Thursday 7 July 2016

River Lee. London to Hertford

Our first mooring on the Lee was at Walthamstow Marshes, just after the railway bridge. We thought we’d have to go north of Tottenham before we found anywhere to stop, but gaps started appearing a lot sooner than we’d expected. Although we loved visiting London it was good to be back out in the open after the claustrophobic turmoil of the city.

At Tottenham Hale lock we saw a flyer for the Tottenham River Festival which was taking place that day, so we pulled over opposite a pair of rather splendid sailing barges...
 ...and went off to find it.
It was an odd little gathering in a park...
...with stalls from local communities, the Environment Agency and the IWA, along with entertainment from local musicians and a very enthusiastic pair of women who were trying desperately to get everyone involved in their own unique blend of hip-hop and morris dancing.
We spent the late May Bank Holiday Monday and Tuesday at Enfield lock...
...mainly waiting for winter to finish, then moved on, through Waltham Town Lock... Cheshunt, where we found a perfect Legend sized gap to slot into.
This part of the river is surrounded by the huge Lee Valley Country Park, so there were plenty of opportunities for walks through the surrounding area. Considering how popular it is and how big it is, we were very impressed with the condition of the park – especially the paths and signs.
We had ten days at Cheshunt, during that time we had a last trip up to Chesterfield to clear out our few remaining possessions from Anne’s house as she had got a completion date.  On the way back we stopped off at Nottingham to visit Laura and Alison. They were moored near the castle and we had a lovely afternoon catching up. From there we went straight down to Mytchett to stay overnight at Karen’s as Dave had an eye exam the following day.
Karen’s gang were away in Chichester for the 2cvGB National meeting so we had the house to ourselves for the weekend. On Saturday we drove down there to Chichester to join them for the day.
It was great to see so many old mates and we had a fabulous day chatting with people we hadn’t seen in years. One couple we didn’t get to see were Elaine and Steve. They weren’t there because Elaine had broken her foot and had it in plaster, so the next day we went to Portsmouth to see them. We had a lovely warm afternoon sitting in their conservatory and catching up on about four years of gossip. Steve provided a terrific roast dinner, and Fran and Sean came over later on to add to the festivities. When we arrived we noticed that Elaine’s 2cv was up on blocks on their driveway half way through a king pin change. (King pins, or pivot pins, are the swivels  that allow the front wheels to steer; they are unique to 2cvs these days as modern vehicles all use ball joints, so replacing them has become a bit of a lost art.)  Steve told us that since Elaine had broken her foot, he’d been too busy playing nurse and working to get round to finishing it off. As we were about as close to them as we would be for some time we volunteered to help out by coming back a couple of weeks later and finishing the job.

Back at the boat, we went for a lovely long walk through the country park to Dobbs Weir...

then back along the side of the New River to Cheshunt. The New River is an artificial water course that was built in the 1600s to bring fresh water from higher up the Lee down to the reservoirs supplying London. Today it still supplies 8% of the Capital's water. At first glance it looks like a canal; it’s about 20’ wide and there’s a path along the side of it. However once you get up close you notice that all the bridges over it are flat, there is a definite flow on it and it’s only about 18” deep.

If you look at Cheshunt and Hoddesden on the OS map you notice several things: How the railway line marks a very sharp boundary between urban and rural landscapes for most of the map. How big the Lee Valley Park is, and how much of it is water and marshland. But the most interesting thing for us was how many commercial glasshouses there were around Waltham Abbey and Naezing.
At the beginning of June, just at the time when our flower boxes needed planting up, we just happened to be moored next to what appeared to be the plant nursery capital of England. This year we chose purple and yellow. We had a trip round a few of the nurseries and came back with Petunias, Bacopas, Lobelia and Cape Daisies. Back at Legend we got the compost out and Ann-Marie soon had the troughs and pots full of summer loveliness.

Thanks to the BBC, we had two free tickets for a special Friday Night is Music Night at the Hackney Empire. hosted by Ken Bruce, it was a live performancecelebrating the Queen’s 90th birthday and Ann-Marie went with Anne. She took sausage rolls and bubbly so they could have a little picnic while they were queuing.
It was an amazing evening and they thoroughly enjoyed it. Back on board Legend Dave listened to it live on the radio and he thought it was terrific too.

The following morning, in honour of HMQ we hoisted the bunting and, with Anne still on board, set off to Dobbs Weir. At Cartenega Lock we stopped for water; the tap is on the lock side so we had to hover in the bottom doors while we filled up. Inevitably the only other boat we saw moving that day turned up just after we’d turned the tap on, but the kind couple on Nb Charis were very patient and waited for us to fill up.

There were some brand new mooring rings at Dobbs Weir and a very handy car park right next to the river...
so we pitched up for a week and a half. Hoddesden was just a short walk away, the elsan at Fields Weir was easy to get to and there was a household waste site 5 minutes’ drive away too. The waste site was important because we had found that there is a dire shortage of rubbish collection sites on the Lee and Stort. When we brought the subject up with staff from London Waterways they told us that there used to be plenty but they got so abused by non-boaters that they had to be removed.

The weather forecast for most of the time we were at Dobbs Weir was pretty dismal...
...but we decided to go for a walk anyway and set off up the Lee to Fields Weir and then followed the Stort to Harlow.
On the way there we had to shelter under trees to avoid the odd shower, and we thought we were doing ok until we were half way across a footbridge over the railway line when the heavens opened and we were caught in an almighty downpour that soaked us to our underwear. We arrived in Harlow looking like a pair of wet cats. Although the town park was rather splendid and well worth exploring on a brighter day, we didn’t think much of Harlow itself, and we thought even less of the cream tea we had in BHS, but we did all our errands and got all the stuff we went for, and at least the walk home was nice.

One of the things that we cleared out of Anne’s house was our big tent. The reason it wasn’t on the boat was because we didn’t have room for it. All the time it wasn’t on the boat we didn’t use it so, we either had to find a way to store it or get rid of it. In Go Outdoors we found this - and the tent is now in the roof. We have no doubt that there is a limit to the amount of stuff we can put on the roof before the boat falls over, but we think we’re still a way off.

During the next week Ann-Marie had 4 days off the boat, so while she was away Dave set too fitting the new light that we’d bought from Camden Market with the money from Mike. While he was at it he stained and varnished the ceiling and walls to match the kitchen. That meant removing, sanding and dyeing all the trim, sanding the panels, putting it all back together with the new light and applying four coats of varnish. The boat was a complete mess for the duration but the result was worth it.
Over the weekend while all that was going on, our fridge had an “episode”. It’s a standard under counter fridge that has a 12 volt compressor and an electronic control unit. There is an LED warning light which flashes when it has a problem; the number of flashes defines the problem. 1 flash means low voltage, 2 means the compressor has failed to start, etc. up to 5 flashes. Ours was doing 5 flashes. 5 apparently means that the ambient temperature is too high. It has done the same thing on two previous occasions, and both times switching it off overnight had cured the problem.  This time however, after two days it was still on the blink. By then all the frozen stuff was in the cool box under a duvet and pretty much defrosted. After trying umpteen times, Dave gave up switching it off and on again and ordered a new control unit from the internet. Then he ate the fishcakes, made a huge vat of bolognaise sauce with the mince and cooked all the chilli chicken and sausages. On the Sunday night he went to clean it out and switched it on to make the light work. It started up. Half an hour later it was still going as if nothing had happened, so he put all the cooked food back in the freezer compartment and went to bed. In the morning it was still going and everything was frozen.  When the new control unit turns up we’re going to swap them over and keep the old one as a spare.

In the afternoon, after Ann-Marie got back to the boat, we set off up to Fields Weir then forked left up the Lee, through Stanstead Lock and stopped at a nice bit of clear towpath just before Hardmead lock.
In the morning we were back in the car and heading south again, back to Portsmouth to tackle Elain’s king pin. Anita and Mike were there as well and had brought a lovely salad for lunch. Dave had a good time getting stuck into quirky Citroen mechanicals again, and it felt nice to have done a good turn for such lovely people. After a lot of farewelling,  we drove up to Mytchett and stopped for the night at Karen’s. The next day we took Lauren and Ben to the polling station and cast our votes in the referendum, then went over to Mum and Dads. In the evening, what should have been a  journey home of less than 2 hours took 3½, but it did mean we got to Tesco in Cheshunt just in time for the mega reductions on the deli counter where everything was a penny. Every cloud...

Ann-Marie was off again the next day, so Dave  got the dust sheets out again and did a repeat performance, this time with the lounge walls and ceiling. Half way through he got a text from Frankie asking if he could go to their flat in Hoddesdon and change a faulty immersion heater switch. Before they moved to France, rather than selling their flat, Frankie and Harry rented it out. For the first couple of years they went through an agent, but as that seemed like a lot of money for very little, they now deal with their tenants directly. Normally Harry’s brother Jack would deal with stuff like a broken switch, but he wasn’t available and Dave was literally just round the corner. As he didn’t have the car, Frankie arranged for Louise to give him a lift. It was only a 20 minute job; old switch off, new switch on, so he was back on board with a varnish brush in his hand by lunch time.

As we knew there was a good possibility that we wouldn’t find a mooring spot in Hertford we set off from Hardmead lock really early so that we’d have time to get back to Ware before the weather turned. We had a lovely time cruising up through Ware with its fabulous gazebos hanging out over the river.

There used to be many more of them; they were built by the wealthy land owners during the 18th century to give themselves a riverside haven away from the industrial noise on the high street. Most fell into disrepair, but they have lately seen a renaissance and are looking quite splendid these days.

The lock at Ware is the only one on the CRT network to be owned and managed by the EA.
This is because the gauging house, where water is taken off for the New River, is situated in the pound above it; the sluices at the lock control the height of water in the pound, which in turn determines how much water is taken off.

We crossed the wide open water meadow below Hertford lock...

...then gently chugged past all the permanent boats to the sanitary station by the little marina. After we’d filled up and emptied out we carried on through the pretty town to the visitor moorings which, as we expected, were full.

Bridge 74 marks the limit of navigation.
 In case you’re not sure there’s a sign to let you know.
 There is, however, no sign to tell you that the winding hole is on the other side of the bridge and without a good recce it would be very easy to get this far and then panic. Once you are under the bridge it opens out and turning a full length boat is easily accomplished.

Pointing downstream for the first time since we left the Ouse, (unless you count the little bit below Stoke Bruerne, which isn't really a river anyway) we went back under the first bridge and immediately moored up at the back of Waitrose, just outside Starbucks and just opposite the Old Barge pub.
Later in the day we were told by another boater that we were moored on the Hertford to Ware Waterbus landing, but we were ok as it only runs at weekends. We really liked Hertford, the little row of cottages on the other side of the river made a delightful back drop and the town itself was perfect.

From here we’ll go back down to the junction then up the Stort to our next Navigation Limit at Bishops Storford.    

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