Thursday, 31 October 2013


Today's Canal - Grand Union

In sharp contrast with yesterday, the sky today was completely overcast but both dry and not cold. We were a little uncertain where we were aiming for at the end of today as we needed to find somewhere where Joanna could collect Alice late afternoon. She is due to accompany Jess on Trick or Treat visits to their neighbours.

Alice, of course, was straight into her book after breakfast and before long had read even the extra book found on our shelves. Sadly, the only opportunity to find a nearby shop was at Tesco around lunch time and they were totally useless for reading material! At least the iPad proved to be a suitable backup.

Part way through the morning we started to see Lock Distance posts as well as mileposts. We have been more used to seeing them on the Southern Oxford - they were intended to arbitrate between working boats that arrived at a lock at much the same time. The first to pass such a post had the right of way. What is not clear is how this was enforced!

Most of today we were passing lines of moored boats, most of them residential in one form another. Several Visitor Mooring stretches were obviously being occupied in readiness for the new winter mooring scheme, both for a specific location and the roving permits. Sadly, too many of these boats are all too obvious from their condition. The cruiser in this photo is called Greybrooke Tender: assuming this means that it once belonged to a yacht one wonders about its size!

Many of the boats on long term moorings are well entrenched but this one keeps its livestock on board!

We saw more fallen trees today but they had all been attended to so that at least navigation and the towpath were passable. No doubt they will be cleared properly as time permits. This example obstructed perhaps two thirds of the canal width.

Another tree . . .

At Copper Mill Lock, a river runs close to the canal and appeared to be quite full.

Below the lock there is a good view of the former Copper Mill factory after some demolition but no doubt this will soon disappear behind a new development.

A little further a boat named Victoria caught our eye. As well as other related decoration, it also claimed to have been Registered at Balmoral!

In some places the towpath was passable but only with a bit of a clamber.

Mike was walking between locks at this stage, partly to take a closer look at Troy Cut, a former branch to the gravel works.

He also had this chance to take a closeup of a heron that was resting on a towpath bridge.

Christine and Alice walked along the towpath for the final section - Alice took some of it at a run!

Some boats had narrow escape from the trees.

Just above Widewater Lock we opted to pull in for a mooring as this was the only place we could see where there was guaranteed access for Joanna. Although it was alongside a noisy gravel processing site, it fell silent as the sun set. Below the lock it was a longer walk before there was a free mooring space. Joanna and Jess duly arrived before long and did not stay long as Trick or Treat was calling.

7.2 miles - 9 locks

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


Today's Canal - Grand Union

The forecast today was for eight hours of cloud-free sunshine, which indeed is what happened. Initially, it was quite cold and the centreline ropes were quite solid so there must have been just about a frost over night. However, the sun warmed up the atmosphere quickly and we did not to wrap up extra until we moored.

We continued down familiar territory with not many boats on the move although as we approached Hemel a hire boat passed at Fishery Lock and at the next there were two boats ready to come up including the fuel boat we have used before. He even recognised us as from Packet Boat!

OK, so the heron might not actually be called Jack, but it looks nice!

At Winkwell a tree had fallen across part of the lock but at least the other side was clear (sorry about the poor photo)

Happily, Winkwell Swing Bridge was operational - it does seem to have had a number of problems since it was mechanised in this form. Alas, we did not hold up much traffic!

The boat which is sunken on the lock landing below the next lock is still there - it seems that no-one can do anything about this unsightly obstruction.

This sadly deceased 'Christmas' tree has been put to good use - the TV aerial seems to belong to a hut or summer house just through the hedge.

Approaching Hemel. four trees had fallen but fortunately away from the canal - otherwise they would have created a formidable obstruction.

At least these impressive trees survived the storm - according to today's newspaper report, the number of mature trees blown down in this storm is a small fraction of those lost in the Great Storm of 1987. Most of those we have seen fallen along the canal have been quite immature.

The reason for including this picture is that in the last two years when we have come this way at much the same time of the season, we have taken a splendid picture of this tree in its glorious colours. As we approached, all of the trees were still very green and we wondered what this one might be like as there have been reports that autumn is two weeks later this year. However, it has changed colour, unlike most of the others around.

Judging by the number of almost undisturbed con trails, the upper atmosphere must have very little wind today.

At Apsley, whilst we stopped to fill up the water tank and use the sani station, Alice and Christine walked to the nearby Sainsburys supermarket for a new book to read. Although there was not much choice, she did find one about how to tame a dragon - despite having 398 pages, by the time we moored at tea time, it had been read from cover to cover, with just the barest pause for lunch!

At Nash Mills the development has moved to the waterside - Lock Apartments - presumably the final stage.

At Horton Bridge the reported three conifer trees across the canal had been cleared and we hardly noticed where they had been - alongside the Circus Vegas, and American Circus it proudly proclaims - had arrived in town.

We arrived at Lady Capel's Lock earlier than expected but the planned mooring did not look very promising for a TV signal so we opted to continue a little further in the hope of something better. Just around the corner we were frantically waved to a halt by a gang removing one of the fallen trees - they had a rope across the water and did not want our prop to foul it. We had a few minutes wait as they tried unsuccessfully to pull a trunk out of the water.

With no lifting gear and only a motorised chipper to pull with, it was never going to be easy, even with two of them getting into the water to help. Eventually it came alongside the canal edge and we were weaved passed and as we left them they were sawing pieces off the trunk in order to make it easier to lift out!

There was no suitable mooring before we reached the two Cassiobury Locks so we worked through those but even below we had a problem as there was little depth to water beside the towpath. We eventually came alongside behind a number of boats that look as they they are here long term (and hard against the riling) but we could still only pull one end into the side. But will we have a signal after all that effort?

8.5 miles - 19 locks

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Bourne End

Today's Canal - Grand Union

We were concerned by the overnight stoppage notice about a tree blocking the navigation about a mile along the Tring Summit pound. Apart from the need to make good progress towards Packet Boat by Friday, we also had two 'meets' today: firstly with Martyn from Travelsat and then Andrew was joining us for the rest of the trip after a morning meeting at work.

Mike and Alice set off in good time with Alice spending some time learning about steering. However, after Cowroast her book called and she spent almost the whole day with her head deep in the pages, with just a reluctant break for lunch!

It was a bright, sunny day with hardly any clouds for much of the time.

When we reached the tree that was supposed to be blocking the canal it was rather a let down, barely a thin, almost weedy, branch that normally would hardly warrant any stoppage notice! Two boats coming the other way passed it just before us so we knew that there was no underwater obstruction.

Immediately afterwards we passed a film crew on the towpath - spot any well known faces?

Most of the summit pound is in a cutting but emerges just before Cowroast Lock, the start of the long descent to the Thames at Brentford. Some cloud was still hanging around but once in the sunshine it became remarkably warm.

At Cowroast - so called, according to the information board, after Cow Rest, a staging point on an old drovers road - Alice and Christine went in search of milk and a paper whilst Mike used the sani station and took the boat down the lock. From here on, there will be little let up in the locks.

A couple of locks later and the clouds were fast disappearing.

Autumn on a bright sunny day produces some stunning scenes with the various colours standing out brightly.

Mobile calls established that Waitrose car park in the centre of Berkhampstead would be good all round and shopping could be done whilst waiting. But first it was lunch and no sooner had Mike sat down with his plate of sandwiches than the phone rang again to say that Martyn was in the car park, could Mike please bring the dish to him.

It took a little whilst to conduct the transaction - just a few minutes to replace the broken bracket but a lot longer to hear about his recent operation. He was clearly very relieved that it had been on the mildest end of the severity spectrum.

Christine then took off to Waitrose and whilst she was away, Andrew announced his arrival in the same car park. He off loaded his bags and then went to find somewhere to leave his car for the few days. Whilst he was doing that, Christine returned having persuaded the store to extend its usual 'Carry to the car' service into a 'Carry to the boat'! Of course, her delight in arranging this had nothing to do with it being provided by a dishy young man . . .

Although we expected to meet Andrew at the next lock, he arrived just as Mike was casting off - from the opposite direction!

Somehow we failed to get any photos that showed the cloudless sky at its best but we were pressing on, lock after lock, and by now the sun was low in the sky and good photos proved a bit elusive. With not much daylight left we pulled in close to Bourne End. Not sure if we can get a satellite signal here, however.

7.5 Miles - 13 Locks

Monday, 28 October 2013


Today's Canal - Grand Union

After the overnight storms we awoke to milder weather with the rain just fading away and the wind abating back down to the levels of yesterday. The day continued in similar style with some very bright sunny spells and some heavy but short showers. We did not, however, get as wet as yesterday afternoon.

We put off leaving until 10 am - Christine had some cleaning to do and Mike some urgent emails. Steering remained as much in need of attention but it was by no means as difficult as the forecast had suggested and certainly was not dangerous.

We faced a steady succession of locks and, sadly, a boat that passed us before we set off left all the top gates open which added considerably to the time to operate each lock.

Just before Horton Lock we passed some new bank repairs. Whilst we are normally very appreciative of the skill which CRT staff apply in keeping the waterways open, this piece of work did look to us as one of the untidiest and potentially least successful we have seen for some time. After this lock we paused to fill our tank at the water point.

Ivinghoe Beacon
 When the sun was out the views were excellent, with the rapidly turning leaves offering a wonderful range of colours. Ivinghoe Beacon - minus the snow which was still lying when we came this way at the start of the season.

At the first two of the Marsworth Flight (these two are some distance before the junction) not only were both top gates left open at each lock but also all the top paddles. As a result, with quite leaky bottom gates, the short pound between them was at least 600mm down and we only just made it over the bottom cill of the upper lock.

Start of Aylesbury Arm
 A quick stop at the sani station at the junction and we were passing the Aylesbury Arm. It is still closed with the repair not expected to be completed for a few more weeks. Amusingly, the stoppage notices today included one that reported that a tree had blown down and was making navigation impassable! In any event, we did not have time - yet again - to explore this arm. We did go down a very long time ago but not since we bought Take Five.

It was now just after 2:40 and we had to summon our reserves of energy to tackle the remaining seven locks. Our normal rate should see us at the top before sunset just so long as the locks remain empty and ready for us!

Part way up we met the only boat on the move in the other direction (apart from two day boats at Marsworth that had tied up and were expecting to get back to Pitstone before dark!)

We were interested to see how full the reservoirs would be - we missed taking a look at the lower one but the upper reservoir seemed to be fuller than we might expect at the start of the season, not after a long summer and before the winter re-filling.

In fact these locks passed much more smoothly and we were out of the top lock just two minutes after four o'clock. There was room at the start of the popular visitor moorings but most of the stretch back from the bridge was occupied. This can be a popular site for winter moorers, authorised or not!

We now await further news of Alice's arrival but that is dependent on how long Ellie takes ta the orthodontist - hopefully her braces can be removed this time! Alice is staying on board until the end of this trip at the weekend.

8.6 miles - 16 locks