy the water – these fine days are such a gift at this time of year.

It’s worth keeping a lookout at the entrance to Cowroast Marina (a little way above the lock). A narrowboat came whizzing out of the entrance in front of us – they had a lookout but she wasn’t looking our way! Once she did see us, she didn’t let the helm know! No drama – we passed them on the wrong side – they had no hope of getting to the correct side of the canal in any useful timescale…..

Tring cutting  - cool and dark under the still leafy trees

Tring cutting - cool and dark under the still leafy trees

Of course, at Cowroast we started the long drop down to the sea, well, the Thames, to be precise, though we plan to give the tideway a miss and take a trip along the Paddington branch/Regent’s canal instead.

As we got towards Berkhamstead, Richard had to deploy his BW key as many of the locks have anti-vandal devices. I was surprised, as I’ve always thought of Berkhamstead as a real boater’s town with an excellent canalscape, good facilities and secure moorings. Note that Lock 53 is locked from 9pm to 8am. The towpath was busy, as were the canalside pub gardens so we had another sociable trip through here, though the dogs were more confined at the town locks. They didn’t mind, after all the activity at Marsworth they were already quite tired!

We couldn’t recall what the canal’s like through Hemel Hempstead and it was a little too far for us to get to an overnight mooring at the excellent Apsley Wharf. So, we decided on a relatively early stop at Bourne End. There were moorings below lock 60 but we decided to hang back and moor just above the lock opposite some residential moorings and a little further away from the main road that we could hear in the distance. It was a good spot – Richard polished a bit more of the boat and got chatting to the lady boater moored opposite who’d been admiring his finish. See, 50-year old’s can still attract the ladies – they just need to use different tools 🙂

Part of the waterfront approaching Berkhampstead - there are good visitor moorings here

Part of the waterfront approaching Berkhampstead - there are good visitor moorings here

We headed off to the pub with some trepidation – locals had told us that the Three Horseshoes pub, across the swingbridge (the map in Nicholson’s is wrong) does good food but that the landlord was a bit dour. However it is dog friendly so off we went, with our two dogs and their two sheepskins. There was a bit of a commotion by Winkwell swingbridge – there was an ambulance parked nearby and the rumour on the wind was that an unfortunate boater nearby had died. The ambulance was joined by two others later on so we can only hope that the boater/s were still clinging to life and capable of being saved.

There was nothing we could do to help and there are some events that don’t need gongoozlers, so we headed for the pub. We found a table with plenty of floor space around it, settled the dogs down and spent most of the evening chatting to two guys who’d noticed Richard polishing the boat earlier – they proceeded to compliment Indigo Dream extravagantly. They then went on to admire the dogs and lavish Lou with fuss – what magnificent people! One even rang home for his wife to bring his daughter down to meet the dogs (she loves dogs). The little girl turned up and took a fancy to Blue, who endured her constant fussing for the next hour or so – he was very good considering that he’s a

The Three Horseshoes by night - attractive outside and inside; the food's good too.....

The Three Horseshoes by night - attractive outside and inside; the food's good too.....

shy boy. Lou would have loved a fuss but the little girl was scared because Lou kept waving her paw around in the air in the hope of attracting some attention. Once the little girl had left, some other punters took over on the fuss and admiration front so the dogs had a good evening.

The whole night was enhanced by a magnificent meal – the first decent pub meal that we’ve had in a while – highly recommended. The sausages that we ordered for Blue and Lou were superior – they almost didn’t make it as far as the dogs but I was stuffed – as well as being delicious, the food came in large portions. I have to admit that the landlord was very dour indeed but his staff were efficient and friendly. It amused me that people kept asking whether the pub had provided the dog sheepskins – it seemed an unlikely question – we’re grateful when pubs just allow the dogs some floor space!

Photoblog:

How does your garden grow? Could leylandii become a nuisance on boats as well :-)

How does your garden grow? Could leylandii become a nuisance on boats as well 🙂

Marsworth Junction - looking towards the Aylesbury Arm

Marsworth Junction - looking towards the Aylesbury Arm

One of the softly scenic Marsworth locks

One of the softly scenic Marsworth locks

Fine views emerge as you climb the Marsworth flight - it's quite magical here

Fine views emerge as you climb the Marsworth flight - it's quite magical here

A horse in the pub car park - very traditional, when you think about it :-)

A horse in the pub car park - very traditional, when you think about it 🙂

After all that activity at Marsworth, being locked inside through the town locks wasn't such a burden....

After all that activity at Marsworth, being locked inside through the town locks wasn't such a burden....

More rummaging on the Marsworth - Blue and Lou had a busy day...

More rummaging on the Marsworth - Blue and Lou had a busy day...

What a day! The view down from Top Side lock

What a day! The view down from Top Side lock

Bottom Side lock - that rail needs a bit of maintenance....

Bottom Side lock - that rail needs a bit of maintenance....

Sofa Wars 1: Blue hasn't left poor Lou enough room to lie down....

Sofa Wars 1: Blue hasn't left poor Lou enough room to lie down....

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