Sunday, 14 July 2019

Week 6 - Berkhamsted to Paddington Basin

Monday 8th July - Berkhamsted to Nash Mills

We left early this morning and made our way down the first of 17 locks.  We spoke to the owner of the lock keeper's cottage and she described it as long and thin like a narrowboat and originally was one room, it looked beautiful though.

The Rising Sun at this lock was flying 2 important flags, the European Union and LGBT flags, both close to our hearts.

An interesting boat, not sure how it works, but someone has worked hard on it!

This was one of the few key operated swing bridges we have come across on this canal.  It is beside a pub, so lots of people watching as you hold up the traffic.

This was taken having come through Fishery Lock - it was such a leaky lock that we had to harness the power of the boat to open the gates, Dave tied the bow rope to the gates and I put the boat into hard reverse and gradually the gates opened!  Fortunately there was a cafe at the top and we had cake as a reward for our hard work!

We moored at Nash Mills for the night.  The boats on the left of the picture are all widebeam tour boats, providing day trips for the good people of Hemel Hempstead.

This building is what remains of an old paper mill, the Gade River in this area was known for a number of paper mills, Nash Mills being one of them, the clock has Basildon Bond written in place of the numbers.

5.75 miles, 17 locks, 6 hrs 18 mins cruising time.

Tuesday 9th July - Nash Mills to Stocker Lock, Rickmansworth

We left Nash Mills and collected a single boater on the way to share the locks with.  Here we have our first view of the M25 and behind it is overground in to London.  We are getting closer to London!

Bridge 164, Grove Bridge was ornamented at the request of the local landowner, and gives access to The Grove, an 18th Century mansion.

Between the bridges in Cassiobury there is to be a floating market, much of the mooring has been suspended to make way for the canal market traders.  It should be a very colourful event.

At this lock we were photographed so often, I decided to return the compliment!

At this lock the cottage is below the level of the lock, what we can see is the upper windows, and the front door is below the white fence.

Much of the route of the canal along here follows the course of the River Gade, with weirs in several places along the canal.

I don't think I have enough plants on our boat, they suggested I could squash them up and put a few more on!

We moored up opposite Stocker's Farm and had a walk around the numerous lakes just south of Rickmansworth.

Toby enjoyed a cooling swim in the river, I think he must be the only dog who shakes himself whilst in the water!

8.5 miles, 14 locks, 6 hrs 48 mins

Wednesday 10th July - Rickmansworth to Denham Deep Lock

We left our mooring early and made our way towards Hillingdon, this boatyard has narrowboats for hire for disabled and disadvantaged groups.

We stopped to put on water and after the lock we found a slalom course set out as the water came back from the weir.  

At Black Jack's Lock was a cafe where Dave bought homemade cakes from, delicious they were too!  We moored up above Denham Deep Lock for the night and went for a lovely walk through the country park and around the village of Denham. 

This is an example of some of the very attractive buildings in Denham.  It was the site of the Denham Film Studios, and has been home to a number of notable residents including Cilla Black, Paul Daniels, Sir John Mills and Sir Roger Moore.

5 miles, 4 locks 4 hrs 12 mins cruising time.

Thursday 11th July - Denham Deep Lock to Paddington Basin

A very attractive duck on the canal, taken just before we set off on our way to Paddington Basin.  We were lucky and shared the few locks today with another boat also on its way in to London.  

On the way we passed the entrance to the Slough Arm, we had wondered about cruising down the Arm but we decided that we would leave it for another time, as some of the reports had suggested it was rather unpleasant.  

This was the site of the Nestle factory which is being totally demolished, the dust rising from here was amazing, leaving our windows quite dirty!

Here we are at the left turn onto the arm which leads down to Paddington Basin, totally lock free and an easy run into the capital.

Or so we thought - it was really not the most pleasant journey we have ever made.  The canal was choked with green weed, rubbish lay on top of the weed and this made it difficult for the boat to pass through.  There was a tree down which left a narrow passage to pass through causing the boat to tip alarmingly as we were very close to the edge of the canal, much of the surroundings were undergoing redevelopment which made it busy, noisy and dirty.

However, once we got to Little Venice and the turning into Paddington Basin, the weed was constantly being cleared up and it became much prettier and busy with tourists and sightseers.

Here we are moored below St Mary's Hospital in the last available spot before the winding hole at the end of the Basin.

We retired to the green space in front of the big screen for a well earned drink and a spot of tennis.  Toby was allowed on the grass so long as he didn't make a mess(!) and we celebrated our arrival in the capital!

20.25 miles, 3 locks, 7 hrs 36 mins cruising time.

Friday 12th July - Paddington Basin

Today we went for a walk along the Regent's Canal as far as Camden Lock and back through Regent's Park.  Here is the famous Paddington Bear just outside the main line station.

We had a good look around Camden Markets, around 200 stalls jostle for space in the narrow alleyways off Camden High Street/Chalk Farm Road. This market was originally known as Buck Street Market. Many of the stallholders sell their own jewellery and clothes designs.  

A life-sized bronze statue of Amy Winehouse stands at the central point of Camden’s Stables Market, as a tribute to the late, great singer and Camden girl.

Camden Lock was formerly a wharf with stables, it has twin locks only one of which is used.  It is very popular with gongoozlers watching the boats going through the lock.

Sunday 14th July - Paddington Basin to Limehouse Basin

This morning we woke to rain, so we waited until it had stopped and then set off on our trip to Limehouse Basin via the Olympic park.

We turned right at the junction and headed in to Little Venice.

There are boats moored both sides of the canal, often double breasted, very colourful and everybody on their boats were smiley and waving as we cruised past.  In the distance is the mouth of Maida Hill Tunnel, a single working tunnel, simply because you might meet a wide beam coming the other way!

On the way to Camden Lock there are a number of these huge mansions which reach down to the canalside.  Needless to say there is no mooring along this stretch of the canal!

At the Chinese Pagoda we turned left towards Camden and Hampstead Lock, the only set of double locks on the Grand Union Canal.

We attracted an enormous crowd as we negotiated our way down this lock, fortunately it all went very smoothly indeed and as we were leaving the lock there was a spontaneous round of applause!!!

These old gas works have been renovated and turned into flats, a good use of space, and they look pretty smart.

We turned left onto the Hertford Union Canal heading towards the Olympic Park and then left again into The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

All of the sights were still there and the waterways have been opened up, but you weren't allowed to moor in the park and it all looked very sad and drab, not how I remember it when we went to the Olympics 7 years ago.

The Stadium is now home to West Ham United Football club.

Here we are moored in Limehouse Basin, surrounded by expensive flats and huge sea going boats, we feel pretty small, but also very pleased with ourselves for having achieved the aim of this whole journey.

13.5 miles, 12 locks, 7 hrs 18 mins.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Aylesbury Basin to Berkhamsted

Monday 1st July - Aylesbury Basin

Today we drove to Totton, Southampton to visit Annie, Pete and Alba.  Alba is 6 weeks old today and we had a lovely day playing with her, having lunch and going for a walk.

Alba is growing quickly and is now able to hold her head up for a few moments at a time!

Tuesday 2nd July - Aylesbury Basin to Wilstone

Today Toby went for a haircut and we did some provision shopping and filled up with water.  Once we had collected Toby, we set off on our journey back up the Aylesbury Arm.

Lock 16 of all 16 locks up to the main branch of the canal.

This marina is just beyond lock 15 and you can moor here for 14 days free of charge, don't think I know of anywhere else you can do this!

For the eagle eyed amongst you, you may realise I used this photo last week, but I've put it in again to show the reeds narrowing the channel.  This time it was very weedy, and it slowed our moving right down, and we waited for a boat to clear the reeds as it was constantly getting stuck.

So, we managed to get as far as Wilstone, after 8 locks and decided to moor up for the night, a pleasant enough stop with a strange story.  In 1751 a dastardly act took place according to local legend at Dinah's pond in Watery Lane. Even today many old villagers would not stroll down there at midnight!   An accused Witch was subject to a trial by ducking, the last to take place in the county, having been outlawed for 16 years. The unfortunate woman Ruth Osborne drowned and the inquest was held at the Half Moon. The main perpetrator was tried at Hertford and condemned to hang in chains on Wilstone Green.

5 miles, 8 locks, 4 hrs cruising time.

Wednesday 3rd July - Wilstone to Little Tring (Wendover Arm)

We cruised up through the 8 remaining locks, this was taken as we entered the bottom lock of the staircase locks looking back along the Arm.

At the top of the arm we turned right and continued up 7 more wide locks.  Here I am waiting for a widebeam to exit the lock.

At the top of this lock we turned right on to the Wendover Arm.  The Wendover Arm of the Grand Union Canal provides a scenic and tranquil route from Bulbourne to Wendover - built as a feeder to provide much needed water to the Tring summit on the Grand Union. For a small additional cost the canal was made navigable and opened in 1797.  It provides 1.5 miles of lock free cruising, delightful!

Half way along is an enormous flour mill, Heygates Flours, bringing much noise and bustle to an otherwise idyllic scene.

We turned in Little Tring Winding Hole and moored at the visitor moorings.  Apart from a few fishermen, it was completely deserted.  We decided to stay for an extra day and explore the rest of the Wendover Arm which is currently being restored.

3.25 miles, 15 locks, 4 hrs 48 mins cruising time.

Thursday 4th July - Little Tring Winding Hole

Another glorious day, so we decided to walk early so it wouldn't be too hot for Toby.  This stretch of the Wendover Arm is currently being restored, this was last worked on in June.

This section is already in water, although it looks full of weed at the moment.

                                                      We diverted our walk down to Wilstone Reservoir and walked all the way round it.

Moorhen sitting on its nest and other ducks, geese and swans lazily moving on the water.

Toby found some shade and sat quietly to cool down whilst we watched the antics of the diving ducks.

Sunset over Little Tring Winding Hole, so calm and peaceful.  This mooring must rank as the most delightful we have ever been in, the arm is a hidden treasure and is an absolute delight.

Friday 5th July - Little Tring Winding Hole to Berkhamsted Lock 53

This craft was moored at the end of the winding hole and left at 10pm last night.  It got as far as this on the way to Berkhamsted, it is another oil rig life boat adapted for canal cruising and living.  It is powered by an 15hp outboard motor.

We cruised down through the 7 locks, put some water on and arrived in Berkhamsted by lunch time.  We had a phone call from Lizzie after a visit to the doctor, she has acute tonsillitis and a nasty case of quinsy.  The doctor gave her a letter which would admit her to hospital immediately if the quinsy got worse.  We decided to hire a car and Dave drove to be with her for the weekend until she is out of danger.  Toby and I were boat sitting in Berkhamsted until Dave returns.

Saturday 6th July - Berkhamsted

Toby and I spent the day in and around Berkhamsted.  

Walking along the canal we found a totem pole of all things.  The pole was shipped to Britain from Canada and erected at Alsford's Wharf in 1968. Alsford's warehouses were replaced in 1994 by a private housing development which limit access to the pole, so that it can be viewed only at a distance from the public road. It is one of only a handful of totem poles in the United Kingdom, others being on display at the British Museum and Horniman Museum in London, Windsor Great Park, Bushy Park and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Berkhamsted Castle was first built as a timber motte-and-bailey castle in the late 11th century. One of the most important early Norman castles, it controlled the northern approach to London, 30 miles away. Kept in royal hands, it was occupied by key figures of the Middle Ages, such as Thomas Becket, Richard, Earl of Cornwall, and the Black Prince. Much of its stone was plundered during the 16th century.

Sunday 7th July - Berkhamsted

Today, Dave felt Lizzie was well enough to leave on her own and he returned to us in Berkhamsted.  We walked along the canal to The Boat and had Sunday Lunch, very good indeed!

This attractive building is on the south side of the canal between Ravens Lane and Castle Street.  It is known as Castle Wharf (The Port of Berkhamsted) which was the centre of the town's canal trade, navigation and boat building activities. This was an area of vibrant waterway activity. Colourful boats, originally mule drawn, were a constant sight.

Main activities included the transport of coal, grain, building materials and manure. Timber yards, boating wharves, breweries, boat building and chemical works and all the people that served these industries, flourished as a result of the canal.

A lovely building, the lower building was a pub established in 1605 and is now long-closed and in residential use.  It was called The Boote, and you can see why!

St Peter’s Church was originally built at the beginning of the 13th century, possibly on the site of an even earlier church, but was restored in 1820 and again in 1870 which is when most of the external stonework dates from. Today, it is the oldest surviving building in Berkhamsted and, architecturally, the most important.

Tomorrow we resume our cruise.