Tuesday, August 30, 2011

At the Summit

Despite the threat of rain we felt the need to move on up. The first two locks were done on our own while boats were coming down. Then we waited in a lock for a boat to come up. It was magic to get the help, the boat being called Merlin! But then it started to rain! Some of the pounds were a bit low as we progressed up through the seven locks to the summit at Cowroast. We read about some boaters who have no idea how to operate locks. They are going up and down one by one at the wide locks when they could help each other and not waste the precious water.
However at this summit the pumps were working overtime and there seemed to be enough up here. We had intended to head for the Wendover Arm but after taking on water we found another 57 foot gap to more in. By then we had had enough of the damp conditions. Unfortunately a boater started up his noisy smelly petrol generator so we had to shut all our doors and windows. Thankfully it was only on for one evening! A few days later we moved on down the Wendover Arm. It was a bit shallow in places and as we passed a boat coming out we ran aground. The fishermen where we turned at the end were not happy to see us!

We stuck our pins in just round a bend out of sight of them. The fishermen left when another boat turned up.

A walk to the Wilstone reservoir found it to be very low. Next morning the waterlevel in the canal went down a few inches.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Climbing up the Chilterns

We had got to Cassiobury and walked off Iron Bridge Locks up into the woods on clear wide paths. It was busy with walkers, runners and cyclists. The route we took went across the golf course several times so we had to look out for flying balls.

A lock cottage
Back on board we were watching TV in the evening as you do, when the boat started to lean over! Looking out we could see the water moving towards the lock. We had to slacken off the ropes and push the boat off the mud but it was still leaning over. Went to check the lock and found the bottom gate open. The top gates were leaking badly so shutting the bottom gate solved the problem once the lock filled itself. All paddles were down as they should be.
We set off for Kings Langley in the morning and arrived in time for lunch. We travelled on our own for a while till Roman Lady joined us. Going up these wide locks is always easier with two boats and also saves water. The shops at Kings Langley provided us with bread, milk and veg. "What is it about those bright orange carrots that shrivel up as soon as you need them?"

A few days later we continued up and up the Chilterns. We were soon joined by a boat called Midnight this time. They wanted to go all the way to Berkhamsted so we agreed to stay with them as it was a sunny day. We managed to do all of 17 locks and 6 miles. The water levels were very low in many pounds between the locks.

The previous pound was lower!
Most boats were going up and down two by two and we were lucky not to run aground in the shallows. One advantage of having a 57 foot boat is it being a popular length. We were lucky to slot into a mooring gap which was just the right length. Now the moorings between locks 52 and 53 are completely full.
British Waterways 'bean counters' are silly. They employ people to do maintenance but do not let them work because it costs too much! But now many have to control the use of locks and restrict navigation to save water. Now it is raining so maybe we will be able to continue up and down the system. Our future plans this year is to head for Staffordshire so hopefully once the August rush is over water levels will rise.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

We are now heading North

The other end of the Grand Union canal seems a long way, all of 165 lock miles. We would like to do 10 a day but our average is less than that. It may well be September before we reach Crick. Our friends have left their boat at Harefield Marina so we travel on our own.

We tackle most of the wide locks without the company of another boat. There are plenty about at those permanent moorings but they do not move much.
While travelling we read about boating activity elsewhere during the August holidays. At least one boat has sunk in a lock which British Waterways managed to crane out while boaters waited. At another location a boat hit a lock gate and knocked it off its hinges! Navigation has been restricted at summit levels due to lack of water in the reservoirs. The low water level is not just due to lack of rain. Sadly lack of maintenance and leakage at locks are another cause. At some popular flights, B W asked volunteers to help ensure safe and proper use of locks. The locks are often being locked shut at the end of the day. Some boaters are not helping the situation. We have had to shut a lock after a boat left it open and full. There was a notice on the gate asking for the gates to be shut and the lock left empty with a paddle up!
We leave London behind and the sights we have seen but keep the wonderful memories together with many pictures. We now have a chance to stop again at our favourite moorings. As we move the back log of washing is being dealt with. Some wet days required the fire to be lit to assist the drying process.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Web site is OK

Only found one file damaged so I over wrote it.

These green birdies were seen near Southall.

Got filled up with diesel from Hyperion at 80p a litre.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Time in London, 3

The next three days were spent with our grandchildren and their parents, staying on board at Little Venice while the sun shone. It had been suggested that we visited the Planetarium now at Greenwich, the Tower of London and get a ride on the London Eye. Tickets were pre booked on the internet so we could 'fast track' past the queues. Our Underground tickets were purchased each day in order to get a discount using our Senior Rail cards. We got two Oyster cards for our guests while the children go free.
Our family arrived at Paddington by train and the first thing to do was to find Paddington Bear. We just had time for sandwiches before setting off for Greenwich. Our visit was booked for two thirty so we got down through the tubes and on the Dockland Light Railway. The Bakerloo Line was noisy, hot and full. We actually got a seat on the Jubilee Line which was cleaner. We got off at Canary Wharf and were very impressed how new and modern it all was.

The DLR got us to Greenwich where we climbed the hill to the Royal Observatory. We all learnt about how the planets were formed and how different they were. Also saw a live demonstration creating an asteroid.

Next day we all set off for the Tower after a cooked breakfast. When we arrived we watched a contest between two Knights using swards and axes and then spent the rest of the day exploring the tower and the grounds. It has been a very long time since we have been touring the capital and must say how well all the sights have been cleaned and restored.

Although the London Eye was the most expensive ride it was well worth it for the views. The structure is simply huge and impressive. We had time during the day to get to see Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus on the way back to the boat. Our guests returned on the train from Paddington while we recovered.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Web site is off line

It has been reported that our website has been hacked. We are taking steps to restore it to safe operation. The link has been removed from this Blog and will return when it is safe to do so.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Time in London, 2

There are cycle lanes, walking lanes and fitness apparatus. People are power walking and riding bikes. Many seem to speak a different language while on their mobile phones. Take care where you walk and listen out for those cyclists. Even the canal path is not safe for although the rule is no cyclists, they do!
We went on the Big Bus Blue Tour of London. Molly stayed on the boat while we picked up the ride near Paddington Station.

Piccadilly Circus
We saw most of the sights while sitting on the top deck of the open top bus listening to a commentary on earphones. It was sunny and warm then.

Horse Guards

London Eye

Tower Bridge
A cruise on the Thames was included so we took to the water at Tower Pier after crossing Tower Bridge. We found a seat inside the boat and then it rained! We ate our sandwiches while watching the tidal waters rush by the bridge piers. "I must say that sightseeing was better on the bus."

Big Ben is inside the tower
We got off at Westminster and hopped on another bus to continue our tour. The weather was not kind to us. Out came our so called waterproofs. There was no room inside the bus. Police cars, vans and ambulances were rushing about in the traffic and making a lot of noise. Those riots were apparently kicking off in Tottenham. We think that our bus was diverted. We were told to get onto another bus to continue back to Paddington. By then the sun had come out and we got back to the boat in the dry.
We are so lucky to be able to walk safely from the canal to Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park and Regents Park. So we decided to visit Regents Park this time by walking along the Regents canal. There is no path through Maida Hill tunnel so we followed the road over the top and nearly got lost trying to find the other end. We eventually crossed a bridge over the canal into the park.
Molly was able to run about again on the grass among the trees. Then it was back on the lead to walk by the lake which was full of natural wild life.

A duck with bill stick!

There we saw Whooper Swans, lots of pigeons and a great variety of ducks and geese.

A courting couple

It was a sunny day and we enjoyed seeing the flower gardens before walking back to the boat.
We have to reassure our readers that we feel quite safe at Little Venice while the riots are continuing to spread across London.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Time in London, 1

Ann and friends took the boat ferry to Camden Market while I booked time on various attractions in London for when our family visit later. Next day we walked down to Kensington Gardens with Molly.

Once there she was almost free to run about on the grass amongst the trees but had to be on a lead to walk round the pond.
There was Kensington Palace looking sad behind a temporary fence while the gardens get a makeover.

Queen Victoria lived here, as did Charles and Diana. It was while looking for her memorial that we found ourselves heading for The Serpentine. The memorial was a circular track of flowing water with children paddling in it to keep cool.

By now we were in Hyde Park and hungry so we found a seat in the shade and ate our sandwiches. People were rowing boats on the Serpentine Lake. On our way back to Paddington we found some handy shops in London Street.

Our friends came on board that evening and we played Mah-jong. Next day they left Little Venice just after breakfast.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Moving into London

We turned on to the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union canal at Bulls Bridge 13 miles from the centre of London and stopped at Southall where the canal is still green and quiet. The shade under the trees welcome on one of the hottest days of the year reaching 30 c. Next day Terry n Myra moved off early heading into London. After breakfast we followed.

The first 6 miles were quite enjoyable, remaining tree lined and rural.

But then it became depressing with all the weed and rubbish. The trees replaced by tower blocks and factories. Then we slowed to a crawl as the prop picked up submerged plastic bags and rope. "I just had to beach the bow on the shallow edge and deal with the problem in the weed hatch." We were lucky to get on without picking up more rubbish in the disgusting state of the canal. It is looking like green grass with floating plastic bottles on top. We got our water tank topped up on the way.
Terry reported that Paddington Basin was full and on the way out they were lucky to find a space in Little Venice.

When we arrived we just moored along side. Surprisingly a 14 day mooring here in the City of Westminster, W2. Another day of heat while we got used to the environment and explored as other boats arrived.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Summer fruits

The blackberries are just pickable, but some are a bit bitter. There are plenty about along the towpath hedges. We picked over two pounds of blackberries and made four jars of jam.

If we have not eaten all of it, this one is for you Sue.
Sadly the thorny issue of waterway finance has not yet produced any fruit. When it does I suspect the best pickings will still be at the top with little benefit to the plant. Let us all hope that next year the sun will come out again to encourage new growth with fruit that is sweet.

If we do not look after the plants the weeds will grow. Any gardeners out there are welcome to volunteer.