Saturday 7 October 2023

Bourne End

Today's Canal : Grand Union

Another warm - even hot - autumnal day, back to shirtsleeves, especially when working locks. We had a target for today, or at least lunch time as we have arranged to meet with Andrew who will be with us for the next part of our return trip.

This modern set of homes, built in an E shaped layout, was once the site of the original Ovaltine factory. The development retained the art deco frontage of the factory and can be seen on the Street View of the other side the canal.

What was once called Red Lion Lock (after a nearby pub) has been renamed Nash Mills Bottom Lock. The top gates still have what is becoming and increasingly popular means of extending the life of lock gates where the balance beams have failed but the gates are still serviceable or a little longer. Judging by the weathering of the timbers this must have been one of the earlier experiments in this technique.

It was repeated some while later (looks like very recently, even the bolts were bright and shiny) on the opposite gate!

The land between here and what is now Nash Mills Top Lock was once a large paper mill, part of the huge Dickenson empire, and made paper from 1769 to 2006. John Dickenson had a number of similar factories along the River Gade. The process needed huge quantities of water which he gained the right to take from the river, discharging it afterwards downstream. He came into conflict when the canal arrived as it deprived him of the certainty of supply and he sued, winning large amounts of damages. Over the past few years we have seen the site gradually develop, starting on the side furthest away from the canal and now almost complete - it looks as if some of the last to be finished have only very recently become occupied.

The Top Lock was fitted with new gates, perhaps last winter. The gates were very smooth but the paddle gear was extremely unkeen to move. 

The old balance beams have been re-purposed as substantial seats for passers by!

We arrived at Apsley Lock much according to our schedule and pulled onto the service mooring for water, elsan and rubbish.

Andrew was expected in the next hour and we were able to find just one remaining slot a coupleof boats ahead where we could wait without blocking the services. Mike then went to Sainsburys just across on the other side of the canal.

This too was the site of another of John Dickenson's mills - as this reminder display shows. With a now enhanced crew we set off for the next part of our journey.

Alas, this lock cottage seems to be all but abandoned. When we came by in 2021, it looked as if something was happening but perhaps that hope has now died.

On the opposite side is a new development - in some ways the architecture is a bit more interesting than plain boxes but the impact is spoilt by the very enclosed and tiny back gardens, detracting from the broader sweep of the houses themselves.

The space alongside the main road bridge across the canal into Hemel Hempstead was once a significant trading wharf, with plenty of traffic coming up from the docks in London. A variety of goods once dominated in their time but one of the last trades to survive was the delivery of lime juice imported into London and used in a nearby factory to make lime cordial.

The fuel prices at the boatyard in Winkwell must be amongst the best at the moment (assuming they are up to date) They must be at least recent as it is not that long ago (pre Ukraine invasion) that a gas bottle was well under £30. Our most recent one was £45.50.

Our last lock of the day was Bourne End Bottom Lock (there is now no Top Lock!) as little short of Berkhamsted. As the picture shows we were able to recruit a couple of cyclists taking a break, to help close up as this was also another 'Leave Empty' lock. We were by now in a more rural location and ter were gaps along the towpath. Alas, the first we tried we could not get anywhere near enough to the bank and then, here, it still took a while to find anything usable, and then we had to deploy the shorter gangplank!

5.2 Miles - 12 Locks

No comments:

Post a Comment