Monday, 31 August 2015

'Hop-a-Long'; 'Outside Loo' and a 'Walk in Crockery Cupboard'!

Saturday 29th August 2015
Hanwell bottom lock to 'Three Bridges', bridge 205
.75 miles, 6 locks

Today did not go quite as planned.  When we got up Monty was really limping.  We could see some evidence of blood on his paw, so a trip to the vet was the first thing on the itinerary.  Mr Google provided the name of a nearby vet and yes, they could see him as they had an open clinic from 10:00 to 11:00.  They provided the number of a taxi company who take dogs.  They, however, were busy and not available for an hour, but they gave us another number.  No problem we were told - the taxi will be at the nearby pub at 09:45 to take us and the dog to the vet.  They were on time, but the driver took one look at us and said he did not take dogs!  He phoned base and then drove off.  Another one arrived that would take Monty as well as us, so we got there eventually.

The verdict - he has split a toe nail.  So antibiotics for 5 days and anti inflammatory for 7 days.  A phone call to the taxi company followed - yes they would be there in 15-20 minutes. There was a cafĂ© next door, so we were happy to sit in the sun and wait.  The taxi was on time, but refused to unlock the doors when he saw Monty.  He phoned base and did grudgingly let us in as we had a tarpaulin to cover the seat (we do try to 'be prepared').  All very annoying, especially as I specifically mentioned the dog both times. Still we got there and back and most importantly managed to see a vet.

As a result of our delayed start today was to be a very short cruising day - just up 6 of the 8 locks at Hanwell and someone was smiling down on us as a boat came out of the bottom lock as we approached and even better waiting at the lock were two VLKs.  A welcome sight - they did 3 of the 6 locks whilst Sue and I did the other 3, so definitely our lucky day.

Monty, on light duties, was confined to the back deck, much to his disgust.  He had to be content with shouting instructions from there!

When we came this way 5 days ago (yes just 5 days - it seems a lot longer, but then we have packed a lot into those 5 days!) it was very wet, so things were missed - this was one - a horse ramp.  Occasionally horses were accidentally pulled into the canal from the towpath and these ramps allowed them to clamber out.

Another was this pretty lock cottage.  The weed, unfortunately, is as bad as ever.

We stopped just past this Three Bridges sign

A trip down the weed hatch produced this lovely haul (we cleared it up and deposited in a proper rubbish container).

Monty was definitely feeling sorry for himself and was in need of tlc and cuddles.

Sunday 30th August 2015
Three Bridges to Cowley Peachey Junction
5.75 miles, 2 locks

Outside Loo!
Just the two locks today and both at the beginning of our trip.  No VLKs today, but we had done well yesterday and you cannot be lucky two days running.  You do have to fight your way through locks and bolts and the top lock.  These are kept locked when there are no VLKs around due to vandals.

After we left the locks this widebeam pulled out ahead of us.  We caught them up when they were stuck across the cut.  We never did find out whether they were trying to wind (turn round) or had taken the wrong turning as this did look a bit like a junction.  They did finally manage to extricate themselves and continued on to Bulls Bridge Junction where there is a very large Tesco store.

There was one space by the store - would we fit?  Not quite.  Thankfully the people on this little boat were still around and gave us a lot of help by moving back sufficiently for Cleddau to get in, so we could breast up along side her.

The widebeam had moored on the other side of the canal - is that really a toilet on the back deck?

The last time we saw this boat was outside Sainsburys in Kensal Green on the 4 hour mooring.  It was there for at least 24 hours!  I wonder how many multiples of 24 hours (the limit here) will they stay for?

We had been motoring for about 45 minutes since Chris had last cleared the weed hatch, but things were sluggish, so down he went again and this was today's haul.

The widebeam went off down the Paddington Arm and our way ahead was clear.  Just straight motoring with nothing of interest noted.  We moored for the night at Cowley Peachey where there is a very large Tesco store that is not mentioned in our book.  Had we known we would not have stopped at Bulls Bridge.  You live and learn, but it was, at least, another day when we did not get wet - the rain started once we were moored.

Monday 31st August - SUMMER Bank Holiday
Cowley Peachey to Springwell Lock
7.5 miles, 6 locks

Walk in Crockery Cupboard

It was one of those days again today.

but Sue is still smiling!
 Last August Bank Holiday was even worse - we 'holed up' in Fradley Junction for the day.

Our first lock was Cowley and lo and behold two VLKs - they said we could all stay on board whilst they did the work for us - it was much appreciated.  They were the only ones we met all day, but every little helps as they say.

Just before Uxbridge lock we called in at Denham Marina for diesel at 59p a litre.  My apologies if this upsets Irene and Ian from FreeSpirit who paid 77p  a bit further up the cut.  It is easy to access, the man was very friendly, the water free and with excellent pressure.  They do prefer not to take rubbish, but there are plenty of other places for that.

At Uxbridge lock I came across a lady on this contraption - a two wheeled board - a sort of Segway but without the handle.  They seem to sell for around £230.  She had three dogs with her - this one one, a smaller one and a much larger one which had a muzzle on.  Monty is still on light duties, so was on his lead.  I don't think she was in control of the dogs or her machine.  Thankfully the muzzled dog did not do anything untoward - it was the smallest one who kicked off.   She does have leads in her hands, but how would she manage to control them whilst on the board?  I have a wonderful vision in my minds eye of the three dogs towing her along at full speed!! She should have read the paper this morning that advocates 25 minutes brisk walking a day to extend your life by up to 7 years!

What a performance at Denham Deep Lock where there was no access to the lock landing due to moored boats.  Sue and I had to fight our way through low hanging sloes to scramble up the slope on the off side to get to the lock.

At 11 foot 6 inches deep it is certainly well named.

Whilst waiting outside Black Jack's lock I noticed the crocodile across the cut - eyeing up his next meal maybe.  The question has to be asked - why the chain - to stop him escaping or to stop other people stealing him.  Sadly I am sure it is the latter.

This is Black Jack Mill which is for sale.  It does not look that much from outside (although I would love to have had time to have a better look), but as it is for sale through Sothebys International I had to go and find the details - have a look HERE if only to see the aerial shot.  It really is quite something and on the market for a cool £2,450,000.  The games room can hold 120, there are 9 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, a Grade II listed fishing lodge, an all weather tennis court and an outside gardeners' WC.  The dining room has a walk in crockery cupboard!!  Now I have heard of walk in wardrobes, but never a walk in crockery cupboard!!

There is open plan living, but this is going just a tad too far for me!  I would feel that I would have to have everything tidy and spick and span all the time.

And finally two boats to conjure with - I am sure neither ever move and, not surprisingly, neither has a licence!

Sunday, 30 August 2015

When I'm 64.....

Friday 28th August 2015
Limehouse to Brentford and a bit beyond
18.75 miles, 5 locks

Having completed the tidal Severn on our 42nd Wedding Anniversary I found myself doing the tidal Thames on my 64th Birthday!  It was a Capital Experience, albeit a rather scary one!  This was a very special day and this is a very long blog!  It is a tale of 25 bridges, the need for eyes in the back of our heads (I hate to disillusion our children that we don't actually have them already!), a visual feast almost to the extent of being overloaded.  I am sure there are many things I missed - there was just too much to see to take it all in, especially whilst on constant look out for other boats - in front, behind, on the port and the starboard.

We had all done as much preparation as we could before we left home - a print out each of all the bridges in order, with specific instructions for some of them.  There is a profile picture of each bridge which was a great help.  The lock keepers questions were:

Do you have:
Life jackets? - YES including the dog
VHF radios and licences - YES
Navigation lights - YES (not a requirement for the time we were travelling, but we deployed them just because we could!)
Anchors - YES
and are they fixed to the boat?! - YES.  Apparently this vital step is sometimes forgotten.

The day dawned bright and clear.  Monty was taken for two walks just to make sure he was happy and empty!

His life jacket was put on, much to his disgust, but needs must and he was tied on ready for the off (we did have the means to release him fast if needs be - thankfully it was not needed)

At 10:30 we were off and heading towards the lock

We were asked to breast up as there was large cruiser (you can just see it behind us below) who thought about joining us, but in the end they decided to wait.

At 10:42 those large gates parted and we were ejected on to the tidal Thames and oh my goodness what a shock it was!

The first thing Boatwif and I had to do was zip up and secure the cratch covers in the bow before we could join the helmsmen on the stern.  It seemed like ages as we wallowed around, but I took this photo 3 minutes after the one above, so I am quicker than I thought could be!  The sensation down below was horrible and I felt very vulnerable, so I was not going to hang around.

Within 5 minutes this came along from behind us - you really do need those eyes in the back of your head, or a rear view mirror.

nb Cleddau had come out of the lock after us, but managed to overtake us before we reached

the first of the 25 bridges - and yes they are all here!  This is a record for us for the future - there is no requirement to read on!

A good view of the Shard with our little Worcestershire flag waving in the wind.

These are the ribs we were told to be aware of.  This one came fairly close, but he had no passengers to scare and he was going fairly slowly.  We did wonder if that was because we were close to River Police Launch depot?

As we approached Tower Bridge this trip boat went right across in front of us.  Also if you look to the far right of this picture you will see St Paul's Cathedral.  I completely forgot to look right when we got to the Millennium Footbridge and thought I had missed it all together.

Cleddau is heading straight for it.  If you look closely you can see a black boat coming towards us as well as the white trip boat - the wash from both of these boats gave Cleddau a few very scary moments going under the bridge.

We fared better and had a clear passage and even had time to wave to the spectators, whilst holding on tight with the other hand!  Sadly they did not raise the bridge for us!

The trip boats do come fairly close, but the wash is not quite as bad as we had feared it might be

I think the Shard is leaning over as our boat lurched as I hit the button!

Past the Tower of London and the Gherkin.  When Chris looked at this photo his words were 'Oh the Tower of London - I missed that'!  Such was the concentration needed to stay safe.

With HMS Belfast on the other side of the river

And what a shot of the Walkie Talkie with such a clear blue sky and just a little bit of fluffy cloud behind it. I was aware that this building is considered to be one of the ugliest in London and that it's shape has caused many problems producing wind that blows people off their feet.  What I did not know, until Cathy and Ron came to visit on Wednesday, is that you can visit the Sky Garden on the top three floors. It is not as high as The Shard, but the views are, apparently, still amazing, but best of all it is free!  To visit the Shard costs £25 per person!  You have to book the Sky Garden in advance and will need a passport or some other form of ID to get in.  Definitely on our 'to do' list next time we are in London.  If you want more information look HERE

Once again there is a boat cutting across in front of us

Is there a name for 'bridge watchers' I wonder??  Not that many out this morning.

Another trip boat up ahead of us

The Shell building - just 45 minutes into our journey

This, of course, dominates the sky line - it is amazing to think that it was going to be scrapped at one point.  I have ridden on it several times (with different people and at different times of day). The first time was a surprise for Chris on his 50th Birthday - even more of a surprise for him was when the children turned up!

Our first sight of the Palace of Westminster and Elizabeth Tower housing Big Ben

The RAF Memorial on the Embankment - once again on a slant - blame the bumpy boat not me!

We are now approaching Westminster Bridge - the instructions are quite clear - keep well away from the bank as there is a 70 metre exclusion zone all the way along the Palace of Westminster. Well that is easier said than done when a great big trip boat blocks the way!

We got a lot closer than we should have, but moved across as soon as we could and no one came after us.

Is that a yellow duck I see in the distance?

 and amazingly it is the one I travelled on with my daughter in law, Jo and granddaughter, Molly 2.5 years ago!  It was before the incident when one caught fire and then the Liverpool one sank!  I might think twice now.

This is looking back at Westminster Bridge which is coloured green - to signify the Commons

Whilst Lambeth Bridge at the other end of the Palace of Westminster is red for the Lords

Another building to steer clear of - MI6.  Just to the left of the building is the slipway that the Duck Tours use.

Does anyone know what the tower is?

I posted a picture of the rubbish containers moving along the Thames yesterday and said I hoped we would not meet one - we did!  Each of those yellow containers is the size of a container you see on the back of a HGV - the whole thing is massive.

and even bigger when towing an enormous barge!

Putney Bridge where the Boat Race starts

So quite appropriate that just after the bridge we met our first rowers - just over 1.5 hours into the trip.

There are still some fairly big craft around

On past the Harrods Furniture Depository (such a wonderful word!)

In 2004 Chris and I thought it might be a good idea to walk the Thames Path in small chunks.  We started at the Barrier and went to the Millennium Footbridge on 5th June and then from the Footbridge to Hammersmith Bridge on the 19th June.  The next step was to go from Hammersmith to Kingston.  We drove to Kingston intending to park the car and get the train to Hammersmith. We could not find a car park anywhere near the station that did not charge a fortune, so we gave up and went home.  That, I am afraid, was that!

We had at least got to Hammersmith, so had been able to marvel at it's bridge towers.

This is where the Boat Race ends

It was good to see this go by - we were just glad we had not required their services

You need to keep to the left of this bridge to keep Oliver's Ait (island) on the right

Just before the last bridge we passed this boat - rather appropriate given our RAF backgrounds.

So here we are at the last bridge which is on a skew and you need to swing to the right to line up and see through the centre arch.

A very welcome sight - the entrance to the Grand Union Canal at Brentford - almost exactly 2.5 hours after we set off this morning.

Into Thames lock with once again the question 'Do you have a licence?'

They did apologise for the rubbish - but this was mild compared to what is to come further along.

An appropriate boat name - we had needed plenty of it today.

We had hoped to moor in Brentford, but there was no room, so after stopping for water we were forced to continue.  Our first obstacle was the class of paddle boarders - slowly does it and we crept past.

The storms round here must have been bad - there was mud everywhere - overshoes with a difference - Morrisons shopping bags!

The first signs of the flood water from the River Brent

I did not notice this when we passed this way last week - just a shame someone felt the need to deface it.

We had to move on a couple more miles and two more locks and I think we were all glad to moor just before the Hanwell flight of locks.  It was about 16:15 when we finally stopped - the end of a long day.  So was it worth the stress?  Yes I think it was.  I think we were all quite shocked at how bumpy it was when we started out, but it did get better.  Would we do it again?  Yes possibly, but I think we would choose an earlier start time and try to get past the busiest stretch before the trip boats start.  Chris and Ken have expressed an interest in going down to the Thames Barrier - Sue and I would love to, but on the top deck of a trip boat!

And how did Monty get on?  Well he was very quiet and to our shame it took us about 45 minutes to notice he was sitting holding his right front paw up in the air.  We were just too busy trying to keep safe to look at him - we knew he was safe.  His paw was obviously sore - we think he damaged it getting onto the boat just before we set off.  No walks for him when we did moor and we would re-assess in the morning.

Just a few photos that Sue took just to prove we were there! The first one is us emerging from the lock onto the bumpy Thames

So how did the day end?  The cards went up.  If we had stopped in Brentford we were going to go out to eat, but in the event freezers were raided and we went aboard nb Cleddau for dinner.

A bottle of bubbly to toast the end of phase 5.  A lovely meal in great company

and to round the day off a wonderful sunset.

And finally as we had some of these for dinner I feel the need to share a joke sent from our 7 year old grandson - he thought it would make us smile - it did!  Thank you George.