Wendover Arm to Cassiobury Park, Watford
Over the last five days we have travelled from the Wendover Arm to Cassiobury Park near Watford. We have covered less than 17 miles but done 32 locks. We are hanging back a little bit as we are not wanting to get to the Thames until early next week. Our plan is to have a couple of days on the Thames and then have a week on the Wey Navigation to escape the crowds over the Easter weekend. The Wey is run by the National Trust and a licence for the week is £80 (less 10% as members) so this will hopefully keep the numbers down a bit.
Saturday 1st April 2017
Wendover arm to Cowroast
As an April Fool, Angela sent an email to her former work colleagues telling them she had had enough of the hard work of travelling and we were heading back. They played along with the joke offering her a shift the next day. She then sent another one on leaving the Wendover Arm saying that we had turned right by mistake, so had decided to carry on with the trip.
After so many locks recently it was nice to have a lock free day as we travelling along the Tring Summit. The cutting stretches for one and a half miles and a maximum depth of 30ft. In its day it was a massive feat of engineering taking about 5 years to dig.
It was a short and lock free day of just 4 miles today and by lunch time we were moored up near Cowroast and finished for the day. In the afternoon we had a walk to Northchurch to visit the grave of “Peter the Wild Boy”, who we had learned about recently. It’s an unusual story from the 18th Century, of a feral child in Germany who walked on all fours and ended up in the British Royal household.
During the night we were woken up by a strange knocking sound. We looked around the boat but couldn’t tell where it was coming from. We then realised that it was the bass sound from a nearby nightclub, that we didn’t know was even there.
Sunday 2nd April
Cowroast to Berkhamstead
Our original plan had been to stop at Berkhamstead and use the supermarket before continuing on our way. However with our new relaxed timetable we decided to stop for the day. First though we had 7 locks to do and surprisingly for a Sunday, we were on the last one before we saw another boat. We shared this lock with a single-hander who was heading to London. He was however very nervous of using the lock ladders so had been pulling the boat out by rope instead. We thought back and realised it was the first lock we had shared since we reached the Nene, over 120 locks ago (Though about 50 were narrow locks anyway).
The last half mile in to town and through the town centre was busy with anglers, involved in a match, so we passed as slow as possible. Though low water levels meant we didn’t have much choice. At the penultimate lock a couple of moored boats were well and truly stuck in the mud.
We managed to get one of the last moorings in town though its location opposite the children’s playground would not have been our first choice. The boat hadn’t felt to be handling right for much of the journey. A trip down the weed hatch revealed a mix of clothing and thick plastic bags wrapped round the propeller being the cause.
Monday 3rd April
Berkhamstead to near Hemel Hempstead
A short hop today that was made slower by an inconsiderate boater ahead having left gates open. Many of the locks do ask for a paddle to be left open, so he seemed to think a gate was doing the same thing (or was just too idle). We moored up for the day but after a few hours we noticed we were on a lean. The level had dropped and we were aground. We managed to get off with the pole and moved forward a bit to where other boats were moored ok.
After not seeing any boats for hours we had a sudden rush and it got a bit chaotic. One boat moored up with just a centre line on a peg then left the boat. As the next boat came down to moor, this caused the peg to come out. She then hopped off to re-tie the boat more securely and we helped him moor their boat. The third boat made a mess of mooring and was across the canal. With a thrown rope we were able to pull them in. Meanwhile a widebeam had to sit and wait whilst this all got sorted.
Peace then returned.
In the last few days we have spoken to 4 boaters who have recently purchased old boats and are moving them to London. None of them have moorings but hope to find somewhere or continually cruise. I wonder how long before they are up for sale again.
Tuesday 4th April
Near Hemel Hempstead to Kings Langley
Another day of more locks than miles and Angela again spending more time walking than on the boat.
We also had a swing bridge to negotiate, not ideal at 8:30am. We were very quickly through though and Angela smiled sweetly to the motorists.
After a few locks we came across a small narrowboat aground on the far bank. This was the person we had met a few days ago who was hauling his boat out of locks with a rope. At the second attempt we managed to pull him off the mud and get him afloat with our boat. He didn’t seem to have much idea about steering and having followed us, he went aground again at the next lock. He stayed with us for the rest of the locks and managed to bounce off the lock wall or our boat almost every time.
We left him to continue his way when we moored up at Kings Langley.
Wednesday 5th April
Kings Langley to Cassiobury Park, Watford
Today it was my turn to go aground. Moving to the towpath side to let a hire boat pass on a narrow section, we hit the bottom. Angela was trying to push me off with the pole from the bank, without success. Fortunately a big strong man appeared and he used his muscles to get us afloat again.
Cruising along through the countryside it’s easy to forget the outside world. Passing under the M25 today broke the spell.
Mooring at Cassiobury Park, we were once again hindered by low water levels and had to move along to a second spot to avoid getting stuck.
The park is a wonderful green lung for the people of Watford. Lots of trails to walk, paddling pools (currently closed for refurbishment) a miniature railway and an adventure playground. It being the school holidays and a sunny day, the park was very busy and people were having to wait to use the swings.
Fortunately we are moored far enough away from the noise and have a very peaceful mooring with reeds opposite. We are having a couple of nights here, before setting off again on Friday.
Close to our boat is a Lock Distance post. These were located equidistant above and below locks. If boats were approaching from both directions at once, the first one to their post sounded a whip crack or later a klaxon and got preference on the lock. As this post is out of sight of the lock, I’m guessing there was a lot of cheating.
3 swing bridges