Cow Roast

February 23, 2011

We were resolved to move on today, no matter what the weather. It wasn’t too bad, some drizzle from time to time but no heavy rain. We went over to the water point first and then set off around 11.00. The worst part of moving along is the mud for the non steerer. I walked all the way from Berkhamsted to Cow Roast and I was picking my way through the puddles and the mud.

We have always fancied mooring below Cow Roast Lock and thought that this time we would do it. There were even some vacant mooring spaces but we soon discovered they were there for a reason. The sides were really shallow and having got quite near the side we had a dreadful job to get off again. So once again we have ended up above Cow Roast Lock near the marina. The mud on the tow path is quite horrific and I will have to get the wellies out.

Our car was parked in the long stay area near Waitrose at Berkhamsted and we realised that if we were to walk back to get it before it was ticketed we would have to leave straight away so we dragged on walking boots and started back around 2.20, very hungry as we had no time for lunch.

We will probably stay here for a couple of nights and then move on to Marsworth for our last week in this area.

Today we did 2.65 Miles and 7 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2161.28 Miles, 1250 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels

Berkhamsted Castle

February 20, 2011

The monthly farmer’s market was being held in Berkhamsted this morning so we wandered around but unfortunately didn’t really need anything and didn’t feel like a roast dinner tonight. We are both reading our way through the Ian Rankin Rebus series and Alan spotted that we were missing two titles near the end of the list. We managed to find one in Oxfam but the new Oxfam bookshop with lots of enticing looking books won’t open for another couple of weeks. It’s the smartest shop, no wonder Oxfam are becoming one of the country’s biggest booksellers.

The towpath is a sea of mud so not at all enticing for a walk so we went to the castle ruins and walked the circumference of the earthworks between the two moats and then up to the mound. Thomas Becket lived in the castle until he was accused of embezzlement and lost the honour.

Castle from keep

Castle Moat

Statistics so far:-

2158.63 Miles, 1243 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels

Rain in Berkhamsted

February 19, 2011

It’s been a very wet and grey day: we had hoped to move on to Cowroast now that Bushes Lock is open taking family members along for the ride but this would have been a miserable business. We all went back home to Croxley Green for lunch instead. It looks as if one or two of the boats moored here have gone on despite the rain but the major traffic this morning was the movement down of two BW working boats laden with fencing and machinery. I guess they were heading to the Top Lock just past Old Mill where work starts on Monday.

We had a great surprise yesterday when I was hailed by someone asking if I was the Kiwi lady. It was Pete, a boater we had last met a couple of years ago at Stoke Bruerne when he had recently taken over his boat as a new build. Since then he has travelled extensive around the system and like us, is heading towards the Lancaster this season. He has met many of our fellow bloggers in his travels including spending some time with Barry on Northern Pride. Pete is great at keeping very full notes in his Nicholsons on good moorings and places to avoid and I got out our Pearson guide for the Leeds and Liverpool to copy over his suggestions. We had been thinking of leaving our bikes at home this year: we seem to use them rarely and walk rather than going through the kerfuffle of unlocking them. After talking to him we have decided that we will definitely ride them back home on the next sunny day.

A diesel boat was the first boat through the newly opened lock yesterday and it was greeted with great relief by everyone including us. It was very reliable; we had been told it would be here on the 18th and so it was!

Statistics so far:-

2158.63 Miles, 1243 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels

Sunny Berkhamsted

February 16, 2011

We have enjoyed having Alan’s Dad on the boat and he has enjoyed the change of scene. We have also been having a break from TV and have instead been playing steadily through our music collection and reading through the vast number of books piled around the boat. Last night we played dominoes and we might bring a Scrabble set back from home.

This morning Alan and I walked along to Bushes Lock and today there was work in progress. One of the construction team confirmed that the lock will indeed be opened by Saturday when we want to move along with family members who are visiting. It’s impressive that they seem so reliable at keeping to the timetable for lock repairs.

Like other boats moored here we will be looking out for the diesel boat when the lock opens. We have sufficient diesel for running the engine for a fair while but our fire was faltering yesterday as it does when the fuel drops below a certain level. Today we had to pump the fuel through in order to light the fire; usually a messy business but today there was minimal spillage.

Bushes Lock

Statistics so far:-

2158.63 Miles, 1243 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels


February 15, 2011

It was another rainy day but we were resolved to go on to Berkhamsted. The first lock was already open so we went in and the lock was nearly full when a boat came through the swing bridge. When I took the boat out Alan set the lock again for the other boat and said that we would wait for him. It was a single hander from Winkwell Boat Services laden down with bricks and other building materials. The skipper was called Jonty, a very cheery Liverpudlian. He has the job of transporting raw materials to, and waste away from the building site where the Bridgewater Boats boatyard had stood empty for many years. He thought it was a condition of the planning permission that this was done by boat not road. It seems there will be two houses and a house boat and he will be moving the materials until December.

As all the locks were set in our favour (most have to be left empty on this stretch), we made good time with two boats and Jonty left us when he turned at the station. The final lock was the first with the anti-vandal keys that unfortunately are necessary in Berkhamsted, and we found a mooring not long after. This is as far as we can go until Bushes Lock opens on Saturday.

I was about to walk along to the bank and then to Bushes Lock to enquire if it might open earlier when another boater went past with a windlass down to the lock we had just come through. He said that the lock had to be left empty because they were losing water and none was coming down (there was no notice on this one and it’s usually full in our experience so we hadn’t emptied it). I walked past the bank which closed owing to urgent repairs!! Maybe the Barclays staff thought they weren’t getting enough bonuses and were taking revenge on us mere customers. Directing me to Tring or Hemel Hempstead wasn’t much help. So I strode along to Bushes lock to find that new gates had been fitted and there was lots of machinery but nobody working there to ask about the opening date. But there was a vast volume of water flooding over the stop gate and the pound below was full, and indeed the two pounds down to where we are moored.

As one does with Liverpudlians we had been talking to Jonty about the cuts and the fact that Liverpool Council is fighting back and he said that he went to Ladbrooks last year to place a bet on there being a revolution in the UK in 2011. He said they wouldn’t take his bet, making him think it was a strong possibility!

Today we did 2.58 Miles and 8 Locks and 1 Swing bridge

Statistics so far:-

2158.63 Miles, 1243 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels


February 14, 2011

We are very grateful to Anna from NB Grace who sent the following background about Nash Mills as a comment on last night’s blog:

I moor in Apsley Marina on NB Grace so can give you a little local info. The ‘building site’ between the two Nash Mills locks is known as Sappi Graphics as this was the last company to be active in the buildings here. Before this years demolition the buildings had been derelict and idle for quite some time but initially were part of the huge Dickinson’s Paper Mills that all but swamped Hemel and included the whole of the Belswains Lane development and the marina itself. There is a lovely couple who worked at the mills who live at the Marina and have plenty of tales to tell! Although it’s sad to lose our industrial history, the site had recently seen a fair amount of police activity due to break-ins and fires being lit so the new development will be welcome in some ways. For more take a look at the following:

We have lived “down the road” in Watford and then Croxley Green for over thirty years, and that was also a print town. I knew of course of Dickinsons in Hemel Hempstead but had no idea that it was such a huge operation. In the seven or so years that we have been passing through the Nash Mills locks the site has always been derelict. Obviously it can’t be left as a wasteland when there are so many new houses needed; the downside for the boater is even more of the ubiquitous apartment and new build housing that are the constant companion of the canal from the other side of Rickmansworth.

Today was a repeat of Saturday’s sunshine and when we looked out this morning the bright sky and water clarity provided amazing 3D reflections. Alan’s 88 year old father has come to join us for a couple of nights. Alan met him at Apsley Station and after lunch we moved off, Joe inside engrossed in a book on the capture of the Enigma code in WWII with an occasional glance out as we went through seven locks to Winkwell. He is a Normandy veteran who is looking forward to this year’s commemorations. He goes over to France with his little pup tent each year!

As we went through Boxmoor Top Lock I ran ahead to see if there were any moorings opposite the Three Horseshoes at Winkwell, otherwise we would moor at Boxmoor. . When we came down at the end of November the moorings were crammed full but today there was only one boat so we went on through the first Winkwell Lock and the swing bridge. And of course we couldn’t be so close to the pub without popping over for a pre- dinner pint. It’s a wonderful place to visit with a guest and tonight there were two glowing fires.

Great granddad steering the boat

Today we did 2.95 Miles and 7 Locks and 1 Swing bridge

Statistics so far:-

2156.05 Miles, 1235 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels

Nash Mills

February 13, 2011

Today was a complete contrast to yesterday’s bright sunshine. It’s been grey, wet and windy from start to finish. We wanted to get past Nash Mills before work starts there tomorrow: without that imperative we would have happily stayed put and had a nice cosy day in.

The first few locks were set against us and we seemed to be the only boat foolish enough to move. Then at the fourth lock, North Grove, we met a boat with three seemingly inexperienced narrowboatmen as crew. They told us that they had just bought the boat, which was fairly scrappy looking, in order to do it up and sell it on. They said they were heading to Maidstone via the River Medway and asked if we had taken our boat on the tidal Thames down to Gravesend. One said that they knew they had to head towards London and branch off somewhere to get to Limehouse rather than going towards Brentford: I wasn’t sure that they realised that they had a fair way to go until they got to Bull’s Bridge. One of the men had a lot of experience with cruisers and the route from the Thames to the Medway however this was his first time on a narrowboat and he had found it hard to steer and very powerless compared with cruisers. They were obviously struggling with it and Alan said they hadn’t managed to get into the wide open lock as we rounded a corner quite a distance away. Alan thought that the boat didn’t look in very good condition to be taken out past the Thames Barrier and wondered what state the engine was in.

At least the rest of the locks were set in our favour and we passed the area that BW call Sappi Graphics between the two Nash Locks (not sure why as there is nothing there to indicate that) and decided that was where the work was to be carried out as there was a large pontoon with what appeared to be a pile driver. There was just room for a boat to pass by. The old warehouse buildings are almost completely demolished and it is to be another of the big canalside housing developments.

We moored at the end of a long line of boats after the second Nash Lock. Over the next couple of hours a few more boats passed to get through before the closure. We can go on towards Berkhamsted (past Lock 56 before it closes on the 21st) but can’t go further until Bushes Lock re-opens next Saturday. It’s all a bit of a juggling act at present.

Obligatory M25

No Nash Mills

Today we did 4.16 Miles and 8 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2153.10 Miles, 1228 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels