Monday, 24 August 2015

From one extreme to the other.....

Sunday 23rd August 2015
Teddington to Brentford on the Grand Union Canal
6 miles, 3 locks

Yesterday was so hot we had people jumping into the water all over the place and Monty and I retreated with a chair and a book into some bushes because the boat was too hot.  Today dawned dry and bright, but thankfully a little cooler.

It was to be an early start for us, despite a disturbed night.  We had just dropped off when a police launch took off from the lock and rushed past us with the siren going and blue light flashing.  That would have been okay, but due to his speed (I am sure necessary) we were rocked around and banged against the side for what seemed like ages.  Then there were party boats going to and fro. So 06:30 when the alarm clock went off came round a little too quickly!  Why so early?  We had to be ready to go by 07:30 to catch the tide down the tidal part of the Thames.  This would mean around 2.5 hours on the boat with no means for Monty to go ashore, so all things needed to be done before we left.  The best laid plans .....  he is a very regular young chap.  Out first thing to empty bladder and bowels.  In and have his biscuit and then out again to re-empty everything. Except today!  I must have walked up and down with him for over half an hour waving a blue poly bag at him (his usual cue to evacuate) to no avail.  The problem - as he was lifting his leg first thing a squirrel rushed past in a tree over his head and all he could think about was finding more squirrels to bark at.  In the end we had to go and he managed until we arrived in Brentford!!

The hotel boat, Kailani, beat us to it and went down in the first lock of the day.  The two of us were next

along with two cruisers who soon overtook us once we were under way - very politely I have to say with cheery waves and good wishes for a safe trip.

The gates opened and there is the tidal Thames - lovely and calm, just how we had hoped it would be.

Shortly after the lock you go past the PLA Boundary Stone marking the end of the Port of London Authority at this end of the Thames.

This is Ham on our right and the home of the Thames Young Mariners

They use the old lock entrance to access the Thames.  It is also the start of the last day of the Devizes to Westminster Canoe race which both of our children took part in many years ago. Thankfully in different years as parents support by meeting them at various locks and providing food and drink on the run!  It was great fun for us and as our son said to a local reporter when asked why he did it 'It looks good on the CV!!'.  If you want to know more look here.  The last day is the shortest, but probably the hardest for the bottoms if not the arms as all padding (not that there is much) is removed from the canoe to lower the centre of gravity giving less chance of them capsizing.  As a narrow boat we feel small on this mighty river, but in a canoe, especially for those who are not used to such a wide expanse of water, it must be really daunting.

On we sailed

Under Richmond Bridge

Where we caught up and overtook the hotel boat

Past Richmond Lock - for 2 hours either side of the high tide you can sail straight through.  At all other times the sluices are lowered and you have to use the lock.

Rowers were our only obstacle today - they were everywhere.

Then suddenly the first signs that you are entering a big city - high rises

Cleddau makes the turn
Off the Thames and onto the Grand Union Canal.  If all goes to plan we will be back here coming the other way from Central London next Friday.

Waiting to go into Thames Lock and you can just see that the tide is beginning to fall

As we approached the lock there was a lot of shouting.  'Could you hear me' the lock keeper shouted to Boatwif.  'No' was her reply.  'Have you got a C&RT licence' was the lock keepers cry. 'Yes' she said and we then went through the whole performance again, and yes we also have a licence!

On we crept towards Brentford Gauging lock past house boats of all shapes and sizes

The last one even has a green house, but it looks as though it is used for storage rather than plants.

There is the lock and a chance for Monty to escape the confines of the boat for a few minutes.  He was much relieved!

This heron seems to be in control of the lock

Then our first sighting of a red London bus - a sight I grew up with - 227, 54 and 126 were the buses of my childhood in Beckenham.

We decided not to risk the weather (heavy rain was forecast), so we moored up at Brentford for the night on 14 day moorings.  They each have a tap and an electric hook up if required, although I have no idea where you would get a card for the hook up!  Free Spirit were only one lock behind us at Teddington, but got delayed at Thames lock - see here for details.  The moorings were full by this time, so they moved on.

Boatwif and I went in search of papers - a successful foray.  We spotted a market, so had to go and have a look.  Bread and cheese for lunch and very tasty chicken pie for dinner!

How to get back to the boat?  Follow the sign on the pavement of course!

No sooner had we got back to the boat than we hit the other extreme weather wise - it rained and rained and rained!

Monday 24th August 2015
Brentford to Willowtree Marina, Southall
7.25 miles, 10 locks

The forecast today was for heavy rain, but perhaps not so heavy first thing, so another early start was agreed on.  The rain was light, but I tucked my trousers into my socks, put on my walking boots and gaiters and then waterproof trousers over all of that.  I did get some funny looks from Chris who thought I was being a little over cautious.  I wasn't!

Monty and I set off to walk to the first lock past this labelled as 'Positive Art' sponsored by C&RT, presumably to try to prevent graffiti.

Now if you ever come this way past GlaxoSmithKlyne

 You might wonder what this waterfall is for?  GSK have been working with British Waterways and now C&RT since 2001 to help maintain this stretch of water alongside their grounds.  Heat generated by the air conditioning system is cooled by canal water via heat exchangers before returning to the canal via this waterfall.

Just before the Hanwell bottom lock we went past FreeSpirit - they waved and shouted a greeting from the safety of their dry boat - they said they were trying not to laugh!  They failed!!  Mind you they had the right idea staying put, but we need to be in Limehouse by Thursday evening, so had to keep going.

As we approached what was Hanwell Asylum it got wetter
There used to be a dock at the asylum (now part of Ealing Hospital) where boats went in to deliver coal and take fruit and vegetables out to be sold.  The asylum seems to go on for a long way and note the weed on the canal - it is thick.

The umbrellas came out - okay for those on the back deck.

Finally we had negotiated the last lock and came to Bull's Bridge Junction where we turned right towards Paddington.

It got wetter and wetter

To completely beyond wet!

The towpath was mostly deserted - this party of young walkers did not seem to be very well prepared.

We only saw one boat moving all morning and that passed Cleddau right by a moored wide beam!

We had decided to stop at Willowbridge Marina - we needed a gas bottle and we all needed to stop somewhere warm and safe. There is a restaurant here - a treat after our soaking, however, Monday is the chef's day off!!

Cleddau, moored up by the slip way, evicted a family of swans - Pen, Cob and 9 large cygnets.  We breasted up beside them.

Monty was put into his 'ruff and tumble' towel - he is not keen and retreated to bed and rolled around (trying to get rid of it!) so much he almost folded the mattress in half! He still got in and curled up.

The chimney went on and for the first time this trip

the fire was lit, clothes, shoes and dog left to dry out!  Today really was so extreme compared to just two days ago.  The rain stopped as we moored, but has continued on and off all afternoon.  And tomorrow - well I think we will get wet again, but perhaps not quite so wet.

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