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Archive for March 9th, 2011

Odds Blog: Is that a lock?

Posted by indigodream on 9 March, 2011

Saturday 5th March

How do you know when boating had become an obsession?

Well, when you keep looking out for navigable waters and saying “is that a lock?” when you’re meant to be concentrating on driving, of course!

Looking downstream to the medieval bridge at East Farleigh

We had a little trip down to Maidstone in Kent today to pick up some new fruit trees for our field (which we are gradually converting to an orchard/vineyard eventually). The nursery was near the delightful village of East Farleigh – a compact settlement nestling comfortably at the bottom of a Medway valley, surmounted by orchards marching neatly up the surrounding slopes and graced with many interesting features, including a unique Victorian water pumping station (now converted to office/flats) and yes, a LOCK…..

We collected our trees from Keepers Nursery – we’d ordered them back in November with the intention of planting them over winter but then December landed with vengeance so we delayed collection until the ground was a little less hard. We liked this nursery because it has a good range of named varieties so we could be a bit scientific about which trees we chose for flavour and to suit our micro-climate. We were delighted with the service – the son of the business came out to give us the pre-prepared trees and he was charming – I was impressed by his committment to the business and to keeping it small and traditional. I hope he and his family make a success of it. I told him about my charity jam-making and he generously gave me four rhubarb plants for the cause. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I made 350 pots of jam from the fruit in the garden last year – most of which went to Greyhoundhomer, where it raised around £500.

I’ll have to get the rhubarb into the ground soon – I may get a crop this year, maybe two. My existing rhubarb is already 6″ high – I hope it hasn’t spouted too soon – the frost will scupper the May crop if it has. Anyway, the orchard now has a quince, an apricot, a crabapple and a cherry in addition to the damson, greengage, cooking apple, cider apple and cherry already there. I wonder whether we’ll ever get to eat a home-grown cherry? We’ve had 3 cherry trees that have been fruiting for five years or more – I doubt whether we’ve beaten the birds to more than 10 cherries in all that time! We’ve also got another blackcurrant and a couple of grapevines.

Yet another type of paddle gear - very well constructed gates here...

So how many pots of jam will I make in 2011? Too soon to tell yet but I certainly have enough empty jars – I’m just waiting to see whether I’ll get a harvest to match!

Anyway, back to East Farleigh. We parked up in the train station car park and walked back to look at the bridge and the lock below. The bridge over the Medway is very narrow and it’s 2-way without traffic controls which calls for a great deal of goodwill between drivers – bit like the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct then :-). The bridge itself is ancient – 14th century according to Waterscape’s walking guide. It has beautfiul stone arches overlooking a wide weir and accompanying lock. There is a stretch of mooring upstream the bridge , presumably run by the East Farleigh Cruising Club – the moorings are mainly occupied by cruisers but with a couple of narrowboats. There’s a boatyard here with a mobile crane – a cruiser had just been craned into the water and was heading off as we arrived – how we wished we were cruising there too! There’s a potted history of the village on the Farleigh’s History Society’s website.

Alongside the medieval bridge is the incongruous Victorian water pumping station – it’s very obviously built in the Egyptian style, strongly reminiscent of the temple at Karnak. I don’t know what possessed the architect to uset his design back in 1860, but it certainly adds a quirky interest to the scenery.

We walked down to inspect the lock. It has the typical Environment Agency signage – prominent and informative and the lock gates had a smooth balance, making then surprisingly easy to move given their size. A swan took great umbrage at our visit and headed into the lock at speed in order to hiss at us and peck at my foot – thank heavens we’d left the dogs at home (the car was full of trees!).

View downstream of the lock...

We were well-satisfied with our little bobble along the Medway and sighed with regret – we’d love to cruise it, but it seems unlikely that we’ll ever bring Indigo Dream here – the cost might be prohibitive. The cost of bringing her here on a low loader or, of course, the cost to our nerves of cruising here via the Thames Estuary (though we’d be up for it in a convoy!).

It was lovely day, so we had an impromptu stop at another garden centre just outside East Farleigh. Once again we were served by the son  of the business who was courteous and had interesting tales to tell. Again, it was great to meet a young man who was so enthusiastic and committed to the family firm. We added some more decorative shrubs to our collection – if we’d had a trailer we might have been bringing home a larger than life cast iron sculpture of Diana the huntress to which we took a fancy. Sadly they didn’t have any cast iron greyhounds or we might have loaded the car to the axles to bring one home!

Picking up trees and having a wander through the lovely Kentish countryside was very relaxing, a pub lunch with some local cider would have rounded the afternoon off nicely but we had to spend the rest of the afternoon planting trees. We only managed to get four into the ground before dark. I’ll have to do some more during the week because, typically, we’re dropping our domestic responsibilities in favour of cruising tomorrow….


The natives are NOT friendly!

I wonder if these are the people who made this lock gate? It was made in 1987.

Isn't that amazing - the egyptian water works building

Interesting signs - didn't see the hogweed but it might still be dormant at the moment...

The low arch accommodating the footpath - Richard had to mind his shoulders rather than his head!

The navigable arch doesn't look that high either!

A view across the fertile Medway valley with East Farleigh nestling close to the river..

See the old oast house - I don't think that hops are processed here anymore but the buildings make a fine feature....

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