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Archive for April, 2013

Boat Blog: Mooching along the Grand Union (6)

Posted by indigodream on 25 April, 2013

Saturday 20th April

Berkhamstead (below Rising Sun lock) to Marsworth bottom lock

View of Berkhamstead - this is a great canalside town (even it is a bit close to the noisy railway)

View of Berkhamstead – this is a great canalside town (even it is a bit close to the noisy railway)

Guest hound Monty has not been very well this week, so we decided to travel up to the boat this morning in order to save him (and us) some overnight distress (of the poopy sort!). We set off early and got to the boat by 9.30am-ish.

We had an exciting day ahead. As I was unpacking the car, I met up with our first guests, Margaret and Roger with experienced Indigo Dreamers, greyhounds Bess and Shari. It’s two years since we last moored in Berkhamstead, but Bess and Shari walk the towpath every day and they recognised Indigo Dream instantly – they’ve beenย  peering into the galley hatch all week andย  trying to get onto the deck, looking for their greyhound friends. They don’t respond to any other boat in this way!

Bess and Shari have been disappointed all week, but they were delighted today as they peered into the boat and there were people and hounds! They’ve met Ty before, but they hadn’t met Ollie, Monty or Miffy. As you might expect, all six dogs got on fine i.e. completely ignored each other! Bess and Shari settled in straight away – they’re born Indigo Dreamers. They’re a bit younger than our pack (well, they’re the same age as Ty), so they spent most of the day on deck looking at stuff – Shari is still very keen and was fascinated by everything.

We cast off and headed for Rising Sun lock, where the rest of our crew was waiting – Debbi and Simon, who had popped in last week, were joining us for a day’s boating. They had got there early, closed the top gates, dropped the top gate paddles before turning the lock for us and best of all got a cup of tea out of the landlord of the Rising Sun! I’d hoped for a more civilised day’s cruising today, and so it was – on every count. It was easily the warmest cruising day of the year – the sun came out, the cutting wind vanished, we had great hound and human company and we stopped for coffees and for lunch, giving us plenty of time to chat. We could afford to take our time – it was such a fine day that we knew we’d cruise until late and make up ground that way.

Shari and Bess - Shari is so inquisitive :-)

Shari and Bess – Shari is so inquisitive ๐Ÿ™‚

We did have a slight blip when Richard took his bike back to the car to get the camera – he got an intractable puncture which resisted several repair patches; he put in a new inner tube, but that got punctured too. That put a stop to any lockwheeling, though with so many crew members on board, we didn’t notice the lack until we got to Marsworth ๐Ÿ™‚

We had a reasonably smooth passage through the first few locks in Berkhamstead, though I did pick up a woolly scarf in the propeller, which was surprisingly effective at, er, ‘muffling’ the steering! At the Gas locks, our advance crew advised us to tie up – there had been a problem in the flight involving open lock gates and paddles and a near empty pound in between the locks. A pair locking down insisted on coming right through (rather than passing in the middle, which would be more usual) – we were happy to wait –ย  the pair would bring a lockful of water down with them and make our passage easier.

Our crew worked very hard on the morning’s locks, so we decided to stop and have a proper lunch in the countryfied area below Dudswell lock – bliss! We sat on deck in the blazing sunshine, eating fajitas and talking boats (including the inevitable toilet tales!) – our guests are fascinating people with a shared love of boating and the canals (it’s a bonus if you also love greyhounds!).

View across Cowroast marina - what a beautiful afternoon for cruising...

View across Cowroast marina – what a beautiful afternoon for cruising…

Margaret, Roger, Bess and Shari stayed with us until Dudswell top lock, near to where they’d left the car. It was so good to share the day with them, especially with Bess and Shari of course, they’re adorable ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope that we can catch up with them again on the way back. Debbi and Simon stayed on a bit longer, though that meant that they had to endure a stop at Cowroast Marina while we got a pump-out!

After doing that essential chore, we set off along the Tring summit – Debbi was on the look out for kingfishers – Simon told us that they were more likely to be fishing at dawn and dusk, so Debbi pointed out kingfisher nesting holes instead. It was fascinating, I didn’t even know that they nested in holes! The dense woodland of the Tring cutting shows signs of having been trimmed back extensively – apparently a woman was killed here a few years ago when a tree fell on her boat. They’ve had to take steps to prevent a recurrence. Although I wouldn’t want any more accidents here, I was afraid that the tree surgery might have spoilt the bosky magic of the cutting; but it remained as mysterious as ever – even though the trees are still bare. We dropped Debbi and Simon off at the bridge in Tring – they could catch an easy train home from there. We carried on towards our target – Marsworth bottom lock.

There was an awful lot of wood in the water – including one slender tree trunk floating in the water right across the canal. There was no avoiding it – I popped the engine into neutral and Indigo Dream glided over the obstruction. It was useful to have Richard at the front as a look out – a log in the propeller would have seriously inconvenienced our cruising!

Miffy and Ollie having a rummage while Ty and Monty have a supervised adventure with Richard!

Miffy and Ollie having a rummage while Ty and Monty have a supervised adventure with Richard!

I dropped Richard and the dogs off above bridge Upper Icknield Way bridge – we met up again at Marsworth top lock. It must have been about 6pm, and the sun was slowly sinking into the reservoirs below us,ย  turning the day to golden syrup. We had another magical passage down the flight. I love Marsworth at dusk, it surely is the best time – most boats are moored up, the towpath is a bit quieter (hundreds of gongoozlers inhabit the place during the day) and the views across the reservoirs are stunning.ย  The dogs came off for a bimble halfway down – there’s top rummaging here, though Ty and Monty are far too nervous to be allowed off-lead. Miffy was a very good girl, but Ollie inherited the spirit of Blue and wandered off to explore the path around the lake – I could still see him though ๐Ÿ™‚

Although every lock was set against us, and Richard had to walk rather than ride between locks, we soon reached the stretch above Marsworth bottom lock and found an ideal mooring spot near to the entrance to the car park. With two cars to pick up, we decided to get a taxi back to Berkhamstead rather than mess around with trains – although it had been a full day’s cruising, we’d only travelled around 7 miles by road!

The cars had been fine in Berkhamstead and we were soon back on board. By now it was 8pm and we had a debate about whether to stay or go. In the end, Monty’s bottom carried the vote – it’s much easier to deal with a poorly hound at home! It wasn’t an onerous decision – much as we’d have enjoyed cruising on Sunday, I’ve come down with yet another heavy cold and Richard’s chest infection keeps recurring so a day of rest at home wouldn’t do us any harm either.

As we were packing up, the car park had filled up with people unpacking – mainly bottles of beer! The reservoirs seem to be THE place to be on a fine Saturday night. We left them to it, having re-checked our locks and mooring ropes! Luckily we had a quick trip home, though we’re starting to feel the distance now.

We’re still hopeful of getting to Stoke Bruerne and meeting up with some greyhound friends before we have to turn back in order to get back to London in time for a SPCC convoy.

Note: It’s Sunday, and the weather is even more glorious than forecast, but I think we made the right decision not to cruise – it’s lunchtime – both human and canine Indigo Dreamers are flat out and still loafing around in our pyjamas ๐Ÿ™‚

Photoblog:

Another view of Berkhamstead - we're moored adjacent to a very handy Waitrose here; there's also a waterpoint and rubbish facility opposite and abundant parkland for the hounds - perfect!

Another view of Berkhamstead – we’re moored adjacent to a very handy Waitrose here; there’s also a waterpoint and rubbish facility opposite and abundant parkland for the hounds – perfect!

Dudswell top lock - so pretty - we said a sad goodbye to Bess, Shari and their staff here :-)

Dudswell top lock – so pretty – we said a sad goodbye to Bess, Shari and their staff here ๐Ÿ™‚

The "artistic blacksmith" at Bulbourne workshops - I love his displays; and I never notice the "clocktower" before - even though I've passed this way countless times!

The “artistic blacksmith” at Bulbourne workshops – I love his displays; and I never noticed the “clocktower” before – even though I’ve passed this way countless times!

View back onto Bulbourne Junction (with the Wendover Arm)...

View back onto Bulbourne Junction (with the Wendover Arm)…

The Marsworth flight is a tease - it goes for the slow reveal, with new delights at every lock...

The Marsworth flight is a tease – it goes for the slow reveal, with new delights at every lock…

Looking back towards Marsworth top...

Looking back towards Marsworth top…

Marsworth views...

Marsworth views…

Marsworth views.....

Marsworth views…..

Marsworth views...

Marsworth views…

Marsworth views...

Marsworth views…

Marsworth views - making new memories with new hounds...

Marsworth views – making new memories with new hounds…

Marsworth views....

Marsworth views….

Marsworth views...by my reckoning that balloon is going to land in a reservoir - hope the pilot can see dry land :-)

Marsworth views…by my reckoning that balloon is going to land in a reservoir – hope the pilot can see dry land ๐Ÿ™‚

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Boat Blog: Mooching along the Grand Union (5)

Posted by indigodream on 24 April, 2013

Sunday 14th April

Apsley to Berkhamstead (above Top Side lock)

Oh what a beautiful morning... look at that high water level - the pound was brimful...

Oh what a beautiful morning… look at that high water level – the pound was brimful…

We were woken by the absence of noise – the rain had finally stopped drumming on the roof. This triggered a surge of optimism and we actually started cruising at 10am, which is unprecedented! We’d made tentative arrangements to share locks with nb Zodiac again – they were moored a few boat-lengths behind us.

It was a lovely morning, and the weather just kept improving – for the first time this year I actually peeled off layers of clothing as the day progressed..

Our target for the day was Berkhamstead – between Top Side Lock and Rising Sun lock. We have greyhound friends that live nearby and we’re planning to meet up with them for a cruise next week.

Now, we anticipated a short cruising day, but everything seemed to take an age. There was a single boat heading up in front of us and they insisted on leaving the gates open behind them, and in some cases left the paddles up.ย  But despite this supposedly labour-saving (for them!) device, the boat in front was painfully slow. Although our shore crew had the extra work of closing the locks behind them, we soon caught up and were lagging behind at every lock.

At least this gave us time to get the dogs off for a bimble at the locks. Ty was actually coming up on deck before we switched the engine off, he also felt able to wee during the day – he is much braver as part of a larger pack. Ty and Monty are soulmates, being big scaredy wuss jellyboys, whereas little Miffy and Ollie sniffed around in an unperturbed world of their own.

Miffy and Monty making themselves comfortable - despite the mud coating everything inside!

Miffy and Monty making themselves comfortable – despite the mud coating everything inside!

The wind was a bother today – it was very gusty and always seemed to be blowing me away from lock landings. Luckily there was very little traffic coming down, so it was often easier to hover and use the engine to correct the wind drift rather than wrestling with ropes at the lock landings. The wind limited our tandem manoeuvres, but we did manage a neat move at Winkwell bottom – we hadn’t realised that there was a strong cross-flow from the bywash below the lock. For sundry reasons, our bows were tethered to each other and I was anticipating a crash into the lock wall, but the boats came round at the last second and slotted neatly into the lock – hurrah!

We eventually moored up around 3.30pm – just in time to say a fond goodbye to nb Zodiac who were moving north, and for Richard to make a dash for the train station, half a mile away. There is one direct train to Apsley every hour and it’s only takes 7 minutes to get there, so a wonderfully efficient car shuffle. In the meantime I packed the boat up, including just about every boat bed – they were all damp (because of a combination of wet dogs, muddy feet and possibly Miffy’s old lady bladder!). It’s not the most glamorous job so I was glad ofย  some visitors, Debbie and partner Simon – both local boaters. We’ve been corresponding with Debbie by email for years, it was so lovely to meet her in person. Richard soon joined us and we sat on board, with beers in hand (not me, I was driving us home later), setting the world to rights.

Dramatic pose? Well yes, but that heron is made of plastic!

Dramatic pose? Well yes, but that heron is made of plastic!

But as we sat there, I became increasingly aware of just how filthy the boat floor was. Without its covering of dog beds I could see just how much of the towpath we’d managed to carry indoors over the weekend! We said a fond goodbye to Debbie and Simon (they might also join us for a cruise next weekend) and I got busy with the mop. Having blown our schedule for the day (we were supposed to be spending the afternoon at a family party), we pottered around the boat. But eventually we forced ourselves to leave, the big pile of dog beds, waiting for washing, was looming.

Unfortunately we had a very slow drive home, long enough for Monty to get stressed and for Miffy to get wedged in the footwell behind Richard’s seat (assisted by Ollie, who wasn’t impressed at having to share the back seat). We were a bit frazzled by the time we got home, but our work wasn’t done. Poor Monty, in his panic, had anointed himself and the duvet-lined car boot with poo; Miffy had managed to put her claw through the plastic milk carton in the back footwell and covered the car in milk! We had a massive clean up operation, both of car and dogs – it wasn’t the best end of the day as Monty was so stressed I was worried for his health, but he calmed down after a big dinner (as did we!) and the hounds, at least, have a quiet week at home to look forward to…

Photoblog:

Sunken boat at Winkwell lock - I wonder if it's been a record winter for sinkings?

Sunken boat at Winkwell lock – I wonder if it’s been a record winter for sinkings?

The river Bulbourne runs parallel to the canal here - many of the houses have extended their gardens onto island platforms - don't know how that affects the flow/flood risk but it looks smart...

The river Bulbourne runs parallel to the canal here – many of the houses have extended their gardens onto island platforms – don’t know how that affects the flow/flood risk but it looks smart…

The safety catches at lock 60 (Winkwell middle) have been milled in such a way that they don't actually catch - this means that the paddles can slip down quite abruptly - be careful and don't get caught by a flying windlass! We will report to CRT...

The safety catches at lock 60 (Winkwell middle) have been milled in such a way that they don’t actually catch – this means that the paddles can slip down quite abruptly – be careful and don’t get caught by a flying windlass!

Boys own adventure...:-)

Boys own adventure…:-)

Ok, so the photo's blurred but the is the closest that Ollie can get to sharing a back seat - he didn't get away with that in Lou's day!

Ok, so the photo’s blurred but the is the closest that Ollie can get to sharing a back seat – he didn’t get away with that in Lou’s day!

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Dog Blog: Ty’s doings

Posted by indigodream on 23 April, 2013

I woz so sads I hads to take to me bed...

I woz so sads I hads to take to me bed…

Deer me pals

I knows you will find fis imp-arse-ible, but there is sumun out there wot hates me!

I woz surfin’ the net i.e. slobberin over mummy Sue’s keyboard wen I saw:

…IQ of a snail…

….grow up…..

…this is rubbish…

I fort they woz talking about mummy’s borin’ boaty stuff (I hates boaty stuff) but they woz talkin’ about MY doin’s..

I woz very hupset – I knos I’z not very clever but I is cleverer than a snail; an’ I knos Is not as good a riter as Lynx, becoz I duzn’t like hadventures, but they duzn’t need to rub me nose it in. I fort they woz very crool – Iz got a complex now.

Mummy Sue give me a BIG hug an’ sed they woz just a playground bully and that I shoulds hignore them, and I duzn’t have to grow up – she sez she’s got no hintention of growin’ hup, so I duzn’t have to eifer.

In uvva news, me hows is full of ancient houndies, wot is nice becoz Monty is a bit scaredy wuss panty boy wot duzn’t like hadventures, an’ Miffy jus’ likes sleepin’ an’ eatin’, so they is just like ME. Monty is me new bestest friend, even tho he dids steel me favrit downstairs bed. Miffy fancies Ollie coz Ollie is her toy boy (wot sounds scary to me to me, coz wen I luffs toys I skweeks them till their stuffin leeks – poor Ollie!). But Miffy haz not dun skweeking Ollie coz Ollie is qwite brave an’ likes sniffin’, but wen it cumes to proper hadventures, Miffy likes to cuddel wif me.

Mummy Sue sez I iz very lucky to have lots of frendz wot luffs me an’ anyone who duzn’t luff me is the one wif the brains of a snail!

But mummy Sue sez Iz ok coz Is got her an' Ollie an' lots of frends to look after me....

But mummy Sue sez Iz ok coz Iz got her an’ Ollie an’ lots of frends to look after me….

Monty steeled me bed!

Monty steeled me bed!

Iz qwite brave wif me frends...

Iz qwite brave wif me frends…

Miffy an' Ollie finks that hadventures is fun - huh!

Miffy an’ Ollie finks that hadventures is fun – huh!

Me an' Monty - fis is a big hadventure for us...

Me an’ Monty – fis is soopa brave for us…

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Boat Blog: Mooching along the Grand Union (4)

Posted by indigodream on 22 April, 2013

Saturday 13th April

Croxley (Cassio Bridge) to Apsley (below Bridge 154)

There are great views along the Grand Union - and we're still inside the M25 here!

There are great views along the Grand Union – and we’re still inside the M25 here!

This morning we travelled back to the boat for the fourth time in 7 days!

We got to the boat at 11am, having made arrangements to meet with Sarah and A – we were in for an exciting weekend as oldies Miffy and Monty were joining us for a holiday – hurrah!

We were ahead of them, so we took the boat through Cassio Bridge lock to the fill up with water. It was still dry at this point, but the brisk breeze made it very difficult for me to bring the boat into the lock landing – my shore crew was AWOL – chatting to nb Zodiak who’d just locked up behind us! Nb Zodiak was another part of the Basingstoke flotsam, stranded on the Grand Union by the flooding Thames……..we made arrangements to share locks with them as we had broadly similar weekend cruising plans.

I eventually got in to the mooring and we filled with water, expecting Sarah and A to walk down the towpath any minute. In the meantime, there were plenty of curious passers-by wanting to talk about boats, and greyhounds, of course!

The tank filled, we finished chatting, and still no sign of our guests – one phone call later and we realised that they were waiting for us at the next lock along – oops! We hastily cast off and got underway. We picked them up from the towpath about halfway up to Iron Bridge lock – just enough time to get some coffees on the go.

Who'd have thought that those green hills are man-made earthworks to shield Abbotts Langley from motorway noise..

Who’d have thought that those green hills are man-made earthworks to shield Abbotts Langley from motorway noise..

Sharing locks with pleasant and competent partners is a great thing, but it inadvertently put us under a bit of pressure. Sarah took the helm while Richard worked the lock and I made coffee. But suddenly we ran out of time – the lock was full, nb Zodiak was pulling away and we needed to get after them. But Sarah and A couldn’t stay on for another lock – they needed to get away too; but their coffees were too good to throw and too hot to drink. I was struggling to get some disposable cups and lids sorted (legitimate acquisition – thank you Starbucks!) when Ollie threw up quite spectacularly all over the cabin floor. So, I was trying to say goodbye, get information about our guest hounds, mop up a pint of watery sick and decant the coffees (best not to get those jobs mixed up) when R jumped on board to find out why I wasn’t on the helm to get us moving – sigh….

I also realised, sometime after Sarah and A had disappeared over the horizon, that I’d omitted to arrange a return date for their hounds…they could be with us for some time ๐Ÿ˜€

I’m glad to say that the rest of the day went much more smoothly, though the wind was a problem all day, and the subsequent rain was downright nasty. I seem to remember that the April showers of my childhood were refreshing spritzers followed by the delightful “green” fragrance of new plants kissed by the gentle rain. Oh dear, I am getting middle aged – “in ma day, April had’t proper showers not this filthy muck…” ๐Ÿ™‚

The development at Nash Mills - it hasn't turned its face to the canal yet (as promised in the original plans)...

The development at Nash Mills – it hasn’t turned its face to the canal yet (as promised in the original plans)…

But it stayed dry through the wonderful Cassiobury Park and the manicured surrounds of the Grove – some of our favourite sections of the Grand Union.

Locks come thick and fast on this stretch of the Grand Union, but they’re too far apart for lock-wheeling yet too close together for us to do anything useful in-between, like eat lunch. We were able to let the hounds off at the locks, Monty and Ty firmly on lead; Miffy and Ollie can be trusted off lead, up to a point – they can become quite deaf if they’re following an interesting trail!

We pressed on into the afternoon, snatching a quick lunch over the course of about three locks.The rains started in earnest just below Kings Langley and then became increasingly unpleasant. Kings’ Langley had been nb Zodiak’s target, but as we were locking together so efficiently, they pressed on to Apsley with us.

As ever, I was interested to see how the new noise-reducing bund separating the M25 from the canal (near Lock 71) was looking. When we first started cruising this way, it was an enormous and intrusive earthworks – now it looks like a hill that’s always been there. The lock was still badly affected by traffic noise from the A41 and associated sliproad to the M25, but the bund was put in to protect the village of Abbotts Langley (and nudist camp) just beyond the canal – I hope it’s worked for them!

The other bit of interest was between Red Lion and Nash Mills lock, where the development of the old paper mill site is progressing apace – though I was surprised that there was still only a heap of rubble where the main canalside mill building had been. The new footbridge over the canal is now complete, but the plans had included a tiny loop of canal extending to moorings at the heart of the development. I was therefore surprised, and a little disappointed, to see that the offside canal bank had been sheet piled and infilled – there’s no sign of the proposed canal loop. Sadly, the planning brochure has disappeared from the council’s website so I can’t re-check the plans.

At least the new footbridge is in place below Nash Mills lock :-)

At least the new footbridge is in place below Nash Mills lock ๐Ÿ™‚

Nash Mills lock was the last of the day, and I think that we were all relieved to get through it – by now it was miserably wet and chilly – definitely time to get inside. There were plenty of mooring spaces just “below” bridge 154. There were also spaces further up by the marina, but the spot we chose was quieter for the hounds and had better access to Apsley train station. However, the towpath was severely waterlogged – the black loam surface was treacherously slippery and incredibly mucky – the boat was soon covered in black hound and human footprints.

There was a train option for getting back to the car, but it was fiddly, so Richard psyched himself up to cycle back to Croxley for the car; it was a long and eventful ride. As he so graphically described, the combination of heavy man on narrow tyres on soft mud made it a bit of a slog and there were a few times where he narrowly avoided being pitched into the canal as his rear wheel tried to overtake the front wheel. Not that he’d have got wet in Cassiobury Park – he found an empty pound – someone had left a disastrous combination of an upstream lock gate left open and a downstream paddle left open, allowing the canal to drain away. He rang me for CRT’s emergency number to report the problem (phone call promptly answered), but tried to remedy any more damage by dropping the paddle and closing the lock gates. This took a bit of effort – the draining canal had left a pile of silt around the gates, which made it difficult to close them.

As he cycled, Richard had seen a boat from the River Lee steaming upstream just above Kings Langley lock, he cycled round the corner and found the lock open with both paddles up. It was a feature of this weekend that we seemed to find locks with top gates open and occasionally top paddles up, even at locks where you are asked to leave the lock empty.

Gate left open, bottom paddle left up, probably by a boat going up?

Gate left open, bottom paddle left up, probably by a boat going up? Yes this is the lock that you are meant to leave empty but I can’t think that includes leaving the pound empty!

In the meantime I fed the hounds and got ready to go out – we’d been invited to a social evening at St Pancras Cruising Club. It’s a great event – we went last year, and had been relieved to see everyone in their boating gear, apart from the Commodore, of course, who was wearing his official gold-buttoned blazer. I didn’t feel too guilty the when we donned our wet weather gear and waterproof boots rather than some other frippery – the path from the boat to the station was far too muddy for nice clothes and shoes! Ooops, we hadn’t realised that there were dignitaries coming and that the club members had achieved a level of sartorial elegance generally unseen in rufty-tufty narrowboaters! Ah well, we had a lovely time anyway and were given a fine welcome by our boating friends!

We couldn’t stay late, the trains back to Apsley were a bit eccentric with long gaps between trains later on. It was just as well, we’d left the hounds alone and this was a new combination, so we could only hope that they’d been ok together. Needless to say, they were fine!

We had a last muddy walk and retired to our respective beds – Ollie was very unimpressed not to be allowed onto our bed. He came to whine at us several times during the night but we hardened our hearts – I had to keep reminding myself that our sweet demure little Ollie is a bed monster!

Note: Every hound who cruises with us become a honourary Indigo Dreamer – we’ve almost lost count of the canine crews that we’ve had on board. Therefore, it is with great sadness that I report the loss of Susie Greyhound – Sarah’s TOP girl, undisputed doyenne of the towpath and great advocate of “girl power” along with our Lou, who had a mini 2-hound reign of terror on the Chesterfield canal. There are some great videos of her here and here plus a bit about her here.ย  Ah, happy memories – run free Susie girl….

Run free Susie girl....

Run free Susie girl….

Photoblog:

There's always interesting things to see on the Grand Union ;-)

There’s always interesting things to see on the Grand Union, does that count for SORN purposes? ๐Ÿ™‚

Tandem locking (1)

Tandem locking (1)

Tandem locking (2)

Tandem locking (2)

Tandem locking (3)

Tandem locking (3)

Tandem locking (4) - we're in!

Tandem locking (4) – we’re in!

Leaky gates - though there's plenty of water in the GU this year - apparently they've been pumping water down from the overful reservoirs - this time last year the reservoirs were nigh on empty!

Leaky gates – though there’s plenty of water in the GU this year – apparently they’ve been pumping water down from the over-full reservoirs – this time last year the reservoirs were nigh on empty!

That innocent looking weir to the left of the photo exerts quite a pull!

That innocent looking weir to the left of the photo exerts quite a pull!

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Boat Blog: New batteries – hurrah!

Posted by indigodream on 15 April, 2013

Wednesday 10th April

The debate about which battery to buy went to the wire…..

Elecsol: ruled out for being expensive, for having too many accounts of problems, and for the accounts of people’s experiences with the Elecsol guarantee. Talking to battery wholesaler, Tanya, they said that they look after warranty claims on all batteries apart from Elecsol ,which was a bit worrying.

Enduroline: Tanya’s own brand batteries – but they could not point me to a manufacturer’s datasheet

Numax 110: stunningly cheap as Tanya sell so many and have few warranty issues

After talking to Tanya I was very tempted by the Enduroline, but their 135 AH battery is quite pricey…

Of course, the batteries themselves were only part of the problem – if I did a self-install (including de-rusting and painting the battery tray) it would be a 2-day job which would take out a weekend’s cruising, hence the decision to give it to P&S Marine just below Cassiobury Lock (contact telephone numbers: 07885 722444 or 07768 514800 ).

Now they were very good and went through a myriad of battery options for me – we finally agreed on batteries from their local wholesaler, Denka, for an amazingly cheap price (ยฃ58 + VAT). They’re not as flash as the Enduroline, not as well-known as the Numax, but the guys at P&S Marine spoke well of them and I trusted their judgement.

We were actually impressed with the guys at P&S – good service, a very neat welding job at the front and the battery tray properly cleaned and painted despite awkward access.

I obviously can’t tell Sue, but they had a quiet word with me about her boat handling – they’d been ready to grab ropes, throw ropes, jump up and down shouting directions and instead Sue just turned the boat in its length and slotted the boat neatly into place. There probably was an unspoken challenge there, can you match that getting the boat out? I would happily recommend the guys at P&S Marine, in turn they have agreed not to tell anyone about Sue’s boat handling ๐Ÿ™‚

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Boat Blog: A visit to the boatyard

Posted by indigodream on 14 April, 2013

Tuesday 9th April

Having done extensive research on batteries, Richard finally decided to go with the boatyard just across the canal from where we were moored – Bridgewater Basin.

He booked Indigo Dream in for some quick maintenance:

  • to remove the old domestic batteries, scrub and repaint the battery tray
  • to source and fit four new batteries
  • to fix the hinge of our bow locker, which had rusted through, leaving the locker lid loose and askew.

We were lucky that they could fit us in – they had several boats due to be craned out towards the end of the week….

So today I whizzed up to the boat, Ollie came for the ride, and I moved Indigo Dream across to the boatyard. Although it was dry, there was an unhandy wind – I had to rush to jump onto the boat before she blew across the canal as I untied her! I reversed back a little way before turning into the marina and heading for the crane. I always feel a bit anxious moving around the tight alleys in marinas/boatyards but I eventually managed to brest up to nb Odin, despite the wind’s best efforts to take me elsewhere. I offloaded Ollie and found Derek, the engineer, who asked me to move Indigo Dream to the bank in front of the crane. I left Ollie tied up near his office (it would have been awkward to offload Ollie from the new mooring) and he took full advantage of the fuss available from Derek and from the boatyard’s welder. In the meantime, I moved the boat – this time the wind was with me and Indigo Dream slotted neatly into place.

Once she was in position, I went through the work list with Derek then I cleaned the pigeon mess from the front locker so that the welder could work reasonably hygienically! As I checked the boat and got ready to leave I saw a dark shape pass the window – oh no, Ollie was loose; I ran to the back of the boat, but it wasn’t Ollie – it was the boatyard’s enormous black cat. I looked across to see how Ollie had reacted – he hadn’t – phew! If that had been Herbie hound then it’s quite possible that the boatyard’s cabin office would have been dragged across the canal!

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Boat Blog: Mooching along the Grand Union (3)

Posted by indigodream on 13 April, 2013

Sunday 7th April

Widewater Lock to Croxley (Cassiobury Park lock)

Ollie - the "stealer of beds"

Ollie – the “stealer of beds”

As you might have gathered, we didn’t have the best night’s sleep – not only because of the cold, but also because of Ollie. He’s taken to sleeping with us (when he can get away with it!). This is a nice thing in principle, but Ollie is not humbly grateful for this new privilege and he does not meekly sleep at the bottom of the bed. Oh no, Ollie has turned into a bed monster! He took outrageous advantage and spent all night trying to push us out of bed. He managed to get between Richard and the boat wall; he then had a subtle campaign to gently treadle Richard’s back until he was well across the half-way line; then I started to complain because, with the two boys pushing, the only place left for me to go was the floor!

Anyway, once it came to 8am we got the engine running and put the heating back on – then we went back to bed and stayed there until gone 10am – we have become champions of the slow start! Once we were up, I refused to move the boat until I had a coffee in hand – so it was gone 11am before we got going.We met a lot of boats coming ‘down’ the canal, but we didn’t gain any locking partners today.

I didn’t take any notes today, but I did enjoy a bimble along this most familiar waterway.

Black Jack’s lock is one of my favourite places – the cottage just before the lock has a tremendous garden with wonderful old apple trees – I could just imagine living there. On the other hand, the building on the lock, which used to be a B & B and restaurant, also appeals. I spent some time musing on whether I could run a simple canalside eaterie there – “Sue’s Stews” just serving one meat and one veggie (preferably vegan) stew every day – hearty food for walkers and boaters, with fresh home-made bread, of course! Ah, it’s nice to dream ๐Ÿ™‚

But there’s no time to dream at the next lock – there’s a ferocious cross-flow from the right at Coppermill lock – it was surprisingly strong today given that we haven’t had any rain for a week or so. Richard happened to be on the helm for the approach – Indigo Dream slewed across the flow but at least there weren’t any canoes to distract us and we reached the lock without banging into the towpath!

Les and Jaq of nb Valerie - wonderful people - thanks for the tea :-)

Les and Jaq of nb Valerie – wonderful people – thanks for the tea ๐Ÿ™‚

With that hazard safely negotiated (not that it’s a big drama in a tough steel boat) we mooched along and soon arrived in Batchworth. I was heading for the lock when I suddenly spotted nb Valerie with Jaq at the window – we exchanged greetings and I pulled Indigo Dream to an inelegant stop, followed by an amazingly inept manoeuvre to brest up to fellowย nb Valerie, not helped by a partially fouled prop. I was very excited – I’ve been wanting to meet Jaq for ages – the story of her and Les’ trans-atlantic romance is surely THE love story of the waterways. Les was kindness itself as he helped me to bring Indigo Dream alongside and they courteously invited us over for a cup of tea (Jaq makes a very good cup of tea!). Now, at this point I owe the crew of the good ship Valerie some thanks and then a big apology! Firstly, thanks for your hospitality – it was a delight to meet you and I hope that our paths cross when you’re around London – we will be happy to escort you up the tideway if the timing’s right. Secondly, I am very sorry for not introducing myself properly – I felt that I knew you so well from your blog that I forgot to consider whether you’d know me! Anyway, we know each other now ๐Ÿ™‚ and I hope you’ll forgive me for being a bit manic ๐Ÿ™‚

There was a programme on Radio 4 this week that explored the concept of loneliness and how pleasant encounters with people (in person rather than online) releases feel-good chemicals in our brains. Now I like my own company, but I felt elated after spending time with Carrie and Simon yesterday and with Les and Jaq today – all very special people…

Our extended stop in Batchworth put us about an hour behind what we laughingly called our “schedule”, but we still pressed ahead to Croxley and moored a little way below Cassio Bridge lock. This has good access to the road for the car shuffle but here’s a top tip – DO NOT moor with any part of the boat under the railway/tube bridge – pigeons roost there! I could hear their soft chorus as we moored up but I thought they’d just miss us – I was wrong!

Richard cycled back for the car while I packed the boat up and psyched myself for the big one – cleaning several wet weekend’s worth of dust (used to be mud!) and fluff from the boat floor…..I’d just finished when Richard came back!

We had a good run home, which was just as well, we needed some time to finish our new battery research – the domestic bank really needs to be sorted; having said that, this afternoon I ran the heating, with the engine off, for a few hours and the battery charge never wavered from 95% – yet overnight, running the heating for 2 hours or so took them from 74% to flat – the overnight chill may have been a factor….

Photoblog:

The railways and canals have always been uneasy bedfellows! There's a link to the HS2 map here http://www.hs2.org.uk/interactive-map

The railways and canals have always been uneasy bedfellows! There’s a link to the HS2 map here http://www.hs2.org.uk/interactive-map

I feel that there should be a great story behind this name, but I can't find it....

I feel that there should be a great story behind this name, but I can’t find it….

The rural face of the Grand Union - within the M25!

The rural face of the Grand Union – within the M25!

The wonderful cottage below Black Jack's lock...

The wonderful cottage below Black Jack’s lock…

The cross-flow below Coppermill Lock - it was pretty fierce today, even though we haven't had any rain for a week or so...

The cross-flow below Coppermill Lock – it was pretty fierce today, even though we haven’t had any rain for a week or so…

This used to be nb Caie-two - we came up the Hanwell flight with her many years ago - here's another new name that needs a story!

This used to be nb Caie-two – we came up the Hanwell flight with Barry many years ago – here’s another new name that needs a story!

Canalside scene - lovely....

Canalside scene – lovely….

Familiar sight - that ape has been hanging there for a good 7 years - that's amazing! I wish I knew the story behind it - who put it there, and why? It's a canal mystery - maybe CRT should run a short story competition for him (or her)....

Familiar sight – that ape has been hanging there for a good 7 years – that’s amazing! I wish I knew the story behind it – who put it there, and why? It’s a canal mystery – maybe CRT should run a short story competition for him (or her)….

I loved this bit of canal art - displayed on Tesco's wall in Batchworth - I wonder when it was put there?

I loved this bit of canal art – displayed on Tesco’s wall in Batchworth – I wonder when it was put there?

Canalside shrine?

Canalside shrine?

Ah, well, maybe not the best guide on "hoe to moor"...

Ah, well, maybe not the best guide on “how to moor”…

Ollie's had enough - this cruising lark is hard work :-)

Ollie’s had enough – this cruising lark is hard work ๐Ÿ™‚

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Boat Blog: Mooching along the Grand Union (2)

Posted by indigodream on 12 April, 2013

Saturday 6th April

Cowley to Widewater Lock (South Harefield)

We love the way that structures on the GU are dated - it's so nice to see this tradition was still in place in 1999...

We love the way that structures on the GU are dated – it’s so nice to see this tradition was still in place in 1999…

Oh heavens, has there ever been a slower start to a cruising day?!

We had intentions of travelling up to the boat on Saturday morning but I got up, had coffee, breakfast, bath……..then went straight back to bed until lunchtime!ย  Richard relaxed with a good book, Ollie and Ty snoozed. At 1pm, it seemed unlikely that we’d go to the boat at all, but given today’s performance, I was convinced that if we didn’t sleep on board we might not cruise on Sunday either.

So we dragged ourselves out, much to Ty’s dismay, and got to the boat around 3pm, stopping off at the canalside Tesco in Uxbridge for some supplies. The boat had been fine on the mooring apart from one mystery – someone had been onto our front deck and had been fiddling with the anchor. That’s one bit of equipment that we hadn’t put away because it’s really too heavy to steal easily. It’s a folding anchor and someone had managed to get it upright and unfold two of the “tines” then left it – I can only assume that it was too much trouble to continue (it is fiddly). I personally hope that they caught a finger and got a nasty bruise – that’ll teach them for trespassing on our boat – oh dear, there goes my karma…..again!

I’m delighted to report that Ty managed to wee (and poo) normally all weekend – hurrah! He was still a jellyboy when the engine was going but was a bit calmer when we stopped – this may be a reflection of our more rural surroundings….

Yes, rural, the Grand Union changes its character markedly once you get past Uxbridge and you would never guess that you were still inside the M25. This is just one of the reasons that I love this canal so much. Another is the relative peace and quiet – there is very little boat traffic, though the towpaths were populated by cheerful walkers, enjoying a touch of sunshine. This felt like the real first day of spring, though we were still wrapped up against the breeze, which carried the ghost of winter past….

Uxbridge Lock, with its traditional turnover bridge, is something of a boundary between the urban and "rural" Grand Union..

Uxbridge Lock, with its traditional turnover bridge, is something of a boundary between the urban and “rural” Grand Union..

We had a pleasant bobble up the canal – there are a lot of locks between here and the first summit at Cowroast, but they’re quite widely spaced – too far apart for lockwheeling but too close together to start a worthwhile boat project between locks. So there was nothing for it but to enjoy the weather, the canal and the sheer delight of being on the move.

After a couple of hours, we reached Denham Deep lock – notable for being the deepest lock (11′ 1″) on the Grand Union. Today it was also notable for being the only lock where Ty wanted to get off the boat for a rummage (on lead) with Ollie. It was a poignant moment – for us, the grand Union belonged to Blue, Lou and Lynx – this was our first cruise here without Lou and Lynx – how I missed them…..

Nb Pottergate II caught up with us at Denham Deep lock – they were intending to get as far as the Coy Carp pub (near Coppermill Lock), also our target destination for the day. They were pleasant locking companions so we were looking forward to a fine late afternoon cruise. But as we came out of the lock, we saw, and heard, the crew of a moored narrowboat just up the towpath, shouting and waving wildly. I couldn’t make out who it was and asked the other boat “are they friends of yours” – my tone conveying my opinion of the moored crew’s unseemly display. Now I thought the man of nbย Pottergate II said “yes I think so”, therefore I assumed they were his friends and pulled out; but then I suddenly realised it was our friends – Carrie and Simon (nb Blackbird and Tortoise respectively). Oh dear, that’s two cases of mistaken identity in two weekends – there’s a “Specsavers” advert in there somewhere!

Ty and Ollie - making new cruising memories for us :-)

Ty and Ollie – making new cruising memories for us ๐Ÿ™‚

We let nbย Pottergate II pull ahead and we moored up behind nb Blackbird. Although it’s only a couple of weeks since Simon and Carrie helped us down the Hanwell, we still had plenty to talk about, and, of course, Carrie needed her fix of greyhound fuss. It was such a delightful chance meeting that we decided to carry on into the evening – Richard cycled back to get to the car while I took Indigo Dream up to Widewater lock, ably helped by Carrie and Simon, who came along for the ride. We could have moored above Denham Deep lock, but there’s better road access at Widewater lock. We so enjoyed the cruise – late afternoon/evening is the best time – it’s quiet, the water becomes like treacle and the dusk light casts a soft veil over the world – magical.

This was another poignant moment for me – when Blue and Lou, and later Lynx, were with us, I always intended to moor up between Denham Deep and Widewater locks and explore the local walks. The canal is surrounded by lakes – legacy of a long-lost quarrying industry. But when I had hounds who enjoyed exploring, I never stopped here, and now that we are here we have Ty, who doesn’t like exploring, and Ollie, who loves exploring but can’t walk very far because he has a chronic back problem…

We decided to go into Denham village to eat – there’s a pub right by Widewater lock, but the crew of nb Pottergate II said that it wasn’t very good. I started ringing round the three pubs in Denham and got no further than the first – the Falcon. The person I spoke to was helpfulness personified – the bar area is dog-friendly and when she found out that we’d be four people and two big dogs, she said she’d sort us a table in a nice quiet area with enough room for all.

Looking back towards our mooring below Widewater Lock - it's a lovely spot - surrounded by acres of lakes...

Looking back towards our mooring below Widewater Lock – it’s a lovely spot – surrounded by acres of lakes…

Our timing was perfect this evening – Richard got to Widewater lock just as we arrived in the boat. The towpath was busy but there were a couple of spaces – we snaffled one, tied up and piled into the car to go into Denham.

Denham itself is a charming village with old redbrick houses leaning against other like companionable drunks. The Falcon overlooked a tiny village green and was a pleasant pub with little nooks and crannies at different levels. We had a table tucked away in a lower level – there were other tables in our little nook, but they were unoccupied so we had nice private room to ourselves – this suited Ty just fine!

I liked the Falcon – the welcome and service was very pleasant and the staff were extremely helpful. Unfortunately Richard was disappointed with his meal, though mine was ok – not spectacular, but decent portions and the chips were good!

After a most convivial evening we wended our way back to our respective boats – the day’s warmth had given way to a nip of frost in the air. The boat was warm with the heating on, but when it went off (on timer) at midnight, the temperature plunged. We were snug enough under the duvet (with 2 hot water bottles for me) but my exposed head and face were icy cold. I thought about donning a hat in bed (I was already almost fully dressed as it was, just in case Ty wanted to go out in the night) but at 2am I ran the heating again. The batteries had held out quite nicely, but by 5am the boat was freezing again – the heating had gone off at some point because the batteries had died. We couldn’t run the engine until 8am (though the boat in front of us had run his engine until 11.30pm the night before!). We wrapped the hounds up in blankets and tucked ourselves under the duvet until we could run the engine and start the heating again….

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Odds Blog: My contribution to the pop industry!

Posted by indigodream on 9 April, 2013

Tuesday 9th March

Aha, at long last I can now reveal that my brief (and undistinguished) contribution to the pop industry (click here for the full story) was as part of the choir appearing in a pop video withย Josh Groban, singing “I believe” – a Stevie Wonder song (apparently).

There’s a link to the video here:

http://www.joshgroban.com/content/video-premiere-i-believe

As anticipated, the choir is a load of soft-focused blobs in the background, but if you stop the video at 2min 45 secs precisely then you’ll see me (black dress reddish long hair) and my friend Roma to my right (black outfit with check jacket) – we’re in the second row towards the right! You’ll have to be quick to spot us but at least we have the satisfaction of knowing we were there!!!

It was filmed in the great hall in Alexandra Palace – it was an awesome venue!

Now, when you hear the name “Josh Groban” you’ll either say “aaaw he’s lovely” or say “huh, who’s that?”

To all his fans, he was absolutely delightful to work with, being both charming and witty. Some of the ladies in the choir regarded him with a desire verging on hunger – he took it all with aplomb!

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Boat Blog: Mooching along the Grand Union (1)

Posted by indigodream on 5 April, 2013

Monday 1st April

Brentford to Cowley Lock

Indigo Dream - beong overseen by Spiderman, who's still in his tree!

Indigo Dream – beong overseen by Spiderman, who’s still in his tree!

With various cruising plans scuppered, today we decided to start a little mooch up the Grand Union – we’ve only got a few cruising weekends available before we need to get back to Limehouse so we won’t get very far. Our initial thought was to get to Marsworth with a visit to the Slough Arm, Wendover Arm and maybe have a bobble down to Aylesbury. Ha! There’s another plan scuppered – there’s been an unbelievable lock collapse on the Aylesbury Arm – dramatic photo here!

Anyway, the journey of 1,000 miles starts with one step, or so they say; so our modest target for the day was to get moving (big achievement in itself!) and get to the vicinity of Cowley Peachey. It’s only 20-odd lock miles so really only a half-day cruise. Because of that we left Ty at home, clinging to his new safe bed (home version) like a limpet – he really does hate adventures. We knew he’d be ok though – he loves the peace and quiet of home – he’d just sleep all day! Ollie, on the other hand, hates to be left alone, so he was up for the trip in the car, even though he had no idea where we were going. I decided to transport Ty’s new bed to the boat today, so Ollie lay in that in the car boot on the way up – bliss!

We got to the boat mid-morning – she’d been fine, though we noticed that the Brentford visitor moorings were now full. Luckily, I think that many of the boats moored here are planning to transit to Teddington so spaces will come and go. We unloaded the car, loaded the boat and were just getting ready to cruise when a chap came up and said “hello neighbour…..”. It was a gentleman called Sean, from the boat moored behind us (he did tell me the boat name but I didn’t write it down so it’s gone!). He was an Irishman who had the most charming aura – he hadn’t just kissed the blarney stone, he must have given it the full works, with tongues! He wanted to pick our brains about cruising the Thames, Wey and Basingstoke – we were happy to oblige, but how the rest of the morning disappeared! We eventually got away just before midday, winded near the locks and headed back up the canal, much to the relief of a boat who’d brested up on the visitor moorings and was making haste to move into our newly vacated spot.

I'm so glad that they've kept these old "piling competition" signs on the canal - I love the idea that the canal workers had such a pride in their work that they thought it was worth competing...

I’m so glad that they’ve kept these old “piling competition” signs on the canal – I love the idea that the canal workers had such a pride in their work that they thought it was worth competing…

We had the canal to ourselves as we went up the first few locks – Ollie got off for a little rummage at each one – he really is turning out to be a natural boater. There are relatively long pounds between the first few locks so we had time for coffee, hot soup and bread before we entered the flight proper. We had lots of friendly greetings from passing walkers and I felt a surge of affection for the Hanwell flight. I’ve always liked it, but really, when you think of where we are in London it’s a miracle, a wonderful engineering feature and haven for wildlife – I bet it’s not mentioned in many London tourist guides though…..

When we got to the moorings near Hanwell bottom lock, with their easy access to the Fox pub, we thought we might see a few of the other boats that had been due to join to Basingstoke convoy. But the moorings were nigh on empty. However, we had nice surprise – we were soon hailed by nb Cherie with crew Sally, Eric and canine crew member Alfie, brother of Mr Biggles, the marina manager’s pet and THE dog at Limehouse Marina. They were two locks ahead of us and waited for us to arrive, incidentally setting the intermediate lock for us. That really made our day – they were fine locking partners, veterans of many a tideway convoy; Alfie and Ollie enjoyed rummaging around the locks and running between them as Richard lock-wheeled. Eric and I, on our respective helms, practised our tandem manoeuvres, which really does speed up the locking process. It was a great transit and having company took my mind off the icy wind which seems to be gusting straight from Siberia!

We parted company at Hanwell top lock – nb Cherie carried on up the GU, Richard grabbed his bike and cycled back to Brentford to pick up the car while Ollie and I mooched up the cut towards Tesco at Bulls Bridge. I had a lovely solo cruise, enjoying the canal despite its winter bleakness. You can tell where my head was at – rather turning the boat clock forward to British Summer Time, I put it back an hour to a sort of special “Double Winter Time” – and no surprise – it was still trying to snow at this point, but the day ended in sunshine. Funnily enough, I’d thought it was starting to snow at Brentford, but it was just a white shower from the local seagulls who seemed to object to our engine noise!

Tandem manoeuvres with nb Cherie..

Tandem manoeuvres with nb Cherie..

When I arrived at Bulls Bridge, I was gobsmacked to find the moorings totally deserted; I was able to moor up near to, but not on, the water point so that I could fill up with water then go shopping in Tesco without having to move the boat – result! I’d no sooner got the hose organised when Richard turned up with the car. He took over supervising the tank while I went food shopping. The water pressure here is rubbish, but we had plenty of time….Tesco was quite horrible, with flocks of young men (probably students) wandering randomly across the aisles like bewildered sheep. They were regularly scattered, bleating, by professional shoppers, before being expertly rounded up by hard-faced women deploying baby buggies and trolleys as offensive weapons. The last time I saw the flock it had been corralled in the pot noodle aisle out of harm’s way….

I was very relieved to get back to the boat!

We then did another car shuffle – lock-free pounds are so useful! Richard took the car up to the bridge below Cowley lock and I mooched along the canal again, with Ollie practising his “looking” up on deck. I can’t say that he’s a champion “looker”, but he’d take the award for whining – he “talked” the whole way!

I was a bit dismayed to see a large raft of trash under the railway bridge just ‘up’ from Bulls Bridge – I let the boat coast through, afraid to spin the prop in such an unsavoury soup. At one point I thought I’d hit the towpath, but it just something big in the water – even bigger than the melancholy body of a swan which drifted past – it was a large tree trunk and I was glad to see it behind me after it had clonked its way down the side of the boat.

Such a companionable way to cruise - overseen by Alfie on the towpath!

Such a companionable way to cruise – overseen by Alfie on the towpath!

Past that point though, the canal was clear of rubbish (apart from the occasional plastic bag) and I enjoyed another solo cruise. The Grand Union here is deep and, for the most part, unoccupied, so I could open up the engine and move along what would have been the M1 of its day at the pace it was designed for (without breaking a wash or speed limit I should add). It was interesting to see how various developments had been finished off since our last trip this way – it feels like an age ago.

At one point I spotted a man on a bike who waved and stopped under the next bridge. I had bright sunshine in my face and sparkling off the water but I was pretty sure that it was Richard, though that would have involved supersonic cycling on his part ๐Ÿ™‚ As I approached the bridge hole, the man started gesticulating wildly – waving his arm over his head – I obediently pushed the boat in the direction of the waving. But the man carried on waving, now looking as if he was trying to disentangle shelob’s web from his hair. His gestures became wilder, he looked as if he was throwing eggs at the bridge wall – I was fascinated by this extraordinary display from someone whom I believed to be my usually sane husband. Distracted, I managed to bang the bow quite solidly into the edge of the towpath and, as I got into the shadow of the bridge I realised that the man on the bike was not Richard. He seemed very worried that I’d damaged my hull; I did explain, successfully, that narrrowboats are tough, but I gave up on the explanation of mistaken identity and why I’d tried to ram him with my boat! He, in turn, never did explain why he’d stopped and was waving his arms with such passion – he rode off, leaving a solitary bread roll behind on the towpath – who knows what it all means!

A little while later, I was quite relieved when Richard rang me to ask me to stop at the appropriate bridge so that he could hop on with his bike – having advance warning saved me more embarrassment!

The flow from the gate paddles is dramatic...

The flow from the gate paddles is dramatic…

With Richard on board, we soon approached the junction with the Slough Arm. We had thought of having a little trip along there, but my excursion to Tesco had taken far longer than expected; we needed to get home to Ty so we hastened on. Except that we didn’t hasten – it’s fender to fender with moored boats here – mostly permanent moorings on the offside. We had mixed feelings going past Packet Boat Marina – I like the environs – there’s great dog-walking hereabouts and there are handy shops on the main road (towpath side), but we never felt at home when we moored at Packet Boat, so unlike Limehouse…

Richard had parked the car by Bridge 189, below Cowley lock. There are good towpath moorings all along this stretch, but the ones nearer the lock are 7-day moorings and tend to fill up (though there were spaces today apparently). But we moored by the bridge – there is old heavy piling here with just enough of a gap for us to use a mooring chain at the back. At the front we had to resort to old-fashioned brute force as Richard hammered a pin into the cold, dry ground. I gave Ollie some food (which silenced the whining!) and packed up. Of course, we’re on the move now, so packing up is a bit more involved. We feel more vulnerable with the boat moored on the towpath (though crime is mercifully rare) but we’ve had our ropes stolen once too often (i.e. twice!) so now we remove our gear from roof/deck and lock it away.

We had a good drive home, though a nasty accident on the clockwise carriageway of the M25 was just starting to create an almighty tailback as we drove past on the opposite carriageway. Ty was ecstatic to see us, and even more ecstatic to see the hot chicken that I’d brought home from Tesco. He’d been absolutely fine at home – much happier, I’m sure, than if he’d been on the boat – especially with all the noise that goes with locking through a flight. Poor Ty will have to come with us next weekend though – that’s when we find out whether “operation safe bed” will make a difference to his mental wellbeing. If not, then it’s back to the doggie valium….:-)

Photoblog:

Ollie practising "looking"....

Ollie practising “looking”….

Nice to see a bit of pink blossom - probably a wild cherry - the tees think that spring is here!

Nice to see a bit of pink blossom – probably a wild cherry – the tees think that spring is here!

Last time I was here they were still landscaping the canaside here (just "up" from the Nestle plant) - now that would make a nice mooring but there aren't any rings :-(

Last time I was here they were still landscaping the canalside here (just “up” from the Nestle plant) – now that would make a nice mooring but there aren’t any rings ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

This tree is very much alive but it's perched quite precariously on those railings - wouldn't fancy walking under it myself - I gave it a wide berth on the water...

This tree is very much alive but it’s perched quite precariously on those railings – wouldn’t fancy walking under it myself – I gave it a wide berth on the water…

Sunshine :-)

Sunshine ๐Ÿ™‚

Given the position of that truck I assume that the gravel barges still use this wharf - I had thought that they had stopped..

Given the position of that truck I assume that the gravel barges still use this wharf – I had thought that they had stopped..

New bridge across the railway lines - the architecture doesn't sit well alongside the traditional canal bridge...

New bridge across the railway lines – the architecture doesn’t sit well alongside the traditional canal bridge…

The developments and towpath works around the new Tesco near Uxbridge are very smart - great moorings here - very convenient for topping up supplies from the superstore (which also has a Costa - wow, what more could we want!)...

The developments and towpath works around the new Tesco near Uxbridge are very smart – great moorings here – very convenient for topping up supplies from the superstore (which also has a Costa – wow, what more could we want!)…

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