Saturday, May 31, 2008

Old pubs and free beer


Here we are at Paddington waiting for Claire and Joe and the kids to join us for a short cruise. We had a good second trip down to Limehouse and back with Rick and Marilyn and got what is probably the photo of the year as we set off. No need to explain why!

This time at Limehouse we took time out to explore the basin and the surrounding area. You can't see Herbie in this picture, but she's in there somewhere!

If you go to Limehouse we recommend you eat and drink at The Grapes, a tiny and very old pub once frequented by Dickens. It sits on the bank of the Thames at Limehouse Reach. Even older (1560) and better known is the Prospect of Whitby pub a short walk away at Wapping Wall past Shadwell basin. I’m sad to report though that whoever owns it now is failing to maintain its character and despite some interesting old upstairs rooms, we didn’t like it much.

I promise you that our preference for The Grapes was not affected by the fact that they were giving away free beer there. I know you won’t believe me but its true! They have a new Adnams keg beer called Spindrift and they were giving everyone a free half pint. Sadly, we didn’t like it even though we are Adnams fans in general. The rest of the beer there, and the food, and the ambience are all quite splendid.

So now we’ve been right across London by canal twice in a week. Strange to report that there weren’t many boats moving even though it is school half term hols. Finding mooring spots has been quite easy so far. Come to London to get away from it all!!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tuesday - a warm return

Here we are back at Camden after locking down to Limehouse in the rain yesterday and a much more pleasant run up in the weak sun today. Limehouse is great. Coming into the basin you have a real sense of arrival, even if you are soaking wet from your shoes to your neck. Kath surveys the scene over her breakfast cereal and wonders what it would be like to have a yacht here..

We looked in some estate agents windows and you can get a nice little studio flat (bedsit) for a quarter of a million.

Strange then that when you leave up the Limehouse cut you pass so much dereliction and signs of poverty. The lock keeper at Old Ford Lock told us that they collect three sixty ton barges of weed and rubbish from the Lee navigation every day. Never mind, the Olympics are coming and the regeneration is starting. Quite what they’re doing to this railway bridge I don’t know. It seems sheathed in secrecy!

There are rumours of armed guards keeping security around the actual Olympic site. Some of the nice old stuff will remain like the wonderful tide mill buildings at Three Mills.

At various points on the journey you get glimpses of the Gherkin tower. Here it appears unexpectedly as we came down the Hertford Union cut by Victoria Park.

Back to Paddington tonight where I dare say we may pay a visit to the Warwick castle again.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Moist but determined

Here we are at Camden lock on Monday morning and it is very wet and windy. We cruised down here form Camden with Pete steering and me hanging on to the umbrella. Now were having brunch at The Ice Wharf before battling on to Limehouse- another four hours in the rain. never mind, tomorrow promises to be dry.

Goose creche and Curry goat


Here we are on our London trip, at the moment at Paddington basin and we have just been passed by a boat called Herbie!!!

Yesterday was fine weather although breezy as we cruised from Greenford to Camden then back here to Paddington. At Kensal Green we saw this huge bunch of goslings being minded by two adults while the rest of the geese went about their business of foraging for food. I don’t know if these crèches are normal but I’ve never seen one before.

Camden market was crowded as usual but we managed to get in at the shoppers short term moorings and walked off in search of food. At the market you can get cuisine of all sorts. We ate Carribean, with me having curry goat which was delish. Not all that different from lamb really, probably more like mutton.

In the evening we went of in search of good hostelries and hit the jackpot in the shape of The Warwick Castle in Little Venice. Doom Bar and Tongham Tea ales in peak condition and an interesting menu. Sadly we had already eaten, but we’ll be back.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Off in the rain

It's sunny today, but we're off on Herbie tomorrow and the Met Office warns of wet weather in the coming week. Never mind, we'll grin and bear it in our waterproofs. We'll have crew to help us much of the time. In fact they're queueing up for it.

On Sunday night friend Pete joins us at Paddington for a two day trip to Limehouse and back. We'll be detouring round the Hertford Union Canal near the end which will be a first for us. Then on Wednesday Rick and Marilyn arrive and we do it all again! We're thinking of calling ourselves the Limehouse shuttle. At least we'll keep dry as we go through the tunnels at Maida Hill and Islington. The latter is over half a mile long, and altogether we'll be passing through it four times.

On this trip we really are going to make an effort to update the blog en route. We know of free wifi hotspots we can use and we're taking the laptop along so watch this space for picture of us getting wet.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The worlds biggest bus queue

Forgive this post for being a bit off topic but yesterday was a special day. We joined tens of thousands of others waiting for a bus in Portsmouth. The bus of course was that carrying Pompey's victorious FA cup team on their tour of the city. Kath and I have both lived in Portsmouth in years gone by and we both love it. I've never been with such a huge happy crowd. Even the passing ferries along the sea front were sounding their hooters. They do get amazingly close to the shore as you can see here some hours before the party began.
Taking photographs got more and more difficult as the crowds grew larger and denser. In the end I had to resort to holding the camera over my head and hoping for the best. I got a lot of pictures of flags! If you look hard below you can just see the famous cup being held aloft at the front of the bus. Along with looking at the picture you have to imagine a deafening wall of cheering, singing, whistle blowing, and air horn sounding. The crowds at this point were a hundred yards deep at side of the road and tens of thousands of others were waiting on the common behind us.
After the fuss died down we spent a quiet half hour on the beach watching the hovercraft come and go, something I never tire of seeing although they'd make a terrible mess on a canal!

Why gardening is bad for you

Today I thought I might clip the straggly bits off our rosemary bush, but I ended up clipping a chunk off the middle finger of my left hand. Quite a big chunk really, so I drove over to our nearest Small Injury Clinic at Ascot to have the wound dressed.

On seeing the full waiting room I realised I was in for a long wait. Instead of a magazine rack, they had a bookshelf with big fat books. I think War and Peace and Lord of the Rings wouldn't have gone amiss. I'd have had time to read them both. Anyway I am now typing this with a large dressing on my finger and fearful to tell you that the nurse said the finger would be "extremely sensitive" for about a month.

Bang goes my Tuesday night music practices. I think when we go off on Herbie next week I'll have to be very careful with handling ropes and working locks.

Moral: Let someone else handle the secateurs.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Wembley here we come

I wish I was at Wembley today because we're Pompey supporters, but we'll be watching the cup final at home. However, in a week's time we'll be cruising past Wembley on our way into London on Herbie for a week in the big city. Our route in takes us quite near the stadium and we get several sightings of it as we pass. The plan is to go right down to Limehouse and back and to do some sightseeing while we're there - Portobello Road market and Kensal Green Cemetary are on the list, but who knows what else. Anyway its good to be able to stay a week in the city without paying hotel bills!

Meanwhile two pictures of one of my favourite short stretches of canal, between Uxbridge and Denham. Doesn't it look lush?It always looks well kept and verdant and there are lots of interesting boats around, including Savernake, the only paddle wheel driven narrowboat I've seen, and this little cruiser we saw last week. I like a boat to sit low in the water, but this is overdoing it somewhat.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Down the hatch

One possibly unique feature of Herbie that I haven't mentioned here before is the hatch cover over the entrance to the cabin from the rear deck. The usual arrangement on narrowboats is to have a sliding hatch that pushes forward onto the roof.

Herbie's previous owners didn't like all that pushing and pulling so they got rid of the sliding hatch and made a bespoke hinged hatch cover instead. Here it is closed

now half open (to let a bit of air in, or to peep inside and see if the kettle has boiled))

and fully open

You can also lift it right off.

It works fine and is completely secure and watertight when shut but we're not all that fond of it. Somehow it doesn't look very boaty. I suppose the one advantage is that when opened it doesn't take up any space on the roof like a slider does. On the other hand it blocks the steerers view when propped open.
I've never seen another one like it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A diamond weekend

Four consecutive days of hot sun while we were out on Herbie. Nearly a record and marred only by a brief thunderstorm on the first night as we moored up under the (uniquely?) numbered Bridge zero on the Slough arm. We were accompanied by a gathering of serious carp anglers with their barrowloads of bait and gear and camping in their bivvies. Next morning they were still cheerful in spite of not having had a bite.

Waving them goodbye we cruised on up to a favourite spot above Denham lock for the rest of the weekend. Many many years ago we used to take the kids camping in a field at Denham and this weekend we walked into the woods adjacent to the canal and were delighted to rediscover the old footbridge over the river Colne we used to walk across. It was no less overgrown then and something of a secret spot. Then as now you have to brave a lot of stinging nettles to reach it. The Colne lies close to the canal all along this stretch and is a lovely river, clear, swift and shallow and bursting with wildlife. Here it is just by the afore-mentioned bridge.

Over the weekend I steadily worked on painting the diamonds on the cratch front. It takes ages because of all the masking off between the four colours. I took the last bit of tape off as we approached home this morning. Apart from a few small areas where the paint bled under the tape (nothing that can't be touched out) it now looks pretty good I reckon. Here we are nestled up against Lady Elgar back at base.

Kath did a bit of painting too, touching up a few scuffs on the gunwales, easy to do now they are matt black. This time last year Herbie was beginning to look a bit scruffy externally, but thanks to a lot of steady work she is now in danger of looking quite dapper!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The ultimate vending machine

These days you seem to be able to buy all sorts from a vending machine, but this one at Potter Heigham takes the biscuit, or rather it dispenses the bait. Lovely fresh maggots, white, red or mixed. Take your pick. I suppose they must sell quickly or you would get a worthless packet of flies. In case you are wondering, the current price of maggots is around £2.70 a pint. When they turn into chrysalids, which anglers call casters, they cost a quid more. Don't say I never teach you anything!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Three days before the mast

Off we went for our sailing weekend on the Norfolk Broads taking our waterproofs and plenty of warm clothes not for one moment thinking that what we really would need was sun block cream. All weekend we had light breezes, just right for sailing, and warm sun. At no point did I need a coat.

We seemed to get a lot more sailing done than previous years, covering Hickling, South Walsham, Ranworth and Martham Broads as well as sailing up the Bure as far as Horning and the Ant as far as Ludham Bridge.

All very nice but the real treat for me was going up past Martham to the very remote Martham Broad (the red star on the map) on Monday. It took ages to get up there through the narrow channel against a headwind, but we virtually flew back. Here is Kath speeding us along on the return tripNot many boats go up there and it is very quiet. One reason is that it is beyond the ancient Potter Higham Bridge, which has only 6 foot something of clearance, so the megacruisers can't get through. Sailboats like us have to stop and lower the sails and the mast, row through and then erect it all again the other side. Here we are having done just that.

Having two boats engenders a bit of gentle competition and gives an opportunity to photograph the other lot as you go along. Here is Rick and Tim in their rightful place behind our boat.

Along the Bure, the boat traffic gets chaotic and we had to zig zag through other sail boats
as well as the dozens of often huge plastic hire cruisers. Amazingly, despite this, the Bowsprit Trophy for the most damaging mishap was not awarded this year, for both boats survived completely unscathed. I think this may be a record.

A fine weekend in both senses of the word. Let's hope the good weather holds because were off on Herbie again over the coming weekend.

Shelves done

A picture of the reinstalled shelves - see recent post for the "before" pics. They just need a lick of varnish along the edging and we're done. Now we can sit someone more comfortably in that corner and fiddle with the radio without groping round under the shelf.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A change of boat

Only for the weekend. Having replaced the newly reshaped shelves under the telly in Herbie (forgot to take the camera so no pic yet), we're off this weekend to the Norfolk Broads for a spot of sailing.

This is an annual event with old friends. We hire half decker day sailing boats from Martham Boats and pootle up and down between Hickling Broad and (generally) Ranworth. Until last year, the practice was to hire all wooden boats, but that was a mistake really. Wooden boats are nice when they don't leak, but if you are the first hirer of the year, the boats have dried out and leak like a sieve. So from last year we changed to glass fibre hulls and now we don't have to spend the whole weekend baling out as we sail along. And we maintain dry feet!

Evenings are spent in the Lion at Thurne, next to which we hire little holiday chalets.

The big question is, who will win the Bowsprit Trophy? This is awarded to the helmsman who perpetrates the most damaging or disastrous error of the weekend. This new trophy has been constructed from a piece of broken bowsprit liberated from the rest of the boat when I accidentally rammed a cruiser last year (thus making me the current holder). I am quietly confident of retaining the trophy.