After a wet free Tuesday at Marsworth, on Wednesday 29 May Ebony woke me early, as usual, at 6am. The sky was fairly good and the forecast was for rain at 9 - so I set off up the locks within an hour. The grass and lock ladders were very wet so I pulled the boat into all the locks. Met CRT man near top letting water down - but there was plenty where I had come from! After 6 locks I reached the top - just as it started to drizzle. 3 wet miles on I reached Cowroast and moored up - just as the rain stopped! Made coffee but really hungry - so had a fry-up brunch. Walked down 2 locks, in sunshine, so decided to carry on. At first lock - met CRT boat - and they helped me down and at next lock I was joined by Barrel of Ale - first seen at Milton Keynes and we continued thru third lock where I stopped. More rain in evening and no TV - grr - DVD's then!
Rained overnight and by 9.30 Thursday, drizzling. At my 1st lock I was joined by 'The 'Owd Fettler No 2 of Rufford (where I had overwintered 3 yrs ago). The couple were very friendly (he English, she Canadian) and were boat moving to London, for a friend. After 4 locks we reached the lovely moorings at Berkhamstead - I might have stopped but we were having fun so carried on! Ravens Lane is another nice area - with a gorgeous house and a lockside pub, both with flowers. Another 8 locks on we got to Winkwell where I stopped next to nice houses with small stream between and just before the Winkwell swing bridge - the Owd Fettler carried on. Nice moorings and good pub opposite but there is little to see here. It is from this point to Brentford that small rivers weaves in and out of the canal. Later I was joined by two other boats for the night.
Friday I set off with nb Tom Kitten, another nice couple (Debbie and Ken?) taking their boat back to Harefield. Debbie loves to walk and work locks so we made very good progress again. After 6 locks, at 11.30 we both moored o/s Hemel Hemstead Sainsbury's, they then set off but I moored the otherside just above next lock - busy here!
After lunch I took Ebony for stroll then walked over modern footbridge to main road past old paper mill (with Basildon Bond clock outside!), to Homebase. The town centre is 1 1/2 miles back but moorings not pleasant there. After Eb's tea we took a stroll down 'my' lock to Apsley basin - walked all round and then chatted to boaters and manager in this very friendly BWML basin - which allows liveaboards. A dry and sunny day and a very mild evening!
Saturday 1 June - Prepared lock and went through just as Barrel of Ale caught up - will meet them at next lock. We shared 8 more locks before both stopping after lovely white bridge in the grounds of The Grove - a huge 4star spa hotel, with golf course and many leisure facilities. Just round corner is Grove Mill - now converted to flats. Another lovely warm day.
Sunday - walked up driveway to The Grove - told it is open to public so walked round the lovely gardens with a canal garden and beautiful modern sculptures. Sat and chatted to a couple having a treat day out. I have to leave by midday next day as there is to be a multinational financial converence at the hotel and moorings are suspended - for security reasons as a great number of protestors are expected in the area.
Monday - No signs of police or protestors! I moved on at 9am - still no signs of life at Cassiobury Park as I went through. Stopped for water, then diesel and continued on to Batchworth Lock at Rickmansworth, where the couple on The 'Owd Fettler joined me after a weekend away. I stopped below for a couple of nights, just oppositve Tesco's and beside (behind a high hedge) a large fishing lake - which is next to a boating lake.
Easy walk into town, via footpath and through churchyard.
Tuesday - walked on to Stocker's lock below which is by a very old farm - used for films and TV programmes walking back via lakes. Pm - interesting walk along old railway beside Chess basin.
Wednesday - Ex boating friend Wendy arrived for coffee and we set off to go thru 2 locks to moor above Copper Mill Lock at Harefield where we stopped for lunch. Wendy then walked back to her car and I walked up into Harefield and back via steep hills to Black Jack's Lock. Found some nice moorings (forgot these!) so back to boat, through the lock and moored opposite some lovely modern houses, many with moorings - and found Tom Kitten moored outside one of them! So nice here, plus warm and sunny, so I stayed for 2 nights, enabling me to get on with some outdoor jobs - , sweeping chimney, cleaning fire, stacking wood and coal away and tidying bow.
Friday 7 June - Sad to leave the last of the nice moorings before reaching Uxbridge. At 2nd lock - saw a girl shutting lower gates and opening paddles - and then disappear. I tied up and walked to lock - to see girl lying flat out on roof - and not moving - I hoped not unconscious! The boat had 2 bales of straw balanced in front. When lock full I lowered paddles and opened a gate - then walked to speak to the girl - she had a beard! It was a young Frenchman - wearing leopard-print leggings and a hairband over long hair! I called out and he leapt up - said he had been travelling all night to reach Watford by 11am - some hope! Another boat then caught me up - they had seen the French lad passing - with his feet up on roof!
At Denham Deep lock 2 more boats caught us up - the French lad had knocked on their roof earlier - he had lost his windlass - they gave him one of their 5! Apparently he was going to the protest about the finance conference - and the bales of straw were towards building a huge boat! The other boat stopped at Cowley Peachey marina and I continued on the next 2 miles through filthy, rubbish-strewn water (please don't get on my prop - I don't want to stop). I managed to get the last mooring outside Tesco at Bulls Bridge junction - a popular stop for anyone heading for the Thames or Little Venice. Later I had 2 more boats breasted up beside me!
Saturday 8 June - No one else going my way so I set off at 8.50 - in sunshine. At Norwood Top lock I was let down by 2 CRT men - behind 2 other boats who had spent the night there. Oh no - there was a boat moored on the next lock mooring - but as I approached, someone went to prepare the lock and 2 others got the boat untied. I then joined Ilsa Elizabeth with her 4 crew - who were taking the boat to Brentford. We had a good journey down the Hanwell flight and then all continued on through the next 2 locks on the River Brent. I was lucky - I got the last mooring in the sun, opposite a weir and beside a car park. The restored basin is so nice now that it is lined with very attractive appartments, plus moorings below, but they do block out the sun. I now have till Monday to explore and prepare for the Thames.
That afternoon I had a walk down through a pleasant dock estate to the Thames - poignant because I found out only recently that a Great Aunt who had committed suicide in the Thames had actually been found in Brentford. I then walked back along the River Brent to Thames lock and via Dock Lane to the High Street, opp Morrisons.
Sunday I shopped in the Sunday market and in the afternoon went to Syon Park - about a mile walk away, so gave Eb short strolls before and after. On Monday I will be joined by old friends and boat sharers Chris and Mary to go onto the Thames!
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