Sunday, 31 August 2008
Yesterday, Sat, was the hottest day we have had for a while. It was our second day of cruising and locking with two dogs on board. So far Parga is behaving himself but he finds the mechanics of locking difficult to grasp. he likes his family to be altogether and cannot understand one of us on the boat and one on the shore. When Geoff climbs over the lock gates to do the paddles he is not impressed. However, apart from one incident when he tried to jump on someone else's boat in the lock and then had difficulty getting off as she moved away from the shore, we have all survived.
Last night we were collected (all four of us!) and had a lovely supper with Cherry & Mike at Northwood. I also had the treat of a bath!!! We learned from them that I had been remiss when writing some weeks ago about our trip to Henley that I failed to mention that we had had a visit from friend Greenfly...what an omission......a mental aberration on my part! We have enjoyed all our visits from friends who have made the effort to visit us this year.
On our return from supper we found we had a large widebeam moored directly behind us with sounds of a good party going both on the boat and in the nearby woods. However once we were below we were not disturbed. I do have a vague memory of people coming back to the boat but I am not sure whether I dreamt it or not!!!
Church is planned in Rickmansworth today and a visit from Maggie who plans to come out on the tube from London...thunderstorms are also forecast so we shall see what the day brings.
Friday, 29 August 2008
We had had a briefing the day before which did include asking if we had a VHF radio. We were able to reply in the affirmative but the other boat at the briefing said no and the lock keeper was not really fussed. So much for saying that all boats over 45ft must carry VHF. We also discovered that although you can call London VTS on leaving limehouse it is not mandatory. In fact if you do call you then have to call in at Brentford or Teddington when you probably would not get contact and would have to use your mobile anyway. We therefore did not bother and although we kept a listening watch on Ch 14 we heard very little and what we did hear was difficult to decipher. Any traffic that was around we could see anyway so I think we had an unnecessary expense. In the event of an emergency when you are recommended to call London VTS immediately they tell you to call on Ch 14 or their landline, so your mobile is still a better (and cheaper) bet.
Approaching the Houses of Parliament Thames Clipper docking on right.
Big Ben was striking 8am just as we went past. There is an exclusion zone right in front to stop invaders!! It is well marked by yellow buoys so there was no danger of us straying.
The river after Battersea Bridge became much smoother, and also the traffic was much lighter and it was more like the Thames we had experienced further upstream.
Thames Lock, Brentford
Monday, 25 August 2008
Swing Bridge at the entrance to the basin
The swing bridge at the entrance is opened for every boat as far as we could see even for small boats who could easily pass underneath.
This was our last day in Limehuse and our last day of doing the tourist bit in London so we walked down to Canary Wharf pier and took one of the high speed Thames Clippers. We had watched them over the past few days speeding along and they looked fun. For £8 you can travel all day if you wish, hopping on and off as you will. We went down to Woolwich first in order to go through the Thames Barrier and then back up river to Greenwich where we alighted. Geoff had been down here whilst we were in Paddington Basin but had not been up to the Observatory so that was the aim today. This proved to be fascinating and we really should have spent longer there. You really need a whole day to do justice to Greenwich.
The Greenwich Meridian
The view from the Royal Observatory over Greenwich with Canary Wharf in the distance
2012 Olympic site
Below are an indication of what we were passing through, would love to see some of it in 4 years.
Moored in Limehouse
We had called ahead to Limehouse Lock keepers to find out what the mooring situation was. Since we had not been there before and our guide book mentioned a marina we were unsure of what lay ahead. The lock keeper was very helpful and said there was no problem with us staying until Tuesday along the wall which is where you can see us above. He did warn us that it would be a busy weekend and that we would have to breast up which indeed has proved the case. The Cruising Association have their headquarters here and they had a meet this weekend so there were half a dozen largish yachts and motor cruisers alongside the wall also. Their clubhouse is open to all and we had a drink there on the Friday evening and found their prices much cheaper than the pubs. We were given an information sheet with good gen on marina facilities and surrounding area. There are showers, laundry etc and it is altogether a very congenial place to stay. We are still glad Ellie is not with us as the wall is quite high and getting her on and off would have been a problem(It is still very strange on the boat without her though)
Friday evening was beautiful and we had our supper in the cratch as we watched the setting sun (No one alongside us yet) We are surrounded by all these apartments which have obviously been built over the last 20 years. In one of the local pubs they have some historical pictures of the area and one dated 1982 shows nothing here apart from the remnants of the old docks. The local estate agents show some of them for sale over £700,000.
The reason for the stay until Tuesday is that we can do an early morning departure (0715) which means there should not be as much river traffic. Having now been to watch what goes on and seen some of the high speed trip boats whizzing past the entrance we think that is the best time to go. Apparently they don't get into their stride until about 9.30 by which time we hope to be past Westminster Bridge.
Saturday we decided to be sightseers and the aim was Southwark Cathedral. This was to be on foot as this is the only way Geoff likes to view. However we went fairly gently and stopped at various places en route. Before departing we watched a convoy of little boats coming down river to the Limehouse entrance.
One of the first places we passed was Shadwell Basin with lots of apartments and a huge area of water with possible mooring but completely landlocked as far as we could see. What had been a lock and a bridge were no longer in use
St Katherines Dock was the next stop which I found quite an eye-opener. There were quite a lot of large yachts moored there and some very up-market shops and apartments. There were spaces for more boats which we thought was an indication of how much it probably cost to moor there. We stopped for a Cappuccino in one of the numerous cafesSt Katherine's Dock
Next came the Tower of London which with an entrance fee of £14 (Concession) we decided not to visit. The crowds around were another turn off.
Chapel in the Crypt All Hallows
Next came an unscheduled stop at All Hallows Church which looked interesting. It is the oldest church in London and you can see more details on their website http://www.allhallowsbythetower.org.uk/
We eventually reached Southwark Cathedral our original goal. Geoff had wanted to revisit the scene of his confirmation in the early fifties. He also found a plaque on the wall commemorating the services of his then vicar Peter Penwarden for his services as vice-provost at the Cathedral. After a good look around we explored the adjacent Borough Market and then found a convenient refreshment place overlooking the river for lunch. The sun was still shining on us so we felt very fortunate.
St Peter's Barge London's Floating Church
On Leaving Canary Wharf we saw this array of traffic lights which was obviously an art structure but as the lights were all changing I think I would have been somewhat confused if I had been driving past the junction it was on.Sunday evening we were joined by Sister-in-law Edith and her friend Steve for drinks on Petroc before we all went to eat at "The Narrow". This is the pub on the corner outside limehouse lock overlooking the river. Now owned by Gordon Ramsey we enjoyed a really excellent meal whilst we had a fantastic view all up and down the Thames. It was light when we arrived so we could see everything and later we enjoyed all the lights. A nightcap on Petroc before they caught the train on the DLR back.
Thursday, 21 August 2008
Bishops Stortford -head of Lee Navigation
We made it to Bishops Stortford and the head of the Lee Navigation . Geoff had a wander round the town and reported it was very nice but I was too tired. The only bit I saw was Sainsburys the following morning when we stocked up the larder! There was plenty of mooring space but it all had a very uncared for look about it.....some tlc needed if they want to attract more boats. It was not helped by a huge building under construction on the opposite bank. Having said that the trip up the Stort was lovely. Very gentle and rural. We passed through Harlow but saw none of it, the canal manages somehow to secrete itself away. This was our fourth head of navigation this year.....Lechlade, Godalming, Hertford and now Bishops Stortford.
The above picture shows a new very attractive set of dwellings, complete with moorings alongside and within the complex. All the apartments appeared to be full and not a single boat in sight!
On our way back down on Wednesday we passed Hunsdon Mill Lock which was our 1000th lock in Petroc.........
Since our aim is to reach Limehouse Friday we have had two longer days than our normal and we have stopped tonight somewhere between Tottenham and Enfield in a much pleasanter mooring than we expected. There are even blackberries for the picking alongside the boat so we have had Blackberry & Apple crumble tonight.
Monday, 18 August 2008
Once we turned onto the Stort the landscape was very rural and the further we went the prettier it became. Eventually even the rain stopped and we had some sunshine.
After the first lock they were all set against us so we realised that someone was just ahead of us. Since these locks on the Stort are only 13ft wide so two narrow boats do not fit it was not worth trying to catch up. Eventually we found there were two boats ahead of us so there was no point in rushing. After Burnt Mill Lock both boats stopped as they were going to the marina there. We then informed that there was a tree down just before the next lock. We called the Stort River authorities to discover what had happened and found that it had just been reported. We carried on until we came to the obstruction that was just short of the lock, inorder to keep an eye on happenings. We moored to a convenient footfridge and shortly a BW man appeared who informed us that it would be an hour for a boat to arrive and then another hour to clear so I settled down to catch up with this blog. We were in the middle of nowhere it seemed with no radio and TV reception and poor phone signal but surprisingly I had good reception on my mobile broadband dongle....wonders will never cease. The boat took a little longer than the hour but once there they cleared a passage in well under the hour. By then there were three other boats queuing to go through and one coming the other way. All in all they were very efficient we thought.
Before we reached our goal however there were plenty of locks to negotiate and some very tatty parts of the canal. The water itself was crystal clear which meant you could see all the grot which had been thrown in including many plastic bags. All these locks are wide locks and several are paired with one of the pair being mechanical and the other manual. Guess which Geoff opted for! Until we reached Stonebridge Lock.............here the mechanical one was not working so it was back to the slog. There were quite hard going, not because the paddles arms were stiff but because they were geared very low which necessitated many, many turns to lift the paddle. In addition the gates had the same low geared paddle handles. As Geoff reached almost the final bit a passing foreign tourist took pity on him and turned the last paddle!
We had not met any boats going our way with whom to share locks and only one boat going the opposite way.
As we set off again, disaster struck and we realised we had picked up something round the propeller. We gently coasted into the bank, luckily there was a convenient spot to tie to. Geoff then spent the best part of half an hour fighting with the weed hatch and removed the remains of a huge boat tarpaulin and other bits of twine and string. So taken with the whole thing I forgot to take a picture of the offending article!!
Once on our way again we achieved our goal of Waltham Abbey at 1910....this was our longest cruising day ever. The canal (or river or whatever it was at that point) had begun to be a little more prepossessing by this stage. The saving grace of the day was that it didn't rain on us!!
Contrary to the pessimism of the forecasters we awoke to sunshine. We meandered into Waltham Abbey for the paper and to explore a little. Then on our way again about 10.30am.
After the first lock we caught up with a 26ft Aluminum Sea Otter, in fact they kindly waited for us so we were able to share a few locks before they stopped in Broxbourne.
Our mooring in Hertford
Geoff went off on his usual recce and reported that church was at 10am and the nearby pub was worth reconnoitering. So we went for a pre supper drink and found that it did Sunday Roasts.
We had no radio or TV reception and very poor internet so much more reading got done than usual!
On Sunday the plot was to go to church and lunch and then gently potter back to Ware which had looked very pleasant on the way up.
All Saints Church Hertford
Church was fine, everyone very friendly and making sure that we went back to their hall for coffee. Here we found they had a produce stall so purchased marmalade and plums. Geoff also found a parishioner who had been to the rival school to his in Kingston! Small world.
Lunch was also good but we decided against the rest of the days plan as Geoff had a stiff neck....must have been all that helping the women on the boat!! So a quiet afternoon when I had hoped to catch up with this blog, but what little reception I had soon departed.
Sunday, 17 August 2008
Queens House Greenwich
The Albert Memorial
The Tower of London
Emma departed on Thursday morning and after some shopping and then coffee with friend Maggie, Geoff and I took to British Rail to visit Giles & Susannah in their new house in Goring Heath. The trip did not get off to a good start as the ticket machine ate two of my £10 notes before giving up the ghost. A protracted wait for officialdom to arrive did not retrieve my money. However a phone call the next day acknowledged their mistake and a cheque should be winging it's way to us. Geoff was getting very hot under the collar by the time we got on the train! Still it was a good visit and lovely to see the inside of their new house.
Petroc in Paddington Basin
Hamstead Road Lock
St Pancras Lock
About 11 we reached the Hertford Union Canal which is the short cut to the Lea & Stort