Sunday, 31 August 2008


Gently going up the Grand Union now. We moored Friday just above Uxbridge in a much pleasanter spot than we had anticipated. We have done done this bottom end of the GU before and Geoff's memory of it is as a walker. He remembers lines of permanently moored boats and nowhere for visitors. However so far although there certainly are lots of permanently moored boats it has been much better than we thought.
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

Up the Tidal Thames

We were booked to lock out of Limehouse at 0715 on Tuesday morning. The plan was to have an early night so that we would be bright and breezy for the trip down the Thames. However we had Giles and Emma joining us for the run down and in typical offspring fashion they decided to attend a concert on the Monday evening......but they wouldn't be late in!!!!! I think it was 0130 when they rolled in, consequently none of us had a lot of sleep....the best laid plans etc.....

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.

Off we go

We duly locked out about 7.20, and were pleased to see that a large towing vessel had passed the entrance just before we left.

The river was certainly a little choppy and there was more traffic at that time of the morning than we had anticipated, however Petroc seemed to take it all in her stride. With some of the passing vessels we did get a much larger amount of wash than we had experienced before.

Approaching Tower Bridge

Approaching the Houses of Parliament Thames Clipper docking on right.

Thames Clipper

There we quite a few of the Thames clippers around who seemed to be taking commuters to work. Since we had taken a trip on one on Monday we knew their procedure for docking which is very fast and slick. Inevitably as we came up to several of the piers there was one either docking or leaving. They took us in their stride however and if we were in the way they just reversed off and set off behind us.......very obliging.

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament

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.

Rubbish Collection

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.
We reached Thames Lock at Brentford just before 0945, a run of 2 1/2 hours. We had been anticipating this part of the trip for so long and now it was somewhat of an anticlimax.
Although we had not been blessed with sunshine, it had not rained on us and the wind had not been too strong....what more can one ask for in an English summer??

Thames Lock, Brentford

So the London Ring had been completed. We had first locked through Brentford on 7th August, 19 days earlier. During that time we have explored the Lee and Stort Navigations and had extended stays in Paddington Basin and Limehouse. During both those stays London has been quite well explored especially by Geoff, although I participated in most of the exploring from Limehouse.
After watering etc at Brentford we continued up the 10 locks to Bulls Bridge Junction with our extra crew on board. After one lock Giles decided it was all too slow for him and he would miss a 1530 appointment, so having looked at the map decided to jump ship as he thought we were close to a station. (Later we found out that he became thoroughly lost!!) By then another boat had caught up with us so we had company and the extra crew of Emma. She was flagging by then after her late night, so when Giles jumped ship and she had to work she was somewhat dismayed!!!
We stopped to shop at Tesco's at Bulls Bridge before turning down the Paddington arm. The destination was the Black Horse at Greenford where we expected to be reunited with shipmate Ellie.
Emma and I spent Wednesday and Thursday at Giles and Susannah's new house doing some gardening. At 7 months pregnant Susannah cannot do much heavy work. We returned to Petroc on Thursday to find not only Ellie in residence but Parga also. The cats are not quite settled in at Giles and Susannah's so we have him for the next few was Geoff's idea!!
Today Thursday was our first day cruising with both dogs and so far he has been reasonably well behaved. He has accompanied Geoff at the locks and refrained from jumping in. However he likes to lie at Geoff's feet whilst he is steering which is not the ideal place.
We have moored just north of Uxbridge Lock in reasonably pleasant surroundings. The banks are lined with live aboards around here so we were not sure what we would find.

Monday, 25 August 2008

August Bank Holiday

Geoff was up early on Monday watching all the Cruising Association sailing boats departing. The quay was somewhat emptier now.

Limehouse Lock

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

Sojourn in Limehouse

We set off on Friday morning for the last lap to Limehouse Basin. We had not found this stretch particularly scintillating on the way up but it was a fairly good trip down, maybe because the sun was shining which makes everything so much better. Geoff caught this little chap as we went along.

Don't disturb me!

We also passed the 2012 Olympic site with not very much to see yet, we did wonder what it would be like cruising down here in four years time

2012 Olympic site

Below are an indication of what we were passing through, would love to see some of it in 4 years.

Ducketts Cut on the Regent canal

Getting closer to Limehouse, Canary Wharf in distance

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

Shadwell Basin

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

The old and the new, The Gherkin in the distance

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

A guide inside was very helpful and started us off on an interesting tour. This view of the chapel in the crypt shows the boxes on either side in which are housed people's ashes.

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.

The plan for Sunday was to return to All Hallows for Choral Communion at 11 but we awoke to pouring rain so decided instead to go to the local Limehouse church of St Anne. This turned out to be a huge mausoleum of a building which was in the throes of a huge make-over so it was more like a building site. However the welcome was very warm and it was an enjoyable morning service.. It was very laid back with the vicar in an open necked shirt. Coffee was downstairs in the huge crypt which was obviously used as an activity room.

St Anne's Church Limehouse

After lunch on the boat we headed off towards Canary Wharf to explore. The buildings are vast and although it is all very well done it is a little souless, although had we been there on a working day it may have felt differently. There are vast areas of water with very few boats, some areas have no boats at all which seemed to us a great waste of water space. Tucked away in one corner we found St Peter's barge This is part of St Anne's Church. See

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

Heading to Limehouse

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.

Much fancier than normal footbridge!

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

Hertford & up the Stort

Now where do we start?
Get my shovel out
Nearly envelop myself
Big one here
Doing well now

The rain eventually caught up with us in the evening and all through the night. We set off on Monday morning in rain and stopped to water etc and then continued down to the junction with the Stort River. Once again no boats to share with, but it was still very early.

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.
By the time we went through the lock it was nearly 6 and Geoff had done a recce above the lock and said there was a suitable mooring so we decided to quit whilst we were ahead.
Nothing much around us apart from a sort of hybrid narrow boat cum dutch barge moored opposite, but the map tells us we are just north of Harlow. Heigh Ho and onward tomorrow to Bishops Stortford.

Lea to Hertford

Having left the Hertford canal we started the long slog up the Lea (In some places it is spelt Lea and in others Lee). The bottom end certainly is a long slog and not a particularly pleasant one. Luckily the weather was kind to us and it was a lovely day. As the forecast for Sat was not good we wanted to get as far up as possible so had decided to make for Waltham Abbey. It sounded a reasonable place for the night and if we were stopped by rain the following day it looked as though we would find a church and pub, the two requisites for Sunday!.

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 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.

More rural now but still the odd chimney!

Carthagena Lock

Some of the locks were beginning to be quite pretty settings now and this was proving to be a much more pleasant day than yesterday......even the sun was still shining most of the time. How lucky can you get.

We then did a couple on our own before catching up with a hire boat on which were 6 or 7 women. We were never sure of the number as they kept disappearing down one door and reappearing from another! They were on a hen party for the lady on the tiller who was the only one brave enough to drive the boat. Apart from her the rest of them were all p***** as parrots. They all seemed to be having a whale of a time but all the shimmying up and down ladders and throwing ropes was really a disaster waiting to happen. After the first lock we went in first every time and Geoff closed the gate behind me so that if they got it wrong at least I was protected! They soon realised that they were on to a good thing with Geoff there and he did most of the work very cheerfully...I do wonder if he would have been so cheerful about it if they had been a boat full of men!!! Oh cynical me!)

We then reached Hertford where there were quite a few boats and not a lot of moorings. However some friendly people on another boat said they would be going in about an hour and if we cared to go up and turn we could breast up with them until their departure. This we did and spent a pleasant hour chatting before they left. We were also trying very hard not to moor near the girls as we thought they might be quite noisy. They eventually moored on the opposite bank some way back from us after some interesting manoeuvring. We could hear them all evening but they didn't really bother us....not sure what the locals would have made of them however. Where we were moored there are some small terraced houses with very pretty gardens, and some of them had actually taken over the grassy bank right next to the water on the far side of the tow path. They had planted them wonderfully but suspect it was as a deterrent to mooring boats.

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

Petroc in the Capital

The blog has been neglected for a week as we have been "doing" London. More accurately Geoff has been walking over as much as he could. He became a real tourist and took a London tour on one of the open topped buses which also included a river trip down from Westminster to Greenwich and return. He happily spent a few hours there as you can see below.

Queens House Greenwich

The Albert Memorial

The Tower of London

Whilst Geoff was doing this I fitted in Covent Garden amongst other things, shopping with friend Rosi Lillis. Both she and John had come to stay in London for a couple of days to see us. We managed an evening out just the four of us and the following evening with other friends, Wally, Helena, Marie and Maggie and also Emma and Boe (10 of us altogether)

Emma stayed for a couple of days and managed a day out with Geoff and one with me. She and I also went to see Dirty Dancing (at some cost!) which was a great show. She and I also spent a day and a half getting her started on the Accounts course she is starting by Distance Learning.

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.

Still on the travel front we have made good use of our senior citizens bus passes as they can be used on all the London buses.

Petroc in Paddington Basin

In the background on the left are the lift shafts of what will be three more tall buildings. Apparently these get built first and then is rest of the building is added around.

Throughout the week we stayed in Paddington Basin which is somewhat sterile but clean and safe. There are no facilities there so on the Tuesday morning we motored the short trip back to Little Venice to water etc. We had hoped to find a mooring there as it was somewhat prettier but as it was all full we returned to the basin.

For the whole of our time in London there was a strong wind and in Paddington Basin it seems worse than anywhere else. In the early part of the week we felt we had to put extra lines on the boat as it was funnelling down so strongly.....there was almost white water in the basin!!!

Little Venice looking eastward towards Regents canal

Little Venice looking Westwards towards the Padding Arm of the Grand Union
It had been a good week in the capital but the time comes when one gets itchy feet to be on the move again so on Friday we departed for what was to be our longest cruising day ever! We set off from Paddington about 6.30 to water etc and were en route by 0720 down the Regents Canal.
This canal goes all along the back of London and would eventually take us down to Limehouse. However before that as we have time in hand we had decided to take a detour up the rivers Lea and Stort

Maida Hill Tunnel

Hamstead Road Lock

Looking back at Camden Lock

St Pancras Lock

About 11 we reached the Hertford Union Canal which is the short cut to the Lea & Stort