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23. Jun, 2017

Right we were on our way to Camden.

On our last visit the Captain had spied something but we weren’t sure exactly what, just that we had not seen it before, so coming in from the opposite direction than usual which meant staying on the tube am extra stop we found the Camden Stables Market and it was huge.

Stalls selling anything and everything set in the most amazing buildings.

 The Stables had been built in the early 1800’s to house horses from the Camden Goods depot. In 1925 it housed 400 horses but by 1939 this had risen to 700/800. The horses were used to pull trains and train parts and barges along the canal. For injured or sick horses there was a hospital on the site.  There were plaques, friezes and statues in commemoration of these wonderful creatures. The last horse was withdrawn from duty in 1967 and the depot closed in 1980.

And it was busy, so so busy but we looked round all of it, well we think we did.

There is a statue of Amy Winehouse to but unfortunately we didn’t find it L

It eventually led into the food market, a must visit place for us but we were not eating today (tea was already sorted on the boat). The smells were so tantalising, and it took all our will power to walk amongst the stalls without trying something, but we managed it, and found ourselves at the Ice Wharf on Camden Lock. A Wetherspoons, but one of the better ones in London. The outside was rammed but we found a seat inside and enjoyed a couple of cold pints

I said the ‘Go Boats would crop up again but not in a good way. It was early evening when we returned to our boat, and the restaurant we were moored opposite, The Summerhouse, was full with happy guests. We have looked at the menu for this place and the prices are a little beyond our budget. Then along comes a Go Boat with 6 adults aboard who decide they haven’t got enough to drink on the boat so try to buy some from the restaurant. It was frightening to watch as one of the gentlemen attempted to get off the boat and stand on a small rather flimsy pontoon. The pontoon moved under his weight and he fell back luckily into the boat but he was not to be deterred and managed to get off the boat and hang precariously on the side of the restaurant whose staff actually served him, however his companions on the boat decided it would be a hoot if they pretended to leave him there and set off without him. They returned and picked him up but not before the Captain had taken photographic records, and sent them along with a description of their antics, to Go Boat. This kind of behaviour will lead to a nasty accident. Go Boat replied and said they would look into the matter, and affirmed that although adults did not need to wear life jackets they were available, but that all children were fitted with them before getting on the boat. However (again) the next night a family party cruised past us with a child of about 10yrs dancing on the front of the boat without said life jacket. I like the idea of these boats but when the accident does occur and it will what will be the outcome L

Sunday and a quiet day, we need to stay in London until Tuesday as the post we needed had not arrived at the Captains sisters. The Captain got to watch the grand prix while I pottered and pickled some red cabbage. I did spot a Pochard duck and ducklings not something we see every day.

Monday and the day started off with a bit of a splash and a rude awakening for us as Sam ended up in the water, yet again. This time she knew her escape route and as I watched her swim by the side hatch whilst putting something on (we were in bed when we heard the splash)to go and help her out. She made it round the back of the boat, and used the button to haul herself out and on to the boat next door. It was then I realised that there was more going on than Sam taking an unexpected bath. A woman on the towpath advised me to not let Sam out as a couple of swans were having a right barny. I thought she meant in the water but couldn’t see anything. Then it all came clear one of the parent swans was basically trying to kill a younger swan for invading its territory. They were both out of the water and the elder swan had got the younger one up against the railings and was, yes, trying to kill it. By the time I had got dressed and reappeared, the elder swan had thought its job was done and had left its traumatised victim with its head stuck between the railings and returned to the water. The victim seemed to be playing dead and it was hard to see how badly injured it was. Whilst the woman phoned the RSPCA I approached the swan to see what state it was in. I could see it was still alive but not how bad it really was. We were told to leave it alone and wait for the swan people to come out to assess it. One problem, it’s a very busy towpath and many people walk their dogs along it on and off the lead, so for a while the Captain stood guard making sure people were aware it was there.

Happy ending before the swan people arrived the swan picked itself up, preened its disturbed feathers and returned to the water. I don’t know if it was ever identified by the people who turned up later to help it but fingers crossed it is swimming happily on its way with no lasting injuries.

A footnote, Sam probably ended up in the water when the swans took to dry land to continue the attack, but no harm came to her once she had dried out.

As we were up early, we decided to go back into central London and to Covent Garden. There is usually something going on there, and today it was the usual street entertainers and a flea/antique market. We had decided to give the Harp, a very well recommended real ale pub nearby a try. Yes it was good and plenty of choice, but the price was off putting £9.06 and that was with CAMRA discount. The beer I really fancied was £6.10 a pint, so I had to make do with a not so perfect craft lager which was £5.10 itself. So off we went to find a Sam Smiths, the nearest one being The Lyceum, but on the way we passed the Coal Hole, a Nicholsons pub and gave that a try. There was dark on for the Captain and a good choice for me and the price wasn’t too bad. We finished off at the Lyceum which was very quiet and not at all like the last time we visited , when you couldn’t move or find a seat, but the beer was good as was the price.

Our journey continues in the next instalment xx

11. Jun, 2017

This is the weather forecast for coming bank holiday, isn’t it great.

Cruising in very hot weather is not as nice as it sounds as the poor Captain cannot get out of the sun, I can at least disappear below deck from time to time. Don’t like to leave him for too long though.

Right and back we go to Rikki we passed many boats as we cruised as it had been the Rickmanworth festival at the weekend and according to reports the boats had been moored 3 deep but we were hopeful that most would have set off for home by the time we got there.

There were still a few festival boats about so we moored further out than normal but still managed to walk into town for a pint after a hot day. The Pennsylvanian is the local Wetherspoons and they had a dark on for the Captain so we took our seat and watched the world go by. This was disturbed by a very annoying and more than slightly drunk young man who seemed to take pleasure at shouting at people as they passed by the door he wasn’t much quieter in the pub. I happen to see that he took his drink into the street and knowing that this is heavily frowned upon and possibly illegal I alerted one of the staff. After he had done this 3 times the manageress had a word with him and he seemed to calm down but it did not last and he was asked to leave and his drink confiscated. He then tried using the racist card and stood outside the pub telling passersby he was being discriminated against (rubbish). The manageress eventually threatened him with the police and he left, I felt like applauding. It did not spoil our night and it was better than watching tv.

After one hot day cruising we decided to stay put the next but we were on some kind of a ledge and when the boat in front left we moved forward. I was happily cooking a way when a speeding boat going by caught my attention. I usually give them the benefit of the doubt but as our boat began to rock I shouted at the gentleman steering to ‘SLOW DOWN’ he kind of waved at me and did cut his speed, a little too late to be honest.

It was a sad day for the UK and the world with the news of the terrible terrorist attack in Manchester our hearts and prayers go out to all those affected. Life on the cut is far removed from the hussle and bussle of other people’s life but something like this affects us all.

Thursday and another very hot day we moved to Denham Deep lock and moored above it. There is a little cafe at the lock and it was advertising ice cream, what better on a hot day so the Captain very kindly offered to buy me one. Unfortunately they didn’t have any icecream but they did have some popsicle so we sat in their garden and enjoyed a ice lolly.

I decided and the Captain agreed it would be great to be in London for the bank holiday weekend so next day we set off for the Paddington Arm of the GU and Little Venice. We stopped off at Bulls Bridge to pick up a few supplies at the Tesco there and had a lovely chat with an elderly couple on a little boat called Daisy Chain, I had seen it on and off on our way down. Another hot day and we made it as far as Black Horse Bridge at Greenford and the Black Horse pub. At first it didn’t seem there was anything for the Captain but then I spied a bottle of London Porter so he was a happy bunny and we had a couple or so.

Next day it was an early start for us (about 9.30) the Captain thought if we got into Little Venice a round lunchtime we might have a better chance of finding a mooring, so off we went.

Little Venice was busy but we spotted a number of places where we could breast up with another boat. We had a quick look down the Paddington arm but there is still a lack of signage explaining exactly where you can moor so we turned round and headed back. We managed to breast up a long side a grey NB with no name and nobody on board and just hoped they would not object to us doing this when they returned. We discovered a couple of years ago that in London breasting up is the done thing, obviously due to the lack of moorings and the number of boats. But you still get some boaters who object which is not very neighbourly or considerate.

The Captain then spotted his first ‘GO BOAT’ we had read about these on the CRT website. Little electric boats to hire at Paddington basin for up to 8 people . They zipped along quite nicely and people seemed to be enjoying the experience. They are not cheap but it must be worth it for some people.  I will be returning to these boats later.

After a shower it was time to hit central London and armed with our oyster cards we headed for the underground and Leicester Square. The Moon Under Water is the Wetherspoons and in times past we have had a very enjoyable time in there but it was not to be this time. There was a dark on but it was not a great pint and the number of people in the outside area meant the chance of finding a seat to watch the world go by was nil to zero. So out came google maps and off to the nearest Sam Smiths. There is always a stout on tap there and I like the Taddy lager and it’s cheaper than Wetherspoons. As they had no outside seating we had to find a seat inside and shared a booth with a very nice American couple on their first day in London they had all the maps and a guide book out and of course we had to have a chat with them.

Tea time and we decided to try and find the great little all you can eat chinese from last year but sadly it was closed however on a happier note a few doors down was another so the Captain treated me to tea.

Saturday was a quiet day I caught up on the blog and the Captain sat on the back watching the world go by and fielding questions from curious passersby and our neighbour turned up. Zac, a very nice young man who had no problem with us bresting up with him at all.

Later in the day we set off for Camden one of our favourite places in London but more about that next time.

4. Jun, 2017

And that is an honest question folks. This boating life is slow and sedate but I just don’t know where the time goes or usually what day it is.

We were on our way to Aylesbury at the end of the last instalment and now we are happily moored in Little Venice, London.

So much to tell.

Our trip down the last 9 locks to Aylesbury was not without incident, we had a few fishermen who were a little too close to the lock landing, a minor point I know but just a comment. We met another day boat which had managed to get stuck on something just coming out of a lock and try as they might its crew could not shift it.  A tow from the good ship Avalon Two soon had them on their way and we met the Little Trip Boat run by Liz Wisbach. I didn’t realise it at the time but I had been following the story of this little boat and its owner on facebook but didn’t get to say hi properly just a quick hello in passing.

After mooring up in the very nice basin and eventually finding the bins we set off into the town in search of a good pint. Wetherspoons our usual first call had no darks on so we set off again and found the lovely Farmers Bar at the Kings Head. Run by the National Trust it is a coaching inn dating back to 1455 and is the tap house for the Chiltern Brewery. The Captain was very happy with the Chiltern black and I enjoyed the Beechwood bitter. Well worth a visit. Then back home for a Sunday roast, lamb mmmmmmmmm

Monday and as it rained in the morning we didn’t do much or go far but did emerge in the afternoon the Captain wanted a haircut so back into town and much to my surprise I got my haircut to by a very nice young lady called Debbie. Now I know this doesn’t seem a big deal but I hate having my hair cut and can go years between but with the hot weather on the horizon I knew it was too heavy and long and would become a pain so I took the plunge and am very happy with the result. To reduce the shock we had to have a pint and tried the Feathers, good price but could not compete with Farmers bar so back we went.

Tuesday, as I have already said in the previous blog some not nice person had emptied the first pound and we had to wait for CRT to sort it out. I took to facebook to let other boaters know the situation. Liz from the little boat was concerned as she had a party booked for the afternoon but it was all sorted before then. Another boater Helen Pritchett also thanked me for the heads up on the situation and we met her and her husband Phil for a chat later in the day.

The sad end to this story is the Little Trip Boat had been broken into and the windlass and fire extinguisher stolen. The scum (not a nice word but not nice people) had also had a wee in the toilet. The taking of the windlass might explain how they had managed to wind the paddles all the way up L. The boat was broken into for a second time the next night but there was nothing to take but, yes they had another wee. I believe Liz has now moved the boat to safer mooring and luckily it hasn’t put her off continuing with her venture. We wish her all the luck in the world.

Due to our late start we only did the first 9 locks and stopped again at Wilstone this time we did try the pub, the Half Moon, weren’t all that impressed to by honest but the food looked interesting and reasonably priced.

Wednesday rain so of course we stayed put. The Captain used the time to do some running repairs whilst I did my best to catch up with the blog.

Thursday and we did 15 locks all the way to Cowroast. It was a day for nature first I heard my first owl in the early morning this was followed by the dawn chorus. Whilst travelling we spied a beautiful dog fox and a hare being chased by 3 dogs but in no danger of being caught (dogs off the lead again and their owner could not get them back no matter how much she shouted). A pair of amorous pheasants, well the male was amorous the female seemed to be giving him the run round. A beautiful mandarin duck, the ever present heron and the Captain spotted our first kingfisher. We have seen many cormorants too, swan and mallards, coots and moorhens, red kites and terns. And a first for us a lovely little reed bunting and the ever colourful jays. There is so much to see I think we probably miss well over half of it.

Back in Berko (Berkhamsted) but not for as long as we would have liked (something to do with the toilet). A walk into the town and once again not a great deal of choice at the local Wetherspoons so on to the Beer Shop, much better and the last pint of the day in the Kings Arms but at £9.15 for 2 pints only the one.

Back on the boat and our peace was disturbed by a very nice lady from CRT taking pictures of our little garden on the roof and presenting us with a ‘Waterways in Bloom’ certificate and the pictures made it on to the CRT official facebook page. Yippee.

Saturday and we moved down to Two Waters, stopping for a pump out on the way. Shopping was on the agenda as there is an Aldi by the canal and we met a lovely crew off widebeam Baby Carla who moored In front of us.

Sunday and a glorious day and we met many friendly folks on our way to Hunton. A couple of cyclists were having their lunch on one of the lock arms as we approached but when it came time for me to open the gate they proved very helpful and interested in our story. At the Cassio Bridge lock where there is a very badly placed water tap we met a lovely boater who apologised for being on the waterpoint which blocks access to the lock landing. He had finished watering up but was waiting for his cat Susie to reappear. I could hear her behind the hedge but could not see her. When she did appear she was lovely small and slight and very friendly. Only 6 months old. Her owner helped us down the lock and as we went on our way I saw he had managed to catch the wayward kitty and returned her to the safety of the cabin.

And on to Rickmanworth or Rikki to its friends.

27. May, 2017

At the beginning of my last blog I was complaining about the lack of water, well today it’s quite the opposite and the rain is bouncing of the cratch cover in gay abandon. It’s quite a nice sound to be honest a bit like being in a tent in the rain.

However being fair weather boaters we are going nowhere until it stops and that will be tomorrow. We are lucky that we have no timetable to run too.

So after a bit of cooking thought lets catch up with the blog so here I am.

Where were we?

Ahh yes still in Milton Keynes. Now the main reason for staying in Milton Keynes is to see the Captains sister Ann and her husband Chris and we thought that we would moor at the Gifford Park pub which has great access on to the canal. Unfortunately when we got there it was closed as was the access (sad face) but only for refurbishment (happy face) but that did not help us and after filling up with water and reporting to CRT that people were leaving rubbish by the tap, even though there was a note saying ‘bins temporally unavailable, please use next bins’ we went on our way.

The Captain found us a lovely place to more with good access and we settled in for the night. Next morning I was awoken by some very noisy neighbours. A group of moorhens having some sort of turf war right by the boat. One would be chased off only to return to be seen off again quacking all the time.

Chris and Ann picked us up and very kindly took us to LIdl to top up our supplies. We then spent a very enjoyable afternoon chatting away before going to the local Toby Carvery for tea. At the pub we caused much amusement and confusion for the staff as we played musical tables, the first table was right under the air conditioning the second table was really wobbly but the third table was just right, well after they had turned the air conditioning unit off. The meal was lovely made even better with a voucher found on the tinternet. We had a lovely day and will see them, all being well on our return journey.

As we had picked up supplies it was a day of cooking for me as we cruised along. We spied NB Here Be Dragons and not long after Kit and Mike its owners. We had met them a couple of years ago and it was great to catch up.

Our destination was the Three Locks pub, the Captain had offered to take me out for tea (even after everything I had prepared) and I am not one to say no. We had eaten here before and had enjoyed the food, however on this occasion the Captain was very disappointed with his meal and complained. He chose the shredded duck salad but there was hardly any duck on it. When we complained the manager said the portion size was 6oz of duck and we should not expect a whole breast (which we didn’t). The manager did give us a refund, a £2 coin was plonked in front of the Captain without a word and we left. I took to facebook to complain and did get a reply saying it was a new item on the menu and the owner would be in tomorrow to try it out but nothing else and the Captain had to have a cheese sandwich.

Our next stop was the Globe pub at Leighton Buzzard and I know you will find it hard to believe we didn’t stop there for the beer, although we did try a few. The reason for stopping was to see a performance of the ‘Idle Women of the Cut’ I had read about it last year but never been in the right place at the right time to see it. The Captain bless him had planned it so we would be in the right place at the right time this year Yippee.

I better explain what the performance was all about. The Inland Waterways during the war recruited women to take the place of working boatmen who had gone off to fight to ensure the trade on the canal continued (a bit like land girls) and the first half was the story of one of these women devised and performed brilliantly by Kate Saffin as a one women show and the second half was a collection of poetry and songs pertaining to the Idle Women and life on the canals by Heather Wastie.

After finishing training the women were given a badge with IW on. Susan Woolfitt wrote about her experiences on the canals in a book called Idle Women after her daughter suggested that the IW on the badge could stand for this rather than Inland Waterways.

To make it more interesting the 2 performers are travelling on an old working boat called Tench to each venue

http://www.alarumtheatre.co.uk/

The performance was in the garden of the pub so luckily it didn’t rain but it did get dark before it ended which added to the atmosphere but I got bit by something small and nasty and the bites have turned a rather interesting shade of purple but they are healing now. Why I am I so tasty?

After a bit of shopping in Leighton Buzzard we headed for the middle of nowhere for the night and the decision was taken to head down the Aylesbury Arm and its 17 locks but before getting there we met a very badly trained and inconsiderate boater who even though the lock was set for us and we were approaching it still filled it for her boat to come down, her partner wasn’t impressed and apologised and told her off but it was too late.

And a lock supervising cat who came to make sure I was doing it right and watched me in the way only a cat can.

On the Aylesbury arm I met a rather harassed day boat crew who had been given some bad advice when they set off as to where they could turn the boat and now were very late getting back having had to go a lot further than they thought to wind. I did ask if they were thinking about having a holiday on a narrowboat but the lady said she didn’t think it would suit the kids as they were getting bored and only one seemed to have taken to it. I don’t think she helped matters as when one of the children(about 12yrs old) attempted to leave the cabin to stand on the back whilst in the lock he was told to go back inside even though he was togged out in a life jacket. If you don’t engage kids in the activity of doing locks, steering the boat etc they are going to get bored. Well that’s the way I see it.

We moored half way down the arm deciding doing the last 9 locks was a bit much. There was a pub in the village but strange for us we didn’t bother trying it on this occasion.

The next adventure Aylesbury.

17. May, 2017

Morning folks and I am pleased to say that on this occasion it has nothing to do with the boat. We are stuck at the bottom of the Aylesbury arm due to some very nice person NOT !!! leaving the paddles up on the first lock and draining the pound. Unfortunately it is not something we can rectify ourselves so CRT have been informed and now it is a waiting game.

But how did we get here???

Well, after leaving Linda and Martyn, we made our way to Weedon to pick up the Captains tablets. And of course we just had to try the 2 pubs in the village. The Plume of Feathers had a good selection of real ale on but very little in the way of atmosphere, and the The Maltsers didn’t have a great selection of beer, but it was a local’s pub and had a few characters in.

We then moved and stopped at the Narrowboat, which is a real gastropub and very expensive, so only the one.

We were getting ready for a few provisions so stopped off at Blisworth. We got our shopping and decided to try the Royal Oak for one or 2 or maybe 3. A great atmosphere and we didn’t want to move but eventually we had to.

This is where it got a bit silly, as we couldn’t get a TV signal the Captain in his wisdom decided we would move, and go through Blisworth tunnel, and the 2 locks at Stoke Bruene. Not the best idea after a few pints. But we made it safe and sound.

Sunday was a beautiful day and we set off for Milton Keynes. It was a day when we met a lot of nice people, including a very obliging fisherman and family who moved further down the bank so we could moor. However the boat in front was not so nice and seemed to have 100 dogs on board who barked, sorry that should be, yapped at everything and everybody that passed by. Their owners seemed oblivious to the noise they were making.

So we decided to go to the pub, The Galleon, unfortunately (sad face) the pub was closed but on a happier note only for refurbishment, so instead we took a walk to the other side of the canal, where the Captain had spied a antiques and curios shop called G’Dads. After a look round we returned home and sat on the bank in the glorious sunshine watching the world go by.

On our way into Milton Keynes next morning we met up with the most extraordinary craft called the Exbury Egg. It had been featured on George Clarks Amazing Spaces tv programme, and for all intents and purposes was a floating home in the shape of an egg. It was being moved by CRT to be displayed at one of the canal side parks in the town. Howeve,r what they hadn’t taken into account was the low bridges. When we first saw it they had just managed to get it under one bridge, by asking passersby to get on board to make it lower in the water, however at the next bridge it was obvious that even that tactic was not going to work, and we were waved by while they thought about what to do next. I wonder if it ever got to its destination?

http://exburyeggtour.com/miltonkeynes.html

Now I must get on my soap box for a moment. This time it is dogs, I know people like to let their poochy pals run free, but this is not always a great idea if you cannot control them. As we were cruising through Milton Keynes we witnessed an incident that could have had quite dire results. First we pass a gentleman with a powerful looking boxer dog on a short lead, coming towards him about 30m away is a women with a small spaniel type dog off its lead and she is on the phone. As soon as the gentleman saw the other dog he stopped and shouted to the women to get it on its lead, which she half heartedly tried to do (whilst still on her phone) but with no success, and when her dog spied the boxer off it went wanting to play. It was obvious that the only thing on the boxers mind was its dinner had just arrived. The gentleman shouted to the women again whilst nearly throttling his dog to restrain it. The women broke into a sort of a run (whilst still on the phone) and still could not get her dog to obey her. The Captain took it upon himself to administer some advice to the women shouting ‘get off your phone’ but to no avail. I do not know the outcome of the encounter but I felt sorry for the boxer dog. Now you might be asking why this should be of any concern to me, well we have cats who like to explore the towpath, and a dog off a lead that cannot be controlled by its owner is a danger to my furry friends, and I get quite anxious if we moor were lots of people walk their dogs. We do take precautions, such as not mooring near boats that have dogs who are left to their own devices on the towpath,  or speaking to the other boaters explaining about the cats, most are understanding. We also moor where there is a good hedgerow for the cats to escape into if they cannot get back on the boat. We did have an incident were a large alsatian type dog tried to follow one of the cats in to the hedge, I challenged the owner and got the reply ‘well he didn’t catch it did he’ no but now I have to coax a frightened cat out.  Most owners are responsible and I know dogs need to let off steam, but it’s the minority who spoil it for others. Rant over.

Having mentioned the cats I suppose I should give you a quick update on Bubbles and Sam. Both have managed to fall in. Bubbles for all his bravado and, look at me I am a big scary ginger tom cat,  got side swiped by another cat he was trying to avoid (not Sam) and lost his footing. He was hauled out looking very sheepish. Sam, well we aren’t quite sure but think she missed her footing (she is getting on a bit) we heard a splosh and a lot of splashing, then the real noise started coming from Sam herself, boy can she wail. She was swimming between 3 boat trying to get a grip to pull herself out, but it wasn’t working.  I managed to get her to come to me, but when I stood aside to let the Captain grab her (I didn’t think I could reach) she swam away, silly cat. The Captain then went to get the net (especially bought for these events but never used ..... yet) and I once again managed to coax her to me, and yes I could reach, so I hauled her out all wet and dripping but no harm done. They have both settled into the cruising life without any problems, although we though Bubbles may have needed another trip to the vets like last year, as he started to look like a unicorn with a large abscess on the top of his head, but on this occasion we managed to treat it ourselves and he has healed up nicely. Bonus, he even seemed to understand we were helping him and didn’t put up to much opposition.

That’s enough for now, haven’t got you as far as I would have liked, but will save it for another day.