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Tuesday, 30 June 2009

London and on to Bishops Stortford

More London
Yes we visited Buckingham Palace

Our extended stay down in London we were able to several extra things. One of which was to spend a weekend with Clare, Simon & girls and it coincided with a gig Simon had organised for his group of musician friends. All in aid of the girls’ school, they arranged this bash in the barn of a farmer friend and tied it in with a BBQ. It of course needed helpers, so we came in useful. We were absolutely shattered by the time we got home & Carol had to retreat to her bed. Fortunately it was a great success and raised useful funds for the school. Oh! And it was good to see them & the girls.

I said in my previous blog we were off to Queens, and were fortunate in that it stayed dry all day & we saw some tennis. We were also able to get tickets to Shakespear’s Globe theatre and enjoyed thoroughly “As you like it”. Neither of us knew the play but we were in stitches during the play, it was a most memorable production and the cast and musicians were excellent. We also found Borough Market, which is close by the Globe, and though it was not really open we did discover a most memorable cheese shop. The cheeses in there were amazing and the system they had in place to maintain them in perfect condition was superb.

On our way there from our bus stop at London Bridge station we diverted slightly to The George. It is owned by the National Trust but leased to Green King. It is still a galleried coaching inn and was known to Shakespear, as well as Dickens. The beer was OK.

I saw this near Dicken's house.

We caught another film too and saw Last chance Harvey with Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. It was beautifully acted and clearly showed that the two of them have great empathy. What made is better for us was that it was set in London and we had only recently walked along the bits of South Bank etc where they were filmed. We made a point of going to see the Courtauld Collection on a Monday morning as between 10 & 2 that day it is free. Some incredible works of art.

Somerset House.

The Old Bailey

We saw more of these works of art too when we went to the National Gallery, though I can’t say we thought the same of the Tate Modern! On our way to the National Gallery we popped up to look at St Martins in the Fields which is alongside on Trafalgar Square. We found that there was to be a lunchtime recital an hour later, free but hoping for donations, set around the theme of Spring and given by a German Soprano and Pianist. Having enjoyed a coffee in the crypt waiting for the recital, we selected our seats & Carol got chatting to the couple behind us. They were from NZ and we are planning a trip there next Spring. Suffice to say that they made us promise to go to see hem in Christchurch. The recital was incredible, the girl had a fabulous voice and his phrasing was superb, and we booked to go to the evening concert as well and thoroughly enjoyed that too. The church has recently been refurbished and glistens with gilding above fresh white paint. During these works a wonderful new window behind the altar was installed. It is amazing how you can give shape and expression using just plain glass and leadwork, visit it.

Carol though we ought to catch The Mousetrap before its run ended. No sign of that yet, it started in 1952! We didn’t know the story and it was well acted and we greatly enjoyed it, we got chatting to a very pleasant couple from Aus whilst there! We were caught in a tube strike and on one of the days we waited till around 11.30 before heading out. After sitting on a bus for a good 20 minutes with it moving barely 200 yards, we got off and wandered around the surroundings of St Pancras.

One of 6 Terrapins at Battlebridge

This pub with it's walls covered in carefully planted growing medium was just near Battlebridge. It will be very interesting to see how it matures.

We can’t recommend strongly enough Battlebridge Moorings if you want to spend a bit of time in London. It is very secure and has great facilities. David & Fiona looked after us very well, so it’s worth giving them as call on to see if there s a berth free. We found out a couple of days before we left that the new building at the end of the wharf is not just the offices of The Guardian, but also houses he Kings Centre. When it opened about 2 years ago it was the first all new concert venue to open in London since the Barbican, and that has got to be over 30 years ago. We popped around, and it is superb. The art in the gallery was not to or taste, some of the sculptures looked like lumps of clay cast in bronze, but some of the other sculptures were good.

We had great weather whilst in London, mostly, but one evening we had a little shower!

So, on Tuesday 23rd June, I fired up the engine………except the starter battery was no good. It was new last August in Bathampton, so the finger of suspicion points to the alternator. Anyhow an hour of charging & we got under way. I had changed oils and fuel filters whilst in Battlebridge, and after about ½ hour running whist waiting for a lock, the engine stopped. I got it going after bleeding, but it stopped again on two more occasions just as we reached Victoria Park, and we were fortunate in finding something o tie up to. When I looked below deck the next day to bleed the fuel, I also found another alternator belt had been shredded! We stayed there all the next Wednesday whilst I walked to get a new belt and consulted on the fuel problem. I bled he system, ran it & it stopped, repeated it, and repeated it again. In the end I walked with 2 cans to get 8 litres of road fuel. The boat had a good list to starboard as she was aground, and the fuel take off was on the port side, and dipping the tank showed around 120 litres in it.Thursday we set off again.

New architecture you can see from the canal.
EXCEPT when Lily was first delivered we were on the boat over the first Xmas and we had no fuel to our boiler or stove, despite the tank being ¼ full. Mike found that the shell builder had told them wrongly what was fuel take off and fuel return. My guess is that the same applies to the engine fuel supply because when we turned out of Duckets Cut and filled up with fuel at New Era Fuels by Bow Bridge flyover (very cheap, but the Olympic people have bought the site so it may not be here long). Since then, no problem! Mike at Debdale reckons it could be the fuel lift pump getting weak, but unlikely after under 1900 hours I’d have thought. Since adding 200litres of fuel, no problem, but then again there is now a head of fuel above the sedimenter…….we’ll sort this out back at Debdale.

What still has to be sorted is the main alternator drive pulleys. For the last 2 days I have just left one belt working and providing I let it warm up gently when we first start it seems OK, but Mike reckons he might get to us to fit the poly V belt system. My concern is when we belt up the tidal Thames, will the one belt cope?


We passed the main Olympic stadium, we had no idea the Lee was so close. Can we book a mooring for 2012? Probably not, they are neurotic about people possibly mooring a boat full of explosives near the site even now. The lower Lee is not very picturesque, but it’s not fully industrial either. Interesting question though, why would a company want to reclad a boat loading station in new aluminium cladding? Leggett Logistics have done so in the Tottenham area, but with no sign of freight handling equipment in it. Sorry, didn’t get a pic.

We stopped on Thus night shortly below Lea Bridge in Clapton. We hadn’t gone very far, but I’d bled the fuel system three times, we’d struggled to get to fuel, but we hoped that at last we were OK, so we caught a bus to get a Wetherspoons Curry in Hackney (we love these bus passes you know!) Still fantastic weather.

Friday 26th was an uneventful day, except we collected 2 alternator belts from Lea Valley Marina at Springfield. Pleasant people. We cruised on alone, apart from a couple of boats that passed us before we had breakfasted, I don’t think we saw another boat moving until after we tied up above Enfield lock that day. Just above one lock on the Lee we came across these new floating offices, what was amazing was that they seemed to have fitted proper sails.

Enfield lock was foul.

It was full of weed, and the upstream approach was solid with weed too. I closed the top gates, started to empty the lock, but the weed was keeping the top gates open at least 6”, so I re-filled it, scrambled along the top beam with the boat hook ( no handrails on the Lee or Stort) and worked hard pulling weed clear. Then I emptied the lock, opened the bottom gates (hydraulic gate opening here) and the ran water through the top paddles till the slug of weed had cleared the lock. When Lily was ready to come out of the lock, I bow hauled her to stop the weed from fouling the prop.
The locks on the Lee have some hydraulic power on them, all of them up to Ramney Marsh have the bottom gates opened by hydraulics, several of the locks further down are fully powered. After Ramney they all have cranked bottom gate beams which do not counterweight the gates and they are heavy. The weather on Friday was lovely too.

Saturday 27th we cruised under a mile till we got to Waltham Abbey, where we stopped and walked into the prettyish town. Carol said her hair was driving her mad and went to have a cut & perm, very brave of her as she has basically only allowed one hairdressers in Leicester to do this these past 30+ years.

We also went to a lovely butchers shop and bought stuff for a BBQ, and I sauntered around, had a pint in a very old pub (The Welsh Harp) my first ever McMullens, and tasty. I walked to the Royal Gunpowder Mills, intending to give it a quick once over, but at £6.20 even with my concession rate I certainly wasn’t going to just whizz round it. The Sealed Knot were doing a re-enactment that day, and they have things going there on every weekend, but are only open from April to Octoberish.

Anyhow, hair done we grabbed a nibble and walked around the market and bought some fruit and were intending returning to the boat via looking over the Abbey………except there was a wedding on so it’ll have to be done on the way back. Back to the boat and off we set, through the next lock where I retrieved a totally loose boat. I gather the owner is a new "continuous moorer", and it looked as if he had not fixed his ropes to his pins. This done we moved on about half a mile more to prepare for the BBQ, except it started to drizzle, and thunder, and eventually tipped down for about 3 hours. This is the first rain we have seen since the deluge in Battlebridge. Sorry everyone, it was my fault it rained. We had no BBQs last summer and none on the boat the year before.

Sunday 28th dawned hazy and warm and we set off through the progressively prettier Lee. Lots of water all around the river in lakes and quite a few boats out enjoying the lovely weather. Cruised for just over 5 hours finishing just above Roydon Lock on the Stort, mooring alongside a managed wildflower meadow and nature reserve. Clouds were forming as we got out the BBQ but we persevered and it was lovely.

We also came through this incredibly floral lock!

The river Lee gets prettier as you cruise upstream and the Stort is lovely, but there are some very low footbridges. Be Aware the sanitary station at the Lee/Stort junction shown in our Nicholsons is no longer there.

Monday 29th Hotter than yesterday and no haze at start. Fabulous river, twisty, narrowish and lovely countryside, except railway is nearby. Moorings few & far between so far. Got a bit busy as boats were returning from a knees up at Harlow. Used new sanitary station just above Burnt Mill Lock before toddling on to tie up at Sawbridgeworth and visit town. It is well worth a visit, interesting buildings and church, many old pubs and useful shops, but again hardly a mooring, we tied up just before the lock landing area of Sheering Mill Lock. Annoying to see loads of mooring bollards and manicured banks just above the lock on the non-towpath side, all festooned with Private No Mooring signs. These buildings are on the site of an old woodworking factory that was busy in WW2 making Mosquito fuselages and wings. Only 5 ½ miles and 6 locks but I was tired, and had a BBQ to cook!.

Tuesday 30th late night last night watching Andy Murray win, and it dawned hazy, but by 8 the sun was out. We had decided to set off early, but 8.40 was later than 2 boats who passed us. We had a lovely cruise into Bishops Stortford. It was all of 5 miles and 6 locks, but it was gorgeous. It is very twisty and not very wide and with several of the bridges if there had been any fresh on the river Carol's troughs would have needed taking off the roof. They have been a great success this year and get tremendous congratulations.

A pretty lock near Bishop's Stortford

We arrived at the end of the navigation after about 4 hours and used the sanitary station. The end of the navigation is the visitor moorings and these are close by the centre of the town with a large Sainsburys & M&S a few yards away. Walked around the place a bit, but not too much to see, but we have fixed to meet Carol's cousin from Aus here on the 7th so I sussed out parking for him, which is not easy, and we have also fixed up to see Carol's old schoolfriend, (& my first girlfriend), here on the 9th as she only lives about 40 miles away. We will also use a train from here on the 10th to get to Hampton Court Flower Show.

Well, pictures added, thank heavens for a fast connection in Hertford. It is lovely up these waters, but it is so very hot!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Staying in London

We stopped on the Paddington Arm for three nights and during that time we met up with my cousin's daughter who was very heavily pregnant, and enjoyed playing with her young son as well as having supper with them at their home near Little Venice. Her husband is a heart surgeon at the St Mary's Hospital in Paddington and he walked past Lily on his way to work.

Wednesday 13th May
We moved on through Regents Park Zoo and on through Camden Locks. Be warned, make sure the shore crew have their BW key with them. I had to call Carol back to the top lock to rescue me as it is now enclosed in railings. It was a cool and blustery day. I noticed our fuel level is lowish so was pleased to see a fuel pump at St Pancras Cruising Club just past Kings Cross Station. Sadly it is only manned at infrequent times, and our moorings at Battlebridge Basin have mains supply so we will not need to run the engine to charge things.

Wildlife in Battlebridge, the Heron stayed on Lily for ages. There are 6 terrapins in the basin, two large pike and the largest carp Carol has ever seen loitering around Lily.

We arrived in early afternoon and Carol shuffled us into our berth, we said our hellos, paid our dues and tied up. It really is a wonderful spot, very secure and with shower, bath, toilet waste and Elsan disposal and a water point by our mooring point. There is a Tesco store abot 10 yards away and we catch a bus to The Angel in Islington to get to a largish Sainsburys. I have also been able to get mail sent to us here, useful in getting my mother's estate wound up. After a couple of days moored bows on we decided it would be better stern on, but that is the extent of our movements from 13th May till today, 7th June.

Just by the gate there is a bus stop that will take us along Oxford Street or to Waterloo, and a walk of a hundred yards or so gets us to Kings Cross Station with buses and tubes everywhere. We wanted to get a good mooring because over the weekend of 16/17 June we went to Brussels by Eurostar from neighbouring St Pancras as the fist part of our Ruby Wedding celebrations. The following Sunday we had both girls & families join us for a "flight" on the Eye, a meal and a cruise on the Thames (not on Lily!!) Weather in Brussels was so-so, the following weekend it was fabulous for our flight and we had superb views.

During our stay we have in addition so far met Victoria's baby the day after her birth, had supper with my cousin & friend, our niece, visited an old friend we haven't seen for 8 years, had our grandson stay for 4 days.

Things we have done, all but one of them for the first time in our lives, have included 2 visits to the British Library (well worth a visit) 3 visits to the British Museum (an absolute must) The Science Museum (incredible), The Grenwich Observatory (wonderful to see Harrison's Chronometers and other things)
The Old Imperial Standards at Grenwich

The view from by the Grenwich Observatory

We have also visited the Tower of London, The Imperial War Museum (not Carol, how appropriate to house it in the original Bedlam mental hospital) St Pauls (amazing, but sadly the golden gallery was closed) Westminster Abbey (nowhere near as good as St Pauls in our opinion) plus we have so far seen "Grease" and "Hairspray" (at vastly reduced prices) a fabulous concert in the Royal Albert Hall and The Beating of the Retreat in Horseguards Parade and so far we have pulled in 2 films on Wednesday where we got in at 2 for 1. On our way to the Retreat we saw half an hour of live screened ballet on a giant screen in Trafalgar Square direct from Covent Garden (ballet leaves me cold & it was cold that night too!).

Admiralty Arch, gate open, Buckingham Palace behind.

This last bit came about as a lucky chance. On Saturday 31st Sam was with us & it was a superb day again & we were intending to walk down Whitehall from Piccadilly to visit Westminster Abbey. The evening before as we were at Piccadilly Carol had told Sam that the centre gate of the Admiralty Arch is only ever used by the Queen, and is therefore the gates are shut. On the Saturday he noticed they were open, and as we walked across to investigate it was obvious that the Police had shut off the Mall. We asked why & were told it was for a rehearsal of Trooping the Colour for June 13th. Needless to say we walked along to get a vantage point and were able to see bits of what was happening on the Parade. The great thing was when the troops marched and rode off they came right past us with trumpets and drums playing. It was an incredible sight, very moving.

We wandered down the back roads to Westminster Abbey from here, only to find that last entry to view the Abbey on a Saturday is at 13.30 and we got there at 14.00. Anyway we meandered around saw other bits and bought tickets for Beating the Retreat in Horseguards on our return up Whitehall.

There are so many other things to see and do, tomorrow we are off to Queens Tennis Club to hopefully see some tennis. We still have some Theatre Vouchers to use up that we were given as anniversary presents. We certainly don't intend to pay full price. Yesterday afternoon we set off on a bus towards Leicester Square to see if we could find anything. Part way there we passed the theatre where "Hairspray" is performed, hopped off the bus and asked about tickets. We were offered cheap tickets for that afternoon's matinee. We sat in the middle of the circle, next to people who had paid £60 a head, we paid £25!! The show started about 15 minutes after we arrived! Great. I would never have thought a musical comedy could have been written about racial prejudice in the USA in 1962, but they have and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

We have just extended our booking here till 22nd June so we can go to see the youngest grandchildren again. Then we have to set off up the Lee and Stort, and hopefully will get our new alternator drive pulleys fitted as the belts get thrown off as soon as we rev up unless I tighten them incredibly hard. Carol's cousin from Australia is going to visit us on 7th/8th July so we have to get to a suitable meeting point, then on the 10th we are off to Hampton Court Flower Show. We tried for tickets to Chelsea but the only ones were at over £100 a pop!!!

Right, I'm going to publish this lot, then I'm going to sort out some pics and add them later. Sorry for the delay, you only got this lot because my brother moaned!