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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 😀

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…” 🙂

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 🙂

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.  Ah, happy memories – run free Susie girl….

Run free Susie girl....

Run free Susie girl….


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? 🙂

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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