Monday, 31 October 2011

Preparing to Hibernate

A day for preparing the boat for its winter hibernation. we spent the morning cleaning - Christine inside and Mike on the outside. Although we have a pontoon for half the length of the boat, there is nothing on the other side and the net boat along is too far away to use for balance. Hence it is a matter of balancing on the gunwale and hanging on!

We also cleared out the drainage channels which should help to ensure that rain (if we ever get any!) that falls on the stern deck does not end up in the engine compartment. We also pumped out some of the water that the automatic bilge pump does not deal with. Tightening the stern tube should reduce the amount that comes in that way. Christine's secret photography captured the act!

After a late lunch we walked down to Tesco along the towpath for a few items including a paper. We were surprised to hear when we returned to the boat that the Dean of St Paul's had also resigned, the third over this affair over the protesters. It does show how complex running a church organisation (as with any major charity as well) as become in a modern age. All the more reason to ensure that our organisation is kept fit for purpose.

By the time Mike had taken some boxes back to the car and we sat down for a cup of tea, we decided that we had had enough working on the boat for the day!
A review of our logs showed that we have cruised for 88 days this year, covering 898 miles, passing through 914 locks. What will next year bring and where will it take us?

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Back to Base

With the clock change last night, we inevitably woke 'early' - at least by today's, rather than yesterday's, standards, and were off by 8:15. before leaving, Christine wanted to snap the coots which have been a feature of the water life around here - but a couple swans and their cygnets insisted on muscling in on the event!

It was just a short distance to the service point at Little Venice. Fortunately we did not want to take on water as the mooring was already occupied, so we hovered, as it were, in the narrows whilst we completed our disposals.

Off again and there was little to deflect us from a continuous and straightforward cruise back along the long level pound.

Near Porto Bello Dock we saw a residential boat for sale - £250,000!

We passed the the Scout group from Tooting that we met yesterday on our way down to Limehouse. As there were no locks for miles, their leaders had clearly decided that they need to walk!

At Alperton we pulled in to the mooring outside Sainsbury to pick up some croissants (OK it was a late morning snack!) bread, milk and a few other items. It was an indication of how popular Sunday shopping is by the fact all the trolleys were in use when we arrived at the entrance. Fortunately we only needed a basket.

By one o'clock Christine had some warm tasty soup well-brewed and we moored up for a short break to enjoy it properly.

Bulls Bridge Junction
On again and close to our expected schedule we arrived at Bulls Bridge and turned out onto the Grand Union Main Line. By now it was slightly damp, gradually turning wetter although it never came to proper rain.

Half past three and we were reversing into our new winter mooring space with enough time to complete the tasks planned. Andrew had brought his plumbing and Speedfit bits and pieces as we wanted to improve the connections to the main water pump. The original pipework involved some very tight bends which place quite a strain on the pump. A couple of corner connections and some short pieces of pipe look like making all the difference.

Also on our agenda was to divide our shoreline asymmetrically into two sections, for use depending on whether we are bow or stern first onto the mooring. Stern first requires only a short section. We also eventually found a means of stowing the anchor we bought for our Severn trip and have been falling over in the bow well ever since! The longer shoreline also found a better home.

All that was left now was for Mike to prepare the evening meal and Christine to begin the pre-winter clean through.

17.3 miles - 0 locks

Saturday, 29 October 2011


A long day with an early start. We were rather determined to make it to Limehouse but Andrew had a meeting in Peterborough at midday so had to catch a mid-morning train from Kings Cross. We also had to make sure that we made it sufficiently far back that we would be able to reach Packet Boat early enough tomorrow afternoon that there will be time to do the planned work on the pipes around the pump.

Battlebridge Early Morning
So, we set off as early as we could make it - well, 7:45 at least! The route towards Limehouse has locks quite frequently and in the early morning sunshine we very soon entered Islington Tunnel - not long by the standards of Braunston, Blisworth (not to mention Standedge!) - but at least it is the longest in London. It is also able to take wide beam boats so it is spacious for a narrow boat - and single direction operation is required.

Towards Islington Tunnel
From there we dropped down three locks before reaching Mare street bridge where Andrew hoped off for a short-ish walk to Bethnal Green Station, leaving us to carry on by ourselves.

Warehouse above City Road Lock
Entrance to Hertford Union canal
Almost immediately after the next lock - Old Ford - we passed the entrance to Hertford Union Canal, also known as Duckett's. The entrance looks little more than many of the old wharves to been all around the system. there is a wide turning area opposite the bridge so we suppose that it is not too difficult to negotiate.

Former Lock Cottage at Mile E|nd Lock
Another four locks were needed to bring us down to the level of Limehouse Basin. There are very few visitor mooring spaces in the basin and we could only find space on the new disabled access pontoon to tie up temporarily whilst we found our where the service station is located.

Limehouse Dock
Canary Wharf and start of  Limehouse Cut
Limehouse BW Office and Lock Keeper's Office
We could not find it anywhere but fortunately a kindly lock keeper came to our aid (the main office was closed today) and pointed out a rather unlikely pontoon which has a pump out, water and elsan facility on it!

Limehouse Lock
The keeper did not seem to think that our temporary location would matter for a short time - we had only seen one other boat moving on the whole of the way down - so we wandered down to the Thames as well as looking at the large lock out onto the river. Mike has been here several times before for residential conferences at the nearby St Katherine's House.

River Thames upstream from Limehouse
After using the services and a quick lunch break we set off back up the Regents Canal once more, unsure about where we might end up for the night.

At Mile End , ghe adjacvent park is called new Globe Tavern Gardens. After looking at ther information board, Mike walked back to Mile End Road to see the original New Globe Tavern (with a globe on the facade) which in the mid nineteenth century had large gardens which were a popular attraction.

The New Globe
By now there was an increasing amount of traffic and we met boats at several of the locks. In any event, they were almost all set for us this time, unlike when we came down.

Towpath Cafe
Slightly reluctantly we passed the mooring spot we used last night - it was a close run decision between the certainty of a mooring, close to where Andrew would be returning but with a long day tomorrow and efinitely an early start, or pressing on with the nail-biting anticipation of being mooring-less when darkness falls. Our time estimate was that it would be after six o'clock before we reached Paddington and there are almost no mooring opportunities after leaving St Pancras.

The three Camden Locks were busy with onlookers - and two boats were coming down the middle lock as we arrived which meant that we were able to reach the top level pound in about half an hour.

By now it was becoming almost dark and after leaving Maida Hill Tunnel we kept the headlight on. As we came through Regents Park and Little Venice there was a busy succession of boats perhaps 15 - 20 in all, close following each other. We never did find out where they were heading and would find a night's mooring as by the time they had descended Camden locks it would be fully night time.

Ghost of Islington Tunnel
Six o'clock and we reach the junction and turned down the Paddington Arm in some trepidation. Secretly we both made plans in our minds about what we would do if all the official moorings were taken - we definitely did not want to end up under the busy dual carriageway bridge for the night!

A couple of 'almost' spaces appeared in the first section but were were completely amazed as we turned into the basin to see that there were three pontoon spaces available as well as all the four off side moorings! Relieved is not an adequate Christine texted Andrew to let him know where to find us.

14.2 miles - 20 locks

Friday, 28 October 2011


We were not in a hurry to make a start as we were waiting for Andrew to arrive at lunch time. Alice had time to do quite a bit of reading - Fatbag was proving rather amusing.

Late in the morning we all went shopping for a few food items - but the Sainsbury which we had not been to before was not able to supply all our needs so on the way back, Christine and Alice diverted via Paddington Station to find a post box and also to try for the remaining items at Tesco.

When Mike returned to the boat he discovered that the little bridge - more a decorative item than anything else - was being opened. Although the bridge is across a very short arm, and that arm was laid out with mooring rings, it is not actually long enough for most boats anyway!

The bridge operates via a series of hydraulic rams which case the eight sections to roll up into an octagon. Just for demonstration purposes (and probably for something interesting to do) the security guards open and close it on Wednesdays and Fridays at noon.

The weed and rubbish collecting boat was also out in action.

Andrew arrived soon after Christine and Alice - they all just missed the bridge operation - we set off up to Little Venice where we annoyed some film makers by stopping at the water and disposal station, just where they wanted to film a reflected tree!

As we reversed back to the junction where it is wide enough to turn around, we picked up some plastic bags around the prop which made reversing difficult and meant we had to come alongside to clear it away.

Blow Up Bridge
Off then along Regents Canal, passing the expensive and impressive mansions that line the park beside the canal. we also passed under Blow Up Bridge before reaching the Pirate Castle and soon after the top lock at Camden Market. As always there was a good crowd of onlookers - by now the sun was quite warm and many were sitting on the edge of the canal to pass the time.

Camden Lock
Just before Islington Tunnel we reached Battlebridge basin where there was a possibility of an overnight mooring so we pulled in but, alas there was no free space tonight. Luckily we had spotted a towpath mooring free just a short distance back so we returned there. Mike has to take Alice back home on the train and this is a convenient spot for Kings Cross station. Our aim of reaching Limehouse tonight was just too far, especially as we had a few delays in setting off. Perhaps we can make an early start tomorrow, although Andrew has to leave for a day trip to Peterborough and will re-join us in the evening - somewhere!

3.6 miles - 4 locks

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Tate Modern and Oxford Street

It was not the fastest of starts to the day - not that the weather was especially encouraging, rather damp most of the time. By about 10:30 we all managed to set off and took the Underground down to Embankment where we walked along beside the river, taking in the many landmarks and admiring the splendid buildings along the way.

Millennium Footbridge
We passed Waterloo Bridge and then Blackfriars before turning to cross the river over the Millennium Bridge. Once over we were in front of Tate Modern. We split into two groups - Christine with Alice and Mike with Ellie.

Tate Modern
Christine and Alice explored but were a little disappointed that the Rothko display has moved to the Whitechapel gallery (Ellie and Christine were especially interested in this when we visited a few years back) but found some interesting sculptures on the top floor and then Alice took time to do some of her own drawings, including one of Paddington Basin complete with moored boat.

Tacita Dean's Installation Film
Meanwhile the other two began with one of the special displays: Tacita Dean's film montage which was showing in the main Turbine Hall. From there they went to see the Diane Arbus collection (Mike was especially affected by an exhibition of her work back in the 1970's when he was down in London on business). They also found the famous Weiwei sunflower seeds, now relegated to a side room in a neat round pile. Hard to imagine all the fuss that it caused in its original installation in the Turbine Hall.

Weiwei Sunflower Seeds
Everyone met at the cafe for lunch. Main meals were what was on offer so we quickly decided to have our largest meal now and go for a snack in the evening.

After lunch we split up again and Christine and Alice walked along the South Bank and across the Jubilee footbridge at Charing Cross. Along the way, Alice enjoyed watching a juggler perform. From there they headed back to the boat via the Underground.

Steps of St Paul's - sans protesters
Protest Camp
Mike and Ellie walked back over the Millennium Bridge to St Paul's where they had a good view of the collection of protest tents which is very much in the news, leading later to the resignation of one of the cathedral canons. As far as we could see, the protesters were not causing undue difficulty, the main steps were kept clear and we had much less difficulty in walking around the outside of the building to the station, that we later experienced in Oxford Street.

The Underground took us to Oxford Circus where, as soon as we were at street level, Ellie spotted Topshop and persuaded Grandad that he was surplus to requirements. She explored the clothes and shoes (especially boots) not only in Topshop but also three other nearby shops. She mobiled when she was ready to move on!

We continued along the line of shops, popping into a few with Ellie finding some makeup she wanted in the Body Shop. By then we were flagging a little so took a break next door for tea and hot chocolate.

Not long after we resumed our journey we arrived at Centre Point and Tottenham Court Road. At this point Mike realised that we had walked the wrong way after leaving Topshop as we had passed through TCR station on the way to Oxford Circus and we were supposed to be heading along Oxford Street to Marble Arch - the other direction!

Not wanting to walk all the way back, we went down to the Underground for a couple of stops, emerging again at Bond Street where we continued our progress the right way along Oxford Street. Eventually we reach Marble Arch and turned up Edgware Road until Praed Street and so back to the boat.

After some consultation, it was finally agreed that Alice would stay with us another day on the promise that we would not do any more museums but do some boating! (Uncle Andy is due to arrive at lunch time). After dinner, Alice went with Mike and Ellie to Paddington station (where Ellie caught the train back to Slough) as she quite fancied another night walk!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Buckingham Palace

Jess was quite tired after yesterday's activities and her accident in the evening, but was keen to be out exploring again. She enjoys the underground and so we took another day ticket and went around the Circle line to St James Park.

It was raining intermittently as we walked through the park to the front of Buckingham Palace. We knew that we were late for the start of the Changing of the Guard but the huge crowds meant that only a fraction could have a place in front of the gates with a view of the main action.

Arrival of the New Guard
Jess noticed several mounted policeman - the crowd control both on foot and on horseback seemed very well organised - and so we saw the side gates open as a platoon of guards marched from the Mall to be the new guard.

Mounted Police
A little later the main gates opened and the band marched out and around, right in front of us, led by two of the mounted police, as they headed back to their nearby barracks. We could hardly have been closer to them. Soon after the main guard marched out and off down the Mall.

Guards' Band
Time was flying past as well so we walked back to the Underground and a different route - so as to fit in two trains - much to Jess's delight.

After lunch on the boat it was soon time for Jess and Grandad to walk through to Paddington Station, buy tickets and catch a train to Slough. This was a stopping train and Jess was especially interested in the varying scenery along the half hour trip.

At Slough we met with Lisa (their Nanny) and swapped for Ellie and Alice. Within minutes we were on the train back, earlier than expected and so we reached the boat even before Christine had completed her food shopping trip.

After the main course of our evening meal, Ellie felt that we could do with an alternative to what was on offer for a dessert so she and Mike went to the nearby Tesco for some ice cream - but Ellie put in a persuasive argument for chocolate muffins to go with them! Needless to say, both disappeared very quickly.

Statue in Paddington Central
Later, Alice opted for a night walk with Mike. They went back along the canal, over a footbridge (and checked out the entrance to Paddington Station ready for tomorrow evening) and then on up towards Little Venice. On the way they spotted a couple of statues.

Leaving the canal towpath, they took to the streets and gradually explored round to Edgware Road and so back to Paddington Basin.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

London with Jess

A day for exploring London. Our plan was to visit the London Transport Museum at Covent Garden. Jess had been once before and enjoyed it. First of all, Jess and Grandad went to the nearby Tesco to buy a paper and returned with some croissants for breakfast which pleased Jess and Granny! (Even though Jess had already had honey loops before going out!)

Opera at Covent Garden
We all walked to the nearby Edgware Road Underground Station and bought All-Day tickets for Zone 1. It was a lift down to the trains and a change of trains at Picadilly Circus to arrive at Covent Garden. Before looking for the museum, we opted to wander around the old market hall, full of shops and cafes. We soon spotted an opera singer busking on the ground floor. Jess was very interested and so we went down the stairs to have a drink at one of the tables close to the performance area.

Vivaldi with Cofee
As soon as we found our seats, the music changed to a string quartet who were equally entertaining and Jess sat enthralled for simply ages! In fact, so long that the opera singer came back for another spell, but it was time for us to move on after she had sung a couple of arias.

Covent Garden
We soon found the museum but, oh dear!, we also found the queue which stretched for miles (well, a couple of hundred metres at least) and did not seem to be moving very fast. We decided that this was not a 'good thing' and opted to go back to the underground and down to the Embankment.

By now it was lunch time and we found a tiny little sandwich cabin where we bought food and a drink which we took to the nearby gardens to sit and eat in the sunshine.

Charing Cross Footbridge
In the afternoon we began by walking across the eastern footbridge alongside Charing Cross railway bridge. There were excellent and interesting views - Jess was intrigued by the sound of a trumpet and soon we saw a group of buskers - this set the agenda for most of the afternoon.

Soth Bank Balloons
There were lots of entertainers on the riverside - first came a man making huge and numerous bubbles. after than we watched a magician doing a show about escaping from a locked sack!

Shell Centre and London Eye

Suddenly a tropical storm arrived, almost unnoticed and we ran for shelter under a bridge, along with everyone else! However, it did not last long and we walked back over the western footbridge and then on up to Trafalgar Square.

Waterstones offered not only books but a coffee shop where Jess particularly enjoyed selecting a delicious, huge chocolate muffin. She kept a bit back for after dinner!

Trafalgar Square
We went back outside, sunny again after yet another shower which we missed by being inside the coffee shop and headed for the main part of the square, aiming towards the National Gallery. Were could see a gathered crowd and the sound of an amplified voice. We discovered that a spectacular show was about to begin, promoting Vienna as a holiday destination.

The show was based on a 21 metre (or so the compere told us) wall down which 'walked' eight performers in costumes showing off the attractions of Vienna!

The afternoon was drawing to a close but we did have time for a quick look at some of the pictures. It seemed strange to see so many pictures 'for real' which are reproduced in so many million copies. Jess particularly enjoyed Stubbs and Hogarth but was not so keen on the Impressionists.

National Gallery
Time then to make our way back to Charing Cross and yet another underground ride to take us back to the boat.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Paddington Basin

We were still a little apprehensive about finding a mooring space in Paddington Basin especially as our plans for the rest of the week rather depend on it. So, Mike set off in good time, leaving the other two still to have breakfast.

Engineer's Wharf
It was a quite pleasant day, despite the forecast for rain. We made good time with no incident to report and only a handful of boats on the move. We passed Engineer's Wharf where a couple of moorings are up for grabs on the Waterscape web site - definitely not cheap!

North Circular Aqueduct
When we reached the aqueduct over the North Circular Road, we paused for a few moments to let Jess onto the towpath to look at the traffic below and to hear the tremendous noise that it makes - and it was not especially busy!

Little Venice

We expected to take about 3 and a half hours to reach Paddington and it was much on that schedule that we reached Little Venice. After so little traffic it was as always that at the narrows that we met a boat coming the other way. They planned to turn around and come back for the water point, which was made a little more difficult to approach as a BW workboat was on the mooring. As they were turning, being a shortish boat they did not have to go as far as we expected, w made a very brief stop to empty the elsan before completing the last lap of the journey into Paddington Basin.

Fortunately there was space - at least two and possible three spaces to choose form. We turned at the end and then reversed into a pontoon mooring - and then settled down to lunch, another helping of Christine's warming soup. Jess especially enjoyed the crunchy toast which she dunked into the soup!

Moored in Paddington Basin
Time then to take advantage of central London. We opted to walk down Praed Street to the entrance to Hyde Park, passing the front of Paddington Station on the way. Christine had researched yesterday what might be available and so w walked along to Kensington Gardens and the Princess Diana Memorial Playground. Along the way Jess discovered the interesting sounds made by heaps of autumn leaves as well as spotting several squirrels and lots of birds. We also checked out the Two Bears drinking fountain.

Two Bears Fountain
Elfin Tree
Alas, a problem with blocked drains meant that it had had to close for the rest of the afternoon, so we consoled ourselves with an ice cream, after taking a look at the Elfin Tree (restored with the encouragement of Spike Milligan)

We walked down to Round Pond and Jess found that the pigeons were up for a chase! Although we missed the Peter Pan statue we did see one of a horse.

As an alternative, we did find another play area which Jess very much enjoyed - taken a lot of time to work out for herself how to negotiate the various climbing apparatuses!

Back eventually to the boat where Jess and Granny realised that they had forgotten to look for replacement felt tip pens as almost all of the previous ones had been used up. So they went back across the blue Helix Bridge to tesco where they were able to buy some, whilst Mike set about preparing the roast chicken we deferred from yesterday when we discovered that Jess had had a roast lunch before coming to the boat.

11.4 miles - 0 locks