Monday, 18 August 2008

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.

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