Ara and Archimedes

November 30, 2010

We were promised snow for today and sure enough there was a dusting this morning, but we are really frauds in the snowed in department compared with the rest of the country. By the time we walked to home around 9.30 the paths had thawed and although we took the sledge up there really wasn’t enough snow to use it. Alan and Ralph did manage to scrape together a reasonable snowman though.

I stayed at home to help with the Christmas cake making and Alan came back to await the arrival of Ara and Archimedes, the diesel boats. They turned up just about when they said they would just before 2.00 which is pretty good going from Hemel Hempstead considering the ice and that they would have had customers to attend to. Alan also bought a gas cylinder. They said that they go backwards and forwards between Apsley and London once a week. We will therefore be very well served down here as there is also the Bridgewater marina below the lock, and we have always found them excellent as well.

The other benefit of being near home is being able to use the car for shopping and we stocked up at Tesco. I had saved Clubcard vouchers and we doubled them and stocked up with wine and champagne: now we have to make sure we don’t drink it all at once.

Another friend has just heard today that her public service job is being “deleted”; her husband’s went as soon as the Conservatives came in. That’s a dreadful blow just before Christmas.

Statistics so far:-

2141.60 Miles, 1209 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels


Home

November 29, 2010

Simon from NB Tortoise has pointed out that a lot of the top lock gates on the stretch from Kings Langley to Grove Mill swing open when the lock is full so I may have maligned the young men. Anyway we were grateful to be able to steam in on a cold day. What is really tricky is when gates swing wide open when you are working the lock and every time you get up to the paddle you look back to see the gates are too far open to close with water pressure. One on the way back from Chester on the Shropshire had me running backwards and forwards with Alan in the empty lock until finally I started it filling and sprinted back to shut the gate.

We are enjoying being near home. Alan got the bikes out and cleaned and oiled them and we managed a short ride yesterday. The conditions are good when the mud is frozen! We have also not succumbed to bringing the car down to make us walk up the steep hill to home as often as possible.

Today we went over to Reading to see Risa and baby Mayu. The M25 was its usual ghastly self and we went off on the M40 and via High Wycombe. We always find Reading complete hell to drive round and however many maps and routes we print off we always get lost. (We sold the car with the sat nav and I miss the lady telling me which way to go.) And this time we had little Ralph with us so didn’t want to stretch his tolerance of sitting in the car. There was only a short diversion on the way there but we found ourselves going in completely the wrong direction on the way home so headed over Caversham Bridge and back through Henley and Marlow. We were stranded at the Thames and Kennet Marina for a month in 2008 so we often took this route and it reminded us how attractive it is by the Thames.

We continue to wake to ice every morning and tomorrow the forecast is for snow. The fire has been on continuously for days so Alan keeps a keen eye on the diesel level. Ara and Archimedes are due to come past tomorrow morning so we can fill up.

Statistics so far:-

2141.60 Miles, 1209 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels


Croxley Green

November 27, 2010

After 18 months Lazydays is back on home ground, moored down the hill from our house. We have been home with the washing, and had indulgent on land showers, doesn’t take us long.

When I looked out this morning it was a very grey and wintry scene, with a light dusting of snow on paths and roofs. I walked up to the village to get the Saturday Guardian and then we set off. We took turns to steer and work the locks, swopping over when we were chilled. There were the two big M25 motorway bridges to go under and we struck lucky as we approached the first when two boats both steered by solo young men passed us. That meant that the next few locks were set in our favour and they had also left the gates open. We would have been infuriated at their laziness if we had been following after them not following in their footsteps but we were just grateful that our lot had been made lighter. Being Saturday we also had the assistance of some cute little boys with Dads and Grandads to help open lock gates.

We made very good time, went through Lady Capel’s Lock and past The Grove, vowing as we always do that we must moor there some time. Then we hit ice and were ice breaking right across Cassiobury Park, through the two Cassiobury Park Locks and Ironbridge Lock. Half way between Ironbridge and Cassio Bridge Lock one of the Hillingdon Community boats passed us and provided a channel for us to steer through.

We had planned to water before going through Cassio Bridge Lock but there were two more Hillingdon boats at the water point and fortunately one remaining mooring place after Cassio Bridge, so we decided to tuck in there and call it a day. Its a nice mooring site and a little further from the Metropolitan Line bridge.

M25

Lady Capel's bridge

Grove Mill

Breaking Ice

Today we did 4.48 Miles and 9 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2141.60 Miles, 1209 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels


Kings Langley

November 26, 2010

Today saw the first ice on the canal. It wasn’t thick but there was a great crunching as we went through it and into the second Apsley lock. The lock beams were icy as well and I took extra care to hold on as I crossed the locks. However there was lovely warm sunshine and it was really pleasant today to walk between locks.

We hadn’t planned to travel far, just to Kings Langley where we thought we would go for our Friday night early evening drink to the Saracen’s Head. It was a toss up between that and the Hunton Bridge pubs which are pretty good but the moorings are right next to the busy A41.

There were four locks only today, half in our favour. As we passed the Apsley Marina we spotted Ara and Archimedes, the diesel and coal boats for this part of the Grand Union. No one aboard but another boater said they would be loading up on Monday and travelling back down so we will be looking out for them. At present we are leaving the diesel fire on every night and it looks as if we will do so for some time to come.

Our mooring tonight is above Kings Langley lock where the River Gade leaves the canal and there is a lovely wide open spot. There are houses on the far side but the wide stretch of water means that they aren’t too close. It was bathed in sunshine when we arrived and looked lovely. We went for a walk up and around the village because we are now so close to home that I was able to go into my optician’s to collect a new pair of reading glasses. We went past the Rose and Crown which was, for some years, a great pub for live music. We would often go there on a Saturday night to see Blues Bands: the ‘Johnny Mars Blues Band’ and ‘Snake hip Johnson and the shuffling Hungarians’ were great favourites of ours. Then the landlord left and the new landlord had different musical tastes though we still went to hear some of the bands. Our son’s first band even played there one night: they were still at school and a lot younger than the management expected but went down well. Finally the pub closed for refurbishment and to our great sadness re-opened as an Ember Inn.

The Paper Mill Pub

Apsley

Bridge 154

Nash Mills – on the way out

Today we did 1.81 Miles and 4 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2137.12 Miles, 1200 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels


Apsley

November 25, 2010

As you can see from the stats we didn’t travel very far today, but it was very cold and felt far enough. In this weather we have to take it in turn to steer and walk to keep warm. Hemel Hempstead isn’t the most picturesque of towns viewed from the canal but the water meadows on either side soften the picture. Just past Fisheries Lock several of the trees on the tow path side were being felled. I wonder why? I imagine that these meadows are protected green land so I guess there will be a reason for it.

We were looking out for Carrie on NB Blackbird moored at Apsley. When we went past she jumped out to say hello along with Simon from Tortoise. After we had moored just below the first Apsley Lock they came along for a cuppa & chat. Very pleasant: these cold wintry days can be rather solitary for us intrepid constant cruisers.

Other than that it’s been a day to stay warm. After a somewhat tardy lunch we walked along to find the paper museum but we seemed to have lost our enthusiasm by the time we got there. I know that it would be heated inside but walking in the cold with frozen noses and hands just focusses our minds on getting back to the warm boat. So we continued to Sainsburys and then back to our cosy haven.

Old Bridgewater Wharf

Today we did 1.83 Miles and 4 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2135.31 Miles, 1196 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels


Boxmoor

November 24, 2010

We awoke this morning to the sad news of the second explosion at the Greymouth mine. As the days had gone past it seemed more and more likely that the miners were dead, maybe even killed in the first explosion, and personally I hope that was the case. The South Island has had a bad few months with the earthquake and now this dreadful tragedy.

Yesterday was a day for wandering around Berkhamsted and shopping. The Oxfam shop had some Brio in the window and we bought a tunnel and some track interchanges. Another shop had sledges and it had proved impossible to get one for our grandson in the last snowfalls so now we are all prepared for the coming cold weather. Alan went along to visit his former workplace.

The two nights in Berkhamsted were very peaceful but we met a couple on another boat today who said that when they were moored there and had parked their car nearby it was vandalised. As far as we are concerned its a pleasant place to spend a couple of days. It was beautifully bright this morning and for the first time in a few days there were several boats on the move so we found several of the locks in our favour. The stretch past The Boat and the Rising Sun is extremely attractive: there were a lot of boats moored on both sides to squeeze through.

We pottered on past Old Mill and through the first of the Bourne End Locks and then met another boat that had come up four locks to turn. They were having a very hard time of it because the water seemed very low, I was on the towpath while Alan hovered mid stream so I got them to throw me their bow rope and with me pulling as well they managed to get round. We then went down the locks with them as far as Winkwell where we had planned to stop. It was past 2.00 by that time and we were pretty hungry. When we got to Winkwell there were no mooring places at all and the lady on the other boat said that she had noticed as she went past every day that they had been there for some time.

We left them filling with water at the marina after the swing bridge and went on down the bottom Winkwell Lock to moor for lunch. Its a noisy spot with the railway bridge just ahead and the road is very close so we decided to go through a couple more locks before dark but when we got round the corner we remembered that the straight leading up to Boxmoor Top Lock is a good mooring place. The train line is close but not obtrusive and there is the best TV coverage that we have had since before Marsworth.

Sorry no pictures today, we have a fast connection but seem to have a problem with uploading images.

Today we did 3.21 Miles and 9 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2133.48 Miles, 1192 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels


Berkhamsted

November 23, 2010

Before we left Cowroast we popped into the marina to buy a replacement windlass for the one I left at the Fenny Stratford lock. Its the only time I’ve done that (so far). We had a quick catch up with Darren and Lawrence, and asked after various acquaintances at the marina.

The water is incredibly clear at present, particularly round Cowroast Lock, and has almost a translucent greeny-blue quality. As it cascaded out of the lock it almost reminded me of the colour of the water at Huka Falls in New Zealand, and would have been even more similar if there had been a blue sky reflected. Alan was steering through the Dudswell Locks and said that he could clearly see the most enormous pike in the shallows on the offside: he was doing lots of classic fishermen “long as your arm” gestures. There were a few burst of rain but nothing too prolonged luckily: it was cold.

We moored for lunch below Bushes Lock and then went past Alan’s former workplace Sensonics, just above Bushes Lock. One of his former colleagues was outside eating lunch so we had a quick yelled conversation in passing and Alan will pop along to see them tomorrow. The day was dimming rapidly so we thought it better not to linger.

There were plenty of mooring spaces at Berkhamsted: unfortunately most of them were marked for winter mooring permit holders only, with not one boat moored on them. Luckily we managed to find a place past the footbridge, but I have several times noticed large areas marked off for winter mooring, mostly empty on the way down the Grand Union. What is the position I wonder if you cannot find a mooring space outside those areas?

Its good to be moored at Berkhamsted again and I am going to have a lovely time at the shops tomorrow, without Alan!

Old Almshouses Berkhamsted

Berkhamsted busy High Street

Berkhamsted High Street

Today we did 2.6 Miles and 7 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2130.27 Miles, 1183 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels