Indigo Dreaming

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The Odyssey 2010: Day 26

Posted by indigodream on 2 July, 2010

Saturday 26th June

Kings Langley to Cowley

Good companions.....

We were too weary to travel up to the boat last night so I was under strict instructions to get up at 7am to enable us to make an early start on Saturday. I’m not a morning person so this was a challenge, but as it happens I woke up at 6am (most unusual) and we were on for a full day’s cruising. We had a good journey up to the boat, stopping off for essentials at a handy Spar shop in King’s Langley before rejoining the boat. She’d been fine on the moorings .

I set the lock as Richard pottered around and got the boat ready. Blue and Lou had a little rummage, with Lou being exceptionally well-behaved with a little whippet-lurcher that passed by – Honey the lurcher was sweet and enjoyed a good fuss. It was a lurcher fest today – we didn’t kidnap any greyhounds but we did meet five lovely lurchers in all!

We set off before 9am – remarkable! Our first point of interest was the giant Gade viaduct carrying the M25 over the canal. Now, this was the subject of a trivia entry a few months ago – they’ve made incredible progress on the building of the giant earthworks that will apparently shield Abbots Langley from the noise from Junction 20. There’s a good view of the works from the lock – that’s a lot of earth! I was amused by a news article which reported that the ongoing widening works on the M25 in the area is causing concern to a local naturist club a few miles away (but not overlooked by the canal!). The Five Acres naturist club is worried about problems from peeping toms who may take advantage of the overlooking earthworks and mounds created by the roadworks.

Where are the nude sunbathers?

Evocative artwork on this cratch....

It was a perfect day – somewhat overcast, which kept the temperature at a manageable level. It was still too hot for the dogs though – we passed through some top rummaging country today but Blue and Lou weren’t the least bit interested. They lolled on the sofa, enjoying the breeze from the fan – I can honestly say that the brass greyhound on the tiller was more active 🙂

We had a chat with a BW worker who was painting the lock gates at Lock 71 -it looked like hot work but at least the paint would dry quickly! Richard was on a ‘confined space’ safety course last week and interestingly the BW guy said that empty locks are now counted as confined work spaces – not least because of the potential gases stirred up by the sludge at the bottom.

At Hunton Bridge Lock we saw the sad consequence of litter in the canal – a poor duck with a red plastic ring (as from the seal off the top off a drink bottle) stuck in it’s beak and round its head. We tried to net it to remove the plastic but it wasn’t quite as tame as we thought and we didn’t catch it – shame.

We were joined at Hunton Bridge Lock by nb Maria-Jessie and spent the whole day locking with them – they were great companions – Val was very efficient ground crew and David was a competent driver so we were set for a fine day. It’s funny, but we were thinking how quiet it would seem without any guests on board, but we had an equally sociable time with our locking partners! David used to be a blogger – here’s the link to his site http://mariajessie.blogspot.com/ but he stopped a few years ago; we found that we had several blogging acquaintances in common. Wouldn’t it be great if he were to start blogging again!

Only mad dogs and englishmen.....

nb Maria-Jessie was on her way to the Thames – there’s a very civilised tide on Sunday afternoon for the transit from Brentford to Teddington. We chatted endlessly about how we got into boating, how we named out boats (Maria Jessie was Val’s mum), how we designed our boats, but I’m sorry to say that I never did find out what sort of toilet they have on board. Oh no, I’ve lost my boating credentials……

Surprisingly there was plenty of water in the canal, despite the recent dry weather. I wonder whether it’s quite so fine at the summit. The canal looked deep and cool, full of strappy fronds of weed and wild waterlilies. After much testing, I have decided that the stretch through the Grove and Cassiobury Park is my favourite bit of the Grand Union – well, until I change my mind – I do love this canal.

The river below Coppermill Lock was still pushing a fair cross-flow into the canal – it’s always a worry because we’ve seen canoeists pushed into the path of the narrowboat before now. But we have to complement the canoeing instructors today – they got all of their young canoeists tucked into the side while we passed by without incident – thanks!

As we moved further down the canal, the blanket weed started to encroach – great ugly clumps of it. We’ve heard that it’s really bad between Bulls Bridge and the top of the Hanwell flight but it’s getting a toe-hold here as well. We didn’t need to clear the prop, but at the end of the day I did hook a big heap that had accumulated around the bow. It’s pernicious stuff – we clear tons out of our home pond every year. I reckon it’s a perfect prop-fouler, as one poor cruiser that was drifting aimlessly had found – his prop was totally clogged.

Heap of blanket weed - this will only get worse if the hot weather persists...

We stopped off at the useful canalside Tesco in Batchworth – the moorings were busy but we snuck in by the car park. We ran in to get a hot chicken and other dog essentials

Despite our pleasant locking companions, we did feel a little pushed by the crew of a ‘charity’ boat who were lock-wheeling ahead and who were quite keen to turn locks in front of oncoming boats. They were moving as a pair and tried to claim priority at one lock saying that we should let them go first because they were ‘towing’. Hmmmm, nice try but no thanks – we’d already waited for the boat ahead to go down and for another to come up, we were tied together and ready to enter the lock when they came round the corner. The ‘charity’ cruise had raised an impressive amount of money – apparently through sponsorship – amazing – getting sponsored to cruise, drink beer (lots) and horse around pushing each other into the canal……

We’d thought that we might get to Black Jack’s lock today and had a fantasy destination of Cowley lock. With the aid of our excellent companions we got there with ease – arriving just after 6pm. We were concerned that we might not get a mooring but there were two big spaces left below the lock – just perfect. The moorings here are 7-day, has that changed recently? We’d a memory that they were 14-day but it was academic as we were only here for the night! There’s a park adjacent for the dogs, (not that they were interested) and the Malt Shovel pub is ok. We ate there again – it was more than warm enough to eat in the garden so we took Blue and Lou with us. They got their usual stock of attention as well as a generous portion of sausages and sundry leftovers.

There was some sort of ‘event’ going on in the park with lots of families, picnics and games. It wasn’t particularly noisy, but there were passing voices in the park and on the towpath until quite late but there was no bother. There are a lot of boaters here which is always comforting…….

Today’s Trivia:

I was fascinated by the lockside terrace at Coppermill Lock – they looked too big to be cottages yet too small to be industry. Well, it seems that they were indeed housing for canal workers. The lock, as you might have expected, was named for the old coppermill that once stood here – the copper for the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral was allegedly rolled here, as was the copper sheeting used to cover the bottom of old wooden ships. Interestingly there was an article about a ‘copper bottomed’ frigate on the news this morning (though I don’t know where her copper bottom came from) – she’s one of the few restored examples – the website is well worth a look – HMS Trincomalee.

As so often happens along the Grand Union, there has been a mill on this site for almost 1000 years though exactly what has been milled has changed many times – corn, paper, copper, asbestos! Luckily they don’t mill asbestos here any more or we’d be cruising past in a gas mask. The brisk flow below the lock is the river Colne, but it’s actually the mill race, which explains the ferocious flow, even today, when the weather’s been so dry.

I got snippets of information from an excellent walking guide published by the Rickmansworth Waterways Trust – here’s a link to the guide here http://www.rwt.org.uk/pdf/Walk8Harefield.pdf

There’s also information on this fascinating ‘Blog’  – http://edithsstreets.blogspot.com/2009/10/londonhertfordshire-border-harefield_31.html – I don’t know who ‘Edith’ is but she’s done a great job of listing and identifying structures in various London streets and filling in some of their history. I can see this becoming a good resource int he future!

Photoblog:

Narrowboats are as individual as the faces of their owners.....

Another unique boat.....

There are quite a few 'fender' gardens around here - mainly Buddleia taking root wherever it can!

But some boats have more conventional gardens....

I know it's a serious business but these signs always make me laugh - the thought of a man legging it down the towpath with a carp tucked under his arm.....

Subsidence? Worth giving this wall a wide berth is you're walking by!

Now, what does a canal steerer do?

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