Tree Stoppage at Watford!

On Tuesday the decline in the weather was complete and we started the day's boating in rain. We left our mooring near the The Grove and travelled south through Cassiobury Park which on a sunny and dry day can be a pleasant journey.

Cassiobury Park Locks in the rain

All went well until we got below Cassio Bridge Lock and a voice from the towpath shouted "Oi! You won't get any further there's a tree down around the corner". True enough a large as tree had fallen across the cut and landed between two moored boats with its crown on the towpath. There were some lucky moorers nearby who had, we were informed, called CRT to report the problem.

A narrow miss!

 The man on the boat closest to the tree had heard nothing in the night when it fell except his dog had barked. We tried to moor up on the bank but found it too shallow; we opted to breast-up with the only boat so far caught in the stoppage. This was at 11:30 AM. After some time two other boats arrived around the corner - former working boats Plover and Warbler. Also being deep drafted, they moored up alongside us - making it three abreast.

Stoppage jam

A period of reflection occurred until we all realised that CRT might not be on the ball. Calls to the main contact number got no answer and the emergency contact number only promised to "pass the message on". As a result all those caught by the stoppage tried phoning various CRT contacts. Eventually this produced a contractor who claimed it had been reported as a branch down on the towpath!  Luckily a CRT operative arrived and authorised the clearance. I gather that it was at this point that an emergency stoppage was declared. It was about 3:00 PM when the full clearance team of contractors arrived on site. Because the tree had fallen from the "off" they had to work out how to try to get access to the "off" and clear trees to get their equipment in place. The team had not only chain saws but a small boat and one very clever piece of kit - a motorised winch.

Paddling to the crown

Trimming the branches

Winching a section of tree

Attacking the main trunk
Bit by bit sections of the tree were cut off and dragged onto the offside bank. The whole process was filmed by boaters and passers by. The crew worked energetically and efficiently together. Eventually around 6:00 PM the clearance crew disappeared leaving just a small stump and the stoppage was lifted.

The working boats led the way through the new gap and the rest followed down the cut. In all the time for the delay, only one more boat had joined the queue going south, and just half an hour before it was lifted.

Working boats on the move

Although it was late in the day we travelled on to Rickmansworth and moored up by the Aquadrome, stopping at 8:00 PM. In all, the tree incident had stopped us for around 6 1/2 hours.