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Archive for July 3rd, 2010

The Odyssey 2010: Day 27

Posted by indigodream on 3 July, 2010

Sunday 27th June

Cowley to Battlebridge Basin

The canalside development just south of the Slough Arm is sprouting quickly.....

Well, after a long day’s locking yesterday here we were, back on the long lock-free pound that has been our winter home for several years. Yes, our winter home, we’ve not done much cruising in London during the summer and what a contrast it is…….

One benefit of the lock-free pound is the ease of single-handing. Richard got up early and set us off down the canal while I had a little lie-in. We stopped off at Packet Boat Marina’s service point – this is conveniently placed right on the canal mainline – there’s no need to turn into the marina. Richard filled the water tank and did a pump-out – we’re expecting more guests on board next week! I’d emerged by now – it’s fine having a snooze with the just the gently humm of the engine, but not with the random noises of a busy service point. There’s a useful recycling facility here as well as a conventional rubbish point. We met one of our new prospective neighbours at the service point – a boat that moors at Limehouse Basin – we didn’t get the boat name but we’ll know them when we see them – they have a very large, hairy and laid-back german shepherd dog! They were a jolly crowd so now we’re really looking forward to getting to our new home.

With the boat all set for cruising, we set off down very familiar waters indeed. Richard was going to do the car shuffle by train later so he finally got to cruise the entire lock-free pound. There seem to have been a few changsd in the few short months since we last cruised this way – canalside developments seem to sprout like mushrooms overnight. There now seems to be another towpath Tesco coming up just past West Drayton. “Great”, I thought, but really we’re not badly served by superstores along this stretch of canal – in 2 days cruise you pass Tesco in Batchworth and Bulls Bridge then Sainsbury’s in Alperton and Kensal Green. Ah well, as Blue and Lou pointed out, you can’t have too many hot chicken retailers……

We think that this will be a new canalside Tesco just south of the Slough Arm - very convenient!

We were interested to see that the Black Horse towpath closures, planned for March, are now in force. A huge stretch of towpath is now closed, but the new paths look so good – there’s an end to the usual winter quagmire. The Black Horse moorings are closed apart from a small space around the water point. There’s plenty of towpath mooring space beyond Black Horse Bridge so I hope that the pub’s business hasn’t been too badly affected.

There were very few boats on the move today – but then again it was HOT. The dogs drooped on the sofa and we did likewise on the tiller. By the time we got to the aqueduct over the North Circular we were beyond of roasting and I finally remembered that we had a parasol on board. This made a big difference, especially to our feet – they were burning hot, with infrared rather than ultraviolet – we were comprehensively slathered with sunscreen.

I’m very sorry to report that the previously pristine white wall under the M40 viaduct is now covered in horrible graffiti; the little flowerbeds that someone tried to plant there have also perished – shame.

Crowds at Camden....

The Paddington Branch was very quiet compared to the mainline – there were very few boats moored along the towpath. It was a shock to see how full it was in Little Venice – the moorings from Ha’penny Bridge to Little Venice Basin were jam-packed. Our target for the day was City Road Basin but we did have an option to stop in Paddington Basin. No chance – a boater told us that Paddington Basin was full (though we didn’t check for ourselves). Here was the first contrast between winter and summer – when we last visited Paddington last November there were plenty of empty spaces – yeah, I know it’s obvious but I hadn’t realised it would be such a difference. There’s serendipity at work again – with London so full, we’d really be struggling to join the St Pancras Cruising Club summer activities if we didn’t have our own mooring in Limehouse

This wall looked so much better, and the towpath much brighter, when it was just plain white.....

We pressed on to Camden – now here are more contrasts – the trip boats were out in force and there were hundreds of gongoozlers along the towpath through Regent’s Park and hundreds upon hundreds around the Camden locks.

We met an old ‘stable mate’ at Cumberland Basin – a boat emerged straight out and at some speed from under the bridge – I don’t think they’d realised that there was a right-angled turn there. We heard their helm shouting “what are they doing” – well, we’re on the correct side of the canal waiting for you to clear the turn, actually! As we crept past them on the wrong side (they had no hope of getting round to the right side) we saw that it was nb Celtic Kiwi which was build and managed by the same company as our old share boat, Dragonfly. We’ve met Celtic Kiwi several times in different parts of the country, but the trouble with share boats is that we’re always meeting them with different crews so it’s almost impossible to build a friendship.

We reached Camden Locks in the early afternoon and the heat was unbearable, radiating from the cloudless sky and from the surrounding buildings. Now we usually enjoy the theatre of Camden Locks, but we just weren’t in the mood today. Fortunately one of the top locks was set our way and we’d already worked out that all the waterbuses were out so we could just approach the lock directly without worrying about a waterbus moving out of its mooring. All good so far. We did have to ask some people to take their legs out of the lock – they looked quite scandalised – but locks are for boats and with the random movements of a narrowboat in a broad lock we figured that the risk of crushing a dangling leg was too high. Fortunately the locksides are fenced off so it’s only a few die-hard visitors that climb over to the edge. There was a bit of argy-bargy (sorry!) at the adjoining lock – a community boat coming up did not think they could fit in with the narrowboat that was already in the lock. We were a bit perplexed but it turns out that the community boat was having a lot of difficulty getting into position. Our lock was empty by now and I got positioned so that the ‘spare’ narrowboat could creep in while I crept out. In the end the other lock managed to sort themselves out and the two boats did share one lock.

Going through London Zoo - there's a Waterbus stop here so do keep a lookout....

I stopped just below the first lock – the next lock wasn’t set our way and there was no hope of getting in to the next lock moorings – there were hundreds of people all danging their toes in the water. It would have been a major crowd clearance exercise to make room for the boat. I get very anxious about this – you know how it is, a gust of wind, a clogged propeller – so many things that could drift a 17-ton boat into the side. I needn’t have worried -Richard got the next lock set and conditions were perfect – not a breath of wind.

The gongoozlers here are a very uninformed lot -I did such smooth lock entries, worthy of a round of applause, but most of the towpath denizens were under the mixed influence of sun, alcohol and other substances and didn’t even notice – Bah Humbug!!!!

As I got more anxious about the safety of the various feet in the water, Richard was getting increasingly annoyed by having to close the bottom gates and paddles that had been left open by a trip boat going down the locks. He even asked them to close the paddles and gates after them at one lock and they just ignored him and went on their merry way. We’ll come back to that later because we need your opinions….

Anyway, we got past Camden with some relief (and without crushing anyone’s toes!) – it was St Pancras Lock next. There was a cruiser moored on the lock bollards with the usual scribbled note on the window – “sorry, waiting for the engine to be fixed” – sigh…..

Worth keeping a lookout for emerging boats at Battlebridge Basin as well!

Note: the towpath in the Kings’ Cross area, by Maiden Lane Bridge is closed for works – it takes out a long stretch of potential mooring (useful for the station) though I’m not sure that we’d leave a boat unattended here anyway.

We don’t follow football, but our cruise was accompanied by the unusual soundtrack of heartfelt and anguished screams from each open window and pub garden as England were comprehensively beaten…

There were a couple of people in the canal as we approached the Islington Tunnel – fortunately they had the sense to come out of the water apart from the one, who insisted on staying in despite being nagged by his companions. At least he was standing up, hanging on to the side and out of way of the boat. Now what is it with people swimming in canals – do they never ask what ducks etc use as a loo?????

The cool of the Islington Tunnel was very welcome after the roasting sun – shame you can’t moor in here 🙂

We got to City Road lock but it looked as if the moorings below the lock were full. Richard went on a scouting mission – the moorings were jam packed, below the lock, up to the bridge and beyond. We winded above the lock and headed back to Battlebridge Basin – there were enough boats moored on the towpath opposite the basin to convince us that it was secure but there was plenty of room left for us. Curiously, there are just 3 moorings rings here, but also a few stretches of grass in the otherwise hard concrete edgeing – just enough to take a mooring pin.

We weren’t so far from Euston station so Richard headed back to Kings Langley for the car while I did the usual boat cleaning/clearing – difficult when working around two large and totally inert hounds. By now the temperature inside the boat was 30 degrees and it felt cool compared to the outside. Fortunately Richard had a smooth journey so we were soon enjoying the air-conditioned car – the trip home took very little time – the traffic was kind and it’s not so far (if you can ignore the bulk of London sandwiched between the house and the boat!

Custom and Practice

As we mentioned, one of the trip boats was leaving both gates and paddles open as they passed through the locks, much to our inconvenience. When Richard asked them why they did this, he was tartly told “it’s custom and practice in the London area”. Hmmmm, really, we’re not newcomers to London and I can’t way we’ve noticed this trend, well, not the open paddles anyway.

So, here are our questions:

  • Is it custom and practice to leave both gates and paddles open after you pass through locks in London? Is it just custom and practice for trip boats?
  • Can this custom be changed?

When the trip boat crew told Richard about the ‘custom and practice’ they also said ‘blog about it!’. Thanks, we will! But there’s no way that they know about our blog so my guess is that this custom has been the subject of online debate before, so here’s our ha’porth on the subject…….

Now, there are some canal locks which have to be left empty because of flood risk, and it’s often the norm to leave gates open on river locks but the general rule is to leave all gates and paddles closed when leaving locks.

We found it hard work to be on the receiving end of this ‘custom’ – Richard had to close both bottom gates and paddles (and on double locks with no footbridges that’s a lot of walking), then, of course, we close the gates and paddles after us to it’s double the work. But we’d feel very uncomfortable to follow this custom – it feels like a discourtesy to those following us. We maybe could live with leaving gates open but why the paddles? And why does a narrowboat driven by so called professionals need both gates open to get out of the lock? The trip boats generally have plenty of crew and it doesn’t take that long to closed the paddles – they’d have to do it on the way back up anyway! Shame really as we have seen the distinctive brown boats quite a bit in Paddington and they are normally driven in exemplary fashion.

Today’s Trivia

I’ve been sitting on today’s trivia for a few months because it involves the Hovis Factory by Black Horse – I got the information just after we left our winter mooring and though I’d leave it until we got back.

Anyway, I found heaps of information about Hovis the brand but very little about the Greenford Factory. I emailed Premier Foods (who currently own Hovis) and they put me in touch with the factory’s manager who kindly gave me the snippets of information I was looking for. I never expected them to reply so thanks to Premier Foods and to Jas the manager – much appreciated!

Back to the trivia, Premier Foods own a lot of ‘heritage’ food brands – Hovis, Oxo, Birds, Sarsons – the brand names of my childhood!

Boaters who’ve cruised within 50 miles of Macclesfield will be familiar with the ‘Hovis’ brand – almost every walker on the towpath used to tell us the story of the name! It is an abbreviation of the latin term “Hominis Vit” – “strength of man” and was chosen as a result of a national competition held in the late 1800’s. Entries ranged from the educated to the ridiculous – the second placed name was “Yum Yum”! Apparently Hovis is one of the first wheatgerm breads to be produced and had a higher protein content than the standard white loaf of the time. The brand has gone from strength to strength, building on its historical status. Ooh, did you know that the 1970s Hovis TV advert featuring the boy on his bike, was produced by Ridley Scott – an inspiration for Blade Runner, I think not!!

The Greenford factory was built in 1958 by Garners Family Bakers and was originally used to produce confectionary for local shops as well as bread and crumpets; In the 1990’s it produced french rustic breads for M & S. It is now used to produce Hovis breads and buns. Although it is close to the canal, barges have not been used to transport grain or other raw materials to this factory. However, I believe that grain was once shipped by barge to Hovis warehouses in Hull and also in Macclesfield. Finally, I’ve alway wondered what the tall ‘spaceship’ hoppers were for – well now I know, they’re used for storing flour!


Ooh, a nice bit of shade - who's a clever duck then....

Mooring rings - remnants of the Grand Union's industrial past - shame it's all fenced off now!

It's such a shame to see this BW building at Bulls Bridge Junction falling to ruin - that end wall has fallen down since we last passed this way.....

Family preening...

Shame that parking sensors don't detect water as well as walls!

This boat roof was covered in carnivorous pitcher plants - now that's really waging war against the mossies!

Contractors barge and residential boat - working on the towpath by Black Horse.

Well, I guess it's better than just scattering the litter all over the towpath....

Blanket weed - hope it doesn't get any worse than this - it's horrible stuff...

Aha, so now we know for certain that the canal water being drawn by the aggregate plant is to keep the dust down...

Hot, hot, hot.......

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