Saturday, 30 May 2009

Major Change in Itinerary
Please check the itinerary as we have made some major changes to our planned route

Monday, 25 May 2009

Chiltern Ramblers
Yesterday (Sunday) we walked down from Bulbourne to Marsworth where we caught the 327 bus. Known as The Chiltern Rambler, it runs on Sundays and public holidays only from the beginning of May to the end of September. It follows a circular route (unless you have the same driver as we did who lost his way). The route is designed to encompass Hemel Hempstead, Tring, Whipsnade, Ashridge and villages between. We alighted at Aldbury and climbed Tom's Hill to the monument.

Erected to commemorate a previous owner of the Ashridge Estate by his cousin who inherited the estate in 1803, it is constructed in Aberdeen granite on a plicth of York stone.
The reason for commemorating Francis Egerton in this way was not for his management of the estate which he neglected to a point where every room in the house was open to the elements.
This dull, untidy man was worth a £13.500 obelisk because he was the third Duke of Bridgewater - known as The Canal Duke. In 1759 he kicked off canalmania in England by building a canal from his coal mine in Worseley to Manchester. Canals had been around for centuries but the impact of the Bridgewater Canal on the price of coal which halved overnight was so great it fired enthusiasm for canals all over the country. It also launched the career of arguably our greatest canal engineer - James Brindley.

If you are prepared to climb the 170 stairs to the observation platform it is possible to see Canary Wharf, Ashridge house and (should you wish to) Luton Airport.

On our descent we set off to walk back home to Bulbourne. Having seen the Wendover Arm Festival from the top of the monument we felt well prepared for this. After walking around the woods for a while we eventually came to the canal near Cowroast and then followed the Grand Union to the Grand Junction Arms for a very welcome drink.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Tornado in Ricky
"I'm bored!"
Even when we were children this all-too-familiar complaint was uttered on occasions.
One solution Dad had was to pack us into the car, blindfold us and drop us somewhere before he went to work. We then had to discover where we were and to walk home to Chenies. I recall one such occasion he left us in Denham. this was not a place we knew but we soon found a signpost for Rickmansworth and we could find our way home from there. Tramping along the A412 was a little more interesting then than it is today- the Rank film studios were still funtioning and we caught glimpses through the trees of film sets.
As we ap
proached Ricky we made a discovery - the Tornado Sports Car factory.
Back in the days of Purchase Tax cars in kit form were exempt and so there was a generation of budding racing drivers who bought kits like the Tornado and sometimes actually assembled them.

Bill Woodhouse and Tony Bullen entered the kit car market in 1958 with the Typhoon body and chassis kit, which was designed to turn a

Ford 10

into a sports car......

Over 300 of this model were made.

In 1960 the similarly styled but more technically advanced Tempest and Thunderbolt models were introduced, the Tempest being powered by the Ford 105E overhead valve power unit

The Thunderbolt was based on the Triumph TR 3

All of these models were offered as open sports cars or closed coupes. Wheelbases on offer gave a choice of 2 seats or 2 plus 2 (known as the Occasional 4); the Tempest even offered a full 4 seat option.

Another option for the discerning Tornado buyer was to specify the kit as a Sports brake
probably the first "sports estate".

Despite consistent success on the race track sales of the Thunderbolt and Tempest were slow and Tornado Cars Directors decided that a radical change was required. In December 1961 the Talisman GT sports saloon was introduced, the first 4 seat production car to feature a Cosworth engine. The Talisman grew to an improved Mk 2 version and remained available into 1964. The final model produced was the brain child of new owner John Bekaert.

It was a Talisman, I believe, which we encountered on our walk

Picture of Talisman & Thunderbolt

But one vehicle we definitely did not see was this beast....

The Tornado Fiat 600D was said to have out accelerated a Ferrari at the Brighton Speed Trials.

Despite numerous attempts to resurrect car manufacturing by the Woods family who took over in the mid 60's Tornado Cars became specialist in repairing accident damaged vehicles until closure in 1985.

Many of these photos are reproduced here courtesy of Dave Mallins who compiles the Tornado Register amongst other things.

Yes we did get home.
And Sarah Came too....
Some pictures from the Ricky Festival

Ex working boats......

A survivor from Dunkirk....

Boris 's friend - RM1...

And Sarah came too....

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Turn Left for London
Before tackling the 49 locks between Padding ton and the Tring summit from the relative comfort of the 27-mile lock-free pound we had three calls to make. At Alperton we pulled in by Sainsbury's. Whilst she who must be obeyed stayed aboard Gecko I ventured into the wilds of Alperton alone. This is an expedition I have made before: it involves the purchase of many exotic provisions for our travels. For this is the location of Loon Fung the Chinese supermarket/wholesaler. M always complains about these expeditions as they are undertaken without the protection of an approved shopping list. But she does not complain when participating in the consumption of said provisions.
Next stop is an overnight stay at Bull's Bridge (or Tesco, Hayes as it is now known) where the Paddington Arm joins the main line of the Grand Union canal. The GU is the result of about eight canals merging in 1929. The largest of these was the Grand Junction which linked Birmingham to the Thames at Brentford. Prior to this canal being opened in 1805 freight from Birmingham travelled via the Fazeley, Coventry and Oxford canals before embarking on 100miles of the Thames. The Grand Junction route to Brentford was 60 mikes shorter and less windy. There was another difference - the locks from Braunston to Brentford were 14ft wide in contrast to 7ft on those other canals. This attempt by Grand Junction Company to establish a standard 14ft gauge would facilitate barges carrying 70 tons of cargo. The 14ft gauge was not adopted as the cost of widening all the narrow locks was beyond the resources of those canal companies. Hence the practice of two 7ft craft - boat and butty - became the norm on the Grand Junction. The junction at Bull's Bridge developed as a major maintenance yard for canal craft. This aerial photo shows the area in the 1950s. (The main line runs L-R; the Paddington Arm runs from bottom to top) Directly opposite the entrance to the Paddington Arm was a dry dock.

All the yard area is now occupied by a large Tesco store. The only evidence of its previous life is the preserved dry dock squeezed under the access road for lorries delivering to the store.

Our third task is to collect diesel and other chandlery at Uxbridge Boats (remembering that they close on Mondays)
To the Hills
This is for Bert who works on the Met Line...
Yes it's a picture of Northwood Hills Station which I believe was opened in 1933

And the pub opposite

This is what it looked like in 1936

And in 1931

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Chocolate Rabbit
Whilst we were at the Canalway Cavalcade in Little Venice Marcus and Olga came over from Mainz for a few days which gave us the excuse to eat out.
Saturday Lunch was taken, along with Juliette, Arnaud and Dumpling at the Union Bar. This is alongside the Paddington Arm at Sheldon Square -a not extensive but frequently changing menu of traditional and spicy dishes all cooked and presented well at reasonable (London) prices.
For Sunday lunch we revisited Masala Zone in Floral Street, Covent Garden. this small chain of Indian restaurants has an unusual menu predominantly thalis. The food and service, as ever, was very good but ethemenu is still overly complicated. It really should not be necessary for staff to explain how a menu works! If you register on their website you will receive some very good discount vouchers for meals at their five locations.
The gastronomic pinnacle of the weekend was, however, achieved on Friday evening when we went up to 108 Essex Road, Islington for the Latin American cuisine at Sabor (Spanish for flavour). We were all enchanted by the décor and food. Olga who is from Colombia was, understandably on a high. (not induced by Colombia's famous export I hasten to add) . We shared some really appetising starters. For main course I eventually chose rabbit in a spicy chocolate sauce which was truly amazing. The choice was difficult and we naturally tried each others dishes.
Now it' back to the yellow label diet!

Monday, 4 May 2009

The French Connection
Next week when we are in Ricky for the festival, London Transport are running heritage trains from Harrow-on-the-Hill to Ricky and Amersham. Usually they use some old locomotives and we are hoping to see Sarah Siddons again. When the world's first underground railway - the Metropolitan - was opened in January 1863 it ran from Paddington to Faringdon. The line was constructed on the Cut & Cover technique following the line of the Marylebone and Euston Roads. The first locomotives of course were steam which must have been even dirtier than it is today. The first ten electric locomotives were soon introduced and in 1922 Metro-Vickers delivered 20 engines of a new design of which Sarah Siddons was the second to be commissioned.
It was named after the famous tragic actress who came to fame in London in 1782 in Fatal Marriage at the Drury Lane Theatre. She went on to establish herself with her portrayal of Lady Macbeth which she made her own until retiring in1812. Although she gave up acting then, she continued with public readings until her death in 1831.
Very much a Celeb, she was painted by both


and Joshua Reynolds, who portrayed her as the Tragic Muse.

She was buried in the cemetery of St. Mary's Church , Paddington Green which is close to where we are currently moored. Most of the gravestones have been moved to the perimeter of the cemetery and to make a very pleasant park. Whilst we were walking through there the other day we found an ecclesiastical building - perhaps a chapel of rest - against the outer wall of the cemetery but with no access from it. This seemed odd and so we investigated.When we emerged into St. Mary's terrace, tucked between two houses we found this Gothic arch
It leads to St. David's Welsh Church - the building we had seen form St. Mary's cemetery.
Sarah Siddons was in fact born in Brecon,Wales ,in 1755, the eldest child of Roger Kemble who ran a travelling theatre.
The church, unfortunately closed in 2006. This event seemed to have been overlooked when the only other Welsh language church in London was threatened with closure in July 2008. The congregation of seven was recommended to transfer to St. David's, Paddington.
Inside the lych gate is an inscription in Welsh.

My Welshness extends no further than my surname so I sent this to my cousin Gwyneth who even has a Welsh first name.
Not happy with her effort at translation she passed it on to the poet Les Barker who doesn't sound Welsh at all. When you have finished admiring the splendid nature of his translation you should take the time to listen to some of his poetry. I particularly like Reinstalling Windows.

The translation is:
For the glory of God and in the memory of Howell Powell Edwards AC Oxford, Canon of Llandaff Cathedral.
There is another inscription in the lych gate but I don't have the courage to impose on these good people further.

So where do the Welsh worship in London? Our quest took us to the City and just south of St. Paul's Cathedral we located St. Benet's Guild Church (it has no parish)

The present building was designed by Sir Christopher Wren during his phenomenal career. After the Great Fire
he designed 55 of the 87 churches built in London along with others around the country (and one in USA)
St. Benet's is remarkable for several reasons: unusually for Wren it is built in red and blue bricks with stone quoins ; the pulpit is by Grinling Gibbons; it is one of only four Wren churches which were not damaged during WWII; and it remains much as it was built.
In 1652 Inigo Jones was buried here and Henry Fielding, the author of Tom Jones married his second wife here in 1747. Until 1867 it was the parish church of Doctors Commons the legal institution which amongst other activities was noted for arranging 'quickie' marriages.
After a few years of redundancy it was scheduled for demolition but successful petitioning of Queen Victoria resulted in an Order in Council permitting the conduct of services according to the rites of the Church of England in the Welsh language. This came under serious examination in 2008 when the poor attendance prompted a schism when proposals were made to close it. Study of the Order in Council disabused those who believed that the church had been given to the Welsh community in perpetuity. However it has survived as a working church despite the difficulty in finding Welsh-speaking ministers. Perhaps the size of congregation has been affected by the obliteration of the community which used to surround the church. Now it is isolated from humans by a collar of roads.

Opposite our house in Bathwick is a church and on the wall is the following plaque

So where is this French connection? I hear you muttering....

Despite the construction of St. David's Welsh Church in 1889 involving the demolition of the last thatched house in London, revenge has not been exacted by converting it to a disco. In 2006 Franck and Veronique acquired a lease on the premises and established a
Bilingual French/English Primary School
which they have done without any major changes to the structure or fixtures. The ground floor was always a hall with the church upstairs so this lent itself to accommodating the 100 primary-aged children. The real wonder is upstairs where education and exercise takes place amongst the pews, pulpit, altar, font and organ.
Cut on the Cut
Going out for a posh dinner next week so had to get haircut.....but only had to travel 60ft along the bank. Well it makes a change from being half cut on the cut!
This service is only available to a very select clientèle so no further details can be disclosed.
Junk Modelling
This sculpture was created from rubbish recovered from the canal.
I believe the same team have now amassed sufficient supermarket trolleys to build a supermarket.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

All Lit Up
The parade of illuminated boats took place this evening.
here's ataster of what you could have seen
Click the arrow to see the movie

Canalway Cavalcade

A couple of pictures from this year's festival in Little Venice.

A policewoman exhibiting community spirit.