Stoke Hammond & Yardley Gobion

On Saturday (23/8) we travelled down to Stoke Hammond. We had good bright weather all day. As we took on water at Leighton Buzzard we met NB Frobisher, a converted Admiral class working boat.

We moored up above the Globe Inn for lunch and then went down Soulbury locks accompanied by Marge, a Sea Otter that was out for the weekend from Cheddington. Robin Smithett was busy photographing Wyvern Shipping hire boats arriving at the locks.

We moored up for the night above Stoke Hammond lock. We were then passed by a series of Wyvern Shipping boats out for the Bank Holiday weekend. As it got dark a hot air ballon landed close to the lock.


Hot air ballon landing near Stoke Hammond

On Sunday (24/8) morning we woke to rain and spent the rest of the morning travelling through Milton Keynes in light rain and mist. At one stage, just south of the city centre we had an interesting encounter with a large wide beam going south very slowly. This required boats going north to pull over into the bank. The crew of the narrow boat following them desribed their journey as like watching paint dry. We passed Granny Buttons close to Campbell Park. Andrew Denny appeared not to be on board. Perhaps he was shopping in Milton Keynes, or perhaps not.

By lunchtime the weather had improved and we moored up at Great Linford for lunch. The canal was very busy. Having spent a month around London where there was little traffic it came as a suprise.

As we approached Cosgrove Lock we met Janet Irons taking her dog Thea for a walk. They came on board for a short trip and a cup of tea. By the time we had arrived back at Kingfisher marina the weather had turned again and we unloaded the boat under gloomy skies.

We appear to have travelled 241 miles and negotioated 221 locks in our summer cruise. It was unforgetable. Now we shall be preparing Albert for her repaint in October.

Slapton

On Friday (22/8) Anne and Edward left us. They were picked up from Marsworth by Fred & Margaret, Anne’s parents, and went home to Sheffield. We will miss their good company, their crewing skills and our laughs together.


Waiting at Seabrook Locks

We left Marsworth in the afternoon in bright sunshine and travelled down to Slapton. The views of the Chilterns were great. The lion at Whipsnade looked very prominent. However, before we left Marsworth we had some excellent sandwiches at the Bluebells Cafe. Along with the Lockside cafe at Cowley, this is another example of a canal-side cafe that is really providing good food.

Marsworth

On Thursday (21/8) the weather finally improved a little as we headed for Marsworth. We took on water at the Park in Berkhamsted and more provisions from Waitrose. The trip up to Cowroast was very pleasant and relatively uneventful although Steve managed to find a hole in the towpath where a breach had been repaired but had become undermined; his foot suddenly went down the hole.

The trip through Tring cutting in sunshine was delightful with lots of Maggie’s favourite dappled shade.


Tring Cutting


Bulborne

We went down the Marsworth flight and moored up by the reservoirs. There were lots of anglers, people taking their dogs for walks, and families enjoying the sunshine, although it wasn’t particularly warm given the time of the year. Watching the sun set over the reservoirs was a good end to the day.


Marsworth mooring

Berkhamsted

On Wednesday (20/8), we left Grove in showery conditions. The showers continued on and off for most of the day. We met NB Mrs Armitage around Kings Langley and continued going up locks with them for some time.

When we went down to London we completely missed the changes at the former Ovaltine factory and farm. Going south we saw the new developments but didn’t connect them to the site. This time we specifically took note and made the connection. The new housing looks very impressive but it is a shame that nothing appears to relate to the site's former use. Perhaps they have named a road Ovaltine Way, or something similar, but we couldn’t tell from the canal.

Since the above was written we found out that the factory facade has been kept. You just can't see it from the canal.

Mrs Armitage stopped for services at Winkwell and we went on through the electrically operated swing bridge. Edward operated the bridge console. He particularly enjoyed stopping the traffic. Because boats were also coming south he managed to delay the traffic even longer than normal. The drivers appeared to be particularly good natured and didn’t complain.


Winkwell Swing Bridge

Just before Berkhamsted we came across an unoccupied boat whose stern mooring rope had broken and was blocking the navigation. A neighbouring boat owner tried bringing the boat alongside but he was having trouble. We assisted with poles and ropes and after some time got it moored up. The original mooring rope was much frayed and well passed its “sell by date”. It was not surprising that it had broken.

We moored up at Castle Wharf in Berkhamsted close to hotel boat Wood Owl and opposite the former site of Bridgewater Boats. The weather had improved sufficiently for Steve to do some much need brass cleaning before we went out for an excellent meal at Chez Gerard.

The Grove, Watford

Tuesday (19/8) was a really wet day. Although it started in sunshine, when we went to Tesco in Rickmansworth, it soon deteriorated into heavy showers and finally continuous rain. It only really cleared up when we reached Grove where we moored for the night.


Batchworth Locks


Edward steering with the stern doors closed!

We went up locks with NB Felicitas, a boat that was exhibited at this year’s Crick Boat Show. The owners are started continuous cruising in April but hope to get winter moorings in Crick. We both took on water at Cassio Bridge Lock and Albert’s crew gathered blackberries during a gap in the showers.


Sampling blackberries at Casio Bridge Lock

We went up through Iron Bridge and Cassiobury Park Locks with hotel boat Wood Owl in the rain and moored up early by the bridge leading to the The Grove mansion. It looks a very impressive golf course.

Later in the afternoon NB Mr Heron joined us on the mooring. We are celebrating Anne and Edward’s wedding anniversary tonight with supper on board; the blackberries will come in handy.

Rickmansworth

On Monday (18/8), after a wet night we left went up Cowley lock with NB Heron who had moored up near Cowley Peachey. Through Uxbridge we followed the two very slow narrowboats we met on the Paddington Arm. NB Heron accompanied us all the way until Copper Mill Lock where we took on water and had a sandwich lunch. NB Heron took longer and followed on later. This section is a surprisingly pretty part of the Grand Union given how close it is to Central London. The rain threatened all the time we were on the move but it managed to stay dry until we moored up at Stokers Lock.

Limehouse, Tideway, Brentford and Cowley

Catching up on posts, bit of a delay but with good reasons.

On Friday (15/8) we left Little Venice visitor moorings and travelled down the Regents Canal to Limehouse.



Approaching Maida Hill Tunnel

The trip through Regents Park in bright sunshine was delightful. When we reached the top of Camden Locks we found narrow boats Imagine and Soup Dragon using the right-hand lock so we took the left. It was interesting locking down side by side in two locks. There were lots of sightseers, almost like Stoke Bruerne Top Lock on a warm August Bank Holiday Monday.

We moored up for lunch just before Islington tunnel and were overtaken by Imagine and Soup Dragon. We followed them through the tunnel and met a boat waiting at the other end. Because it is a one-way passage tunnel they had to wait sometime for three boats to pass. Unfortunately, just as we left the tunnel another boat entered at the other end and therefore they had to wait even longer. The following boat turned out to be the community boat Pride of Sandwell. We met the boat, and her skipper, earlier in the year in Braunston when the boat was in transit from the West Midlands to London. We went down several locks with them. The kids on board were enjoying themselves and were generally well behaved. They turn off down the Hertford Union (Duckett’s Cut) to the River Lee. We carried on descending locks until we got to Limehouse Basin.

The basin looked great in the late afternoon sunshine. Several boats were moored up against the basin walls waiting to lock out onto the tidal Thames. We decided to go for the “posh” option and pay for a mooring on the floating pontoons. It was shortly after our arrival that our cruising plans changed dramatically. We discovered that we could accompany some of the crews going onto the Tideway and Maggie, who has always been reluctant to venture onto the Tideway, had to agree that this was a golden opportunity to travel through the heart of London by narrow boat. So instead of sampling the delights of the River Lee we chose to experience central London from the river! We negotiated with Imagine and Soup Dragon about forming a flotilla, and discussed our plans with the lockkeepers.

After preparing the boat (deploying the anchor, adjusting the ballast, checking the weed hatch, and sealing up the front door vents) we locked onto the Tideway at 11.30 on Saturday morning (16/8). However, before we left the marina were interviewed by the River Police in their counter terrorism role! The officers had appeared on the recent TV series and assured us that we didn’t look like terrorists and admired Albert’s interior. Leaving the lock onto the turbulent Thames was an experience, particularly as a high-speed catamaran just passed us as we left the cut. Michael with his mum as crew on Soup Dragon led the way. We followed, and Imagine with Nick and Sarah brought the rear. Soup Dragon, having a more powerful engine, was plainly faster than Albert with its Ruston 2YWM and Imagine with its Gardner 2LW. We kept in touch by UHF radio which was invaluable. The general swell on the river was strong particularly along exposed reaches.


Canary Wharf from the Tideway

It was elating to see Tower Bridge as we turned the curve at Wapping; surely this has to be the boating highlight. It was quite rough around Parliament with a fresh wind, lots of crossing river traffic and a strong incoming tide. We took as many pictures as we could but we had to be very aware of obeying the navigation rules and keeping a good watch on other traffic. At one point, Nick on Imagine had to navigate carefully to avoid a large trip boat that was trying to come alongside Westminster Pier. The views of The London Eye, Parliament and Westminster Bridge were fantastic. Although our speed over the water was relatively modest the rate at which we passed under bridges clearly indicated how quickly we were travelling. Anne and Maggie who were sitting in the well deck occasionally got wet from spray as the bows pitched.


Albert passing under Tower Bridge


Choppy in the Westminster Reach


Maggie getting splashed outside the Houses of Parliament

After Battersea the river became calmer and boat traffic a lot less. We were particularly keen to photograph Albert approaching Albert Bridge. Michael came on the UHF radio and asked if Albert was glowing with pride as she passed underneath.


Albert approaching Albert Bridge

Steve was particularly interested in the journey over the Tideway rowing course (Varsity Boat Race) since he has rowed in the Head of the River Races. By now we were travelling in bright sunshine on relatively calm water.


Passing the rowing clubs at Putney

We slowed down a little since Imagine and Soup Dragon were travelling up to Teddington through the Richmond Barrier and didn’t want to arrive at the barrier before it was raised. The calm of the water was disturbed when a cruiser, (Quakers Two) who had left Limehouse shortly after us, overtook us at Kew Bridge. Their wake was larger than nearly all the traffic we met in Central London.

We waved goodbye to Imagine & Soup Dragon and they carried on up to Teddington. We turned once more up the cut to Brentford and Thames Lock. We negotiated the low bridge at Brentford High Street and the Gauging Locks and moored up in the basin.


The crew at Brentford

With a feeling of elation we recounted tales of the trip all evening. What a wonderful journey! We are indebted to the crews of Imagine and Soup Dragon for letting us join them for this memorable trip.

We left Brentford Basin on Sunday (17/8)morning in sunshine and made our way up Hanwell Locks to Norwood. Initially we travelled with NB Mr Heron, but because other boats were moving up the flight it made more sense for them to pair up with another crew and we travelled up the main part of the flight alone. However, with a crew of four we made great progress and soon moved on to Bulls Bridge where we visited Tesco for provisions. We moored up for the night just below Cowley Lock.

Little Venice

On Tuesday (12/8) we left Teddington on the early morning tide and followed NB Miss Matty (from Cranford) down through Richmond in glorious sunshine. We entered Thames Lock at Brentford around 12:00 and also went up the Hanwell Locks with them.



Thames at Richmond

After Osterley Lock we manage to pick up a large sheet of builder’s film around Albert’s propeller. It took some time to get the prop clear but Miss Matty waited for us. We turned down the Paddington Arm at moored up at Willowtree Marina at about 5:30PM. It was great to use the facilities of the marina, including the showers. It turned out that the berth we were using was used until recently by Lee Pascal as his permanent mooring. In 2003, we went down the Thames with Lee and had some great times. It appears he is now continuous cruising.


Interesting boat descending Osterley Lock

On Wednesday (13/8) the plan was to meet our friends Anne & Edward Winter in Little Venice. We had a relatively uneventful trip down to London, except there was a stiff headwind and we had to overtake two very slow boats. Both boats waved us past but one accelerated as we overtook them.

We met Miss Matty as we approached Little Venice and they helped us moor up. We double moored against NB Amphora who left in the late afternoon. We then moored up against the bank and Miss Matty moored up outside us. The Winters arrived mid afternoon and we spent an interesting late afternoon and evening around Paddington visiting the new developments. It was very windy in the Paddington Basin where the waves were significant and some boats were adding some extra lines to avoid being blown away.

We decided to stay on in Little Venice on Thursday (14/8). We had a great day out visiting London Zoo, travelling there by Waterbus.


Going to London Zoo by Waterbus

Since it was at least twenty years since we last visited the zoo it was great to see how it had developed. Some of the displays were just fabulous. A display on leaf-cutter ants where they walked along an exposed rope was particularly wonderful. You could really get up close to the ants and observe their individual behaviour.


Leaf Cutter Ants at work

The larger mammals, including the gorillas were also intersting in their new more "open" enclosure. Tomorrow we leave for Limehouse Basin.

Teddington

On Monday (11/8) morning we took on water above Pyford Lock and went down with NB Swallow who was turning into the Marina. The weather was bright but cloudy as we went down through Byfleet and New Haw. It was an uneventful but very pleasant journey down to Thames Lock where we returned our Wey Navigation’s windlass.


Working out on the Wey - the long throw windlass is supplied by the National Trust

We can certainly recommend the Wey. The staff of the navigation were particularly helpful and friendly and the scenery is stunning. Although moorings on the lower reaches can be difficult it is worth going beyond Pyrford where they improve considerably.

Coxes Mill & Lock

We went down the Thames towards Teddington picking up out temporary licence at Sunbury Locks where we were dwarfed by a barge going north. It was quite windy in the Kingston reach and Albert’s bows began to “nod”. Saw Rangitoto moored up outside Hampton Court; Irene and Brian were not on board, maybe they we were visiting the palace.


Sunbury Locks

We found the moorings at Teddington nearly empty and moored up for the night. We will go down to Brentford tomorrow morning on the falling tide. We had a great evening in Teddington meeting both our daughters and their partners. During the night a couple of large cruisers arrived on the moorings. We assume they came up from London on the evening tide.

Pyrford

Over the weekend we had a great time at the wedding of Holly Winter and Paul Stevens. However, we couldn’t completely get away from water as the wedding was held at Frensham Pond Hotel near Farnham. In our view the pond is certainly not a pond but a lake.

We were picked up by our friends Anne and Edward Winter (the MOB & FOB) on Friday (8/8) morning and left Albert in the hands of the National Trust (in a manner of speaking). In the afternoon we enjoyed a walk around the pond in bright sunshine. There were kids swimming and even a beach umbrella protecting a family from the sun. Unfortunately the sun wasn’t to last but it didn’t spoil the wedding celebrations on Saturday (9/8) at all. As with all good weddings it’s the people that make the event. Here is a picture of the bride and groom near the pond.


The new Mr & Mrs Stevens

On Sunday (10/8) morning we got a taxi back to Albert at Dapdune, winded and made our way back to Pyford. It was a pleasant trip largely in sunshine. The views near Send were again stunning and Newark Priory looked good in the sunshine.


Wey Navigation near Send

We paused at Trigg’s Lock for a sandwich and were caught up by a day boat from Guilford. We had looked forward to sharing the lock with them but when we saw the adults allowing their young children to jump off the roof of the boat onto Send Church footbridge and then back onto the roof of the boat again, all whilst the boat was moving, we decided not to go down that route! The adults on board thanked us for letting them through the lock but Steve told them in no uncertain terms that he considered their behaviour unacceptable and that was why we were not sharing the lock with them.

Their operation of the lock was hardly better. The children operated the paddles but left the windlasses on the spigots (at head height) while the lock filled. This is dangerous enough on canal locks where there are pawl catches but on the River Wey there are no pawls, only hydraulic pressure holds paddles up, and the water flows are significantly stronger. We saw the effects of an impact of a spinning windlass on an adult’s skull some years ago on the Grand Union and it was not pretty. The thought of this happening to a child are at the very least alarming.


We moored up for the night at Pyrford above the lock and in front of NB George. They had managed to reach the head of navigation at Goldalming but with the rains over the weekend reported that getting under Broadford Bridge (nominal 6ft draught) coming down stream was very tight.

Pyrford lock was very busy with boats and gongoozlers. It was a little like a summer Sunday afternoon at Stoke Bruerne Top Lock. The popularity of the Anchor Inn appears to be responsible. Having run down our provisions we visited the Anchor again and had another great meal.


Pyrford Lock, Sunday Afternoon

Guildford (2)

What a start to the day (7/8)! We woke to blue skies and decided to move towards Guilford to see what the mooring arrangements were at Dapdune Wharf; we planned to leave Albert there for two days while we go to a wedding near Farnham.

Maggie went up to Stoke Lock to get it ready and I stayed on Albert to cast off. I cast of at the stern first. Because it was relatively shallow when we arrived we had left the stern well out from the bank and the bows tucked in alongside. I then went forward and cast off. No problem so far. I then walked aft and selected forward – no progress we were stuck aground at the stern. This isn’t usually a problem and often happens with a deep drafted boat, it usually just requires a bit of poling. I tried to push Albert off using one of the long poles we have aboard but she just wouldn’t budge. She appeared to be firmly wedged under the stern and was determined not to move. At this point I should point out that there was a reasonable flow on the river, particularly from a storm water discharge just opposite our mooring. The flow started to move Albert’s bows downstream, but unfortunately not the stern. In a very short space of time the bows moved across the river to the opposite bank and we were blocking navigation, from bank to bank. Try as we may we couldn’t either pole the bows back or get the stern released. In the end we had to call out the local lengthsman who happened to be at the lock on his boat and he immediately saw our predicament. He and his girlfriend arrived with poles, shortly followed by the crew of cruiser Idler who we had shared locks with the day before. Even a passing jogger joined in to help.

Several techniques to move Albert were tried but eventually, some two hours after we had first tried to leave our mooring, we got her free. We joined three ropes together and with five people pulling upstream on the bow and two poling at the stern Albert came free to much celebration. She was unscathed but looked rather muddy. We were very relieved.


Dapdune Wharf, Guilford

We then went up through the lock with a boat that arrived just after we were free and headed for Guildford. When we arrived at Dapdune, there space for Albert available so we headed for it and moored up behind the former working boat NB George. We often see George moored up just north of Weedon on the Grand Union. We checked on the mooring arrangements at the wharf with the staff at the National Trust Navigations Office and they were fine.


Wey Barge, Dapdune Wharf

Guildford (1)

After our night outside the Anchor Inn, on Wednesday (6/8) morning we reversed back to Pyrford Marina. It is a large marina with a very swish dry dock. We took on fuel, which was no problem except the increasing price and the fact that we needed 104 litres, but the pump-out was another matter. We seem to have a jinx when it comes to pump-outs. Last year on the Oxford Canal the pump-out at Heyford Wharf was blocked and this year the pump-out at Pyrford was also blocked. It took two men over half-an-hour to fix it. Still once fixed it did a great job and we were on our way by around 11:00.


Anchor Inn, Pyrford


Walsham Flood Gates

The trip up through Newark and Papercourt Locks was delightful although we still struggled with the strong flows and working the locks alone.


Newark Priory

However, we were soon joined by the cruiser Idler. Sharing the locks that have strong flows with a fibre-glass cruiser appeared a little daunting at first but we soon developed a technique which involved the use of bow and centre lines which kept Albert from moving across.



Send Church

The section of navigation between Send and Burpham was particularly pretty. It probably looked at its best in the summer sunshine. This section passes close to Sutton Place and is also very twisty with a particularly difficult turn and bridge (Broad Oak Bridge) which, just to make things more interesting, also incorporates a weir.


Damsel Fly


Egyptian Geese

Not wishing to travel through Guildford yet, since we are hopefully mooring here over the weekend, we stopped just below Stoke Lock. There are some delightful meadows here but earlier on this evening the A3 road just beyond was noisy. As we settled down for the evening Brian and Irene O’Neill came out of the lock going downstream on NB Rangitoto. From New Zealand, they moor their boat next to Albert at Kingfisher Marina. They left Yardley Gobion in June and are having a slow cruise. It appears their global average distance per day is a mere 2.1 miles per day. Brian explains there slow progress in terms of how much they are enjoying meeting people and admiring the countryside. It looks like we might see them again as they are planning to explore the Regents Canal. We will have to keep an eye out.

Byfleet & Pyrford

Two days worth of blogging in one: We left Teddington lock on Monday (4/8) morning, after Lucy had breakfast with us, and travelled up past Kingston in glorious sunshine. A classic Dutch barge overtook us close to Kingston Rowing Club.


Dutch Barge in the Kingston Reach

Molesey Lock was empty when we arrived and the Assistant Lock Keeper, wearing a jaunty feather in his cap opened up the lock for us. We eventually shared the lock with various cruisers who then overtook us in the Hampton reach. Passing Sunbury it rained heavily. We moored up in Walton for lunch and watched the parrots circling overhead.

After Desborough Island we turned into the narrow channel that leads to the Wey and Godalming Navigations. Thames Lock, at the start of the navigation is a charming place. We waited while two cruisers locked up ahead of us. The navigation books try to explain the purpose of the Stop Lock and its role in the operation of the Thames Lock. The lock keeper had the best explanation: it’s basically a staircase lock with flexible water levels. We paid our registration, received our special windlass (heavy and a very long throw) and then went up the lock.




Thames Lock: Wey & Goldalming Navigations

We had hoped to moor up close to the head of the navigation but we found it difficult to find suitable moorings. We eventually found a spot outside the Byfleet Boat Club (BBC), which although close to the M25, was relatively quiet. One of their members, Gordon, who was moored just ahead of us showed Steve around the boathouse. The BBC was founded back in the 1800s as a skiff club and still hires out rowing boats.

The weather on Tuesday (5/8) was grotty. We woke to heavy rain and it continued all morning. Steve caught up on his email traffic and editing while Maggie worked on her tapestry. After lunch the weather was slightly better so we moved on. We were going to get fuel and a pump-out at Pyrford Marina but we found it closed on Tuesdays! So, being in no hurry, plan B came into operation; we stopped outside the marina and Steve serviced Albert’s engine. We will sort out the fuel and the pump-out tomorrow. Because we are moored up outside the Anchor Inn we will try their fare this evening.

Teddington Lock

We spent Sunday (3/8) morning in Brentford waiting for the tide so we could travel up to Teddington. Lucy & Chris Fink (daughter & son-in-law) came over by bikes from their home close to Teddington Lock with the aim of travelling back by boat. The weather started bright and warm but quickly changed to light showers then heavy downpours. Lucy and Chris joined us about 1:00PM and we moved down the basin firstly to take on water and then to go through the Gauging Lock. The heavens opened as we went down the cut to Thames Lock! We locked onto the Thames at 3:00PM and had a bright and largely dry run up through Richmond with Chris at the helm.


Chris Fink at the helm on the Tidal Thames

At the Teddington we got a green light for the Barge Lock. Some narrow boats were already waiting and as more arrived there were narrow boats three abreast in front of us. Steve thought that we were likely to lock through using the middle gates of the lock, but a group of large cruisers coming up from London arrived behind us and before long the whole 650ft length of the lock was fully utilised. The scene was somewhat reminiscent of the classic Edwardian painting of Boulter’s Lock.


Crowded Teddington Barge Lock

We then realised that the 177ft Launch Lock was also in use. This created some difficulties leaving the lock since most of the narrowboats, like us, had to stop immediately after leaving the lock to get visitor licences and the cruisers behind them had to overtake and cross the traffic entering the Launch Lock. What fun!


On the new visitor moorings at Teddington Lock

We moored up temporarily just outside the lock (literally) and then moved onto the smart new visitor moorings as they became available. Whisky and Dundee cake was the order of the day. It went down well! That evening we enjoyed a good meal at Lucy & Chris’s favourite Indian restaurant in Teddington, Prem.

Brentford

We don’t often moan on our blog but yesterday (Saturday 2/8) we, along with other boaters, got decidedly grumpy about BW Moorings at Brentford and have decided to commit our views to “print”. Let’s be straight, we are not unhappy by about the excellent practical assistance we got from local BW staff, or the great facilities that they have installed (washing machines, pump-out, showers etc.) just how BW have set up their mooring arrangements; more later.

We left Cowley at 9:00 and had a relatively uneventful trip on the lock-free section to Norwood, although we did find that Ewen Hardie (Barefoot for Burma) had stopped overnight on a boat just before Cowley Peachey. He aims to reach Westminster by Monday. Close to the M4 we also passed the other end of the waterways’ aggregate operation.

We took on water from the wharf at the top of the Hanwell Flight (Norwood). It is a shame that since we came up the flight in 2003 the BW yard has closed and has a desolate air. The Hanwell flight is still pretty and well maintained. The interpretation boards are very informative and describe how the flight was used when the Victorian asylum was in operation. The description of the ramps to allow horses get out of the canal if they “take a look” was particularly interesting. However, one can’t help thinking about what a grim area it must have been a century ago.


Hanwell Flight Lock Cottage

We arrived at Brentford around 2:00PM and found very little space on visitor moorings. This was despite the fact that those going onto the Thames and had already left and we had been assured on the phone that there was space. In fact they were in total just two moorings; one 55ft long and the other about 40ft long. By talking to the BW local staff we eventually managed to move an unoccupied boat and enlarge the 55 ft mooring into 60ft to fit in Albert.


Brentford Basin

As the afternoon progressed, the only remaining mooring filled up. You might presume from this congestion was all caused by a lot craft planning to take a trip down onto the Thames. You would be wrong. The moorings are 14 day maximum and most of the boats here were unoccupied when we arrived and remained so overnight.

It is quite clear that many boaters are using the basin not as a staging post for entering or leaving the canal system but as a convenient mooring place to leave their boats in London for days on end. Why does BW restrict and enforce 2 day maximum mooring at rural Cosgrove on the basis that it is a “honey-spot”, and then allow 14 mooring in Brentford basin when the congestion by boats passing through is great and the new facilities so good? It makes no sense.

Although BW has indicated on signage that they want narrow boats to double-up it takes a brave boater to double-up against a boat with no crew on-board; protocol demands that you ask permission. Our views on these difficulties were reinforced when in the early evening around eight boats came up from the Thames and searched in vain for moorings. Some used unauthorised moorings close to the Gauging Lock, some travelled north and then moored close to the A4; hardly an ideal location and what a welcome to the canal system particularly given the improved EA moorings at Teddington! Surely the whole point of the Brentford developments, so far as boating is concerned, is to encourage boaters to travel to and from the Thames and get them to stop and explore Brentford as they pass through, not to encourage them to leave their boats unoccupied for some time.

Steve discovered the Boatmans Institute, where boat children were educated when they were not travelling. We enjoyed a good Italian meal at Prezzo which overlooks the basin and saw a Hindu wedding going on in the nearby Holiday Inn. Through the large plate windows we saw the bride in her beautiful ornate dress and the guests were enjoying dancing to bangra.

At the far end of the basin we had a quiet night.


Boatmans Institute, Brentford

Cowley Lock

After last night’s (31/7) heavy rain today (1/8)was sunshine and showers and a stiff breeze that made hovering outside locks less than straightforward. We travelled down to Cowley Lock. At Cooper Mill Lock we caught up with another boat going south to Harefield. Their toddler daughter was enjoying being on deck, safely fenced in and wearing a life-jacket but she also wanted to have a go at steering. This made their progress rather slow but we shared the locks till they reached their destination.


Low Emmision Zone for Waterways?

Near Bridge 183 we found NB Arundel reversing back from the winding hole to the aggregates wharf (marked in Pearson). Later on, after we had moored up below Cowley Lock, we were able to watch Arundel negotiate the lock single-handed. By then she was loaded with 30 tonnes of aggregate which set her extremely low in the water as seen in some photographs of the old working boats.


NB Arundel at Cowley Lock

Arundel’s skipper used a set of long strings to select reverse to pull open the bottom gate and then close it behind him. We have previously only seen this technique used in old film footage. It was fascinating to watch and worthy of a round of applause. Within minutes he was on his way again.


In complete contrast we saw Land and Water’s modern wide beam barge Frays going north through the same lock. The barge totally filled the lock and two little boys watched in awe and wonder at the huge Tonka toy. Maggie watched in amazement as this skipper sprung up from the deck to the lock side in one mighty bound; she offered him a place in the British team for Beijing!


Wide beam barge Frays filling Cowley Lock

We had a delicious lunch at the Toll House Tea Room at Cowley Lock. They have an imaginative menu and a good selection of vegetarian dishes.