I Went To Bishop Stortford And I Bought A …… 23rd July

Footbridge 28 to Bishop Stortford, the end of navigation


A little face kept watch on us approaching his boat this morning. He then popped back inside as we passed, maybe Tilly was giving him the what for out of a window.

More buttons to press

Sheering Mill Lock was our first and it took me by surprise as I needed a key to work both the bottom gates and the bottom paddles. I signalled back to Mick and then went to close the top gates. As we worked our way up a C&RT van arrived alongside the lock with a big bag of aggregate or sand in the back, a work boat was moored on the weir cut, they would bring it round to off load the bag once we were out of the way.

Now in Sawbridgeworth we looked for a mooring for a few hours. The chap on a red boat had told us we should visit the mills here, good antique shops, well worth a nosy. We spotted the mills and the moorings alongside modern apartments where signs say not to moor. Then ambiguous signs about Private Mooring, 2 days? We were puzzled, could we stop or not? The one visitor mooring was taken, so we carried on to Sawbridgeworth Lock, a neat and tidy lock with cottages over looking it.

Sawbridgeworth Lock

At the end of a line of boats there was a space that would have suited us, but we decided to save a visit to the mills for our way back down stream. Instead today we’d get to Bishop Stortford.

Clare on NB Billy had warned us of more low bridges and sure enough they were low with lovely sticky outy bits.

Pretty but not so good for horses

Tednambury Lock is overlooked at a distance by a house on a hill, the field between filled with yellow ragwort. A gate on the bridge over the bottom of the lock deters loads of more than 3 tonnes and an old garden gate has been reused on the path up through the field.

Planks at full stretch

The river meanders round, several boats were moored on the meadows here and had carved themselves seating areas in the long grass. A leap of faith required to reach dry land, some leaps were bigger than others!

By Spellbrook Lock we’d picked up a prop full of weed again. So once Oleanna had settled at the top Mick lifted the weed hatch to free it up. A long straight above the lock showed an oncoming boat, a blue one, could it be NB Misty Blue and Graeme? It was, he slowly made his way towards the lock as I wound paddles down and waited for Mick to finish. This would be the last time up here that our paths would cross, Graeme covering the water quicker than us, so it was farewells for now. We’ll meet somewhere else, sometime. Enjoy the rest of the summer Graeme.


Organised Gongoozlers sat waiting at the next lock, a flask and mugs for a morning coffee break in the sunshine watching the boats. We seemed to be hot on the heals of another boat who were also on their first trip up the river. A couple with their two kids also stood and watched, their daughter in a push chair seemed uninterested until she spotted Oleanna at the bottom of the lock when she gave out a loud happy screech!

At Southmill Lock the last on the river we caught up with the boat ahead. NB Small World, we hadn’t seen them since Broxbourne and had assumed they’d headed up the Lee, but no they must have just been setting off at a similar time to us a short distance ahead.

Approaching South Mill Lock

The route into Bishop Stortford is mostly surrounded by new warehousy type flats, maybe developers are encouraged to try to replicate the past. A zigzaggy bridge from the millennium crosses the river alongside original mills and leads it’s way towards the station.

The structure of Millennium Bridge and the Mills

A boat pulled out in front of us having just finished at the services, he then winded with hindrance from the wind and headed back towards us. One spot left right at the end of the moorings facing the end of the navigation. Rings are provided, but nestled in amongst nettles, someone could really do with strimming the moorings!

Those nettles would keep a hot compost bin happy

Sadly for Tilly the Health and Safety committee deemed the moorings to be unsuitable so they then had to put up with feline protests for an hour or two.

Our nosy neighbour across the way

I think it was thirty years ago I had my first professional design job for Snap Theatre Company who were based in Bishop Stortford. My interview necessitated me removing my portfolio from the final exhibition at college whist marking was happening. When I showed my folio to the Artistic Director of Snap there were certain things I couldn’t show him. A prop design of a barbers chair for my final project at college wouldn’t have been good as it was a theoretical design for the Olivier at the National Theatre, if I was actually designing for the National, why was I at an interview for a youth theatre summer school production of The Tempest!


I spent two/ three weeks in digs here, I can’t remember where abouts now. Much of the town centre has changed, I can’t even remember where the office was where I had to leave the van each night, Sainsburys has certainly moved. The Artistic Director, Andy Graham has also moved, a Google search shows him now to be working near to Chipping Norton of all places!

Bare tarmac

We had a wonder around the town, a few places sparking memories. The old mills now house a dance school and Chinese restaurant among other things. We crossed the zigzagging bridge and across the vast car park. Huge areas are set out for season ticket holders. Many of the spaces were empty as people now work from home, or maybe they were used by airline staff, not so many flights from Stanstead.

River Stort

Beyond the A1250 road bridge that cuts the navigation off is Castle Gardens. We walked alongside the river, now far too shallow for any but model boats. This however looks like a new course for the river. There had been a channel that went under the road, but on the 1892-1914 OS 25 inch map it shows the river coming into town a bit further west. Sainsburys now sits on top of the Terminus Basin and the winding hole is where you turned off to it.

Getting out of puff might have been worth it for the views

Sadly the castle had closed for the day, so no views from the top of the mound for us.

My pizza was half the size of Mick’s!

We decided to eat out tonight, a proper pizza for Mick and a gluten free one for me at Pizza Express. This used to be an old favourite, it feels like we’ve not been to one in years, possibly true. The photo is deceptive due to perspective. I had an ample amount of food, Mick had a bit too much!

A bee enjoying the pretty flowers

Oh what did I buy?

……….. a spatula! What else!

6 locks, 5.74 miles, 2 boats coming down, 2 days or maybe not, 5C less, 0 shore leave, 2 tideway boats, 30 years ago, 1 spatula, 1 castle, 1 river rerouted, 2 pizzas, 1 bored cat.