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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!  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 nb 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 🙂

We let nb 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….

One Response to “Boat Blog: Mooching along the Grand Union (2)”

  1. Shaun said

    Hi Sue. I did say I’d haunt you! I was very amused at your note about meeting me. When in a hurry do not engage in conversation with Irishmen (particularly if unreconstructed. BTW, the boat is Pentargon! And I am hoping to reorganise it’s website this week as I am on baby sitting duties at the landhouse

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