Sunday, 30 May 2010

"Ducklings on the Water"

Apparently this is how skippers of larger craft describe 'little-uns' like us over their VHF radios on the tidal Thames.
Whilst on this part of the system I really wanted to do this trip but three weeks ago it was looking unlikely as there just seemed to be a long catalogue of negatives.  Then we were told about the members of the St Pancras Cruising Club and that they were doing a Tidal Thames Transit on the Saturday of the Bank Holiday Weekend.
We contacted them and, as a result, found ourselves breasted up against the visitor's wall with 17 other narrowboats in Limehouse Basin on the Friday night.

We all met in the Cruising Association Clubhouse for a de-briefing and then a meal.  Members of the Cruising Club were really welcoming.  We found the whole event to be extremely well organised and everything about the trip very positive.  Our friends, Anne and John, were joining us for the weekend and they arrived , having travelled by tube and taxi, late in the evening.

The following morning boats were locked out in groups of three.  Nine boats were going to Brentford and nine further on to Teddington.  We were in the first grouped of three to go to Brentford and were 'sandwiched' between members of the cruising  club on 'Galatea' and 'Victoria'.  The water in the lock goes out VERY quickly and when the gates open the vastness of the river is quite awesome.  With a long blast of our horn we exited the lock and turned upstream.  From here until past Westminster there were LOTS of other craft on the river.  The taxis and trip boats go VERY fast and create lot of wash.  Anne and John, standing in the bow ..................... got wet!!!  They only, however, felt the need to bail out once!

On occasions, especially in the vicinity of Tower Bridge, there were four or five boats manoeuvring around us and then the wash was substantial!  These moments were indeed, in the words of Lynn Hancock n/b 'Piston Broke' ........ "buttock clenching"!! The weather was not great and at times the rain was quite heavy and cold but it was SO exciting passing famous London landmarks on the water.  We had taken everything off the roof (which in itself took quite a little while!) and safeguarded vulnerable things inside the boat.  Nothing came to any harm.  In total it was 16 miles to Brentford and it took exactly two and a half hours.

 Although we were naturally apprehensive about going, in practice we were surprised about how confident we felt once out on the water.  I feel certain that this was largely due to being in the comfort zone of experienced Thames boaters.
We are very grateful to them and would thoroughly recommend anyone joining one of their cruises.

Now I shall look forward to being able to do something like this again.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Into the Top Ten

I have found another mooring site that I think deserves to go into my "Top Ten".

Calling all Boating Twitchers .............. or Twitching Boaters! ................ take note!

Between Stanstead Abbots and Ware on the Lee Navigation.

You can moor right by the side of this lovely reserve run by Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust.  There are three really good hides which you can actually go into without having to get a visitor's permit!  There are excellent pathways all around the reserve and, for most of it, you can even walk the dog!!  There are viewing points and information panels.


         Views of the reserve.

So often I see a reserve marked on the map, want to stop to have a look around .......... and there is nowhere to moor.  For me, this was a brilliant 'find'.  It's even close enough to lug a telescope!

Monday, 24 May 2010

What a fabulous weekend!

 Andy and Rhia's Wedding Day

It's not often that you can genuinely say that a day is perfect but ............... this one really was.

What a wonderful, beautiful wedding day in every respect.  There was a beautiful service in a beautiful church with beautiful music sung by a beautiful choir.  The bride was SO beautiful and all the outfits worn by other principal people made them beautiful too!   The venue for the reception was beautiful, the flowers were beautiful, the food was beautiful, the weather was amazingly beautiful,  the speeches were ................ beautiful?  Well, really good!  It was all just so fantastic and I'm so pleased that everything worked out so that we were able to be there.

The happy couple

Hanbury Manor Hotel - the venue for the reception

Chinese lanterns lighting up the sky in celebration

On Sunday we were collected (all of us - dogs as well!) and taken to Mick and Lynn's for a barbecue.  It was really good to be able to sit and chat properly to people we have known for many, many years.

Now back to reality!

Friday, 21 May 2010

The Morning After the Night Before!

The Lowes have come to England
They set off to buy a car
They went to Waltham Abbey
Which from us was not too far.

They phoned and said, "Where are you?
We'll come over for a chat."
Them being them...... and us being us .....
It didn't end up like that!

The wine it started flowing
At first - the odd bottle or two
The decision to stay
Was made by Ray
And agreed by the rest of the crew.

The empty bottles became more and more
The wine had such a bashing.
A meal was shared
The cards were aired
The girls took such a thrashing!!

The chaps?  They just had all the luck
It wasn't that they were clever
Trouble is - they'll go ON & ON
Gloating about this for ever!

The next morning I did feel rough!
I really did feel ill
My stomach hurt, my head it spun
To think I do this all for fun!
Just give me an Anadin pill!

Why I'm the one always worse- for- wear
Goodness only knows
Hubby maintains his dignity
And so do both the Lowes!!

It was really good to see them.  They always take time out of a busy schedule to come and find us.  We shall look forward to seeing them again in September when they come to collect this new acquisition with the plan of driving it most of the way back to Cypress!  I hope that next time we sit down to play cards, they remind me of the last time!!  No Ray, I don't mean about the WIN - I mean about all those bottles! xxoo

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The River Stort

They did come and find us on Sunday whilst we were moored up just below Waltham Common Lock right in the centre of the lovely Lee Valley Park.  Being moored here was just a bit 'up my street'!  Lots of pits, paths and bird hides which I could actually go in without having to get a special permit!  The dogs thought it was rather special too.  Despite it being 'on their patch' it was exciting new ground to Mick and Lynn.

The River Stort
On Monday we cruised to the junction with the lovely little River Stort.  Right from the beginning it was a delight.
We cruised to a little place called Roydon where we had arranged to Meet Mick and Lynn for a meal in the "White Hart" in the evening.  LOTS to celebrate:-

  • Andy and Rhia's wedding.  We can hardly believe it!  Our most vivid memory of Andrew was when we were on holiday in France when he was only two.  We had stupidly locked our Datsun 280ZX leaving the keys inside!  Andrew (being tiny at the time!) was squeezed through the quarter-light to retrieve the keys. He was in his element sitting in the driver's seat pressing all the buttons and turning the wheel!  He did eventually open the door to let us in!  No surprise then that he is really excited at the thought of driving a really, really special Bentley as his first vehicle as a married man!

  • The Big 'O'  Our very special friend, Mick, has just had a 'notable' birthday.  Bring on free bus passes and Winter Fuel Allowance!

  • Friendships of Longevity.  Our friendship with Mick and Lynn is now entering it's 5th decade and that ......... is very special!
From Roydon to Hunsdon Mill is an absolute delight.
Hunsdon Mill Lock

Parndon Mill is a lovely spot too.

We are now moored up near Pishiobury Park and we walked to The Maltings at Sawbridgeworth so I could have a browse in the Antique Centres!

The Maltings at Sawbridgeworth
Information boards along the tow path assure me that I am in the domain of the water vole and otter!!!!
I have, I have and ................. at the Broxbourne Silvermeade Reserve I DID hear reeds being munched and see a splash!  No water vole though!

I do, I do!  All the time!!  And to no avail!  Never mind, it pleases me to know that I am at least sharing their chosen domain.  

Sorry about the 'waxing lyrical, Lynn but ................ it's what I do best! xxoo

Friday, 14 May 2010

The Lee Navigation

Another long day today - we had made up our mind that we wanted to get to Waltham Abbey.
The old mills where we moored last night are apparently, collectively, the largest mills in Europe and were used for making gin!!  My sort of place then!

We passed the site at Bow where they are developing the new Olympic Stadium.  Lots of construction work going on.

Boaty thing:-
It is an observational fact that some boaters do not move around very much!  They find a 'nice' bit of tow path and stay put for quite a while.  These boaters are labelled 'continuous moorers' and, quite often their boats are
in a poor state of maintenance.  These boats are described in different ways by different people:- a lock keeper I was talking to called them "scruffies".  Another boater we met called them "crusties" and others tend to call them "swampies"!  I find these descriptions amusing but, on the waterways, it's a political issue.
'Live and let live' ?   But ............. it doesn't take a lot of effort to keep a boat cleanish ie wash it occasionally and much does a bit of fresh paint cost every now and then?
Observation:  There do seem to be a lot of boats in this category on this river navigation.  And ........ they are
monopolizing visitor mooring spots.

We are now in the grounds of the Lee Valley Park and we want to stay put for the weekend - go walking with the dogs and stake out the bittern hide ............... ever hopeful!!  Hopefully, Mick & Lynn will come and find us.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

On the Tourist Trial

This morning we followed the Thames Path from Limehouse to St Katharine Dock and Tower Bridge.  It involved walking along the side of the river as well as having to divert onto some East End city streets.  It was all so clean and tidy and I loved some of the really old buildings we saw. It made me think that maybe, one day, I could 'do' London!  The following pictures are intended to give a 'snapshot' of our walk.

Well signed all the way.
Magnificent Tower Bridge.  Built in 1894.  You can get onto the high level
footbridge by a lift or by climbing 200 steps ......... we didn't!!
Tower of London - we saw no ravens!
Posh yachts in St Katharine Dock
An old Thames Sailing Barge
These absolutely WHIZZ by and create alot of wash!
Lovely old warehouses in Wapping High Street.
Said to be the oldest Thameside pub - dating from 1520.

We have now moved out of Limehouse Basin because our 24 hour free mooring was up. (Sadly!)  We are now on the Limehouse Cut which will tomorrow lead us onto the Lee Navigation on our way to Harlow.
This is a part of the East End the average tourist does not visit .......... say no more!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Into Limehouse Basin

We left Paddington this morning at 7-45 am!!  12 locks and 8 miles later we arrived at Limehouse Basin
at 1-45 pm having had a 30 minute stop for lunch.  The locks are double, deep and heavy and we were on our own all the way.  It was quite a work out!  The biggest problem were the gates that refused to stay shut on their own.  Know the type?

The Regents Canal from Little Venice to St Pancras Cruising Club is really  nice - it goes downhill after that but consider the areas it then goes through:- Islington, Bethnal Green, Stepney??  Mooring opportunities are few and far between and made even more challenging by the amount of boats which appear to be continual moorers and monopolize visitor mooring slots.  The best visitor mooring spot was by the side of Victoria Park but this was closed off for BW maintenance!
(You know.........Traffic lights, traffic cones, diversion signs but ..... no workers!!!)   The water was amazingly clear BUT that meant you could        see the assortment of rubbish lying on the bottom.                        

                                                                                                                               At Camden Lock

Limehouse Basin is lovely!  And................... we are here moored up on the visitor moorings (against a wall where the roof of the boat is level with the top of the wall) all by ourselves!!  It is a bit tricky getting  the dogs off but do-able.

We had a good walk around - saw the Thames where the lock lets boats out and on up to Canary Wharf.  There are some lovely old buildings in the nearby streets and lovely street names steeped in the history of the area.

              Out of Limehouse Lock and on to                                  
              the turbulent Thames.  Notice The 
              Gherkin in the distance.

Lovely old-fashioned street names.  What is the history of this I wonder?

Apparently the Limehouse area was famous for making ropes.  I really like this monument of the gull to mark that fame.

Here we are moored up against the wall in Limehouse Basin.  We are all on our own!

Limehouse Basin - mostly providing mooring for sea going cruisers and yachts.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The Girls go to London

We reached Paddington Basin yesterday afternoon.  There was no chance of getting onto the visitor moorings at Little Venice so we are moored up right by Paddington Station!  It makes for interesting people watching as about a thousand must have gone by whilst we have been here!  SO many people have an ear glued to a mobile phone!  It is now 7 am Wednesday and the first of the Apprentice-Style trolleys went by at 5.30 am!  The pavement is now positively rumbling with them!

We had a walk around to look at all the development that has, and continues, to go on here.  I imagine that this basin used to be full of wharfs and warehouses.  It is now being re-developed along the lines of the Mail Box in Birmingham - stunning architecture for offices, waterside apartments, restaurants, bars and shops.  Just a shortage of grass!  Hyde Park is about a mile and a half away.

Some examples of what is going on.  The favoured building material these days
seems to be glass not concrete.  Carmine House - on the right - we think the bit  in the middle is the bow of a large ship breaking through waves?  Icebergs?  
Oh, is that Leo and Kate I see up there?  What an imagination!!

More information can be found at:-

We are moving off early as we want to get to Limehouse Basin today - it will take us about six hours along the Regents Canal.  The sky is already blue so it looks like we will be doing it in the sunshine.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Leaving the Thames

On Saturday we left Shepperton and made our way to Teddington Lock.  We called in at Shepperton Marina and John is now the owner of a new pair of superior deck shoes!  Keeping him happy has got to be worth a bank loan!!  Yes, they were expensive!!!

At Teddington Lock we had a painful experience - the overnight mooring fee!  Yet again narrow boats and barges are exploited because the fee is according to length of vessel.
And ............. what did we get for our money?  Did we get a nice bit of bank?  No!  Electric hook up within the fee?  No!  Security?  No!  All you get is a bit of bland lock mooring!  Surely this should be included within the exorbitant cost of the licence?  I really would like to hear EA's justification for such high charges.

On Sunday the journey from Teddington to Brentford went smoothly but more pain was felt on leaving the lovely Thames and re-joining the canal system in such a built up area.  It's somewhat of a culture shock!  We never have managed to find a mooring spot in Brentford Basin - it's always been full - so we moored where we have moored before - opposite the amazing Glaxo Smith Kline building.  I was told this time by a walker with a guidebook (!) that the large sculpture is a figure of an athlete. ???  This time we also discovered a park next to Glaxo and saw Glaxo workers litter picking early in the morning. Glaxo are obviously conscious of environmental issues.  The water system from here to the bottom of the Hanwell flight of locks is a river system - the little river Brent - and it was FULL of rubbish!  LOTS of wood, plastic bags and bottles, general litter, coconuts and .............. a wide assortment of balls!!   Our poor prop!!

I have a proposal for Glaxo:- Out of all the profit they make, could they not sponsor a barge and seek volunteers amongst their Brentford workers to do a weekly or monthly clean up of that section of the environment so close to their premises?  Yes, I know BW is supposed to be doing this and believe me, they ARE trying but this section of waterway is SO bad that they could really do with some help.

On reaching Bulls Bridge (where there is a large Tesco and I wanted to do some shopping) we bumped into n/b "Eager Beaver" who used to moor with us at Welton Haven.  They are seasoned boaters and what they haven't done isn't worth mentioning.  They told us that they have been out with the St Pancras Cruising Club many times in the past and are on route for a cruise with them to the Thames Barrier first and then, later on, will be going out of Limehouse with them, up to Teddington and then carrying on up the Thames.  Food for thought?

We are now on the Paddington Arm moored up by a lovely park and aim to get to Little Venice tomorrow.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Busy Week so bit of an Epic!

We have just left the Staines/Laleham borders after having been tied up to a tree at the bottom of Rodney's garden for the last week!  Beverley, Jackie and Eric, who are his immediate neighbours, have all been very accommodating as we do seem to cause quite a bit of chaos when we stay there!!  It's a very popular section of the Thames Path and lots of people we know use it.  We managed to get to see some people whom we haven't seen for a while - Pauline and David Shilston and Debbie and Kevin Atkin amongst them - and it was really nice to catch up.  One afternoon we had nine people on board for afternoon tea!

Prescriptions have been collected from the doctor, the dentist has been visited and ............... we have both had our hair cut by the lovely Mike ............... in Rodney's kitchen!!  (Yes Ken, John agreed to let someone else do it and give me some time off!!).  We have been into Staines to do some shopping other than food shopping and managed to get our external hard drive mended.  Remember the incident of the self pump out?  Well, I will now be able to add the picture I wanted as that was on the external hard drive - go back into it to see!  Maggie has also been to the vet for her annual jabs.
Lots of time was spent doing bits and pieces for both mums.  Every evening was spent socialising with some of our oldest (as in we've known them a long time) and dearest friends - barbecue at Anne and John's, dinner at Gill's, dinner at Rodney's and dinner on the boat!  Yes, lots of eating and drinking!!

On the Sunday afternoon, in the rain, we cycled to Penton Hook Marina to see Ben.  He took possession of a rusty, empty shell of a barge 3 years ago this September and it is now nearly finished.  He has done phenomenally well to do all he has in this space of time.  There is very little left to do inside (which is absolutely fabulous) and, I think, only a bit more painting to do on the outside.  The garden is on the roof complete with - pseudo grass, barbecue, table, chairs, sun umbrella, loungers and plant pots!!!!!!

The Outside
The kitchen
The bathroom

Whilst filling up with water at Chertsey lock yesterday we met a lovely couple on their widebeam boat, "Tamesis" - the Celtic goddess of fresh water.  I have not been on board a widebeam before - fantastic amount of space and SO nicely fitted out.  Like us, Jim and Angie have been liveaboards for three years.  They gave us lots of really useful tips about the Lee and Stort and what to do at Limehouse.  I do so hope we see them again sometime.

We moored up for the night at the back of Desborough Island at Shepperton - Ben had told us about this spot and it is a really good mooring.  As a bonus, there were four hobbies flying backwards and forwards past the boat hunting mayflies.  Fantastic!

This was not easy to get!  They fly amazingly fast!!