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Archive for April 8th, 2010

The Odyssey 2010: Day 3

Posted by indigodream on 8 April, 2010

Friday 2nd April

Croxley Green to Bourne End

It's never too soon to learn how to cruise! Seamus at the helm with the 'rabbit' hat that so captivated Blue......

It’s been a surreal week – I’ve spent the last few days up in the snow in Scotland – all very beautiful, but how strange to be taking a stroll while the bright evening light of spring sparkled off a distinctly wintery landscape. What a contrast then with Friday morning, in sunny London, with the prospect of 2 days on the helm. Well, sharing the helm – Liam, Lena and Seamus were joining us again – they’re rapidly getting hooked and our conversations are already drifting in the direction of “and what would you call your boat if you had one? what colour would it be?”. We’ve suggested that their next weekend on board should be when we’re passing by the second-hand boat yards in the vicinity of Gayton Junction – just to look, of course!

We had an easy drive up to Croxley Green on Good Friday – I’d expected the M25 to be packed but it was fine. Lena had volunteered to do the food shopping so we had a very lazy trip indeed. For reference , there is convenient free street parking on Baldwin’s Lane in Croxley Green; it’s five minutes walk from the canal and also has a nice park adjacent and some handy shops, including a Spar which does good fresh bread.

When we left the boat last week, the moorings were pretty deserted – today they were full. There had been more drama since we left – nb Narnia had sunk on the moorings – apparently it happened on Wednesday though the cause wasn’t obvious – thread started by the owner here. Mind you, it wouldn’t pay to get your bow too close to the locks – there was so much water in the canal – filling the pounds to the brim, cascading over lock gates and driving strong  currents across the canal from the bywashes.

We stopped off for water above Lock 78 – it does feel a bit strange for the lock and water point to share the same bollards – there’s not much space. We didn’t need to worry though – there weren’t many boats on the move at all – surprising, we’d expected a fair bit of canal traffic, even a bit of congestion. There’s good water pressure here so the tank filled quite quickly. Not quickly enough for my nerves – Blue got a bit fixated on Seamus’ hat, which is trimmed with rabbit fur (synthetic but who cares if it runs); I hasten to say that we didn’t have any incidents, Blue was just looking with intent and it’s easy enough to distract him.

A narrowboater's worst nightmare - nb Narnia under water...

The next stretch is Cassiobury Park – really one of my all-time favourite bits of canal (yes, yes, I know you’ve heard that before!). It looked totally different today – the grand old trees were leafless and we literally saw the light. There were fewer walkers around than usual but there were a few mad spaniels and labradors – diving into the canal with little thought about how they were going to get out again! Blue and Lou were very well-behaved – no barking and no wandering off – amazing! I was pleased that we’d stopped below the park last week and could enjoy the cruise through this old woodland with our fresh morning minds (!).

I couldn’t help myself – I STILL felt I had to sell the canal to Liam and Lena, pointing out the wonders of Cassiobury Park, the manicured beauty of Grove Park and the awesome boundary of the M25, majestic and menacing as its massive alien columns marched across the gently rolling landscape.

So it now felt as it we were out of London. You’d never know, there were probably more signs of civilisation on this next stretch than in the green corridor we’d just passed. Kings Langley and Hemel Hempstead gradually engulf the canal and the railway becomes its constant companion. In all fairness, the canalside developments here are bland enough for us not to be tempted to live here but attractive enough not to intrude on the canal’s appeal.

We’d planned to moor in the region of Apsley Wharf – we’ve always said we would – we comment on how attractive it is every time we pass by. But we got there very early – too early to stop – Liam and Lena have been converted to cruising and the double lure of staying on the move and the promise of a really good pub at Bourne End. Of course, it all took a little longer than we expected – it was gone 8pm when we passed through Winkwell Swingbridge but there was plenty of light. We were a bit dismayed that the moorings beyond the swingbridge were full (they had been empty only 1 hour previously when Richard ran the car up), but we brested up to a BW working boat on the moorings and headed off to the pub. We went to the Three Horseshoes pub just across the swingbridge – the food here is tremendous (though not for the dieter) – if I ever look a bit vacant when you’re talking to me it’s because I’m reliving the velvety richness of the chocolate mousse………

Today’s Trivia…..

The M25 aqueduct across the Gade Valley (the River Gade flanks the canal hereabouts)

I’ve abandoned the obvious delights of Cassiobury Park and the Earl of Essex’s grand estate in favour of a look at the M25, especially Junction 20 and the Gade Valley viaduct which imposes so emphatically on the landscape above North Grove lock. It was at one and the same time interesting and intensely boring. Although the M25 is a construct of the 1970’s, it seems that the idea of an orbital road around the capital has occupied successive governments since the beginning of the 20th century. But so much for the history – what’s of more interest is the future. In my searches, I found that the section of the M25 between Junctions 16 (M40) and 23 will be the first in a series of widening schemes starting from 2009. As anyone who’s been stuck in a queue past the M40 will know, the works have already started and are creeping slowly towards Junction 20 which is visible from the canal. Well, it’s visible at the moment – if the proposal goes ahead, they will be constructing a huge bund (earth dyke) which will screen the junction’s slip road from the village of Abbotts Langley (and presumably from the canal as well. Check out the plans here. We don’t see how they can physically widen the viaduct – maybe they’ll just lose the hard shoulder there.

If it goes to plan then the widening work from Junction 16 t0 23 will be completed by 2012 – so when you’re passing under the giant M25 viaduct and looking across the plain to the junction, watch out for the construction works and the movement of many thousands of tons of earth which will change the landscape forever. Whatever you think of the widening schemes, you may as well enjoy them – they’re costing us a great deal of money!

Interestingly, the AA, notoriously traffic-friendly, describes the M25 viaduct at Abbotts Langley as a “rather graceful curving one on channelled piers” – hmmmmmm……

I did find that there are more quips and jokes about the M25 than there are solid facts about its construction. However the BBC website has quite a jolly section here and then there’s the positively geeky here.

I also found a walking guide which has some nice snippets of information about this whole stretch of canal



Cassiobury Park unclad, exposing the trees and branches that have fallen over winter.....

Grove Mill - now a scenic set of apartments and start of a very civilised stretch of canal.....

The rare 'canalasaurus'

Attractive canalscape below Red Lion lock

But the stretch between Red Lion lock and Nash Mills lock was ironically dubbed "Pearl Harbour" by a passing boater - I don't think that these half-sunk rusty rubbish butties have moved since we were last here in October

I think that a bigger sofa had better be the next thing on the boat shopping list......

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