Sunday, 27 April 2014

Relocation, relocation, relocation

Last night we travelled south of the river for the best Chinese food and company we have experienced for a long time.  We were visiting friends of ours who live near the new railway station of Mitcham Eastfields. In order to insert this station into the existing railway corridor the two platforms are not constructed opposite each other which is a little disconcerting on your first arrival as the other platform passes the window at quite a pace creating the worry that the train is not stopping. There is also a road crossing with gates between the two platforms with a roundabout very close to the railway.  This must be a nightmare when traffic is queueing at the time a train is due.
This morning we set off around 8am to make our way back to Padding ton Basin.  On Friday when we made the journey down to Limehouse we were assisted by Dave the Rave: no such assistance today, hence the early start.
Gecko exiting left lock to enter right lock
You may not remember Henry I's wife, Queen Maud, but I hope you remember what happened to her here at Old Ford.  When I arrived here the right-hand lock was full and so I was directed into the empty left-hand lock.  After some time during which the topside activity produced no movement relevant to our passage through the lock, I was directed to exit said lock and enter the now empty  lock next door. This one is electrically operated and takes a long time to do anything.  The left-hand one is out of action and takes even longer to do nothing at all.

Soon after leaving the Old Ford Lock we turned left into Duckett's Cut aka The Hertford Union Canal. A little, over a mile long, it has three locks. At the first one, which has a rise of only about three feet, we were cheered up by the graffiti which adorned the otherwise grim concrete wall.
As the day went on the sun appeared for ever-increasing spells so that our arrival in Little Venice was in glorious sunshine. The towpath was busy with Sunday walkers, strollers, gonggoozlers, runners, cyclists etc. As we passed Battlebridge Basin we glimpsed Benbow on her permanent mooring at the far end by the Canal Museum. This stretch of the Regent's Canal is now almost completely occupied by permanent moorers. Whilst some just moor up and ignore any restrictions there is an increasing presence of 'bridge hoppers'.  These are often working in London and live on the canal as a cheap form of housing.. They class themselves as Continuous Cruisers and pay lip-service to the regulations by moving their boats every few weeks.from one point of road access to another.  We were accompanied at various times today by such boats and in every case they were charming people but quite unfamiliar with handling their boat or operating the locks.

Further entertainment was provided by these mushrooms on a building on Mare Street.

Also, of course, Camden Lock was teeming with people enjoying themselves.

We were intrigued by the open-fronted retail units which reminded us very much of China.

We were amazed at how this extraordinary building extension was granted planning consent.

It brought to my mind Prince Charles' famous description of the National Gallery extension as a Carbuncle.

When we left Paddington basin last Friday there were five vacant mooring spaces.  On our return today the basin was full, with boats breasted up on the hospital side. We found a space, eventually along Delamere Terrace which is now rather devoid of boats as it prepares for the canalway Cavalcade next weekend

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Three into Two

We are taking a different route back to Little Venice via Limehouse Cut, Lee Navigation and Duckett's Cut before rejoining the Regent's Canal.  Less than an hour's cruising from Limehouse Basin we arrived at  Three Mills where we are mooring for the night.
We are right in front of the old tide mills and opposite a large Tesco store; ten minutes' walk from Bromley-by-Bow tube station: and no mooring fee to pay.These tidal drainage channels, collectively known now as the Bow Back Rivers have been in use for over 1000 years and mills powered by the rise and fall of the tide have existed on this site from well before the Dutch introduced us to windmills. The Doomsday Book (1086) listed eight mills in this area to the west of Stratford.but now there are only two - House Mill and Clock Mill.
House Mill built 1776
So why is it known as Three Mills?

 As far as I can ascertain the name probably dates from the 18th century when there was also a windmill on the site.  This burnt down a couple of times leaving us with just the two existing mills.
The origin of the name Bow (as in Bow Back Rivers and Bromley-by-Bow) seems to be much older, however.  Around 1100AD the wife of Henry I nearly drowned crossing the river close to where Old Ford Lock is now and subsequently had a bridge built. It was, evidently,  a bow-shaped arch which led to the adoption of that name for this area.
Clock Mill built 1817
In the 16th century one mill ground grain and the other produced gunpowder. Those of you who remember the Bird's Custard Powder factory in Banbury exploding will wonder which was the more dangerous activity.
Many years ago Watford & District Industrial History Society had an outing to visit various properties of The Workspace Group.  One of these is on this site and used as TV studios.  The series London's Burning was made here: as was the very first Big Brother.The house for this was built just across the river in what is now the Olympic Park.
The film studio occupies what was once a distillery, a spin-off of the grain trade.
I believe these are the only tide mills existing in London and may be the largest ones in the UK.

Waking up in Limehouse

Last night we visited the Cruising Association headquarters which are opposite the marina office.  Annual subs are £120 but boaters arriving in Limehouse Basin are welcome to eat and drink there.
We were surprised on our arrival in the basin to find that Jeremy Batch no longer runs the operation: he resigned last November to work at the Cruising Association  so we did manage to see him briefly before he left work. Last time we were here Jeremy allowed us to stop for three nights so we could make a trip back to Aylesbury by train.  Things have changed now. We planned to stop two nights as we are visiting a friend on Saturday night but we are only allowed one night; after that there is a charge of £25. This is a very bad joke as the moorings are inconvenient, requiring a hazardous walk along the gunwale to climb an emergency ladder, which we had to do in the rain.

However, when we rose this morning the sunrise was shedding a rosy glow over the buildings and boats

and reflecting on the windows of the marina office made it look as though someone had left all the lights on.

So we shall be in happier mood when we head off in search of better moorings this morning.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Surprise, surprise

Having spent the night on Tesco's car park we thought we would go for the full B&B and partook of their cooked breakfast. This is sold by item so you can have whatever combination takes your fancy. A young lad in the queue was contemplating black pudding when I told him I used to make it.  After acceding to his mother's request to tell him the ingredients, he selected another sausage.  I used to make them too: I chose black pudding, not sausage.
The Tesco B&B experience was quite popular with our two grandchildren who are with us this week: they were able to tell their parents they slept in Tesco's car park and Grandad scared a little boy in the restaurant.
The flora and fauna of the Paddington Arm is fairly mundane - parakeets, turtles and Coy carp etc. About half-way along the arm we met Janice and John on  The Oak returning from their week in London: We shared locks with them between Berko and Hemel last week.The run into Paddington took about four hours but we spent another hour looking for somewhere to moor.   There are boats everywhere: I have never seen it so crowded. Whilst she who must be obeyed scouted the towpath for likely looking spots I cruised very slowly down to Paddington Basin and back, finally breasting up to a broad-beam boat in Delamere Terrace.
This afternoon was spent kicking a football around in Hyde Park to expend some of the youngsters' energy. On our way there our daughter-in-law saw us from an office in Sheldon Square and eventually caught up with us near Speakers' Corner. She works in Oxford so her appearance was quite a surprise.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Marking Time

Since last Wednesday we have been marking time in Cowley, just below the lock and quite near the Malt Shovel Vintage Inn. We were uncertain of the availability of moorings so arrived early for the various jobs we had to do on Friday-Sunday.  The last of these jobs was to collect two of the grandchildren who are joining us for a week or so.
After a good run around in the park (the children, not me) we set off about 12.30 and tootled down to Bulls Bridge where we will sleep on Tesco's car park before our run into London on Tuesday.
Photo from old Waterways World

This junction of the Paddington Arm with the main line was once a bustling maintenance yard.
There is still a lot of traffic but it is now all on the roads.
Tonight we have one other boat moored near us and a hire boat the other side of the old dry dock tied up where it came to rest after crashing into everything in the area except us.

They must be joking

Most mooring restrictions on the canals are in the range of 24hours to 14 days and C&RT finds it difficult to enforce them. So who thought up this scale of parking charges?

Why not just charge 50p for up to one hour?

Thursday, 10 April 2014

More Chinese Visitors

Our breakfast this morning was accompanied by the presence of three Mandarin Ducks which makes a change from the ghastly squawking of the Canada Geese.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Hazards of the Canal

Yesterday afternoon Benbow came down and moored along from us.  We did not see Fiona or David until we passed them this morning on our way to Uxbridge.

Whilst I was taking the Elsan for a trip Marnie was setting off in our direction so she waited for us at the first lock and we shared locks down to Uxbridge with her.
We had to visit Uxbridge Boats to organise the materials for blacking Gecko in May back at P&S Marine in Croxley. Marnie, whose name I learned is really Deborah, was arranging some surgery for her boat which she has named Nippit. (She will remain Marnie as far as we are concerned.)  
At Cowley lock we realised that we are not the only people who do things backwards.
This classroom boat emptied Cowley lock, which was ready for us to descend when we had taken on water, and came up in it........  Then they emptied it and reversed out again.!Apparently they did not have time to travel on to the next winding hole but wanted to show the children how a lock works. So we then had to refill the lock before we could resume our journey.
When we had Gecko built we tried to eliminate the two greatest hazards after sinking, vis: gas leaks and stove fires.  Thus we have neither gas nor solid fuel installations.
However there are hazards on the canal we did not take into account -

King Kong swinging down from a gantry........

Or man-eating alligators 

We had two sets of unexpected visitors during the day. At Uxbridge lock a couple of Chinese ladies came for a ride on Gecko and after mooring below Cowley lock a lady with her two children came aboard for a guided tour. The ladies from Taiwan were as impressed with the boat as they were with the fact that we know their home town of Tao Yuan, having visited it two years ago.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Back to Front

Our third night in Ricky. I had an appointment in London today and yesterday we were catching up on many chores including laundry. 
We arrived here on Sunday afternoon after a good run down from Hunton Bridge where we stayed Saturday night.  Weather was a bit dismal and damp but we caught up with a boat we had travelled with on Saturday and shared a  couple of locks with her. We have christened the young lady Marnie, a name some may recognise. Her boat is quite old and she is taking it to London to continuously cruise in her words: bridge-hop in mine.
On Saturday morning we were in Hemel Hempstead, or more accurately, Apsley. We moored by Sainsbury's which is not a spot we would have chosen to spend the night but it did afford easy access for a friend in a wheelchair to visit us.
Thirty minutes after we left Circus Field last Wednesday  a package arrived in the post for us and this was given to Fiona and David  who were following us a day or two later on their converted butty, Benbow.  As they were spending a couple of nights in Berko I caught the bus over there on Saturday morning and collected it from them whilst M was delivering birthday cards and buying provisions.
Photo by Gerald from Hampshire Rose

To continue the back to front theme of this post, here is a picture of us leaving Circus Field.
Yes, we started our cruise this year in reverse.

Photo by Gerald of Hampshire Rose

The mooring arrangements in Circus Field explains why we reversed out of the marina.

We will endeavour to continue our journey in froward gear.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Who'd Have Thought It?

Another day of 14 locks today but all down ,as we slide down the Chilterns towards the London basin.  The Grand Union from the Tring summit to London is fed by many rivers. Today we started with the Bulbourne washing in and out - sometimes quite ferociously and at Apsley this was joined by the Gade. Hence the area is called Two Waters.  In the next few days we will also be joined by the Chess and the Colne. The abundance of river feeds may have led to the local canal custom of leaving the lock gates open on leaving. If the last boat was heading the opposite way this can be quite helpful but if the preceding boats is headed the same way it does add to the work a little.

As we passed through Berkhamsted I was astonished that the landlord of The Crystal Palace feels it necessary to tell me that his establishment has canal views.  I don't think I could have worked that out from my viewpoint!!

A little way outside Berko this canalised cottage is for sale.

Shortly before the swing bridge at Winkwell we passed Jannock looking nice and shiny but facing the wrong way for her imminent trip to London with Graham and Brenda.

I expect we will see them there.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

7 UP ..........and 7 Down

As we prepared to set off this morning another boat on the water point indicated that they too were heading for the locks and so we had company all day.  The Oak  and its crew - Janice and John - shared the seven locks up to Bulbourne and the Tring Summit and then the seven locks down Cowroast and into Berko.  Broad locks are so much easier to operate when there are two crews who know what they are doing. On to Hemel tomorrow.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Up The Junction

We left Circus Field Basin  (at last!) this morning and headed for Marsworth Junction where we join the Grand Union main line.  This journey is a little easier than previously as the new basin is two locks up from the town so we only had 14 to do today. After five months of relative inactivity this was enough.
Despite having travelled this route many times before it was not without interest.

The lack of lock bywashes was evident here at Red House lock with excess water crashing over the gates.

The leak we spotted back in October  has not been repaired but has acquired some safety tape  - that should fix it!

The Infamous Lock 12
You may  recall that in October we had to be brought in to Aylesbury by lorry because C&RT had still not repaired the collapsed lock after 8 months of 'work'

On the left you see the nice new wall which lock 12 has been given at the cost of £800,000

and on the right you see an old lock wall.

In addition to a lovely new wall, lock 12 also has a bywash for excess water to escape around the lock.
It can be seen to the right of picture below.
One of the very few boatyards capable of repairing or building wooden canal boats is situated on the Aylesbury Arm. The wide array of work in progress is fascinating.
All the buildings bar one have now beeen demolished at Marsworth Jct in preparation for the redevolopemnt of the site for residential use. A wonderful opportunity for C&RT to install some decent facilities for the boaters. We will have to wait and see whether they have the foresight to cope with such a decision.