Thursday 7 September
Amwell Nature Reserve to Roydon
How rude? I just spotted a cormorant sitting on a fence; as we levelled with him he raised his back-end and went to the toilet in the river. I am not kidding it was like a syringe shooting out white paint. I couldn’t believe it. At least when I do my business I turn my back to a hedge so that it is out of view. Yelp!
Anyway, our day has been fairly boring really. Leigh worked this morning on a rather stressful project so until mid-afternoon Rosie, Tom and I kept our heads down. She did take us for a quick walk at lunchtime whilst Tom provided her with some technical assistance, so I can’t grumble.
After our walk, lunch and a silentwhilesheworks hour or two, we set off around three-thirty for a marina in Roydon as Leigh has to pop off tomorrow to deliver a conference on Saturday. As we were cruising Tom spotted a narrowboat in front of us on the wrong side of the river. You drive on the right when on water. Coming to a blind bend he said to Leigh, ‘I just hope nothing is coming around the corner…’. At that very minute a Dutch-Barge-type-boat appeared. The poor lady who was steering almost ended up in the bushes at the side of the river as she had to navigate around the guy on the narrowboat. Of course, we then had to pass her on the wrong side too. Tom decided that as the two guys on the narrowboat were obviously idiots he would overtake. He did so. If I tell you that one guy was sat in an old armchair on the roof of the boat, smoking and trying to look cool, and the other was the guy who steers his boat on the wrong side of the water you may understand why Tom, Leigh, Rosie and I decided to get out of their way.
Reaching the fork where the Lee joins the river Stort we turned off for the Stort, hoping they were carrying on down the Lee. It wasn’t to be. They turned off too. On reaching the first lock, Leigh worked the lock and Tom steered the boat in. When the lock level had changed so that we could exit the ‘likely lads’ arrived and moored up. The driver walked up to Leigh and said, ‘Thanks for that. You overtake us and don’t even wait for us to come in the lock with you’. Leigh gave him one of her looks (quite scary) and replied, ‘This is a single lock. Can’t you see the width? There are signs stating “one boat only” as they are only thirteen-feet wide. The reason we overtook you was that you were on the wrong side and caused chaos with that cruiser, you are supposed to drive on the right’. He then told her that he didn’t know which side to drive on but had been on the river for seventeen years. She explained (or dictated) that everyone drives on the right and in fifteen months of continuous cruising she can’t recall seeing anyone but him drive on the left. She then reiterated that the locks here on the Stort are for one boat only – she did agree that they look like double-locks due to there being two gates but they are meant for one boat. As she stalked off she saw his crew walking towards her and simply said, ‘Your mate needs to steer on the right of the water and the reason we didn’t wait for you is that these are single locks’ – he simply nodded and walked on. Girl-power eh Leigh?
On arrival at the marina Leigh, Rosie and I went for a walk around the grounds. For a minute I thought we were on the set of Watership Down – what fun it could have been if only Leigh had let us off lead?
We did laugh at the numerous signs dotted around the marina – see the photo above!
Leigh is hoping to have some time to explore Roydon tomorrow morning as she is not setting off for conference until late in the afternoon. Paws crossed then…
Woofs, Martha X
Wednesday 6 Sept
Ware to Hertford to Amwell Nature Reserve
It’s been a busy old day. We had planned to spend a day and an evening in Hertford today, but with rain forecast for Friday my humans changed the plan. Leigh doesn’t want to be labouring locks in the rain as she is going away Friday afternoon and wants to be able to ‘look tidy’ when she goes apparently!
Hertford is a nice little town and marks the end of the navigation of the River Lee. On arrival we all took a stroll into town. Leigh was desperate to buy a new dress, Tom, Rosie and I were not so bothered with looking around the shops so we left her in town and wandered back to the boat.
After only about an hour Leigh returned to the boat with a rather swishy new dress – highly patterned but we all think she can carry it off – and we set off on our return cruise down the Lee. Now, the Lea, or the Lee, is a river of two halves. The first stretch – as you join it from the Hertford Union canal – is quite industrial and not my bowlofwater at all. Nor Leigh’s!
The second half becomes prettier. In fact Amwell Nature Reserve is a real find. Herons, cormorants, several types of duck and geese, moorhen, coot, grebe and even kingfishers can all be sighted here. Leigh spent a couple of hours at the nature reserve late this afternoon with Toms binoculars, on her return she said to Tom, ‘Crikey, I didn’t realise how long I had been, it’s absolutely beautiful over there’. To which Tom replied, ‘You’ve only been about twenty-minutes’. Between you and me, Tom had taken a nap. Yelp!
Woofs, Martha X
Tues 5 Sept
Broxbourne to Ware
A fairly uneventful cruise today apart from needing to stop off for Tom to do some work on the boat. He wanted to repair the toilet guage. For those of you who live in houses, where your sewage goes straight into pipes and is then whisked away, this might be of interest.
Our toilet is not a cassette toilette (you have casette toilets in caravans and camper vans and some boats too) but a huge tank which you need to get pumped out before it becomes full. My humans know that our tank takes about ten days to fill but if we have visitors then ten days might be stretching it a bit; the guage gives an indication of how full the tank is, enabling us to get to a pump-out in good time.
Whilst working on the guage Tom needed to take the level sensor out of the tank. Note – we had just been pumped out so the tank was empty but with the sensor taken out and leaving a finger-sized hole the smell was not exactly of roses. Leigh hoped this job of Tom’s was not going to take long. Rosie and I hoped it would as we could have taken advantage of a good, long walk. Yelp!
On reaching Ware we discovered that it is a small town. There are a few shops – mainly selling bits for the home – along with many attractive coffee shops and restaurants. By the end of our walk my humans mouths were watering.
After dinner Tom started to re-arrange the boat; when he puts the shoe basket on the table, lifts the cushions to stop us getting on the seats and turns the radio or television on, Rosie and I know what is about to happen. Yes, Leigh and Tom went out for dinner.
After checking out various menus, and trip-advisor, they opted for Indian cuisine and very nice it was too. The service was very good, the food perfect and a complimentary Tia Maria (her) and Brandy (him) added to the experience;
‘Neelakash’ is highly recommended to those of you who enjoy Indian food.
Woofs, Martha X
Monday 4 September
Ponders End to Broxbourne
This stretch of the River Lee is edged with many moored boats. Many of them look derelict.
Leigh started to realise that the ‘prettiness’ she had been promised (by several boaters) was not her idea of pretty. They say, ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, and, as Leigh’s mum quotes, ‘One (wo)mans meat is another (wo)mans poison’ – how very true.
Whilst chatting to a workman, who was taking a break by sitting on one of the locks, Leigh noticed a couple of dogs running loose. Both jet-black, one with a collar and one without. The little black dog with the collar was super-cute and quite young so Leigh asked, ‘Do you know where they have come from? I can’t see an obvious owner’. The workman told her that there are many stray dogs around the area, adding, ‘You see all sorts round here – you’re not from this area then?’, with an amused expression.
She explained that she has never been here before, and he went on to say for the next few miles she would see what he meant. He told her that he wanted to buy a narrowboat when he retires in a few years, but he won’t be cruising this part of the country. He has experience of the Midlands and the North and,’It’s so much prettier and unspoilt that I’m heading that way’. Unlicensed, rusting, scruffy-boats and rubbish dumped by fly-tippers seemed to go on for miles, meaning Leigh quite agreed with his comments. So did Tom when he stopped to find all this rubbish caught around the prop, slowing us down!
Unable to find a pretty mooring we ended up mooring fairly remotely but with a huge industrial area over the other side of the canal. Leigh, Rosie and I are all hoping to reach some countryside tomorrow as we are missing our rural walks right now.
Woofs, Martha xx
Sunday 3 September
Victoria Park to Ponders Ends
Leaving Victoria Park, the Hertford Union canal took us through a built-up area where huge residential apartment blocks vied for space with old, disused industrial buildings. At on point the River Lee ran parallel with us; keeping distance between the two waters were Hackney Marsh and the Middlesex Filter Beds Nature Reserve. After a few locks – one reminding us of Leigh’s friend, Lesley, as it is called ‘Old Ford Lock’ – we turned left onto the Lee (or Lea) navigation.
Forgive me if I use the incorrect name for this river occasionally, but the River Lea is also referred to as the River Lee -depending on whether the river is navigable or not. Confusing for a mere canine.
This navigation took us through Tottenham and past some large reservoirs, then Edmonton towards Enfield. The super-large King George’s reservoir, Chingford, was located on our right. There are vast numbers of wintering ducks here and around thirty-thousand gulls…too many to chase. Yelp!
Some of the locks we encountered today were particularly heavy so Leigh was happy to see a day-tripper-boat following us. Her initial thought was, ‘Yay, six people on a boat must mean a bit of help through the locks’. Wrong!
At each of the three-locks that we travelled through together Leigh ended up doing the bulk of the work, explaining that you have to wind down the paddle instead of letting it drop and that you can’t open the gate until the water is level with the water you are exiting into. At one point, one of the day trippers starting opening the paddle into the lock that Leigh had just closed. She had to holler, ‘It’s the paddle on the exit gate that you need to open’, whilst holding fire on her side, otherwise water would have been running into the lock one end and out of the lock the other end. It really begs the question of hire-companies…do they give any instruction to day-trippers? Scary stuff…
On the positive side, Leigh did find help at a couple of other locks; once when some builders were walking over a lock to the site of some park homes where they were working. Then again when a boater on a trike stopped to help.
The builders could see Leigh struggling and offered to help. She then asked if they could wait and help her to close the lock too! One of the guys joked, ‘Is there anything else you want us to do?’ Leigh said they could walk along the towpath and do the next few locks with her if they wanted.
The same builder quipped back, ‘OK and shall I come onboard and do some dusting for you too?’. It’s fun when you humans enjoy banter like this.
The boater on the trike had a German Shepherd do with him. As he rode past Leigh he could see her, pushing the gate, phone between her chin and her shoulder, nattering away. He jumped off his bike and pushed the gate for her whilst joking to Tom, ‘That reminds me of my missus – chatting away and slowing you down mate’.
Leigh was quite happy for him to take over whilst she enjoyed a bitofacatchup with her daughter, Cleo.
Passing Waltham Abbey we managed to moor at Broxbourne and enjoyed a good walk through the woods. Leigh had an early night as she was worn out after a pretty active day and I’m off to my bed now too!
Woofs, Martha X
Saturday 2 September
Victoria Park, Bow
Waking early Leigh decided to go for a run after walking Rosie and me. I’m not surprised by this because there were hundreds of people running through Victoria Park last night and this morning. In fact..
There were runners, there were cyclists, there were walkers, there were dog-walkers, there were yoga and pilates classes, there were paddle-boaters on the lake, there were tiny footballers, there were circuits for gymnasts set up, there were guitar-playing young men, there were book-readers sitting on blankets.
This is one busy park and it is good to see so many activities with humans and canines socialising. Leigh allowed me off lead and I had a few encounters with other dogs without any problems. Rosie, sadly, can’t be trusted in such a busy environment; she finds all this activity spooks her and she might snap at another dog. If a dogs snaps at me I just run, screaming, back to Leigh and Rosie.
Around midday some of the family arrived, which was simply lovely. Lynda, Karen, John and Danielle loved the boat and it was especially good to see Lynda and Leigh having a catchup as they don’t see each other often.
I was rather naughty I have to confess. I haven’t been feeling quite myself lately, what with skin problems, trips to the vet and being in season I am getting grumpy. I guess my age (ten) doesn’t help. Anyway, as Lynda was fussing me I snapped. I would never actually bite but…
As I later barked to Rose, ‘In my defence, your canine honour, I do growl when I don’t want to be fussed and Lynda (like most humans) didn’t listen to me’.
Sorry, Lynda – I do love you really. Yelp!
The humans went out for lunch to an Italian-with-a-difference restaurant. As the weather was so sunny and warm they took Rosie and me and we all sat outside. The conversation was hectic and the company good and young Danielle was the star of the show. She is a lovely, sociable, caring and clever young lady – Rosie and I just loved her.
After the family left, mid-afternoon, the four of us took a walk through the park. Victoria Park was a super-stop for us. We have enjoyed some wonderful walks through this large, wide, park which is London’s oldest public park and takes up some eighty-six or so hectares.
Woofs, Martha x
Friday 1 September
Kings Cross to Victoria
The first day of Autumn and our second Autumn as live-a boards and it feels good!
Shortly after setting off we met up with another boat and her crew so we could travel and work the locks together, which is always a benefit. Chatting to the guy on board the other narrowboat he confirmed to Tom that we might struggle to find moorings today so we had no idea where we would end up.
The crew consisted of the owner of the boat (a scout leader), one of his scouts and the scouts Dad, Mum, sister and Grandmother. Obviously this information was gleaned by Leigh; a curious writer always finds out as much information as possible, for future ‘stories’ and ‘characters’.
As we were cruising past the gorgeousness that is Victoria Park Tom spotted a mooring. He and Leigh were elated. To find such a mooring on a Friday is like finding a bone-on-a-beach.
Although we had intended on travelling further, Tom started to pull over. The guy on the boat behind us shouted, ‘A vacant mooring – that just never happens! I can’t believe you got so lucky! It’s a great spot’.
Tom and Leigh agreed, Rosie and I wagged our tails with anticipation. Mooring up in a lovely spot with such a big park for walks, and houses with long gardens on the other side of the Regents Canal, was bound to be fun.
A friend of Leigh’s (Nadene) called by in the evening and the three humans, Tom, Leigh and Nadene went out to a rather swishy place for dinner.
The restaurant – Bistrotheque – is well-hidden but very popular and good food was enjoyed by all.
Woofs, Martha X
PS All these human visitors to the boat are lovely for the humans but I would quite like some canine visitors too. Although, thinking it through perhaps not, as it means Rosie and I get to maximise on any fuss that is going free…
Thursday 31 August
Little Venice to Kings Cross
Knowing that we would struggle for a mooring we left Little Venice after our early morning walk heading in the right direction, East – along the Regents Canal – but without a destination in mind. Not particularly worrying for us.
Leigh’s solution is, ‘If we are still travelling late we will simply have to breast-up’. Now, for those of you who are land-lubbers you may think that sounds a tad risqué. Yelp!
Breasting-up is sometimes known as doubling-up; you tie up to a boat that is already moored. We have seen lots of this over the last month or so, due to certain canals being particularly busy.
I have a theory on why so few moorings are available on some canals; so many people live-aboard and either can’t afford – or don’t want to pay for – permanent moorings, so they buy a continuous-cruiser licence.
Now, many cc’ers (like us) actually do that – continuously cruise. However, there are also many boaters who don’t continuously cruise, often because they work – so cannot travel far (although c.c’ers are issued with guidelines as to how far you should move to prove you are cruising the network as opposed to mooring more-or-less-permanently).
This ‘working’ community of boaters simply move between two moorings, meaning genuine c.c.’ers struggle to find a mooring. My theory is confirmed when you see the same boats moored in slightly different places; after all, what’s to stop a boater calling up a friend – either very early morning or late afternoon, when traffic is quiet – and saying, ‘I need to move so if I set out now from Camden and you set out from Little Venice we can swap moorings’?
Beleive me – it happens. Leigh met a guy doing just that yesterday. He told me he had just left his mooring but added, ‘It’ll be taken by the time you get there’.
We were five minutes away – how could he know it would be filled so fast?
Leigh and Tom actually understand it from these boaters point of view, but it is so frustrating to genuine c.c.’ers who want to travel, moor up and explore this wonderful country.
Leigh had already decided we won’t be cruising this part of the network again. She says although it is good to see parts of London she hasn’t seen before the fact that we can’t get off the boat often puts a damper on it. Yelp!
On passing Regents Park Zoo no animals were visible from the canal, but we did see the huge aviary.
As you might imagine, Rosie and I are anti-zoo’s anyway, although I do hanker after seeing lots of species of humans caged up to see how their behaviour changes. As far as I know the animals in zoo’s haven’t committed a crime so I am not sure why they are imprisoned? If it is to ‘save the species’, answer this for me…Leigh is just about five-feet tall. Very short for females nowadays. Should we cage her and breed her in case five-feet-tall-females die out? Actually…don’t answer. Yelp!
A couple of outstanding constructions were Macclesfield bridge and an old gasometer.
Tom was thrilled with the conversion of the gasometer. He finds it exciting that the developers have maintained this industrial structure in it’s original location; juxtaposed with all the new buildings it really is a wonderful sight.
Macclesfield bridge was actually destroyed in October eighteen-seventy-four A boat carrying cargo of nuts, sugar, petroleum and gunpowder blew up; the beautifully strong, striking columns were saved and re-used – although they turned them round so that rope-marks from towing were on the other side. Sort of like wearing a jumper back-to-front if you spill wine down it I guess?
As we came through the locks at Camden we encountered many gongoozlers and a volunteer lock-keeper! A huge tug carry a large cargo was just ahead so Leigh used the time to chat to the volunteer; this young guy (Canadian we think) has been volunteering here for two years, one day a week. He says it keeps him fit, keeps the volunteering interesting and he meets lots of people. Leigh was more than happy to let him work the first two locks, then she worked the next ones herself.
At one lock she chatted to a guy who lives-aboard – it was clear he doesn’t go through many locks as he left the paddle up at his end. It reminded her of another live-aboard who she first encountered at Teddington. He was getting very angry, shouting at a few other boaters when she ran over to see what the problem was. He told her, ‘The f******* gate won’t close’. She pointed to a second ‘Close gate’ button and suggested he press it. Girl power eh?
We were reminded how lucky we are several times today as we passed homeless person after homeless person. Some have actually set up des-res’s under the many bridges over the canal, little tents and shelters are a common sight through London – as are homeless people sleeping in the street. In fact it got Leigh and Tom discussing the point that society seems to be going backwards; there are super-smart (even gated) areas yet in contrast there appear to be more and more scruffy, filthy, derelict areas. It’s scary. Do you humans want such a divided, extreme society? I doubt if many of you do! Remember a few weeks back when I shared photos of some amazing million-pound plus houses. Well here is this persons ‘home’…
Although Tom had called the Canal Museum yesterday to ask if they had any pre-bookable moorings available (the answer was ‘no’) we actually spotted a vacant mooring just past the museum. Boy, were my humans excited. I think Leigh did a dance on the spot. After a quick walk down the towpath and around the surrounding area Rosie and I came back to the boat for a snooze whilst Leigh and Tom went for lunch. The area we are in is North London – Islington to be precise. Lunch cost just fourteen pounds in total; scampie for her, mixed grill for him and a couple of soft drinks…what great value? Leigh declared her food to be ‘really very good’ and would recommend the Blue Dolphin.
They then visited the canal museum – a real treat. Leigh loved listening to recordings of boaters from the early nineteen-hundreds as they recounted their past lives. One guy explained how by the age of four, yes four years old, he could tie a boat up securely and by the age of eight he could steer. Amazing. Others talked about how they were sometimes feared – being labelled water gypsies – and sometimes ill treated by land-lubbers.Now, remember my theory on the lack of vacant moorings in London? As we were walking back to the boat early this evening we could see a woman on the bow of Very Pinook, and a man at the back. They were tying up to us.
I am convinced whoever left this mooring vacant this morning, had left it for her. She obviously thought her ‘contact’ had changed their mind, so (as is usual for c.c.’ers who don’t actually c.c.) as per usual was breasting up to her ‘contacts’ boat. Otherwise, why didn’t she carry on cruising or breast up to the boat in front or behind us?
On seeing Leigh and Tom, who I guess she didn’t recognise as her ‘contact’ she told us, ‘I need to leave for work at eight-thirty in the morning so will need to swap places if you are only moored overnight’
No boater would refuse another to breast-up so we did as she asked and swapped places so that when we move off she can keep the mooring. Rosie and I couldn’t manage the jump from boat to boat to towpath, so Tom and Leigh had to carry us.
Here’s hoping we find a towpath mooring somewhere tomorrow – otherwise we have a long day ahead of us and could end up wherever! The joys of boating eh?
Woofs, Martha X
Wednesday 30 August
We spent today mostly in the boat due to the rain. A couple of walks, stopping to buy some Indian street food from a stand near Paddington
Station, and much reading of books has been the order of the day. In the evening Tom met up with his friend Steve’s son, Penda, for a few beers and Leigh took a walk over to Paddington station to mooch around the few rather less-than-exciting shops there.
She did see this little fella. I imagine you all recognise him?
Woofs, Martha x
Tuesday 29 August
Willowtree Marina, Yeading to Little Venice
Most of my travels have shown the upbeat, positive side of the coin. Being an optimist (like Leigh) this is perfectly normal to me. I often hear people tell Leigh things like, ‘Ugh, it’s such a miserable day. Look at that grey sky’,
Leigh and I answer in unison with, ‘What? It’s white and bright -look at that bit of sunlight trying to come through’. We try and look for the positive; we both see and experience it and I am sure we can be a tad annoying. However, today I have seen some sights that would bring me down if I lived, or had to travel through, along the stretch of canal we have travelled today.
We left Willow Tree Marina around eleven, after filling up with water and having a good old natter with a very nice man who lives on a boat there. I felt a bit sad for him as his intention was to become a constant-cruiser livaboard (like us) but his wife doesn’t want to travel. It’s funny how some humans have control over others and I guess it’s good that Leigh and Tom agree on how to live their lives; the bits they don’t agree on they compromise.
Now, en-route to the marina I hadn’t been to impressed with the state of the canal and tow paths. Rubbish galore.
All the way from Willowtree at Yeading, through Northolt, Perivale, Alperton, Ladbroke Grove, Kensal Town – in fact until just short of Little Venice was dull and depressing. Every bench was drowning in debris. Plastic bags and bottles, tins, clothes, shoes, glass bottles and even a dead dog withered in the water. The stench under the bridge, where Leigh spotted the dog, was sickening.
As Leigh picked up the thesaurus this morning it fell open on a page. This page contained entry 371 – humankind. That one word is a whole conversation in itself. Two of the listings are ‘Neanderthal’ and ‘Cavemen and women’, which conure up people who are not yet fully developed. Surely, if you humans are as developed as you should be, you wouldn’t leave or dump rubbish like you have here? It seems odd to have such a lovely environment and to abuse it.
As you cruise into Little Venice the situation changes. There is is super-interesting mural made out of…wait for it…rubbish; what a fab use of collected rubbish and all done by a local youth group.
There is also a lovely mosaic mural. We managed to find a mooring adjacent to Rembrandt Park – renamed to commemorate seven-hundred years of the founding of Amsterdam – and took a stroll around Little Venice as soon as we had eaten dinner. Although pretty, and lively, this area appears to be mainly a place to come to eatanddrink. I rather liked the ‘pocket floating island’ which could be fab for people-watching.
Monday 28 August
What a wonderful bank holiday? We have really been able to take advantage of it. In Blighty it is slightly unusual to have good weather on a B.H. so a temperature of mid-twenties puts everyone in a good mood.
We spent the whole day moored up in the marina. After a walk through a wooded area this morning my humans trotted over to the ‘Lock and Quay’ for lunch (all of a five minute walk). Returning to the boat, Tom stayed in the boat and Leigh lay in the bow listening to a female jazz-type singer who was really very good. She sang a great range of covers and her guitarist sounded pretty good too.
Reading, walking, eating and listening to music – it’s what bank holidays are for. Yelp!
Woofs, Martha X