Thursday, 27 April 2017

Amwell to Hackney

Sun 23rd April   Amwell to Nazeing Marsh

We set off from Amwell, and were able to turn round, as the canal here is quite wide. We cruised past the Lee and Stort Cruising Club, and spotted Annie and Walt moored up. We should see Lorraine and Mike at the weekend at Little Venice.

Annie and Walt

Stanstead lock is one of several in the country that has a swing bridge over the lock. Others include Fenny Stratford on the Grand Union, Hungerford Marsh Lock on the Kennet and Avon, and Sykehouse Lock on the New Junction Canal. The bridge in this case is used by the boat club members, and we had to wait for a delivery van to cross before we could use the lock.

Swing bridge at Stanstead Lock

We spotted Rosella II moored up with no-one apparently on board again. Perhaps we’ll catch up with them on the Thames later.

Rosella II

We had noticed on the way up that there was no overnight mooring allowed by the Rye House Gateway, and we predicted that this would be a good place to moor to visit Riverside Church not far away.  It was as we had hoped, and we were able to moor conveniently to some bollards.  There were bushes nearby for Hugo.

Rye House Gateway

We had a warm welcome at Riverside Church, where the worship was ably led by three ladies on keyboard, guitar and vocals.  Four out of the five songs were new to us, and one in particular was a good one for us to learn.

 Riverside Church

We visited the nearby pub for lunch which was very pleasant, although they didn’t have a decent cider.

Rye House pub

On the way up we had noticed a large number of life boats, probably from ocean-going ships, being used as homes here on the Lee Navigation. We have seen occasional ones elsewhere on the system, but we decided to take photos of them all on the way back into London.  As we approached Fielde’s Weir Lock we saw the first of these moored up, as well as Slow Gin just about to enter the lock.  We shared the lock with them, but they stopped for water just below the lock, so we carried on.

 Slow Gin and lifeboat 1

Lifeboat 2

Fish and Eels pub

At Dobbs Weir Lock, there were two boats already in, so James helped them down.  One of them stopped, so we caught up with the other one at Carthagena Lock. This was a lady who likes flowers, and if you start her off, she will tell you where each flower plant came from, and how she has looked after it.  There is a tap in this lock, and she decided to wash her boat and water her flowers as the boat descended in the lock. She was still hosing when we left the lock. We do meet some wonderful characters on the canals.

The lady with the flowers

Lifeboat 3

At Broxbourne, there are a number of day hire launches, and today they were all out in force, zig-zagging their erratic way from the middle of the channel to the bushes and back. Thankfully we avoided collisions, and passed beyond their allowed limit at King’s Weir, mooring just south of Nazeing Marsh.

Day boats

Moored at Nazeing Marsh

Kings Weir

4 locks, 5 miles, 1 swing bridge

Mon 24th April   Nazeing Marsh to Waltham Abbey

After yesterday’s sunshine, this morning there was a mist on the water.

Morning mist at Nazeing Marsh

Cloud reflections

We headed down more locks through a very straight canal section, past some more life boats, to Waltham Abbey, where we moored just above the town lock.

Lifeboat 4

Lifeboat 5

We had shopping to do, so we went to explore. We had lunch in a very friendly cafe, and then, while Hazel went to Tesco, James had a haircut.  After Tesco and Lidl, we returned to the boat via a different route and located the British Legion Hall, the venue for the folk club this evening.

Later we took our instruments and walked back to the Legion Hall where the Waltham Abbey Folk Club happens every Monday except public holidays. It was in singaround format, and we sang six songs.  There was a small bar – Magners was the only cider. It was good fun, with some talented people, and others not so, as you would expect.

3 locks, 3 miles

Tue 25th April   Waltham Abbey to Tottenham Hale

A bright morning near Waltham Abbey

Today we had some distance to travel, so we set off early, seeing more lifeboats as we went. We noticed that there is building site by the Waltham Abbey facility moorings, and the sanitary station is no longer there. However, there is the wooden frame of a shed or hut which will hopefully be a nice modern facility.  Until the new neighbours complain and get it closed down!

Waltham Town Lock

Lifeboat 6

 Lifeboat 7

We paused to use the facilities at Stonebridge Lock, where another boater was complaining about Canal and Rivers Trust staff having a cup of tea while there was litter to be cleared up.  He had failed to realise that the “staff” were actually volunteers who were having a break from doing other useful unpaid jobs.

Then, as we moved into the lock, which is key operated, one of the paddles by the top gate remained up when it should have gone down. We therefore could not operate the lock.  One of the volunteers helped us to reset it, and it worked fine.

We found that the moorings at Tottenham Hale were fuller than when we came through a few days ago, so we had to go further down the navigation before finding a place.  We visited a pub called the Ferry Boat, enticingly described in the Nicholson Guide as a magnet for bird watchers, being situated on the banks of Low Maynard Reservoir.  Well, it wasn’t on the banks of the reservoir. There was a thick hedge first, then a river, then another hedge. Walking round on the road to try to see some wild life, James found there was a high fence with “Keep Out” notices everywhere. Moreover, the pub had run out of lasagne, and didn’t have any sweet potato chips either.  Bah! Humbug!

Wildlife highlights of the day: Two terrapins sitting on logs making the most of the sunlight, plus a swan with eight eggs in a nest


Swan with eight eggs

7 locks, 8 miles

Wed 26th April   Tottenham Hale to Hackney Marsh

We moved a short distance to Springfield Marina, where we had arranged to have our shower pump replaced. While we were there we also bought another gas bottle. The fuel was only available on 60% propulsion / 40% domestic split so we declined. Two people appeared and asked if they could empty their three cassettes. They were told the charge was £5 each cassette. I suppose if it was free they would be inundated by all the non-moving boaters

Springfield Marina

Lifeboat 8

We moved on downstream, intending to make for Victoria Park, where we had moored on the way up here. As we passed under Lea Bridge and past the Middlesex Filter beds, we spotted two ladies with at least 12 dogs, none of which were on leads, all trotting along and thankfully well behaved. I wonder what they would have done and what Hugo would have thought if he had been out and about at the time.

A pack of dogs

Lifeboat 9

We stopped near Hackney Marsh, because we saw a space.  If we had gone further, as we had planned, we may not have found anywhere.  We took the opportunity to clean the boat roof, and the chairs we keep on the top. They were all very dusty as we have had very little rain since we left Aylesbury.  Then we had dark clouds, hail, thunder, and heavy rain. It rinsed the boat nicely. We had nearly forgotten what rain looks like.

What’s this wet stuff?

 Evening in Hackney

0 locks, 3 miles

Thu 27th April   Hackney Marsh

Misty morning in Hackney

In looking for local shops on Bing Maps, James had spotted a National Trust property called Sutton House. Looking it up in our handbook we decided it was worth a visit, so we located all the bus stops online and caught a bus that went very close to it.  It had been a Tudor merchant’s house originally, situated in the countryside, as shown on one of the models on display. They claimed to have the oldest toilet in the East End.  At other times it been a church facility, then a breakers yard, and later it was claimed as a home by squatters.

Sutton House

There was a remarkable modified caravan in the garden, with its own staircase, ornate ceiling and chandelier inside.

A unique caravan

Playing with caravans

Inside the double caravan


From there we found our way to Tesco where we stocked up with a few items, returning by bus to the boat, just before a light rain shower.

No boating today

As there may not be time to finish this week’s blog tomorrow, I will conclude here.

Tomorrow we head into London for Little Venice Cavalcade. We are moored in the Pool, where we can see everything that is happening.  Tomorrow (Friday) evening there is a fish and chip supper and waterways quiz. On Saturday there is an open mic event that we will take part in, and on Sunday there is a short service in the morning run by Graham Nunn (Church Army). On Sunday evening there is an illuminated procession, which we might join.
If you are around over the weekend come and say hello. We will have a large “Boaters Christian Fellowship” banner on the roof.

Next week we travel down to Brentford and onto the Thames, heading upstream to Weybridge, Staines and Windsor. 

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Little Venice to Amwell on the Lee

Mon 17th April   Little Venice to Battlebridge Basin

Although we had a further night booked at Rembrandt Gardens, we decided that we had done enough sightseeing and we wanted to move on.

Our first pause this morning was to the facilities under the Horsebridge.  Another boat had just arrived there, and we knew the tap was slow, so we confined ourselves to emptying two cassettes, and disposing of rubbish. We also managed to find a post box for a card to BCF friend Pam McLellan, whose husband Roger has just passed away very suddenly.

We then reversed out into the Pool, where we could turn, and we cruised through Maida Hill Tunnel. We met one of the trip boats soon after, with our friend Chris at the helm.  Then though Regents Park, with the huge mansions and the zoo. 

Emerging from Maida Hill Tunnel

One of the Regents Park mansions

There were no moorings available at the short length of Camden Visitor Moorings, where a few years ago we managed to get four Canal Ministries Boats moored for an outreach event at Camden Locks a few years ago.

We found no boats moored by Camden Market, so we stopped on the bollards there. We ignored the no mooring sign, as there seemed to be no reason for it, and this has historically been the short term mooring for the market.

We had lunch from one of the many street stalls there – Chicken rending, very tasty.  James went to a guitar shop and bought some finger picks to try and we both went to Morrison’s for some groceries.

As we were making plans to leave, a boat came from the locks and banged into us four times along the length of the boat. He was holding his tiller the wrong way. Shame about our nice recently blacked hull!

There was a volunteer on the Camden locks, which was helpful. There was also a single-handed boater coming up the locks, and he had left a gate open in each of them, which helped us.  We gave out a leaflet to a couple who were watching our progress through the bottom lock.

Camden Locks


St Pancras Lock had a widebeam going down very slowly, and they didn’t seem to know what they were doing, being unsure of the mechanisms, and tying the boat with a rope, even though they were going down.  There seem to be a lot of people on boats these days who are not used to boating. They use their boats as a home and move it as little as possible.

As the moorings everywhere seemed really full, we diverted into Battlebridge Basin, and found thankfully that the London Canal Museum had a berth for the evening. We tied alongside Maid of the Locks.

By the London Canal Museum

Hugo wasn’t best pleased, as there was very little to explore, and there was a noisy crow that chased him inside.

4 locks, 3 miles

Tue 18th April   Battlebridge Basin to Victoria Park

The wind and the light made fascinating reflection patterns in the water this morning.

Water Art

By the London Canal Museum

We waited until Maid of the Locks departed, heading for Paddington Basin, and then we took their place and filled the water tank, before setting off ourselves through Islington Tunnel and City Road Lock.
Maid of the Locks departing

Emerging from Islington Tunnel

City Road Lock

We were amazed again at the number of boats moored everywhere, and yet how few of them were moving.

Moored boats everywhere

The last lock of the day was Old Ford Lock, before we turned left into the Hertford Union Canal, or Ducketts Cut as it is sometimes known
Leaving Old Ford Lock

Into the Hertford Union Canal

We found a mooring space by Victoria Park and decided to stop as we didn’t know where the next space would be. There were parakeets in the trees. The railings were just too closely spaced for Hugo, but it was quiet later and he spent a lot of time out.

4 locks, 4 miles

Wed 19th April   Victoria Park to Tottenham Hale

Morning view, Hertford Union Canal

It was sunny this morning as we set off down through the three locks on the Hertford Union, taking us to the junction with the Lee, by the Olympic Park.

Colourful graffiti at Bottom Lock, Hertford Union Canal

Olympic Park

We soon spotted the Alfred Leroy, a boat we have travelled on, as it was once a trip boat based at Guildford, on the Wey Navigation. The name seems to have repainted as Le Roy.

Alfred Leroy

Something else we have seen on the Wey Navigation is the invasive plant floating pennywort, and there were several large rafts of it here.


Last year, when we crossed the Pennines, we saw several Leeds and Liverpool short boats, which filled the 60ft locks. We thought we spotted another one today, called Ironclad, but when we looked it up online, we found it was a 72ft Leeds & Liverpool long boat, built and launched in 1933 by W J Yarwoods and Sons, Northwich. They operated between Liverpool and Wigan and into Manchester, where the locks are longer than the Wigan to Leeds section.


We stopped at Tottenham Hale, because we needed some shopping and we had looked online and found a Lidl there. Then we discovered there was also an Asda Living store, where we bought another frying pan, and some other things. Then we indulged in a Pizza Hut buffet.

3 locks, 4 miles

Thu 20th April   Tottenham Hale to Rammey Marsh Lock

Moored at Tottenham Hale

We passed through Tottenham Lock, where the Elsan point and water tap marked in Nicholson Guide do not exist. Soon after this we spotted a Fox boat, with the characteristic pointing back bows. We took a photo for our friend Peter Ekins, who keeps a register of these boats. This one was called Slow Joe Crow, and we discovered that we had taken a photo of the same boat in 2007 on the Lancaster Canal.

Fox boat Slow Joe Crow

At Stonebridge Lock, we discovered that there is a full range of facilities, even including showers and toilets, as well as an Elsan point.

Stonebridge Lock

Moored boats everywhere

Pickett’s Lock was temporarily re-named Alfie’s Lock in July 2015, in honour of the well-liked lock keeper. It was meant to revert to the name Pickett’s Lock after a month, but the lock seems to be called Alfie’s Lock still.

Notice at Pickett’s (Alfie’s) Lock

We finally left the built up areas after Enfield Lock, and we moored up just before Rammey Marsh Lock.  We then read a text from Simon and Pat on Daedalus to say they were heading back from Hertford, and would be at Waltham Abbey this evening. We replied to say where we were and they walked down to see us.  We agreed to meet for breakfast at the cafe nearby.
5 locks, 7 miles

Fri 21st April   Rammey Marsh Lock to Amwell

Water art

As planned, Daedalus came down two locks and moored up just in front, and we all went to the Narrow Boat Cafe, where we discovered that the menu was quite inventive, with things like eggs Benedict and eggs royale as well as the usual full English and similar.

Narrow Boat Cafe

Simon and Pat then headed off and we probably won’t see them again until this winter in Aylesbury.

Simon on Daedalus

We then had one of our busiest days to get to Amwell. The day was overcast and we hardly took any pictures.

The River Stort meets the River Lee

We went through one more lock, and moored up against some wooden boards at Amwell, opposite the nature reserve.

A 30 minute session with the binoculars revealed quite a range of birds, including widgeon, shoveler, gadwall, tufted duck, pochard, little ringed plover, green sandpiper, oyster catcher, cormorant, little egret, heron, sedge warbler, black headed gull, herring gull, lesser black backed gull, Canada goose, Egyptian goose, greylag goose, sand martin, swallow (the first of the season).

9 locks, 9 miles, 1 swingbridge

Sat 22nd April    Amwell

Moored at Amwell

There was a boat across the canal, but this was very early and they were presumably still asleep on board.

James made an early morning visit to the reserve and there were some baby greylag geese. There was also a brief glimpse of a yellow wagtail.

Amwell Quarry Nature Reserve

A new leaf

Returning to the boat he noticed that the drifting boat was back on its moorings.

We spent some time planning and sorting out a visit to Wales for Ricky Hamburgers funeral on 15th May. Ultimately we were offered a lift from Adline and Barry who live in Salisbury. By then we will be near Aldermaston.  We will need to make up time to achieve this, so we rescheduled our stops en route from Little Venice to Aldermaston.

We had planned to spend a whole day here to get a bit more ship-shape. A lot of cleaning and sorting out went on. 

Then we had another visit to the bird reserve, and tried to take a photo of an orange tip butterfly, but the wretched things wouldn’t keep still.  We took a walk to Amwell to see the New River. We walked up to the George IV pub and had a drink before returning to the boat.

Amwell Quarry Nature Reserve

New River

No boating today

Next week: a visit to Riverside Church in Hoddesdon, then later in the week, a stop at Springfield Marina for a new shower pump, before getting to Little Venice Cavalcade on Friday evening.