Friday, 26 June 2015

Sun, Smiles, Sandwiches but no sex

Wednesday 24th June to Friday 26th June 2015

Considering that summer had been around for a few weeks already it had hardly been very inspiring - an occassional sight of the sun, certainly not for any length of time that would constitute any lazy days of summer anywhere, but that has certainly changed in this last few days.

It all started on Wednesday when we headed off from Waltham Marsh - started off as a bit overcast but also a bit humid - I think it only took until we were through the first lock before the sun appeared and stayed with us until we were moored at Tottenham Hale.

The moorings are fairly well defined here - basically where the bottom of the river doesn't appear through the top - unfortunately for us, our first attempt found us grounded about 5 metres out from the side, such was the lack of depth.

Diane did manage to hop off onto the towpath and neatly measured out a space further up into which we fitted just fine - in fact it was centimetre perfect.
Once mooring duties were completed, we headed off into town to the EE store - they were giving away Power Bars to customers who had registered and received a special code - but it was only whilst stock lasts.

A mobile recharging pack for phones, tablets etc

Next, where else would it be but a coffee at Costa for free download of missed TV shows and a walk back to the boat - I must say that for this entire time the sun was shining very brightly - maybe it was summer.
Diane also managed to make a booking for a mooring at the London Canal Museum for Thursday night - we had planned on making the transition from outer London to inner London in one go - about 18 lock-miles.
Back inside the M25 and now in London

No such thing as Slow Moored Boats - they are all stationary

One for Paul as a memory

Well set up here for there mooring - especially liked the cascading water-feature
in the top right hand side

This one we liked - sums up the sentiments of a lot of people
In order to achieve this we decided to leave early, just in case of any delays or problems - we did expect problems with the weed around Lea Bridge and to say that we were not disappointed is a bit of a double negative - we had expected it but it would have been nice if it hadn't happened.

The weed-cutter seems to be fighting a losing battle

Here you can see the surface weed...

...but like an iceberg, there is so much more below the water line

I spent 15 minutes down the weed hatch with the murky rotten stuff mixed in with a couple of plastic bags and some cloth off-cut - all of it wrapped tightly around the prop shaft.

We had decided to take the short-cut along the Hertford Union Canal - much shorter and less locks - and we hadn't been along there before.

All the way down we had seen places that just 3 weeks previously were all full of boats -sometimes double and even triple moored, but now we found plenty of places where we could have moored up.

Along the Hertford Union, I had expected it also to have been full up, but well pleased to see any number of mooring spots - could it be that CRT are now patrolling the London spots and starting to move boats along.
turned onto the Hertford Union

it is a pretty little canal

We made a brief stop at the junction with the Regents Canal to visit The Little Boat Shop chandlery; having heard good reports about their prices, we thought that we should at least have a look - which we would have done, except they were closed until 30th June.

So onwards; our early start worked against us when we made it to the Museum mooring at about 12:30pm - way too early -"Could you come back no earlier than 3:30pm, in case we get a tripboat calling in?" .
never tire of seeing the bird life and their off-spring

This photo we took in late May... the same spot a month later
exiting Islington tunnel

a few weeks ago, Diane decided to block out the bright daylight - particularly
in the mornings - and used a couple of black T-shirts - little realising that the
print would show - she could not have positioned it better if she had tried.

We headed out and turned left (west) and just around the corner we found a 24 hour  mooring at King's Cross, which suited our needs - these were private moorings available to boaters in general; the ranger took our details and we settled in - very bright sun had continued.
Diane phoned the museum to cancel our booking.
There is a building site next door and right across the canal is a tiered seating area occupied by hundreds of people - whom we had thought to be on their lunch break.

We secured the boat and headed off to Camden Markets to have a look around - Diane had visited there but I had only seen it whilst in transit on the boat.

Not being a great lover of crowds, I can now cross that off my list of places visited - now firmly with a black mark next it, meaning that I do not need to do it again.

Meanwhile our return to the boat (sun was still shining brightly with no sign of letting up) saw the hordes across the way as populous as before - it was now mid-afternoon and we couldn't understand why there were still so many there - it was not like there were any great sights that they could see, but they persisted.

Finally about 5pm the numbers did start to recede - we thought it was finally time for them to go home - well about 6pm the numbers were growing again and they all seemed to now be equipped with picnic hampers, glasses and many bottles of alcohol.
They appeared to be out to enjoy the sun and have a bit of dining alfresco style.

....crowds, and....

....and still bleeding crowds -haven't you got homes to go to
We spotted at least two couples that fell into the category of  "You should getta room" - a lot of groping and exploring each others tonsils.

At 9pm with the sun having its last fling there were still at least 100 or so there and they were not exactly whispering - we went to bed about an hour later with still quite a lot around and the associated level of noise.
It was not really surprising, that given how early we had started the moring cruising we managed to fall asleep - despite our neighbours.

In the morning they had all gone - miraculously - and with very little residue of their presence - it was all so peaceful and quiet.

Today's options were
Plan A: moor up at Alperton,outside the Sainsbury and have the weekend there - which as Diane knew would also involve lunch at her favourite Chinese restaurant.
Plan B: check out the moorings in Paddington Basin and if one was available then we would grab it for the weekend.

Of course this meant doing Plan B first - as we really had finished all that we wanted to do in London for the time being, it would be no great setback if there was no space available.

Heading off early we were through the locks at Camden Market before there were many (any) people about; the subsequent cruising along the Regents Canal to Little Venice was sublime - the sun was barely out from the light cloud cover and there was a little warmth in the air, but not too hot at all (yet!).

We were preceded into the basin by NB Julanda, so that meant there would need to be 2 spots; we passed by NB Jeanie Deans at Rembrandt Gardens - they are fellow bloggers.

Our Plan B did not eventuate, although we did observe that CRT have stopped boats mooring up to rings along from the pontoons but well away from the end winding hole - Diane was a bit disappointed with this and has sent off an email asking why this was done when there are already too few spots there already - no reply as yet.

So no luck there, and we had no desire to moor up at the length along Little Venice although there were spots available - we do not wish to have any confrontation with anyone wanting to breast up - well at least Diane didn't - I was up for an argument.

By this point the sun had comeout in full force and it was getting quite hot, so the last 5 miles were again quitenice, just cruising along without any concerns.
This boat amused us with the lack of windows - that would solve the morning
sun problem

This is Giant Hogweed - the plant itself has a rather TOXIC sap - if you get it
on your skin it leaves serious burns and can even be fatal in serious cases

Having made it to Alperton it was very nice to find plenty of space, so no problems and we moored up with no fuss.

A pleasant way to end the travels for now.

26 Miles, 18 Locks. 2 Tunnels
YTD: 489 Miles, 295 Locks, 12 Tunnels, 2 Lift Bridges, 13 Swing Bridges

Totals: 3383 Miles, 2416 Locks, 110 Tunnels, 36 Lift Bridges, 164 Swing Bridges

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Sunshine and white-water rapids - lovely time for boating

Sunday 21st June to Tuesday 23rd June 2015

Sunday was a bit more relaxed - the definite highlight of the day was Diane's guided tour of Hertford - making use of the information that she got from the Tourist Information office.
I simply need to be a tourist with my own very special tour guide.

We follow the "heritage trail" and  she reads out to all of the relevant points about buildings, history, miscellany - wonderful!!
The Christ School in Hertford - home of the Bluecoats -now being redeveloped
into flats and apartments

...and in here as well

The Stables (Hertford) not the original frontage but the site of an old coaching inn

Just another old building - short on head height

This of course was a reasonably early exercise in the morning -but at least we could have a coffee at intermission, before we headed back to the boat for - guess what? - no not that - at least not whilst there is tennis on TV.

Whilst the weather was not hot it was however quite humid and so any breeze was gratefully accepted, but then during the early evening it suddenly got much colder and we were rushing for jumpers and a blanket to warm up a bit - it didn't help later when the cold feet found their way towards me wanting to be warmed up.

On Monday morning I know how it feels to be hanging out waiting for the supermarket to open so that I could buy a few bottles of beer.
I hardly drink much at all, but the couple of times that we had been in Waitrose over the weekend we had noticed that they had a special on for Leffe Blonde - one of my favourites.
Suddenly Monday morning had arrived and I had not bought any, plus we were getting ready to leave; so off I went - there was a couple of other things to buy - just to make it look OK.
With just a little bit of paranoia I asked one of the older checkout chicks about purchasing of alcohol so early - apparently not a problem - so it was purchased; the free coffees made and returned to the boat.
After a quick breakfast we were ready to move, but only made it as far as the water point (incorporating an elsan point as well) and also rubbish bins; Diane had the washing machine running and with other tanks now full/empty as required all was well with the world -  even a little bit of drizzle for 5 minutes after we left the first lock was no inconvenience and we made it as far as Stanstead Abbotts before mooring up in a quite nice and peaceful spot.
I settled down to do some work, Diane was chatting up the guy on the boat behind us - no that's not right - she was just talking to him.
the view from our mooring in Stanstead Abbotts

Something must have been playing up with her GPS on the phone - it kept telling her that there was a Costa there in Stanstead Abbotts - couldn't see why, so we set off to check it out and just to have a bit of a walk to see the place as well - the walk was fine and the coffee was OK back on the boat - the GPS was definitely off.
what else would you find on a walk around the town?

We did however find a strange and unexplained sculpture just in the park by our mooring, it wasn't until Diane did some googling that she discovered that the Greenwich meridian runs right through here and this was a marker for it.
The Greenwich Meridan on its way through

We now have a bit of a schedule as we head back through London and then west to catch up with Sue and Andy (nb Festina Lente) sometime in early July - what seemed like a long time away has just suddenly come up close and we will need to get a little bit of a wiggle on.

We didn't leave early or too late onTuesday but by end of cruising we had made it to Waltham Marsh.
Not much of any note to report on except that at Carthagena Lock we managed to find two other boats owned and operated by Australians.
One was nb Walt (my notes say the guy was called Ron - but it could easily have been Rob, Norm or just about anything else - the memory is going) and he is from Glenbrook in NSW - not far from where we used to live at Penrith; the boat waiting for us to go down had owners from Perth but who used to own property in Maribyrnong (Victoria) - just around the corner from where we currently have our house - it continues to be a small world.
Nice house - nice boat as well!!

made me feel like we were back on the Lancaster Canal - so much plastic about

A sad sight - fair bet it wasn't rammed by acruiser
A fair bet you would dangle the culprits by their ankles until they cleaned it off

After we moored up we wandered over to have a bit of a look at the Lee Valley White Water Centre, which we had missed last time we were here.

There were some guys using the centre and testing their skills down the rapids, through the gates and such like - we however decided that the coffee and afternoon tea was a better option.
just a part of the canoe slalom course

a picture of concentration...

There was a very neat travelator to take back to the top of the course

Apparently it is important to get the water our of the kayak/canoe - whichever
way you can

There are two courses on the site and in the smaller one there were a dozen or so officers from Surrey Fire and Rescue Service testing their skills in the waters - skills which will undoubtedly come in very handy for rescues during times of flooding and other emergencies involving cascading water.
Someone was watching how Diane parks a car and then copied her - at least she
is better at mooring a boat

The officers from Surrey - did anyone see the driver?

These two drifted downstream ever further away from the car -
but closer to the the pub

Diane thought a return to the boat via a different route would be nice - I was suspecting that we might need the help of the Surrey officers if we got lost and couldn't find our way back, however Diane's sixth sense in these matters was infallible - we did find ourselves wandering around a Disc Golf Course - luckily they were all off at the 19th (can't call it hole - wait, just found it on Google - it is a DisCatcher basket.
A DisCatcher Basket for discgolf

The hole marker

Not these guys again - get out of here and back to your own blog!!

With the sun out and shining brightly, it was vastly different to the morning when we had set off with clouds and a cold breeze.

11 Miles, 10 Locks. 1 Swing Bridge
YTD: 463 Miles, 277 Locks, 10 Tunnels, 2 Lift Bridges, 13 Swing Bridges

Totals: 3357 Miles, 2398 Locks, 108 Tunnels, 36 Lift Bridges, 164 Swing Bridges

Sunday, 21 June 2015

This was no laughing matter

Friday 19th June to Saturday 20th June 2015

Friday morning was a bit on cool side with sunny and cloudy conditions and a bit of a breeze, but we were ready to move further along the Lea - still all new territory for us.
Surprisingly we found that there were not only quite a number of boats moored along the way but also just as many, if not more, mooring places still available.
the junction where we moored for a few days - a lovely location

looking back to the last/first lock to the River Lea from the junction

With only a few miles and even fewer locks to do we knew it would only be a short cruising day.
Passing through Stanstead Abbots and after that through Ware, we thought that these might be nice places to visit on the return trip.
The locks were mostly in our favour but the gates are terribly heavy - fortunately, and unlike the Stort, we only needed to open one gate.

Stanstead Lock had an unusual feature, not that we haven't seen the like before - across the middle of the lock was a swing bridge - we have seen this before at Fenny Stratford - this time however the depth of the lock meant that you could quite easily do some damage if the bridge was not opened before operating the lock.
loved the look of this boat

an old cottage by the canal/river - New Gauge Intake House

Gazebos in Ware 

The "Queen" at it again

Our destination for the day was Hertford - it is always with trepidation that you approach a new place wondering if there will be a mooring place or indeed where the best will be.

We winded and came back on one place; moored up; poor TV reception had Diane looking a bit further along.
officially marking the end of the navigation - just a little past the bridge where
we winded

She got chummy with a couple of fisherman occupying a prime spot - they said they would be done in a couple of hours; with no boats moving we thought "no need to antagonise them" and went for a discovery walk of the town.

Every corner we turned around we found something new and interesting to see; a visit to the Tourist Information office gave us valuable information about what was going on and what to see; free coffee at Waitrose; a wander past the Theatre/Cinema and had some free tickets to see a comedian that evening; and more excitement for the following morning.
Time to get back to the boat and the two fisherman were just about done - so we moved the boat up and moored up again; TV was checked and all working fine; settled down for the afternoon as the tennis was on and Diane was concentrating on that.

Later on we wandered down for a Happy Friday drink at The Old Barge prior to going on to see this comedian; the drinks were fine but I have to say the comedian - Lewis Schaffer - left a lot to be desired - we left after half an hour - what material he did have was on the edge of being inappropriate and he really was not that funny.
someone to ignore - not the one on the left.

Since the morning the day had got progressively better and although it was about 9pm it was a bit warm and humid - so we had a wander around the Castle grounds - the gatehouse and a part of the wall are really all that remains but the grounds are quite lovely.
Part of the old castle wall

The Castle House

Saturday was definitely much cooler and more overcast than Friday and looked like there would be rain sometime during the day.
We did however have a full day of activities planned, but we once again decided on the 'spoons breakfast and it was just as good as the one at Bishop's Stortford.
A statue of the Rev.Samuel Stone who co-founded Hartford in Connecticut,
who was born in Hertford, Hertfordshire.

Diane and friends - you can read about the friends exploits in their blog
Thumper and Billsons adventures

After that the regular Saturday market was on, so a quick look through there and it was time for us to find a good vantage point.
The Aviva Womens Cycling Tour was due through Hertford on Stage 4 of the race and to think we only discovered this with our Tourist Information visit.

Once we found a suitable place and I had returned with coffees it was only a matter of waiting no more than about 15 minutes - very convenient.
Unlike our expedition to Sheffield for Le Tour last year, this race, whilst smaller, was not ending here, so we had a good look at how the police and race organisers arrange the rolling-roadblock along the way.
Obviously they simply cannot block off traffic for hours waiting for the cyclists, so there are about 40-50 motorcylces involved - mostly police but also race marshalls who progressively move forward to halt traffic along the race route.
The rolling roadblock in action - one bike comes along and secures it and then
takes off when the next one arrives and so on, until the riders arrive

It was efficient and effective and caused a minimum of disruption, although we witnessed a large 4x4 almost take out a motorcycle cop - 4x4 had ignored instructions of where he was to go. He was pulled over further up and the probably not booked but just severely inconvenienced for considerably longer than the time he hoped to save.

In an instant the cyclists were coming, there in front and then gone, but the crowd around us, and like us, enjoyed the spectacle.
Here they come...

...leaders around the corner....

...followed by the peloton - luckily there were no spills.

Diane and friends after the riders have gone

In minutes the traffic was back to normal, almost as though nothing had happened out of the ordinary - except for one 4x4 which was still stationary just 200 metres up the road - about 20 minutes after he decided to disregard the obvious instructions.

We did a bit more of a wander around the market and eventually had a visit to the Hertford Museum - which gave us a good understanding of the development of the town.

In the museum, Diane found this board about the River Lea, but what is she
pointing at...

...this - making reference to boats now

There was also a small exhibition of model trains running - there seemed to be more blokes than kids watching the trains.
Just one for the boys - young and old

In the afternoon we decided to take a bus trip off to Ware. We had been advised by Dot (nb Ewn Ha Cul) about a place of interest that might, well, be interesting.

Found the bus station; the right bus; the driver knew where we wanted to go; off we got; a walk up the hill (Diane would say a mountain) and there we were - Scott's Grotto (and Summerhouse).
welcome to the Grotto...

...the summerhouse...

...the outside of the Grotto...

The grotto is a labyrinth of underground chambers and passages all "decorated" with shells, flints and coloured glass.
...the plan...

the walls lined with shells

and the interconnecting tunnels

There is no clear knowledge of why it was built in the first place but some have dismissed it a folly - not uncommon in the 18th century; others suggest a place to write or a visitor attraction for friends.
Whatever the reason it was almost lost as it became overgrown and even forgotten about until developers were planning to build a new estate.
It has been regenerated and worth a look.
The original house of John Scott, which is now part of Ware College

As we were essentially at the town of Ware, a visit and wander around was appropriate - luckily we had umbrellas with us - first there were a few light sprinkles until it was pelting down - fortunately by that stage we were under cover in The Saracens Head - purely for reasons to keep us dry (at least on the outside).
The Bluecoats - part of the old school in both Ware and
Hertford for the education of poor children in the area.

The bus ride back was a rather quick one - seemingly geting back in no time at all - the driver certainly was not hanging back - although she was not running late at all.

Back to the boat, and a bit exhausted - all of this touristy stuff takes it out of us older people - especially 2 days in a row.
Diane, as resourceful as ever, had recorded the tennis and with not knowing the results it was the same as viewing it live - a clever little bunny she is.

I am hoping that Sunday might be a bit quieter and I can recover a little - will just have to wait and see.

6 Miles, 4 Locks. 1 Swing Bridge
YTD: 452 Miles, 267 Locks, 10 Tunnels, 2 Lift Bridges, 12 Swing Bridges

Totals: 3346 Miles, 2388 Locks, 108 Tunnels, 36 Lift Bridges, 163 Swing Bridges