Sunday, 16 April 2017

Bluebells and a Blue Dog

Morning to all you Spring Chickens
Easter Arrivals

Happy Easter from our sunny, Sunday mooring above Black Jack's Lock on the Grand Union Canal, Harefield. We arrived here after a very short cruise this morning, just enough to charge the batteries and heat the water. It's one of the joys of living aboard, you get a new view every day and if you find a nice spot, you can tie up and explore. This morning, Tricky and I walked from our overnight mooring on the Springwell Reed Beds, to Copper Mill Lock. It's a pretty part of the canal along here - the water is deep and wide and clear enough to see the fish swimming amongst the weeds. You would hardly notice the huge sewage works hidden behind the thickly wooded slopes if it wasn't for the tell-tale whiff floating over on the morning breeze. As usual on Sunday mornings, we were dodging hordes of Physcolists, intent on 'Mapping Their Ride' and completely missing the beauty of the English countryside in April. Thanks to Mr Twitcher, Eric Long, I was able to identify the 'White Heron' as an Egret and got a real close look at one as he flapped by at eye level looking for a good fishing spot. I may need his help again this week (Mr Twitcher not the Egret) identifying the strange birds that I refer to as the 'London Duck' - it's a funny looking thing with crazy paving feathers, pink legs and a red beak which makes it look like it's wearing lipstick. Any ideas anyone?
Anyone know what kind of duck this is?

There are loads of people out and about, enjoying the bright sunshine today; it wasn't forecast and I'm starting to wonder if we've wandered into a time warp somewhere along the way. There are very few boats moving about, but the tow-paths are crowded with long term moorers. We've seen some very strange boaty concoctions since we entered the London suburbs - a red and white 'Puffer' boat, wooden shacks perched on a floating platform, boats with bath tubs and rusty bikes on the roof, and most amazingly a narrowboat with a VW Tiguan welded on the back of the cruiser stern. I wonder - does he sit in the driver's seat to steer? Or is it for extra storage. Wide beams are everywhere and I'm envious of their vast deck area set out with patio furniture and fairy lights. I'm crammed into the bows as I tap away today. The morning sun held the promise of warmth but the cold wind has stolen it away so Tricky and I have retreated into the tiny space in the bows where there is just room for me to open my deck chair and set up the laptop on the little folding table. It's like being in a mini conservatory except that everyone who walks by wants to stop for a chat so I'm not getting much done.

We left Berkhamstead on Monday, taking in the delights of Winkwell Locks where we moored overnight by the swing-bridge, just in front of a matt black wide beam called "Valhalla' - I told you we'd seen some strange sights this week. We were tempted to visit the ghostly Three Horseshoes, which allows dogs in the Tack Bar as long as they don't disturb the two ghosts that reside there. The scariest thing about that pub was the price of the beer! Valhalla was up early and beat us to the first lock - it's ironic that we've hardly seen any boats moving our way and then, when we do, its a wide beam and we can't squeeze into the locks with them. We pottered along behind them, collecting wood on the way because the mornings are still too chilly for me and Tricky to get up before Carl has a blaze going.  At Apsley Locks we met a couple of Australian girls taking their boat to London - that's the second female crewed boat we've met this year and I'm full of admiration for them, especially as they tell us they did 20 locks in one day.

The cruise continued through Kings Langley and Cassiobury Park to Croxley Green. We moored up by a very large housing estate and walked through a bluebell wood to the village- it turned out to be the scenic route and very steep for a Lincolnshire Lass! We found the Post Office and also a train station - it seems that the London Underground terminates here and I went in to find out if we could perhaps take a trip into London. Of course not, it's Easter and engineering works make travelling from here almost impossible.  I think we'll go by boat and take a chance on finding a mooring. The old part of Croxley Green is very pretty - lovely old terraced houses and plenty of local shops, even a library which is becoming a rare find these days. We never did find the Green - Tricky's been very reluctant to walk recently and more depressed than usual. We took her to the vets in Berkhamstead just to be sure there wasn't anything wrong.  The vet thought we might be feeding her too much so no more treats for Tricky! I got the clippers out too, they're a bit blunt but I managed to trim off some of the winter coat to find a very plump little doggie underneath. She won't win any dog shows now that I've given her a Specsavers haircut but she's not panting so much now when we walk.  It's good to be back in our old routine, walking ahead of the boat every morning.
Lovely little boat at Croxley Green

Next stop along the way is Rickmansworth and another long line of moored boats. It's easy to see why so many people are buying a boat and joining the floating community - a 2 bed terraced here fetches around £400,000. When we first bought our boat, we stayed out all year and loved the frosty days, chugging along in the freezing cold with a lovely warm stove going day and night to keep us warm.  It's not so great when the canals freeze over and you can't move to fill your water tank. I wonder how these folks manage, it's a great life in the summer but extremely hard for those without a home mooring during the winter.

I was sitting on the lock arm one morning, the gates were open ready for Carl to bring the boat in but Tricky and I had walked so fast he wasn't anywhere in sight. I saw a man walking along towards me, I didn't take any notice except to call Tricky to me as he had a rather large Alsatian dog 'Are you feeling happy?' he asked me. 'Oh yes' I replied 'it's a lovely day'. 'I was a bit worried when I saw you sitting there looking at the water so I thought I'd better say something'. I must have had a real grapefruit face on if he thought I was about to end it all! Just then Carl chugged around the corner and I pointed to the boat and waved my windlass so the man realised I was working the locks. It really restores your faith in human nature when you meet kind
people along the way - he cared enough to check I was OK when a lot of people would have hurried by.

I hope you all have a lovely Easter.  Take care till I see you again

Love from
The Floating Chandlers

PS Note to self - check you're not wearing your Grapefruit Face before leaving the boat

Breakfast on the go

Kings Langley - very peaceful

You'd never guess there was a blooming great sewage works just round that bend 

Depressed Dog Tricky

Pretty Lock Cottage

Tricky waiting patiently for the lock to fill