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


  1. I think you mean Fenny Stratfird being the lock with the swingbridge across it

    1. Thanks Sharon

      you are of course quite right; I am blaming the proof reader who wasn't doing her job properly.