Monday 28 August 2023


Today's Canal : Paddington Arm

Our stay in the centre of London was drawing to a close and we have two days to make our way back to High Line where we will take a mooring whilst we return home for a short while. (We may well explain why in a later blog!)

We were away in good time, first going yet again to the end of the basin to turn around. On the way out we passed one of the more recent entrances to Paddington Station and the nearest (so we thought) to the Circle Line platforms. On Thursday evening on our return from the prom we were disappointed to emerge from the Underground some distance away, towards the front of the station. We had forgotten that the Circle Line has two stations here, one for each direction! Soon, with the new Paddington Square complex, this will no longer be the most recent.

Soon we arrived at Brownings Pool and turned left to head west out of central London. We tried to get diesel from the fuel boat but, alas, he was in a hurry for an urgent appointment elsewhere.

We called again at the service block but another boat had just started a long fill with water so we only used the disposal facilities (water was not a priority) We have also discovered a bit more of the history of this toll stop - see here. (scroll down some way)

When we set off again, we immediately passed this boat but when checking its history we became rather confused. For a long time we have understood this to be the boat that was Richard Branson's home in early married life and from where he is said to have run his burgeoning empire in its early days. However the first Google result we looked at talked about it being rented out and looking very different (the lack of the large room is obvious) We tried other sites and the majority opinion is clearly on the side of our memory! But it has had a considerable makeover since we last saw it when it looked very much more in keeping with a long but impoverished entrepreneur. As far as we can see, it is now rented out although Branson son used it for a while.

This weekend is the famous Notting Hill Carnival - one of the local cc'ing boaters said that she thought that this is why at the moment there are even fewer free spots to assist them move every 14 days. The route comes closest to the canal just by the WestWay flyover and for a while we could see signs of the event. Here, somewhat obscured by moored boats is one site with lots of stalls no doubt selling street food and anything else that might be attractive to the average carnival goer! (Alas, we have little idea . . .)

All needs are met - here a small block of temporary toilets, perhaps the idea of another local keen to make a few pounds from an event aid to attract 2 million visitors. We could not get it into the same photo but a sign said "£3 toilet - £5 Queue jump" Whatever happened to spending a penny?

Every so often we could see small groups of police waiting to be called in the event of an incident but it seemed too early for much to go wrong. As we went under one footbridge a long line of officers were crossing over and they certainly seemed in in festive mood and waved cheerily.

We continued on further out of the city centre but the packed lines of moored boats meant that we could not make a great speed but gradually we felt that all was not well with the prop. When we started to have more room to up the throttle we knew that a trip down the weed hatch was necessary. This produced a modest haul, some weed but the more significant two items were part of a builder's bag (or something of similar tough material) and a metre of rope. Fortunately neither had become wrapped to tightly around the prop or shaft and came out comparatively easily. The difference was apparent immediately once we set off again.

Shortly before we crossed the North Circular we passed this older building, oddly placed amongst a lot of modern mainly industrial or commercial development. We have not yet been able to confirm what its original purpose was but it looks like  house for a canal employee, perhaps a senior lengthsman. There is no reason for there to be a toll house here but it can be seen on old OS maps, and on the 1895 edition it is labelled simply Canal Cottage. By 1945 even that information is missing.

We have not made any entries recently into our Unusual Boats Gallery. Of course we have seen plenty of re-purposed lifeboats but they are generally bright orange. Whether this one was originally that colour we cannot tell but its current lime green either floats your boat or sinks it!

Talking of re-purposing - it is good that this late season family of cygnets and their parents have made good use of the otherwise derelict burnt out shell.

Close to the edge of Horsenden Hill is Ballot Box Bridge. Some time ago we had read that it came from the fact that a ballot box specially for boaters was stationed here during elections. Thanks to a short note at the bottom of this web page, we see that the ballot box was located at a nearby pub which consequently gained the same name. Although that pub was demolished it was replaced a little way north of the original, kept the same name and is still there today.

We stopped at High Line, Northolt for fuel but alas they only open three days a week and Monday is not one of them!

Just after passing under Western Way is this footbridge. As it looks now it hardly merits a note but when we came last it was still a wooden structure. Over time we had seen it vandalised and then even the new one was badly damaged by a fire. It seems that a steel replacement was the obvious remedy!

Willowtree Marina is normally open every day for wharfside services but as Christine started to call the number on the large signs to ask for diesel we spotted a small notice saying that they were to be closed on Bank Holiday Monday - today! We think we can manage til we reach Iver if not then tomorrow's blog will be about how we bow hauled for miles!

Accordingly we opted to moor soon after, close to a highly contested local cricket match on the adjacent playing fields. Mike later took a walk around the field where he quickly realised that he was very much the odd one out!

The commentary over the PA was not in English - so  not much help to us. It was not easy to find anyone who could answer questions but we think that it is an eight team tournament of very limited overs. Certainly there was a very quick turnover of batsmen but as there was no scoreboard Mike could not work out the state of the match.

A lot of cups to be given out at the end.

11.7 Miles - 0 Locks

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