Friday, 3 October 2014

Hyggelig on test

The November issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on the Brayzel Narrowboats boat, Hyggelig.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Some stats

The three week trip we've just completed was of course only part of our summer cruise, thanks to the extra week we managed to grab in August in order to travel down to London.  Briar Rose then had three weeks at High Line Yachting on the Slough Arm, and we had the best part of a week at Paddington Basin before setting off again.

We left our home marina on 1 August, and returned on 28 September.  In that time, we covered 407 miles, and passed through 312 locks (which, by the way, doesn't include the open flood locks on the Wey).

We travelled on the following waterways:

  • Grand Union
  • GU Aylesbury Arm
  • GU Slough Arm
  • GU Paddington Arm
  • Regent's Canal
  • Hertford Union Canal
  • Lee Navigation
  • Stort Navigation
  • River Thames
  • River Wey and Godalming Navigations
Ignore the day marks; I've set it to show as few as possible.

This was a route with lots of dead ends.  We turned around in seven places:
  • Aylesbury
  • Slough
  • Paddington (twice)
  • Hertford
  • Bishop's Stortford
  • Godalming
  • Cliveden reach
I think it's also the first time we've done a trip involving four navigation authorities:
  • Canal and River Trust
  • Port of London
  • Environment Agency
  • National Trust

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Home Counties Cruise: Day 23

Another fine and warm day to finish our holiday.  We set off at about 8.15; I walked up to the lock while Adrian brought the boat along.  Stoke Hammond lock is another that has signs asking that it be left empty; a Wyvern boat had not long come up, and had ignored the signs, leaving the lock full.  The neighbouring cottage may not have been pleased, but it meant I had only to top up the lock.  This lock is also one of those with a twin arch bridge, from the days when there used to be a narrow lock alongside -- long since filled in, unfortunately.

From Stoke Hammond there's a long run to the next lock at Fenny Stratford.  We normally seem to meet a boat here, and today was no exception.  Adrian went and swung the bridge, and a Wyvern boat came up, as the lock was in their favour.  It's only a foot anyway.

Then begins the long pound right through Milton Keynes.  We soon passed the widebeam hotel boat, Tranquil Rose, which we saw a couple of weeks ago at Papercourt Lock on the River Wey.  Then a bit further on I noticed an approaching boat with someone apparently taking our photo; it was Sharon and Clinton on Tacet.  We had a brief chat as we passed, and hope we have indeed given them some ideas of places to go on their boat.

As we went through Campbell Park I was on the look out for Free Spirit, but knew that if the boat wasn't there it would be a bit further on.  Sure enough, after Giffard Park I spotted a boat ahead that looked a bit familiar.  As we approached the first winding hole at Linford the boat pulled over and we were waved past.  Then Irene recognised us, and we had a very quick chat, as she was about to wind.  Hope we didn't disrupt the manoeuvre!

We made a brief stop just before Bridge 74, and took the used oil from the last oil change to the tip just down from the bridge.  The whole exercise took no more than 15 or 20 minutes -- it seems easier to go by boat than by car.

The pause meant a boat from our marina that we'd been following, on tickover, had a bit of a chance to get ahead.  We caught up with them again at Cosgrove Lock, where they'd kindly waited as they'd seen us coming.  We got back to Thrupp Wharf a bit before 2.30, and were soon reversed onto our pontoon, secure, and ready to go.  Adrian had spent much of the long lockless sections sorting things out, so packing didn't take long.  By a little after 3pm we were in the car and heading for home.  The journey turned out to be very quick and easy.

15 miles, 3 locks.  (279 miles, 210 locks)

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Home Counties Cruise: Day 22

It's been one of those days where things seem to have taken much longer than they should.  We set off at 8am, and as we looked back to the lock just behind us we could see a hot air balloon.

At the two Ivinghoe locks, we had to fill the first one, but two boats were just approaching the second, so they came up first.  I walked on to Horton Lock, which was also empty and with wet walls; it appeared someone was in front of us.  We waited for a boat setting off from the moorings above the lock, after the couple on board quickly finished their breakfast.  I walked to Slapton Lock, and saw a widebeam just leaving the lock.  We shared this lock too, then our companions said they'd probably stop for a cup of tea before the next lock.

All the pounds were well down.  As we passed boats below Slapton Lock each of us was in danger of running aground not far off the middle of the canal.  We both tipped over somewhat.  When we reached Church Lock, the lock was set with gates open, but the widebeam hadn't yet entered.  Adrian helped him down, then waited for a boat approaching from below.  The water was low in this pound too, and they got a bit stuck trying to pass the widebeam.  Once they were in the lock, a Wyvern hire boat appeared to be setting off from the moorings, so we waited for them too.  They were sat on the bottom, so getting away from the edge was a challenge; it turned out that getting in the lock was also a challenge, but for different reasons.  By the time we actually got into the lock, we must have been there for at least forty minutes.  At least the surroundings are attractive.

At Grove Lock a boat with dozens of Scouts on board was coming up.  The boys all ignored the instructions from their leaders not to get on the roof or the gunwales.  It didn't look very safe to us.

We stopped at the shopping moorings in Leighton Buzzard, mostly to get some battery top up water from Homebase.  We had lunch while we were there.  Setting off again, Leighton lock proved to be another challenge.  A boat was coming up, but couldn't get the lock to fill because the bottom gates wouldn't close properly, probably because of something on the cill.  We tried all sorts of things to shift whatever it was.  Two further boats arrived at the bottom, one carrying the unpleasant boater of the day.  Eventually, possibly thanks to a grappling hook from the other newly arrived boat, the gate appeared to close properly, and everyone was on the move.

Just after Old Linslade, we saw Gary with the fuel boat, Ascot and its butty, Beverley, moored up so we went alongside to fill with diesel.  With three boats across the canal, it's just as well no more boats came by.  We put in 110 litres; we've worked out that our fuel consumption since filling at Bull's Bridge has been 1.13 litres an hour -- which is pretty good, considering we've done so much river work this trip.

As we got to the Souldbury three locks a widebeam had just come up.  There was a boat coming up the middle lock so we swapped with them, and the bottom lock was also full.  The pub garden was full of walkers we'd been seeing all day.  They'd walked to Grove Lock and back for a brain tumour charity.

By now the sun had come out and it was really warm again.  We moored up at Stoke Hammond, another of our favourite spots in this area.

10 miles, 10 locks. (264 miles, 207 locks)

Friday, 26 September 2014

Home Counties Cruise: Day 21

Yesterday there were a couple of signs that we were getting closer to home: our first sight of the West Coast Mainline, and passing a Wyvern Shipping hire boat out of Leighton Buzzard.  Today we really feel as though the end is in sight, as we're back on waters we've done in this direction.

Last night we decided to eat out in Berkhamsted.  We had a voucher for Cafe Rouge, so went there.  It was fine, in unremarkable.  This morning we set off at 8am; the water level in the pound had dropped by a good six inches or so, and the stern was well stuck on the mud, so took a bit of shoving to get away from the side.  There were seven more locks up to the Tring Summit.  Between the two Dudswell Locks, the pound was very short of water, and the CRT lenghsman and his trainee were about to run water down.  It meant we had a wait of twenty minutes or so at Cowroast Lock while water was sent down the hill.  We used the time to start a load of washing.

Cowroast Lock is one of the many in this area which have signs asking that they are left empty; but it seems some people arriving from the north have failed to notice the raised paddle, because there's now another sign on the balance beam.

Having gone up Cowroast Lock we were on the Tring Summit.  We've climbed just over 374 feet since coming off the Thames at Brentford on Monday.  The weather celebrated by starting to drizzle, then there was proper rain for a little while, but it didn't last long.  At the other end of the summit pound, we began dropping down the other side of the Chilterns.  Adrian worked the seven locks of the Marsworth Flight.  The first and second locks were empty, so he had to fill them, then we met a couple of boats coming up so the locks were full or just needed topping up.  The bottom lock was empty.  Even so, we completed the flight in around an hour; these always seem like fast locks.  They're also very pretty, with glimpses of views across the reservoirs.

We stopped for lunch opposite the junction of the Aylesbury Arm, right next to the junction finger post which pointed out that it's 39 and a quarter miles to Brentford.

Work on the development at the junction has advanced since August, with the frames of houses now up along the waterside.

We set off again, and did the two locks below the junction, crossing with a boat in the middle pound.  Adrian realised he'd never done the Pitstone Swing Bridge, so got off to swing it.  A Wyvern boat was coming the other way, so they went through too.

We then did the three Seabrook Locks.  At the middle one, there's one of the Northern Engine pump houses, which Adrian always thinks would make a good conversion into a house.  There's no road access, of course, which could be why it hasn't been done already.

We stopped at 3pm below the bottom Seabrook Lock -- having dropped almost 77 feet from the summit.  It's just a couple of hundred yards from where we stopped, almost in desperation, three years ago; they've installed a nice bit of piling since then, so mooring is much easier.

9 miles, 19 locks.  (254 miles, 197 locks)

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Home Counties Cruise: Day 20

It was chilly this morning, probably the coldest start we've had.  Adrian even gave in and put jeans rather than shorts on, although he swapped back again later in the day.  It was a bit misty, but sunny.

We were away by 8am, soon passing under the M25 link road, and then the M25 proper.  Although we've done this section twice, both times have been in the opposite direction -- and you see different thing when you're going the other way, like the dinosaur at King's Langley, which is hidden by bushes when you're travelling south.

At Nash Mills, they've done quite a lot of work on the latest stage of the housing development since we passed in August.  Then there was no more on the waterside than a few concrete columns.

There are lots of locks along this stretch, but at least quite a few are grouped together, with two or three at a time.  We worked a few of these mini flights each.  We stopped at the water point at Apsley and filled the tank to the brim.  Boxmore Lock was where we stopped on the way down in August.  There are views of the different ages of Hemel Hemptead, as demonstrated by its buildings.

At Fishery Lock, a boat was preparing to come down;  Adrian had just made lunch, and we had time to eat it while we waited.  At Winkwell Swing Bridge, I pressed the buttons, but held up only one car.

At Top Side Lock there's a rennovated lock cottage, which has a very nice extension which they were building when we came this way three years ago.  There's a glass linking section to separate the new and the old.

At the same lock, we saw a squirrel doing a high level run along a telephone wire, then sit at the top of the pole.  Then another followed.

We did the three more locks up into Berkhamstead, and moored in the pound by Waitrose.  We've done 23 locks today which have raised us just over 146 feet.  And there are still 7 locks before we reach the summit.

10 miles, 23 locks.  (245 miles, 178 locks)

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Home Counties Cruise: Day 19

 There was rain in the night, and just as we were thinking of getting going this morning there was another downpour.  However, fifteen minutes later it had stopped, and we set off at just after 8am.  It was still a bit misty and drizzly.

The first few locks were done in similar conditions.  Then it began to rain a bit more, and I even put my waterproof on for about half an hour.  Then we swapped with a boat at Springwell Lock, and the lady on board said it was supposed to have stopped raining by now;  within a couple of minutes it had stopped, and the sun came out.

Below Stocker's Lock I was looking out for one of the coal tax obelisks, marking the point twenty miles from central London where coal tax became due.  I'd spotted one on the Slough Arm a few weeks ago, but completely forgot to look for the ones on the Lee and the Thames.  I spotted this one, but it's not surprising I've not seen it before -- it's halfway down a long stretch of permanent moorings, hiden by a boat.  If you weren't looking for it, you wouldn't see it.

We stopped at the Tesco moorings in Rickmansworth for a quick shop, and got a wash load going at the same time.  Groups of children were being shown how locks work as we went up Batchworth Lock.  Lot Mead Lock took an age to fill, as both gate paddles are out of action.  Fortunately, it's a pretty place to wait.

Below Common Moor Lock the towpath is being improved, and the same workmen are putting in a new path on the offside, to serve the permanent moorers there.  We had to wait a long time for the lock as they were taking up a wide flat, to be filled with the aggregate that forms the base of the path. Once it was up it had to be bow hauled out; we had lunch while we waited.

The locks in Casiobury Park are all very pleasant -- even more so as it was now quite warm in the sunshine.

Just before we stopped for the day we passed a boat with a butty moored alongside, carrying a very nice store of wood.  The rest of the butty appears to be home to several birds of prey, and something of a greenhouse.

It was only about 3.15, but we'd reached our target for the day, Grove Ornamental Bridge.  We discussed carrying on, but neither of us could remember what potential moorings were ahead -- and thought we might end up having to do a lot more locks.  And as it was a day where most things seemed to have taken a long time, we decided to stop.  There was no space opposite the water mill, but we chose a spot just though the bridge.  In a field on one side a group were being put through an inflatable assault course; it appears the Grove Hotel and golf club offers a whole range of team building activities, of which this is one.

10 miles, 12 locks.  (235 miles, 155 locks)