Pixes Farm Bridge to above Iron Bridge Lock Cassiobury Park
The alarm went off and we were out of bed, our morning cuppa accompanied breakfast instead of being enjoyed in bed. There was far too many locks and miles to cover today to laze around. We were ready for the off at 8am, an hour too early to be joined by Sue and Alan on the boat behind, they were only heading into Hemel so there would only have been a few locks to share.
A heron seemed quite happy for me to fill Bourne End Bottom Lock. He stood over the boiling water looking for his breakfast, but as soon as the gates were opened he flew off to try elsewhere.
On the moorings below Winkwell Lock sat a couple of boats, one being Tyseley. A boat had just come through the swing bridge and was pulling in below the lock as we left. Towpath side of Tyseley was all closed up, but the hatch was opened so Mick had chance to say good morning to Marianne and the company. They were having a slow morning and wouldn’t be setting off until 10am as tonight’s show is at Fishery Wharf in Hemel only a few locks away.
There were waves all round, then Chris appeared with a present for us. They had been given a lot, a lot of cakes and biscuits a couple of days ago and had been boasting about them on Facebook. I’d suggested that we should catch them up and assist by alleviating them of some of their cake ballast that had given them a list. Chris had with him quarter of a very fine looking vanilla and raspberry three tier cake (the filling being nearly as much as the two sponge layers). Blimey! Thank you!!
Tyseley will pass us once more most probably after the weekend when friends of Mikron will be moving her down onto the Thames whilst the actors have a week off.
Once down Winkwell Lock we kept our eyes peeled on the moored boats. Our friends Viv and Micky have recently bought themselves NB Little Layla and she is moored here for a while. Very pretty she looks too nestled in amongst the other residents.
Pulling up towards Boxmoor Top Lock a figure was approaching from below pushing a Brompton bike. This was Jen an old college friend of mine who lives in Hemel, we’d last managed to meet up on our first trip to London on Lillian in 2014/2015. Fridays is a day off and we’d planned on having a cuppa and catch up, then we’d ended up with a bit of a mission for today. Only one thing for it she’d have to help us through the locks to Apsley.
Plenty to talk about as she had her first experience of being on a moving narrowboat. She was given a windlass and had the basic principles explained then we worked our way down the locks into Hemel. There was a lot to catch up on, so the locks would be set to fill or empty as required and then conversations continued.
After an hour and a half we’d reached our tea break stop, the mooring at Sainsburys in Apsley. The kettle went on and was accompanied by a big slice of cake. Jen was nice apart from not letting me out, but she gives a good chin rub so I didn’t mind too much. A guided tour of Oleanna and then it was time for her to get on with the rest of the day. It had been a lovely opportunity with the sun out, Jen is now considering a narrowboat holiday.
Our pause here was of course to stock up on cat litter and a few boxes of wine to replenish the cellar. This was followed by a quick lunch and application of sun cream before we pushed off again, our destination still quite a distance away.
The scaffolding on the M25 has been cleared away from the spans near the canal. Where once boats were tied up underneath there is now a high fence and security cameras.
Just quarter of a mile further on is North Grove Lock. We were last here 2 years and 8 days ago very early in the morning trying to avoid cruising in the heat of the day. The flowers are still wonderful around the lock cottage and in the sunshine they were giving off quite a heady perfume.
A group of lads were fishing at the next bend. We slowed as normal and kept to the centre. Instead of them reeling in their lines they just ducked their rods down into the water. Mick said the usual ‘thank you’. Then it appeared that we’d been caught by one of them. Mick went out of gear, the line still caught. Nothing was said by the chap at the other end. Nothing much we could do. The line stayed taught then eventually pinged as we drifted. ‘Are you going to pay for that!?’ the first words the lad had said. ‘Well no!”
There followed an exchange of words, he suggested that we shouldn’t run our engine past fishermen, we refrained from suggesting that if his float and hook were so expensive he was stupid to leaving it in the water as boats passed engine running or not! We remained polite and apologised, he didn’t.
More locks, each getting a little bit harder in the heat. Groups of boats lined lengths of the towpath, but others which have always been full were empty. A mooring we’d used a couple of years ago opposite The Grove Golf Course was occupied, that boat will only get an hours direct sun tomorrow, we were hoping for somewhere similar.
Two more locks into Cassiobury Park, then we had our fingers crossed for a deep enough mooring with shade. NB Yarak had found a good spot, we tried further along. I stood on the bow looking into the shallow water shaking my head. The depth around 8 inches at most, we continued. The reason no boats were moored was evident. But before the next boat I couldn’t see the bottom, did this mean it would be deep enough? Mick swung the stern in first, still floating at the edge. The bow pulled all the way in too. Towpath side plenty of tree cover, off side a couple of big trees, we’d still however get direct sun in the middle of the day, this would do.
The back doors were opened and Tilly headed off into the trees to explore. A quick check in at Oleanna after an hour was a mistake. As I stepped back off the boat an unwelcome sight greeted me. A black cat with white toes! My white feet and tip of my tail far out rank just toes, but this cat was far heavier than me. I stood my ground, should I need to make a quick exit I was going to be far more nimble than that fat thing!
The stand off was curtailed, we don’t want any vets bills thank you. Tilly was encouraged inside and I chatted to the visitor. He gradually walked away down the towpath. Later on Mick was sent outside to discourage a return visit, heavy paws had been heard landing on the stern. Hopefully tomorrow both cats will have shore leave, leaving each other alone whilst we bake in the midday sun.
19 locks, 8.44 miles, 1 swing bridge holding up 4, 1/4 of a cake, 1 Jenos Esplos, 5 locks catching up, 1 new friend, 6 boxes wine, 10 litres cat litter, 2 fenders rescued, 2 trip boats, 0 boats to team up with, M25, 1 cobwed woofer, 1 twonk head, 1 float, 1 last mooring deep enough, 1 fat lard cake, 1 less slight cat.