Saturday night and here we are in the London Borough of Hillingdon sitting with friends Jess an Al waiting for some pizza at the Bear on the Barge. Since Wednesday Wren has moved through Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, sometimes passing through quiet fields and then being startled by the Virgin trains whistling by. The weather has been pretty hot - factor 25 and floppy hats with regular infusions of tea. On Wednesday evening, after 18 locks, we reached the top of the climb up the Chilterns and the halfway point to London at Bulbourne, near Tring. Because this is the highest point of the canal it runs parellel to a series of reservoirs which feed the canal and in the reservoirs there are carp fisheries. Perhaps inevibly, some of the young fish escape into the canal and as Wren chugged by we witnessed a young fisherman catching an enormous 12lb monster and also watched a large shoal swimming down a disused part of the canal.
On Thursday morning it was a short journey to Berkhamstead to meet the relief crew, Jess and Al, who had travelled up by train from Bristol. Continuing south towards Hemel Hempstead we encountered an electric swing bridge which I approached this with some caution because last time I encountered a similar one on the Macclesfield Canal it malfunctioned and refused to shut and subsequently created a massive traffic jam. However, this one worked correctly and on we went to find a mooring for the night at Boxmoor which is a lovely open area near Hemel. Here we met some really friendly locals, especially the landlord of The Post Office, a small Fullers pub, who gave us a couple of pint glasses to mark our visit.
Peter left on Friday morning to return to Ellesmere for a Ukeymonster gig and a visit to his Dad, while Jess, Al and I paired up with the crew of the good ship Slow and Easy to travel down another 15 locks which speeded up the journey so by the evening we had almost reached Rickmansworh where there was yet another search for beer and food. I'm not sure if too much was taken because once back on board we were convinced we saw a bicycle powered boat! Previously we had passed a narrow boat with a Volkswagen Touran welded on the stern! There's some very strange vessels round here. It was certainly time for bed.
On Saturday afternoon Wren's crew temporarily increased by four when my niece Jess and her family, Grant, James and Grace joined us. Unfortunately the trip was somewhat marred by a couple of sharp showers but despite this we had a lovely time with yummy pink marshmallow cakes made by Grace. Later Peter returned from Shropshire and then we went to the pub - just so I could write this! However, as I was completing it in the Bear and Barge (the pizza was good but the beer was awful) the WiFi failed so now I'm completing this on Sunday in the Grand Junction Canal in Acton, North London, a fine Victorian pub and we've just had an excellent Sunday dinner.
Today we've completed four more locks in the rain before cruising down the final stretch into London and on the way we saw;
An enormous flotilla of swans, a sky full of of green parrots, loads of coot and moorhen chicks and their parents and, perhaps most strangely, the occasional floating coconut and some lemons - a Piña Colada canal! I was told to put that in by my crew!
Tomorrow it's a short trip to Paddington where we hope to moor for a couple of days and take in a bit of sightseeing.