Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Five more days afloat

Despite the short days and variable temperatures, the canals are looking lovely at the moment with all their autumn colours. last Friday and Saturday we entertained old friends David and Helen aboard Herbie. On Friday the weather was appalling! Very heavy rain and strong winds too. I got soaked just taking the boat 100 yards up to the boathouse to load up. Needless to say we didn't go far that day, just 2 miles to get out of the Slough arm and 10 more minutes up the Grand Union to a sheltered mooring near Cowley lock. Luckily, Saturday was really sunny and pleasant and we managed to get up to Harefield marina and back before dark.

David showed his skill at the tiller (he is an experienced sailor), executing an immaculate turn into the narrow entrance of the Slough arm on our return. Here he is taking us down towards Uxbridge below Denham lock, the deepest on the GU.

The colours of the hedgerow are stunning in places. Just look at the variety of shades in this short stretch of bank on the Slough Arm.

Having returned our guests to their car, we had just enough time to get Herbie down to the winding hole and back so we would be facing the right way next morning. It was a race against the rapidly failing light. At the winding hole we did our best ever turn, straight round in one go like a handbrake turn. We needed our tunnel light on when we got back to our mooring, but we made it.

Next morning our regular crew mate Pete Higson joined us for a cruise where we planned to break new ground. Up until now we hadn't gone further south on the GU than Bulls Bridge at Hayes. This time we were to go all the way down to Brentford, close to where the canal joins the Thames. Once again our range was constrained by available daylight, so that night we got as far as the Fox pub below the eight lock Hanwell flight. This is an attractive flight of locks, most being less than a hundred yards from the next. They're quite deep too, so by the time you get to the bottom, you've come down quite a hill. Part way down is the famous Three Bridges where the railway, the canal, and the road all cross at the same point (the canal being over the rail and under the road). Vey difficult to get a good photo, but here we are on the canal crossing the railway, with the road immediately above us. I'm not sure what went over the disused bridge you can also see.

The Fox is to be recommended, being just a few yards from the canal, and service as good a pint of Timothy Taylors as you'll get anywhere.

Next morning we carried on down to Brentford, and were all surprised by the countryside feel of it all. Only in the last half mile does London reveal itself with the mighty GlaxoSmithKlein building (the one at the end of the M4) looming over the tree tops.

Eventually we see it from the other side as we approach the basin at Brentford gauging lock. (Pete at the helm here).

The basin would be a good spot to stay for a few days in London - mooring is free for 14 days.

We only stayed a couple of hours. Enough to walk down to Syon Park and to the Thames at Isleworth where the speed of the tidal current looked somewhat alarming to us narrowboaters. We plan to take Herbie through there next year. I guess we'll do it at a gentler stage of the tide.

That evening we returned tpo the Fox for a meal, but they don't do food on Mondays so we walked on to the Viaduct, a splendid Fuller's pub nearby. The influx or Polish workers seems to have at least one beneficial effect here as the waitress (who was excellent) was Polish and there were Polish dishes on the menu. We had Bigos, a Polish hunter's stew containing sausages and pork and cabbage, and it was just the job on a cold night. The beer, being Fullers, was of course pretty good too.

Next day we had to get back to base, and took Herbie up the Hanwell flight in double quick time. The locks were all set in our favour, presumably because the last boat to use them was us on the way down two days earlier. The canal was of course full of leaves at this time of year, and sometimes the water in the locks looked like a thick leaf soup!

Before turning down the Slough arm for home we detoured into Uxbridge to fill up with diesel. At Denham Yatch Basin their it was 45p a litre as against 60p at our boat yard. So as we needed a hundred litres that saved us 15 quid!

Then the short dash for home before dark. On the way we got caught in a hailstorm and it got very very cold standing out at the tiller.

All in all an excellent trip, and we were impressed enough with the Brentford strech to add it to our pleasure cruising repertoire.

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