Sunday 20th June
Berkhamstead to Kings Langley
We slept quite well at these moorings despite a bit of noise during the night – the band at the football club until midnight, then ducks pecking at the weed below the waterline and a motorbike travelling the towpath. Richard didn’t notice any of these things so if you’re a sound sleeper you won’t either!
Brrrr, isn’t it chilly for almost-midsummer – Lou was whimpering with cold at 6am and had to covered with a blanket – poor thing!
We welcomed Ken and Ginny on board today – never a dull day on Indigo Dream! Richard picked them up from King’s Langley and bought them back to Berkhamstead – mega-efficiency as we now had a car waiting for us at journey’s end.
We set off soon after 10.30am with our lattes and warm chocolate chip brioche in hand – yum! I felt a bit sorry for Ken and Ginny – this stretch is more built up than others along the canal and arguably not as scenic, though the canalside developments have been finished to an excellent standard and make for a very civilised backdrop. Of course, it’s a heavily locked section so they didn’t get to relax quite so much – no sooner had they got comfortable than they were up again for locking duty! There were few boats on the move today but lots moored up along the towpath, which was also populated by a fair number of walkers, cyclists and fishermen.
Luckily, Ken and Ginny share the welsh (or maybe it’s just my family!) interest in properties for sale – even though we can’t afford them and that moving to the area isn’t practical – they’re fascinating anyway (and before you tell us off, we’re just looking, from the outside and on websites – not wasting the residents’ time with spurious viewings). There’s a property just outside Berkhamstead that I’ve alway fancied – it has a very sriking canalside garden – would make a great end-of-garden mooring! Well, it’s for sale (details here) and not too badly priced either (by Surrey standards!) – will we be making an offer? Well no, not unless they build a high speed train link from here to Richard’s Croydon office!
The dogs were very subdued today – we’ve become used to the fact that Lou likes to lie on her sofa and only gets out to rummage at every fifth lock. But Blue, our champion rummager wasn’t well at all – he was very quiet, didn’t want to rummage, came back to the boat before he was called and was generally whiney and grumpy. He does have an infected rash in an embarrassing place – this may be making him very uncomfortable (vet seen on Friday – cream dispensed) but I think we’re on for another visit on Monday. They were both so glad to be home and they’re comatose on their duvets.
As we approached Top Side Lock we spotted two greyhounds being walked along the towpath – we called Blue and Lou on deck to say hello and the walkers shouted “are you the boat that’s offering dog cruises”. We were nonplussed and warily replied “maybe” 🙂
It turns out that the couple with the greyhounds, Roger and Margaret, got their two (Bess and Sharry) from Greyhoundhomer, where we got Lou, and had seen a circular email offering the charity cruise in July. As well as having two greyhounds, they also have their own narrowboat, Mary Beth, moored further north up the Grand Union on the Leicester Line. Working the lock gave us the perfect excuse to chat- the greyhounds were getting along very well (even Lou), though both of ours soon lost interest and went back to their beds. Sharry was a very keen girl and couldn’t wait to get onto the back deck for a sniff, then to the door, then…..well, everyone may as well come on board for a nosey round; how about a mini-cruise down one lock, maybe just one more, what about a beer – yes please! We gently kidnapped these two innocents and their lovely hounds. Having proved last week that Indigo Dream had plenty of capacity for three hounds, today we proved that she has more than enough space for four. Blue and Lou were supremely unbothered by the invasion. We found that four humans and two dainty greyhounds can easily fit on the front deck – we chatted greyhounds and boating while Richard and Ken worked us through the locks – it was such a great thing to happen. Really, what’s the chances……
We said a reluctant ‘goodbye’ to the extended pack at lock 58 – they promised to email and keep in touch – we so hope that they do, it was such a great greyhound mini-gathering!
The weather got better as the day progressed and we finally divested a few layers – it proved to be warm in the sun and cool in the shade – where does that biting wind come from?
We stopped for lunch just above Winkwell Lock then worked our way through the swingbridge (much to the delight of our guests). There were crowds in the Three Horseshoes’ canalside garden, waving and smiling as we cruised past. Ginny commented that before now she’s been part of the hordes on the towpath admiring the idyllic sight of boats cruising by – today she so happy to be part of the idyll. How wonderful – we enjoyed her enjoyment as much as our own, if that makes sense.
The day drifted by – lock followed lock and fine canalside development followed fine development. It’s a different aspect of the Grand Union – maybe it does lack the rural charm of other stretches, but it is very welcoming and the canal towns offer a bit of interest as well as good amenities. Apsley Marina looked as lovely as ever, though there were many boats moored on the towpath just outside as well. One day we will stop here – there’s a Fuller’s pub to explore as well as a few nice-looking cafes and bars. Now that we have a BWML mooring of our own, there’s a reciprocal agreement with other BW marinas so a visitor mooring in Apsley Marina would be a cost-effective and secure option if the towpath was full (as it was today).
The day was over too soon – we reached our destination by 5.30pm with the weather the best it had been all day. An evening cruise through the Grove was such a temptation, but commitments were calling and it was a sensible time to stop. We moored above lock 70 – it’s very shallow here but a residential moorer opposite told us where it was a little deeper and we managed to get to within a few inches of the towpath. Ken and Ginny kindly gave Richard a lift back to get his car (very efficient) and I did the usual packing up – Blue helped by eating the remnants of food in the fridge (which I won’t carry home because of concerns about the cold chain)! So, Blue is eating, so he can’t be drastically unwell……
We got home around 8pm – not bad at all. We’re drawing ever closer to home now and our journeys are getting a bit easier. Hard to believe how we slogged up to Chester and the like last year – ah well, it all made sense at the time!
I can’t tell you how delighted I am with Indigo Dream – she’s proving to be everything I’d hoped for in a boat. We’ve had more guests on board this year than ever before and she’s such a sociable narrowboat – the decks are made for entertaining and the layout makes it easy for guests to move around the boat without seeming to encroach on our personal space. Four years on and we’re enjoying her more than ever.
There’s a dreadful bit of demolition and dereliction on the offside between Nash Mills Lock and Red Lion Lock. I’ve been meaning to look it up for a while but wasn’t sure where to start. D’oh – the clue’s in the name – the large industrial site now half-chewed away is the sad remnant of Nash Mill. There’s been a mill on the site for a thousand years – in the Domesday book it was listed as a corn mill but from 1811, soon after the construction of the Grand Junction canal on its doorstep, it’s been a papermill. Although it’s had a succession of owners, papermaking was only stopped in 2006 and the site sold off for development. What a shame – I’d have loved to have seen it in its manufacturing heyday. Anyway, it looks a right mess now though I did find this sneaky site where some enterprising gatecrashers have taken photos of the newly closed works – naughty but fascinating! I also found some plans submitted by Linden homes in 2008 – they’re proposing a new footbridge across the canal just below Nash Mills lock to allow easy access to Apsley and its train station – the report is well worth a browse. I wondered whether the development was going ahead – well, apparently it received planning permission in 2009 but the ‘vision‘ in this snippet looms quite horribly over the canal – but then again, so did the working mill I guess…..
Blue has a sore back, from his ribs to his hips – ‘sporting injury’ according to the vet. Blue is now on lots of antinflammatories, muscle relaxants, massage and limited exercise for a week. He is quite grumpy – bit like a typical ma…… better not say it 🙂