Taking The TurnPosted: October 9, 2014 Filed under: Dry land, Moving on | Tags: Burnt Mill Lock, Essex, Liverpool Link, Moorhen Marina, narrowboat blog, River Stort Leave a comment
It turns out you can get just about everything you need in Harlow. After another trip to the ‘heart’ of the town centre we battled our way back through a huge thunder storm and another massive downpour. By mid-afternoon the skies had cleared leaving windy conditions but at least it was dry. A short way up river we turned at Moorhen Marina, filled with water and decided not to chance the rising waters but to begin a slow return towards London. It will be a slow one as we only moved on three locks this afternoon, before mooring terribly, right on a bend and shutting up for the night; it shouldn’t matter too much as nobody seems keen to venture out in the stormy conditions. It may not have been the most pleasant of days for travelling but it was an awful lot calmer than this time a year ago.
The fire is kicking out plenty of heat, the living pod is doing a great job fending off the nasty weather out there in the darkness tonight.
TowiePosted: October 8, 2014 Filed under: Bobbing about, Dry land, Geeky facts, Moving on | Tags: Essex, Harlow, narrowboat blog, River Stort, Towie Leave a comment
The river continues to curl deeper into Essex and on towards Bishop’s Stortfort, but the rain continues to fall and the levels are rising. The pitter patter on the roof isn’t creating the cozy, comforting, snug feeling it usually does. The locks are neither here nor there, at 13.25ft they’re wider than single but not enough space for two boats meaning that roping is a certainty as the paddles are pretty sharp. Opened in the 1780’s the canalised navigation was originally part of grander plans to link London to Kings Lynn, main cargos included: wheat, beans, peas, flour, coal and pigeon dung.
On past Parndon Mill that’s been immaculately restored since the 1960’s and serves as a creative place for artists with all sorts of skills. With a long history dating back to a mention in the Domesday Book the mill has fallen victim to numerous fires, due to the combustible nature of the flour milled from the grain produced from the rich surrounding farm land.
…And then we came to Harlow.
Moored just by the station, with a waterpoint just a boat’s length back it wasn’t rural idylic but there were plus points. Plus the town is just a short walk away. Brain child of world-renowned architect Sir Frederick Gibberd, the town’s promoters promise, ‘Whether you’re planning a few hours, a few days or a lifetime here, Harlow won’t disappoint.’ A New Town, built after World War II to ease overcrowding caused by bombing during the Blitz it boasts Britain’s first pedestrian precinct and ‘modern style’ residential tower block. With rail links to London Liverpool Street and proximity to the M11 it has secured itself as part of the London commuter belt. Like it or not, you can’t argue with anywhere that offers up Poundland, Wilkos, 99p Store AND Savers all one after the other.
It was set to be a quiet night since the trains have all but stopped but a car has rolled up, crammed full of passengers who seem to enjoy listening to the same thumping beats, over and over and over. Okay bring back the rain.
Down To The RiverPosted: October 4, 2014 Filed under: Bobbing about, Dry land, Moving on | Tags: Bethnal Green, Camden, Islington, Limehouse Basin, Little Venice, Mile End, Millwall, narrowboat blog, Regent's Canal, River Thames, West Inida Docks Leave a comment
Time was up in Little Venice so we detangled our ropes from our neighbour’s, shuffled boats about, then stopped at the tap for gallons and gallons of water. The washing machine was going flat-out for most of the day. Under Cafe Laville where Nick sent a few lattes, flat whites and green teas flying by testing the horn. Amazing how small London canal world soon squashes – turning down into Camden we passed our neighbour midway through a trip boat commentary. A top lock hanger joined us – as did a volunteer, which was a bonus.
Camden was crazy busy, the lock gates double as benches, with some long-term sitters no longer recognising them as integral to the working of the lock. It took a while, but we emerged the otherside and began the run along to Kings Cross. The Islington moorings are few in number and strictly single moor but they’re very nice and have a waterpoint close by.
Bethnal Green wound round, and back, and in on itself, Victoria Park was packed with all sorts of boats and boaters – just about anything can pop out of a hatch along there. The light had begun to fade as we dropped through the final lock and into Limehouse – deserted compared to the last time we were here, we pitched up, the only boat hugging the concrete wall last night.
When the rain finally cleared and the sun broke through we walked down through Canary Wharf and beautiful West India Docks before ending up in Millwall – aside from a walk along the Thames the main purpose of the trip was to buy fire lighters…it’s not easy in London. Don’t Londoners have fires?
Back at Limehouse we moved over to the super sucky pump-out machine that managed to get right down to our green light. Yay. Fire lit, shit pumped and chicken in – even city life can stay relatively simple.
CocktailPosted: September 28, 2014 Filed under: Bobbing about, Dry land, Geeky facts | Tags: Bill Nighy, Covent Garden, Grand Union, Jared Odrick, Kensington Gardens, Little Venice, London, NFL Regent's Street, Speakers' Corner, Trafalgar Square, water 2 Comments
Forget asking to share mooring rings, guarding your offside from moor alongsiders and expecting any sort of gap between your boat and the next, London is a whole different ball game – one continual loop of musical boats where everyone ropes up to anything that keeps them roughly secured to the towpath, it’s not that people aren’t nice, everyone gets along well enough, it’s just the way it is.
So, writing from a different patch of water from the one we’d expected to sleep on, we took advantage of this evening’s boat shuffle and hooked up to the nearest waterpoint before settling in for the night – possibly.
A far cry from some of the dark, deserted rural spots we’ve parked up in, here the sky isn’t ever truly black and the towpath never sleeps.
A couple of days discovering and re-discovering London we’ve come across all sorts: NFL on Regent’s Street (good, but the drains were oh so stinky), Covent Garden, a lively Speakers’ Corner (not one for you SFR), Kensington Gardens, Trafalgar Square, the National Portrait Gallery (loved that)…
The house boats across the water and the enormous Georgian houses beyond make for a pretty good view, meanwhile they get to look a stack of us boaters; one big cocktail of people all getting something from the canal, somehow it seems to work.
Living LocalPosted: September 26, 2014 Filed under: Bobbing about, Dry land, Geeky facts, Moving on | Tags: Grand Union, Kensal Green, Little Venice, London, Paddington Basin, Regent's Canal, South Bank, Tower of London, water Leave a comment
Despite far less boat travel than normal we seem to have been all over the place this last week, thanks to legs and trains. Our mental web of London continues to gradually grow and some roads are magically beginning to link up, making a few convenient loops.
Unfortunate enough to take navigational advice from SFR, AJ and UM arrived at Paddington having traipsed through most of London on foot – this wasn’t made any more enjoyable by a very large roll of rubber we’d asked them to bring along. It was lovely to catch up with the ‘la famille’ and with London dangling off tube stops it doesn’t take too long to get right back down to the Thames and onto the South Bank. The tower poppy display is spreading, apparently the appeal for volunteers to plant the ceramic flowers was overwhelming.
‘Home’ in terms of family is now just a 30 minute Southern Rail ride away (when there hasn’t been a fatality on the line that is), which feels so local compared to Manchester or Birmingham. Swiss Family came up trumps with a great book to aid our London adventure and it was brilliant to see so many familiar faces in one place!
Having maxed out our stay in Paddington Basin we untied and headed out for water in Little Venice followed by a mega shop at the mammoth Sainsbury’s at Kensal Green. Boats boats boats everywhere, every shape, every sort, pretty much anything goes. Little Venice is twinkling tonight, breasted up and not far along from our lovely neighbours from Paddington Basin, so far so good – although the far end, beyond the designated visitor moorings has some pretty nasty bags of grot on the tow path and so much rubbish dumped in the water it’s actually impossible to moor.
It’s been a bit of a whirlwind last few days, but London life is beginning to shape up nicely.
Portobello RoadPosted: September 21, 2014 Filed under: Bobbing about, Dry land, Geeky facts | Tags: Hyde Park, London, narrowboat blog, Paddington Basin, Portobello Market, Portobello Road 2 Comments
Boris bikes definitely seem the way to go as at the moment we are walking our legs off. It was another sunny morning so we set off in the direction of Little Venice and ended up in Portobello Market. The market dates back to 1870 when traders gathered to sell their horses. Busy streets, splashes of colourful houses, out of the ordinary things for sale and an energetic atmosphere made for an interesting wander. A long list of films, novels and songs have sprung from various doors and shops – not least Paddington Bear who enjoyed elevenses on Portobello Road with Mr Gruber each day – resulting in clusters of flashing cameras in various locations.
A few areas are beginning to join together now, meaning we might manage our way home without following the blue dot provided we’re within a 10 minute radius of Paddington Basin.
Legs hanging, we opened the door to a fresh and fully fueled Murk, eager for a walk, so after a very quick lunch we were back out – off through Bayswater and down to Hyde Park.
The moorings have busied up as the weekend has gone on, tonight was especially busy with boats circling in search of a space.
Bright LightsPosted: September 20, 2014 Filed under: Bobbing about, Dry land, Geeky facts, Moving on | Tags: Banksy, Camden, Double Locks, Hyde Park, King Robbo, Limehouse Basin, Little Venice, Regent's Canal, Regent's Canal Dock, Regent's Street, water Leave a comment
Limehouse Basin was a lovely place to stay, boats coming up and heading out into the wider water provided regular entertainment, one especially beautiful yacht moored opposite – complete with a muesli eating, wholesome yacht boy. Originally known as Regent’s Canal Dock, in 1865 1,500 ships and 15,336 barges entered, it was expanded several times and often so busy you could walk the water by hopping from one boat to another. Changing water levels were interesting as with high tide the deep lock we rose in shrivels to barely a lock at all. The Thames effectively provides one large lung for London with stale air being pulled out and fresh bought in on the tides.
Leaving the basin we faced our first double lock since the Huddersfield Broad. It was great to share with a couple we’d been moored next to, the ride up towards Camden has endless (mainly stationary) boats and people all around everywhere. Split from our lock buddies for a while we headed separate ways for water – turning up at St Pancreas Cruising Club it was clear that Nicholson has slipped in a not totally public waterpoint; luckily the guy was very nice and let us hook up, despite the tap not being the ‘free for all’ variety for over 30 years.
After passing the bridge where King Robbo and Banksy staged their well documented graffiti war, we arrived in Camden and worked through the two locks we first had a go at on a days training in 2012. It was a messy affair back then.
Through Maida Hill tunnel and past Regents Zoo, we entered Little Venice before moving on to Paddington Basin. Incredibly lucky to find two moorings available we pitched up with the crew from Black Bart who own chairs – and we like them – that’s the second lot of chair owners we‘ve enjoyed spending time with now!
Loving London life so far, Hyde Park has Murk’s seal of approval and Oxford Street, Park Lane, Marylebone and Mayfair are all around a ten minute walk away.
Hampton CourtPosted: September 17, 2014 Filed under: Dry land, Geeky facts, Moving on | Tags: Chertsey Lock, Hampton Court, Shepperton Lock, Shepperton Marina, Thames 2 Comments
Leaving Eton we passed what looked like a whole bunch of brilliant free moorings only to read one of many signs stating the land was Crown Estate and there was strictly no mooring, for the most part we’d still clock it as stopable but a huge guy in a Range Rover looping the boundary looked like he meant business.
South of Windsor there seems to be a shift from eye-popping ornate bricks and mortar to intricate floating homes. Passing under the M25 and then the M3 we motored on towards Shepperton Lock. The junction with the River Wey was busy with rowers and boats. A quick stop at Shepperton Marina was an eye opener, pontoon after pontoon after pontoon of pristine cruisers bobbing about, the chandlery is stocked with just about every boat thing imaginable too.
Narrowboats slipped away as we headed on through Kingston Lock, in fact we were mainly surrounded by boats heading out for evening drinks or the theatre. A couple of perfect moorings were still available outside Hampton Court, we thought about squeezing in between two shining cruisers but having considered their immaculate canopies and the fact we’d be lighting the fire, opted for a mooring tucked out the way where sparks wouldn’t matter. With temperatures still brilliantly high for this time of year, it’s hard to imagine Henry VIII rode to London on the frozen Thames on one of the 20 occasions it’s frozen over since Roman times.