Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

  • Blog Index as a pull down

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta

  • Recent Comments

  • wordpress counter

Archive for April, 2010

The Odyssey 2010: Day 4

Posted by indigodream on 11 April, 2010

Saturday 3rd April

Bourne End to Marsworth (above Lock 132)

These lock gates look new - check out the shiny gate paddle - is that galvanised?

We had a quiet-ish night at Winkwell Swingbridge, despite the proximity of the railway line. I never know whether that’s because the trains stop running quite early in the evening  or whether it’s because we’ve been poleaxed by the fresh air. Lou has finally resigned herself to sleeping in the galley when we have overnight guests – Liam and Lena reported fewer nocturnal visits this time!

There was a disturbance at 4am, with an almighty racket from the local canada geese. When I used to work for Tesco (many years ago) one of the store managers told me about the “three F’s” – the only misdemeanours that would result in instant dismissal – “Fighting, Fu”£$^ and Fieving'” (they were an elemental lot!). Now I know that in ancient times, geese were used as watch-birds but I’m afraid they wouldn’t survive today’s modern employment practice as, from the sound of it, all 3 dismissible offences were being perpetrated on the canal this morning 🙂

Despite the disturbance, Richard woke up full of beans – how very irritating! I am NOT a morning person, never have been, never will be; other non-morning people will share my pain at having someone bouncing around and wanting to be off 🙂

Luckily his partner in crime, Liam, is also quite perky in the morning, so men and dogs were able to get us going through the lock while Lena and I got ready at a more sedate pace. Richard did redeem himself after the first lock by making coffees and piles of bacon and egg sandwiches – all perfectly cooked to order (hard, soft or medium egg; bacon lightly cooked or cremated?). I started to perk up under the influence of an extra-strong latte and the prospect of a delightful trip through the Tring cutting later in the day.

There's so much water in this stretch of the canal - I wonder why?

There were a few more boats on the move today but still far fewer than we expected. I know there aren’t many hire bases around here, but considering it’s a bank holiday the canal was deserted. We had the locks to ourselves for most of the morning and enjoyed waving at the trains rushing along the railway line adjacent to the canal. No-one waved back today but the trains seemed to be moving so fast. I wondered whether we’d achieved some sort of blessed state of boating, our own waterway nirvana – you only know you’ve reached it when the rest of the world seems to be moving obscenely fast!

Not that canal life is dull – today’s little drama was up near Tring where a boat drifted broadside to the canal in front of us. We thought at first that it was turning but Liam spotted that the canal was too narrow and  there was no-one on the helm. It turns out that its front pins had been dragged out – we saw another boater on the towpath who went on board to pole the boat back to its mooring, but then the owner popped out – I don’t think he’d noticed that he was adrift! They blamed the ‘pensioners’ in the boat in front of us for going too fast, but I didn’t think they were travelling that quickly….

Anyway, back to the start of the day. There are plenty of locks along here and we had them all to ourselves right up through Berkhamstead. We continued to be amazed at how few boats there were on the move.

Berkhamstead looked mighty fine in the sunshine. For all my cruising years I’ve been meaning to read the many signboards here but I’ve always been busy in the locks. But today, with a willing crew on board, I finally managed to find out more about the town – by reading the boards myself and by getting Liam to photograph them for me. If you pass through the town then do take the time to read them – there’s a wealth of information. I won’t repeat what the boards say, there’s just too much! But Berkhamstead is another thousand year settlement with a broad succession of industries reflecting changing times and fortunes. Needless the say, the River Bulbourne and the canal have played a large part in putting Berkhamstead on the map. I was struck by the irony that the town which once sustained a thriving watercress growing business in its clean water is also famous for being the home of the original sheepdip – a noxious compound of sulphur and arsenic!

Another boat in need of TLC - we're seen a few sunk or half-sunk boats - I guess it's been a hard winter....

Blue and Lou enjoyed their customary lockside rummages, drawing the usual attention from passersby and having their photo taken by random tourists.

Unusually I’d walked ahead of the boat with the dogs and met a narrowboat just going up Lock 52 (on the outskirts of Berkhamstead). They were already halfway up when Indigo Dream came into view below- they offered to wait for us at the next lock. Maybe we should have gone in with them but there was another narrowboat coming up behind us so we shared locks with them instead. The boat we shared with was on her ‘maiden’ voyage – she’d been bought by a young London couple who were starting out on a life aboard.  They had another couple and a bottle of champagne on board to celebrate their first cruise and from the outset we didn’t get on with them. We didn’t NOT get on with them, but there was no rapport. It made for a long couple of hours as we climbed to the summit at Cowroast Lock. The culmination of our dislike came when Richard left us to get the cars – the young man asked us whether “that bloke on the bike was just some random person we’d picked up at the locks”; he was coldly informed that “that bloke” owned Indigo Dream 🙂

Our locking partners stopped for water above Cowroast Lock, leaving us free to enjoy the peace of the Tring summit. The trees were bare with the white afternoon light falling unimpeded into the deep cutting but this place has the feel of an endless afternoon – dusky and timeless. The sign for Tring train station seemed to point to a world so distant it might as well have been a fable.

What a contrast then when we came to the busy-ness of Bulbourne – online moorings, workshops and our favourite artist blacksmith with his enticing displays of unique inronwork.

Berkhamstead's famous totem pole - remnanat of a local timber industry that's long since gone....

At this point we decided to visit the Wendover Arm again. The last time we came here, we weren’t sure how far down we could go and ended up turning just past the Heygates Mill. But we’d heard that it was possible to get quite a bit further. We turned left at Bulbourne junction, stopping briefly to get an information leaflet from the little box on the towpath (open with a BW key). The Wendover Arm Trust do an excellent information leaflet and it was good to get the most up-to date view of the Arm.

As we cruised down the arm, the views across the surrounding countryside opened up, with glimpses of the reservoirs at Marsworth as well as the far Chiltern Hills in the distance. The arm is gradually being colonised by moored boats – one proudly proclaimed that he’d been there for 4 weeks already. Another told me that he’d been forced to moor there long-term because he’d been pushed into the bank by the wind and couldn’t move .  It’s such a quiet spot that I can see a lot of continuous mooring going on here unregarded – after all, it’s not for the Trust to police it.

But that said, the Wendover Arm is beautiful and so very quiet. We stopped at the (48-hour) moorings just beyond the newly built Bridge 5 near the terminus. What a magical spot – Bridge 5 carrries a small road but there wasn’t a sound and I thought that loudly twittering skylarks deserved an ASBO for disturbing the peace! We had a very late lunch here, everyone enjoying a little rummage along the towpath, talking to other boaters and breathing in the deep calm. I was very reluctant to cast off – if you were having a hard time at home or work then the far end of the Wendover Arm would be the perfect retreat.

Note: There’s a proper winding hole at the current terminus so don’t be afraid to explore right to the end of the navigation.

We came back to civilisation all too quickly and had a decision to make – stay in Bulbourne or go down the Marsworth flight. Lena voted for an early finish, and so did I, but when we came to look for a mooring she said “oh, you mean we’re stopping now?” and sounded so disappointed that she quickly changed her mind, much to Liam’s delight. He did a nifty reverse turn at the junction and we headed off down the Marsworth. I couldn’t complain – I love the flight and the fine views over the reservoirs. We had the locks to ourselves apart from a hire boat coming up at the penultimate lock, ensuring that the rest of the flight would be set our way. Liam and Lena shared the driving and locking between them, taking turns to keep Seamus amused. In the meantime, Richard cycled ahead to set the locks and supervise Blue and Lou’s last big rummage of the day – he didn’t have much to do on that score – the dogs were almost catatonic after a busy few days.

The perfect tranquillity of the Wendover Arm.....

We moored just above the bottom lock – there’s a handy pay ‘n display car park for walkers and fishermen visiting the area. Richard had dropped the car off here earlier, so he went off with Liam to get the other car while we packed the boat up and got ready for the trip home.

My heart went out to Liam and Lena – I think they’ve really enjoyed the balmy peace of the narrowboat and were sad to leave. Of course, we have the luxury of being back on board next weekend though I hope that they’ll join us again. I’m already looking forward to the day when they have their own boat and we can have a little cruise in convoy with them 🙂

Today’s Trivia

Today’s trivia is an unashamed plug for the Wendover Arm Trust and their ambitious initiatives to restore this beautiful stretch of canal. I hope they won’t mind my taking some information from their leaflet in the interests of promoting boaters to explore.  The Wendover Arm was opened in 1797 and was just over 6 miles long. The current navigation is around 1 and a half miles between Bulbourne Junction and Little Tring Bridge (Bridge 5) but the whole length is open for walkers. The Trust’s aim is to restore the arm as far as Wendover Basin – they’re doing well, there’s the challenge of around half a mile of dry canal separating the current navigation from a shallow but watered section to Wendover. But it all takes time and money – they’re working on the dry section at the moment, in the hope of re-watering it by 2020. My goodness, we’ll be pushing 60 by then – I do hope we’ll still be boating on Indigo Dream 1,2, 3 or even 4 and will be in a position to enjoy the lengthened navigation.

Walkers can already enjoy Wendover, but the parish website gives an idea of what we boaters have to look forward to when the arm is fully restored…..

So, forget ‘band aid’ how about getting excited about ‘blockaid’ instead – the next part of the Wendover Arm restoration needs 90,000 concrete blocks – you can become part of ‘blockaid’ by sponsoring a block! It costs £2 per block. If you’re passing then you can get a sponsorship form from the information ‘box’ at Bulbourne Junction or if you’re further away then check out the ‘blockaid’ website – www.blockaid.org.uk

Photoblog:

Seamus enjoying his boat trip.....

A harmonious juxtaposition of rail and canal....

generalpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehave generalpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehave

There are a few of these brick constructions above Lock 53 and the next lock; they have panels to say they were build in the mid-1940s. We think they're pumping stations.

This pretty carpet of moss and flowers made for a slippery lock edge!

generalpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehave generalpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehave
generalpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehave generalpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehave

The beautifully restored Tring Bridge (No 5) on the Wendover Arm

Rose are red, violets are blue, atishoo, atishoo, atishoo...... Spring blossoms herald the hayfever season!

generalpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehave generalpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehave

The Heygates flour mill on the Wendover Arm - good to see some living industry, though it doesn't intrude on the peace at the far end.....

Another one of out winter jobs - we've finally secured our deck doors using the simplest of all the mechanisms we've considered over the years. The dog-proof doors have also been toddler-proof as well!

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

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

Enjoy!

Photoblog:


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......

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

The Odyssey 2010: Day 2

Posted by indigodream on 7 April, 2010

Sunday 28th March

Cowley Lock to Croxley Green

We had a very leisurely start to the day today, luxuriating in the fact that we’re back on the boat and will be for nigh on every weekend for the foreseeable future.

The girls are in charge - Lena at the helm and doing well despite my instructions (I tend to mix up my lefts and rights!)

Richard and Liam went off to do the car shuffle in the morning while Lena and I had as relaxed a start as you can have with a squiggly 2-year old on board! Actually, Seamus is very good and Lena is possibly the most sensible mum since the dawn of time so it was no bother. Seamus and the dogs are getting on well, largely based on the fact that they all ignore each other so there’s no drama.

Of course, the most important job of the morning was to restore the sofa so that Lou could have her day-bed back – she gave the distinct impression that she hadn’t had a wink of sleep on her kitchen bed.

The menfolk bought the cars back to Cowley from Black Horse, crewed us through Cowley Lock then went off for an all-boys adventure with Seamus. They were to leave one car in Croxley Green (our planned destination) and drive one car back to meet up with Indigo Dream. This neat arrangement left Lena free for a lesson in narrowboat handling and lock operation – she did very well indeed, though like many novice drivers, she needs to build her confidence. It doesn’t help that the first lock that she attempted (Uxbridge Lock) had a lively bywash which pushed her right across the canal. But she didn’t panic, followed my shouted directions from the towpath and entered the lock in good order. I think that this is a good sign – as the proverb goes “smooth seas don’t make good sailors” – Lena didn’t panic or get flustered and unlike some of our other lady friends, didn’t declare that she’d never try the helm again – she’s game to learn and do better next time – brilliant!

Blue and Lou, of course, enjoyed rummaging around the locks – I’ve noticed that Blue’s recall has improved a lot, and Lou is less feisty with other dogs, though she will still make an exception for over-excitable spaniels (i.e. ALL spaniels). Maybe these dog-training classes are making a difference after all, though I think that it’s us being trained more than the dogs. We’re due to try the bronze good citizens test on 29th April – wish us luck!

Solo! Go Lena......

I didn’t take any notes today so I don’t have any detail for the blog, only random memories of a well-loved section of canal. The Grand Union is an interesting canal and deceptively rural along this stretch, which runs through Colne Valley. It is flanked by the abundant lakes left behind by the once extensive London Clay quarries that provided the bricks to build the city. We meandered along while Lena got a feel for the helm. The canal was deserted (apart from the uniquitous on-line moorings) – there were very few boats on the move, though it was a lovely day. The menfolk got some fresh air as well – they dropped a car off just north of Denham Deep lock and walked down to meet us. In the meantime, we paired up with an old boat, and an even older boater, at Denham Deep Lock – perfect timing. Lena was going to be on shore duty this time, but she was politely and firmly sent back to the boat by a random assortment of people from the boats moored below the lock who wanted a bit of exercise. Ah well, we didn’t complain – the shore crew seemed to be very competent.

We did have one little ‘incident’ where a young man was cycling up the towpath with his two little children – he’d been chatting to us for a while. I suspect that he’s missed out on his education somewhere but at least he was spending time with his kids in the fresh air, which can’t be a bad thing. He was fascinated by Indigo Dream and at Denham Top Lock actually stepped onto the gunwhales and started walking down towards the helm – I told the cheeky b”££$% to get off my boat and so so he did – he didn’t think I’d notice!!!!!

The froth on the water hints at the strength of the flow opposite the pub - I wonder how much extra business is swept in by the fierce current??

How I love this stretch of canal – it’s so peaceful, with magical glimpses of the lakes through the leafless trees. I must have bored our guests rigid by pointing out to them again and again that we were in North London and still inside the M25. In fact, I behaved like an impoverished estate agent, desperate to sell the Grand Union to our guests; I needn’t have bothered – one glance at their contented faces proved that they’d bought the canal already. Over and over I repeated the phrase ‘this is one of my favourite places on the waterways’ before working out that I had a ridiculously large number of favourite places – it might be easier to keep quiet and just list the bits that I don’t favour! But the Grand Union is a bit special, even though it lacks the rural lusciousness of the Llangollen and Shropshire Union.

We made good time up the canal, passing through the very attractive lock at Black Jack’s Mill (have I mentioned that it’s one of my favourite places 🙂 ) Lena continued with her lessons on the helm, though with four of us on board, time at the helm was hotly contested as we all enjoy a bit of cruising. We had a bit of bang just below Coppermill Lock – there’s a VERY frisky flow across the canal and although we were expecting it (it’s in the Navigation notes in the Nicholson’s)  and had warned Lena that it was coming, she didn’t quite manage to compensate enough and the back just swung into the bank. No harm done (apart from to Lena’s nerves). Would we have done any better on the helm? Well, it is a tricky spot and there was a LOT of water flowing fast across the canal. The main thing that we would have done differently is give it more revs to get more steer – something that novice helmsmen always find daunting.

There was a huge amount of water in the Grand Union – the bywashes and outfalls were lively and the locks were overflowing, making hard to open the gates at times.

Stocker's lock restored!

And here's the same lock during last year's filming - spot the difference in the sign??

Last year we passed through Lock 82 which had a very large sign in BW livery proclaiming it to be Fiddler’s Lock. Now, it’s on our map as Stocker’s Lock and we had wondered whether the production company filming an episode of ‘Lewis’ nearby had changed the lock name for dramatic purposes. Well, now we know! Lock 82 is now back to being Stocker’s Lock, with a tiny and very plain sign, unlike the fancy proclamation put up by the TV company.

By the time we got to Batchworth we’d run low on milk for our lattes so we had an ’emergency stop’ at the Tesco moorings. We were overtaken there by a trip boat which took no prisoners when passing moored boats, giving everyone a little rock to test the ropes! Amazingly no-one complained or shook a fist at the driver! We were also overtaken by one of the few boats on the move today – he went up Batchworth lock by himself – he hadn’t looked out for us because he’d assumed we were moored outside Tesco for the duration. Never mind, it gave Liam, Lena and Seamus time to explore the miniature canal below the lock and for me to get caught by yet another canal eccentric who wanted to know whether I’d seen a ‘canal squirrel’ – a cross between a red and a grey squirrel with a fondness for swimming. When I was a young woman I used to be a weirdo-magnet – it seems that I haven’t lost the talent, it’s just been dormant for a while 🙂

The boat that had gone ahead of us waited at the next lock so we shared the last locks of the day with him. He wasn’t the easiest company but locking as a pair is convenient. We stopped for the day just below Lock 78 – there are useful mooring rings between the lock and the railway bridge (opposite the boatyard). But there was one more drama to come – Richard had cycled ahead to scout out the moorings but came back briefly to wave us forward before dashing off up to the lock. Our locking companion had carried on up Lock 78 single-handed and had managed to fall into the canal while trying to jump down to his boat from the lock gate. It sounded like quite a drop and must have been painful – Richard heard the thump of him hitting his boat before the big splash of him hitting the water. He managed to swim to the side but the canal’s deep here so he couldn’t actually get out of the water – Richard had to haul him out (with some difficulty – wet clothes weight a ton!). Luckily the boater seemed to be uninjured (other than to his pride) but obviously shaken and shocked (though I bet he’ll find some bruises later when the adrenaline has worn off). It was a sobering event, even though it didn’t affect us directly – it made me very aware of how careful you have to be when you’re boating single-handed.

After that excitement, the menfolk went off to do the car shuffle while Lena and I packed up. An hour later we were in the local Harvester with its poor service and indifferent food. It didn’t matter, all we needed was some fuel for the drive home – we were all pleasantly soporific after a day of fresh air and relaxation……

Ooh, I must mention that Lena, me and Seamus were singing ‘London’s Burning’ as a three part round from the back deck as we approached Croxley Green – magic 🙂

Today’s Trivia….

Right, today’s trivia is about Black Jack’s mill and lock – as I’ve mentioned, it’s a very attractive lock and I wondered about where the name came from. I found out that Black Jack’s mill was a flour mill. The present mill building is Victorian, built in the mid-1800s, but there’s been a mill on the site for maybe a thousand years – it’s mentioned in the doomesday book. Apparently ‘Black Jack’ the miller was so called because he was notoriously cruel to his donkey! In more recent times, Black Jack’s mill has been an italian restaurant and was used as a location for an episode of Dr Who back in the 1980s. The restaurant sounds good in this write-up http://www.bucksfreepress.co.uk/news/270418.black_jacks_mill/ but sadly I’ve read that the restaurant closed in 2006 – if you know better then let me know – I can just imagine sitting in the mill enjoying a fine italian meal and a bottle of crisp white wine. The mill is now a private residence – what a great location! This link suggests that they do B & B but I’m not sure how recent this information might be.

It will be interesting looking up these random bits of canalside trivia – I’d assumed, for example, that the canalside pubs and mills were there BECAUSE of the canal. But it seems that some, at least, pre-date the canal by many hundreds of years and suffered the equivalent of having a motorway built in their back gardens……

Photoblog:

These 'maxi-grab' stickers festooned every lock and flat surface - cheap and tacky advertising by a company that should know better..... Where's that sea-searcher magnet?

Sunday 28th March

Cowley Lock to Croxley Green

We had a very leisurely start to the day today, luxuriating in the fact that we’re back on the boat and will be for almost every weekend for the forseeable future.

Richard and Liam went off to do the car shuffle in the morning while Lena and I had as relaxed a start as you can have with a squiggly 2-year old on board! Actually, Seamus is very good and Lena is possibly the most sensible mum since the dawn of time so it was no bother. Seamus and the dogs are getting on well, largely based on the fact that they all ignore each other so there’s no drama.

Of course, the most important job of the morning was to restore the sofa so that Lou could have her day-bed back – she gave the distinct impression that she hadn’t had a wink of sleep on her kitchen bed.

The menfolk bought the cars back to Cowley from Black Horse, crewed us through Cowley Lock then went off for an all-boys adventure with Seamus. They were to leave one car in Croxley Green (our planned destination) and drive one car back to meet up with Indigo Dream. This neat arrangement left Lena free for a lesson in narrowboat handling and lock operation – she did very well indeed though like many novice drivers, she needs to build her confidence. It doesn’t help that the first lock that she attempted (Uxbridge Lock) had a lively bywash which pushed her right across the canal. But she didn’t panic, followed my shouted directions from the towpath and entered the lock in good order. I think that this is a good sign – as the proverb goes “smooth seas don’t make good sailors” – Lena didn’t panic or get flustered and unlike some of our other lady friends, didn’t declare that she’d never try the helm again – she’s game to learn and do better next time – brilliant!

Blue and Lou, of course, enjoyed rummaging around the locks – I’ve noticed that Blue’s recall has improved a lot, and Lou is less feisty with other dogs, though she will still make an excpetion for over-excitable spaniels (i.e. ALL spaniels). Maybe these dog-training classes are making a difference after all, though I think that it’s us being trained more than the dogs. We’re due to try the bronze good citizens test on 29th April – wish us luck!

I didn’t take any notes today so I don’t have any detail for the blog, only random memories of a well-loved section of canal. The Grand Union is an interesting canal and deceptively rural along this stretch. It is flanked by the abundant lakes left behind by the once extensive London Clay quarries that provided the bricks to build the city. We meandered along while Lena got a feel for the helm. The canal was deserted (apart from the uniquitous on-line moorings) – there were very few boats on the move, though it was a lovely day. The menfolk got some fresh air as well – they dropped the car off just north of Denham Deep lock and walked down to meet us. In the meantime, we paired up with an old boat, and an even older boater, at Denham Deep Lock – perfect timing. Lena was going to be lock crew this time, but she was politely but firmly sent back to the boat by a random assortment of people from the boats moored below the lock who wanted a bit of exercise. Ah well, we didn’t complain – the shore crew seemed to be very competent and we had a smooth rise.

We did have one little ‘incident’ where a young man was cycling up the towpath with his two little children – he’d been chatting to us for a while. I suspect that he’s missed out on his education somewhere but at least he was spending time with his kids in the fresh air, which can’t be a bad thing. He was fascinated by Indigo Dream and at Denham Top Lock actually stepped onto the gunwhales and started walking down towards the helm – I told the cheeky b”££$% to get off my boat and so so he did – he didn’t think I’d notice!!!!!

How I love this stretch of canal – it’s so peaceful, with magical glimpses of the lakes through the leafless trees. I must have bored our guests rigid by pointing out to them again and again that we were in North London and still inside the M25. In fact, I spent several hours selling the Grand Union to our guests, but when I glanced at their contented faces I realised that they were totally sold already. Over and over I repeated the phrase ‘this is one of my favourite places on the waterways’ before working out that I had a ridiculously large number of favourite places – it might be easier to keep quiet and just list the bits that I don’t favour! But the Grand Union is a bit special, even though it lacks the rural lusciousness of the Llangollen and  Shropshire Union.

We made good time up the canal, passing through the very attractive lock at Black Jack’s Mill (have I mentioned that it’s one of my favourite places 🙂 ) Lena continued with her lessons on the helm, thoughwith four of us on board time at the helm was hotly contested as we all enjoy a bit of cruising. We had a bit of bang just below Coppermill Lock – there’s a VERY lively flow across the canal and although we were expecting it (it’s in the Navigation notes in the Nicholson’s)  and had warned Lena that it was coming, she didn’t quite manage to compensate enough and the back just swung into the bank. No harm done (apart from to Lena’s nerves). Would we have done any better on the helm? Well, it is a tricky spot and there was a LOT of water flowing fast across the canal. The main thing that we would have done differently is give it more revs to get more steer – something that novice helmsmen always find daunting.

There was a huge amount of water in the Grand Union – the bywashes and outfalls were lively and the locks were overflowing, making hard to open the gates at times.

Last year we passed through Lock 82 which had a very large sign in BW livery proclaiming it to be Fiddler’s Lock. Now, it’s on our map as Stocker’s Lock and we had wondered whether the production company filming an episode of ‘Lewis’ nearby had changed the lock name for dramatic purposes. Well, now we know! Lock 82 is now back to being Stocker’s Lock, with a tiny and very plain sign, unlike the fancy proclamation put up by the TV company.

By the time we got to Batchworth we’d run low on milk for our lattes so we had an ’emergency stop’ at the Tesco moorings. We were overtaken there by a trip boat which takes no prisoners when passing moored boats, giving everyone a quick rock to test the ropes! No-one complained or shook a fist at the driver, so I assume that it’s such a regular feature that local boaters have given up on it. We were also overtaken by one of the few boats on the move today – he went up Batchworth lock by himself – he hadn’t looked out for us because he’d assumed we were moored up outside Tesco for the duration. Never mind, it gave Liam, Lena and Seamus time to explore the minature canal below the lock and for me to get caught by yet another canal eccentric who wanted to know whether I’d seen a ‘canal squirrel’ – a cross between a red and a grey squirrel with a fondness for swimming. When I was a young woman I used to be a weirdo-magnet – it seems that I haven’t lost the talent, it’s just been dormant for a while 🙂

The boat that had gone ahead of us waited at the next lock so we shared the last locks of the day with him. He wasn’t the easiest company but locking as a pair is convenient. We stopped for the day just below Lock 78 – there are useful mooring rings between the lock and the railway bridge (opposite the boayard). But there was one more drama to come – Richard had cycled ahead to scout out the moorings but came back briefly to wave us forward before dashing off up to the lock. Our locking companion had carried on up Lock 78 single-handed and had managed to fall into the canal while trying to jump down to his boat from the lock gate. It sounded like quite a drop and must have been painful – Richard heard the thump of him hitting his boat before the big splash of him hitting the water. He managed to swim to the side but the canal’s deep here so he couldn’t actually get out of the water – Richard had to haul him out (with some difficulty – wet clothed weight a ton!). Luckily the boater was shaken and shocked but apparently uninjured (though I bet he’ll find some bruises later when the adrenaline has worn off). It was a sobering event (even though it didn’t affect us directly) and made me very aware of how careful you have to be when you’re a single-handed boater.

After that excitement, the menfolk went off to do the car shuffle while Lean and I packed up. An hour later we were in the local Harvester with its poor service and indifferent food. It didn’t matter, all we needed was some fuel for the drive home – we were all pleasantly soporific after a day of fresh air and relaxation……

Today’s Trivia….

Right, today’s trivia is about Black Jack’s mill and lock – as I’ve mentioned, it’s a very attractive lock and I wondered about where the name came from. I found out that Black Jack’s mill was a flour mill – it sounds as if the present mill building is Victorian but apparently there was a mill mentioned at this site in the domesday book. Apparently ‘Blakc Jack’ the miller was os called because he was very cruel to his donkey!

Immaculate lock entry...

Buffalo horns.....

"and which political party paid for your fine new house?"; "quack quack. quack quack quack quack"; "really? well, thank you, the voters will be fascinated..."

Conservation in action - this reed bed is very close to the 'stinkhole' - the notoriously fragrant mooring spot adjacent to a large sewage works. I wonder whether the reed beds are involved in water purification in some way.

Driver under instruction.....

I must find out the story behind this grinning gorilla - it's been there for years....

We're still in London but we're a long way from Shepherds Bush, or maybe not.....

Quirky exhibition below Batchworth Lock

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

The Odyssey 2010: Day 1

Posted by indigodream on 6 April, 2010

Saturday 27th March

Black Horse to Cowley Lock

Imagine the story if Homer had focussed his odyssey on the cabin boy rather than the hero – that’s where this year’s tale begins…….

Bye Bye Black Horse.....

After a winter of productive but messy DIY, Indigo Dream was packed full of new innovations (eg light cabin light that we can turn on by the back hatch rather than by tripping down the stairs in the dark to find the switch on the ceiling halfway down the boat). Sadly it was also packed with dust, sawdust, random bits of wood and MDF, screws, cable ties, toolboxes and not forgetting an ample coating of mud from the towpath. So, our odyssey started with brief move to the waterpoint at Black Horse (a whole 120 feet) and a serious spring clean.

We swept and scrubbed, realising yet again that the downside of having a long boat is that there’s an awful lot of boat to clean – and we didn’t even get to do the outside! Richard’s plan of giving the paintwork a good scrub and a polish was a tad too ambitious for the time available. In the meantime, Blue and Lou perched on the sofa – looking down at our industry with disdain.

Note: I’m a bit behind with the blog but there were notices up warning that the towpath from Black Horse to the Railway Bridge would be closed for repairs for a week from the 27th March. The path was very much open so I assume that the works have been delayed – the towpath certainly hadn’t been improved!

But why all the cleaning? The Indigo Dreamers aren’t normally that fastidious – well, we were being joined by friends Liam and Lena and their 2-year old son Seamus.

We’d arrived at the boat by 9.30am (practically dawn by our standards) – by midday we’d got her looking almost habitable. But then I had to leave – my sister-in-law, Danusia, is getting married at the end of April and I was off to her hen lunch in Farnham. Much as I love Danusia, and much as I hate cleaning, it was a wrench to leave Indigo Dream on a fine spring afternoon….

Liam, Lena and Seamus arrived at 2pm and the crew promptly went to the Black Horse for a farewell lunch. The pub excelled itself with a 4 for 2 meal deal which resulted in the dogs having a lamb shank dinner all the themselves!

and 'Hello' Bulls Bridge....

We have really enjoyed mooring here – good pub, good location; we’d still recommended it despite the theft of our centre ropes. Interestingly we met another boater over the weekend who’s had their tiller pin filched while they were filling with water at Cowley so there’s been a thief around – where  s/he is now I wonder? But do please put this into context – we think crime is rare on the canals. We’ve had long discussions about mooring here again next winter – maybe right from the start of the winter mooring period in October. BUT……….we’ve had the exciting news that from 1st April we’ve got a permanent mooring in Limehouse Basin! So, we are no longer rootless vagabonds, well, we are at heart – we won’t actually be anywhere near our new moorings until July…..

The crew set off in the late afternoon sun – I drove through the rain to Farnham. The crew stopped at Willowtree marina for a pump-out and diesel (40/60 split) – I ordered some fizzy water and a pizza. The crew stopped off at Tesco’s Bull’s Bridge to fill up on provisions – I ordered a diet coke. Indigo Dream meandered down the canal in the dusky afternoon light – I mused on how being a girly girl with the girlies isn’t a patch on being out in the elements on the helm!

I drove back towards the boat in the early evening – I couldn’t wait to be back on board and join the start of the odyssey. Our planned meeting point was Cowley Lock – I scouted a mooring and informed the crew about the one Indigo Dream sized space about 3 boat lengths down from the lock. I then inspected the lockside pub, the Malt Shovel. I know this will be irrelevant to most boaters, but the pub does a very good pot of tea 🙂

The Malt Shovel is not dog-friendly but it does do decent food – I think they’re aspiring to be a gastropub but maybe not quite there yet. The service was ok-ish and they were very welcoming to Seamus. I hadn’t realised that the combination of dogs AND a small child might make us into pub pariahs but we’ve been pleasantly surprised. The pub only gets an ok-ish rating as they managed to miss out some of our starter platter and then some of the extras with our main meal.

The mooring’s adjacent to a park so it’s great for the dogs and it’s surprisingly quiet considering how close it is to Uxbridge. We had a peaceful night once Lou had accepted the fact that she’d been ousted from the sofa onto a piled up bed of cushions, duvets and sheepskins in the galley……..

Today’s Trivia

I’ve been trying to find out more about the bits of industry surrounding our Black Horse moorings but now we’re on the move I’ll concentrate on trying to find out one interesting thing a day about our ever-changing surroundings. But I can’t leave without a mention of the Black Horse pub – I’d assumed it was a typical canalside pub, but apparently there’s been a pub there since at least 1726 (though the current buildings are, apparently, modern). This means that the pub pre-dates the canal by many decades. Of course, it’s now a Fullers pub and the Fullers brewery, or should that be brand, has a rich history as you’ll find out here – http://www.fullers.co.uk/rte.asp?id=46

Photoblog:

Just a few photos of our new cupboard door and, for security, our new ropes…..

Our new cupboard doors and panel....

The split doors.....

And with the centre panel removed to give better access to the interior - clever eh?

Our new ropes - hands off any pirates that are reading 🙂

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »