Thursday, 29 August 2013

Messing About On The River

Well the last Bank Holiday of the year has been and gone and after a weekend of torrential rain in Hertfordshire it was nice just to stretch out in the cratch cover on Bank Holiday Monday and contemplate the week ahead.
It was a shame the fine weather we had been enjoying all work broke then. Saturday’s guests Dorothy and Steve had travelled all the way from Suffolk to see us and brought a ukulele-playing friend, clutching not one, but two ukes, so we had a good old session, and  Mike, who was another close work colleague, came down as well. Unfortunately it bucketed down all afternoon and most of the evening,  flooding the towpath in several places.
Back on the cut again. Taken around Stanstead Abbots on the Lea 
Bank Holiday Sunday and Monday were Music Festival days in Hertford and most of the pubs had some sort of music on. Barbara and Martin from Welwyn Garden, who we know from way back when our children went to the same primary school, came over and we went out for a good old scoff. Martin is also a John Lewis Partner, so I am now up to date with all the comings and goings and gossip from the branch (and we got to talk about steam locos too!)
But, as I said, there I was, sitting in the cratch cover, overlooking the towpath, peppered with walkers, cyclists and dogs on and off their leads, and suddenly in the distance I could hear a familiar tune that I hadn’t heard in years. I couldn’t recognise it at first, as it kept fading in and out, and then I heard the words “so take off your coat, and hop in a boat,” it was “Messing About On The River”, by Josh McCrae, and you have to be a certain age to remember it and I hadn’t heard it in years.

I've heard of mobile discos, but not floating ones! Love the settee.
Now we have done a lot of miles this year, so I had enjoyed our stay in Hertford, but hearing again, “so I’ll leave you right now, to cast off your bow”, put me in the correct frame of mind to prepare for our travels again, and I went back into the boat to find our Nicholson’s Guide to the Waterways, Number 1, to start planning our route back through London.
So on Tuesday we were up early, filled up with water, emptied the loos, and welcomed on board my sister Carol, her husband Rob, and two of their pals Sheilah and John, and we cruised down through Ware, Stanstead Abbots to Broxbourne where they departed. This part of the Lea is really delightful and very quiet, though the lock gates are very heavy.
Part of our crew from Hertford to Broxbourne, John & brother-in-law Rob

The other halves took it a bit easier. Sister Carol and her pal Shelagh who took most of these photos

Rob, John and Pat on lock duty. I'm watching the paintwork
From Broxbourne it is only a couple of hours to Waltham Cross and the Olympic White Water Centre where the canoeing and kayaking events were held last summer. Unlike the Olympic park further down the Lea, this facility was indeed open for business, though a good chunk of it is under re-construction, and we moored literally a few metres away from the entrance, off the towpath.

White water rafting at the Olympic Centre at Waltham Cross

I am very familiar with this bit of the Olympic legacy. When it was first opened, a good year prior to the games, I organised a day for several John Lewis branches to experience the rapids ahead of the general public. It still looked exciting when we walked around the course and made up a bit for us not being able to get into the main park from the waterway when we came up a few weeks ago.
We remain on the Lea now all the way through East London. We are still just in Hertfordshire and tomorrow we will become Eastenders as we go through Enfield, Walthamstow, Tottenham, Clapton and Hackney. We have an appointment with pals on Sunday in Islington, but more of that next time.
“If you take my advice, there is nothing so nice, as Messing About On The River”

Toodaloo chums. 

Friday, 23 August 2013

Barbecues, Bikes and a bit of Concussion

Hello folks. Here in the heart of Hertfordshire I am glad to report that after ten days on our mooring the sun continues to beat down on our solar panels, we are now on first name terms with most of the wildlife that splashes past, and the back of the boat has developed a fine sheen of spiders web covering the rails and tiller bar which sparkles in the sunshine. So, as you can see, our state of nirvana, is more or less complete.
That does not mean that we have been idle. Far from it. The comings and goings continue apace and we have now a slick catering package which can be rolled out at a moment’s notice, helped by our proximity to three supermarkets within five minutes of our mooring. So this week’s blog is dominated by our guest list. I think I missed photographing one or two of them, so apologies if you are reading this and do not appear. Even our tenants Liz and Simon, came down for a visit over the weekend.

Our old neighbour Christine, and our tenants in WGC Simon, Liz and family

Wendy & "Singing" Jim  (The new fold-up Dahon is in background)

Cousins Janet & Roy

Heather & Barrie

Anne & John 
Visitors to the boat will know I have a beloved Brompton fold-up bike, that is used for milk and paper runs most mornings. When we bought it we also secured a “Dahon” fold-up bike, an American make, which I really liked but didn’t fold down as small as the Brompton. I couldn’t bear to have it doing nothing in our garage in Welwyn Garden and I have now brought it on board. It is a super bike – very comfortable and very expensive and have put the Brompton in a cupboard to give the invertor some company.
This has been possible as Pat hired a car at the weekend. We had on board, our old neighbour Christine up from Kent, and used the car to visit old pals, do runs back to the house, and to pay a visit on Sunday afternoon to St Albans to celebrate my best pal John’s daughter’s birthday, at their annual barbecue. Cara’s birthday bashes are an essential part of our summer and this one was stood out for the “sack”, “egg throwing” and “wheelbarrow” races that somehow started after we had all had a few drinks. We think of John, Lorraine and their clan as our adopted family and it was good to see them all again. We hope to entertain them on board TCW when we are in central London in a couple of weeks.
The Tubridy-Deane clan with birthday girl Cara at the front

Beauty & The Beast

We have used the time in between welcoming guests to go back and forth to the house, mainly to do some running repairs to the garage and its roof. We only have one cat left now and within a few minutes of arriving Molly had found us and spent most of the afternoon either curled up on our laps or round our necks. I know that Pat would love to have her on board, but she is very old now, and I really think she is best in an environment she knows, even though she does not socialise with the family very much.
Molly gets a special cuddle in our garage in Welwyn Garden City
Considering the shape of TCW and my height, I have never bashed my head on the hatch or getting in and out of the cratch cover at the front of the boat. A number of our guests have, but on Saturday night that all changed. I thought the hatch was back and it was not, and I ended up with a bit of concussion, feeling sick, giddy and nauseous. Poor old Pat had to put up with me stomping round the boat into the wee small hours, feeling very sorry for myself.
We now have just a few days left here in Hertford and will be off next Tuesday morning. I have done an estimation of where we are likely to be on any given day between now and the 1st November, when we should arrive at our winter mooring at Mercia Marina in Willington, Derbyshire, so if you fancy an autumn cruise, let us know.
Just worked out that so far this season we have done 825 miles and 679 locks. Whew.....
Toodaloo 'til next week

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Heart of Herts

It's good to back
Well we are back home, or at least the closest we’re able to get to our home in Welwyn Garden City, which is about four miles away from here. We are moored in Hertford on Folly Island and this will be our home for the next couple of weeks until after the Bank Holiday weekend.
We are very comfortable here and know the town well. Our family and pals are close, we have a great mooring, water and loos are 100 metres down the cut and opposite is the bus station that can connect us to Welwyn Garden, St Albans and Watford. Chuck in the Waitrose next door that I helped open and worked in around 1981, and we have it very much sorted. It’s not the most exciting canal town, but it has everything we need close by.
The lock at Sawbridgeworth and the very attractive Lawrence Mooring complex in background
which has its own private marina

The distinctive gazebos that line the river in Ware, a couple of miles from Hertford
Since I put the word out that we were back in Herts, our diary has filled up fast so it is very much a social whirl over the next few days.  We also saw some old boating pals of ours, Ian and Irene, on “Free Spirit”, yesterday, who we last said goodbye to on the Trent in April. We bumped into them at Harlow lock last Saturday and they came up to Hertford for a nose around before returning into London. I expect we will see them again in the late autumn when we return to the Midlands.
So not a lot to report really. Doing a bit of maintenance and a bit of painting, a bit of cleaning and a bit of drinking, though not necessarily in that order. We did finally get to sweep the chimney on Wednesday. It was  something we had been putting off for weeks. Surprisingly, there was not as much soot up there as we had thought.

Preparing to start on the chimney. How does it go "Chim Chimany....."

Pat prepares the bottom end.
Our son Kevin, came over to the boat on Sunday afternoon, just after we moored. It is the first time he has been on the boat, despite several invitations, and it was a seminal moment. It was good to see him look so relaxed. He has started a new job and we look forward to seeing him again in October, in Birmingham, where he thinks he will be working, when we pass through, but  I think, and hope, he’ll pop down again before we go.
We have also had my sister Carol and her husband Rob on board, and their two pals on Tuesday. They made a flying visit and we have planned that when we leave our mooring and head back down the Lee in a couple of weeks, they will join us for a bit of a cruise.
My sister Carol with her husband Rob, and their pals John and Sheila
We have never stopped anywhere, longer than four or five days, so being on a 14-day mooring is a bit of a novelty for us. It’s meant we can make doctors and dentists appointments and I can go to a CAMRA branch meeting next Tuesday, for the first time in three years.
And that’s it. More friends tonight, an old neighbour for the weekend, plus a birthday barbecue in St Albans Sunday. Hardly time for strum. Hey Ho.

Friday, 9 August 2013

A Capital Weekend

It was another mile-munching, lock-crunching week aboard TCW, as we took on Central London and emerged unscathed on to the very beautiful and picturesque River Stort, where we are presently moored.
Our journey across Central London, after a comfortable and remarkably quiet night in Paddington Basin, saw us glide through Islington and Regents Park, past the zoo and mosque and pitch up as Battlebridge Basin at King’s Cross. This is a private marina,that occasionally offers visitor moorings. It was a great spot and they all made us very welcome and invited us back. The whole King’s Cross area is undergoing a huge transformation, and the canal running through it has been tidied up considerably. Further on, we were expecting the usual level of craziness around the three Camden Locks, but they were manned by volunteer lockies and they soon had us through.

Pat relaxes in Paddington Basin

Little Venice, approaching the Maida Vale tunnel

The new "Gongoozler" terracing at King's Cross

While in Battlebridge we met up again with Paul 1, as he shall be known. Paul is my best pal John’s brother and a good friend of TCW. He works at Somerset House on the The Strand at The Courtauld Gallery, so last Friday we met him for a look around. This was after I ventured East into Brick Lane to check out the only ukulele shop in London, “the Duke Of Uke”.

Paul 1 gives Pat a potted history of Somerset House in The Strand

Leaving Battlebridge Basin

Saturday was a long day. With Paul 1 on board, we cruised on, through Islington Tunnel, through East London and on to Limehouse. It was the weekend of two huge cycling events in London and “Boris” bikes were much in evidence on the towpath. It was slow progress and the gates were very heavy so I think we were all pleased to see Limehouse Basin, where you can either get on to the tidal Thames, or do as we did and swing north again up the Limehouse Cut, The Limehouse Basin is certainly an impressive spot and quite a hidden gem, about a 10-minute walk from Canary Wharf, where we went for a Waitrose/Wetherspoons fix and moored there for the night.
"Boris" bikes and graffiti. Two common sites in East London at the weekend

Limehouse Basin. One of London's hidden gems
(The Docklands Light Railway is running over the bridge on the right of the shot)

In case we needed reminding

It was all change on Sunday morning. Paul 1 had left and Paul 2 (Thompson) and his wife Sharon joined us. Our intention was to cruise up to the Olympic park and spend some time there – maybe overnight if possible.
The media had announced the previous week that the park would be opening to the public so we thought it would be fun to explore the site by boat. The reality is that you are confronted with a view of the main Olympic Stadium through a 12-foot high wire fence, razor-tipped, running down the length of the site, with no access. The waterways that encircle the site are navigable (or so we were told by a local boater) but the entrances were blocked by booms and “No Entry” boards. Evidently the whole site, including the water, is still under the control of the Legacy company. Overall, it was all a bit disappointing.
A desirable Tudor "Des Res", close to Victoria Park in Hackney

No entry into the Olympic Park. You can just see the main stadium in the background

Still, never mind, the weather looked OK for most of Sunday, so we pushed on, chugging through Clapton, Edmonton and Tottenham, before arriving at Enfield Lock, where we moored for the night.
It was another marathon day on Monday. The forecast was for rain in the afternoon, and by the time it started to hammer down, we were beyond Broxbourne and almost on the Stort.
Paul 2 (Thompson) passes the house he grew up in, near Enfield

The very tranquil River Stort. That's Pat scouting ahead

Since then it has been glorious, though a bit wet and cloudy this morning. The Stort is a real gem: quiet and very windy. There seems plenty of water in it and there are more mooring opportunities than we expected. Paul 2 and Sharon left us at Roydon on Monday evening, having down 25 miles and 26 locks in two days,  and since then we have gone up through Harlow, Sawbridgeworth to Bishop’s Stortford, before winding and returning to Sawbridgeworth, where Paul 2 lives and where had a “spiffing” meal with them both last night.

Tomorrow we set off again, and hopefully, weather permitting, should be in Hertford on Sunday or Monday.