A Travellerspoint blog

On old father Thames

Just chugging along

It's Saturday evening and we're in Windsor so that means we've completed about half of our journey up the Thames. The trip out of Limehouse Basin on Thursday morning was relatively straightforward and not too nerve wracking. Peter said Wren was enjoying the experience - not sure how he knew. The biggest problem was the persistent drizzle but it didn't dampen our spirits. The incoming tide carried us along at a brisk pace under Tower Bridge then under all the other famous Thames crossings. What was most surprising was how quiet it became once we got beyond Chiswick, it seemed to be just Wren and a series of rowers. At lunchtime we reached Richmond - it had stopped raining and the moorings looked inviting so we had lunch and I did a bit of replenishing of victuals in the M&S food hall. While the cook was on shore the ship's engineer realized that the tide had turned and Wren was in danger of grounding but being a quick thinking bloke the danger was averted just in time.
At Teddington Lock we left the tidal Thames and the cruise became a little calmer. Our first, and as it happened second night's morring was right outside Hampton Court Palace - there was just enough space for little Wren right next to a couple of swanky cruisers. What a lovely mooring apart from two dramatic deluges each night we were there. However, we were treated to two concerts; Sir Tom Jones on Thursday and Caro Emerald on Friday - we paid for one and loitered outside for the other. It just happened to be The Hampton Court Palace festival!
I'll continue this tale later as the iPad battery is running low!

Posted by peterandclaire 10:49 Comments (1)

Safely moored at Paddington

No hustle and bustle here

It's Monday evening and I'm sitting all alone on board Wren in Paddington basin. It's very impressive - the pristine moorings and the wifi are both FREE and it's unbelievably peaceful, especially when you realise that Paddington Station is only about 200 yards away. We arrived here about lunchtime after a short cruise from Acton. It's been showery all day but once we found a mooring we took a stroll along the Regent's Canal past some amazing properties and London Zoo to visit Cecil Sharp House in Camden, (the home of the Englsh folk dance and song society). After a walk back through Regent's Park it was time for tea and a snack before Jess and Al went to catch their train back to Bristol and Peter pedaled off back to Cecil Sharp House for a music session.
One of the most surprising and fascinating things about traveling slowly along the canals is the different impressions and perspectives it gives you and this is particularly true when arriving in or passing through a big city. We've noticed this before when we visited Manchester and Birmingham and now we're in London it's equally true. It's like a parellel existence away from the noise and activity of the streets. One minute you're trying to negotiate your way through the constant stream of pedestrians and traffic and the next you escape to the peace and relative quiet of the canal and towpath.
Before we can progress any further on our journey we will have to do some research into the rules and regulations of navigating out of Limehouse Basin onto the Thames so until that's done we'll stay here in Paddington and continue our sightseeing probably by bike.

Posted by peterandclaire 12:45 Comments (1)

Downhill from here

Downhill Three weeks in

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 PiƱa 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.

Posted by peterandclaire 11:37 Comments (1)

Breaking the code

At Bletchley Park

An early start for Wren today. By 7am we were enjoying a gloriously quiet passage through the second part of Milton Keynes - another sighting of the Common Tern over our heads and about a dozen solitary herons trying to ignore us. At Fenny Stratford, near Bletchley, we moored up then unloaded the bikes for a short ride to Bletchley Park. What an incredible exhibition; fantastic interpretation, an amazingly ornate house and restored huts where all the code breaking happened. Well worth a visit.
We returned to the boat about 3.30 with the weather becoming increasingly humid and as we approached the first lock the rain began to fall, shortly followed by thunder and lightning. When you're on a canal boat it's impossible to hurry so it's either carry on and get wet or stop and shelter inside with a cup of tea. Guess what we did! Eventually we reached our chosen overnight mooring which just happens to be by The Three Locks Inn where we're sitting now - a bit smart for us.
There will be more locks tomorrow as we ascend the Chilterns and on Thursday we're hoping our good friends Jess and Al will be joining us.

Posted by peterandclaire 12:33 Comments (1)

Milton Keynes

A bit surprising

Sitting in the Nag's Head at Great Linford, which is part of MK, on Monday night after a lovely hot and relatively easy day on the Grand Union Canal. It's a really traditional village pub - it's thatched, there's a darts match, Springwatch is on the telly and the juke box is going full belt! On Saturday we met up with Steve, Debbie, Dougie and Jenny at Braunston then they packed up the car and returned to Market Drayton while Peter and I began our cruise of the Grand Union and very quickly encountered our first double lock - big enough for 2 boats. After about 6 hours, Braunston tunnel (2000 yards), 13 locks and a bit of shopping at a farm shop we moored up at Weedon. The canal on this stretch runs very close to a mainline railway and a motorway so it wasn't very peaceful although we didn't have any trouble sleeping.
Sunday started off a little chilly but by about 11am the sun came out and the surroundings improved considerably. We reached the beginning of Blisworth Tunnel at about 12.30. It's the third longest canal tunnel and its 2 way - very dark and a bit damp in places. It took about 30 minutes to complete the passage before coming out into brilliant sunshine and the pretty canal village of Stoke Bruerne - lovely thatched pub (The Boat), the National Canal Museum, an excellent Indian restaurant and lots of Sunday gongoozlers! We decided to moor up and do a bit of exploring by bike - we needed cash and toilet rolls! Returning to Stoke Bruerne we had to refresh ourselves with beer and curry after all the exertion then it was back to Wren for a little relaxation and, in Peter's case, a bit of Ukey and melodeon practice which attracted the local dogs and their owners. One of whom showed off their hoopla hoop skills and another accompanied Peter on a Jews harp! A very jolly evening.
Monday dawned warm and sunny and after topping up Wren's water we set off down some more double locks. The canal meandered between buttercup meadows and we were treated to the most wonderful sight of a Common Tern hovering and diving for little fish just below the surface of the water. We had to grab the bird book to identify it. We had a lunchtime stroll around Cosgrove where the entrance to the village is marked by a magnificent 18th century stone bridge and an old horse tunnel runs under the canal. We then approached Milton Keynes expecting houses, roads, offices, shops etc but instead we passed through a green corridor to the lovely village we've moored in tonight. There is a distant hum of traffic but it's not intrusive. A fresh pint has just appeared so I'll sign off.

Posted by peterandclaire 12:45 Comments (0)

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