Thursday, 29 March 2012


As we had returned early to Packet Boat Marina we decided to take the opportunity to visit Mike's Mum in Ninfield, near Battle in Sussex. Andrew opted to join us as well.

We had no call from the possible electrician (to look at the Power Management Panel) so we set off mid-morning, calling at Battle to pick up lunch. We stopped in a layby on a country lane to eat our sandwiches and so arrived at Birch Holt, the home where Mum now lives, just after one o'clock.

We were able to sit in the Little Lounge and chat to her - mostly showing her the photos of our trip along the River Thames - for just under a couple of hours. She took a keen interest in what we had been doing and asked plenty of questions.

We then popped in to see Sue, Mike's sister who lives nearby, for a cup of tea and to see progress on their building works. As she had a tutorial to take at four, we were on the road shortly before. The run back was not as quick as on the way down. Although we did not see any particular reason, traffic was heavier because there was an M25 closure in the opposite direction, with traffic diverted our way around.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Back to Packet Boat

We only had an undemanding day's run back to Packet Boat so we were not in a rush to set off. However, another boat coming up persuaded us that it was time to move and we shared all the locks up the Hanwell flight.
Clitheroe's Lock
Many of the aquatic birds at well into their nest building - this should have been a photo of a swan in a much more impressive next but it did not come out well enough to include, so a coot will have to be a poor substitute!

Coot nesting
The first couple of pounds are slightly longer but after that most of the flight are close together.

Near the top of the flight we passed the old 'Asylum' which, according to one history of the psychiatric hospital on this site, was a very advanced treatment when first built with the initial chief medical officer introducing quite radical and effective ideas.

A bricked up arch is a reminder that at one time there was a large market garden and one of the early innovations was to provide work related therapy which proved highly effective. They had a surplus of produce and used the canal - hence the short arm under the former archway - to transport it to London to the markets, bringing back other supplies on the return trip. The large building behind the wall was one the brewery.

Hanwell Asylum
Despite many changes over the years, with chunks of the site having been sold off for housing development, some medium secure wards remain in place. Certainly the boundary fences are not easily breached!

All of the locks in the flight originally had a cottage and lock keeper and most remain, although now in private ownership.

Lock Cottage on Hanwell Flight
Most of the locks also had side ponds, although present day use does not seem to be encouraged. Generally there are two ponds but at one lock we spotted a set of three - each with a separate paddle mechanism.

Side Pond Paddles
 At Three Bridges, road, rail and canal all intersect at the same place and the resulting structure built when the railway was first built was Brunel's last major project. It is not easy to show all the structures at one - Christine made a particular attempt but two photos are still needed!

Three Bridges
 At the top lock, one of the new-style volunteer lock keepers was in attendance (he does just one day a week) but there was not much traffic today for him to assist. Nevertheless he was friendly as well as helpful.

Hanwell Top Lock
Just after the lock we pulled in to the bank to moor for lunch. very warm sunshine proved almost soporific and it was quite hard to stir ourselves for the final stretch. However, with no more locks to do, only one of us needed to be 'in action' - the other two could sit and read at the front!

We stopped briefly at Bull's Bridge to pick up today's newspaper from the adjacent Tesco store (we had tried at the small shop by the top lock that had a large sign with Newspapers on it - but that turned out to be one item they do not stock at the moment!)

Back at the mooring we are still awaiting news of whether High Line are able to look at our non-working battery management unit.

8.4 miles - 10 locks

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Tidal Thames

So the big day had arrived for which we had had to do quite a bit of planning - a trip from Limehouse up the tidal Thames to Brentford. The preparations had included having to go on a course to be allowed to carry a Marine VHS radio which is madatory (although it turned out to be singularly unnecessary!) We were booked to go into Limehouse Lock at 14:30 as the optimum time today for the tide.

But first we had to get to Limehouse from Hackney. We had expected to take about two hours so set off in good time which was comforting when we arrived at Old Ford Lock to see a couple of BW staff looking at the operating mechanism. Although it was a slow operation, nothing was actually wrong but they had been sent to check the hydraulic oil level and were not sure how to do this!

Another example of Olympic-facing graffiti caught the photographer's eye.

Although not naturally scenic, sometimes the combination of developments with a bright blue sky creates a striking image.

Limehouse Basin
We were in very good time at Limehouse Basin - but as Mike was checking through the details from the BW instructions he realised that we were supposed also to have a life ring. A quick phone call to High Line established that they could supply one so postcode details were texted to Andrew who was on his way to join us (he planned to leave his car at Packet Boat and come down to Limehouse by train, tube and DLR) He duly arrived with a rather obvious addition to his baggage (wonder what his fellow tub travellers made of it?)

Filling Limehouse Lock
Eventually it was time to set off. The lock keeper was filling and emptying the lock several times to flush out accumulated debris but, just before half past two he opened the gates to let us in. As we were to go out on a rising tide (a bit after low tide) the drop in the lock was quite impressive.

The gates opened and we were left to venture out into the unknown.

As soon as we were out onto the tideway we had a good view back down to the Docklands developments a little further downstream in the opposite direction from our journey.

The waterside is an ever-changing mixture of new developments with some reminders of older building styles interspersed.

The all important landmark of Tower Bridge lies ahead and we opted to go under the main arch - fortunately there were none of the fast moving Clipper trip boats competing for the same space just at the right time. Although we had been warned about the wake of these boats, we were not as alarmed by them as we had perhaps anticipated.

Tower of London follows shortly afterwards.

Tower of London
We cannot possible show all of the bridges we passed under but here is the (in)famous Millennium Footbridge. between the Tate Modern and St Paul's.

Millennium Bridge
Approaching Westminster we passed Cleopatra's Needle on the Embankment.

Cleopatra's Needle
We could not ignore the photogenic London Eye - which two out of the three of us have been on.

London Eye
We had problems taking photos of parliament as the sun was, at this direction of the river, unhelpful but Christine did manage this one.

MI6 were no doubt more concerned about preparing for the Olympics than that we were photographing them!

Houses of Parliament
Unlike the Tate Modern which has long been converted to useful purposes the Battersea site has had various owners and is looking rather derelict with the main section now roofless.

MI6 (Babylon on Thames)
Derelict Power Station
There is very little industrial development now left along the water's edge but we did see this cement works as a rare example. Most sites are now given over to exotically shaped apartment blocks.

Cement Works
There is also the rubbish barge loading facility but at least some river users were not taking too close a look!

Fulham FC adjoins the river and the famous tribute to Michael Jackson is clearly visible.

Once past Westminster bridge most river users were mainly oarsmen but we did not have too  much issue with avoiding them (although this pair overtook us!)

We particularly liked this art deco building . . .

but also some more traditional ones.

The river was now very different in character - close to Kew Gardens.

Only ten minutes over the advised schedule we were able to report to London VTS that we were leaving the tideway and entering Brentwood locks.

Brentwood Junction
Finally, after passing through Thames Locks and the Gauging Locks we found a mooring spot just after the GSK Global Headquarters - almost the same spot as when we came by here two years ago.

GSK Headquarters
24.2 miles - 4 locks

Monday, 26 March 2012


We woke to discover that the battery management panel was not working - and also that Mike's attempt to change the clock on the heating timer had not worked! Whilst the latter was soon (ish!) fixed - the controller is about the most unfriendly ever seen - we could do nothing about the Sterling unit. We had intended anyway to return back to the Springside Marina for a top up of diesel and we enquired about the possibility of an electrician to look at our system. Unfortunately none was available.

Mooring at Hackney Marshes
However, we needed the fuel and so Mike turned the boat around - although the navigation looks much wider than the length of the boat, there was barely six inches to spare and the last bit of the turn had to be done by pulling the bow around by rope. Whilst the bow fender was easily accessible, Mike replaced a broken chain link which Christine had spotted a few days ago.

It was a brilliant sunny day - again - as we cruised back along now familiar territory, winded at the marina and took on fuel. After a cup of coffee we made the return trip - that was all the cruising for today as we moored in exactly the same spot as before. At least we know where to point the satellite dish!

Next came a walk up to the nearest shopping street - all small shops, many of them ethic in speciality including a Caribbean Fish shop! We eventually tracked down most of what we were looking for - including a loaf of bread from the specialist deli shop that Peter had recommended.

Old Filter Bed
After a long lunch break we took a walk back along the towpath (with a diversion for a bridge reconstruction site) to take a look at the Middlesex Filter Beds Nature Reserve. at one time this was an important link in the water supply chain for much of north London. Water was extracted from a bit further up the river and piped down to this filtration plant which helped to reduce the prevalence of cholera that was for a long time a major problem.

The site closed several decades ago and has been allowed to mature as a nature reserve although the special filter materials were removed and re-used in another water treatment plant.

Modern Stone Circle
At some stage, a number of large stones were arranged as if they were an ancient stone circle. we could also see the flow over the nearby weir.

Back on the main Hackney Marsh playing fields we could easily see the Olympic site on the not too distant horizon.

Whilst Mike continued to 'do things' with the laptop, Christine opted for a walk along the towpath in the opposite direction, going as far as the junction with the Hertford Union Canal.

Not only did she get a good close up view of the main stadium site, but also the intense security - both the strong fencing and the continuous patrols.

Although there has been a lot of tidying up of the environment, some local people still manage to make their own statements with large scale graffiti!

On the way back she took a detour through a small woodland which was created about twenty years ago as part of a major road project - there were already enough football pitches it seems.

3 miles - 0 locks

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Dash to Hackney

With one hour less sleep we awoke to a very misty morning and a chill wind. Our plan was to go to Waltham Abbey Church for the 10:30 service and then charge down to Hackney Marsh (where we moored on the way up) to meet up with Peter and Elizabeth, our friends from Milton Keynes days.

Misty Morning
We just had time to make a quick call at the Co-Op supermarket close to the church for some more milk and potatoes and then joined the congregation at the church. Although a rather elderly makeup there were a good number of children (who proudly showed their work at the end) - a good adult choir, musical director and organist (two organs!) We did not stay for coffee as our estimate for arrival at our planned destination seemed quite tight.
Back at the boat the mist had cleared and was replaced by a bright blue sky, although a chill wind lasted for another hour or so.

Waltham Toen Lock
Progress down the next few pounds seemed much faster than on the way up but certainly we were fortunate to have several of the manual locks ready for us. we certainly noticed the difference from the Stort Navigation Locks. However, for some reason, progress through the water was faster and we were constantly ahead of schedule - even so we opted for lunch on the go. Three locks we shared with a local single handed liveaboard.

Government Row
Above Enfield Lock we took a closer look at Government Row (having now studied its origins) and below the lock we also snapped the former waterways offices and workshops.

Goodyear Airship
As we were arriving at the lock we spotted a Goodyear Airship in the distance - taking a fully zoomed picture whilst steering into the lock landing resulted in a less-than-clear image!

Enfield Workshops
The short arm below Ponders End Lock has quite a collection of well-decorated working style narrow boats.
Arm below Ponders End
We made the briefest of stops at the sanitary station above Stonebridge Lock - hardly long enough for Christine to fill and ready the lock!

Above Tottenham Lock
Arriving at Tottenham Lock our photo this time included Belle as well as the sailing vessels (used as offices) that we recorded on our blog last week.

Alongside the preserved wharf crane we included on out upstream blog is a more recent gantry crane but it also st5ands starkly as a reminder that the navigation had a utilitarian origin.

We looked for diesel at Lea Valley Marina but they were closed until tomorrow morning, so perhaps we will return for a top up before our venture out onto the tidal Thames.
On the way up we noticed the Anchor and Hope Inn overshadowed by modern developments but missed a shot of the adjacent older building which looks quite uncomfortable in its new surroundings! We later discovered from Google that this used to be the Beehive pub until the second world war when it was closed. Legend has it that the lanlord was raided fror bootlegging! In any event, both buildings survided whilst most else around was bombed flat - hence the post war blocks of flats.

Anchor and Hope Inn
The pub was popular and several boats had come upstream to enjoy the sunshine - and no doubt a drink or two - so many that they 'breasted up' almost right across the navigation! Most of them passed us later after we had moored.

In the end we were at our destination almost an hour earlier than expected - better that than late, although Mike had been preparing the meal in the last few long pounds. He make a quick trip to a nearby shop for some ice cream to go with the mincemeat tart.

We enjoyed time with our visitors - seems strange entertaining in this situation!

10.2 miles - 7 locks