Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Archive for July 8th, 2010

Boat Blog: Mooching Around London (2)

Posted by indigodream on 8 July, 2010

Saturday 3rd July

Battlebridge Basin to Paddington Basin

Below St Pancras Lock.....

The mooring was surprisingly quiet overnight. There was a little traffic noise from the bridge and the usual footsteps and chatter from the towpath as the last of the drinkers wandered home but by midnight it was silent. Well, silent apart from the sudden drumming of rain on the roof. Luckily my drowsing brain registered what it was, just in time for me to get up and close the side-hatch before we were swamped! I hope the rain reaches Surrey – the garden’s looking desperate (apart from the weeds – they’re thriving regardless).

This mooring has been a revelation – we would never have thought of leaving the boat here if we hadn’t been prompted by necessity, but it’s been great.

With the hatches closed, the heat built up and we woke up early. Just as well – our plan was to arrive at Paddington Basin just after the morning boats had left but before the afternoon boats had arrived. We set off around 9am – I walked up to St Pancras Lock with the dogs. They’re just bobbling around at the moment – the heat is just too much for them and Blue’s back still isn’t right. I was reading our 2008 blog and it’s very noticeable how much they’ve slowed down.

When we got to the lock, we were greeted by a crew member from a Waterbus trip boat on its way from Camden to Limehouse. She was just setting up the lock ready for the oncoming boat. She instantly fell in love with the greyhounds. Ladies just can’t resist Blue – he stoically endured a shower of hugs and kisses, wearing an expression akin to a 10-year old boy being accosted by a maiden aunt. The crew member was soon joined by another who, by chance lives aboard and owns a lurcher, while her mum has two rescue greyhounds – it’s a small world! Interstingly, this trip boat closed the paddles and one of the gates after them (they did leave one open for Indigo Dream to enter). We appreciated the courtesy….

London turns its face towards the canal.....

So, I suspect that ‘custom and practice’ with regards to leaving gates and paddles open are only applied by some skippers in some circumstances…..

We got to the “Camden” locks around 11am – it was the perfect time to pass through. There were enough spectators for us to feel appreciated but not so many as to make me feel anxious about squashing them! I was fascinated by a town cryer up on the bridge between Camden middle and top locks. I think he was encouraging people to go into the market – he had a loud handbell, an even louder voice and was dressed in full regalia including a heavy red felt coat (with gold frogging). He didn’t look that young and I worried about his health in the relentless heat. What a feature though – Camden is quite……surreal, I think is the right word.

The right hand top lock was out of commission today because BW were running water through from the pound above. We’re not sure why – the pounds below had plenty of water. I wonder if they’re trying to relieve an excess of water further up the canal. If only we could channel the excess up to the parched north.

We arrived in Little Venice before midday but we couldn’t hare down to Paddington – there was water to be taken on and rubbish to be taken off. We stopped off at the Little Venice services – there’s a feel of the ‘old west’ here at the moment. There was a boat just finishing off at the services – we carefully quizzed them about their plans – they were heading down to Paddington Basin to find a mooring – curses! Then we got onto the services and a boat came down and quizzed us about our plans – we were both heading to Paddington to find a mooring – curses! We begged the water tank to fill quickly so that we could get away but “a watched tank never fills”. We filled a bucket and tried to wash off the dust that the night’s rain had plastered onto the boat and kept an eagle eye on the little boat in case he made a break for the Paddington moorings 🙂

Note: There are good services at Little Venice – the recycling facilities are on the road just off the towpath.

This pub mural is great - we've never been inside but it's always buzzing....

Finally the tank filled and we reversed back into Little Venice Basin ready for the turn back towards Paddington Basin. As we turned we spotted the boat that had been on the services before us – they’d explored the basin and it was full, not a mooring to be had. The crew of the Waterbus was helpful and suggested Kensal Green – there was plenty of space there. But we needed to be in Paddington as we were picking up a crew of four for a charity cruise on Sunday.

We cruised down Paddington Basin anyway and spotted the miraculous sight of a boat that had just left her mooring. We hastened down and moved into the one available spot. It’s a slightly awkward spot – it used to house the historic barge (can’t remember the name) and is a bit tight for 2 narrowboats – it would be easy to get blocked on the towpath side. This may explain why the crew of the boat on the towpath side hurried back from their shopping to move out before we could settle on the offside pontoon. They moved out and we shuffled over – the towpath side is a bit easier for on/offloading. We kept our fingers crossed that the remaining space wouldn’t be taken by 70 footer. But we were joined by the boat that had used the services after us, the little boat. It was all too perfect – we were in the best spot for picking up our Sunday guests and with a short boat next to us there was plenty of room for us to get out in the morning. We were so relieved and could finally relax enough to have a little snooze in front of the Wimbledon Ladies final on the telly.

We were well-satisfied, but actually a few mooring spaces opened up later in the day and weren’t filled up until dusk so although Paddington Basin is crowded it’s worth having a little look as spaces do seem to become available at intervals.

One of Lou's infrequent trips to the shore - for a fuss of course....

It was with extreme reluctance that we moved later on to get provisions. There was no question of moving the boat but fortunately Richard had parked nearby so we went off to the canalside Sainsbury’s in Kensal Green – it was very strange to go there by car!

With the essentials done it was time for some fun. The dogs have really suffered in the heat so we took them for a little splosh in the Serpentine. Hyde Park is very close by and has surprisingly ample parking. The dogs enjoyed a little rummage and brief paddle in the water. The park was crowded, though there were very few dogs around. The Diana memorial was packed with shrieking children splashing around in the water. The notice on the gate says that this is an area for quiet reflection – the local kids had different ideas!

Lou and Blue picked up another couple of fans and were generally admired, cuddled and photographed (again).

We’d had a busy little day but it wasn’t over yet. It seemed a crime to eat on board when we were surrounded by restaurants. We took the dogs off to Sheldon Place and ate at Smith’s Bar. We had a table outside and the greyhounds lounged on their sheepskins. The passersby were fascinated and I was surprised that more of them didn’t walk straight into the nearby lamp-post while staring at the hounds! We had a very good meal at Smith’s and the service was very pleasant, if a little slow. We’d certainly eat here again.

By now the entire crew was exhausted so we fell straight into our beds when we got back. It feel so secure in the basin that we left the offside side-hatches open which made for a comfortable night’s sleep.

Unusually quiet at Camden top lock.....

This development on the right (above Camden top lock) is finally emerging from behind its scaffolding. It looks impressive - they're now drilling out round 'portholes' in the lower walls -I though they were for windows but the walls seem to be at least a metre thick....

Blue and Lou dining 'al fresco' at Smith's in Sheldon Place....

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