May 18th 2010 - Rickmansworth
Tuesday May 11th - We had a lovely evening on board Chelsea with Riki and Clive (the other one!) and not forgetting Harriet the ship's cat! We arrived on board at 7.00pm and were immediately given a glass of wine then Clive gave us the guided tour of the boat. Its amazing really, considering most narrowboats have the same approximate space on board, how differently they are all laid out inside. Chelsea had everything Lady Arwen has; bedroom, bathroom, galley, dinette and saloon but it looked totally different. However Chelsea also has a "boatman's cabin" at the stern, which Clive has converted into their office. That is quite an eye opener itself when you think that back in the days of the industrial boaters this little cabin is all the living space they had, the rest of the boat was for the cargo!
Riki had made a lovely chicken curry, it was absolutely delicious. She had also made dhal, something we have never had before, it was gorgeous, must try that next time I make curry! Finally it was time for us to say goodnight with the plan to join them again in the morning to continue down the flight.
Wednesday May 12th - After breakfast Clive sauntered over to Chelsea to see if they were ready to set off but they had had to change their plans and wouldn't be joining us after all! It turned out that some time back, whilst negotiating a lock, Chelsea's stern got caught on the cill. Disaster was averted by quickly shutting the paddles and putting water back in the lock but the tiller was knocked out of its socket during the process. They managed to get it back in again but ever since there has been a lot of play on the tiller and it really needs looking at professionally. Clive felt that it would be safer to get it looked at sooner than later. Unfortunately they couldn't get into a boatyard further South so the only thing to do was turn around and go all the way back through all those locks to Yardley Gobion where they could be accommodated. What a shame - all that hard work for nothing! So we said goodbye to them both but there is a good chance we might meet up again in the weeks to come as they too are intending to get down onto the Thames eventually.
So we set off on our own, however we weren't going to be alone for long! A few days earlier we had received an email from a couple who we had met back in March on our way up from Warwick. John and Isobel aboard the narrowboat Two Oar Barn (anag.) They have been following our blog and realised that we were heading to the Thames and they were heading in the same direction so we said we would look out for them. Well, we had moored up near the Waitrose store in Berkhamstead, done a bit of shopping and decided to stay put for the night. Clive just happened to be looking out of the window when Two Oar Barn cruised past and moored up a little further down the towpath. He went down to have a chat with them and came back saying that we would do the lock flight with them in the morning - excellent.
Thursday May 13th - We were up bright and early and after breakfast headed down to the lock where Isobel was already opening the paddles. It was good to see them again and we fell into the routine of the locks easily, John and Clive chatting to each other in the locks whilst Isobel and I chatted across the lock gates. Just before one of the locks we cruised past a lovely old property with a conservatory on the side but got quite a shock when we saw what was staring out at us through the glass!
Orang Utan amongst the geraniums!!!
We continued down the flight with them until lunchtime when we moored up just below a lock at Winkwell. There is a lovely pub across the canal next to a swing bridge. John had said to us earlier in the morning that if Isobel was good he would take her there for lunch! Well we had all been good and worked hard all morning so we all went to The Three Horseshoes for lunch - lovely! After lunch we invited them back to our boat for coffee. All in all it was a very pleasant afternoon. John and Isobel usually set off very early in the mornings, around 7.00am - a bit early for us! So we said goodbye to them knowing that they would be long gone by the time we got up tomorrow!
Friday May 14th - After breakfast we got ready to set off. I walked down to the swing bridge ready to open it as soon as Clive left the mooring. Just as he was untying the boat I saw that the gates were opening on the lock behind - so I operated the electric bridge, which first of all lowers barriers to stop the traffic then the bridge swings round so that the boats can get through. Clive went through first and pulled straight over to the opposite side of the canal so that he could moor up against the wharf and pick up a couple of bags of smokeless fuel for the stove. As the second boat came through I explained what Clive was doing and asked the guy if he would wait for us at the lock - at first he said yes, then changed his mind and said "actually would you mind if I didn't"! Well what can you say to that!! I had to wait at the bridge a little longer as there was a tiny little narrowboat, about 30' long, just leaving the lock below. Once they were through the bridge I wandered down to the lock. The guy on the boat had just shut the gates and had opened one of the paddles when Clive left the wharf - I asked the guy if he was in a hurry to get somewhere and he said yes he was. The stupid thing is that it would have been much quicker if he had waited for us as we could have shared the lock work - he was doing it all on his own! I was actually very cross really as it meant that every lock ahead of us would be empty and need refilling before we could put the boat in. To make matters worse as we were following him down the flight he kept leaving the front gates of the locks open - what a selfish man!
Finally we reached Hemel Hempstead and moored up just below a lock so that we could make a quick trip to B & Q, which is very close to the canal. The reason for this trip was to buy some compost, planters and plants - Clive has finally agreed that I can have pots on the roof - yipee! We trekked back to the boat with our goodies, had a quick sandwich and a cuppa then continued on our way. At the next lock I noticed a woman in a bright yellow tabard with "Marshall" on the back. I had also seen a sign on the towpath saying "Runners". Just as we left the lock we saw them, hundreds and hundreds of kids, mostly wearing pink, even the boys! Lots of them waved to us as they ran past and I shouted across and asked what the race was all about - breast cancer was the answer. The kids were all from Hemel Hempstead School - it must be a huge school, there were an awful lot of kids!
Hemel Hempstead Schoolkids running for breast cancer awareness
It took quite a while for us to get past all the runners but finally we left them behind and continued on our trek South. As we were passing through Apsley we remembered that there was a Sainsbury's by the lock. We had stocked up at Waitrose in Berkhamsted the day before but had intended to nip back in for some fresh bread in the morning but forgot! So we moored up at Sainsbury's and Clive nipped in for the bread and some chocolate! We could have actually moored there for the night but we wanted to get a bit further out into the countryside really and John and Isobel had told us that there was a lovely spot to moor by a golf course just before Cassiobury Park, Watford. Sure enough we found it four hours later! However it was worth waiting for, it really was a lovely spot. We moored up just before a lovely little white bridge with views over the fairways. I have to say we were both pretty tired - I looked at the map book once we were settled and realised that we had done one swing bridge and fifteen locks today - that's enough for any woman!
Saturday May 15th - Clive had discovered after we had moored up last night that there wasn't a very good TV signal. Not surprising really as we were moored adjacent to some quite big trees. He decided to go for a walk along the towpath to see if there were any spaces up ahead beyond the bridge. He returned a short time later having found a space so we upped sticks and headed through the bridge. We moored up in yet another lovely spot, this time with open views on both sides. He put the aeriel up and managed to get a pretty good signal - he was very relieved, its a Grand Prix weekend!!
The golf course was actually part of the The Grove, which is a hotel, country club and health spa. We had a lovely view through the trees of the magnificent building which houses the complex and looked it up on the internet. It was once the country home of the Dukes of Clarenden and Queen Victoria evidently stayed there one weekend. It has quite a history really but finally fell into disrepair until it was taken over by the current owners and restored to its former glory.
Clive watched the qualifying for the Grand Prix and then, as it was such a lovely day, we took some chairs outside onto the wide grassy bank to enjoy the sunshine. Clive brought his guitar out and I settled down to do a bit of "gardening". We had bought a couple of window box type planters and some geraniums and lobelia - very patriotic ones I might add, red and white geraniums and blue lobelia! Can't wait for them to come into flower! Its going to be a wee while yet though, they are very tiny at the moment.
Sunday May 16th - Clive watched the Monaco Grand Prix and thoroughly enjoyed it - its always a good one to watch. It will always have a special place in his heart too because a few years ago we were on holiday in the South of France and he and my brother Nick took the train from Cannes to Monaco on the Saturday to watch the qualifying. Although they weren't able to go for the actual race on the Sunday they still got a feel for the atmosphere surrounding this magnificent event, experiencing all the noise, smells and razzamatazz that goes with it.
We didn't intend moving on today at all and a bit later we were very glad we hadn't - the rain arrived! It wasn't just rain, it was like a monsoon! We haven't had rain like that for a long, long time. I was very glad that I had kept my newly planted tubs in the pram-hood overnight to give them a chance to aclimatise, they would have been absolutely ruined if they had been on the roof in that rain!
Monday May 17th - We left The Grove behind and within a few minutes had reached the first of today's locks. Three locks later and we knew there was a water point there so we stopped to fill up the tank - we both wanted showers but had held off because the water was a bit low! Finally we reached Rickmansworth where there were still an awful lot of boats moored, some two abreast! These were the remnents of the Rickmansworth Canal Festival. They were mostly old working boats and it is great to see that so many of them are still afloat and well looked after considering some of them will be at least a hundred years old! Believe it or not we needed to do some more shopping and there is a Tesco in Rickmansworth right next to the canal with its own moorings but they were full unfortunately so we had to moor on the towpath and walk down to a bridge then back up to the supermarket. We grabbed the few bits and pieces we needed then went back to the boat and set off again. We didn't intend to go much further, just out of the built up area then moor up but that was easier said than done. There were still so many boats moored up from the festival that there just wasn't any room we just had to keep going. We went down another lock with a big old working boat then saw a lovely spot to moor opposite a farm with lots of horses in the fields. It turns out that this was the setting for the TV series Black Beauty!
Stocker's Farm - the set for Black Beauty
Unfortunately we weren't able to moor there either, we couldn't get the boat into the bank it was just too shallow and we were scraping on the bottom! So we kept going, down more locks with the old boat and finally arrived at Copper Mill Lock and the crew of the old boat told us there was a nice mooring just a little bit further down. Sure enough we came round a bend and there were the moorings. Finally we managed to tie up and settle down. First thing - showers! Ooh we both felt much better after a good shower. All we need now is some clean clothes, we are rapidly running out! However we should be in Hayes soon and rumour has it there is a launderette there - I sincerely hope so!