Our friend Rick, who has recently retired, joined us mid morning and we set of down (or is it up?) the Slough arm in surprisingly good weather. The plan that day was to get to the Black Horse at Greenford for a meal and a jar or two of Fullers. Rick, well known for leaving on lights etc. opened the wash basin hot water tap and no water came out (because we had drained the pipe last time we left the boat and it take a while to come through). Leaving the tap open he returned to us on the rear deck, where none of us could hear the water pump running and running and running. The water came through all right - 150 gallons of it, straight down the plug hole and into the canal. Well we got there OK, but only to find the pub swarming with painters, who told us the place was closed for redecoration. Ah well, it’s a good overnight mooring stop anyway, and there's a tap there to refill the lost fresh water. It took an hour and 45 minutes to refill the tank! We ate in. Here we are outside the Black Horse.
We set off for Central London in blustery drizzle which soon cleared to become a fine day J . We're used to seeing unexpected wildlife on this stretch, and today it was wild green parakeets! Lunch of cheese and jalapeno sandwiches in Paddington basin, where we ventured out to buy a London AtoZ. The basin was unusually empty of boats and consequently less colourful than usual, so we pressed on through Maida Hill tunnel, through Regents Park to Camden where we were very lucky to find a mooring spot not far from Camden Locks.
The famous market next to the top lock is absolutely brilliant. Lots of exotic foods and clothes and furniture and fabrics. Kath was in her element.
We bought some great cushion covers and shelf curtains for Herbie, and Kath bought a hat.
Sadly we were still digesting the lunch time sandwiches so couldn’t find room for the Curry Goat, or Moroccan Tagine, or Chinese pick and mix, or . . . . . although it all looked fabulous. We eventually ate out in the evening at the Ice Wharf next to the lock and washed it down with some excellent Deuchars IPA.
The coal delivery boat Argo was stopped near our mooring so we boat a couple of bags of coal for the stove. Its always nice to buy from the trading boats rather than a boatyard. Cheaper too. Being moored so close to the market we popped in again for an hour before turning the boat right outside the market and setting off back towards Greenford. It was getting a lot colder and breezier again. Passing London Zoo some Hyenas came out to see us.
Lunch outside Kensal Green Sainsbury's opposite the famous Cemetery, and on over the North Circular aqueduct. We were on the lookout for some plastic crates we had seen in the water on the way up. Rick wanted them for his garden plants. Eventually we did see them and spent an entertaining twenty minutes manoeuvring Herbie in and out of the bank side vegetation in a stiff breeze while Rick flaied about with the boat hook trying to snare the crates. In the end we got five. Not a bad haul.
Rick and Kath decided to walk for a bit so I was left alone to steer. Much to R & Ks amusement Herbie did a spectacular lunge into the bushes when I bent down to rummage in the biscuit jar. I regained my composure in time for a very neat stop back at the Black Horse (still closed for painting).
We had a phone call from Claire (our daughter). She has been poorly lately and the doctor had sent her into hospital for a couple of days to re - hydrate her! So would we have Jacob for a couple of days on the boat. Partner Joe brought him over that evening. We had a night in and a game of cards.Monday
Yet another crew member arrived. Friend David from Rickmansworth was joining us for the day. So now we were five. Off we went, down the Paddington arm to Bulls Bridge where it meets the Grand Union proper and we turned left towards Brentford. It was now cold and showery in the breeze.
At last some locks to do. There are eight to descend at Hanwell, and having plenty of crew we made quick time in most of them. However one had a very large bush (mostly ivy) just inside the gate and another had a gate that didn't want to open, so we didn't break any records. We moored up below the locks and David left for his train at tea time, leaving us to stroll up to the Viaduct pub for a warming meal and some particularly nice beer.
Theoretically an easy cruise down to Brentford and back. Only two locks each way. However we didn't reckon on the amount of debris the storm had deposited in the water. Osterley lock was completely full of drift wood, plastic bottles, polystyrene etc. Getting in was hard enough, but getting out was a real trial. Like boating through pack ice.
Once at Brentford we moored in the basin and set of on foot to find the spot where the canal finishes and enters the mighty tidal Thames.
It’s a bit of a rabbit warren of boat yards and backwaters, but we got there in the end and had a look at Thames Lock. Next summer we hope to pass through it onto the Thames for a circular route up to Oxford and the midlands.
Back to the boat where a pot of hot home made pea soup had been cooking on top of the coal stove. Lovely grub. Then off back to last night's stop. Through the dreaded Osterley lock again, where Jacob salvaged a number of floating footballs collected by the wind. That night we felt duty bound to pop into the Fox - a great traditional local pub near where we were moored - for a jar or two of Timothy Taylor's. Finally back to the boat for a game of Scrabble.
It was eight o'clock. "Look out the window" called Rick. We did, and gasped. It had snowed overnight and everywhere was really pretty.
This was a boating first for us and it was interesting to see the pattern on the roof of the boat where the heat from inside had melted the snow where the cross members were.
This was our last day and we were headed for home. Back up the locks in quick time, on past Bulls Bridge and up to Cowley Peachey to turn into the Slough Arm. Not for the first time this trip I had to go down into the weed hatch to clear plastic bags etc from the propeller as the boat was losing thrust. Ooh that water was cold, and look at the stuff the prop had collected!
Down the Slough arm we got a close glimpse of a kingfisher with a fish in its bill, and we pursued a cormorant who dived in front of us for about a mile (coming up for air of course) until it at last shook us off.
And so back to our moorings and then home for a rest.