Monday 12 September 2016

Lea and Stort Navigation. Bishop's Stortford to Dobb's Weir.

It’s now the beginning of September and we’re back at the bottom of the River Lea. The last couple of months have been rather hectic to say the least.

To start with, we had a lovely holiday on other people’s boats touring around the country visiting all our boaty mates, and a couple of non boaty ones as well.
On the Friday, with Legend safely moored just above Sawbridgworth lock, we set off in the car up the M11 to Nuneaton for a night with Kim Luke and George. We had a lovely afternoon in Atherstone where, on a whim, we went to the local tip shop and found the perfect lock for our back doors, (more about that later) followed by tea and cake in The Larder; a 1940s café that is worth a diversion from the cut if you are up that way.
In the evening Kim demonstrated her under-stairs cocktail bar to great effect.

On Saturday morning, after a ‘crafting’ session with George we set of to Wistow on the GU Leicester line to an excited welcome from Lindsay, Paul and gorgeous Jack who were moored there on Happy Daze, which was sporting a newly painted cratch board and back end.

The afternoon disappeared in a happy haze of bacon butties, doggie walks and laughter and in the evening had a BBQ dinner and sat out on the towpath chatting till it got dark.
The next day, for the first time since we bought Legend, we did some proper boating on a boat that wasn’t ours! With Lindsay at the tiller...
...and Paul and ourselves lock wheeling, Happy Daze was up the five locks to Smeeton Westerby, through Saddington tunnel...

...and moored up in no time at all in a quiet spot with views over the fields.
After we’d walked back to collect the cars we had another chatty towpath evening.
On the Monday Paul was back at work, so while Lindsay ran him in we took Jack for a walk up to the reservoir, or rather, Jack took us. He very much knew where he was going!

Back at Happy Daze, we said goodbye to the lovely Lindsay, then we were back in the car again. Our destination for this leg was Marsden at the east end of the Standedge Tunnel.
Following a three hour journey up the country, and with almost perfect timing, we arrived at the east portal mere minutes after Evolution had emerged from the tunnel.
Martin and Yvonne were just taking off their waterproofs after completing a three mile trip through the highest, longest and deepest navigable tunnel in the country. After hugs all round and the obligatory cup of tea, we jumped aboard Evolution to once again go boating in someone else’s boat! This time we were going down the locks on the Huddersfield Narrow canal.

We moored up by Sparth reservoir, which turned out to be not the best plan in the world, as the pound we were in was leaking quite badly. As darkness fell we had to push Evolution further and further from the bank to keep us level. In the end Dave went up and opened a paddle on the lock above us. That kept us afloat till the morning when we set off down to Slaithwaite (pronounced Slewit, if you’re local). There was a distinct lack of water in some of the pounds and at one point Evolution had to be bow hauled into a lock. Martin commandeered a group of passing walkers to help; they were only too happy to oblige!
That night Evolution was moored at a much more stable angle just below Slaithwaite lock. We phoned Jono and Nichole as they lived nearby and they came over to join us for the evening. they told us about their imminent move to Scotland to open a B&B. The future will be tremendously exciting for them, and we intend to go and stay next year when they open for business.

Next stop on our boaty tour was the Chesterfield canal at Shireoaks where Laura was moored on Large Marge. We had a walk up the locks to the top pound and an ice-cream on the way back down. What a beautiful canal!
It’s going to be awhile before we get up to the Trent and all its connections but we are looking forward to it immensely. Unfortunately Alison was away for a few days, so we’ll just have to come back again. What a hardship!

Back home aboard Legend we set off down the Stort, but we only got as far as the next lock at Sheering Mill where there was a fallen tree across the river.
Along with a Canalability hire boat we moored on the lock landing for the night.
In the morning we dropped down the lock and waited on the bottom landing while two very experienced blokes, a little boat and a chainsaw set to work.
By 10 they had the navigation open again and we were on our way to Parndon Mill.
We got moored up just in time for a batch of scones to go in and out of the oven before Kim, Luke and George came to stay. In the afternoon we all walked up to the lovely Harlow park, which has a big playground and a petting zoo. When Frankie used to live in Hoddesdon she used to bring her nursery kids to the petting zoo, and it was quite touching to think that we might well be laughing at the antics of the same animals that she had.
 Tea time for the Reindeer...
...and the Llamas.

The next day the Dullers were off early to go and support Kat in her London Triathlon while we had a lovely sunny day boating to Hunsdon Meadows.
While Ann-Marie did the washing, Dave started work on the new door lock that we got from the tip shop at Atherstone. For a while now we’ve been looking for a solution to the question of how to make the back doors lockable from outside, so we can use that end of the boat if we’re on a pontoon or breasted up. The simple way would be to put a padlock on them, but we don’t want to do that because a) the hasp and staple would forever be sticky out things that would get caught on every bit of loose clothing at every inappropriate moment, and b) nothing says “this boat is unoccupied” like a big padlock. At the tip shop we found one of these.
The nice thing about this is that unlike an ordinary Yale type of lock, because it has a roller rather than a latch, slamming it shut doesn’t lock you out; you can only lock it by extending the roller into the socket, which you do by turning either the key or the lever on the inside. So it’s a cross between a roller catch and a mortice lock and perfect for what we want. Retail price £38. Atherstone tip shop price £2:50. Even with the purchase of a 29mm hole saw from Toolstation it was still a bargain.

Diane and Richard had invited us to come and stay with them in their caravan at Beeston Regis, near Sheringham. They call it their ‘Hide’and it’s a lovely home from home in a beautiful spot next to the Beeston Bump overlooking the sea. Diane and Richard provide a dog sitting service as an alternative to kennels, and have a succession of regular ‘holiday dogs’ that come to live with them.  We had a fabulous couple of days with them, walking along the north Norfolk coast with Benji, their current ‘holiday dog’.

Legend was moored for a couple more days at Hunsdon Meadows before we pulled the pins again and returned to the River Lea at Field’s Weir...
...where we were able to indulge in the novelty of sharing the lock! (On the Stort, although they look wide, the locks are only 13’. Narrowboats flap around in them like loose teeth, but you can’t actually get two in side by side.)

We pulled in for water just below the lock on the slowest tap on the network. By the time we’d filled the tank, we’d both had a shower, boiled up some blackberries and hung them up to strain for jelly, had a cup of tea and telephoned CRT to report a blocked elsan. After that we pootled on down to our most frequented mooring this year at Dobbs Weir where we tied up and had a very hot afternoon crashed out with all the doors open and the top windows out.

We’d seen some flyers for a Village Hall Market at Roydon on the Saturday, so on the way back for the car we went for a gander. To say it was small would be an insult to small things, but what was there was all good and we came home with some very tasty looking chipolata sausages from a local pig farm.

Although we’d walked back for the car fairly regularly, we hadn’t been for a proper walk for ages, so the next day we drove to Broxbourne Woods where we followed the butterfly signs round the 11 mile circular NNR route.
These are very ancient woodlands; some of the paths are pre-roman and the woods are primarily oaks and hornbeams. The contrast between the stout, solid, angular oaks and the sinuous, almost muscular hornbeams is quite stunning.

This woodland is the furthest north that hornbeams grow so it wasn’t surprising that we didn’t know what they were to start with.
The other thing that we had to google was a coal post. There was one in the middle of the path, looking very much like a city of Westminster bollard.
They used to be a ring of these posts around London and it was here that duty was charged on coal and wine entering the capital. This duty paid for most of the bridges over the Thames. Here’s a link.

The following morning we locked the boat up and set off to Karen’s for the night before Dad took us to Gatwick to catch our flight to Belfast and a week in Antrim with Chloe & Shandy.   

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