The first rower went past before 7am today, no need for an alarm clock. At least it must have been a scull as all we heard was the slide going back and forth and the oars sweeping through the water and not the instructions that are normally shouted out in pairs, fours or eights, some of these rowers do like the sound of their own voices.
Just after breakfast it started to rain, not inviting but our hope that it would clear up was granted and we set off in the dry. Today is the first day we’ve worn an extra layer for what feels like months, the temperature having dropped to a little below 20 C.
Some of the boat houses in Henley have accommodation above them and some are as pretty as the wooden boats that are moored up outside.
We’d just missed going up with two other narrowboats at Marsh Lock so waited our turn to rise to the next reach of river.
Numerous islands give you the choice of which way to go, so we decided to have a nosy at some of the houses. The bigger ones sit back with large lawns, these houses have views across the river. The smaller ones, more modern, face wooded islands which stop their views short.
It started to rain so waterproofs were donned as we wound round the big bend past Wargrave to Shiplake Lock. Back in 2016 as we arrived at this lock there was a queue, a big one that wasn’t moving, all it did was grown. Boats held back but in the end had to pull in down towards the weir as a hydraulic pipe had burst on one of the gates. After two hours wait the queue started to move again. Today we’d just missed the two narrowboats ahead again so waited our turn.
We pulled in at the services to empty the yellow water, top up the water which took all of five minutes. Between here and the lock were large tents the sort you see on American films, both ends open and a large fly sheet spanning right across the top. Each tent had wooden beds in them and then what looked like a garden shed. The island was purchased in 1891 by the City of London Corporation for camping and bathing. In 1914 the island was let to the Thames Conservancy and divided into 18 plots, the wooden huts were built by the tents for cooking. At the time no women were allowed to sleep on the island, it was men only. Sadly today it was raining too much to have my camera out as we went past.
The rain now stayed with us all the way to Sonning Lock where we rose up (a little too quickly for my liking) and then found a suitable place to moor. Tilly wouldn’t like it here in the slightest!
Now this more than made up for the lack of trees yesterday. 6 hours! I’d only just started to survey today’s outside when another stupid woofer came to spoil my concentration. This one even ran up to me! Woofing and woofing. I stood my ground, arched my back and my tail nearly took off, that stopped it in it’s tracks! Stupid rude woofer. Once it had shut up I could get back to what I’d only just started.
After a couple of hours I had to be reminded that I was meant to show my face every now and then, so from then on I bobbed back to say hello every now and then. One time She wasn’t too pleased to see me and my friend, even though She thought it might be a mushroom I had in my mouth. The hatch was closed in my face, so I just had to turn back round towards the trees with it. If She didn’t want to me to share it with her then that was her loss.
Now this one is in Marlow. How much?
3 locks, 7.34 miles, 2 jumpers, 2 waterproof coats, 0 blue t-shirt, 3 lock keepers, 1 a bit heavy on the buttons, 10 year old hollyhocks, 6 hours,1 mushroom, 2 work emails, 1 useful buoy.
Rain hit Oleanna’s roof for much of last night, but by first thing this morning it had dried up. Mick headed off on a bike to find a Waitrose for a free newspaper, along with £10 of shopping. He was fortunate as when he returned we had a couple of major down pours, the sort that would soak you to the skin despite waterproofs.
10% chance of rain! Well we’d got that 10% and we weren’t going to set off whilst it was at it’s worst. By midday the sun was trying to make an appearance so we made ready to push off. A boat appeared from behind, we had a locking partner.
The Anchor Pub was already attracting customers and would be a handy place for a delivery should we need one on the way back. The crew of NB Montana were setting the lock when I reached them after dropping off some rubbish.
I’d set the bow rope on the port side roof, but as the boats came into the lock we ended up on the starboard side, I’d be needing a boat hook to get the rope. The hook we were left with at little Venice is nice and light weight with an aluminium pole so easy to handle.
We tied up as we’d done yesterday using the yellow post at the stern. NB Montana tied up using all three ropes, but not one of them round the yellow post. There was a lot of rushing around trying to stop their boat from surging forward and backwards, the centre line getting tighter and tighter whilst Oleanna just rose up the lock gracefully. I mentioned to the lady about the yellow post, she wasn’t aware if they’d been told about it at Thames Lock.
Time to turn the engines back on, not a rumble from NB Montana! He tried again and again, still no joy. We said we’d wait for them at the next lock, for a while anyway and left them to bow haul out of the lock making way for a boat to go down.
The next stretch was narrow and slow going. We think it was both the depth but also the current as we were heading upstream. A quick look at a map showed us that RHS Wisley isn’t too far away and to keep an eye open for an Elizabethan Summer House. There it was nestled in amongst the trees.
The lock cottage at Walsham Flood Gates watched our progress, Mick was impressed by the telephone bells by the front door.
Now we were back on the river, wider and deeper. The moorings by the lock looked like they’d be fun to reverse out off and not get drawn towards the weir!
A boat was just coming out of Newark Lock leaving it all ready for us. How long should we wait? We decided on ten minutes or until a boat came the other way. The sun was now out, layers could be removed as we waited. After eight minutes a boat appeared above the lock, oh well we’d have to ascend as we were in the way.
A lady came to help and we left her with a message for NB Montana that we’d wait at the next lock, they’re on a mission to reach Guildford today for dinner.
I’d seen that NB Huffler had moored at Papercourt Meadows a few days ago, this had to be those meadows. Wide grassy, perfect place for a barbecue, maybe on our way back. We noted a couple of places that looked deep enough to moor as boats were already tied up.
I hopped off just before we reached the bywash from the weir and walked up to the lock, pausing to take photos. What a picturesque scene in the sunshine with the cottage and stepped weir, chocolate box.
A family of Egyptian Geese were preening themselves by the top gates which kept me occupied as we waited. NB Montana could be seen making her way through the meadows, as they got closer I spotted a second boat hot on their tail. Should we go up on our own or wait. We waited saving them an extra ten minutes emptying the lock.
This time they used the yellow post and both boats sat calmly as they rose, affording everyone chance to have a chat. Paddles were wound in unison. They’d had a chap this morning lift a paddle straight up which had sent the plume of water straight into their bow and inside the cabin. She got him to quickly close the paddle and avoid them sinking, they still had a wet floor that needed mopping up. Have to say we never go up hill with our cabin doors open just for this reason.
We led the way for the next two miles. Pretty rural turned into offices/factory at the cut side. Another flood gate at Worsfold where the National Trust work yard is. Nicholsons mentions a turf sided lock here, but we didn’t spot it, we’ll have a better look on the way back.
The river now winds and twists towards the next pretty lock, Triggs Lock with another fine cottage. The bottom gates when open lean over the channel so, as on other gates, there are chains and a bar to help you pull them towards you from a safe distance. This was to be our last lock of the day, so we waved NB Montana goodbye and hoped they had a lovely evening.
Through the next bridge was a trimmed stretch of towpath, we arrive just as a group of canoeists did, they loitered exactly where we wanted to pull in but they got the message in the end. The wind had been doing it’s best to aid us in mooring when the canoes had been in the way, but now had disappeared. Oleanna just wouldn’t go into the side, Mick hopped off but no matter how he pulled on the centre line she just wasn’t having any of it. A blast of reverse to get her back close enough for Mick to jump back on and we headed off to try the next place.
This was also too shallow, a shame as there would have been a great view of Send church from our bedroom in the morning. The next trimmed length we were determined to moor in. The bow came in close enough to hop off, but the stern wouldn’t. Any further along the river and we’d be too close to roads for Tilly, so here it was to be. Spikes banged in and plank deployed, the first time since the Lancaster. This reminded us that we really need to get a longer one very soon!
Excuse me!!! Just what were they thinking? This outside had water everywhere! How was I meant to be able to get to it? Tom showed me this sloping thing, it smelt like ours but really! No thank you!! A thin slice of tree is no good for anyone!
However the trees here were good. Good for climbing. I soon discovered that I could jump the gap over the water and onto the roof when a rude woofer came to see me. It didn’t stay long when I showed it what I was made of.
I really wasn’t sure about this outside, so She came out to go for a walk with me. I like this, both of us discovering new things, mostly trees and friends for me. Today however we discovered that most Southern Woofers are very rude!
One came running from quite a distance, so I decided to head up a tree. Here I had to cling on whilst it shouted at me for ages. It’s Tom just smiled and walked by calling it’s stupid name. In the end She had to risk her life and stand in between us as the woofer just wasn’t going to leave. Have to say I was glad when it did my claws were starting to ache!
I discovered that I could jump onto the side hatch with relative ease which came in handy later on when the stupid Tom came back with his exceptionally rude woofer. Doors were closed very quickly on the boat locking it out. Why was the Tom stupid? He had a lead and knew I was there so why hadn’t he used it?! Stupid and selfish, if I’d been a little kid running away I bet he’d have apologised. Maybe he is scared of his woofer and can’t keep hold of it or is even afraid that it might bite him. Anyway my Tom was so not impressed! I now HATE woofers!
Last night I’d prepared a sponge for a loaf of Sour Dough, this had been getting frothier all day. So once we’d moored up I mixed in the other ingredients and added some yeast so that we wouldn’t have to wait until midnight to bake it. It rose nicely over a couple of hours. Then as I popped it in the over I happened to give the tin a slight knock against the grill pan. My recipe warns against this as with no gluten the loaf can collapse, all those hours of rising gone immediately to waste.
The loaf looked okay as it went in the oven, but when I turned the temperature down I had a look. It had sunk by about a quarter, a big dip in the middle! I toyed with abandoning it there and then, not wasting gas. But baked it in the end, we’ll see how it turns out for toast tomorrow.
4 locks, 2 flood gates, 5.19 miles, 1 summer house, 1 broken boat, 1 meadow mooring noted, 3 shallow moorings also noted, 0 outside close enough, 2 rude woofers, 3 woofer incidents, 1 freaked out cat, 1 totally selfish dog owner, 1 sunken loaf, 1 migraine brewing, 1 property game put off till tomorrow.
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.
Grand Junction Inn to Little Tring Bridge, Wendover Arm, Grand Union Canal
A load of washing was set going before we pushed off today. Still heading southwards we cruised through Bulbourne Bridge and pulled up at the water point. Here we filled the tank as the washing machine did it’s thing. Then we winded at the handy ‘Winding Area’ (as they are now known on new blue signs) and headed northwards.
The old Bulbourne BW yard is fenced off, along the canalside from the road and surrounding area. Here lock gates uses to be made until 2003 when modern mechanised methods and bad vehicle access meant that production moved to Stanley Ferry and Bradley. The yard and it’s surrounding buildings since then have been used by a metal worker, who’s creations used to add interest, large horses and benches filling the canal side of the yard. But now everywhere is boarded up, it looks like some developers are about to move in.
A C&RT document about the future of Bulbourne is here. I’m not sure when it was written but it details the site. H2O Urban has details of a development on the site here. Four buildings will be converted into 25 new homes, a new footbridge and a new yard for C&RT. Works were meant to start last month on site and a website for the development is being set up here.
We pootled back to the junction where we turned to the left just above the locks. Here the Wendover Arm heads off in a south westerly direction. Back in February 2015 we came down here on Lillian. The navigable section is only around a mile and a half long with a winding hole and 48hr mooring at the end. The going is slow, very slow, most probably slower than it was on Lillian.
Originally the arm was built as a feeder for the summit pound, this was then widened to make it navigable. This however leaked and was shut off with stop planks. A hundred years later Phase 1 of the restoration plan was finished giving us what is navigable today. Phase 2 is ongoing with the aim of linking Wendover to the main network.
Along the slow mile we were followed closely by Terns. They took it in turns to hover behind us waited to catch a glimpse of a silvery fish in the water. Dropping from the sky to the water they hoped to catch a tasty morsal. Each turned their backs on us, so we couldn’t see if they had been successful of not. Quite a sight.
We pulled in just before the last bend where several fishermen had taken up residency, a day boat having just winded and was heading back waited for us to tie up. There was another boat before the bridge and one right at the end of navigation, but here it felt like we were on our own, all be it with a noisy mower going back and forth in the garden next door.
The sun was out, our windows and hatches all open. Tilly spent seven hours exploring and wondering why we weren’t out playing. Well that’s because we’d come down here for some peace and quiet away from the main canal so that I could get some work done over the next couple of days.
Late afternoon Oleanna bumped the side, someone was coming. Ten minutes later a day boat filled with chaps zoomed past us, bumping us into the side, thankfully Tilly wasn’t peering in through the hatch at the time! Very soon afterwards they zoomed back , not quite as fast as before, they hadn’t had long enough since doing a hand break turn to get up to speed again!
0 locks, 1.85 miles, 1 wind, 1 left, 1 load washing dried and put away, 3 terns, 1 heron, 1 canal being topped up, 1 traction engine, 2 more boats, 5 fishermen, K2 or K6? 4 pieces of car, 7 hours, 1 friend rescued, 1 very sunny day, 1st cuff knitted.