Sunday 7th February
I know, I know, you’re crying out for more Greygal but we just don’t have enough greyhounds on board to keep her interested…..
Plenty of room to turn!
We’ve had the most indolent weekend – after saying a reluctant goodbye to Greygal we went back to the boat to watch some truly woeful 6-nations rugby before going back to the pub for supper! The narcotic combination of fresh air and beer (or fresh air and sausages in the case of the dogs) worked its magic and we were all in our respective beds by 10pm.
We can thoroughly recommend these moorings – close to the pub, sociable during the day and very quiet by night (apart from the odd Heathrow plane roaring overhead). We slept so well – Indigo Dream’s bed is extremely comfortable and is arguably the boat’s best feature!
The temperature plunged overnight – what a shame – it was so mild yesterday with a bit of evening sun to brighten an already cheerful day.
Blue supervising the turn from lock 95 - very important job....
Most unusually for us, we were up early and underway by 9.30am. Now, the big question – can you wind a 60′ narrowboat below lock 95 using the junction with the River Brent? Richard chatted to a local walker who told him that the chimney sweep who moors two locks up regularly turns his boat there. Apparently the entrance is silted up but it should be ok to wind provided we stuck the bow into the river rather than the stern. It all worked well, Richard reversed the boat off the moorings and turned neatly without getting grounded.
I was onshore with Blue, having made a resolution to read some of the signboards along the way – I was too busy chatting yesterday to notice anything! There’s lots of information along the towpath – well worth a read if you’re the ground crew. I didn’t get much reading time – Richard soon handed over the helm – he can lockwheel quickly on his bike while I tend to bobble along on foot, daydreaming and looking at patterns in the clouds and whatnot….
We set off up the Hanwell, falling back into our old rhythm – this is the first time in ages that we haven’t had a crew! Nonetheless we reached the top in an hour and 10 minutes. The dogs had a great rummage up the flight. I was pleased to solve a mystery yesterday – where does Blue disappear to between Lock 95 and 93? Well, the canal offside is flanked by rough pastures – perfect for greyhound rummaging as they’re well-fenced with no roads nearby. Judging by the tracks in the mud it’s a popular dog-walking spot.
Catkins - already!
The canalside vegetation is at its season’s lowest, so now’s the time to look around the ‘built’ landscape. It won’t be visible for long – I was amazed to see catkins already exploding out of otherwise lifeless branches.
The built landscape here includes a high and very solid brick wall which flanks the canal on the towpath side. I’d always assumed that is was part of the young offenders unit, and so it is, for part of its length; the rest separates the modern Ealing Hospital from the canal. According to the informative signboard, the wall was originally part of the old county asylum. You can still see the old arch (now bricked in) which used to lead to ‘asylum wharf’. Interestingly, the asylum had its own market garden and was largely self-sufficient for food. The wharf was used for transporting coal in and surplus produce out.
I’ve done a lot of work for the NHS in my career and always thought that the fact that health authority offices were often sited in old mental health units was no co-incidence. The signboard made me giggle – “the former county asylum now called Ealing Hospital…..” – QED 🙂
Look down past the lock and you'll see the bricked in arch which used to take the canal to asylum wharf....
The other bit of ‘built’ environment are the two branches a little way past the top of the flight; the first is unsigned but is, in fact, the Maypole Branch – named for the Maypole margarine company. Apparently coconut oil was transported in and margarine transported out. The branch is now used for mooring – it’s good to see it being used. The more I find out about the stretch between the Fox and the Black Gorse, the more I’m building a picture of the canal’s ongoing association with food production.
The other ‘branch’ is Adelaide Dock which now seems to house a load of BW boats. We know that 10 years or so ago there was a hire boat base there – I’ll look that up another day.
Some instinct made me check the fuel level today – just as well – the needle was nigh on empty. Thank heavens we didn’t run out yesterday – I’m not sure that Greygal and A would have been quite so happy if they’d had to haul Indigo Dream to the pub. We passed one battered cruiser today, being hauled along aimlessly by a very listless crew of three. It looked as if a few of the great unlicensed had shuffled around since yesterday – we wondered whether the enforcement officers had been around. It’s difficult to escape at the moment though – Victoria Park is closed to the East, there’s been a bridge stoppage to the North and the Thames has been on red boards for the last month (the water levels are coming down now) so the native population’s been locked in!
There a whole length of cut wood on the offside between bridges 19 and 20 on the Paddington Branch - how come the narrowboaters haven't snaffled it yet????
Greygal and A commented yesterday on how sad it was to see the boarded up and derelict cottage at Bulls Bridge junction (by bridge 21) – I think they’d be up for a restoration project if the owner was interested! We assume it belongs to BW, along with the crumbling building a little further along. This was covered in scaffolding a couple of months ago and we though it was being restored; alas, the scaffolding’s gone and the building is now falling down. What a waste…..
We had planned to stop off at Tesco’s in Bulls Bridge to stock up on staples (we’re out of dog food – this is an EMERGENCY) but the lack of fuel took priority and we headed off to Willowtree Marina for diesel. For information, they open on Sundays though they do shut for lunch between 1pm and 2pm. We got there at 12.30pm and were served by the very pleasant man who runs the marina. We went for an 80/20 split as the heating’s definitely beating propulsion at the moment.
I found a good footpath off the service wharf at Willowtree. Walk along the wharf (away from the marina entrance) and there’s a little cut-through (originally found by Blue, of course) which I didn’t think led anywhere but does, in fact, link to the Hillingdon Trail. The very muddy footpath has a branch running parallel to the canal on the offside and another which heads ‘inland’. The path is well-fenced (perfect for the hounds) because it runs around a rough pasture which houses at least three lively horses. The dogs didn’t really need another rummage, but they’d have only got bored on board while the tank filled so we had a little exploration.
The former Lyone basin (not far from the Black Horse), as mentioned by Gilby in his comment a couple of posts ago. Shame it's not used for mooring - it would be a great spot.
The Hillingdon Trail would warrant a longer expedition – I’m not sure how you access the trail from the towpath side here – there aren’t any bridges in the immediate vicinity of the marina. Looking at the map, I guess that Bridge 19 would be the nearest access. Mind you, there’s no shortage of interest for the dogs along the whole stretch from the Fox to the Black Horse.
Another narrowboat caught up with us at the service wharf – I didn’t see the boat’s name but the crew were very complementary about Indigo Dream’s engine, which they reckoned sounded very smooth, like new, in fact. That’s not bad for a 4-year old boat with a few miles on the clock! Their compliments made them top people in our books.
By now the whole crew was hungry – the only provisions on board were milk for our lattes and a more than half-eaten pack of chocolate digestives and, as I mentioned, NO DOG FOOD. We made haste to Black Horse for lunch and Scotland/France rugby on the big screen. We forced ourselves to leave during the first half – we could have easily stayed there all afternoon but we needed to get home – the dogs were seriously tired and we were in a state of contentment so profound that the M25 was becoming increasingly unappealing.
So well-behaved though they do take up a bit of space.....
Luckily we had a good drive home and the dogs collapsed onto their beds – too tired even to eat whilst we caught the last of the rugby – definitely the match of the weekend. I kept them at home on Monday – not that they noticed – apart from 5 minutes of activity here and there they’ve been happy in their beds. As I mentioned in the last post – Lou’s not been well – her kidney infection was confirmed on Saturday so she’s now on antibiotics and strong painkillers. I was worried about her today – she was so still this afternoon that I thought she was on her way out, but she was just weary and too comfortable to move from her thick nest of duvets and sheepskins. I wrapped her up in a warm blanket – that’s one happy dog…….
Blue also likes to spread out.....