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Boat Blog: East London Ring (again…..)

Posted by indigodream on 18 March, 2011

Saturday 12th March

I wonder how many treasures are recovered from the trash at Limehouse Lock?

Of course, those of you that follow Lynx’s diary will already know everything you need to know about our cruising last weekend, but here’s the human version – just for the log!

I’m afraid that Guy and Reckless don’t tickle my fancy, but the programme has had the unexpected benefit of bringing some old friends onto the boat. Now, Gil and Nick have been bored on board many times before, but Nick, a keen biker, has decided that if Guy the biker hasn’t lost his street cred on a narrowboat then maybe he won’t either!

So, for the first time ever, Gil and Nick invited themselves on board for an unspecified trip round London. Having seen Guy in action we made an early decision not to let Nick on the helm and to keep him firmly on board when cruising under low bridges!

We left Ty with Richard’s mum today – he was so miserable last weekend we thought he’d be better off having a nice time at her home, rummaging round the garden and being spoilt outrageously. We WILL work on his fears and get him used to boating, but I think that London’s proving to be overwhelming and, with friends on board, we can’t give him our exclusive attention. I may have a long chat with the vet about how to proceed –  we’re making progress with Ty’s noise phobias, but I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing with his general panic when out and about.

Richard’s mum was very keen to keep Lou, but given how Lynx mopes by himself, we took her with us. She quite likes the boat – she’s happy to settle onto her sofa when we’re cruising and comes out for a rummage when it suits her.

We had another good journey to the boat – Saturday morning is THE time for driving through London! Getting there early gave us time to do our various chores – Richard got into the bilges and had a good clear out; I filled the water tank, replenished our drinking water bottles and had a general tidy. I should do a BIG tidy at some point, but it was a sunny day and I’d much rather be cruising! Gil and Nick arrived before 10.30am and by 11am we were off.

The stoppage on the Lee should have been set up last Monday, but our spies in Bow had reported no activity during the week, so we headed up Limehouse Cut in the hope that the canal was open. Hurrah! The canal was open so we were able to show our guests the best and worse bits of East London. Gil was born and bred in the area and Nick works hereabouts so it was particularly interesting for them to see their home turf from the water. They admitted that it looks a lot better from the canal, and chided us for just taking them on “boring cruises through idyllic countryside” in previous years – I did have some sympathy for this view – we also like a mix of the urban interesting and rural relaxing.

Smiling faces and a blue sky - we're all set for a perfect cruise.....

As we passed, we noticed that New Era Diesel was open and that a narrowboat was just leaving their ‘moorings’ (easy to tie to the steel pilings) so we stopped off for a top-up. It’s an interesting place – boaters around Limehouse will tell you it’s the cheapest diesel around, and means that denizens don’t have to wait for Diesel Lizzie or fuel boat Baron to visit (though we like to support fuel boats where we can). The diesel was 88p per litre – no questions asked – literally!

We weren’t sure whether the canal was open because they just haven’t started the works yet or because they’ve decided to open the navigation for the weekends. Opposite New Era fuels there were sections of what seemed to be a floating bridge so they may still be getting their infrastructure into place.

We moored up for the walk to Viewtube again and marvelled at three things. Firstly, as we came into moor there was a very pampered looking cat on the towpath – I’m not sure where it would have come from – there are no houses or moored boats on the olympic ‘island’. I shushed it away while yelling to the crew on the back deck to grab the greyhound’s collars just in case they made a leap for the bank. Fortunately I don’t think they spotted the cat so all was calm. Secondly, there were hordes of people on the footpath – mainly large groups of tourists on guided walking tours – so the olympic site is already a worthy landmark, even 17 months before the athletes arrive! Thirdly, as I walked along the path, I realised that the huge ‘batching’ plant and heaps of materials for making concrete on the right had been replaced by a giant mound of something resembling topsoil. The site seems to be changing daily and I’ll be fascinated to see how it all looks when we get back to London in October. Assuming that they still allow scruffy narrowboaters to pass the site….

View of the marina - with White Lady looming large as we leave the mooring - there's not much clearance....

Although the canal was open, workmen were busy closing the towpath – all the way from Old Ford Lock down to the end of the olympic ‘island’. I was appalled. I’d assumed that if we cruised the long route round to the moorings above  Old Ford Lock to avoid the stoppage, then we’d still be able to walk the towpath down to Viewtube; but the towpath is being blocked properly, so that’s out. I know that essential works are, well, essential, and that’s fine; but I have a fear that this island Olympics is intent on isolating itself from the very waterways that formed its geography and history.

It was too lovely a day for these gloomy musings. We cruised up through Old Ford Lock and stopped for lunch on the towpath just up from and opposite the turn into Ducketts Cut. We gave Foreman’s a miss today and went back to the Indigo Dream staple of soup and paninis. We sat outside on the back deck, enjoying the warm sunshine and watching the world go by. There was a lot to see – there were abundant walkers, joggers and cyclists on the towpath and, quite suddenly, a rush of boats coming down from Ducketts Cut.

We gave our guests the enticing choice between a there ‘n back cruise to Hackney or a round trip via Mile End! The ring won the vote, so we turned into Ducketts Cut to be greeted by oncoming boat after boat. They were a cheerful lot – mainly scruffy, be-dreadlocked and possibly under the influence. We recognised many of the boats from the winter colony at Victoria Park. Given the large numbers on the move we have to assume that the enforcement officer has been having a clear out!

We locked up smoothly though the dogs were a bit disgruntled not to be allowed off for a rummage until we got to the top lock – the locks were mainly set our way so there was just time to drop the human crew off quickly and move on, but not enough time to bring the boat right in and let the hounds off. Although he looked very intently, Lynx did not spot any rats on the towpath today 🙂

Spring is really springing - the coots are busy building their nests - I wonder when we'll see the first chicks...

Gil and Nick particularly enjoyed the waterfront, or rather, water-backs along Ducketts Cut – the left bank is densely developed, with a myriad of tiny back gardens which Gil found particularly fascinating. Gil works as a writer/researcher for ‘Gardening Which’ and is herself a keen gardener. But a fundamental truth is that all on board are just plain nosey! Gil had seemed a little discomfited by the lockside gongoozlers – we’re used to it by now! I told her that peering at back gardens was our compensation for being part of the towpath entertainment!

I confess that I did a particularly ugly turn from Ducketts Cut into the Regent’s Canal – I’m not sure I’ve ever done a tidy one – there’s plenty of room to take the bow forward, but the opening is quite narrow so there’s very little room to turn the back until you’re out. But no excuses – it wasn’t pretty! But I cheered up no end when I saw another refugee from Victoria Park (a dutch barge) attempting the turn into Ducketts Cut. They did a dreadful job of it and I don’t know how  the crew weren’t hurt as the barge clanged into the bridge wall then literally barged its way into the opening. They finally found their way under the low bridge with half the crew still sitting on the roof and overhanging the sides – mad!

We headed off through Mile End, where the towpath moorings were full almost to overflowing and were soon locking down towards Limehouse. There’s been a recent tendency for lads to hang around Johnson’s lock, but they seem good natured enough – by chance Richard was on the helm and when he said ‘no’ to their requests for a lift they didn’t seem inclined to argue or give any backchat.

Quite suddenly we were back in Limehouse – it was only 4pm – we’d had a quick trip round the East London Ring but it didn’t feel as if we’d rushed it at all. Maybe it was just that sort of day – good weather, good company and the time flies.

We've passed Colne on the Grand Union mainline, laden to the gunwhales with gravel..

Now we had a quandry, the crew had already started drinking some dodgy mulled wine which Gil carefully warmed on the stove to ensure that the alcohol wasnt boiled away. We sat on board for a while then wandered over to the Grapes for an early supper. The Grapes was comfortably full – just enough people to make it welcoming but not so many that we couldn’t get a good table with space for the hounds sheepskins. We settled in and tried to order food – oh dear, they don’t start serving food until 6.30pm and it was only 5pm. What a dilemma – move somewhere to get food or sit and drink until 6.30pm then eat. We elected for the latter – there’s a nice atmosphere in the Grapes (though it’s a thoroughly spit ‘n sawdust’ sort of place) and a few bags of crisps would absorb most of the damage. It was all the same to me, as designated driver (no hardship – I can’t drink before 7pm anyway) I was sitting there primly with a virtuous pot of tea. It will be of no interest for you to know that as well a delicious draft cloudy cider, the Grapes also does a good pot of tea!

At 6.30pm on the dot we ordered our food – a few pints had been imbibed by then and some food was needed before Nick started singing! The food is plain pub grub but was well done, so we were happy. The dogs enjoyed a hot beef bap (no horseradish) with the bread dipped in the gravy from my beef stew – that went down very satisfactorily.

By now, the effects of a day’s fresh air, locking and drinking on an empty stomach were starting to put the crew to sleep, so we all piled into the car and I drove us home, dropping Gil and Nick off on our way. With two humans on the back seat, Lou and Lynx had to share the boot – we lined it with sheep skins, put down a buffer of pillows in the middle and waited for the argument – none came. The hounds were exhausted and immediately settled down to sleep – we were amazed.

On the way home we rang to see how Ty was doing. He and Richard’s mum were having a lovely time together – Ty hadn’t missed the pack at all! It was getting late so we decided to leave him where he was and pick him up on Sunday. Gil suggested that we might like to give Ty to Richard’s mum in order to keep her company and make his life a bit easier. I was surprised at how the thought of it hit me – life without Ty cuddles – ooohh noooo!!

It had been another great day’s cruising – there’ something very special about getting out in the spring – it’s still early enough for each fine day to feel like a gift….

Today’s Trivia:

One of the photos below is of a smart retail/industrial development on the junction of the Hertforshire Union and Regent’s canal just below Victoria Park. I decided to find out more about it and was surprised to find that this area is Bow Wharf – but it’s not in Bow! Never mind, the older buildings and the chimney are part of the original Victorian site which was a glue factory! The area’s been much restored – the original plans having been to convert the wharf into a “stylish water city” in the style of Amsterdam. I guess that’s Amsterdam the city ON the water as opposed to Amsterdam’s plans for a city UNDER the water! I wasn’t able to find out much more about the original factory, but there is a lot of information and the delights of the site’s clubs, bars and cafes….

When we’ve cruised the tranquil Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, it’s alway been difficult to imagine the industry that created the canals. Likewise here, when you think that this victorian glue factory probably rendered animal/fish parts from local abattoirs the stench hereabouts would have been awful; mind you , maybe it was like perfume compared to the polluted Thames! As I said, hard to imagine the difference between then and now…..

Here’s a trivial bit of trivia – apparently ‘glue’ is made from organic products (including plants) and ‘adhesives’ are made from synthetic chemicals!

In the last boat blog, we were musing about the significance of the granite blocks along the Greenaway etched with numbers and “AOD” – we did some digging and here’s the answer – “They are markers that give the ‘Above Ordnance Datum’ (AOD) above sea level and are for sitting/resting. They were designed by Adams and Sutherland“. So now we know!

Coincidentally the orbit features in this week’s New Civil Engineer, here are scans of the relevant pages, just click and zoom in, hope they don’t mind as the link to the online version did not seem to work – gives a page on flooding for some reason.



First Page

First Page

Second page

Second page

Last Page

Last Page

It is impressive that the three dimensional swirl is formed of straight members. I know a lot of technology has gone into forming the joints at exactly the right angle and right length but it is still exceedingly impressive.


New Era red diesel - its' easy to tie onto the pilings and their diesel hose will reach the canal....

Vivid green fencing in Bow - Gil was speculating that it was the same green as the 'bluescreen' they use for filming CGI type stuff - hmmm, seems a most unlikely film set!

Floating bridge sections - I wonder how stable it feels when it's all put together - the bits look very dodgy!

The power of nature - bridge support gradually being torn apart by what looks like a Buddleia root...

New features and landscaping at Viewtube..

A close-up of the skate wing of the aquatic centre peeping out from between the spectator stands. See the red V sections on the left of the image? They're sections that will be bolted on to the orbital mittal sculpture.

Gil and Nick posing beautifully in front of the stadium - I wish the greyhounds were as obliging....

I'd heard that cats had good balance but this is impressive - that's a first floor balcony!

Victorian buildings at Bow Wharf and a glimpse of the modern development alongside....

Mind yer heads!

Seriously eroded walls - I think this is at Johnson's lock - bit of a disaster if those coping stones come loose...

Canary Wharf by night - it's never gets really dark there...

4 Responses to “Boat Blog: East London Ring (again…..)”

  1. Lesley Kimantas said

    I am seriously looking forward to cruising the canalt through Old Ford where my maternal grandfather was born – the story goes that he learnt to swim in the cut, God knows what the condition of the waters were like at the start of the 20th century when he was doggy paddling about amongst the flotsom…

  2. indigodream said

    Well, the water is crystal clear at the moment with so few boats stirring up the sludge – I have to admit though, I wouldn’t want my doggies to paddle in it, let alone a human!

  3. Kath nb.bobcat said

    I love Guy. Himself thinks it is the sideburns and the overalls. My Mum is also enjoying it and she (like me) watches it again on the Saturday to catch the bits she missed first time around. (She is having trouble with his accent!)

    I think we can safely say he is doing everything wrong?

  4. indigodream said

    Hi Kath

    Well, if all the ladies love Guy then that leaves me George Clooney all to myself 🙂

    A friend of mine who works in publishing says that you don’t succeed in writing if you just say sensible things – you either need to get things outrageously wrong or be horrible about people – at least Guy is a nice guy!

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