Saturday 31 July 2021


 Today's Canal - Grand Union

We had numerous showers today, some quite heavy, but none lasted for very long. There were some occasional bright spells as well.

First, we dropped down Uxbridge Lock, not far ahead from where we moored overnight, to find a space on the Visitor Moorings below. Although there were several 'squatters' taking up much of the length there were a couple of spaces still available and we tied up in one of them.

Christine and Andrew walked into Uxbridge to meet Ellie at the station but on the way they called at Iceland to pick up some snacks for lunch and also pizzas for tonight. 

Once we were all back on board we set off for the trip down to Brentford. We had been a bit concerned about timings of our arrival at Brentford and able to find an overnight mooring. Hence we planned to ave lunch 'on the go'.

One of our older references listed a BWB base at Uxbridge Moor and we were keen to see where it might be. We are not totally sure yet but as far as we can see, it was just above where Uxbridge Boat Centre is today. The old site has been re-developed into a block of apartments.

At least one of the Wood Hall an Hereward tug boats is alive and well! (see yesterday's blog)

We paused above Cowley Lock to empty elsans before continuing on past the Packet Boat Marina where we moored our previous boat Take Five for several winters.

One of the heavier rain showers arrived . . . 

The bridge across the junction where the Paddington Arm leaves the main line is an iconic picture which we just could not avoid taking. It also shows that some of the time the weather was much brighter.

Just beyond the junction are several cottage terraces which we have photographed in the past. Later we realised that today's picture shows quite different buildings from the older ones. Closer examination and further research shows that each terrace was constructed at three times and the nearer half of each is modern.

At the Hanwell Flight we joined up with a boat that we shared one or two locks a couple of days ago.

We passed under the M4 but a little later, just before Clitheroe's Lock it looked as if we were to do s again, but actually is runs vey close to the canal but then veers away again. At times the traffic looked as if it was not moving a lot faster than we were. Our comeuppance arrived quickly - we were rather slow down this next lock as quite a traffic jam had built up with a number of boats on their way to go out through Thames Lock tonight on the 6.30 tide.

As we came into the main basin area above the Gauging Locks we passed two old and derelict warehouses. It seems that these were built in the 1960's as a transhipment base between Thames lighters and canal boats. 

We filled with water and then looked for our overnight mooring. Fist, we let all the boats for tonight's departure go through the Gauging Lock - a number were waiting as they knew that there was almost nowhere to tie up above Thames Lock. There should be plenty of room but it is currently filled with boats that have squatted here during the pandemic and are reluctant to move off the visitor moorings.

In the end, two of the boats that were just ahead of us on the run through Hanwell who had tied up on the pontoon below the lock offered to double up so that we could come down and join them. (The Gauging and Thames Locks are the only mechanised ones on the Grand Union) The pontoon is a much easier place to adjust to the semi-tidal conditions of the reach between Gauging and Thames Locks. There was time before lour evening meal to deploy our anchor on the fore deck (it and its chain normally reside in a bow locker!) as well as check the propeller and clear any rubbish - actually there was very little.

12.0 Miles - 13 Locks

Friday 30 July 2021


 Today's Canal - Grand Union

We were a little later leaving than the past few days - mainly because Mike failed to complete yesterday's blog after the evening meal!

When we did leave it was still largely dry but very grey and the wind was gradually building.

Not far and we passed the derelict building at the former Springwell Chalk Pits. For a long time, the end of the steelwork has been decorated by a very large cuddly toy but it has gradually weathered and looks very sad. Recently, more intrepid climbers have added a new bear to the other end of the building. The building is not on the early OS maps but an aerial photo from 1949 does show it.

We said yesterday that a standard orange lifeboat no longer qualifies for an Unusual Boat - too many of them! - but this one has crept in. An unusual conversion, assuming that the surrounding structure is permanent and that it is eventually released from the floating dry dock!

Many of the wide beam boats we have seen in the last couple of days do appear to be on their second or third - or more - owner - which prompted the question about what happens when they come to the end of their usable life. This one appears to be heading to the scrap breakers. But who knows? Perhaps it will become someone's project boat!

Wood Hall & Hereward are a long established canal based contractor, particularly well known for towing and other support facilities. They used to have quite a few boats at a base near Springwell but the site now looks very quiet. They also own the branch of the River Colne that used to be called Sewerage Farm Marina but now seems to be home almost entirely to old working boats and barges.

The attractive tea room at Black Jack's Lock is gradually getting back into business - there were a few customers today, despite the off-putting weather.

On the long straight section through Harefield we saw the crossing point for HS2. Although we could hear some rather noisy equipment, very little could be seen over the high defensive panels. Tight security around the site perimeter was very obvious.

To one side of the main crossing site, a new electricity distribution pylon was under construction. One side of the cables on the existing pylon have been removed.

Denham Deep justifies its name. It was empty so first had to be filled. Emptying again took a while as only one bottom gate paddle was operational.

Just below the lock is a small boat repair business. Its more well known facility is the floating dry dock.

The storm was gradually arriving and by the time we neared Uxbridge a very heavy and protracted shower arrived. We were uncertain about finding a mooring close to the town centre so pulled in just before a ling line of moored boats above the lock. It was time for lunch and a chance to dry out.

Later, Andrew walked into the town centre - it is fair to say that he was not overly impressed! However he did suss out the moorings and certainly we will stay put for tonight, moving down to the visitor moorings (most of which are occupied) below the lock tomorrow. We plan to meet up with Ellie as soon as she can catch an underground train from East London. We will then see how the rest of the day pans out but we need to be placed to be at Thames Lock for 7.15 am on Sunday!

We have also booked for the Basingstoke Canal - entry on Tuesday morning. We have still work out the detailed timings to get there in time!

5.5 Miles - 5 Locks

Thursday 29 July 2021

Stockers Lock

Today's Canal - Grand Union

The day began bright sunny but with quite a stiff breeze. It remained, as promised, that way all day until the evening. Because the forecast for Friday was quite the opposite with Storm Evert, as it was later named, threatening heavy rain and high winds, we decided to try and get as much distance on our log as possible today. We are scheduled to meet up with grand daughter Ellie in Uxbridge on Saturday and then we are booked to catch the 7.15 am tide at Brentford on Sunday morning.

We saw a Q symbol on an approach to a new canal-side development which was then explained in a Shhh this is a Quiet Zone sign beside Apsley Top Lock (sorry about the zoomed-in photo) We have not seen this specific signage before - why is it that developers or new residents (in this case the former probably as it is an incomplete site) think that they can build next to a canal and then lobby for it to stop doing what it was happily doing until the  builders turned up?

Spotted this strange shaped tree at Apsley Middle Lock.

Just before the next lock this short arm is a permanent mooring for a few rather aging boats. Alongside the canal at that point used to be Apsley Mills, another of the large paper producers that dominated the industry in this area. This arm was originally much longer and was used to load and unload canal boats - much of the paper trade was at one time carried by water.

The buildings beside the lock retain the image of the industrial heritage but are now apartments.

At Nash Mills lock we caught up with a boat that had passed earlier before we set off. They were just completing the retrial by magnet of a lock key that they had dropped in the lock. The couple had bought it a short time ago and plan to renovate it into their home whilst the retirement-cruise the canal system. They are taking it back to their baser near Harlow. To get there quickly they are starting at 5.30 and going on until 10 each evening! We shared locks for the rest of the morning.

This boat would not have made it into our Unusual Boats gallery but for the fact that it is entirely white, unlike the usual bright orange.

The lock cottage in Kings Langley has just been sold from an asking price of offers over £600,000 (makes a wide beam seem affordable!). The estate agent's details say GORGEOUS detached 'Chocolate Box' home, in a PICTURESQUE canal-side setting boasting a LARGE garden and SECURE, PRIVATE PARKING but avoid mentioning that a busy road is at one end of the property - and then crosses the canal - whilst access seems to be via the car park of a large industrial unit. The front facing the canal is just about one metre from the lock edge!

A lot of maintenance work seems to be underway on the M25 viaduct as we passed uderneath the mesh of scaffolding.

This may be the distinctive Grove Bridge (which shares with Solomon's Bridge the distinction of being the only two ornamental bridges on the Grand Union) but it comes in the middle of a long line of moored boats either side, making a fuller photo difficult to take.

Grove Mill has been converted and developed into an attractive set of apartments but looking on the internet some of them do look rather 'bijou'.

At Iron Bridge Lock in Cassiobury Park we had a good number of onlookers, mostly families with young children who were very interested in watching us go through. Mike teased them by telling them the name of the bridge and then pointed to the bridge and asking Why the name? They were keen to hear the answer but gave howls of anguish when Mike suggested they could find out on the internet when they get back home!

This long stretch of modern housing was once the site of Croxley Paper Mill - giving the name to an upmarket brand of notepaper, once a familiar name but now probably unknown to most people.

We stopped for a shopping top-up at Tesco on Frogmore Wharf just below Batchworth Lock - Andrew and Christine went to shop whilst Mike set about preparing the evening meal as we anticipated mooring up later than usual.

In the end we found a suitable mooring just below Stockers Lock, not too much further on from the supermarket. We were a bit relieved to find this space as the towpath for some distance before this was stem-to-stern moored boats, with most looking like persistent over-stayers. 

It is perhaps important to say that we observed that., although there are far more moored boats than when we were last here five years ago, the quality of the boats does seem to have been improved, especially on moorings managed by Waterside Moorings. This does suggest quite a shift in the reasons why people opt to live aboard a boat moored roughly in much the same location year round.

 10.5 Miles - 20 locks

Wednesday 28 July 2021

Hemel Hempstead

 Today's Canals - Wendover Arm, Grand Union Main Line

Showers were forecast for today but, apart from a couple of rather heavier ones, most were very slight and did not lead to donning rainwear. It was almost good weather for cruising through a well-locked stretch of canal.

We set off early, leaving the terminal basin at Little Tring behind us.

Just before the main pumping sgtation we passed through the former stop lock, This was built when the arm proved to be rather leaky. It isolated the problem section from the main line summit pound (which has its own problems with water level.

At Heygates, a set of pallets of flour in retail size bags stood awaiting collection. Let's hope that it was boarded before the rain arrived!

We re-joined the main line and continued southwards along the summit pound to Cowroast.

Re-development of the former maintenance base at Bulbourne is well underway. It seems nthat most of the original buildings have been retained, including the crane, whilst wholly modern houses are incorporated in other spaces. It looked very much better thought through than Marsworth.

We were keen to find somewhere to refill our fuel tank as the gauge was showing well under half and supplies are not so easy to be sure of in the route ahead. So, we called in at the marina at Cowroast. Having carefully maneuvered our way in, we found that there was  no-one available to serve us! We did however manage a 'full service' at the lock before beginning the long descent down to the Thames.

Later in the morning the grey skies cleared and at times we had some some really blue patches that provided a great backdrop to the canal.

At Berkhampstead we used the Shop and Drop Zone - we dropped Christine off and she went to the supermarket to shop for some tinned tomatoes - we had run out and it is chilli tonight!

She re-joined us below the next lock, after the bridge which has recently been painted to match the one designed some years back a little further on, where the canal designed for barges came to an end. North of here it was really only intended for narrow boats even though the locks were widened so that they could take a pair at the same time.  It is certainly eye-catching!

Just after Winkwell Swing Bridge we stopped at the boatyard for diesel. This turned out to be quite a lengthy exercise as they are not really set up for doing this easily. Just tying up was complicated. Nevertheless we were able to fill the fuel tank to the brim! As we set off again, another boat arrived to go down and we shared the locks for the fest of the afternoon.

We continued to Hemel Hempstead - our first attempt at mooring for the night was not very successful as the canal was too shallow at the edges. Close to the next lock we were OK with the bonus that we were better sheltered from the traffic noise from the A41.

11.4 Miles - 18 Locks