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Boat Blog: Wonderful Weekend (1)

Posted by indigodream on 16 December, 2009

Saturday 12th December

Perivale to Brentford

Fine morring at Perivale - zoon in to see how the pins fared....

Fine mooring at Perivale - zoom in to see how the pins fared....

The forecast was set fair so we set off to the boat – the rain’s finally let up and the Thames is slowly becoming navigable again so we headed west.

I dropped Richard and the dogs off at the boat – predictably enough she’d been fine at the mooring though interestingly, the single pins that I’d used had been dragged through the soft towpath and were barely clinging on; the ‘interlaced’ pins had stayed put, so maybe it does make a difference. I’m surprised that the pins had dragged – the water on the Grand Union was crystal clear – an indication that there hasn’t been much traffic to stir up the mud.

I headed off to Teddington (or rather, Ham, which is just across the river from Teddington proper) to drop the car off within easy reach of the lock moorings. This is where we’d be finishing our cruise tomorrow. Public transport from Teddington back towards Bulls Bridge (our rendezvous) is a bit hopeless so I caught a cab instead – a reasonable £20 and perfectly timed to allow me to stock up in Tesco’s Bulls Bridge before Richard picked me up on the boat.

How perfect is that sky - what a wonderful day for messing about on the water....

How perfect is that sky - what a wonderful day for messing about on the water....

While I was doing the car shuffle, Richard set off down the canal, going past the worryingly full moorings at Black Horse, giving Engineers Wharf a wave, stopping in Willowtree Marina for fuel (our split calculation was 70/30 this time) and a very well done pump-out. We like Willowtree and saw a fine looking Marmaduke there – they must have shifted a bit to come across from Stourport as it does not feel that long since we read the sad/happy news that she had been sold/bought.

With boat provisioned we headed South for the Hanwell flight and our meeting with Simon of nb Tortoise. He’d generously offered to cycle to the top of the flight and lockwheel down with us – foregoing a day’s pottering on his own boat. He said he’d really enjoy a day’s boating – someone needs to have a quiet word with him to explain that ‘boating’ generally means getting on a boat! He and Richard worked really hard – cycling between locks with great efficiency while I stood on the back deck wiggling the tiller! Of course, I won’t be explaining the meaning of boating to Simon – having a crew of two doing my bidding was far too nice 🙂

Heading away from town - bye bye Wembley...

Heading out of town - bye bye Wembley...

Simon was delightful company and we had one of those wonderful days just ‘messing around’ on the water. Having an extra crew member was a good start, but the flight itself was as sociable as ever – no other boaters on the move, but there were a few walkers. Blue and Lou had a wonderful time – Blue explored the length of the flight; Lou ran a bit then rested a bit – very sensible as her arthritic knee has been troubling her recently. She was very well-behaved with other dogs today and managed to have a friendly rummage with a little staffie with NO barking or chasing – result!

I’m always excited when the canal water clears – I always imagine that I’m going to see all sorts of wonders under the surface. Golden Wonder maybe – what you mainly see on the Hanwell flight is submerged crisp packets! It is good to be able to see what’s in the water – I was able to avoid picking up some of the larger bags in the prop, though I came a cropper with a length of clear plastic which was invisible. Simon did a sterling job of picking rubbish out of the locks – the coal sack that he originally plucked from the water was soon filled. There’s more trash in the water above Clitheroe’s lock – bits of tree as well as footballs for some reason, probably carried there by the River Brent (as Simon later explained).

Engineer's Wharf looking very tidy indeed...

Engineer's Wharf looking very tidy indeed...

But it’s not all trash – the flight’s very attractive, a surprisingly green corridor nicely disguising the canalside prison! Two or three locks from the bottom of the flight there’s an attractive lock cottage with a fine end-of-garden mooring. The narrowboat moored there had got into the spirit of the season with a giant inflatable snowman waving from the boat’s roof – brilliant! You can see it from quite a distance and it seemed very welcoming, though I don’t know if you’d be scared witless came across it’s ghostly whiteness at dusk when you’re not expecting it. 🙂

There were many positive aspects to having Simon’s company, not least his suggestion insistence and demand that we stop being teetotal and stop in The Fox for a quick half pint on our way down the flight. (Note from Sue: I had diet coke!). The Fox has been highly recommended to us by a few boaters but we’re so used to being on the move that it’s never really occurred to us to stop. But with Simon’s local knowledge we found a good spot to moor and found the pub, which is slightly off the canal just below Lock 97. The pub is very cosy and dog-friendly – we didn’t eat here but we’ve heard that the food is very good. We got settled in and it’s so companionable that I could well have sat there for the rest of the afternoon and evening. But we were booked to go onto the Thames at 10.15 the following morning and we’re not that reliable before 11am so we thought we’d better press on to Brentford.

nb Marmaduke at Willowtree - the last time we saw her she was moored at Stourport on Severn....

There’s a longer gap between the last two locks down to Brentford so Simon finally got to come on board!

Despite my ground crew’s herculean efforts, it was still pitch black by the time we arrived at Brentford. The water was dark but the buildings around us were brightly lit; the moorings were illuminated by some bright blue Christmas lights strung along the roof of one of the residential boats. In the half-light, the sounds were strangely amplified – the rush of the planes taking off from Heathrow, the nearby trainline and the roar of the football crowd from Brentford’s football ground to the East, echoing off the buildings to the West.

We were alarmed to find that there’s now only one visitor mooring here (occupied) – the rest have been given over to winter moorings. This left us with an ethical dilemma, made harder by darkness, fatigue and cold. We needed to moor in Brentford to catch the tide in the morning. The moorings below the gauging lock are too high for offloading the dogs; there was one empty spot not taken up by a winter moorer (we knew there was a vacant space there from our own investigations into winter moorings) or we could take the water point or moor underneath the overhanging ‘warehouse’ (which we weren’t sure is allowed). In the end we guiltily took the winter mooring at the end of the line, hoping that no-one else came down the flight behind us in the dark.

Leaky gates are a feature of the Hanwell flight - some of the locks were slow to empty. I hope they're on BW's wish-list for maintenance....

Having recommended the Fox earlier, Simon’s local knowledge came in useful yet again as he directed us to the best pubs in Brentford. We spent the early evening in the Crown and Magpie (across the canal on the High Street). It’s a small cosy pub with a wide-range of ales and ciders on tap, including strawberry and cherry beers (the latter looking deceptively innocent, being the same colour as Ribena!). We’d left the dogs on board, but we found out later that this pub is dog friendly – it’s certainly people-friendly – there’s a good atmosphere, beer and food – the Thai menu was very simple but subtly flavoursome – delicious.

We said goodbye to Simon around 8pm, he was going out to Central London for more socialising, but he left us with firm instructions to visit O’Brien’s on our way back to the boat. I’m afraid that we wimped out, though we’ve made a note of it for the future. In all fairness, if we’d been by ourselves we might never have gone into such local pubs as the Crown and Magpie (or O’Brien’s for that matter) so we have to thank Simon both for his company and for the local insight – now we understand why the visitor moorings in Brentford are so popular 🙂

We wandered back to the boat well-satisfied and full of goodwill towards Brentford, although it doesn’t always make its charms obvious to the casual visitor! The dogs gave us an ecstatic but brief greeting – they were exhausted after a busy day on the canal. We were too, and by 10pm we were all tucked up in our respective beds.

Photoblog:

More of the Grand Union's vivid murals; the one of the dog chasing the swan is NOT modelled on Blue and Lou, honest.....

Sculpture - this one's built by humans but moorhens can also weave rubbish into fantastic 'installations'

The story behind the sculpture....

Property restoration at Bulls Bridge - is that an old BW building?

There's a gorilla on that washing line - always something new to seen on the Grand Union!

What a luxury - moving into a lock prepared by Simon while Richard closes the gates at the last...

nb St Florian and the snowman....

One of the nicest spots on the flight, and so close to the prison! Blue and Lou are well-wrapped against the cold - it was a lovely day but seriously brass monkeys!

The Crown and Magpie - the half-timbered building looks so out of place in the plain high street, apparently the building's not as old as it looks - well worth a visit....

Brentford by night - it looks as if London's burning in the background but it's just the sodium glow....

2 Responses to “Boat Blog: Wonderful Weekend (1)”

  1. Neil said

    When we were at Brentford recently the lady in the BW office was quite happy for us to use the unoccupied winter mooring slot on a short term basis, so no need to feel guilty. Simon helped us down Hanwell too – what a good soul he is.

  2. indigodream said

    Hi Neil, thanks for the reassurance; I think Richard would rather I kept fretting though – that vague feeling of guilt drove me out of bed early the following day – not many things will part me from my duvet on a cold mornng!

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