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Boat Blog: East End Revelations…..

Posted by indigodream on 19 July, 2010

Sunday 18th July

Apologies – no photos today, we forgot the cameras – d’oh!

Aha, so you want to know who murdered/had affairs with/hid the bodies on ‘Eastenders’. OK, Bradley is Dirty Den’s lovechild by one of the Slater girls……

Oof, that’s enough of that, how about I tell you about the real revelation. We cruised what I think is called the ‘East London’ ring today (Limehouse basin – Limehouse cut – Duckett’s cut – Regent’s Canal – Limehouse Basin). It was great – much more interesting, and scenic, than we expected, even though we’ve cruised its constituent parts many times.

Today we welcomed Richard’s mum, Renia, together with his sister, Alina, and brother-in-law Rysiek. We haven’t had a family cruise for ages and it was lovely to see them. You can tell that they don’t cruise very often – they always bring their own drinking water, as if Indigo Dream was a dodgy foreign country 🙂

We had a very relaxed start – we’d decided to travel up to the boat on Sunday morning – not too early, after all, Sainsbury’s in Greenwich doesn’t open until 11am (though you can ‘browse’ i.e. fill your basket from 10.30am). We filled our basket and had time for coffee and cake at the instore Starbucks – what a splendid place. It would be the perfect superstore apart from it’s horrifying lack of a hot chicken counter – probably could not afford the juice as this store is a Chetwood design claiming to be Britain’s first low-energy supermarket – write up here.

The weekend works on the Blackwall Tunnel caused us some pain on the trip there and back – the diversions are byzantine. Nonetheless we got to the boat before midday – plenty of time to get to know a few more of our neighbours at the marina, show one of them around the boat and have a nosey around his. Adrian owns nb City Of Sheffield which has an interesting provenance, having once been owned by actor and canal enthusiast David Suchet. It’s very lavish inside, with ornate carvings in the richly varnished panels, deep red furnishings and tasselled pelmets. Anyone who’s seen Indigo Dream will know that we prefer a light, modern finish but we always appreciate seeing different styles. Not a boat for Richard, though he was ok standing in the hatches.

The family arrived around 12.30pm and we finally set off around 12.45pm – we’ve logged the time as we’ve been trying to work out whether this ring would be possible in an evening – hmm, probably not, to get the best from it I think we’d need to allow a long afternoon or short day.

I had my first go at moving Indigo Dream off the mooring today – it wasn’t the smoothest move but I didn’t sink anyone at the marina so that’s a result – more practice needed I think!

We set off along Limehouse Cut – it was a very fine day and the cut looked great – you’d never believe that we were in the bowels of Tower Hamlets! Mind you, the car was still in the canal – I wonder who’s responsible for removing it? I now see the helpful locals have been throwing bricks onto the car roof – I’m not sure why – it defies explanation, like most moronic acts of vandalism!

We cruised past Bow Locks today, going up a stretch that we haven’t cruised for a few years now. We admired the unique buildings on Three Mills island. There has been a tidal mill here since ancient times though I’m not sure when the current building were constructed – there are many and complex layers of history here. The mills have been used to process many disparate substances, from flour to gunpowder! There was a good museum/visitor centre on the site – I wonder if it’s still open? We definitely need an update!

The Bow Back Rivers have been closed for a long while now – partly because of olympic security and partly because of the construction of new bridges and whatnot over the canal which might make for unsafe cruising. We resisted the temptation to unhook the boom blocking the navigation and carried on up the Lee Navigation though Richard did have his flashing orange light ready. I was surprised to see that the south side of the olympic ‘island’ was still industrial and somewhat derelict – I’d assumed that the whole island was to be given over the olympics. Maybe that bit will be done later. But as we cruised further north the olympic stadium’s steel skeleton became increasingly apparent.

One of the highlights of the day was mooring up just by the northern sewer outfall (marked as a footbridge) and having a stroll along the footpath to “view tube”  which gives a stunning views of the emerging olympic site – including the crown of the olympic stadium, the wing of the aquatic centre and the speedy curves of the velodrome. There are also comprehensive maps and guides and a little cafe for weary walkers and cyclists. We caught a glimpse of the Bow Back Rivers here and spotted bright orange security rib cruising along – apparently theft of metals from the adjacent site (especially copper cables) has been an issue so no doubt the ODA’s security team are ready to repel pirates coming across.

We had a lengthy wander around – Richard has been working on the enabling works for the olympics so he’s quite familiar with the site and was able to point out many of it’s interesting features (from an engineer’s perspective). Sadly we didn’t get a good view of ‘his’ bit of the site – it was blocked by some portacabins – a reminder of just how many people there are working on this site.

It was hot by now, much hotter than we’d expected – the morning mist had burnt off and we cruised under a flawless blue sky. As we got back to the boat, the security rib emerged from the far end of the Bow back river. “Are you having a good day” they shouted “of course” we replied – it felt as if they were checking us out, but we were legitimately moored on a public towpath! It wasn’t the last time that we were to see them…..

We went up through Old Ford Lock and moored for lunch just above. As we set out our towpath picnic, the security rib came up the lock behind us and there were two security guards walking along the towpath. As they passed, we noticed one of the security guards pressing his ‘radio’ against a tree – presumably they have sensors around to detect/track where they are – interesting. It felt very strange to be so scrutinised, allbeit in a friendly way. But the security is making a difference here. There were several boats moored unattended on the towpath above Old Ford Lock and at the entrance to Ducketts Cut. I don’t think it would ever have been considered a safe place to moor in previous years.

We lunched opposite a large factory and restaurant which was recently re-located to this spot – Foremans.  It’s an unusual place – it looks quite posh yet, at the same time, it looks like a big square warehouse. We must find out if they actually smoke salmon on the premises. Has anyone eaten there?

It was with some reluctance that we moved on, but it was such a nice day that we couldn’t bear just to do a ‘there and back’ and elected to do the whole ring. What a great decision.

As we turned into Ducketts Cut and ascended the first of the three locks on this section, the security rib emerged below the lock to see us off. We weren’t harrassed but it did feel a bit weird.

The water in Ducketts Cut is still crystal clear – not that there’s much to see on  the canal bottom – the occasional flash of tiny shoaling fish was welcome. The towpath was busy, both here and on the main navigations – plenty of walkers, joggers and cyclists. “Bit too hot for all that”, I thought, but later on, Rysiek, who is very fit, decided to join in by doing press-ups and scrunches at the locksides!

As we travelled up Ducketts cut we’d become increasingly aware of a pulsating drone, heavy on the bass, which we’d first assumed to be from passing cars. As we drew closer to Victoria Park it became obvious that there was a festival on the go. The Lovebox festival was well-boarded so we didn’t get a view of the stage but the noise was all-pervasive. The residents of the attractive canalside apartments opposite didn’t seem too bothered – apparently there are often events going on in the park.

Ducketts Cut is a little gem – it’s a surprisingly attractive stretch of canal – we can definitely recommend a visit. There’s the expanse of Victoria Park to one side and neat canalside developments on the other. The towpath is in very good condition and frequented by a mix of users – none of whom seemed menacing! There were even a few boats moored on the towpath. In fact, we’ve seen boats moored in places where we wouldn’t previously have dreamt of mooring – including the towpath flanking the canalside parkland in Mile End. Now, has this suddenly become a place to moor because the canal and its surroundings are on the up or are people being forced to try new mooring spots because the city’s more obvious moorings are so congested. I guess it’s a bit of both, but if ‘frontier’ boaters are establishing new ‘safe’ moorings then that can only be a good thing – for everyone. We did notice a large canalside house for sale by the top lock – it seemed be one of two substantial lock cottages. It had a sign up for sale by auction – we think it was lot 26 at last month’s Savills auctions –click here – a nice double fronted detached cottage that sold for £820,000. The surrounding land was sold separately for around £200,000. Ok no moorings but sounds amazingly cheap. I wonder what will be built there…..

Having locked up Ducketts Cut, it was soon time to lock down to Limehouse. The canal seemed much cleaner than on our last trip a few weeks ago. Having garbage-free water makes such a difference to the canal’s ambience but we still enjoyed the family’s surprise at the glorious sight of Limehouse Basin with the surrounding yellow brick buildings glowing in the westering sun. We arrived back in the basin by 6pm so, call it a 5.5 hour trip with stops.

We bid the family goodbye and packed up the boat. By now it was 7pm and we decided to eat in the Cruising Association – it seems to be a popular haunt with visiting boaters. Dogs are not allowed inside, but it was the perfect temperature for eating outside and the hounds just loafed on their sheepskins. The CA is  a welcoming place but the food, which is ok, wasn’t good enough to justify the 70 minute wait. There was only one member of staff on, and while she worked very hard, we weren’t happy customers as the wait just delayed our long, slow drive back to Surrey. Never mind, maybe we’ll just use the CA for the odd drink from now on – there are plenty of other eateries in the area.

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