Ice

Hertford UniondeeA night in Hackney Marshes turned out to be unbelievably quiet considering the long, long lines of people going about life along the towpath. It wasn’t much of a journey before turning off onto the Hertford Union Canal – also known as ‘Duckett’s’ after Sir George Duckett who tirelessly lobbied for construction of the 1.5 kms of water designed to bypass the torturous, tidal Bow Back Rivers of the Lea. The canal was a commercial failure and in less than 20 years after its openingHertford Union in 1830, it was unnavigable. All restored and working well today, the canal began with Old Ford Locks and soon had a feeling of time gone by which lasted to the join up with the Regent’s Canal.Lee Navigation

Having chopped out Limehouse and Mile End we emerged in Bethnal Green. The Battlebridge BasinVictoria Park moorings were heaving with boats, up through Haggerston, Hoxton and Islington where we disappeared into the gloom of Islington tunnel. Oblivious to the changes that have gone on all around, the tunnel stands just as it did when it was opened in 1818.pink sk

The various London Canal Museum mooringwharfs and basins and docks tucked in and around London are a constant source of intrigue to us so it seemed a great opportunity to take advantage of the London Canal Museum moorings at only £8 with water annd electric. Tucked down in a far corner where Ice Wharf Marina and Battlebridge Moorings meet, the visitor gap has proper old warehouse views. The Canal Museum is situated in Carlo St Pancreas StationGatti’s old ice warehouses – a Swiss entrepreneur whtimeo made his fortune importing ice from Norway in the 1860’s. The ice was shipped from Norway, travelled up the Thames, was offloaded onto barges in Regent’s Dock (Limehouse) and St Pancreasfinally up the canal and into the warehouse. He soon became the largest ice importer in London, making ice-cream affordable for the not quiBattlebridge Mooringste so rich, plus the option of domestic ice boxes thanks to his fleet of delivery carts..

A few minutes walk from the peace of Battlebridge Basin is the bustle of Kings Cross and beautiful St Pancreas Station that only just avoided demolition in the 1960’s architectural smash up.

Quite mad to think we could be in Paris in less time than it would take us to travel back to Hackney Marshes.

 


Brown Balls

River StortThe Lee Valley Country Park at Cheshunt provided a great place to stop on many levels, there was even entertainment for The Murkster. But 3G was flaky. The moorings are popular and were pretty filled by the time we pulled our pins.Waltham Abbey

A short drop down a couple of locks landed us at a very handy spot for Home Bargains, Pets at Home, maggots via vending machine (?) and King Harold’s tomb. As with most kings who died in battle there are a certain amount ofmaggots conspiracy theories surrounding the arrow and the eye: any man who guarded his coast with such determination would have been buried by the sea shore; the tomb was a red herring… King Harold actually survive and lived out his days a hermit up in Chester…and many more. Anyhow, there were film crews filming what looked something like Time Team and so far as Waltham Abbey is concerned King Harold’s resting place is right there, under the high altar, with them.

One sack of brown balls is usually enough to send Murk bananas, so the arrival King Harold's tombof five left him slightly overwhelmed yet happy in the closest he’ll probably ever get to greedy labrador heaven.River Lea

After a water fill and rubbish dump, we were back on the move, down through one final lock before parking up for a night on one of the last stretches of rural Lea before London begins to open up all around. Perhaps not as pretty as the Stort butheaven then the Lea has had a hard life – in the first half of the 20th century it was the UK’s ‘silicon valley’, site of an electronics revolution with the invention of the diode in 1904. Thorn MK, Ferguson, Belling and Amstrad all set up factories along the brilliantly functional stretch of water.

Mild tonight and the ceiling has finally stopped dingle dangling with rain.

 


Towie

Parndon MillThe 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 rHarlowoping 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 pigRiver Storteon 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.

HarlowMoored 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 dHarlowisappoint.’  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.


Chimney Squeezers

onto the River StortA stark contrast from the River Lea, the Stort twists and turns, is peppered with olRiver Stortd water mills and heads towards Essex at a fairly rapid rate. London feels (and is) quite a way away: the water is clear, bridges aren’t splashed in paint and a whole world of wildlife appears to be thriving. Ploughed fields ran alongside the river for most of the day.

Arriving at Roydon Lock it was brilliant to discover you can get just about anythingRoydon Lock you might need from an ice cream to your laundry done. The owners are unbelievably helpful and we left stocked with all boatyRiver Stort essentials… a word of warning followed our exit from the lock ‘Don’t stay up there for too long or you’ll never get back under the bridge, the levels are already up.’ Oooh okay, it’s nice up here but I’m not sure a whole winter River Stortat the top of the River Stort might be such a good idea. The rain can stay away please. Peculiarly Nicholson seems to have given up providing a map for our current section, so we’ll be reading the footnotes and imaginging what lies ahead.

Far from busy, but there are a few boats moving about and a good few windows casting orange glows across the water tonight.


Pearlies

Lee Navigation near LimehouseLeaving Limehouse Basin we turned right and out onto the Lee Navigation. Soon into the Lee Navigation near Limehouseland of the Pearly Kings and Queens, through Bow Locks and nearishly past the Bow Bells. The ‘to be true Cockney’ rule that you have to be born within earshot of Bow Bells means it was technically impossible toLee Navigation be a Cockney throughout certain times in history: in 1666, St Mary-le-bow was destroyed by the great fire;  in 1941 the bells were Lee Navigationdestroyed by blitz bombing and today causes a bit of a problem as the surrounding area is no longer residential although a few hospitals within ear shot of the bells do their bit to keep the Cockneys coming.

The Olympic Stadium reentrance to Olympic Stadiummains barricaded off to casual passers-by although a strict in/out trip tOlympic Stadiumhrough the park is do-able by prior arrangement. Judging by the stacks of boats bobbing about nearby, the heavily guarded loop of water would fill up in no time if the barricades came down.

Hackney was busy with lively, colourful conversions – galleries, cafes, bars, theatres, studios all packed with Sunday morning crowds. Life drained Hackneyaway as we headed out towards Tottenham, where the water feels side-lined compared to what went before. The banks continue to be chock full of boats and it’s pretty safe to consider any space is probably there due to shallow water rather than being up for grabs in terms of mooring. We ploughed on…

…and on.

Interesting stuff dwindled tTottenhamo the point of nothing other than long, straight stretches, flanked by pylons – swerving the islands of Lee Navigationweeds grappling for the prop was something to get excited about. Never one to give up, Nick kept flicking the Nicholson pages, convinced there was better to come, and there was, just above Rammey Marsh Lock, before the M25. A pretty stretch with trees and grass and STICKS which meant kindling and an easy fire.


Cocktail

Trafalgar SquareForget 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 anythinJared Odrickg 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, wRegent's Streetriting from a different patch of water from the one we’d expected to sleep on, we took advantage of this NFL Regent's Streetevening’s boat shuffle and hooked up to the nearest waterpoint before settling in for the NFL Regent's Streetnight – possibly.

A far cry from someSpeakers' Corner 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 Portrait GalleryLondon we’ve come across all Speakers' Cornersorts: 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)…

Bill Nighy's back

Bill Nighy’s back

The house boats across tundergroundhe 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 Local

Despite far less boat travel tTower and poppieshan normal we seem to have been all over the place thisMillenium Bridge 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 enoSouth Bankugh to take navigational advice from SFR, AJ and UM arrived at Paddington Little Venicehaving 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.Thames

‘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 Grand Union towards Kensal Greencompared 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 anKensal Green Sainbury'sd 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 Golden Hinde IIfrom Paddington Basin, so far so good – although the far end, beyond theLittle Venice 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 Road

Portobello MarketBoris bikes definitely seem the way to go as at the moment we are walking our legs off. It was anotherPortobello Road 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 sPortobello Roadtreets, 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, nNottinghillovels 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 Portobello Roadmight manage our way home without following the blue dot provided we’re within a 10 minute radius of PaNottinghillddington 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 Lights

Limehouse BasinLimehouse 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 basinRegent's Canal we faced our first double locRegent's Canalk 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) boaRegent's Canalts and people all around everywhere. Split from our lock buddies for a while we headed separate ways for wateKing Robbo - Banksyr – 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 yeRegent's Canalars.

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.CamdenBlack Bart crew!

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 weRegent's StreetPaddington Basin‘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.


London

Tower Bridge, HMS BelfastIt began as a tiny thought yesterday afternoon, it grew during Bake Off and was squished again after reading the ‘London Tideway Guide: Downstream Addition’   – at 24 pages it’s a whopping eight pages longer than it’s upstream counterpart and with linLondon Eyees like ‘It is very important to appreciate that making the passage downstream to Limehouse from Teddington or from Brentford is considerably more challenging that coming the other way,’ we decided it was no go. So we went to bed, happy with the knowlSt Paulsedge that just a short trip down to Brentford lay ahead.

But the sun was shining this morning, and the water was calm, and the tides were perfect. There was no way we could go though as we hadn’t given Limehouse 24hrs notice –Tidal Thames so emphasising our lack of bookingTower Bridge we felt safe to ask the Teddington lock keeper, expecting flat no, meaning we could at least tell ourselves we tried. We weren’t expecting him to say ‘It should be fine, phone Limehouse,’ and we really weren’t expecting Limehouse to say come oHouses of Parliamentn down…

Waiting with a nervous hireboater on his way to Brentford wasn’t the most calming start, then out of the blue another narrowboat sped along to Teddington Lock, he was going all the way too. Yay. Out into slack water nothing seemed any different to the non-tidal section above Teddington, in fact with so little rain andDazzle Ship a low tide the river was way calmer than our previous Brentford journey. As the hireboater veered awayShard into the safety of The Grand Union Canal we ploughed on, the tide was beginning to pick up and it was no struggle to keep good time. Miles and miles passed, the water grew wide, the Boat Race finish came and went, the Boat Race staTower of Londonrt came and went, Harrods The GlobeDepositary, Battersea Power Station – other than the odd City Cruiser the water seemed quite quiet. Then London came in waves, thick and fast. The traffic busied up and the landmarks were hard to keep up with in between negotiating the OXO Towerbest angle to direct the boat in order to tackle the ever-increasing rolls of wake. Suddenly London was all around, we were a teeny-weeny boat muddled in a big cityThames snow globe – even a crazy Dazzle ship used extensively in WW1 added to the mad whirl wind.

The grand finale came in the form of Tower Bridge – built from 31 million bricks, two million rivets and 22,000 litres of paint that all opens on average three times a day…no need for our passage, we just about Clippers passing Limehouse Locksqueezed under, before radioing our position into Limehouse.

As the sights decreased the reality of the turn into Limehouse Basin hit home. The main rule being: travel on to get a good view round the bend before attempting to turn to the wrong side of the river…the Clippers come quickly, which they did, two of them jentering Limehouse Lockust as we wanted to turn. Eeek. So we waited, the boat pitched and rolled in their wake. In reality there’s not Limehouse Basinan awful lot of time that Clippers aren’t zooming at you from one direction or the other, flashing their ‘making life easier’ sign writing – really?  We bit the bullet and turned. Willing the boat to come round the waters were all over the place – people talk of ‘back-Eddys’ – perhaps that’s what it was, butLimehouse Lock one things for sure it’s our trickiest lock turn to date, smashing Selby out the park. Safe and sound we moved into the lock and up into a gloriously sunny Limehouse Basin.

An adrenalin fuelled start to London for all three of us, having had an axe fall on him during the turn Murk was pleased to stretch his legs – which he did in Canary Wharf as though he owned the place.