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Archive for July, 2010

The Odyssey 2010: Day 28 Charity Cruise

Posted by indigodream on 10 July, 2010

Sunday 4th July

Paddington Basin to Limehouse Basin

These canalside houses have made the most of their waterside gardens...

As you might expect, we had a very quiet night in Paddington Basin – these are very fine moorings – no wonder they’re so popular!

We were down to half a tank of fuel and wanted to fill up before our adventures on the tideway next weekend. Fortunately there were no fewer that 3 fuel boats in and around Paddington – our business went to the early bird (nb Baron run by P J Wakeham and Son – 07774 166497). The son knocked on the hatch at an unearthly hour – we were barely dressed – and asked if we needed anything. Being right on the towpath I didn’t think they’d be able to get their diesel hose to us, but they were well prepared, having the longest hose I’ve ever seen. The base rate was 70p and we declared a 60/40 split. Apparently some boaters are still declaring 100% at the low rate – ah well, air-conditioning must take a lot of fuel! They filled us up and we were able to take payment by card, which was very convenient.

We’d intended to fill up anyway, but as it happens the St Pancras Cruising Club advise filling tanks up for the tideway as it prevents a lot of unbalanced sloshing around if there’s a bit of swell.

We were expecting four guests on board for a charity cruise – Anne (the organiser), Sue, Graham and Pat. They’re all doggie people, and three had been boating before (and loved it). It was very generous of them to come on a cruise for greyhounds when they themselves own a motley collection of breeds. Their dogs all sounded adorable but they decided not to bring them – all that water would have been too tempting – their dogs like to swim.

We set off early – just as well, we had a full day’s cruising ahead of us. We’d originally planned a ‘there and back’ from Paddington, but our guests kindly consented to come all the way to Limehouse with us. This was tremendously helpful as it saved us two post-work cruises during the week.

It was very windy in Paddington Basin, but it’s always windy here, so I wasn’t too concerned. But it stayed windy all day which made for some very tricky moorings later on.

Our guests proved to be pleasant, competent and willing – they were very keen to do locks – just as well, there were plenty!

We passed out usual favourites – Little Venice, Maida Hill, Regent’s Park, London Zoo, Camden Market……..

We were a bit mystified by this (model) cow on the balcony - an import from Milton Keynes perhaps....

Our guests were entranced, as were we – it’s good to have new people on board because we see things afresh through their eyes. They elected not to wander around the market but decided to stop off at the London Canal Museum instead. They’d researched their tour very carefully and had a lengthy wander round the museum while we juggled the boat around. We had some difficulty getting into the museum moorings – the wind kept blowing us away. I was so pleased when we tied up and offloaded our guests, but then I was dismayed when the museum manager told us we’d have to move to make way for a trip boat. The trip boat had priority on the mooring but would be there for an hour so we could brest up to her to pick up our people. We let nb Tarporley into the moorings then had a fun time being blown around the basin in every direction before eventually breasting up to her. Tarporley has a resident historian on board – how fantastic – I’ ve always wanted one, and a resident botanist and other sundry experts…..

Richard had an interesting chat with the museum ‘manager’ – the famous bit from Richard here…..

Our group wandered round the museum for almost an hour and said they could have stayed for much longer, but it was lunchtime and they’d already taken in as much information as they could in one visit. We moored up in almost the exact spot that we’d left yesterday morning and set up a picnic on the towpath (which is very wide here). We had a lovely time, eating, drinking and watching the world go by – we moved with some reluctance, we could easily have spent the rest of the afternoon here.

One of the boats that passed us was lighting a barbecue on their roof – it seemed very dodgy to us, not least of which because they decided to go through the Islington Tunnel immediately afterwards. We ended up catching up with them in the tunnel – they were moving very slowly and by now their rooftop barbecue was a bright mass of yellow flame. It made for a very smoky passage but fortunately their boat wasn’t on fire, and there wasn’t any methane in the tunnel! By the time we shared City Road lock with them, the flames had died down. We were very wary of their company, though the boat’s owner was very genial and redeemed himself by having an utterly adorable 4-month old whippet puppy!

The ladies hard at work....

City Road Basin was still full of boats. Later on we noticed that the Victoria Park moorings were full to bursting with boats three abreast and mooring between Mare Street Bridge and Bonner Hall Bridge – it’s normally empty there. The sheer volume of boats caused a bit of commotion at Old Ford Lock. We were by ourselves by now – our barbecuing partners had decided to stop off at the park. But when we got to the lock there was a boat in there filling up with water. He said there wasn’t enough space on the lock moorings for him to water up so he moored in the lock. He’d just started to fill up and said it would take half an hour. Unfortunately we couldn’t wait that long. We asked whether he’d mind going down the lock with us while still connected to the water, then he could fill the lock again when we were out. Luckily he agreed and so we went. His boat has the most amazing vegetable garden and looked lovely, but we were a bit mystified that the owner wandered off while we were locking down. Luckily he came back as we exited the lock. We did shut the gates behind us but Old Ford Lock is notorious for having self-opening bottom gates – we’ve had to tie them together before now just to give us time to get to the top paddles and let some water in. Anyway, the consequence was that as we left the lock the bottom gates swung open leaving our locking partner with two gates to sort out in order to get his boat back to the top of the lock. I felt a bit guilty but I really don’t know what the etiquette is when faced with a boat filling their water tank in a lock – do they have priority over moving boats, should we have waited for him to finish? All particularly awkward when the guy goes off to talk to the other boaters on the end of the lock moorings.

Once we passed Victoria Park we had the canal to ourselves. This end of the Regent’s Canal is a lot less glamorous, but it does seem to be going up in the world, slowly, with tidy canalside housing and a towpath in very good repair. The towpath had lots of walkers and people having picnics and barbecues. Once enterprising fellow had set up an impromptu boat hire business with three punts. There may be a shortage of moorings in London but there’s certainly no shortage of water – the pounds lower down were full to the brim, barely an inch off from flooding the towpath. So, where’s all the water – ha ha, we’ve got it here 😀

The hard-working locking crew have earned that lunch!

The poor old dogs were flat out – we hardly saw them all day. Our guests were amazed at how calm and well-behaved they were. Having spent most of the day on her sofa, Lou suddenly rushed off the boat at Johnson’s Lock. I was a bit perplexed because she jumped off just as Blue had decided to jump back on. They mystery was soon solved – her keen nose had detected an open can of Spam that someone had discarded on the towpath. She daintily carried it back to the boat for eating and was very miffed when I confiscated it (it was rank). I’d been caught by a very chatty irishman at the lock – he was fascinated by the hounds and commented on how tough their stomachs are and how they can eat/drink all sorts of rubbish and they’re fine. I held my peace – I’ve washed too much goo off the carpet to agree with him on that one…….

We had a merry mob of young lads at Salmon Lane lock – they’d been loafing around the towpath but rushed to the lock as the boat approached. They were fine, but I couldn’t wait for the lock to empty – they were asking whether they could jump onto the boat (no!) and whether they could jump into the lock (no!) and were generally egging each other on; if we’d been there much longer I’m sure that one of them would have ended up in the drink.

The area had been getting rougher, and the canal dirtier, the further east we cruised. We therefore enjoyed the total contrast when the boat dropped down into Limehouse Basin. The marina looked as swanky as ever, though our excitement at finally reaching our new home was tinged with a little anxiety as to whether we’d actually be able to manoeuvre into our berth! I handed the tiller over to Richard and went off in search of our spot – we’d carelessly left our marina plan in the car not expecting to come down today. We spotted a likely gap and Richard reversed in nicely – the brisk wind dropped just as he started his approach – phew!

Indigo Dream in her new home...

We said goodbye to our guests – we’d had the most sociable of days and Pat, who’d never been on a narrowboat before, is now completely hooked! We got ourselves settled into our berth, said “hi” to Robyn, the marina manager, who’s moored a couple of spaces along. The people in the neighbouring boats seemed very friendly and there are no cats on our pontoon (though there are a few on the others so it’s still “constant vigilance”). We ummed and ahd about how to get home – the original plan was for Richard to get the train back to Paddington and drive back to fetch us but it was already 7pm. In the end we all decamped and took the dogs on the DLR and then on the District Line. They did very well though Lou, normally so bold, is very frightened of trains, don’t ask me why. However she calmly lay down on one of Richard’s sweaty T-shirts and slobbered all over my feet. It could have been much worse! Blue, normally so timid, was ok on the trains, though he’d much rather be in the car.

Even with all of us travelling together, it was still very late when we got home and we were dizzy with fatigue – we all dashed off to our respective beds. But it’s been a good weekend, well, a good week really, between generous donations from our many guests and a calendar sales we’ve raised almost £250 for Greyhoundhomer so it’s all worthwhile.

Of course, that the odyssey over for now – we’re home. There will be many boat blogs to come though and we’ll pick up the 2010 odyssey in the autumn when we’ll either be going up the Wey, or the Lee and Stort or both…..


Lou on the scrounge - food, fuss - either will do!

Canoes at City Road Lock - apparently they're from Richmond - that's a long way but their trip was blocked by the Islington Tunnel...

Amazing Artwork at Samuel House - read about it here

Blue and Lou on the DLR

Blue and Lou on the District Line - oh, and my feet, sorry!

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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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Boat Blog: Mooching around London (1)

Posted by indigodream on 7 July, 2010

Tuesday 29th June & Friday 2nd July

It is cruel having your first go on a tiller just before a bend and bridge!

It is cruel having your first go on a tiller just before a bend and bridge!

Aha, I’ve taken over the blog from Sue. No doubt you’ll find it an engrossing read being full of satisfyingly technical details – she was saying the other day how the blog has become a bit dull now that we’re back on familiar waters.

These weekday evenings were an opportunity for me to take some work colleagues out on the boat in Central London.

Tuesday night’s trip saw Kathleen, Jess, Joy, Mairead, Nick, Paul, Sotirios and Steve joining me and Karolina (from my  office – Sue was unavailable ) for our journey from outside Battlebridge Basin to Paddington. Once we got everybody a glass of sugar free lemonade we settled into a routine with Karolina supervising the steerers whilst I supervised the locking crew.

We had a fantastic evening for a cruise, only the men drove, but they quickly got the hang of things, I didn’t see Karolina hit them at any time and one virgin steerer was even brave enough to drive faultlessly through the Maida Vale tunnel.

The trip was a bit of a busman’s holiday for the electrical people in the group:

Locking crew in action

Locking crew in action

The works at the back of Kings Cross are SESA replacing the 400kV cable troughs in the towpath so that got scrutinised.

Then obviously we went past the old Grove Road Power Station which used to get its coal deliveries by canal, hence that big area now used for moorings. Some of the buildings were drawn by Stanley Peach, founder of the practice of Architects still in existence, though very few of his Grove Road designs still exist. I have a few of his original drawings in my archives and also an old drawing showing loading cranes, coal stock piles and narrowboats in the canal.

The power station was built by the Westminster Electric Supply Corporation in 1902 and used to generate 57MW which is tiny in today’s terms. The site is now St Johns Wood and Lodge Road sub-stations – just one modern cable feeding the site carries more power then the old Power Station could generate! Mind you, as with many other sub-stations, they were often built on the site of the old power stations as that is how the distribution cables are routed. There are still 80-year old cables coming out from there feeding various parts of London.

Coming into the top lock at Camden

After St Johns Wood we went under Aberdeen Place. Most people know about the pub, Crockers Folly – a grandiose establishment (hopefully now re-opened) built there in the mistaken belief that Marylebone Station would be built nearby. For the electrical crew there was Aberdeen Place Sub-station to look at instead and, if you’re really quick, there is Marylebone Sub-station. This is an Owen Keith/Richard/Tony Markwick design; well Owen & Richard made Tony’s architectural concept stand up – engineers generally can’t take any credit for how a structure looks. The land to our left as we headed towards Paddington was the old Marylebone Power Station built in 1905 by the local Council. Again it got its coal by canal; I have a drawing of it somewhere that shows narrowboats being unloaded between Lisson Grove and the Maida Vale Tunnel hence the canal widening there.

Out journey was deliberately planned from east to west as one of the party commutes on a daily basis from South Wales so there was a certain satisfaction in not catching the tube but being dropped off in style just by the side entrance to Paddington Station just in time to catch the 19:12. Perfect!

Well done Pauline!

The next trip was on Friday when I, and my colleague, Simon, took a bunch of architects and surveyors (Ben, Chris, Dave, Judi, Mike, Pauline & Peter) for a trip from Paddington towards City Road. We managed to get a mooring on the ‘stop ‘n shop’ moorings at Camden, or rather what used to be the ‘stop ‘n shop’ moorings – the sign seems to have diappeared along with the scaffolding. The ladies went off to explore Camden Market, the men discussed the price of tea. This little interlude allowed Sue to catch up with us after her “lunch” in Tunbridge Wells which finished at 5pm….

The evening started a little overcast but gradually became mighty fine and a nice end to what has been a busy week.  Camden was busy enough to be interesting – the trip boats were doing a good trade. Below Camden we managed to meet the wide beam cruiser that had been moored on the St Pancras lock moorings – their engine’s obviously fixed.

St Pancras Lock

There was much of interest to the Architects but it was lost a bit on the Engineers! I remember them mentioning the eggs on the TV AM building and the industrial remnants look of the Nicholas Grimshaw Architects building – the Grand Union Walk Housing built in 1988 just below the  Camden locks for £1.65M

Lou was her usual tarty self at Camden and seduced a lady from New York who has a grey (Ella, I think) on the other side of the pond. The lady, Nina, was entranced by Lou’s tiger-stripe brindle and Sue persuaded her to take a 2011 greyhoundhomer calendar (featuring two of Lou’s best poses) home to the big apple. Nina gave a generous £10 for the calendar – donating her change to the cause – thanks! Our charity collection did very well this week – we tend to ask guests to drop some money into our collection box rather than bring gifts of wine etc. Both weekday groups were incredibly generous and between them gave £160 which Sue is dropping off to Greyhoundhomer next week

We got to City Road and found that the moorings were still packed – it feels strange to be in London during the summer months as our normal cruising pattern brings us here in the quieter spring and autumn months when City Road is empty!

Islington Tunnel

We got several offers to brest up but it is awkward with our dogs so we turned round and moored again just down from Battlebridge Basin.

We’d filled up on a load of nibbles as we were cruising along so we didn’t need to find a restaurant. However, everyone had a cruel thirst so we set off for the pub. We decided to try the ‘Canal’ bar just across Bridge 37 (below Battlebridge Basin). Although it looks like a trendy wine bar, to our amazement it was dog-friendly. Very dog-friendly – the ground floor terrace and bar were a little crowded for our big group so they suggested the upstairs terrace – we had a balcony all to ourselves and sat outside in the balmy evening enjoying a beer and some banter. There was a large screen just inside, so the football fans could glance at the match every now and then. Blue and Lou quietly settled onto their sheepskins, though Lou did protest a little because there didn’t seem to be any sausages forthcoming!

A good evening was had by all! Twice!

Islington Tunnel again - we went through it twice!

View from our mooring

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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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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 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

There’s also information on this fascinating ‘Blog’  – – 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!


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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