Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Slapton to Stoke Hammond, eventually.

As we peered out of the port hole this morning, it was raining, again! Now I have to admit, I was feeling, shall we say tender.

Yesterday evening we walked in the sunshine to the village of Slapton. The route to the village along the road is a bit of a hike, with no footpath and some tight bends, but it was worth it. The Carpenters arms is a small thatched building and upon entering, not that impressive. The restaurant room was closed and the bar area was somewhat spartan, but the menu looked good as did the specials board. Well first impressions and all that! The meal was truly splendid, as was the beer and wine. All at a very reasonable cost. In fact the beer and wine was so good, we perhaps over indulged a little, hence the tender head this morning....

So, with the rain clouds looming, we stayed put until late morning and then off to the first lock of the day. After this we were into Leighton Buzzard. We were in dire need of the services and Nicholson's showed them as just after bridge 114. Well they are not, they are right before it going north, on a tight bend with a limited landing. Sods law says there would be a boat on them, well there was, a wide beam! With no room to moor we ended up sort of tied to the bridge which once must have accessed an arm of the canal, waiting our turn. There was another boat before us waiting the other side of the bridge. After an hour or so the wide beam finished watering. The water pressure was abysmal and I think he left before completely filling due to embarrassment. Anyway, job done and we moved off and quickly through the conurbation.

After one more lock we chugged to Soulbury three locks with the very convenient pub side of the middle lock. These quickly negotiated assisted by a CRT staff member and a short hop to our mooring for the night at Stoke Hammond. The wind really got up late afternoon and rain clouds are again gathering, but the forecast for tomorrow is hot.

Grove Lock

We have seen a lot of moorhen chicks today, 
after mooring I could hear them and then I spied these three opposite the side hatch.

Miles 9
Locks 5

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Rain rain go away......

As forecast the weather has taken a turn for the worse today. The various weather information sites for once all agree, rain until late afternoon.

So with a good mooring, we have decided to stay put and catch up on all those little job's that get left for another day usually. So I have had the hoover out, Ali has given the bathroom and now the floors a good going over and we have sorted out a few cupboards that needed going through. Bit of a cleaning fest really.

Thank goodness for the pram hood. I know these are not to every ones liking, but it works for us. Normally this is folded down whilst cruising, with the exception of the Thames, where it acted, minus the sides, as a parasol to shade us from the intense sun. Today it is up whilst we are moored, keeping the rear deck dry whilst we are tinkering. Also gives me a dry place to have the occasional Vape!

It is supposed to brighten up late afternoon and so hopefully, we can go for a walk into the village of Slapton, and maybe stop for a little refreshment!

Boats are still passing, the crew wet but on the whole cheerful and full of fortitude. With no agenda, it is nice upon occasion to sit tight, in the hope that the morrow will bring back blue sky, although the morning looks a tad damp! Still, we need the water.

Edit to say, by 1500, the rain had stopped and blue sky's returned. Looks like a walk into the village and a meal at the pub may well be on the cards. Yippee...

I (Ali) have been playing around with some of our photos this afternoon whilst it has been raining, the results of some of them are below.

Scary house ......

This is the original photo !
Newark Priory

Miles 0
Locks 0

Monday, 29 July 2013

Up, Over and Down to Slapton.

We left Cowroast about nine this morning in glorious sunshine, knowing this was not set to last! The lock will be our last ascending for a while and above it we made use of the services. I also popped into the marina to enquire about an engine service, but the chap was just back from holiday and had a shed load of work on. No matter, we would push on.

Now we were on the summit pound (Tring), said to be at times a little shallow. Although it was down, it caused us no problems and we chugged along in a cutting for much of the way. Ali made use of the uninterrupted section to wash a load.

It was upon our arrival at Bulbourne junction that the fun began....Two boats were just about to exit the lock. One was making the turn down the Wendover arm whilst the other was continuing south. Now common sense would dictate that the one going south would exit the lock first, allowing the other boat the room to manoeuvre. Oh no. "Reckless" came out first and attempted the right turn. This was a lengthy boat, not sure if it was the one on the Tv. Then the second boat tried to exit. It was fun watching. They eventually made it allowing us to enter.

Then behind us appeared a small boat crewed by two males who I believe were inebriated. The boat was a shed, but they entered the lock ok , both got off with one holding the centre line and we began the descent. N.B. Great Britain, with whom we shared locks yesterday were one lock ahead of us and kindly offered to wait for us. So as the gates opened, I set off to join them. The two chaps off the boat then had to get back on! Number one gets on nervously, holding onto the lock side. You can imagine what happened next.

Yep, boat starts to drift out with matey still holding the bank. A point was reached when near horizontal, he had to let go, and down he plunged into the lock. Number two is by this time apoplectic and berates number one with some foul language not suited to an environment with ladies present. Had a good giggle though as nobody was hurt. Of course no camera to hand!

So we continued down the rest of Marsworth locks, parting company with N.B. GB at the bottom as they were stopping.

Coming down the Marsworth flight

Marsworth Junction

Looking over to the Chilterns

Whipsnade Chalk Lion

Threatening sky

The view from the hatch tonight
Now last year at Hurleston junction and throughout our time on the Llangollen, we came across an obnoxious chap who shouted at everyone, was always right and wound us both up....Guess who appeared as we entered lock 38! Yep, just left the water point as we passed. We shared with this eediot in the next lock as well. Asked me if I was a Yorkshireman. When I said no, he replied good, because he hated them as they came down south telling him how to work locks. Prat.

At this point, the rain began. Big plop's, black sky and thunder. So we stopped for lunch whilst it passed over. But so did the Prat! We then set off in stealth mode, got to the lock and began the descent with not a murmur from his boat. Think he may have remembered me, or Ali from last both of us "had words" with him.

Anyway, dodging the heavy showers we made our way to a good mooring just below Slapton lock. The forecast for tomorrow is not good, so we may well tarry here a while. (Ali - nothing to do with the rumour of a very nice pub in the village!)

Miles 9
Locks 17
Swing bridge 1

Sunday, 28 July 2013

CRT Survey

John Sloan had done a very basic survey to try and get some feedback for the next meeting with CRT.





Berko to Cowroast

We had a late start this morning, for no reason other than we didn't have far to go today.  As the lock traffic commenced we started tilting, the joys of mooring in a pound!  We loosened off the ropes and the stern must have been 3' out and we were still on the bottom, not quite as bad as a boat further up though.

We picked our time setting off, after two boats had had time to get through the lock, by the time I had the lock ready we had been joined by nb Great Britain, with Paul & Anne on board, we did the next few locks together,  but we were stopping for a quick shop at Waitrose, fortunately for us so were they.  Shopping done and lunch eaten we continued upwards.  The pounds are getting quite shallow as we are nearing the top pound, but we have managed to get through with no problems.  We have covered 3 3/4 miles today and done 9 locks, fortunately once over the summit the locks are a bit more spread out.

We are hoping to get our service done tomorrow but it is dependant on the water levels? I think if they are still low then the engineer can't do what he should be doing so can do the service, we shall find out in the morning.

3.75 miles 9 locks

Hot in "Berko" (Berkhampstead)

Watching the weather forecast friday night and again this saturday morning, we decided on a slight change of plan. The weather man say rain from mid morning saturday, then a better day Sunday, so we would have an early start anticipating mooring up when the rains started.

So we left our moorings at 0730. It was cooler than of late, but comfortable, with a light mist over the water. The sky however showed no sign of the weather forecast, being blue with fluffy white clouds..

Ali has experimented with lock filling on double locks when we are alone. Entry via one gate. Lift ground paddle on the same side that the boat is sitting, then cross the lock and open the gate paddle on that side. This tends to hold the boat in place and then the ground paddle is opened. Hard work for Ali, but easy for me as the boat maintains it's position.

So up the locks we went. I must admit, this end of the Grand Union is new territory for us and we are finding it very pleasant, It is clean and green and conurbations are tidy and welcoming. The back is certainly not turned on the canal thus far. An awful lot of lock's though!

We passed under the motorway and were soon in the environs of Hemel Hempstead (Hemo!). What a pleasant place this appears. There are full services here, literally just above Apsley lock. As we rose in the lock I could see a boat "moored" directly outside the services, leaving me the only option to use the lock landing in order to water up. Bresting up was not possible as it was only little and stated "Taunton" as home ground. There is no way this boat had just stopped to use the services.  We are sure the person on board was just up! I am from now on I have decided, going to brest up to any boat moored on services. Anyway. moan over, we moved on to just below Boxmoor lock, moored up and walked into town for a few bit's and bobs's. Very pleasant it was too.

As we ploughed on, the heat and humidity rose, with still no sign of the promised rain. This became draining and by the time we reached the outskirts of "Berko", we really were wilting. Ali spotted a mooring prior to Rising sun lock, and we called it a day by 1430. Tried to chill out all afternoon, but it remained hot and humid. The rains eventually came at about 1800, but thus far not in the intensity foretold. Just hope tomorrow is kind, but mayhap a little cooler?

Fishing in the rain at the back of the boat

Miles 8
Locks 17
Swing bridges 1

Friday, 26 July 2013

Hello, is there anybody there?

The Grand Union Canal down here is broad, deep and bereft of moving boats!  Yes there are many many that look as if they never move, clustered in the usual spots where they have road access, but boats actually moving?

I think today we may have seen eight boats moving. Now this is late July, where have they all gone? We met in passing one of those moving, N.B. Matilda Rose, and they expressed similar sentiments. Still, I suppose it beats waiting in a queue at locks....

After our exertions yesterday, we had a little later start than normal moving off at about 0845. The canal is very pleasant here in what is I suppose the outskirts of Harefield. As we ascended, Ali was asked by a chap waiting above if we would share the locks with him. Of course, she said yes, so off he set with us following. At Springwell lock, the chap was first in. His wife/partner had a windlass, but he was on the lock side holding the centre line. Ok I thought, may be a good reason for this, so I entered and the lock was filled without him on the boat.

If I am honest, I was not happy with this but waited to see what happened at the next lock, Stockers lock. Upon arrival, I entered first and he started to move into the lock mouth. I turned around, saw the high bow of his boat heading towards my stern, with nobody at the tiller. It took me a few seconds to realise that as he came into the lock, he had grabbed the centre line, hopped off and clambered onto the lock side, nearly falling in as he passed the balance beam.  I admit, I said I was not happy that no one was controlling the boat and that he could not do this at the end of the centre line. And, if that was his method of locking, we would not be sharing locks. So after a quick stop at Tesco at Batchworth, we left them to it. The man was a danger to himself and may well have a fear of actually being in a lock!

Morning view (we are moored to the left)

Not often is old and new so close

This little tug was called Scouser
 The day was warming up, hot and humid. We were making steady progress up until we arrived at Hunton bridge locks. As we approached we could see a CRT work boat moored virtually on the lock landing. The lock is around a right hand bend here. We edged forward to ensure nothing was exiting, then squeezed in between the CRT boat and the lock.  At this point we could see a fuel boat was in the lock, or was it? Closer inspection revealed that the bow of the boat against the bottom gate, whilst the stern was against the bank towpath side so that the boat was katy corner in the lock,the top gates open! It transpired that a fuel delivery was being made to the lock cottage here, which has no vehicular access. So sack after sack of coal was unloaded from the hold onto the lock side on  the port side, then barrowed away, whist a delivery of kerosene was being pumped to the cottage from starboard.

Delivery being made

To this lovely lock cottage
As we were going nowhere for a while we had lunch! Not a boat came behind us in the 45 mins this went on, which illustrates how quiet it is. When the good ship Archimedes had completed his delivery, we were able to carry on.

Grove Bridge

The water lilies are starting to flower

The heat was somewhat draining today and so by 1600, passing what looked like a nice spot, we moored, just below North Grove lock.  A nice spot. OK, the east coat main line is one side and the M25 I think just ahead, but it will do. At least no blooming planes!

Miles 7
Locks 13

Aussies, Aussies everywhere!

It has been something of a day of two halves. As we had moored for the night naughtily against a CRT work boat, we thought it would be judicious to move on early. Turns out we were right to do so because another boat moored just ahead of us had a rude awakening when the chaps came for the boat!

Anyhow, when I said early, I really did not mean to get up before dawn, was so hot during the evening that we had left the Houdini's open.

My slumber at 0400 was disturbed by what could only be described as the sound of a waterfall....

The still sleeping brain tried to compute the sound with our location and situation, then as I came around the memory that we had left the Houdini hatches open surfaced.

The rain was torrential and was hammering on the roof. I shot up and closed all three hatches. Then of course I was wide awake and it was still persisting down! It was a thunder storm of massive proportions, without the thunder!

Anyway, we were off by 0745 and chugged out past some really nice moorings just after the railway and on the approach to the first lock. After being on the rivers for so long it was strange to be back on the canal. We ascended the first lock and I dropped Ali off short of the second, warning her of a cyclist travelling at speed down the towpath. He passed us at speed and then I heard a strangled cry, Turning I saw said cyclist picking himself up. It appears that a small tree had fallen across the  towpath, and he collided with it. Sabotage?

When our course met the river Brent, the water became decidedly murky and pongy. Whether this is normal or due to the overnight downpour I know not. A lot more plastic in the water as well. By the start of the Hanwell flight, we were joined by NB Wigtwizzle. This was owned by an Aussie couple who do 6 months each year on their boat and moor at Crick. The ascent was far easier with two boats and two locking.

Two cormorants sat fishing 

 Hanwell Asylum

we saw lots of inivitive nests today
By lunch time we had arrived at Bulls Bridge and there outside of Tesco we spied Caxton aka The Manley Ferry. More Aussies! No sign of Elaine and Paul but the dog's were home so we knew they could not be far. We brested up and as doing spotted the pair with a shopping trolley heading back to the boat. We nattered with them and other boaters for an hour or two and shared a beer.So nice to see you again.
Bloggers galore!
Paul & Elaine & Bombo & Sammy (NB Caxton (Manley Ferry blog) Les & Jaq from NB Valerie, sorry I missed the other chaps name & John

Denham Deep lock (11' 1")

Passing over the river

We now began our exit from the environs of Greater London. It is certainly canal wise, not as dirty as some city's we have visited although I did have to clear a collection of plastic bags from the prop. At Cowley Peachey junction we stopped to try to find N.B. No Problem. No sign, so we moved on to the lock where we found them, or rather Vic at home, Sue being elsewhere. They have matters in hand and so did not need our assistance.

It was a lovely afternoon and we decided to make the most of the fine weather and cruise on.Once past Uxbridge the canal takes on a far more rural feel, with lakes in view on both sides. As we ascended Black Jack lock, we spied a vacant mooring on armco. Out came the chains, not used in a long while, and we were in. A short walk took us to the pub were we refreshed. A really good day.
Our mooring above Black Jacks Lock

We are now away from the direct flight path to Heathrow so a lot quieter, although the Parakeets are still with us, along with some Peacocks roosting on the roof of the house, visible in the above picture.

15 miles & 14 locks