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Sunday, 31 August 2014

Slowly up the Stort.

I went for the paper and we were off by 1000. Unfortunately three boats had passed us before we left. When we got to Rammey Marsh Lock we had caught up the wide beam holiday boat. They were very measured in their progress and as they were going to Harlow we would be behind them along time, and we had a long way to go. The bottom gates on the Lee and Stort Navigations do not have straight long beams on the gates, but cantilevered beams that make it even more difficult than normal. That with the practice common round London Canals that the gates that you have just left are left open, seemed to make locks seem to take a long time.

When we approached Stanstead Lock We thought that we would stop for water to let them get ahead. There was a boat coming up and they slotted on the water point. The wide beam had some sort of mechanical failure and we were ahead of them! We were soon at the confluence of the Lee and Stort and turned left onto the Stort.

Helen bringing us into the Stort past the big weir, fortunately not running strongly today.

Immediately the nature of the navigation changes from that of the Lee. It is narrower, more shallow and the towpath is less accessible, and it bends a lot! It is extremely green and isolated form most things. Not many road bridges and little habitation are passed. You could be on a tributary of the Amazon.

Lock cottage at Brick Lock. The emblem over the door is a red hand and GD and the date 1830. This is the motif of George Duckett who was one of the commissioners of the Stort Navigation. He was called George Jackson then but when the uncle of his second wife meant he had to change his name to inherit. He was friend to Captain Cook and was high up in the Admiralty.

The Navigation is a canalised river and as such there were many mills along the route. This one seemed to be the largest and now seems to be a art place.

We shared the next lock with a short boat that stopped the other side to go to the pub. We found a tap and filled up as we had done a load of washing.

Poetry alongside the locks.

As we went further up the canal it seemed to get more tree lined and less people about. I think we had a couple boats come down against us. There was one lock that didn't seem to fill at all. I had the boat pushing like mad on the gate to open it and it took ages. Other wise all is quite okay on the maintenance front but there aren't many places to moor as the bank is shallow and over grown.

It got even more rural as we headed north.

It is obvious that the lock cottages weren't built at the same time as this one at Sheering Mill Lock, dated 1799 and the one at Brick Lock in 1830. It seems that the locks were turf built at the start. The canal didn't really ever make much money.

Just past Sheering Lock there are loads of new housing which looks like they were built on the land of the old mill.

At one of the locks I manged to almost fall in the lock. I put my foot on the edge of the boat to get back aboard and my toe slipped. I just got my feet wet but barked my shins and it bled a bit. I came over all faint and later enjoyed having Helen administer to my needs. I am wondering if I can drag it our for a few days!

We had a walk around the town of Sawbridgeworth where we are moored. There are some lovely buildings and the centre is quite cute on the whole. It seems that the Beckham's had a house here not so long ago. It has been a long day and then next few will will be equally as long as we have to be at Tottenham to meet Amy.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Hertford, Ware?

We were soon off this morning and straight into a lock. This was complicated by a bridge in the middle and the fact that the top paddles are in the gates and are very fierce.

Stanstead Lock, with bridge.

After another lock we were approaching Ware. It had some lovely gazebos at the bottom of some gardens. Some of the houses were old but some were new. The gazebos are 18th Century and were placed in the gardens of the numerous coaching inns that lined the High Street that was the A10.

Lovely gazebos in Ware. It would be a great place to while away the time with a cup of tea.

After Ware Lock that is locked after by the Environment Agency as it is part of the flood defense with weirs and mill streams etc. After Ware the navigation looks more like a river with ings on either side full of birds.

Lee Navigation/River Lea.

We got to Hertford Lock and had the devils own job to open a top gate. Apparently they have been like this for many year. A local boater that helped told me that they are to be replaced this winter. I said had he checked on the list of winter stoppages that had just been released. I really hope they are as it will really put people of coming up here as there is a top paddle out of order too.

Once in Hertford we tied up on the visitor moorings and went to have a look round the town. We had just entered the buildings when we passed the Museum and entered. It was free and quite interesting. The two things that I have retained of interest are that it was the main factory for Addis toothbrushes, and is where Wisdon Toothbrushes were made until the 1990's. The other fact was that W.E. Johns lived in Hertford. Those of you that are lads of my age will surely recognise the name as the Author of Biggles books. His initials stand for William Earl. He left school with no qualifications at all and wrote almost 100 Biggles books. I must have read almost three quarters of them and have at home, still. about 50 or so. I loved them, along with Enid Blyton Famous Five and Secret Seven. I also read all my Dad's Percy F. Westerman books. They don't write them like that now do they.

There was lots of examples of pargeting in Hertford, which is relief designs in the external plaster work of buildings.

Very evocative tile work. Those were the days when you chose the hotel as it had a motor pit!

The beautiful bronze hart topping the War memorial in Hertford was sculpted by Alfred Drury RA and the memorial was unveiled in 1921.

McMullen's Brewery. The company started in 1827 and is still independent and has 145 pubs. I am not that keen on their beer but the County bitter is fine.

More pargetting on the Salisbury Arms. It was the Bell and Three Cranes until 1800. There was an attempted mutiny in 1647 within the Parliamentary Army and Oliver Cromwell and his senior General Fairfax stayed at this inn when they were putting it down.

Hertford was very nice with lots of little higgledy piggledy roads and some lovely buildings. The castle grounds were hosting an outdoor cinema tonight so I hope it stays dry for them. As we were on a schedule we decided to move off and make back to Ware to save a few miles tomorrow.

This is the head of navigation for our length boat. Just through Folly Bridge and turning round. There is this lovely building that was obviously a warehouse and wharf. Apparently grain used to come up from Ware for the brewery.

We got to Hertford Lock and were caught up by the trip boat that runs a couple of times a day between Ware and Hertford. I let them go first as they had a schedule to keep and helped them with the extremely difficult gates. Just as they cleared the bottom gates they caught a log, like we had at Aylesbury, and so tied up below the lock to check it out. Therefore there was no one to help me with the gate and in the end I had to use a rope round the gate to the bow and go full astern. That cracked it and we were soon on our way.

We were soon down Ware lock and passing the gazebos again and looking for a mooring. We parked up just after Swains Mill and will have a cup of tea and go for a walk to explore the town before eating. This is the weather vane on one of the gazebos. I wonder if the gazebos are listed at all.

Friday, 29 August 2014

It is all relative.

We were just ready to leave when another boat came past so we hastened our departure and shared a couple of locks with them and swapped gossip, as you do. They were over from Oxford way so I was asking about the canals over there. 

The high voltage pylons have been replaced by the lower telegraph pole style. It reminded me of the telegraph and telephone poles you used to see along every railway line in the past.

The canal incorporates the river at certain times and there are weirs where it comes and goes. This one is like a dragons tooth pattern and we thought it may be designed so to increase the area for the water to escape over. It makes it look very complicated though. The water is very clean where the river sections are.

Approaching Broxbourne which means apparently the 'stream where badgers frequent'. The 15th and 16th Century church rises above the tree line.

There is a warning at Aqueduct lock to watch out for small boats and rowing boats. The coxed four we met at the lock pulled quickly away from us, but the small motor boats at Broxbourne were a little different as they had just picked them up from the base and they hadn't got the hang of the steering at all. As you can see No.10 was careering around the canal and was just about to collide with the post.

At Carthagena Lock (above) we lost our lock partner to another boat so we stopped in the lock to take water in the hope that another boat would come up to us. By the time we had finished and the cake was out of the oven, and a cup of tea and biscuit had, there was still nobody there so we went up on our own.

After Carthagena Lock the canal loses it's industrial feel and become much more green and soft edged.

After Feilde's Weir Lock there is the parting of the ways, right up the Stort and left to Hertford. We turned left and soon passed the go'kart track. Who know's whether any of the young girls and boys wizzing round the track will be household names on the F1 circuit in years to come. They, and their parents looked in earnest about the whole thing.

Karting at Rye House Track.

WE continued on to the Marina near to Stansted Abbots where we were hoping to stop. On first look it didn't look like there were any moorings so we winded and found a slot among the reeds. We then went off to the bridge to check out the pub. We were meeting Helen's Uncle tonight and were hoping that the food would be okay. We also saw that there were good spots past the bridge so moved up. How ever the space we found had no rings and as there was a tarmac path me wondered about stopping. It turned out that there had been folk there before as there were many holes to poke our pins into without making more. We walked back to the pub to meet the relations and then showed them round the boat. Then back to the pub and a nice meal. It was lovely having a chat as we hadn't seen them for a long time. With luck we will see them again on the way south again.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Upwards into the country.

Before setting off we went for a walk to the shopping centre very close to the lock and filled up with a few essentials from Lidl. We were therefore later moving off and the sun had by then made it our from behind the clouds. We were straight away into our first mistake of the day! We went for the open gates of one of the paired locks, saving water, but when we got there we realised that it was the hand operated one. the other was electric! There were many turns required of the paddle gear to open them and the gates too. A good start to the day.

Helen getting some early exercise.

At Stonebridge we had learned our lesson and went for the electric lock although they are not marked from the canal. Just above the lock we stopped for water. It was very slow to fill and whilst we were sitting in the sun a car drew up and asked us if the carpets were for sale? There was a little plastic cruiser ahead of us with several rugs on the towpath and a couple of upholstered chairs on top. We explained they weren't ours but from the conversation we learned of a great sounding material shop very close to Tottenham Hale Tube station so we will check it out when we go back.

It had warmed up by now and the cormorant was taking advantage.

I was expecting many more wrecks of boats to be used for 'accommodation along the canals in London, but on the whole I have been pleasantly surprised. These two let the side down somewhat.

The later locks had the bottom gates electrified but the paddles and top gates were as normal. It all helps. The paired locks caught us out again as we were entering a lock with the gates open when we saw a sign pointing to the other as being the electrified one. We have noticed that it seems customary for local 'boaters' to leave the bottom gates open when they leave the locks.

The Lee Navigation follows the River Lea and the shallow valley is an easy route for the electricity pylons to follow and accompanied us for must of the day.

The other thing that is was an ever present today was the banks that hid the many reservoirs. They appear to have taken advantage for old sand and gravel diggings and provide water storage, fishing and sailing and boating facilities.

We passed the London Waste Incinerator and this was obviously another factory, near Ponders End, that used the canal for transportation. It is obvious that in the past quite heavy barges were used up here as in the locks are heavy duty bollards and stops for holding barges. They are very similar to those on the Sheffield and Tinsley Canals.

We carried on through Waltham Town Lock and as the skies filled with black heavy clouds and we picked a spot to moor up for the night. The shower was light as it turned out, and I was soon out picking blackberries for a crumble for tea. Macy is enjoying a little more freedom now, but the tow path is quite busy with cyclists and runners.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Boating Buddies.

What a difference a day makes. The reason we moved in the rain yesterday was to be in Limehouse to act as Boating Buddies for some C&RT staff.

Some nice flats/apartments overlooking our mooring last night.

We set off about 1030 after a brief introduction, safty and route briefing.... We had decided to return up the locks to use the Hertford Union Canal. This would mean that there would be seven locks rather than only one for them to experience. We shared the lock with Bubbles. There was plenty of duck weed on the canal bu we made progress up the flight.

A nice sculpture on Victory Bridge near Johnson's Lock where there is the Ragged School Museum. It was a warehouse that was converted by Dr. Barnado and acted as a school and kitchen for the East Ends children.

A colourful wall and interested gongoozler near Mile End Lock.

Just before Old Ford Lock there is a little hole in the wall that is the entrance to the Hertford Union or Ducketts Cut. It looks like a narrow canal entrance but is wide beam.

Left to right, Jane, Cassie and Katy our Buddies from C&RT. They each helped with the locks and all had a go steering. There was no damage to persons or property and all did well. It was great chatting to them and hearing the troubles that they have and being able to tell them what we found as we went about and also what we found was good as I didn't want it just to be a moan day. As it was it turned out a nice day and we would definitely do it again.

At He north end of the Hertford Union Canal we turned on to the Lee Navigation at Sweet Water and looked back to the ex Olympic Park. The roof is almost off the main stadium now. We will be closer on the way down back to Limehouse.

The going was slow as there were lines of moored boats, but there were spaces. The trip felt really rural with parks and and reservoirs by the canal

The building on the left looks like it may have been an old stables at one time. The middle building is a boat shed for the Lea Valley Rowing Club. The canal is combined with the river Lee at this point and flows down. It is quite clean and clear too.

Markfield Beam Engine. The engine housed in the large building was for pumping sewage to the nearby sewage farm. It was constructed in Sowerby Bridge Yorkshire and commissioned here in 1888. It worked continuously until 1905 where it was retained to deal with storm water surges. It is a double expansion beam engine. It consumed 200kg of coal per hour. The coal would have been brought by boat I assume. The two drivers/mechanics lived on site in tied cottages. It is frequently open to the public.

It wasn't much further on that we came to Tottenham Lock. We were dropping the three girls off as this was handy for the Tube. We were lucky that there was also a mooring just there too so that was us for the day. We may take advantage of the Tube to head back into London.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Down to the river.

It was spitting this morning when I got out on deck after breakfast. I had to fill up with water before we left the basin to move on. I also emptied the rubbish and did the engine checks etc. I had to have the electricity meter read and pay up the bill for our stop over and we were already for off by just after 1100. We then waited for another boats from the basin as they were heading down hill for a jolly. However by the time we left the first lock it was throwing it down and out came the trusty Alton Towers cape came out for only the second time since April 1st.

Looking back at St. Pancras Lock.

There is a bit of working going on just round the corner at Kings Cross and the towpath and moorings are closed off. There are several areas that are full of duck weed but not to impede passage.

The moorings on this side of Paddington are definitely more crowded than to the west. We passed several ships lifeboats and I can't think of a more uncomfortable boat to be in. These enclosed boats were originally designed to provide protection from the elements and then were fitted with spray systems to keep cool in case of fire on gas and oil tankers. They were full of condensation in normal use so must be terrible here. I would love to see what sort of a conversion would be possible inside. This one was designed for 50 to escape in. I'm not sure I would like to be in this on my own here, but it is better than under a bridge I suppose.

It was a relief to get into Islington Tunnel as it was dry and gave us a break from the alternating heavy drizzle and rain. It is only 960 yds long but seemed longer as we went through at tick over.

It was good to see that some of the old buildings had survived along the canal. One of the joys of walking through London is that you come across such anomalies as old next to new buildings. It is good to see that everything wasn't swept away from the canals.

An old warehouse and factory near City Road Locks.

City Road Basin, Islington. There will be a Canal and land based festival here on Sunday 7th September. These new buildings contrast well with the previous picture.

Victoria Park is on the left and was opened to the public in 1845. It has two cafes and is about 86 hectares. In WWII it was a huge anti aircraft battery. I don't recall seeing a bridge with the VR on it before.

We shared the last few locks with 'Maris Piper'. This was our first view of the Canary Wharf complex.

Limehouse Basin is a marina for loads of different boats and I was glad that we could ask 'Maris Piper' crew where we went. The 24hr moorings are just near the lock down into the river. There was a Black Prince hire boat there who where going to lock out tomorrow around midday. I was interested to hear that they had a pilot coming to take them. Not too long ago a hire boat had misjudged the tide and got swept across a moored barge. They were taking off by a lifeboat but there was no harm done to crew or barge. I thought it was a bit strange that they were allowed to go on the tidal Thames in a hire boat. It makes sense for them now to take a pilot I think.

There was a spring tide today so the water in the river was actually above the level in the Basin today. We watched the road bridge open and the lock gates split to let this yacht out on to the Thames.

It looks like the rain has finally stopped now and so we will have a wander around and see what we can find. The restaurant over the lock on the other side is a Gordon Ramsey place, but there was nothing Helen fancied so we will make done with eatings up aboard.