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.


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.

Soggy Lee

Limehouse LockIt was a soggy day, hats and gloves came out for the first time and the continual shower of leaves really felt like autumn. Murk loved being rural and kept his head down without the slightest look to get back onboard.Lee Navigation The locks are slow to fill and heavy on the gates but the paddles wind easily enough. Just a couple of boats about plus one canoeist who bravely shared a lock with us – he seemed oblivious to the crushing potential, whilst we hung onto the ropes, acutely aware of the slightest 20 tonne tug in his direction. Crazy guy.Lee Navigation

By early afternoon the rain had set in so we pulled over to the bank opposite the rowing club in Broxbourne and moored alongside a handful of other boats with smoking chimneys. Depsite a fair bit of washing, cooking and drying waterproofs, nasty condensation hasn’t taken hold yet.

By far the most exciting photo of the day was taken by a lovely guy we met on our ascent from the Thames, a great reminder of an exciting day – thank you Paul!


Heartbreak With Wings

M6 crossing Trent and MerseySo the boaters who passed around 6am had bothered to look at the forecast. If we’d wanted to get up, get dressed and get soaked we couldn’t have done a better job, drenched by the time we entered the first lock out of Wheelock.

With twenty odd locks ahead it proved a bit of a mistake to rush the padd2390les; single locks might be easy compared others but today was a reminder that the odd one still has a sting in it’s tail – more than capable of splattering the contents of the fridge (and a few other cupboards) over the floor. Our first lock breakage came as a bit of a shocker, so we went back to positioning the boat properly and winding a little less maniacally for the rest of the day.

By lunch time the damp had wormed its way through to our bones so we lit the fire and I went in search of my thermals – in August, really?Heartbreak Hill

Heartbreak Hill was practically abandoned, we’re guessing due to rain and with a lucky run of locks the day turned into an unofficial time trial, in what felt like not too long we were topping with water at Red Bull services. After a final two locks we moored up alongside the Kidsgrove razor wire, found we had no TV reception, a bench full of people content to sit in the rain, and began to wonder why we’d come quite so far.




Sandbach Supplies

1583Heartbreak Hill has been a walk in the park which is surprising as the thought of The Four Counties Ring in August has always sent shivers down our spines. Last night’s mooring with the M6 buzzing not far away was an interesting insight into the ebb and flow of motorway traffic – regular traffic updates from Nick were interesting – for one evening. The bottom of the flight is a hotchpotch of work being done and not being done, yet another advantage of twin locks.

Wheelock moorings were busy but we squeezed in before walking up to Sandbach for a few boat maintainance bits and pieces from the great cheap hardware1579 store. It’s quite a walk and in reality there are plenty of closer stores but Sandbach is always a must – a reminder of how tricky we thought shopping would be when we started out and set off for Sandbach swamped by rucksacks and in search of supplies.

A quick Goodwood catch up and we w1593ere back on the move, round to the water point, into the pet food shop and off. The promised rain didn’t really arrive until late afternoon but then it settled in big style.

No big deal with the warm temperatures at the moment, but the Eberspacher has visited the dinette table again, never a nice sight.


Walking In The Rain

Sykes PillarDiggle end of the Standedge Tunnel has delivered some crazy weather. With leaden skies, lightning cracks and rolling thunder the moors have looked dark and menacing.  There was walking out there so we anoracked up. Torrential rain meant a quiet hike down to Uppermill yesterday where we trudged through Java in our wellies before steaming under patio heaters with birthday Pimms, Murk there too…as always.

Squelching off again this morning, up past the Diggle Hotel we could see Saddleworth Moorswhere we needed to be and it was pretty much straight up the side of a craggy hill Uppermill Pimmscome mountain. The footpath soon fizzled out and realising we were somewhere we probably shouldn’t have been we carried on. By the end of the semi-treacherous, free-fall boulder climb we were at a chilly height where bilberries are king. Saddleworth moorSaddleworth Moorss screamed vast and remote as we poked our way along rugged tracks, discovering gigantic walls of rock and dodging huge holes below the heather.

Clueless, we wandered the wilderness before checking for the unlikely possibility Pots and Pans of a Geocache nearby in the hope it might set us back on track. Sure Saddleworth Moorsenough, there it was and after crossing a final boggy patch we arrived at Sykes Pillar, despite standing 1489ft above sea level, arriving at the trig felt like landing right back in civilisation. The remainder was a doddle – a few miles along the top of the moors along to Pots and Pans then down to find ourselves two villages from where the boat was moored.

Very quiet up here, just one boat has passed by all weekend.


The Selby Spin

Nayburn LockSomehow what not to get on in back of Nayburn Lockthe day flew by. Our 5.15 Nayburn Lock booking began an hour early as only one sluice was working which meant a very slow, millimetre by millimetre, emptying lock. Out onto the tidal section, we seemed to be pushing against the water, perhaps the tide hadn’t quite turned. The boat in front soon left us for dust and it dawned on us that almost 15 miles without much tidal assistance was going to take a very long time so we sped up, the engine got a workout. Barely two miles in andtidal section River Ouse the clouds bucketed it down, huge rain – even the drainage channels along the roof couldn’t keep up. We stood like drowned rats watching big river stuff pass by.

boat turning for Selby LockClothes changed and fire lit things began to cheer up. The boat that blew us away had come back into sight and the tide had picked up carrying us a little. Plenty of enormous passing Selby Lock to turnobstacles bobbed about, round the final bend we figured the flow didn’t seem too fast and decided the notorious Selby Lock turn should be okay. The boat in front went first before moving into the lock, it’s strange motoring past a lock space supposedly for you. A couple of minutes later we’d turned, straightened into the flow and moved into our lock slot. It was pretty good fun and didn’t even register on the scaryometer but conditions couldn’t have been kinder and the engine behaved very well.




Shropshire UnionThe solar panel was putting in over 11 amps this morning meaning the batteries wereShropshire Union topped right up by the time we woke. Taking turns at the tiller we showered on the move which is still the strangest thing to me. Norbury Junction was busy with what seemed like boats poking out from just about every angle. The cuttings are long and narrow and with a fair amount of Tyrley Wharftraffic around they involved lots of pulling over, shuflfing about and rewinding. The sky darkened as we finally emerged from Woodseave Cutting, the rain came pelting down making our minds up not to continue down the Tyrley Locks today. Some very soggy boaters pulled in infront of us about half an hour ago – yuck. Dodgy 3G so this may never appear.

Viking Attack

rainy hire boat 1There’s not much to say about today other than that it was very very wet. Oh and we found rainy hire boat 2ourselves moored on a hireboat hotspot – we’ve been rocked, crashed into and asked which way the tiller needs to be pointed to turn the boat left. Joy.

All suffering a very expensive soaking, most looked to be having a rainy hire boat 3miserable time and seemed to be trying to get the miles done as quickly as possible.

Here’s hoping for blue sky tomorrow.


Scraping The Bottom

low levels on Worcester and BirminghamWe’d got used to the speed of river travel and back on canals it’s shocking to see our slow crawl across the Nicholson pages. It shouldn’t really matter when the destination is nowhere in particular, but somehow it still does. ‘Progress’ wasn’t helped by low pounds and dreary weather today. The creep from Blackpole Lock to Offerton Bottom Lock was a painful slow go, with way too many boats (us included) heading up from Blackpole, the levels had dropped low enough for Canal and River Trust to put in an appearance.

Finally up through Offerton Top Lock the heavy skies closed in and we moored just before it hammered down. Leaving the rest of the day to poor soaked hire-boaters with little option but to push on with their Worcester/Droitwich/River Severn loops.

A fuel filter check as the engine sounded a bit dodgy through the shallow pounds – the filter was clear so we’re hoping the gurgling was due to alarming angles created by mounting bottom of canal debris along the way.