Friday 6 October 2023

Home Park, Kings Langley

Today's Canal - Grand Union

Today the weather was more like late spring or even some summer days - bright and eventually very warm.

We had been moored under the high viaduct which carries almost the last part of the Metropolitan line to Watford underground station (not the very much busier main line Watford Junction). There were well advanced plans to re-route this final part so that it ran into Watford Junction as the present station is not in much demand and rather out of the way, the suburb having developed perhaps rather differently than the original constructors anticipated. Alas, a few years ago the project was cancelled almost as the diggers were due on site. Hence trains still run overhead here. In fact we were not really disturbed as they run quite slowly as the approach the end of the line, are not that frequent and are well up above the canal/

A magnifying glass might reveal that our first lock of the day was only a couple of boats away. As we waited for the lock to fill we managed to capture one of the trains on the viaduct. Above the lock we stopped at the water point to fill our rather empty tank. Alas it was a very slow tap and even after three quarters of an hour we were still not full but patience ran out as we had enough to take us to the nect point in Apsley.

Most of the lock cottages along here seem to be occupied but this one is empty and in a bit of a sorry state. Hopefully something will happen soon or it will deteriorate beyond economic repair.

As we approached Iron Lock in Cassiobury Park we were surprised not to see lots of onlookers - every time we have been through here before it has always been busy. The park seems to be especially popular with local residents. 

How wrong could we be? Not long after we entered the lock lots of people arrived, including several small groups from a nearby school. We did 'borrow' one of the lads to help open the bottom gate as it proved rather stubborn. A temporary notice on the top gates explained that the top ground paddle culverts were almost blocked and we should expect that it would take at least 20 minutes to fill. It did! However we had plenty of interest chatting to onlookers (one lady was interested in Sun Printers in Watford) and a couple of young ladies filmed themselves doing a short dance - it took many takes before they were satisfied. perhaps it is now on TikTok.

Most of the locks from here to the summit are spaced out, with the occasional pairs closer together as here at Cassiobury Park, Bottom and Top. We had a wait at the first as a single hander was already coming down from the top, the Bottom Lock having been set for him by a member of CaRT staff - who then carried on to whatever he was doing out of our sight.

The Top Lock, like several today, is required to be left empty with a paddle up. Although earlier ones had indicated some unspecified water management issue, this one makes it clear that it is to do with water loss through the lock walls. This seems to have been a common problem on this part of the Grand Union where the lock cottages were built 'upside down' that is, with the upper floor are canal level and the main living areas down below. These rooms can get rather damp, we have read, if locks are left full.

The splendid former Grove Mill is now apartments (no doubt up market).

Just beyond, the ornamental Grove Bridge is no longer easy to photograph in the way in which scenic pictures used to depict it. The canalside vegetation has been allowed to grow freely and the best views are no longer open!

We came up Lady Capel's Lock and then moored for lunch. 

The dates on bricks set as foot holds by the gates amused us - did it really take two years to progress three bricks?

Lunch was rather late - 1.30 by the time we were moored so our afternoon session was also delayed! At Hunton Bridge Bottom Lock we met a young couple coming down who were fairly new to boating. They had spent the past few months near Birmingham setting up the boat which they had just bought so that they can live aboard and are now heading down to London. Fortunately they have been warned about the difficulties that mooring long term in London entails but they are determined to make it happen!

Hunton Bridge Top Lock has two cottages, one either side. We have never so far been able to work out the history of this arrangement. Like many lock cottages, the one on the off side only has access over a narrow footbridge. Not sure how the removal companies manage!

Again, the long views we remember of the M25 viaduct are nearly all obscured by new vegetation leaving only this view to one side from quite close up. Still very impressive!

Our final lock today was at Home Park on the southern edge of Kings Langley. When we came by in 2021, this cottage was on the market for offers over £600,000. New owners seem to have settled in. We moored for the night just above the lock.

4.5 Miles - 9 Locks

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