Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Just a taster

This is just a taster for the rest of July! Elizabeth is presently in Windermere and Pete, Bella and Josie are in Marsworth where they were back in early June. As we mentioned before, July would consist largely of moving between rail stations so that Elizabeth could go here, there and everywhere. And so she has. However, all has not been separated. Here is what the three of us travelled through to Aylesbury on a short weekend jaunt off the Grand Union Canal. We'll back fill a bit in a day or so, but this is just to let you know we are still very much alive, happy, and moving Bella to new and old haunts.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Josie's life aboard

For those of you who know our German Shepherd, Josie, you will be delighted to know that she seems to enjoy this life. Her territory is Bella; she has no link to ground. So each mooring, she just wanders around, confident next to Bella, but not sure of her 'ground.' This means she barks at people less, people are nicer as a result and she seems to be less afraid as a result. We realise that if we are somewhere more than a week, the ground becomes her turf and she protects more again. So we keep moving :-)

We bought a strimmer

We're still in Hemel Hempsted - north, by Boxmoor. And we bought what we had laughed about then got serious about. We got a 250watt tiny strimmer. You see, not all tow paths are what they could be. Grass, nettles, bindweed, etc, etc. We have often giggled that every narrowboat owner should have a strimmer. By the combined efforts after every mooring, the tow path would be relatively nice and British Waterways wouldn't have to work so hard. Elizabeth has usually been managing with large scissors, but we decided today to go for large shears. Much more effective. But the strimmer cost £10 less and will use the energy we create from our engine into our batteries for just a few minutes. So there we are. We will now be strimming as we go. What a hoot. Oh - for those who are wondering, its name is Alan (Alan Shearer - SAD!!), and when not working, he lives in the engine compartment. It's OK - as en engine, he feels quite at home.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

The joy of Canal Time

We woke up this morning Apsley and now we are blogging from Hemel Hempsted. We travelled 7 clicks (2 miles and 5 locks), with Elizabeth lock winding and riding Blossom and Pete driving Bella. It took us just under two hours, if we don't count the time it took to take on water, put off waste and go shopping at Sainsbury's. When we got to Hemel and did a bit of unpacking and putting food away, Elizabeth took the train from Hemel to Apsley to collect Reg (the car). 3 minute train journey. 15 minute drive. 5 minutes walk each side from boat to station, station to car. All in all, 28 minutes to walk, train, walk and drive from Apsley to Hemel. Ah, canal time is wonderful!

If we had just walked and trained and driven, we would not have had the hoot of a time helping Clara (Marsworth) and her crew through the Fishery lock. We would never have met the guy, having just acquired his new boat, who teaches art and drama to adults with special needs. Elizabeth would not have had the joy of three little boys having so much fun at the Sainsbury's lock and helping open and close the gates. And we wouldn't have noticed the horses on the common, the cows not sure of whether it would rain or not, the duck with her brood of 10, or realised we were back with the moorhen family we last saw a month ago. Ah, canal time. Wonderful.

Canal ages and aging

Today as E was lockwinding, she noticed again the dates on the locks. Each lock is a combination of the lock itself, the gates, the paddles in the gates and lock ground and various extra bits of masonary/pavement. Each section of each lock has the date of construction on it, and in many cases the date of its renewal. So it is not unusual to see, say 1790 carved into a stone which is a lock edge, then 1850 on a lock gate section, then 2001 on a renewed gate. It is fascinating to see the range of actual times reflecting when the locks were created and renewed. It can be over 100 years between different engineering works, all displayed in a few carved dates we see as we wait for water to fill or leave a lock. And all but for a slightly disused time in the 1930s and 1940s, the locks have been in constant use since their creation. And they are still used for transporting goods, though, nothing like a few hundred years ago. Some boats carry aggregate from quarries to building works (we saw some in Uxbridge), some carry coal (we buy some of ours from one in Rugby) and apparently Tescos is using canal boats again in the West Midlands. But one boat we saw sells fold up bikes and another sells Ecover products to make sure the canals get cleaner. All change!

Summer fire

It has been a cold wet week. No news to those readers in England! We had dinner in the local on the Thursday evening after a long training day for Elizabeth, then on the Friday we were so wet and sort of miserable, we decided to light the fire. Wonderful! It looks so odd with fresh summer flowers and the sun through the window past 8pm, but hey. We got warm (almost too much!!). We were still in Apsley.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Still in Apsley, enjoying the evening

Last evening looked like this - in between the rain. It was beautiful. A real arty shot can be seen on Elizabeth's flickr page. Pete's has a few as well! It is SO wet. And when we arrived, the pound (the section between locks), was about a foot under the gunwhale - a long step down to the tow path. Now, somehow, though it has rained cats, dogs, moorhens and cormorants, we are level with the tow path. Go figure?

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Another little stop for reflection

It is 12 months and 1 day since we put the deposit on Bella, then Heyford, with Oxfordshire Narrow Boats. Regular readers will have seen that we have not had an easy time selling the house which funded this new life of ours. We are delighted to say that after 3 failed attempts, our house is now lovingly in the hands of a three generation family, the sale finally complete last week. This picture is of a G+T sitting on Bella's aft bench in the stern. When we took it in March, it signified a weekend out and a warmish evening, a respite from the house and world finance market worry. Now it represents a little leisure, a grateful toast to all who helped us in those intervening months (you know who you are!) and a sign of a big relaxed sigh as we look to the next phase of what life will bring.

Friends and Relations welcome!!!

We've just had a delightful conversation with Pete's brother, Dave, about a visit to us in September. And, we know our friend, Clare, will be joining us for a bit in a few weeks. This post is to let all friends and relations know that you are welcome!! You are welcome for a few hours, for a night, or for a travelling few days or more. But you also know that though this is a big boat for two people, it shrinks remarkably fast when more are added! We have learned now that we can put up one person on board for a night; any more than that, and alternative sleeping accommodation is needed. (ps - that's one of the reasons we are still planning for Arabella the broad beam/dutch barge)

So there are a variety of ways you can join us.

Park ahead, walk or cycle back to us, and travel for a few hours until we reach your car.

Park at a booked B+B, walk, cycle or taxi to us, travel for a while and we'll moor up with you as close to your B+B as we can get. We can eat aboard or off. We can do this for any number of nights!

Park at a booked campsite,
walk, cycle or taxi to us, travel for a while and we'll moor up with you as close to your campsite as we can get. We can eat aboard or off. Like the B+B option, we can do this for any number of nights. Depending on the towpath, you might be able to set up a tent and we'll carry it and your kit on board during the day.

Take a train to a station near us, travel with us, and take a return train from a station later on.

Cycle to us, travel with us while we stow your cycles in the bow, then cycle away when you are ready.

Hire a boat and travel with us! http://www.hireacanalboat.co.uk

There are probably lots more options!! And some of them are just to come visit when we are moored and not move at all. But we hope that if you follow the blog, you'll keep up with the general direction we are going and will look ahead to see if you can join us for any of it. You truly are welcome. We wish we could accommodate more than one person, but have to be honest and say that it is not easily possible. And if you chose the B+B option, we'll share the cost with you - we'll buy the dinner and the booze!!!

Be creative! We'll be on the Grand Union canal the remainder of July (we expect), as Elizabeth has to have easy access to trains for much work. If you join Pete, you can always learn to lockwind while you move (!). In August and early September, we expect to be on the Oxford Canal and from there, move in to the Warwickshire Ring. We'll bimble along until British Waterways says we need to stop, sometime early November. So, have a look at the maps and come join us!


Monday, 7 July 2008

Moored up in Apsley

At our last post, we were in Croxley Green on the 4th of July. On the 5th, we moved a little bit more north (2 miles and 3 locks) to Grove Mill. A wonderful stop, just opposite an old mill, now reconstructed to flats. Beautiful. From there, Elizabeth drove to Poole to speak about her exhibition, Breathing Light, hanging at Longfleet URC, then to collect them all and come back to Bella. Horrible rain, but there we are. Today, we set out to Apsley, close the the train station for Elizabeth to get to Church House on the 8th and for Pete to get to Oxford via Reg for the Credit Union. And this is the peaceful evening view...

Friday, 4 July 2008

Bella gets a wash

We're moored up in Croxley Green today, a few short miles and locks northwest from Rickmansworth. We are edging up to Hemel and Berkhamsted to be in nice moorings while Elizabeth trains around the immediate world in July. We moored up by the water point just after the last lock at around 12:30 and Elizabeth thought she'd give Bella a light wash down with the hose. Well, one thing led to another and by 4:30 and moored for the night, Bella had a full clean, rinse, and polish. Washing and polishing a car is one thing. Doing this to a 69 foot hunk of steel is quite another, but hey. We even brass cleaned her tiller handle. Pete would take a photo, but the glare would be just too much.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Elizabeth still likes her flowers

The title of this post is enough said, really. But E can be occasionally caught using her secateurs on the towpath, enjoying mixing wildflowers and towpath hedge cuttings with her favourite alstromeria... Oh, and do spot the burgeoning garden. There is now a fuscia, bay, azalea, rosemary and rose of sharon as well as 6 herbs including lavendar. Heavenly.

As ever, we are not the only ones on the water!

We've had a lovely mooring in Rickmansworth, getting to know our neighbour and his two dogs and guitar and watching Josie meet dogs on the tow path - as she is leaning out the duck doors! We also enjoy watching the water life. We have had a family of Coots on one side and a family of Moorhens on the other. They don't like each other, but they make a B line to us when the hatch is open. All those hungry beaks to feed.

We also enjoy watching others with boats!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

The 26th of June took us to Rickmansworth

Now this is quiet. As we write, we have been here over the weekend. Elizabeth took a coach, train, taxi, then Reg (our Car) to collect her paintings from our friends in Rugby to hang them in an exhibition in Poole and return to Ricky. Reg is now parked just north of bridge 174 and Bella is moored just east of it. It has been a peaceful weekend with the beauty of mostly blue sky and visits from moorhens, coots, ducks and the occasional fish. Mostly quiet. Wonderful.

Out of Paddington on the 25th – yes!!!

We were all ready to go. James was a few hours ahead of us all with the time difference from Kenya and Pete and Elizabeth were ready to leave Paddington. James, of course, was camera ready and took some early shots – james gray king on Flickr if you want to see incredible stuff.

With the engine on at 7:30, we pulled away at 7:50 and went all the way into the basin to turn around. We dropped James off at the entry to the station at
8:20 to get a phone card while we moored up in Little Venice to take on water, put off waste and get breakfast from the Waterside. He joined us again (a quick walk!) and we pulled away, eating our bacon and egg butties, just before 10. We went west on the Paddington Arm, gliding over the North Circular Road near Wembly and moored up at Willowbrook for fuel. A little while later we turned north on the main Grand Union canal to stop at Hayes and Harlington. Elizabeth and James went to put James on a train (faster then a Kenyan matatuk, says James) for Oxford
. We finished up in Cowley Peachy again, all very familiar now. (and MUCH quieter than Paddington!).

Life in Paddo

Well, it was

It was not quiet. At all. Ever. Some bits were less noisy than others. But we were almost under the Westway, under a pedestrian bridge, by a road which went to Notting Hill and were watching the Bridge behind Paddington Station. This does not count overhead aircraft, trains and all sorts of people taking advantage of the clubs and restaurants. Or the people trailing wheely cases over the bridge (corrugated steel) which went over our roof. Or the people using the two hire boats (Prince Regent and Larkwing) moored opposite us. Or the guy on the first night who decided to put the speakers of his music system on the ROOF of his boat for all to hear. Oh peaceful bliss. Not.

But we had fun. Two friends joined us for dinner on the Friday, we trailed around Covent Garden on the Saturday (finding guitar strings), wandered through Notting Hill on the Sunday and went to the theatre on Monday night (Pygmalion at the Old Vic) after Elizabeth came back from an Oxford meeting. On the Tuesday, Elizabeth welcomed colleagues from the URC on to Bella and then out for coffee, and Pete hosted a regional Community Development Foundation meeting for a number of hours. Elizabeth went to Heathrow to collect James and then took a very surprised James to Bella – just a hop out of Paddington Station. What a hoot! Dinner at Zizzi’a opposite meant James could have pizza with cheese (no cheese in Kenya!).


We got there! We had telephoned ahead a few days before to see if we needed to book a mooring and were told that there was always room. With the wind hugely against us, we went through Little Venice and into Paddington Basin, running parallel with the station. No mooring to be seen. Elizabeth used every muscle possible to try to hold the 20 tonnes of Bella to the bollards as Pete went to see if there were moorings further ahead. Nowt.

We boarded again, went to the end of the basin and turned against the wind. Foul!! And Pete lost his hat, which we later regained. We then went out of the Basin to Little Venice Basin and moored lightly in a ‘no unauthorised mooring’ slot, with Elizabeth going to the canal office (moored broad beam) to get authorisation. No way. Luckily the receptionist remembered Elizabeth’s voice (the only time she has been grateful for her accent) and made waves. We were able to find anywhere we could and moor – proper visitor moorings or not. While in the canal office boat, Elizabeth spotted a space near a railing, under a pedestrian bridge and not far from a park for Josie. We turned in Little Venice basin, travelled back into Paddington Basin and moored next to said railing. Interesting!

Cowley Peachy (what a name) for the night of the 17th.

We’re nearly to Paddington (Paddo!). We stopped at Batchworth to take on water and put off waste, then cruised by all manor of boats, including a caravan on pontoons. Almost all the locks were set against us, but with Elizabeth and Blossom going ahead to wind lock gates and paddles, Pete and Bella could almost always just float in. We needed to stop along the way to pull a shirt and plassy bag from the weed hatch. In Uxbridge, at Cowley Peachy lock (the last until Paddo), Elizabeth met one of her project management students who works for Environment 21, a Thames and Grand Union Canal society.

16th of June, south to Croxley Green

Some of the day today was shared with a river. Lovely, as we could actually see into the water. If you haven’t guessed yet, canal water is not nice. All the kitchen sink water and shower water (not waste), let alone all the other stuff, goes into the canal. Really, long skinny ponds. Mostly still. Sharing the course with the river meant movement, river life and lovely water and many locks had weirs - the regular sound of low waterfalls was lovely. We made biscuits before we set out in prep for coffee time, then moored up in Croxley Green, Herts. Oh - and we travelled under the M25. We knew if we had blogged that, James was sure to guess where we'd be!

What does Pete do when Elizabeth is away?

Well, the 13th, 14th and 15th of June, he took pictures. Well, actually every day he takes pictures. If you want to see some stunners, look at Pete_Gray@flickr.com. And it has nothing to do with Elizabeth
being away, it was just a good title… Elizabeth was in Edinburgh doing a URC training weekend and was thoroughly enjoying the train ride and the fantastic Waverly station.

Such a gap in blogging

We write this from the end of June. We got to June 12th and realised that if had we written any more then, James (then in Kenya and surfing the net) would guess where we were going. We wanted to surprise him by being moored in Paddington Station and collecting him from Heathrow via the Heathrow Express. So, now the end of June, the movement to Paddo is now an after the fact blog. But that’s OK. You’ll still know what we did!