Saturday 2nd October
Cheshunt to Harlow
Looking upstream from the Cheshunt moorings - it's a lovely spot....
We had decided that I would lead the cruise today, with Greygal, leaving Richard at home to dog-sit and pay the eye-wateringly expensive vet’s bill when he went to collect Lou later in the day. I had set the alarm for 6am and by 7.05am I was on the train, heading for Cheshunt. It was an efficient journey and I arrived at the boat around 8.25am, feeling surprisingly calm and refreshed. I had time enough to sit and read my music (I have decided to go for the first of the classical singing diplomas – don’t hold your breath – it may take some years!), make myself a coffee, get the boat ready for cruising and de-cobweb the cabin – again. An early boater passed by – nb Spirit Level – aha, an engineer, I thought, but as she came past the spirit level was “Alcohol 50%, Chris 50% – I like it 🙂
The first guest to arrive was Greygal, who arrived at 9.30am with two greyhounds, Susie and Ranger – time for another coffee and a long chat about hounds. Susie, as top dog in residence, immediately took up Lou’s usual space on the sofa so that she could keep an eye on the back deck. Richard, to his great amusement, had dubbed us “Thelma and Louise” so we needed to check the Nicholson’s to see which weir we were going to drive over at the end of the day!
Shortly afterwards we were joined by Anne, Sue and Graham, who’d done a cruise through Camden with us earlier this year, along with friends Hazel, Jim and Dave and Sue’s brother Paul and mother Audrey. Sue’s family hail from this area and were fascinated to see their old haunts from the water. I think that just about everyone on board had previous experience of narrowboating, not that it’s a pre-requisite for cruising with us, but at least we knew from the outset that they were likely to enjoy themselves.
I’m not too sure what time we eventually set off – must have been close to 11am – there was a lot of chatting and catching up to be done, coffees to be made and danish pastries to be devoured. But with most of the crew drinking double shots from the espresso machine I knew that we’d fly along later! Our start was slightly delayed by Greygal taking an important phone-call – it was momentous news but that’s her story to tell – I do hope that she blogs about it soon (and no, it doesn’t involve greyhounds!).
Our cruising schedule wasn’t too ambitious – Cheshunt to Harlow is around 20 lock miles, so a nominal 5 hours cruising. But we’d allowed for an early finish because the forecast predicted heavy rain by 5pm and it’s always nice to stop for lunch.
Looking downstream from the Cheshunt moorings towards Waltham Common Lock...
It was the most stunning morning – it was very mild and the sun shone brightly for us, illuminating the delights of the Lee Valley in all their glory. Greygal and I shared the helming today and she did a great job. Of course, she’s become very familiar with Indigo Dream over the Summer, but it’s a big ask and she was brilliant. In the meantime, I did what I do best, fussed around in the kitchen and dispensed food and drinks in equal measure. I’ d wondered what it would be like to cruise with just the pair of us ‘in charge’ – it was lovely – all very calm and competent….
I must apologise to our guests – we would normally be encouraging them to helm but I didn’t think it was fair to ask Greygal to supervise, or to put her to work as a galley slave so that I could supervise instead. Nonetheless, the crew seemed to be having a nice time – the weather was great, the scenery stunning, the company convivial and the locks spaced just nicely so as not to be too much strain. The crew were enthusiastic about their locking duties and seemed to enjoy the whole process, picking up little tips along the way, and chatting, endless chatting, with each other and with passing walkers and boaters. (Don’t worry Bob, we have not forgotten, our guide to locks will appear one day ..) Susie and Ranger enjoyed little bobbles around the locks but most of all they enjoyed lying on their sheepskins on the back deck. Our dogs don’t do that, they’d prefer to be inside on the sofa, but Greygal’s pack seem to think that our large back deck – put in for people to socialise – is a purpose built sun-deck for hounds – fair enough! Our guests were suitably admiring of the hounds – Susie and Ranger lapped it up with aplomb, graciously accepting gifts of danish pastries, garlic bread, cheese etc etc.
I lost half of the crew at Dobbs Weir Lock – they’d elected to walk up to Feilde’s Weir Lock where we were due to stop for lunch. I can’t blame them, Dobbs Weir Lock is aflame with vivid virginia creepers and the scenery is breathtaking. I took the advance party ahead in the boat and was just getting set up when the ‘foot soldiers’ arrived. We moored below the water point/lock moorings and, while the water tank was filling, I dispensed soup and bread from the conveniently placed side-hatch which opens out from the galley. The group clustered around the handy wooden bench nearby, extra deckchairs came out and there we were, at the beginning of October, enjoying a picnic lunch outside in perfect comfort.
We could have stayed there all day, but we spotted a boat wanting to come down the lock so the crew leapt into action and helped them down while we got ready to set off upstream afterwards. It was very funny – our crew have all been boating before, some on the Indigo Dream, and had had a crash course in locking technique during the morning. They were confident enough to comment that the hirers locking down were ‘just novices’ and volunteered their wisdom and experience to help the descending boat!
Susie and Ranger on the sun deck....
We turned right onto the Stort and enjoyed its rural beauty yet again. It is a lovely river and the locks are particularly scenic. There were very few boats on the move, and very few moored up – the banks do tend to be uneven and overgrown, as you might expect on a river navigation. One moored boat that we passed had four cats sitting on the roof, fortunately the greyhounds didn’t notice; they were so comfortably ensconced on their sheepskins that they didn’t notice the four cats racing down the towpath as we approached the lock either – phew!
As we travelled upstream, the locks became deeper and more turbulent (nothing we couldn’t handle) and often accompanied by evocative and attractive mill buildings, more often than not converted to housing. Sadly by 3pm it had clouded over and we were getting intermittent showers – nothing too serious and punctuated by dry periods – I was glad that we hadn’t set too ambitious a cruising programme. Nonetheless it was a shock to suddenly find that we were at Burnt Mill lock, our planned end-point, at around 5pm. I don’t know where the day had gone – we’d experienced that strange telescoping of time that comes when you’re in good company and doing good things (whereas my Wednesday morning at the various vets felt like an eternity!).
Unfortunately the sparse visitor moorings above Burnt Mill Lock were jam-packed so we said goodbye to our guests at the lock – the day was suddenly over and I hope that everyone had a good time.
Up to this point, Greygal and I had failed in our impersonation of ‘Thelma and Louise’, having had no dramas all day long. But the last part of the day did turn out to be a bit of a saga…… Fortunately we were approaching all weirs from below and we just missed Ridley Scott taking his afternoon walk.
The locking crew were very enthusiastic!
Our plan was to stop in Harlow Town – Greygal had kindly stayed on board to help me moor. The town was convenient because her car was parked there and I could catch one of the frequent trains back to London. But Harlow was very disappointing – above visitor moorings the bank becomes uneven and overgrown with inconveniently spaced trees jutting out over the water – it’s also severely shallow. There was nowhere decent to moor – I was surprised, you’d think that the town would make more of their waterway. We cruised on, getting somewhat desperate as now we were facing a long walk back to town. We eventually spotted a section of sheet piling and moored up there, a short distance below Latton Lock. It was nigh on 6pm so we hastily packed up and set off down the towpath towards town – just under a mile away. But it wasn’t to be that simple – we got to the footbridge and found that it was securely fenced off – the towpath was closed – we hadn’t realised. So back we plodded to find another way across the river to the footpath we could see on the opposite bank. There was no way out across Latton Lock, we got some directions from a passing walker (the towpath is being used, despite the closures) and headed off to the footbridge above Latton Lock. We weaved our way through the woods and found a path back towards town. It was a long walk at the end of a long day and both human and canine crew were footsore and weary by the time we reached Harlow Town station.
Carthagena Lock - so pretty....
In the meantime Richard had picked up Lou from the veterinary referral centre. He’d had to go and have a lie down after paying the bill, we are hoping that our insurers, Marks & Spencer will be as fair about it as they have been with other bills even though most are like 30 times smaller. That said the awesome bill is for doing things the right way. You know that when you go to these places they will throw the kitchen sink at it and that your dog will be seen by total experts. For example the Internal Medicine Consultant who did the initial examination was Myra Forster-van Hijfte, the Neurologist looking after Lou is the apparently famous Rudolfo Cappello and, according to Richard’s sister, you don’t get better than those two. Richard asked the duty neurologist, Ane Uriarte, to run through the MRI with him. She had diagnosed Blue’s problems so we know her and she kindly found time in a busy morning to show Richard the MRI which hinted that there might be some grounds for hope.
I felt very sorry for the scrappy end to the day – Greygal had done us a huge favour and she’d kindly come with me to find a mooring only to be inconvenienced by the towpath saga. Ah well, it was good exercise – we eventually got to Harlow Town station just before 7pm and said our goodbyes. I will be forever grateful to Greygal (and A) for their help and understanding – it saved us an immense amount of stress and enabled us to continue with the cruise for a good cause.
I must also thank Anne for her enthusiasm and for getting a fine group of people together for the cruise – Greyhoundhomer is a small charity and I know that they’re immensely grateful for the donations.
Typically scenic view at Dobbs Weir Lock...
Ranger and Susie looking utterly adorable - they were good ambassadors for the cause today..
I quite fancied this attractive cottage at Feilde's Weir Lock....
This is a British Saddleback -huge isn't he - you could mistake him for a cow! Here's a link to a site where you can identify any othr heritage pig breeds that you pass along the canal 🙂 http://www.britishpigs.org.uk/breedlist.htm
View from below Parndon Mill lock....