Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Medium-sized galley disaster

Important things first: we've booked a table at the local curry house for tomorrow evening. So far there are four of us, but I expect that number will rise …

Today I spent a lot of time on the festival site helping to mark out the pitches for traders' stalls. It was hot work (but I'm certainly not complaining about the weather: warm and sunny - thank you!).

I came back to the boat just as Jan was going to the site to help stuff bags with flyers and programmes. I was left with instructions to take the chicken out of the oven in fifteen minutes. This I did with no problem. Unfortunately … I was trying to pour myself a cup of tea at about the same time. I needed a bit of worktop space and so must have moved something slightly. The next thing I knew, a jugful of hot greasy liquid was pouring all over the floor, running over the worktop and down the front of the fridge, getting my shorts and one shoe in the process. Help! I grabbed the dishcloth and started mopping up. This wasn't much good so I pulled off heaps of paper towel and used that. Eventually I had cleared most of it - chicken stock which Jan had earlier removed from the roasting tray - and then discovered a pool of it in the fridge handle. Hmm. Jan wasn't too pleased to find that most of the stock had gone. Still, it could have been worse: if it had gone the other way it would have soaked into books and papers on the table - and run off onto cushions and seats.

No photo: I was rather busy.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Arriving at Waltham Abbey

We're back on board after three days at home. There's a useful informal car park by Carthagena Lock, so that's where we left the car while we took the boat to the festival moorings between Waltham Common Lock and Waltham Town Lock.

On the way here we encountered a dozen small powered boats from Broxbourne.

Many in the boats were obviously Jews; at Aqueduct Lock a group of them helped with the gates. I talked to them about lock operation and let the children wind the paddle up - under close supervision. Jan asked if she could take the photo; permission was granted.

After tea we walked in to Waltham Abbey town centre and revisited King Harold's tomb. A lump of rock. (No photo - I didn't have my camera and it was almost dark anyway.)

Tomorrow I expect I'll be helping to put fencing up at the festival site.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Strange text at Roydon Lock

On Friday we moved on from Burnt Mill Lock on the Stort to below Carthagena Lock on the Lee. Again, we were fortunate with the weather with the rain holding off until we'd tied up. Roydon Lock is welcoming ...

… and there is a piece of text on the sign which took me a little while to work out.

It reads: "Ore stabit fortis arare placeto restat".


Dobb's Weir Lock is another marked with red and green discs on the bottom gates.

But why?

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Meeting an almost boater and getting bashed by kayaks

We were up early today as we were being picked up later to have a meal with Lorraine and Mike in Hunsdon. I pulled the boat forward onto the water point and found it had good pressure. After a few minutes the tank was full and we set off from Bishop's Stortford back down the Stort.

At Sheering Mill Lock (I think it was) we met a man who delighted in telling us that he now had the funds to buy a boat. Richard, accompanied by Harvey, his dog, helped us through the lock by closing a gate or two. He said it was the first lock he had ever touched, but was obviously looking forward to doing many more. I think he said he was going to buy his boat in the midlands and then head for the Lancaster Canal. I hope it all goes well for you, Richard, and may you pick up plenty of useful tips from the blogs and vlogs you look at.

Feakes Lock is one of a number which have red and green discs painted on the bottom gates. Port and starboard? Anyone know what they are for?

The sun shone as we went through a wooded section - very pretty. I saw two kingfishers today, one flying past us going the other way which is most unusual. (No kingfishers in the photo as far as I am aware.)

We tied up just below Burnt Mill Lock, opposite the climbing wall and kayaking centre. There was a group of exuberant children having a training session on kayaks; the things kept hitting the side of the boat. In the end I moved the boat forward to be slightly further away. At precisely the same time their session finished and they all got out of the water.

I walked into Harlow to see what it was like. It was like this.

At least, that's the rather empty bit I saw. I used to drive through Harlow on my way to university before the M25 was built. I remember always looking out for boats on the river as I crossed it. (I also remember road signs with far too much information about small areas of the town.)

This evening we enjoyed the aforementioned meal with Mike and Lorraine; Lorraine is going to help me retrieve our car from Berkhamsted tomorrow which will be really useful.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

What's so good about Waterway Routes?

First, a bit of explanation. What is "Waterway Routes"? Well, it's a map of the canals and rivers of England and Wales. It's available in two formats: a set of individual maps as (printable) pages on a computer file, suitable for laptop or tablet; or a scrollable and zoomable version for phone or tablet which can link with the device's GPS to track your position on the map.

So what's so good about it? Last year we tackled the Anglian rivers and Fenland waterways, a part of the connected network which doesn't make it into the Nicholson guides. We had obtained other guides, including an outdated Imray, but we found Waterway Routes invaluable for telling us where we were at all times, giving us up-to-date and accurate information of the location of facilities and moorings, and even showing which side of a river lock the lock landing and the control box were. Yes, it would have been possible to navigate to Bedford and back without WR but having the mapping system made it much easier.

How can it be up-to-date? Some users of the system report back to Paul Balmer, its creator, any updates required. These can be new or removed bridges or facilities, or other changes to the maps from the version they have. In fact, one of Paul's main selling points is that the maps are so up-to-date.

OK, so it's useful for rivers, especially where other guides are patchy or difficult to interpret. But what about on the canals? I mean, here we have Nicholson's and Pearson. Nicholson marks water points and other facilities, and I have used the maps for years with few difficulties. But where Waterway Routes scores is - again - its accuracy. Sometimes Nicholson is rather vague about the position of some facilities, but WR shows exactly where and which side of the waterway they are to be found. And there are the moorings. WR marks where there is a time restriction, and indicates the quality of the mooring by implying if there is anything to tie up to.

It's also very useful for route planning. Where Nicholson marks its maps with a pin every mile, Paul marks his every half-hour of cruising time. These half-hour points take into account locks and moveable bridges and are based on his actual times when doing the route himself. It is easy to calculate how long it would take to get from A to B; I have found the times remarkably reliable. We are currently at Bishop's Stortford; tomorrow we are aiming to get to Hunsdon Lock. The time marker at Bishop's Stortford is 7.5 hours (the time from the junction with the Lee Navigation); the time marker at Hunsdon Lock is 1.5 hours. So, barring the unexpected - and a lunch stop - it should take around six hours to get there.

I hadn't expected to find the location marker so useful. We use the system on a phone; its internal GPS indicates our current position by crosshairs in a circle. As we go along our historic route is tracked and appears as a thin red line on the map. Sometimes keeping track of exactly where you are using, say, Nicholson is not easy. What was the last bridge I passed? Is the Elsan point coming up or have I missed it? Whereas with WR there is never any doubt.

Any minus points? I think it's a mistake not to mark pubs, especially waterside ones. Paul's argument for not doing so is that they can close down or otherwise change so quickly that it would be difficult to keep on top of all the updates required. He says that, for example, aiming for a pub marked on WR in order to eat there only to find it had closed down would undermine the USP of the system, i.e. its accuracy. In my experience, though, most canalside pubs keep going year on year. Yes, a few have closed, but it's easy to check ahead with Google Maps or an internet search that a specific pub is still in business.

There is no editorial content; there are no paragraphs of information about the environs. Consequently I keep the Nicholson's guide open at the same time as WR for that extra bit of interest.

Here's an example of the route tracker. In Hertford a few days ago we went beyond the official end of navigation; the thin red line shows how far we got. (Apologies for the poor quality photo of the phone screen.)

The thick blue line, ending at the winding hole, is the navigation; our excursion to the south-west is clear. (And that was just the back of the boat!) The white circles, by the way, indicate access points from/to the bank.

Oh, another useful feature of Waterway Routes on a device with GPS is that it can tell you your speed. Has your speed dropped even though your revs are the same? You have something round the prop, you're pushing a raft of weed in front or the water has got very shallow. You can't do much about the last, but it could be worth checking the first two things.

Another thing the maps are good for is showing routes of former canals complete with locks. (Sarah of Chertsey has written eloquently on her exploration of the Chesterfield Canal with Waterways Routes.) Proposed canals such as the Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterway are also shown.

Declaration of interest: I was given a copy of Waterway Routes to review but I have tried to be objective. I have written this with no input from Paul, who will, no doubt, comment if necessary!

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Another end of line reached: Bishop's Stortford

I managed to sleep despite the train horns, but we awoke early. Perhaps the hooting did disturb us. As a consequence we were under way at 0815. In the gaps between the trains alongside and planes overhead, having taken off from Stansted Airport, the river was very tranquil. Moored boats were getting scarcer and the river was getting twistier and more overhung with trees.

We didn't stop until we had reached Sawbridgeworth, which was our intended finish point for the day. We tied up above the lock on a good bit of piling. As it was lunchtime we walked back to the Riverside Café where I had a treat fry-up and Jan had a jacket potato with prawns. Then we walked into the village where we looked round the two charity shops and the church.

The name of this shop, offering an ironing service, made me smile.

The shop itself, as with many buildings in Sawbridgeworth, is clapboarded.

Back at the boat, knowing that rain was forecast all day tomorrow, we decided to crack on to Bishop's Stortford. There was still some uncertainty as to whether Twyford Lock would be open. The latest update on the CRT website said it was open, but notices at the previous lock said it was closed. We continued anyway.

There were no problems at Twyford Lock and we continued up the Stort to the end of navigation. I gently tried to see if we could nose under the bridge, but with the low water level we grounded with a few yards to go.

I couldn't get off to take a photo from the bank; here's the view looking back downstream.

We reversed to the winding hole and tied up at the end of the short line of moored boats, next to Allinson's flour mill. Fortunately this is nothing like as noisy as the flour mill in Wellingborough.

After tea on board we walked into the town for a brief exploration. We will do more in the rain tomorrow - walking, not boating - and have a "day off".

Monday, 12 August 2019

Low level on the Lee

We had a look round Hertford this morning - and wished that our schedule could have allowed for more time in this attractive town. As it is, we set off at about 1100 and stopped at Ware to have a quick look there too.

As the first visitor mooring - room for one narrowboat immediately beyond the trip boat - was occupied by kayaks we tied up to the bollards just before the Town Bridge. This gave me an opportunity to photograph the so-called gazebos, the curious riverside summerhouses at the ends of gardens.

I took the photo from the boat, but I couldn't actually see what was on the screen when I pressed the shutter. I had to hold the camera low so as to avoid foliage getting in the way. I'm quite pleased with the result - yes, I know, it's better than most of the ones I try to compose.
At Feildes Weir we turned left onto the River Stort Navigation. There is no sign at the junction, but the wide expanse of water is a bit of a clue. The turn is much more obvious when approaching from the south.

Between Ware and Stanstead Abbots one pound was rather low, causing some moored boats to list.

It must have been getting on for a foot lower than normal.

As we approached the first lock on the Stort the gates opened and an enormous-looking Dutch boat (a tjalk?) emerged.

What a splendid boat.

We tied up just above Hunsdon Lock - on piling! There's not much Armco-style piling on the Lee; perhaps there's a bit more on the Stort. We thought it was going to be a quiet spot, far enough from the railway line and the A414, but every train that passes gives four long blasts of its horn, each separated by a few seconds. Looking at the map I see that there are several places where footpaths cross the line on the level. The hooting must be for each of these. Hmm. I wonder when the trains will start running in the morning.

Oh, back to Hertford … one of the squares had been decorated - if that's the right term - by a mass of knitting. Yarn bombing, I understand it's called. Apparently it raises money for charity, but I find it difficult to see how.

All very clever, but what's the point of knitting covers for bollards when, presumably, jumpers, hats or tea cosies could have been created? You know, some products with a practical use. Or am I missing something?

Now to see if I can get some sleep between trains ...

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Going beyond the end of navigation

This morning we walked from the Fish and Eels pub mooring to Hoddesdon along a pleasant footpath. This crossed the railway and the New River. The latter comes as a bit of a surprise as it runs along the top of an embankment. No photo, sorry. In Hoddesdon we went to the parish church, St Catherine and St Paul.

We were back at the boat by 1300 and set off straight away. We kept on the Lee Navigation at Rye House, travelled through picturesque Ware and reached our destination, Hertford, at about 1745. I imagine many boaters would stop at this bridge.

Not us. We carried on past here ...

to the true end of navigation here.

We reversed back to the winding hole, still beyond the official end of navigation, and tied up outside the Old Barge pub on the last (first) legitimate mooring on the Lee.

Just as we were starting to reverse it started to rain quite heavily. By the time we'd tied up it had stopped, but I got pretty wet. (The previous two days rain came immediately after we'd stopped - we were a few minutes late today.)

We went to Dil's Indian Restaurant; Jan enjoyed her sizzling chicken nawab, but my madras was below par.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Our boat damaged by rock thrown by boys

It's been very windy today, but we didn't have any problems. Not with the weather, anyway. This cormorant looked to be drying off in the breeze.

At Enfield there's a curious scene amidst the historic small arms factory buildings. A narrowboat in a rectangular pond.

The Harold Turpin is floating as evidenced by the wind moving it a little, but it seems to have very little ballast as it is sitting very high on the water. It bears the name of a former designer at the Royal Small Arms Factory - the "T" in Sten, as in the sub-machine gun.

As we approached Dobb's Weir Lock a group of about six boys was walking towards us on the towpath. One of them made a strange gesture with his fist. We called out a friendly "hello" greeting which they ignored. As we continued there was a sudden loud bang from the side of the boat. One of the oiks had thrown a sizeable missile at us. By the time I'd got the camera out they had disappeared. At the lock I examined the damage: three places where the paintwork had been punctured.

I shall have to touch this up straight away; unfortunately I'm still trying to locate the right grey paint, so it will have to be the wrong colour in the meantime.

As far as I can recall, this is the only time our boat has been damaged by vandals. Thinking about it now, if the rock had hit one of us on the head we could have been seriously hurt.

We tied up at the Fish and Eels pub just above the lock and ate there. Hertford tomorrow.

Edited to add: I have reported this incident to Essex Police (the towpath is in Essex; the other side of the river is Hertfordshire).

Friday, 9 August 2019

Low bridges bring Olympic rewards

Having spent weeks getting to London today we started to move away. First, as we were next to Spey
overnight, we watched Stephen start its Bolinder engine. One of the key operations was the heating of the "hot bulb" with a blowtorch. The flame is visible to the left.

When the bulb was hot enough it was time to spin the engine. This is done by foot, pressing down hard on a retractable pin on the flywheel.

After several attempts the engine fired and kept going. It was time for us to get going, so we reversed away and turned into the Limehouse Cut.

This was almost entirely covered with duckweed. Immediately past the Bow flyover (over which I have driven countless times) we turned right onto part of the network of waterways which surround the Olympic Park. We shall be passing through the two bookable locks after the IWA festival, but for now we were travelling on the Bow Back River and City Mills River which connect directly with the Lee Navigation. Here is City Mill Lock hiding under all the blocks of flats.

Round a bend or three and under a low bridge carrying the Northern Sewer Outfall …

… we came to the ArcelorMittal Orbit and the Olympic Stadium, now the home of West Ham United FC. Yes, we came under that low bit.

Whatever you think of the Orbit, it's certainly striking.

Carpenter's Road Lock is the other lock we shall use after the festival.

All too soon we were back on the "main line" of the Lee Navigation and ascending Old Ford Lock operated for us by a volunteer.

A short distance north of the lock I saw some powerful lights suspended from cherry pickers. The lights, mimicking sunlight, were shining through windows in the top floor of a run-down-looking office building. There must have been an expensive film production in progress.

Old Ford was the only lock with a volunteer lockkeeper but most of the others we passed through today were paired, one being manually operated and the other powered. I believe this is Tottenham Lock, the powered one. The manual lock is out of shot to the left.

At subsequent locks we made sure the boat was the same side as the control panel!

Other things to mention: the southern end of the Lee is one long - very long - line of moored boats. They go on for miles. I forgot to note where they began to spread out, but it wasn't very far from where we are now, which is at the Navigation Inn at Ponders End. The duckweed must have petered out somewhere too as there's none here. We passed Paul on Waterway Routes and exchanged greetings. (Which reminds me: I must write a post on how useful his mapping system is, verging on indispensable.)

The forecast rain held off apart from one very short shower. Until we'd tied up at the pub when, with excellent timing, it hammered down.

We had a drink in the pub but didn't eat there. It didn't seem the cleanest place. Where we sat there was a vermin bait trap on the carpet, covered in cobwebs. Oh, and there was no real ale. Tomorrow, wind permitting, we intend to stop at the Fish and Eel at Dobb's Weir.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

First lit stove seen for a few weeks

Well, we can't stay here for ever, going to the Proms every night, so we moved on. First job was to wind as we were now facing the wrong direction after giving our guests a short there-and-back ride yesterday. I should have tried just where we were, immediately east of Bridge 3 as the canal looked just about wide enough for our 55' boat - and we would have had nothing to lose - but we back-tracked for a mile to wind just past the Sainsbury's at Kensal Town. The winding hole isn't signed, but at the spot indicated on Waterway Routes there was the vestige of an entrance to an old basin so I stuck the bow in there and powered round. There was plenty of room behind me.

While I was winding Jan popped in to the supermarket. Just before this point we passed Captain Smollett, whose crew must have been feeling a little chilly. We were plenty warm enough, thank you. Incidentally, the bright green duckweed hasn't come out at all well in my photos. I think the camera must be (counterintuitively) fooled into overexposing. I'll have to experiment with the controls …)

We were soon back to our mooring of the previous two nights and then Little Venice and on to the Regent's Canal through London Zoo. At the locks at Camden we went down the first three locks on our own, but then we paired up with another boat for the rest of the way to Limehouse Basin.

The building at 1 Canada Square [centre] is still the most instantly recognisable of the growing cluster of skyscrapers at Canary Wharf.

As we arrived at Limehouse Basin two other boats emerged from Limehouse Cut to take what appeared to be the last visitor moorings. There was, however, just enough room for our locking partner to squeeze in in front of Spey; we tied up alongside. Perfect.

And this is our view in the basin.

Walking past the tidal lock to the Thames I couldn't resist another Canary Wharf photo, especially as the sun was behind me.

Tomorrow we start up the Lee Navigation.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Taking visitors for a spin; another Prom concert

We had visitors today: Jan's brother, Alan, and his wife, Janice. Alan had a go at steering and was a natural.

We stopped at the facilities at Little Venice before carrying on into Paddington Basin, where we winded.

Then we returned to our spot by Harrow Road Bridge, which we have found to be quiet and convenient.

We suggested that Alan and Janice might like to join us at the promenade concert this evening, so after lunch we walked through Kensington Gardens to the Royal Albert Hall for our queue tickets. This is an excellent system whereby you can book your place in the queue for the arena (or gallery) without actually having to queue for hours. Then we walked back into the park, taking shelter under a horse chestnut tree from the (unforecast) rain before having a very good cup of tea in the Kensington Palace tea room. Walking towards the Serpentine we came across a frenzy of parakeets. People were encouraging them to settle on them with the enticement of nuts.

A passer-by kindly took this photo of us in Hyde Park.

Alan, Jan, Janice, me
So to the BBC Proms. The main work in tonight's concert was Mozart's Requiem, preceded in the first half by Brahms's Tragic Overture and Wagner's Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde. The Mozart was wonderful; again, we had a good position, central and near the front in the arena. The prom was being televised for broadcast on Sunday.

It's been amazing simply to be able to walk to the Proms from the boat. Oh to live nearer London!