We’d Better Turn At Bridge Nine! 3rd July

River Colne Aqueducts to River Colne Aqueducts

After breakfast and spending time convincing Tilly that she didn’t need to go out this morning we got ourselves ready to venture onto new waters. The Slough Arm has only been cruised a short distance further on, to the next winding hole back in 2015, today we aimed to reach the end. As recorded by, I’m not going to say many, some boaters there isn’t much at the end. Mile posts suggest a basin, but that is most probably just a winding hole now. Our map shows a water point, although it does suggest it’s just about impossible to reach. We hoped to see for ourselves.

It was drizzling, but undeterred we got ready to push off. Akeem was getting ready to tow the boat he’d been painting yesterday down the canal to High Line Yachting to go on brokerage, it would be easier for him if we moved first. A check across the way to the chap in his tent, no sign of him this morning, his tent gone, maybe he’d started to walk to Milton Keynes?

Without the M25

Pootling onwards the rain came and went, not too heavy, my waterproof trousers keeping it at bay thankfully. A C&RT weed boat had been going back and forth this morning removing Pennywort, they turned and moved to a wider section of the canal to enable us to pass.

Everyone warns you of how shallow the canal is and about the amount of weed. Akeem said two or three boats had ventured towards the end in the last week, maybe they’d have cut a channel for us, stay in the middle, we intended to do so.

There’ll be enough room to get past

Under the M25. The straightish canal means you can see a long way ahead and up ahead Hollow Hill Lane Bridge looked to be full of boat. I zoomed in, breasted up boats on the other side of the bridge, hopefully they’d have left enough room for us to get through. As we got closer a third boat could be seen, then a forth, the going was quite slow, but we slowed even more and just managed to squeeze past.

We weren’t expecting to see so many boats here. Some four abreast, but mostly two stretching on towards the next bridge. Bright green blanket weed sat on the surface and clung to the hulls. A chap came over to chat as we slowly passed, he was sorry things were a bit awkward for us, but it was boat moving day. A crane on the bank and four boats now stood out on the hard, one having passed us this morning. He also suggested we didn’t try to get to the end, ‘There’s a winding hole after bridge 9’. We took note, we already knew this, but it would be a shame to get that far and not see if we could get to the end.

Most definitely a narrow canal

Once past all the moored boats the going got better. Less weed and a bit more depth, no problem. Then the reeds got closer, just enough room for us to pass through. It was obvious we’d picked things up on the prop, our progress getting slower. Blasts of reverse seemed to do a little to improve things. Bridge 9, then the winding hole, we carried onwards, still not too bad.

Plastic and weed

Then bridge 10, the going slowed more. The depth reduced, bubbles rising to the surface, blimey what a pong!!! Then we could see the amount of rubbish that laid below the surface and the increasing blanket weed. One stop to clear the prop.

As soon as Mick started up the engine, put Oleanna into gear we heard the weed suck straight onto the prop within just a few seconds. By the time Mick had cleared the prop again the water around us was clearing and we could see just how much weed was down there! A full carpet lying about a foot below the surface. As Mick cleared the prop he could have almost pulled the weed up through the hatch, but it would have kept going and going.

Ahead there may have been better patches. Ahead there may just be solid weed. Oleanna sits quite deep in the water, lining up the prop with the weed no matter how slowly we went. If we carried on we’d maybe not get back to where we started today for many hours. If we reversed we’d only have to do a third the distance than if we carried on.

Quite a bit more!

It’s not often we’re defeated, but today we were. With the prop clear we started to head backwards, at a very slow pace. This wasn’t by choice. The barge pole was required as Oleanna had no forwards propulsion to help alter our course and using the bow thruster would just be plain stupid! She could now only go backwards. Our course corrected a few times, the barge pole kept upright and handy at the stern rather than laid back on the roof, then all propulsion ceased. Time to clear the prop again, we’d only managed a hundred feet!

Mick opened up the weedhatch again. The super sharp knife, propmate all useful, but the weed was wrapped around the prop shaft, he’d need a longer blade without the length of the propmate. The not so good bread knife was produced and used to carve his way through the weed. This took forever, blood rushing to his head.

In the mean time I watched Red Kites circling. They’d been visible for the last mile or so, about four of them. Now their numbers had increased, eight, no ten, no Twelve! Were our days numbered? Were they circling with Hitchcock intent? Then I noticed that they were occasionally diving down to a grassy area between houses, they’d swoop down in turn then climb back with something in their talons. What had someone put out for them? I really couldn’t see.

I tried filming them several times, this is the best I could muster whilst Mick was hacking away below the water line.

A further mountain of weed and plastic was added on the stern. We carried on reversing, poling our way straight back to clearer and deeper water. On our way out we’d managed two miles in the first hour, a mile and a half in the next, then 0.1 mile in the third hour! If we’d carried on to the basin we’d have not returned until midnight!!!

Pretty in parts

Once we reached bridge 10 the going got easier. Shame the blackberries are not ripe yet as we’d have managed to pick bucket loads as we went. Back to the winding hole we turned to face the east. Forwards propulsion now possible again.

You can wipe that smile off your face, you’ve not been down the far end!

Slowly past the long line of boats, Akeem had not long arrived to deliver the boat for sale. He asked how it had gone, we just sighed and waved goodbye. There was plenty of space back where we’d started so we tied up to the big posts, opened the door for Tilly to have an hour and a half shore leave.

Within again!

After a couple of hours a motorbike zoomed along the towpath, time for Tilly to be home, no sign! Half an hour later after the motorbike had returned I tried again. Mad cat woman on the towpath! I called and called, was that Tilly? Called some more, was I going to have to trust her to come home. Then MEOW!!! I’m up here you numpty! Up on the bridge across the canal she stood and proceeded to run across towards the other side! Come and see what’s on this outside Thankfully when I got up on the bridge she came running, she’d obviously finished what she was doing. As much as it would have been nice to explore with her it was everyone’s dingding time! Time to get back on the boat.

0 locks, 7.2 miles, 0.1 mph, 1 mighty mountain of weed, 1 pole, 2/3rds of a mile from the end, 2 boaters defeated, 12 red kites, 1/3rds mile reversed, 1 wind, 1 bridge, 1 extra hour, 1 seduction refused.

Does anyone know what time of year the weed is less? Plus, is it due to be dredged anytime in the next few years?

4 thoughts on “We’d Better Turn At Bridge Nine! 3rd July

  1. Paul (from Waterway Routes)

    It was fully dredged in 2015 so it will be another 10-20 years before they do it again. Was it shallow, or was it simply a weed problem?

    They were about half way along when we filmed our Grand Union Canal (South) DVD in 2015 and the half they had done was wonderful and felt it would last 25+ years, but the half they still had to do would have been impassable to all but the most stubborn (or stupid) boaters. We kept going so we had a complete DVD recording.

    1. Pip Post author

      It was more the weed than the depth. As soon as I cleared the prop it clogged up again. But there was quite a lot of bubbling coming up as we slowly passed so I don’t think it was very deep either.


    1. Pip Post author

      I’m so glad you speak my language.
      I wonder if in early 2015 if it hadn’t been iced over if we’d have made it to the end? I suspect we would have Lillian was shallower than Oleanna.


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