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The Odyssey 2011: Day 5

Posted by indigodream on 27 April, 2011

Saturday 23rd April

Kings Langley (Home Park Lock) to Berkhamstead (above Bridge 143)

nb Heathen and Indigo Dream waiting below Kings Langley Lock - the start of a good day's locking...

We had a very relaxed start to the day – it was very comfortable on board and the hounds were very tired after yesterday’s adventures. We’re still experiencing a total lack of urgency on this odyssey – prompted in part by the fact that we’ve got another long weekend to come. After that we need to do some serious calculations to make sure that we’re in place for the BCN challenge.

We set off sometime mid-morning and bobbled along the canal – many of the locks along here are slow to fill – usually because of terribly leaky bottom gates. Once again we met several boats on their way south – I suddenly realised that they weren’t necessarily royalists but on their way to the Cavalcade at Little Venice! There were few boats going north but we were fortunate to meet up with nb Heathen at our first lock of the day (Kings Langley lock) and we shared locks with them right up to Hemel Hempstead. They were a super-efficient husband and wife locking team and our trip went very smoothly indeed.

The hounds mainly stayed on board today – many of the locks had roads nearby and we wanted to keep Lynx out of the intense sunshine – I’ve probably mentioned this before – he’s got an inflammatory eye condition which is made worse by intense sun. We’re managing it with anti-inflammatory eye drops and it’s under control, but this is the worse weather for his eyes and he does love sunbathing! Of course, you can buy cool shades for hounds – Richard’s been doing some research and that may be an option as it’s a lifelong condition. I can just see Lynx on bright winter days with his iridescent red collar, cool red coat and shades – the mind boggles!

Lou and Lynx did get out at the more rural locks, but they just headed straight for the nearest soft spot in the shade and lay down. Ty came out for the odd bobble but he mainly stayed on his bed and worried. I think he worried a lot less today, so we may finally be near the right dose of valium, and, of course, he may finally be getting used to the boat.

There were greater contrasts in the landscape today with quintessentially neat towns, bits of living industry and the constant recycling of land as old industries are demolished and replace with housing. There is a lovely stretch above Kings Langley lock with a scenic lagoon that is a mini-Tixall wide! It reminded me of our exchange of prop-clearing stories with nb No Problem and nb Rock and Roll – George has a great anecdote about some prop debris that he picked up at Tixall Wide – we were all astonished that there was anything to be picked up in such a famously scenic place!

The 'lagoon' above Kings Langley lock...

As we cruised through the lagoon we saw the crew of nb Heathen pointing at something on the offside – we assumed it was a bird but we couldn’t see it ourselves. We found out later that they’d spotted was another large terrapin basking on the side – these reptiles are obviously defying the odds if they’ve survived the harsh winter.

Nearby, cunningly hidden by the trees was a large working scrapyard with its ‘grab’ shifting heaps of metal around – “scrap never sleeps” I thought, what with the price of metals going through the roof (or off the roof with the widespread theft of lead!).

A busy road crosses the canal at Red Lion lock so the dogs were firmly confined, however the adjacent stream/bywash looked perfect for doggie paddling. I was looking forward to the stretch between Red Lion and Nash Mills locks – the development of the mill site was the subject of a ‘today’s trivia’ on last year’s odyssey and I was interested to see how things had changed. Well, the site has suddenly gone from silent dereliction to bustling building site in less than a year – the old canalside mill buildings have been totally demolished, the site is largely cleared and there are half-built apartments going up all around. I believe that planning permission was granted for a new footbridge over the canal but there’s no sign of that yet. However, there is a little stub of water which I haven’t noticed before – that might be the start of a little canal branch which will eventually circle around the new development. The planning brochure for the development is well worth a look – it has great photos of how the site used to look when the old paper mills were still intact.

Note: The pound between Red Lion and Nash Mills locks is very shallow – including the lock moorings below Nash Mills Locks – make your crew walk(!) between locks and wait in the centre if you can.

A view down from Nash Mills lock - that development on the left is coming on apace...

We enjoyed our trip through Hemel Hempstead though we lost our most excellent locking partners above lock 65 – they were doing what we’ve been threatening to do for years – stop and explore the charming surrounds of Apsley basin. But we moved on , enjoying the sheer englishness of Boxmoor Lock and the adjoining cricket ground. We’ve been this way many times and never thought we were in danger from flying balls, but nonetheless I fished a cricket ball out of the lock and Richard chucked it back onto the ground. Now, that’s an interesting thing – cricket balls float – being so hard I thought they’d sink! It was safe for the hounds to come off and have a rummage here – Ty came out for a little look but soon elected to come back on board – it was all too scary for him!

If you look across the cricket ground from Boxmoor Lock you see an elaborate confection of a building with stepped gables. I found out that it’s Boxmoor Hall – originally built in 1889 by the Boxmoor Trust (from surplus money). It was used as a magistrates court at one time, but has mainly been used for community meetings, theatres and whatnot. It’s now a venue for hire – you can even get married there! It’s a striking facade and much later than I imagined.

Once you get part Hemel Hempstead, the canal becomes increasingly rural. We confined the dogs through Fishery Lock, though this would be a good place to moor up with dogs on a hot day – the River Bulbourne is shallow here with beachy banks perfect for paddling hounds. The river’s surrounded by lush water meadows, mostly empty but a few meadows had cattle and, unfortunately, Lynx is showing all the signs of a dog who thinks that cowpats make the perfect cologne! Having said that, a busy road runs nearby so we wouldn’t let them rummage at Fishery Lock. They could come out at Lock 62 a short way up the canal, but the just walked straight into the deep shade under the tall  leylandii hedge rather ominously surrounding the lock cottage.

We stopped for lunch below Winkwell lock – it’s a great spot, well-fenced and flanked by a lovely fishing lake surrounded by tall pine trees which comfortably shaded the canal. We had our big drama of the day here when Ty, who’d been trusted off-lead in this quiet spot, found a hole in the fence and nipped over to the fishing lake. Of course, being the scaredy wuss boy he is, he couldn’t work out how to get back to the towpath but did run to the spot where the boat was moored and just stared at us through the fence. What a dilemma – there was no sign of an entrance to lake from the canal so Richard headed off to the road to find a proper entrance. In the meantime I walked along the fence and managed to find an almost Sue-sized hole to squeeze through. It was a wire fence which snagged and tore at my T-shirt – I was worried that my clothes would in tatters by the time I got to Ty but on the basis that a topless woman is rarely unwelcome I pressed on through to the other side 🙂

The ornate facade of Boxmoor Hall...

I caught up with Ty and he came to me willingly – in the meantime Richard had spotted us from the entrance (right on the opposite side of the lake) so he know that he could stop the search. We were all somewhat hot and bothered by the time we got back to the boat. I had to muse on the difference between our hounds – now, our old boy Blue (much missed) would have really enjoyed escaping through the fence for an adventure – it would have made his day! But I don’t think that Ty enjoyed his little diversion at all – he just seemed bewildered by it all….

Lunch restored a bit of equilibrium but our visit to the local boatyard heated us up again! We stopped there for a pumpout – it was £18! For that price we expected a gold-standard service leaving us with a tank clean enough to drink from (only joking!) – what we actually got was a very average pump-out and they didn’t even rinse the tank with a hose – they just used buckets of canal water AND they’d have just used one bucket per rinse – Richard made them use a lot more!

A boat also using the boatyard’s services came to us with an unusual request – they asked whether we’d carry their two teenage-ish children through the swingbridge – they’d just brought their boat though but the kids had missed the ride. We were happy to oblige, especially as the mum opened and closed the bridge for us!

It was getting towards our planned stopping time of 4pm and we needed to look for a mooring with road access. There are wonderfully quiet moorings along the way but we decided to press on to the outskirts of Berkhamstead, just past Bridge 43 (below Rising Sun lock). There’s convenient parking in the lane nearby and the mooring is overlooked on the offside by some apartments with friendly denizens who waved and raised a glass to us while they sat on their balconies. The apartment development is still under construction (though some are obviously occupied) – they occupy a narrow strip of land between the canal and the railway. It’s a curious spot – the canal frontage is lovely but the noise from the passing trains is substantial.

We were relived to be able to chain up to the armco instead of using pins – the few boats that passed seemed to be going along at a fair pace – Indigo Dream didn’t move on her chains (with a spring at the back) so we’re not worried that she’ll break loose in our absence (unless some vandal sets her loose, but it doesn’t seem to be that sort of area).

While we were getting organised we spotted an old friend – nb Fulbourne – on her way south. It doesn’t sound as if they’re doing the BCN challenge this year. Sadly, being a share boat, the crew on board today had never met us so they were bemused by the warmth of our greeting – we’ve had a few adventures with nb Fulbourne, but not with this particular crew.

Richard cycled back to get the car and I packed up the boat – we’re starting to get into our cruising routine now. I did an inventory of the food on board – we haven’t really stocked up with staples for the odyssey so we’re hoping for a mooring by the Berkamstead Waitrose next week – we’ve run out of diet coke – aaaaaarggh!

Although we were running a little later than planned, we had a good trip home and got ready for a domestic weekend with family on Sunday and int he garden on Monday. The hounds were predictably exhausted and have slept pretty solidly for three days now – they’re saving their energy for next weekend, which promises to be another hound-fest…..


Community boats moored on their wharf below Red Lion lock - watch out for canoes here!

The slopes around the community boat wharf (below Red Lion lock) are surprisingly bare considering that vegetation is bursting into life elsewhere - I wonder why?

The view down from Lock 67 in Apsley - it's all so neat here - a place for sitting on deck drinking wine and hobnobbing with passersby...

The trees have burst into leaf just in time to shade us from the intense sunshine....

Look very closely at the position of this boat's chimney, and now work out how the boat's plank would fit (or not!) into the brackets - got it yet?

The nets at Boxmoor Cricket ground - the white heap is flock stuffing or something similar - bit of a mystery as to why it's there or where it came from...

Water overflowing a the lock gates - the water levels in the pounds were generally very high (apart from below Nash Mills lock!).

Another tame heron....

A small view of the extensive water meadows below Fishery lock...

...and the cattle on the water meadows...

Falling blossom turns the water to milk....

Long term moorings above lock 60 (Winkwell) - there are some very friendly folk here and we felt very safe when we've moored on the towpath opposite on previous odysseys

The view back to Bottom Side lock - this is a beautiful stretch of water..

This lock is full - and the bottom gates are watertight - amazing - I don't think we've seen completely watertight gates anywhere on the network before!

4 Responses to “The Odyssey 2011: Day 5”

  1. Hi Sue

    Very disappointing blog, where are the photos of the torn T-shirt look?


    Apart from Ty’s rehoming related anxiety (a problem Elanor had with Sally, but not to this degree) is it that the poor pooch isn’t all that bright, as well?

    I guess you’ll have to try fading out the diazepam once you’ve achieved good control but as you know, one of the problems with the benzos is that they actually inhibit learning by depressing front cortical activity…

    Best of luck with him, anyway, you’re incredibly patient with him!



  2. indigodream said

    Hi Bruce

    Never a camera when you need one eh? 🙂

    The diazepam is a problem – we’re not looking at it as a long term solution, it’s just giving us a bit of breathing space while we’re putting other strategies into place. But you’re quite right, Ty is not very bright at all 🙂

    We’ll get on top of his behaviour – no choice, he’s our hound for better or for worse!

  3. Lorna said

    Enjoyed the trip …about the terrapins we had one for 30 yrs ..she lived for 20 of those in our garden pond (a largish one) she hibernated every Winter in the mud in the bottom, regardless of the frozen top part and re-emerged in the Spring…so they do adapt very well to our climate and I read the other day that they are not that much of a threat to our fish life …although I did watch ours eat a huge frog one day….hope all goes well with Ty I have had rescue dogs and they always come with their little quirks !!.but thats why they are so loving …

  4. indigodream said

    Hi Lorna – that’s interesting info about the terrapins – I thought they got on allright in our waterways – what surprised me was an article I read the other day which said they didn’t, despite all evidence to the contrary!

    Ty is rescue dog number 6 – the first two took a long time to settle because the first (Honey) was very traumatised and the second (Indie) was institutionalised having been in Battersea Dgos Home for many months. Then we’ve had the lucky 3 – Blue, Lou and Lynx, who just moved in and made themselves at home immediately. Sometimes it feels as if we’re never going to get Ty settled but then we have to remind ourselves that the first two hounds took time and patience but were eventually brilliant. Ty is the most loving hound…

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