Sunday, 28 July 2013

Travelling up the Stort

We've had a lovely weekend with our friends William and Daphne as guests on Leo and we're now moored at Sawbridgeworth heading towards Bishops Stortford at the upper limit of the navigable River Stort.

On Wednesday we were still travelling up the River Lee and spent a morning looking round Waltham Abbey.

This is the rear view of the Abbey which used to be three times as long as the present remains which form the parish church of Waltham Abbey.  You can see either side of the rose window where the rest of the building was attached until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII.

Here are the Norman arches in the Abbey.  You can also see the splendidly painted ceiling of which I've shown a detail below.

There is a 'lion' theme to this posting which is only reasonable since our boat is called 'Leo'.  The ceiling in the Abbey shows symbols for the months of the year and here is Leo.

On Wednesday evening we moored near Cheshunt and went for a walk around one of the many lakes in this part of the Lea Valley.

This area is great for waterfowl with lakes like this left from gravel extraction with islands to give the wildlife some protection from humans.  Otters have been introduced here but we've yet to see one.

We found this Buddlea bush and tried to photograph some Peacock butterflies on it.  This was my best attempt.

Once we got to the junction between the Rivers Lee and Stort we followed the Lee up to Hertford passing through Ware.

There were some fine looking modern buildings along the River at Ware.  These look reminiscent of old commercial buildings but in fact they are modern and built as houses or flats.

This is the font in Ware church and, amazingly, dates back to 1380.  The craftsmanship was excellent.

Along the waterfront at Ware are a number of 18th century gazebos or summerhouses at the bottom of gardens.  Here are a couple including a superb weather horse on one.

And here I am trying to get a picture of the reflections in the water while we had lunch on board on Friday.

Above Ware lock there were some peaceful water meadows where we spotted this young Great Crested Grebe:
Young Great Crested Grebe
On Friday afternoon we managed to negotiate Hertford Lock despite a party of young lads using it as a swimming pool and met William and Daphne for a cruise to the very end of the Lee Navigation:

This is Folly Bridge and boats of our size must turn just beyond this bridge.

These buildings mark the point where we needed to turn the boat.  Smaller boats can go a little further but pretty soon there is a weir that prevents further progress up river.

This is the weir at Hertford with a small marina opposite.  The flow over the weir was pretty low but it must be difficult to navigate this spot when the river is running high.

On Friday afternoon we walked round Hertford and here are some of the sights:

I told you that lions were the theme and here is Helen sitting on one.  This was just outside the Hertford Castle Gatehouse.

And here is the central part of the Gatehouse which dates from the 15th century.

I liked this advert for the Green Dragon Hotel especially "Accommodation for Motorists and Cyclists, Good Stabling and Motor Pit"

On Saturday we set off back down the River Lee to its confluence with the Stort and then up the River Stort.  The Stort is so very different from the Lee.  Whereas the Lee is wide and fairly straight the Stort is very narrow and windy.  It is also much more rural and a positive delight to cruise, though the lock gates are just as heavy and difficult as on the Lee.  The Stort locks are only 13 foot wide so you cannot share them with another narrow boat.

 This is Stanstead Lock on the Lee which has a swing bridge across the middle of the lock.  Coming up in the lock you have to remember to swing the bridge back before filling the lock, if not disaster awaits.  Here, going down river, William (out of sight) is swinging the bridge back into position once Leo has dropped sufficiently low to clear it.

The Stort is narrow but you can pass two wide beam boats if you are careful!
 It was quite hot on Saturday afternoon so what better way to cool off than to have a swim in a lake?  You can just see some heads out in the water.  All was well until the Parks Police turned up.  Apparently it is against the byelaws to swim in the lakes in the Lea Valley.  They were quite pleasant about it and at least we had a good swim before they arrived.

And here are William, Daphne and Helen enjoying a meal on Leo on Saturday evening when we moored in the rain near Roydon.  Look at the artistically arranged cheese board.  The cherries on the corners we picked at Hertford by the visitor moorings.

Today we've carried on up the Stort to Sawbridgeworth where we said our goodbyes to our visitors.  Thanks for coming.

This is Ian ducking as we go under Roydon Railway bridge.  It was low but not as low as we had feared and Leo passed under easily.

Above Roydon is this flooded meadow popular with the geese.

This is Parndon Mill by the lock.  Lots of locks have a mill close by.

I liked these three stone balls by one of the locks.  The left one has fish carved on it, the middle one has rope and the right hand one has chain links carved on it.

Tomorrow we plan to carry on to the end of the Stort Navigation at Bishops Stortford and to enjoy an evening meal with our daughter Lucy who lives in Cambridge so is quite nearby.  Then we'll set off back down the Rivers Stort and Lee back to London.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Heading North away from London

In the last few days we've travelled through London and out the other side.  We are now on new waters for Leo, on the River Lee just North of Enfield with the M25 just visible ahead of us.

Having escaped the busy Thames before last weekend we carried on Saturday morning following the Grand Union Canal up the Hanwell Locks to the turn right onto the Paddington Arm which leads into London.  Here are some canal oddities we met on the way:

How about this - fancy being a champion pile driver?  I wonder where the pile driver is today.

This is a ramp to enable any horses towing boats that have the misfortune to fall in the canal, to get out again.

Behind the wall was the asylum at Hanwell that is right beside the flight of locks.  The holes with the red painted doors were to enable firemen fighting fires in the asylum to put their hoses through the wall into the canal for water.

At the top of the locks before Bulls Bridge which marks the junction we met a fuel boat, Denebola, which kindly filled us up with diesel:

Peter, on Denebola, approaching with butty tied beside.

And after he had filled our tank he did the same for the boat moored behind us.

And then we made the left turn at Bulls Bridge onto the Paddington Arm:

Here we go following a broadbeam boat which was going very slowly but kindly pulled over to let us pass.

Going up through Southall, where we spent Saturday night, there seemed to be a lot of coconuts in the water which seemed strange.  The water all round London has been exceptionally clear but that does allow a lot of weed to grow:

This is before Leo came along

And this is after we had passed.

A fun section along the Paddington Arm is crossing the North Circular by means of an aqueduct over the top and, a few miles later, we came into Little Venice, a real mecca for boats.

Here we are looking down on the North Circular from the boat.

Boats moored two and even three deep on each side - it has to be Little Venice.  Lots of boats on the move too so this is an area for concentration and slow speeds.

Unlike last year we did not stop at Paddington Basin but turned left onto the Regent's Canal and set off down the locks towards the East End.

This is soon after the start of the Regent's Canal and shows the entrance to the Maida Hill tunnel.  You can also see the exit if you look closely.

The canal goes right past London Zoo and here is the Snowdon Aviary seen from the water.

This we did not expect - punting on the Regent's Canal.

 This unusual sign is right by the locks at Camden which in turn are right by the famous market.  On Sunday in the heat there were thousands of people round here with legs dangling over the side of the canal waiting to be crushed by a narrowboat tackling the locks.  As we went to Liverpool last year we thought we should take this picture.

I liked these interlocking lock beams on two of the Camden locks which are side by side on the top lock.

Isn't it a bit sad when the sights we knew so well from childhood are being demolished as was this gasometer near St Pancras.

And here we are moored on Sunday evening just before Islington Tunnel which at half a mile is the longest we've done yet this year.

In the evening on Sunday we walked back perhaps a quarter of a mile to a splendid light and water show which is by the canal and happens every evening totally free.  There are around 800 fountains each with a light which can be many colours and fountains dance and change colour in a synchronised way.  It was quite breathtaking:

On Monday we descended the last of the locks to Victoria Park and then turned onto the Hertford Union Canal (also known as Duckett's Cut) which leads across to the River Lee:

Here we are going under the bridge having turned left off the Regent's Canal onto Duckett's Cut.  The Cut is about a mile long and has 3 locks down to the River Lee.  We did this bit with a boat called Kingfisher with Diane and Tim.

Behind us is the last of the Duckett's Locks and ahead is the River Lee.

We turned left up the River Lee but to the right was this structure.  Something to do with some event last year we think!  We'll explore that area more thoroughly on the way back.

The first stretch of the River Lee was a bit of a struggle because of the weed, but above Tottenham Lock things improved.

You can see some of the weed here in front of a weir which leads down from the Lee Navigation to the River Lea (note the different spellings).

This is where we moored last night just above Tottenham Lock.  The two sailing barges seem authentic until you look more closely.  While they do enhance the scene, they are in fact offices for rent and were built in Dorset for Haringey Council.  I doubt they will actually sail.

Today we've carried on upriver through the boring bits with reservoir embankments on the right and factories on the left.  There were still some interesting sights though including Pickett's Lock where the lock-keeper demands a fee of one Bounty Bar to use the lock.

Some of the lower Lee locks are wholly or partially electric but Stonebridge Locks had the electric one being repaired so we had to use the left hand manual one which took ages - you can just see our companion boat Kingfisher in the left hand lock.

Here is Helen at the electric console for operating the lock at Enfield.  The reason she looks so tall is because I took this from down in the lock which is over 9 feet deep.

Enfield Lock had these strange hooks recessed into the wall which finish up below water level when the lock is full.  I'm really not sure what they are for.

So that brings us up to date.  We are moored tonight in a delightful spot above Enfield opposite some boats of the Rammy Marsh Cruising Club - one has an illuminated waterfall on land next to the boat.  In the next few days we will cruise on up the Lee and Stort and have the pleasure of sharing the weekend with our Essex friends William and Daphne as this is our closest approach to them.