Jac’s first long trip – Through London to the Lee and Stort

Wednesday 31st August 2022

We had been planning to set off a little sooner, but various things delayed us – including a trip to Cambridge for Fiona to sing with her choir at a number of venues. The River Cam and the nearby Great Ouse looked inviting as a future destination.

Narrow Lock on the Aylesbury

Final preparations were completed by 10:27, when we cast off from Circus Field Basin. The trip up the Aylesbury arm was familar, and we were at lock 12 by 12:15, where the CRT staff where putting up new signage – they had run out of screws, so I gave them one from the toolbox. Licence fees, monthly donations and hardware – doing my bit for the canals! A brief lunch was taken after lock 9, we needed to clear the prop at 14:15 and found a mooring opposite the long closed and almost derelict White Lion just before the Marsworth locks on the main line at 16:00. A mandatory visit the the Red Lion, cooking on board and a peaceful night.

Thursday 1 September

The Marsworth flight was locked overnight, but when we set off at 9:15, the padlocks have been removed and we were greeted by volunteer lockkeepers and that really speeded things up – five locks in 70 minutes! This put us ahead of schedule. Lunch below Dudswell lock for 90 minutes and then mooring below Bushes lock at 15:40. A visit to The George on Berkhamstead High Street was a bit weird as we were so close to home.

Friday 2nd September

The next pound between Gas Lock 1 and Gas Lock 2 was very low on water when we set off at 9:15, so on the advice of another boater we drained a little down before entering the first lock, so it took us until 10:15 to get past the second.

Lower Kings Road Bridge

The journey through Berkhamsted was new to Jac as we cruised a section of canal which was very familar to us` from the towpath. Through the Rising Sun lock at 11:10, we were only a few minutes from home. At 13:55 we moored up for an hours lunch below the Winkwell Swing Bridge.

By 15:55 we had found a mooring for the night just beyond the Fisheries Inn at Boxmoor, near Hemel Station, and that evening walked up the hill to a backstreet pub called The Post Office – a bit of a hidden gem! we treated ourselves to the first meal out at the Indian Restaurant in Boxmoor High Street, and very good it was too.

The follwing day involved no boating – Fiona had a choir concert at St Peters Church in Berko, so we spent the night at home, even though I revisted to boat to check up on it, which was a good job as the ropes had become slack.

Sunday 4th September

By the simple expedient of getting a bus (on a Sunday!) we returned to the boat and were underway by 10:40. We teamed up with a single-handed boat called Suzie Too to share locks with until Kings Langley. Lunch was just after the Red Lion Lock for 30 minutes and we moored at Hunton Bridge at 15:25. We decided to try the bar at the Kings Lodge Hotel. While it might have seen better days, the Tring Beer was excellent and the post Sunday Lunch crowd entertaining. The weather is staying warm – a trend which will last through September, so it’s still t-shirt and sunglasses in the pub gardens.

Monday 5th September

We left Hunton Bridge at 9:40. Locks 75-76 in Cassiobury park very low. Lunch after lock 76. Moored as planned after Batchworth but before Stockers lock at 15:40 Explored Rickmansworth – maybe don’t need to explore it again – had one drink in each of the nearby pubs except the White Bear.

Tuesday 6th September

Set off at 8:55, and got a pump out and bought some paint. in Harefield Marina The pound between Black Jack and Widewater locks was weedy and low – took longer to get through. Moored just befor Denham Deep lock for lunch 13-14:00 – the cafe at the lock didn’t look very inviting. After lunch we travelled until 14:55 to the 24hr moorings next to the Swan and Bottle Carpark, opposite the Marina entrance – looked a bit unpromising but actually a good quiet mooring. The Crown and Treaty had some interesting beers, but it was quiz night, so we moved back to the Swan and Bottle.

Wednesday 7th September

Setting off at 10:30, we reached Bulls Bridge and turned left, mooring up for lunch by 13:35 for an hour. Now the long run into Padding began – not looks and morring becoming increasingly sparse, but we had a booking at Padington Basin, which was sitting empty for us at 18:30. We explored locally, and then settled in for the night Paddingtom basin has lots of interesting places to eat (including a Gail’s Cafe). The following moring we got the train home to do some washing, returning on the 9th. Spent 10th in Paddington as well due to incorrect notice from CRT – a bridge on Regent’s canal was said to be blocked. Walked along and it wasn’t, but moved boat onto 7 day space which was free, and stayed an extra night.

Sunday 11th September

We left early today as we were unsure about mooring – 08:20! We travel through Little Venice, Maida Hill Tunnel and past the Zoo and then start working locks. the journey through London was busy, both with trip boats and Liveabords moving after their 2 weeks were up. Turning onto the Hertford Union we found a mooring straight away but very very lucky – don’t want to rely on this on the way back. Didn’t stop for lunch and stopped at 13:40. Fiona explored Victoria Park while I recovered from lock duty. The Lord Morpeth had a pinball machine (but fizzy beer), the Eleanor Arms was more traditional with some real ale.

Monday 12th September

Another early start at 8:50, as we are again unsure about mooring. We soon pass through 3 locks to leave the Hertford Union and turn left onto the Lee – a much wider waterway altogether. As predicted, any space that can be used as a mooring is occupied. The first few locks here are fully mechanised, so it’s just a case of pressing buttons. We have lunch below Alfie’s Lock, which has strong currents, and the paddles must be opened a bit at a time.

We find a decent mooring at 16:30, just above Enfield lock. Enfield Lock “village” is a redevelopment of the old Ordance works, now with community housing and a convience store. We also visit The Greyhound, a McMullens pub on the cut.

Tuesday 13th September

A short day today, to make up for yesterday, we leave Enfield at 10:05 and stop at 13:05 to spend some time poking about Waltham Abbey. Abbey beautiful, town not so much – between Tesco and Co-op we got everything we needed shopping wise, but we struggled to find a nice pub – all McMullens and none of them had more than one beer on.

Wednesday 14th September

Set off at 9:15 and then took on water at Fielde’s Weir – 25 mins. Lots of moorings available after Fielde’s Lock, although they are opposite the race track (Rye Mill). For lunch we moored above Dobb’s Weir 13:15-14:15. Taking the left fork up the Lee, and at 16:15 we just grabbed the last space at Stansted Abbots- literally squeezed in to the inch. Village lovely, 2 nice pubs, and we got Fish & Chips from Seaway.

Thursday 15th September

We doubled back the Lee Valley Marina to top up the desiel (70 litres took it to 8″ from the top of the tank) and emptied the bins. at 10:05 we set off. Originally heading for Ware first but decided to crack on to Hertford as were told mooring there was trickier than in Ware. Originally planned to spend two days in Hertford but will move on after one, as we’ve seen everything we want to plus we need to catch the day up that we lost in Paddington.We got the only good space so good decision, we moored at 13:05 Lunch in town. Found best pub of the trip so far in the evening – the Old Cross Inn.

Friday 16th September

A late start at 11am, Turned round in the town and took the short trip to Ware – good mooring opposite the Gazebos at 12:50 – quite impressed with the town.

Saturday 17th September

9:30, leaving Ware (this was the first of the videos I posted) we returned to the fork and turned left up the Stort. This is much more like a river, and a fairly small one at that. Royden Mill is a village with 3 pubs marked – there’s only two now, both nice though. Explored huge new marina just below our mooring. Moored on rings next to a little road leading there, opposite the train station at 12:40.

Sunday 18th September

9:30 start. Arrived Harlow town lock at 1300 – checked out moorings for the return journey, but pressed on to Saewbridgeworth and arrived at 14:20. A few spaces before Sheering Mill Lock, rest of bank looks scrubby until after Sawbridgeworth Lock, where there are good moorings and managed to get a space below Sheering lock and walk into town from there. Lovely place – nice pubs, plus good Mexican meal up on the main road. Took an hour longer to get here than we thought it would, river quite narrow and twisty now but we are getting used to it.

Monday 19th September

Today is the Queen’s funeral. Ww set of at 9:15 Moored at 13:00 on visitor mooring rings at end of the line We are at Bishop’s Stortford – moorings very unkempt and down a steep bank, we had to do a lot of weeding to make it safe. Town is largely closed but pubs opened in the evening – clearly a lovely place when it’s open! In the afternoon we had a long walk in the park that is the site of an archelogical dig on the site of Stane Street.

And now it’s time to go home!

Tuesday 20th September

Took on water in Bishop’s Stortford before leaving. at 8:35 oon the return journey. Lunch just down from Sawbridgeworth 12:40 to 13:45. There were moorings above Spellbrook lock, but we cruised straight on to Harlow. Moored on 48 hour moorings with rings just above Harlow Mill Lock.at 14:50 and then took a long walk towards Harlow. Visited a number of shop looking for bit to improve the boat and ended up in Screwfix!. Returned via Harlow Old Town which has some history to it and ended up in a pub called The Crown.

Wednesday 21st September

The Beefeater opposite the lock only sold Doombar, so we were glad we gave it a swerve the night before. Set off at 9:30, stopping a the same spot in Roydon for lunch 12:30 to 13:40. The Fish and Eels opposite Dobbs Weir has good moorings but does not allow overnight stays. even if eating at the pub. Moored just below the lock landing after Dobb’s Wier at 15:45 – fantastic walk in Lee country park. Could have had a mooring at both Carthagena lock and Broxbourne as luck would have it, but Dobb’s Weir was good and worth looking at in the fading light. We still gave the Fish and Eels a visit, but just for a pint, and ate on the boat.

Thursday 22nd September

Setting off at 10am, we had a couple of changes of plan today, based on not trusting being able to find a mooring on the Hertford Union. Stopped for Lunch at 12:30-13:30. In the end we stopped shorter than we had planned back at Enfiled, moored before the bridge next to the Crown at 15:10. Walked into Enfield, got bus back and ended up back at Crown – much nicer!

Friday 23rd September

Set off at 9:30. We found a lucky mooring spot at Stonebridge 12:30-13:30, and took the Limehouse Cut.We had decided to go to Limehouse after phoning the Basin – very confusing info but upshot was we stayed on the Wall for free – grabbed last space at 17:00 as the St Pancras C.C were there lining up to go up the Thames for Light Festival. The Grapes was an interesing pub ovelooking the river.

Saturday 24th September

Our trip back through central London began at 10:15 as we didn’t have much to do today. The canal was busy with boats and the towpath full of people walking in the sunshime. A space opened up at Victoria Park for lunch 12:45-13:30, but it was across a water outlet and would not have made a suitable overnight stop. We had booked the mooring at the London Canal Museum, arrived at 15:35 and visited museum before it shut, and went to see Light Festival in the evening so plenty to do.

Sunday 25th September

We had to leave by 10am and only had to get back to Paddington Basin, so even with lots of boats we were there at 13:00 – the time that the pontoon was ours! The next three days included a trip home, a treat at the Cheese barge, a drink with Tom Poole, and visits to Covent Garden and the National Museum – £12 a night for a spot right in the centre of London.

Thursday 29th September

Wedensday evening have been marred by a full pumpout tank – that’s about 17 days on board, so note to self – empty it every 2 weeks! I had to syphon some liquid out and walk it to the the elsan point at Little Venice the night before. Setting off early (07:55) Stopped a few times – pump out and gas at Northolt High Line Yachting for 20 mins and something on the prop for 15 mins, plus lunch just after boatyard in Northolt. So stopped for 1′ 30″ ish in total. Saw Cowley moorings on way down and thought they looked better than Uxbridge or Denham. Tied up at 16:25. A bit of a walkabout tonight – we had stayed at a pub called The Watersedge a few years back when we cycled the Grand Union. Eventually ended up in The Malt Shovel back at the Canal!

Friday 30th September

09:40- 14:45, lunch 12:20-13:30. Changed original plans to stop at all the places we missed on the way down. Moored for lunch just below Widewater lock – there is poor mooring in this pound all the way up to opposite the marina. Widewater – Black Jack pound still very weedy but not as low as it was on the way down. Good mooring just before Copper Mill lock – but it tipped down and we didn’t get a chance to walk into Harefield or to the Old Orchard which was our target pub, ended up in Coy Carp at the lock but it was very nice there so stayed for a meal to get dry. This was the first time we had eaten out for many days.

Saturday 1st October

09:30-15:50, lunch 12:50-14:05, Stopped on Tesco moorings to shop, had cheeky lunch while we were there. Aiming to moor between Lots Mead and Common Moor lock, but ended up moored just above Common Moor lock – very good moorings right at the bottom of the road up into Croxley Green.Walked into Croxley Green and visited The Artichoke and The Anchor Tap and Bottle – a tiny craft beer shop with some interesting choices.

Sunday 2nd October

A long day by current standards – 09:30 to 17:30, but stopped for water for 25 mins and lunch for 75! Good moorings after bridge 162, Hunton Bridge. Kings Head. Moored before King’s Langley lock – about half way down pound. On our own, but good moorings – weedy on either side but we found a bit of arnco and a rope loop so someone had moored there before! Easy walk up into KL. Canal very busy still. In the Saracen’s Head that evening I began to feel a bit flu-like but it did not occur to me that it might be something worse.

Monday 3rd October

Woke up early feeling rough, and a covid test was positive. Given that a journey home would have to be by public transport and Fiona was likely to have it as well, we decided to crack on as far as we can towards Berko, keeping well away from others. 09:30 to 12:45, Lunch below Fishery Inn – debated whether to stay there and decided to push on at 14:00 as far as we could to get near home. Picked up another couple who had covid to share locks with so got to Berko in good order – moored up below Riser lock just before LIttle Bridge at 17:30. Boat in a safe place so walk home now for a week to recover.

Monday 10th October

Tests all clear now, Fiona on 4th day of symptoms but actually feeling much the same so we judge that if we keep ourselves to ourselves and not go to the pub, then ok to finish journey whilst weather glorious. Good mooring just beyond Cow Roast marina, next to their carpark. Moor up in time for lunch and quiet afternoon recuperating. !0:05 to 13:35

Tuesday 11th October

09:50 to 12:35. Another short day to recuperate in afternoon. Found mooring just beyond final lock at Marsworth – could have moored in pound btwn 40-39 which is alongside the reservoir as there isn’t much space after the lock before the junction with Arm, however luckily there was a space so all well. Glorious walk around startops reservoir.

Wednesday 12th October

10:15 to 15:00. Bashed back without lunch break as pounds very low in places – particularly between 7-8 (Jeffries) and the one after Wilstone. Got back without incident though.

So, in summary, a great trip with some interesting places visited and a bit of a damp squid at the end. 408 Lock Miles including 219 locks. We spend just under 130 hours on the move – just over 3 lock miles an hour.