The plan was to head up past Bull’s Bridge junction (where the canal branches off to Paddington, London and the Regent’s Canal) and visit Uxbridge Boat Centre to collect our pump out cap so lovingly dispatched there from Timbuktu or wherever. And then, come back to the junction and head into London.
But the Captain had obviously been listening to other boaters, who said that moorings were a real problem (let alone cat friendly ones), due to “continuous
cruisers moorers” looking for inexpensive digs taking up all the space. (Some 20 boats a month are moving into London at the moment, with none coming out… mooring three and four abreast, something will have to give). The Lee & Stort navigations were nice “once you got north of Hackney Marshes” (quite a way), word was that Limehouse Basin was running out of water, and anyway the transit from Limehouse up the Thames through the City and Westminster was clearly more challenging that we’d originally thought…
Taken with the utter conviction of the weather forecasters that it was going to be hot hot hot, meant that after a short committee meeting the chairpuss decided that plans to do the London Loop would be postponed until a more suitable time. Any specific trips to London attractions (are there any?) could be done by train during the non-boating season. Ah well, we’d rather fancied visiting C#H by boat, but never mind.
Setting off in the already warm sunshine, we’d just emptied Hanwell Bottom Lock, got Song & Dance in and shut the gates when another boat arrived. Opening back up to let him in, we found it was the boat that had led our little convoy down the Thames. Slightly puzzled by the notice at the bottom, which said “Want some help with the Hanwell Locks? Call one of our Tuesday Volunteers…” we wondered what we were supposed to do on any other day of the week.
Anyway, sharing big locks with another crew is always easier, there appeared to be plenty of water, as the pound above was overflowing, and – miraculously – a couple of volunteers appeared to help. We didn’t tell them they’d got the day wrong…
Eight locks later, past lunchtime, with it getting seriously hot, we proceeded out of the last one followed by our companions spurred on by the news that Bulls Bridge junction was only 20 minutes away, and there was a huge Tesco superstore with its own moorings so we could stock up on cold beer etc. etc.
The canal had other ideas. Considering the area, the water was surprisingly clear. It was also full of chopped reeds (whether from a bank cutting exercise that naughtily threw the stuff in the canal, or chopped by propellers off the liberal amount growing underwater we don’t know) and rubbish. Going slower and slower, and losing steerage, we just managed to make it to the bank, and indulged in that favourite pastime called “going down the weed hatch”. It’s even more fun when (a) the engine is hot and (b) it’s a stinking hot day.
Last time we had a major blockage it was caused by an M&S ladies’ twin set near somewhere posh. This time, half an hour’s cursing and swearing extracted large quantities of reeds, some very fine pond weed, several massacred plastic bags, and a sari.
Arriving rather later at Bull’s Bridge, Tesco was suitably raided, and with a look at the restored dry dock under the car park, and a long look up the Paddington Arm, we set off towards Uxbridge looking for the first suitable mooring.
Wandering through Hayes, several bridges had access to shops and services, and were hence busy with boats and towpath drinkers, before we came to Hollybush Bridge, where there were pleasant mooring on one side next to an overgrown country park, and a large, quiet, windowless brick warehouse type of place on the other. The moment we stopped to check it out, Biggles jumped on shore to check it out and disappeared into the woods. That’ll do us, then…