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  • clivenmel

May 31st

Normal 0 false false false st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} Thursday May 28th -Well as predicted the day dawned with bright sunshine, perfect for our day at Kew.  We set off mid morning and walked down to Ealing Road to catch the No 65 bus, which dropped us right outside the main entrance to the gardens.  There were lots of people queuing including loads of children � I had forgotten it was the late Spring holiday break from school!  However we were soon through the turnstile and into the garden armed with a picnic, map and camera.    The first place I wanted to see was the Water Lily House because it said on the map that this was the right time of year to catch them in bloom, so off we went.  It did say in the guide that this house was the hottest, most humid and the smallest of all the glass houses � it was!  However I was thrilled to bits to see the magnificent leaves of the giant Victoria cruziana but unfortunately no flowers, just a huge bud!  However the Nymphaea were blooming and their flowers are gorgeous.   By the time we came out of the Waterlilly House we were both a bit peckish so decided to have our picnic.  We found a lovely spot on a nice wooden bench under a huge tree and it we really enjoyed our alfresco lunch.   After our picnic we went into the Princess of Wales Conservatory.  This is an amazing place, it is divided very cleverly into ten different climatic zones such as the arid zone which is home to all the different varieties of cacti and the tropical rainforest zone which is all hot and steamy and full of really exotic stuff.  One plant I was very interested to see was the Cacao. I have only ever seen these in pictures or on TV but never seen one in person.  It is amazing to think that this knobbly looking orange pod is the source of one of the worlds most delicious and familiar flavour � chocolate!  The cacao was discovered over 2000 years ago deep in the tropical rainforests of the Americas.  It was originally consumed as a bitter beverage, with the addition of chilli!  However after the Spanish had discovered its decadent delights in the 1520s and brought it home, it was sweetened and its popularity soon spread throughout Europe.   Once back outside into the warm and sunny but not quite tropical atmosphere we continued our walk around Kew.  We arrived at the lake and as we were strolling alongside it Clive made another friend! This squirrel followed him for ages.  When we stopped and turned around he would flatten himself to the ground and wait till we set off again, then he would scamper after us!  It was ever so funny to watch.   We also noticed some extremely odd behaviour out on the lake itself.  There was a Coot sitting on a nest, which it was in the process of finishing off.  Its mate was bringing twigs and iris leaves, which the hen was weaving into the nest.  This wasn�t the odd behaviour though � it was the Great Crested Grebe that was behaving oddly � it was assisting the Coots with the nestbuilding!  It kept bring twigs and bits of blanket weed back to the nest for the Coot to put in place, really weird! We have been watching Springwatch on the TV and they have been asking for the viewers to write in if they witness any odd behaviour in the wild, so we have posted a message on their discussion board informing them about this strange Grebe! I have to say though that for me the best thing about Kew are the trees!  There are so many different kinds of trees and some of them are absolutely ancient having been planted as seedlings when Kew was first begun and it is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year!  Some of the trees are absolutely enormous, like the one Clive is sitting in front of looking like David Bellamy!     In the fifteen years or so since we were last here a lot has changed at Kew.  Like the Natural History Museum it has been brought up to date to attract the younger generation.  It has been done very tastefully without detracting from the gardens� beauty in the slightest.  There is an Evolution House, which kids would absolutely love!  Also there is the Rhizotron, which is an underground walkway depicting the roots of a tree showing all the different insects etc that thrive amongst the roots and then taking you in the opposite direction is the Xstrata treetop walkway!  This is absolutely brilliant, but wouldn�t you know it, the day we chose to go the lift was out of order and we had to climb 118 steps up to the top � oh my poor old knees!   Anyway it was worth the climb, the views from the top were magnificent and lets face it, it�s the only way I�m ever going to get to the top of a tree now!  I used to love climbing trees as a child, so did Clive, but neither of us would be up to it these days!   We soon came to the Japanese Garden, which is absolutely gorgeous!  I have always loved this style of garden, they are totally designed to instil peace and tranquillity and this one certainly does.   The centrepiece of this garden, the Chokushi-Mon (Gateway of the Imperial Messenger), was originally created for the Japan-British Exhibition held in London in 1910, and after the exhibition closed, it was dismantled and reconstructed in the Gardens.  It really is beautiful.   We had to tear ourselves away from the Japanese Garden, we could have sat there all afternoon!  However there was still lots to see so we set off on our stroll again and found The Orangery, which is now a caf� and restaurant, so we popped in and had a cream tea � lovely!   We spent another hour or so exploring the gardens and then it was time to go as the gardens would be closing soon.  So off we went back to the bus stop for the journey home.  As we were walking back to the boat from the bus Clive spotted a pub!  We were both very thirsty so it seemed a great idea to get a couple of pints (mine was cider!) and sit outside in the sunshine for a little while longer.  Then it was off back to the boat for spaghetti Bolognese � the last of the batch I had prepared during my Cookathon all those weeks ago!  Yummy!   Friday May 29th � Another beautiful morning.  Well the time has come for us to say goodbye to Brentford and continue on our journey.  We have been moored here for a full week and it has been a great base-camp so to speak.  Even though it is quite a built up area, with the big modern building of Glaxo Smith-Klyne looming up ahead for example, it has been very peaceful and pleasant and all the facilities we require were right on hand.  We decided to make use of one of the facilities and have a pump-out before we set off so that was the first thing we did, turn the boat around, pop down to the BW office, do the pump out then we set off up the Grand Union Canal.   All the boats on the left were on residential moorings, purpose built pontoons.  You can just see the space on the right bank where Lady Arwen had been moored for the week. As we left Brentford it was a bit grotty to start with, there was lots of rubbish floating in the canal, plastic shopping bags, beercans, bottles etc yeuch!  However we were very surprised to see that the water was extremely clear and we could actually see the bottom!  This is most unusual. Canal water tends to be turgid, a bit like oxtail soup!  I was fascinated with all the stuff I could see on the bottom, all sorts of flotsam and jetsam, the odd bicycle; shopping trolleys etc, but I also saw two turtles!  They were about 4 � 6 inches across!  I couldn�t believe it � when I saw the first one I doubted my sanity but then I saw another one � they were definitely turtles or terrapins!   The other thing I have to mention is that holiday is now over.  No longer do we have friendly lock-keepers pushing buttons to electronically operate the locks it is back to little old me, an old fashioned windlass and lots of elbow grease � groan!  I have to admit I was getting fat and lazy and its about time I had some work to do, but there are an awful lot of locks ahead of us now! One flight we came to was called the Hanwell Flight and all the way up on the right hand side was a huge brick wall.  It turned out that this was the site of the old Hanwell Lunatic Asylum!  We cruised on for a while then stopped in Hayes as there was a Tesco store right next to the canal, which meant that we could stock up on all the heavy stuff like bottles of wine, canned stuff, potatoes etc.  All the heavy stuff that we can�t normally carry on a long trek back to the boat.  We actually managed to wheel the trolley right up to the fence then we lifted the bags over and put them on the boat, brilliant.  We didn�t want to stay there overnight though so whilst I was unpacking all the shopping and stowing it away Clive cast off and we continued cruising for another three hours.  We finally moored up at 7.00pm having been on the go for nine hours with ten locks behind us!    The mooring we found was a lovely spot amongst the trees just above a lock.  It was adjacent to Denham Country Park, just North of Uxbridge.  Very peaceful and all atwitter with birdsong (including the odd parakeet!).  We had a lovely Italian meal for dinner � tomato and mozzarella salad with basil and olive oil dressing; Italian antipasti and a green salad with lovely crusty bread and of course a bottle of wine � we decided to have a chilled Rose for a change.  Yummy!   Saturday May 30th � all that fresh air and hard work must have had an effect on us � we didn�t wake up until 09.45 this morning!  We finally left our moorings about 11.00am and once again the weather was absolutely glorious!   I have mentioned before that we see some very strange craft on the water and I think this one takes first prize - never seen anything like it, wish we had seen it in action! We had decided to have a shorter day today but there were still plenty of locks to negotiate.  However after about three hours and five locks we came to a lovely spot, very similar to last night�s moorings, on the outskirts of Rickmansworth.  There was just enough space for Lady Arwen to squeeze in between a very large Dutch barge and a narrowboat.  We had lunch and relaxed for a little while (that means we both nodded off!) then Clive decided to wash the boat, well the towpath side of her anyway.    Sunday May 31st � We left our moorings after breakfast around 11.00am and headed off in glorious sunshine.  It was very pleasant cruising along, albeit rather slowly as there were lots of moored boat along this stretch.  We soon reached the first lock of the day and we had just got the boat into the lock and started filling it when two more boats came up behind us!  I must say it has been very busy on the water this week and particularly this weekend, the holiday boats are out in force!  By the time we got to the next lock one of the boats had caught up with us, a big old trad boat with a steam engine and a solo crew.  Clive had just put the boat in the lock when we realised the other boat wanted to come in with us.  I was on the left side of the lock and Clive had put the boat in on the right so I couldn�t grab the centre rope to pull the boat in, Clive had to jump on the roof, grab the rope then climb up the ladder onto the lockside and he slipped!  The ladder was very slippery indeed, however he managed to hang on and pull himself up � phew! It wasn�t until I was back on the boat after we had left the lock that I realised he was bleeding � he had a big graze all down his left arm, and a cut on his finger too, bless!  So I took the helm whilst he went inside to clean up and get some antiseptic on his grazes.  About half an hour later he realised he had whacked his ribs as well as they were getting increasingly painful.   We did another couple of locks with the trad boat then pulled in to fill up with water and let him go on his way.  Once the tank was full we found a nice mooring just a little further up the towpath.  All the moorings are very full at the moment but we managed to squeeze in.  Its only mid afternoon but we have decided to call it a day and stay here overnight.  We will see what tomorrow brings, if Clive is still feeling a bit sore we may stay another day to give him a bit more time to rest.

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