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The Odyssey 2011: Day 48 – the end of the Summer….

Posted by indigodream on 16 September, 2011

Bulls Bridge to Limehouse Basin

Sunday 4th September

Looking back to Bulls Bridge....

I was up early today as I wanted to do the car shuffle before the London traffic woke up. I had to drive right through the heart of London to Limehouse then catch the train back to meet Richard – I hate driving through London!

While I was getting bewildered by the various road and lane closures through the city, Richard cast off and set off along the Paddington Arm – a canal I’ve cruised solo many times – it was definitely his turn to enjoy the Sunday morning peace of a much underrated stretch of canal .

I got to Limehouse with car and nerves intact – there is free weekend parking in Northey Street – a stone’s throw from the marina. I had a surprising number of options for meeting the boat – there being tube stations near the canal at Greenford (Central Line); Perivale (Central Line); Alperton (Picadilly line); Willesden Junction (Bakerloo line and trains) and Warwick Avenue (Bakerloo Line).

In the end I travelled to Willesden Junction – about 10 minutes walk from Bridge 7 (opposite the Powerday wharf). I got to the canal as Richard was banging a pin in to hold the boat – great timing!

We set off along the canal in overcast conditions – the rain was to catch up with us later – big time! By the time we got to Camden locks there was a seriously drenching rain – it made for miserable locking, though the locks were set our way with at least one top gate open (following the earlier passage of a trip boat I think). The rain had dampened the crowd’s enthusiasm and there wasn’t the usual towpath melee with legs being dangled in the water. We took advantage of the quiet and moored up briefly between the top and middle lock to scout around for some lunch. There are a multitude of waterside food stalls so it wasn’t long before we were back on board – we gave our waterproofs a few minutes to dry off while we ate our lunch then we set off again. Lou and Lynx were sensible enough not to look too smug when we donned our wet coats and went out into the weather – they were locked indoors on their sheepskins!

Bridge 17A - so this is the one that was damaged during the recent riots - tragic...

We got to the second lock and as we starting to descend I heard Richard yelling – a pair of boats coming up had quite deliberately closed the top gate (left open by a previous boat) and emptied the lock in front of us. What a pain! We were down the lock and waiting before they’d even got their boats into the locks below – their crew’s theory was that by turning the lock they’d actually saved water as they would be coming up using our water – they’re probably in the same camp as the people who think that water moves uphill when you lock up! Their locking technique left something to be desired as well…

Richard was quite cross but let go of his annoyance as we cruised along – especially when we met the “floating cinema” boat which we’d seen featured on TV the week before – it’s a novel idea and looked much better in real life than on the telly. It also cheered us when we found that the rain had stopped by the time we got to the far end of the Islington tunnel. However our progress towards City Road lock was halted by a long trip boat turning in the basin. We were perplexed – in our experience, the trip boats don’t routinely turn there. We reversed back a bit so that they’d have room to come under the bridge and asked a moored boater whether it was usual for the boats to turn there (after all, there may well be new services emerging as we come up to the olympics). The question taxed him – he wasn’t aware of anything going on….

Imagine our surprise when we passed under the bridge and ran straight into the bustle of the Angel Canal Festival. It looked as if it was a great success – the towpath was thronged with interesting stalls and multitudes of people. The waterway below the lock had narrowboats moored three or four deep and there was a unique assortment of little craft flitting between the basin and Wharf Road Bridge. We moved on regretfully – the festival looked like tremendous fun but we had to reach Limehouse today!

I’d been a feeling a bit ambivalent about getting back to Limehouse – here it was, the last day of the 2011 Odyssey with the prospect of a year in and around London to come. However, as we got to Mile End lock we were hailed by Charlie, one of our Limehouse neighbours, who was cycling along the towpath. He took a windlass and proceeded to set each lock ahead of us and help us through. Then we heard some more familiar voices – Kevin and Jan from nb Peace of Pearce, with whom we shared many tideway adventures in 2010 – they helped with the locking too, while we caught up a bit of gossip. It was simply the best homecoming that we could have imagined and I remembered how regretful I’d been to leave the company of these good people when we started the odyssey back in March.

With their help we were soon back in our familiar berth where we caught up with more of our neighbours. As always it took quite a while for us to pack up and leave – Limehouse marina was looking very fine in the fading sun, the other moorers are a fine bunch and I finally let go of my gentle regret that the summer cruise was over. We’ve had quite an amazing summer on some truly unique waterways – this year’s Odyssey has taken us from London to Birmingham and then to the Chesterfield Canal before coming back to London.  We have covered 677 miles and gone through 630 locks, not bad considering that we are back 12 boating days earlier then usual or in ‘boating round work’ terms, 2 months earlier than usual. Or should that be ‘working round boating?’ 🙂

But it is good to be home, and with BIG adventures to come the following weekend Indigo Dream is hardly going to have time to gather cobwebs…..


The continuing ruins at Bulls Bridge...

The hounds were quite awake this morning - that's unusual!

The canal is indeed a green corridor through London....

This footbridge is finally open!

This development below St Pancras lock has suddenly taken a leap forward.....

Sculpture by the junction with Battlebridge basin - I've no idea why a bull...

The floating cinema...

There is a lot of duckweed on the Grand Union - I've previously only seen it in this abundance along the Lee...

The Angel of Islington....

The Angel canal festival was buzzing - despite the heavy rain earlier....

New islands in City Road basin!

Canalside developments are springing up - I wonder whether this is all part of the 2012 plan or a longer-term ambition to make the best of the waterway..

The timber cladding so beloved of developers hereabouts is not weathering very well...

Duckweed isn't deep enough to foul the prop but cruising through it still felt like pushing through pea soup..

Though the duckweed does make interesting patterns on the sides of the lock 🙂

The overhanging willow makes for a mysterious gateway to the junction with the Hertfordshire Union Canal...

Leaving a trail...

I think those are nice new plates on the top lock gates - a few of the locks below Old Ford have them...

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