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Archive for April 26th, 2011

The Odyssey 2011: Day 4

Posted by indigodream on 26 April, 2011

Friday 23rd April

Coppermill Lock (Harefield) to Home Park Lock (King’s Langley)

We had a proper day’s cruising today with a boat full of excellent company, great scenery and, if you follow Lynx’s diary, you’ll know that we had several mini-dramas worthy of a boating soap opera (could be the new Archers!).

The greyhounds gathering below Coppermill Lock..

Once again we failed to travel up to the boat the night before but had a wonderfully quiet drive up on Friday morning. We were shocked to see that our front pins were almost out of the ground – I suspect it’s because the path here is so dry and gravelly – boats can’t be travelling too fast because they’ll be slowing for the lock, though they were coming very close.

Everyone had a good journey – by 10am we were all gathered by Coppermill Lock, introducing the hounds and getting ready for a day’s cruise. First to arrive were Sarah (aka Greygal) with experienced boating hound Ranger and her new ‘foster’ hound Henry, who’s never been boating before! They had met up with Catherine and greyhound Beren in the pub car park and walked up the towpath to meet us. Catherine is contemplating life aboard and wanted to know more about cruising with greyhounds – well, it was too good an opportunity to miss – a chance to look over Indigo Dream’s layout (designed specifically for our elderly lurcher Indie), to find out how Beren would take to cruising and, of course, the chance to talk to Sarah – THE greyhound boater! We were also joined by old friends Neil and Jenny with their spaniels Max and Hugo. That was another golden opportunity, to see how Henry would react to non-greyhounds!

I’m glad to report that the hounds got on famously – you’d think that the boat might have seemed crowded, but the spaniels can fit in underneath the greyhounds so it was a very ergonomic arrangement 🙂

We started the day with a car shuffle – Richard, Neil, Catherine and Sarah went off to drop cars at our planned destination on the outskirts of Kings Langley. In the meantime, Jenny and I stayed behind to supervise the extended pack – the hounds were curious but happy – the greyhounds soon found the selection of duvets and the spaniels just ran from one end of the boat to another. One day we’ll have to calculate how many miles the spaniels run in a cruising day as they traverse the boat endlessly. It’s a wonderful contrast – they spaniels are always so busy and the greyhounds are so indolent!

If you look at the frame of the building on the right you'll see that the large toy gorilla is still hanging there - it's been there for years and I don't know how it's survived out in the elements...

We cruised through a wonderfully scenic stretch of the Grand Union today – the gloriously dappled shade of Cassiobury Park, the manicured opulence of the Grove, Batchworth’s neat suburban apartments and the monumental Gade aqueduct, carrying the M25 – an unwelcome reminder of our faster lives in cars.

But the motorway, and other trappings of the real world didn’t really intrude – our day was occupied by the canal and the hounds – we cruised in the contentment of our mutual devotions.

As usual, we put Sarah on the helm at the start of the day and left her there! I flitted around doing my best “Mrs Doyle” impression – wouldn’t it be awful if someone came on board Indigo Dream and DIDN’T have enough to eat and drink! Richard and Neil were our trusty locking crew and Jenny and Catherine supervised the hounds – a VERY important job! The canal had a nice atmosphere with just enough boaters on the move to make it live as a waterway, but not so many that we had to queue at locks. Most of the traffic was heading to London, though we did share a couple of locks with an impressively agile single-hander who asserted her independence by hopping off to do her bit at the locks, despite the fact that there was ample crew available.

Note: Lock 76 – the bottom left paddle (looking down from the lock) has a dodgy catch. Be wary.

We had a thoroughly convivial day – both amongst ourselves and with the many gongoozlers along the way – the loudly whispered comments were along the lines of “look they’ve got three, four, five, six, no, EIGHT dogs on that boat”! Some of the younger dog-loving gongoozlers were supremely envious of our hound count. The hounds took it in their stride – Lou and Lynx were happy to wander from person to person having a fuss.’ The pantomime of getting all the hounds back on board after they’d rummaged round the locks provided endless entertainment for the local walkers….

I don’t know where the day vanished, well, I do actually – there were lots of moored boats along the way so we cruised along at a very sedate pace. Our locking efficiency was hampered a little by the need to do a thorough dog-count before we moved off (especially after we lost Lynx at lunchtime!). Then we set up camp on the towpath for lunch (leaving enough room for walkers/cyclists) – we were sitting in a comfortable patch of dappled shade (between Lot Mead lock and Common Lane lock) while a gentle breeze showered us with a confetti of white cherry petals – we were well-fed, warm and comfortable – it’s a wonder we’re not all still sitting there! With great reluctance we had to force ourselves to move on, but we needed to get to our destination – the moorings just above Home Park lock on the outskirts of Kings Langley. We’ve moored there before and the cars were handily parked on a lay-by nearby.

As always, it’s been interesting to look out for changes since we last cruised this way. The toy gorilla hanging off the building by Springwell Lock is still there – I’m amazed that it hasn’t rotted away yet and been carried off in someone’s prop! One day I will find out the story behind that gorilla – but I’ve failed so far!

The other feature of note was the truly mountainous pile of earth that has been built up around Junction 20 of the M25 (a distinctive landmark visible from Lock 71). I did a little report on this on day 3 of last year’s odyssey when I found plans to widen the motorway and to build a soil bund to supposedly shield Abbotts Langley from the traffic noise at the junction – the Parish Council had no objection at the time. However, far from relieving the noise, the works themselves may had added to it – as this local report suggests! Richard thinks that the truly enormous mound of earth is just a soil dump from other parts of the widening works and that the final bund will be much smaller – we’ll have to take a look if we come back this way in the Autumn.

More of the rampantly 'individual' boats that line the canal hereabouts...

We arrived at our destination after 6pm, when the soft light turned the water to silk. Sarah made a quick getaway – she had the longest journey back to the rest of her pack. The good news was that following Henry’s successful day on the boat, his adoption is looking hopeful, so good news at a time that their beloved pack member Arthur is very ill. Neil and Jenny gave Richard a lift back to get his car while I gave Catherine a tour of the engine bay (very hypocritical of me as I’m not that familiar with its contents myself!); then we sat on the front deck and talked boating and hounds until Richard came back, then we chatted some more. My rumbling stomach put a stop to the chatter but we’re pleased that Catherine and Beren got what they needed from the day – definitive proof that boats and greyhounds can get along just fine!

As Catherine headed for home, we set off to find food in King’s Langley – we’ve previously had a horrible meal in Oscar’s pizzeria and Richard doesn’t do Indian food (the Cinnamon Lounge Indian looks lovely) so we plumped for the Rose and Crown pub just on the outskirts. It was gone 9pm by now, but they were still serving food and what magnificent food it was! As you might expect, the gastro-pub menu had a price tag to match but it was delicious. My mission on this odyssey may end up being the exploration of “Eton mess” as a dessert. The ‘Coy Carp’ version had the quirky twist of strawberry mousse which lightened the whole dish, but it didn’t have many fresh strawberries. The Rose and Crown’s was a more traditional version with velvety whipped cream at just the right consistency packed with ripe strawberries – marvellous! The Rose and Crown has a website here if you want a sneaky peek of what’s on offer – sadly dogs are only allowed in the garden.  We got there by car – on foot I think you’d need to moor just below bridge 158 then head left along Water Lane then along Church Lane to the High Street – I’m not sure how much a trek that is, but the food is definitely worth it!

When we got back, Ty was confident enough to eat his dinner and come for a little walk along the towpath – we’ve upped his dose of valium and that seems to have helped considerably…


Our hounds had quite a loud conversation with these boating lurchers.... (again!)

There are a lot of leaky gates along this stretch of the GU...

I'm not sure what the story was here but it's wonder that Sarah didn't take a dive into the canal (unlike her hound Henry who had an accidental dip in one of the locks!)

Cassiobury Park - you can't beat it - great place to moor for a bit of peace and quiet (if you've got enough onboard food/beer :-))

Gongoozlers at Iron Bridge Lock....

Henry and Beren posing for the onlookers....

Brand new lock gates - we could do with a few more of these along the GU

I love this mature woodland surrounding the canal - awesome to think that it would be irreplaceable in our lifetime, or that of the next generation....

Ah, so that's why there were no kids swimming in the locks today!

Bridge 164 - a famous confection of a bridge built to placate the local gentry who didn't want a mucky canal running through their land...

Lovely scenery through Grove Park and the golf course - pick your view - it's all fabulous here. Just watch out for the two right angle bends by bridges 165 and 163!

Bridge 163 - turnover bridges are so elegant - both in form and function...

The herons are so tame hereabouts - they don't let the passing of a noisy diesel engine disturb their fishing...

The inland waterways are enjoyed by boaters of all types!

This man-made mountain of earth is part of the soil bund being built to shield the village of Abbotts Langley from the noise of the M25 at Junction 20

The giant Gade aqueduct carrying the M25 - it feels like a boundary of sorts - we're finally out of London....

This section of a tyre stopped the prop quite nicely - as we were approaching a lock of course!

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