Boating Without Boundaries. 22nd July

Hunsdon Mill Lock to Footbridge 28

A couple of days ago Mick had scanned Google maps for a supermarket close to the canal as our supplies were getting low. In Bishop Stortford there is a Sainsburys, but they weren’t offering Click and Collect, plus it was another days cruise away and the wine stocks were down to the dregs in the last box! Tescos came up trumps in Harlow a short distance away from a footbridge over the canal. So we’d booked a slot between 12 and 1pm. The handy mooring, if free, was only an hour and half cruise away.

The difference between January and July above Hunsdon Lock. This is as far as we got on the River Stort in 2015, so all water ahead of us would be new.

A beautiful day

Stunning blue skies and meadows, very pretty. The train line out to Stanstead Airport runs quite close and the new trains sound their sore throat horns quite frequently, what a strange noise! Every now and then there would be a moored boat, gang plank out to the bank, Tilly would love it if she could cope with a plank.

Parndon Mill

First Lock was Parndon Mill a cream brick building with a square chimney. Several mills have stood on the site all milling flour. The current building dates back to 1900 and had a state of the art flat turbine mill wheel installed in 1904. It stopped turning in the 60’s once the miller died. The building was then fenced off by Harlow Development Corporation who searched for a new purpose for the buildings, preferably something to do with the arts.

In 1968 Sally Anderson a local potter was looking for new studio space someone pointed her in the direction of the mill. With four floors, a six bedroom house, outbuildings on three acres of land it was huge. Other artists came on board, work was traded for studio space and so the Mill was renovated and turned into a centre for creativity. Glass blowing, architecture, ceramics, a blacksmith all sorts have occupied the building. Somewhere worth visiting in better times.

At Burnt Mill Lock we could see activity above, a boats windows moving sideways across the cut. Here the bottom gates are powered requiring the key of power so Mick brought one up and helped to empty the lock. What was going on above? There seemed to be a lot of faffing about going on. Chaps in blue t shirts clustered together all wearing life jackets and hats. A group of them stood at the bow of one of the two boats, two more at the stern. We rose in the lock and opened the gates. It didn’t look like we’d be going anywhere soon!

They found their boundaries today!

Here is the base for CanalAbility who have two widebeam boats that do day trips and holidays for people with disabilities. They had been preparing for a trip out today, their longer boat needed turning, the other boat in the way. So someone had attempted to wind the boat at just the wrong spot, a gap maybe just a few inches too narrow for the full length of the boat. Here we had an Ever Given situation! The boat was stuck fast between banks, the sun beating down on it expanding the metalwork.

Oleanna coming to assist

We offered to lend a hand/boat to help. Ropes were being tugged both at the bow and stern. She wasn’t moving. Which way had they been turning when she got stuck, going clockwise, had they tried pulling her back out the way she’d gone in. Yes.

We were requested to push the bow whilst their other boat did the same at the stern. This didn’t quite make sense to us, but we obliged and pushed our button up to their bow as the other boat rammed into the stern. Well it move a touch, maybe an inch by the looks of the paint mark on the wooden edge.

One chap stood at the back, bowthrusters going, tiller this way then that, engine roaring. All of this was just making matters worse, all the time our click and collect slot getting closer.

Trying to make the canal that little bit wider

A saw, chisel and hammer were brought out with the aim of cutting away the wooden edge enough for the bow to be pulled round. Ropes were attached to our bow so that we could pull. That is all that should have been happening, but another shove at the stern and more engine and tiller too.

More sawing, more chiselling, more pulling, she moved an inch! More sawing, more chiselling. We dug out our big crow bar, another pull and she was back where she’d been thirty minutes ago. The problem was there were too many chiefs and one lady who kept on apologising to us and the group that had now arrived for their trip out.

Still not budging

The second boat was winded, thankfully it is shorter and didn’t end up jamming us against the side! Half the visitors climbed onboard and then were taken down through the lock and on their cruise, the remainder of their party brought chairs to sit in the shade to wait.

Time to try a Spanish Windlass

At last someone who spoke with authority arrived. Asked which way the boat had been winded. He looked around, put on a life jacket, returned with some blue rope and a short scaff bar to make a Spanish windlass attached to a mooring bollard that wouldn’t spin. Eventually after I don’t know how many turns the bow creaked it’s way round. At last the navigation was open again!


We quickly got out of everyone’s way and got on our way, there was still time to get our shopping.

Round the bend was plenty of shade, we’d been warned about Willow branches leaning right over the navigation and sure enough the wood had been cut just above our roof height.

Above Latton Lock the moorings we’d been hoping for seemed full, a gap at the start of them might just accommodate Oleanna and still leave enough space for the lock landing. We pulled in, tied up avoiding as many nettles as possible and hoped nobody would curse us for being too close to the lock.

Out came the Brompton and Mick cycled off to pick up our shopping. One boat did come along, but they managed quite easily being a few foot shorter than us.

Hello Alfie

Onwards. One of the chaps at CanalAbility had suggested a mooring on an S bend. These were all taken and had no shade, we carried on. The two day mooring at Harlow Mill Lock was taken too. The river was proving to be more popular than we’d expected it to be.

Feakes Lock was surrounded by a group of teenagers, all keen on swimming. One chap jumped in as we approached but thankfully they all kept their distance as I emptied the lock, then refilled it. One chap helped with the gates, another picked up their windlass and lifted a paddle for me, after all the sooner we got out of their way the better. No point in dropping the paddles at the top as the swimmers would only open them up again.

Shady mooring

Round the next bend we spotted a space under some trees next to a small weir. We pulled in just fitting opposite a footpath leading into a local park. Here Tilly had trees to climb and we would have space for a barbeque under the trees nestled into the nettles.

It being a month since our last barbeque we enjoyed our sweetcorn, veg and haloumi kebabs with a pork steak each that I’d marinated in a sweet and sour sauce. Very tasty.

For Ali

5 locks, 5.02 miles, 1 honesty bridge, 1 stuck boat, 1 notch where not to wind a 62fter! 1 click and collect, 4 boxes wine, 11 swimmers, 3 hours, 2 many woofers, 2 men at work, 2 chums, 2 sweetcorn, 4 kebabs, 2 pork steaks, 2 many twitching woofer noses.