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.

 

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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.


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.