Saturday, 6 June 2015

`South Of The Border, Down Hertfordshire Way`

A sunny morning in Berkhamsted
One of the things I most like about boating is how sociable everybody is. Not only boaters you meet at locks or when passing by each other on the cut. Not only walkers who raise a hand in greeting or stop and chat when you are moored, or even cyclists, who, in the main, are polite and respectful, or the anglers, who begrudgingly curl their lip as you glide by. By and large everybody you meet in and along the waterways are polite and friendly. Until, that is, you get south of Milton Keynes.

What a difference there has been in the last week. Not particularly from the boating fraternity I should add, but those sharing the towpath, either seem to ignore you, or look at you as if you were some sort of `perv` if you offer them any sort of greeting. And as we head south that seems more and more the case. Looking back now, I remember commenting on the same thing some two years ago, when we cruised through London, and not much has changed. From Bedfordshire we are are now deep in the heart of Hertfordshire, our home county. . I expected better from my kinfolk. And that ends `Roger’s Rant` for this blog.
The Soulbury flight of  locks, near Leighton Buzzard. The Three Locks pub on the left, sell `Concrete Cow` beer,
a nod towards the stationary ruminants in Milton Keynes. Very good it is to.

Since the last blog, we have had typical British summer weather. Gale force winds, driving rain, and the odd sunny day. Like most boaters we don’t mind the rain too much, but cruising in high winds is irresponsible and frankly dangerous. And it’s June for heaven sakes. We shouldn’t be lighting fires at this time of year. On Thursday, however, it got over 20 degrees and I think that’s the first time that has happened this year – to us, anyway, and on Friday, despite the weather warning that we could experience severe thunderstorms, we had a gloriously sunny day.  The canal looked fabulous, the birds sang in tune, and even the murky brown water looked attractive with the sun glinting off it.
We spent last weekend in Leighton Buzzard. It’s always a good place to stop, with supermarkets (Waitrose & Tesco) close by, plus a launderette, an Aldi and a Wetherspoons. Our French pal Hubert, was set to visit but had to cancel at the last moment, but we’ll catch up with him on the way back.
Pat sets off to the launderette at Leighton Buzzard. You can see how busy it was.

Seen in the Leighton Buzazard High Street. Spot the spelling mistake.
We have never had too many issues mooring at Leighton Buzzard but it was quite congested this time and the weather throughout the weekend was showery and pretty miserable, with the odd bit of sunshine occasionally bursting through. It pays to keep a careful eye on the local weather forecast and we knew that high winds were on the way, so some decisions needed to be made. We were picking up our pal Val in Berkhamsted on Wednesday morning, and there are 24 locks to negotiate from Leighton Buzzard to Berko, over a distance of some 15 miles. So on Monday we made a dash for it and covered as much ground (or water) as possible. We were going to overnight at Marsworth, our normal stop, but we decided to push on to Cow Roast.
The Cat's Whiskers and Little Blue lock down towards Berkhamsted
The weather warnings predicted strong gale-force winds from mid-afternoon on Monday. On arriving at Cow Roast at 4pm we cleared the roof of mops, brooms and pot plants, and bashed into the ground double pins. It blew a hooly all night and on surfacing, the Cat’s Whiskers looked like it had been in a war zone. The whole roof was a mass of twigs and leaves, but surprisingly the storm hadn’t kept us awake and we utilised the hose at the water point by the lock and rinsed most of it off.
We had cruised most of the previous day with a boat called `Little Blue`. Anthony was a single-handler, who had his mate on board for the first day. Despite a further weather warning on Tuesday, which did not materialise, we cruised into Berkhamsted without incident.
Berkhamsted is a posh place all right, judging by the amount of flash Jags, BMW’s, Audi’s etc, parked in the Waitrose car park. It’s lovely with it though and I never tire of going through there. The medieval Castle is certainly worth a visit, and the mound where the `motte` is, offers a great view.
Val and Pat at our very pleasant, and sunny mooring in the middle of Berkhamsted.
(Looks like I could have done with tightening our fenders)
Atop of the remains of the medieval Berkamsted Castle
Val’s a Brit, but lives in Nelson, in New Zealand, and we always visit her when we go over to the South Island, so it was great to be able to offer her some hospitality for a change. We set off for Hemel Hempstead on Thursday morning. A warm, sunny day was forecast, and this time they got it pretty well right. It was a glorious day to be cruising on a narrowboat. I honestly think that the stretch between Berkhamsted and Apsley is one of my favourite stretches on the whole network. We overnighted at Boxmoor and on Friday morning dropped down the last three locks to weekend at Apsley, the other side of Hemel Hempstead. That’s where are now and over the next three days the diary is pretty much full with visitors, so I set too giving the roof a bit of a scrub. We must have been mad having a cream roof. As soon as the ropes get wet they leave horrible black lines down the boat. But as long as I have got my DAB radio at hand it soon gets done.
Roger at work on the roof at our current mooring at Apsley. You wouldn't think there is a huge retail park behind the trees on the right. `The Paper Mill` pub is next to the building in the middle of the picture.
There are a lot of good mooring opportunites at Apsley, and we are on my favourite, an equal distance between a large Sainsburys, that's hidden behind trees opposite us, and `The Paper Mill` pub, 100 metres down the tow path, though you need very deep pockets to drink there regularly. These southern prices are proving to be a bit of a culture shock to us.
On Friday evening my bestest pal, and honourable brother John and his lovely lady Lorraine visited. John looks after all our post, and it was great to see them both. They haven't been on TCW since we cruised through London two years ago.
John & Lorraine indulge in some nibbles on board TCW. Looks like Lorraine's ready for a snooze!
So now its Saturday morning, and it looks like another sunny day. The solar panels are chucking in loads of amps into the battery bank, so, hopefully, we will not have to run the engine today.
Tonight we have Claire and Phil on board. I used to work with Claire at John Lewis. Monday we have more guests, via our New Zealand connections and it looks like my sister Carol, Rob her husband, and their friends John & Sheila, are coming on board as we cruise on towards Watford and Cassiobury Park on Tuesday.

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