Sun 10th May
Peter and Lin appeared on the towpath shortly before 10am, and we joined them for the half-mile walk to the church in Waterloo Road. We were warmly welcomed, and Rob and Tricia joined us soon afterwards. The worship was led by a piano and an organ, playing from opposite sides of the church. The talk was about breaking down walls and rebuilding.
Waterloo Road Church
Lots of people mentioned a lady called Ali who used to live on her boat in Uxbridge, but is now in Devizes in a marina. Peter said he would look her up when he went back that way in the autumn.
We went to the Dolphin pub with Peter and Lin for a Sunday lunch. The food was excellent. Although the location looked ideal for a music session, the pub was very much football oriented, with at least four large screens, and a published schedule of matches to be shown.
We walked back to the boat, and Peter and Hazel got chatting to some guys who were living in a large wooden boat, and were restoring an old 1940s Broom. James and Lin had walked on and waited for them on board Gabriel.
There was some debate about whether the moorings here were permanent moorings or not. There was no sign in sight so we decided to stay. The only sign we saw was one about no fishing between arrows.
Later, we (H&J) returned to the Waterloo Road church, where the evening meeting was led by some younger musicians on guitars and drums. The talk was about Jonah, and how God answers prayers.
No boating today
Mon 11th May
Uxbridge to the Slough Arm
We had time to spare, as we only needed to be in Rickmansworth on Friday, 7 locks and 7 miles away, about 4 to 5 hours journey time. If we were to arrive too early we would start to run out of water, and have full rubbish bins and toilets.
We decided to turn round and head for the Slough Arm, where we could spend two nights, followed by two nights somewhere near Widewater Lock. This would give us two opportunities to use facilities – initially at Packet Boat Marina at Cowley Peachey Junction, and finally at Harefield Marina.
So we cruised up to Uxbridge Lock, where we could turn. We met Waiouru coming the other way, last seen on the Shropshire Union in July last year. There was no sign of Gospel Belle or Mistol, who had moored near here last night. We assumed they had gone further up.
We returned the way we had come, and spotted a sign that showed that we had indeed moored in a place reserved for permit holders only. Oh, dear!
We cruised past the long line of moored boats, and as we approached Cowley Lock we saw that there was a boat in front of us. The boat turned out to be Waiouru, who had evidently dawdled since we had passed each other. It was good to catch up with Tom and Jan again, albeit briefly, in Cowley Lock.
They left first, and we called in at the facilities point to empty a cassette, before proceeding to the Slough Arm.
We were able to moor just beyond the entrance to the Marina, with our stern under the footbridge, interestingly numbered 0. I wonder how many other bridge 0s there are. On the bridge there is an irritating sign, which asks boaters on the Slough Arm to give way to boats from the Marina. That doesn’t seem right.
Hazel hung out the washing to dry in the bows.
Our mooring on the Slough Arm under Bridge 0
Two strange incidents happened later. We were woken from a snooze by something bumping on the boat. It turned out be a guy trying to tow his boat along the towpath by hand. It was a light cruiser, with no outboard engine. James helped him get the rope over our washing, and fended off as the boat went past. An hour later he came back again, so we repeated the process. Later we saw that he had an estate agent’s sign tied on to it, floating in the water. The following morning the boat was half across the canal.
The second thing that happened was that a motorbike went past very fast, and then returned about ten minutes later. Half an hour after that he returned again, before making a final pass soon after that. He was churning up a lot of dust, and thankfully the washing was in by then. Thankfully also, our cat was not out and about.
1 lock, 3 miles
Tue 12th May
The highlight of the day was a visit to Tesco! It was quite close – just a walk back to the main line, over the footbridge, and the store was in sight. Apart from groceries, we wanted some ink for the printer. They didn’t have the proper HP ones so we bought some Tesco ones to see if they are any good.
The down travelator conveyor belt had stopped working so we had to take the lift with the trolley. A lady in the lift saw James’ BCF shirt and said: “Are you a reverend?” Several people have asked this so we need to rehearse a suitable reply. She was part of a church at West Drayton.
The rest of the day was spent doing various chores around the boat, such as changing the split fenders for unsplit ones. We need some non-boating days sometimes.
Despite the background M25 noise, we heard lovely bird song, including cuckoos.
No boating today
Wed 13th May
Slough Arm to Denham
Cuckoos again as part of the dawn chorus this morning. It was a gloriously sunny day as we backed round into the marina entrance to turn the boat, before making our way to the sanitary station on the main line round the corner.
Leaving the Slough Arm
There were no boats waiting. We saw the guy on Moontiger on the moorings opposite. He had been at Little Venice and briefly moored on our outside. He is also going to Rickmansworth.
Leaving there with a full water tank, four empty cassettes and no rubbish, we cruised leisurely up to Cowley Lock. We could see a CRT volunteer standing by, and there was a boat coming down. He needed to turn, and opposite the winding hole there was a trip boat, which had broken down.
We were asked to go into the lock before the other boat came out, so that he had maximum room to turn his boat, which was the full length, 72ft. He just managed to turn it without having to move the trip boat, and then he joined us in the lock.
Facing two directions in Cowley Lock
Just room to turn
The following lock was Uxbridge, and we had that to ourselves, with a boat waiting to come down.
The more we travel the canals, the more memories we have. There are lots of places where we think “This is where such and such happened”.
For example, just below Uxbridge Lock, we once saw a fox sitting on the grass minding his own business. Just above the lock we once met Timothy Spall steering a narrowboat towards us. No such events today, just a lovely sunny day to cruise along slowly.
We crossed under the A40, and reached Denham Deep Lock, where the gates were open in our favour, and a man on a small cruiser was waiting on the lock bollards for us to go in first. He had evidently done this before, because he took his boat right up to be level with our bows, which is much the best position, as it prevents our bow being swept across the lock by the turbulence from the paddles.
Unequally yoked with a cruiser in Denham Deep Lock
Another man appeared, armed with a windlass. He was one of the boats moored below the lock, and just came to help. We filled the lock very slowly, and the cruiser went out first. We were looking for somewhere to moor, and we spotted another BCF boat, Theodora, moored up facing south, so we moored just past them.
We went to say hello, and met Margaret, a very pleasant lady, who, at our invitation, came on board for tea later. Husband Nick was away having some stitches taken out after a minor operation.
Above Denham Deep Lock with Theodora
We also met several people using the public seat nearby. This had been placed in memory of a four-year-old boy who had died. There was also a small garden patch planted with forget-me-nots and a rose, which we guessed was where his ashes were scattered.
Another boat, called Mulberry, pulled in beyond Theodora, and James went to help them with their ropes, as the space was fairly tight. They moor in Kings Marina, Newark, and have pictures of Robin Hood and Maid Marian on their back doors, instead of castles. We learnt from them that Gospel Belle was moored just below the next lock, a mile and a half away.
It was a very warm day, and there were lots of people out cycling, walking or running. James went for a walk round one of the nearby lakes, and was irritated to find, after walking most of the way round, that there was a locked gate across the path. It was a public footpath beyond the gate with cyclists and walkers, so the gate was there to prevent people coming in, not going out. He managed to get out, with some difficulty, by going round the end of the fence, which overhung the lake, hanging onto branches, and the fence to avoid falling in the water.
A walk round the lake
Weir on the River Colne
Hugo was a bit more active (he has been quiet for two or three days) and he was scampering down the towpath at dusk. He still hasn’t caught very many mice this year.
3 locks, 4 miles.
Thu 14th May
Today was forecast wet, and we had no agenda apart from a few chores, so had a lie-in.
We saw Hallmark go past, with Dave at the helm, on the way to Rickmansworth Festival.
When there was a lull in the rain, James cleaned the boat paintwork roof and port side, so that when the rain came again, it would get rinsed. Hazel cleared a few cupboards.
Lots of boats going past in the rain, mostly heading north.
No boating today
Fri 15th May
Denham to Rickmansworth
Our first pause was at Harefield Marina, where we emptied cassettes and filled up the water tank.
We shared four locks with Maid of Steel: Widewater, Black Jack’s, Coppermill and Springwell. We also saw Whispering Jack near Coppermill Lock, and said hello to the owner, who was the CRT volunteer who had helped us at Cowley Lock last week.
Approaching the side flow before Copper Mill Lock
Waiting for the lock
Sharing with Maid of Steel
At Stockers Lock there was a lock queue, and we ended up sharing with Milly, before finding our mooring 18A. Calypso was 18B and Nobility was 18C.
We put up the BCF banner and the bunting, using our microphone stands. We found Peter and Henry and two Lins with Gospel Belle and Trinity at 15A and 15B. We all had a meal together on board Trinity.
We went to the beer tent for the opening gig by the Millionaires. The lady bass player and one of the Saxophones were from Calypso, moored alongside us. Their music was reggae style, with a few Madness numbers. Very good. We sat with Dave from Hallmark.
We didn’t get much sleep until quite late, as PA equipment had to be moved onto Calypso after the gig.
5 locks, 5 miles.