Thursday, 30 April 2015

Correct weather forecast

The forecast was for rain at midday and fine in the afternoon.  When we woke it was fine and decision to move before the rain was made.  Last night’s mooring below Cartagena Lock was OK but the car passing on the adjacent metal road made some noise.  More importantly, the sound of stones flicking against the side of the cabin provided a powerful motivating reason to move.

During last night’s walk I noticed what appeared to be an abandoned bridge.

Looking at the site in Google Earth gives no indication of why the bridge is here.

The gradient of the bridge is not acute and the construction is substantial suggesting it was built to carry a heavy load.  The carriageway isn’t very wide suggesting it might be an abandoned railway bridge?

The 24 hour moorings outside The Crown were vacant but we didn’t stop electing to press on making the most of the fine weather.

The plan was to stop just beyond bridge 147A.  From here it’s a 3km walk to the Brookfield Centre where there is a large Tesco.  We had no sooner moored and the heavens opened.  The walk to Tesco for lunch was going to be delayed.

We have both a ‘dot’ and DTV signals.  In the end I walked to Tesco in light rain arriving back at Waiouru just as the sun put in an appearance. 

After a late lunch another coat of paint was applied to that splinter hole on the rear door liner.  The depression is now full.  It will be interesting to see what the door looks like after the final topcoat.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Back to Hoddesdon

There was a water meadow adjacent to last night’s mooring and I happened to notice more of those square concrete columns running across it in a line.  This time I could see over the top and confirm there was a grate with vent holes.

The red arrows mark the furthest two columns and the line of trees marks the River Stort.  The columns continue on the other side of the river.  It is a pipeline and with the holes in the grate I suspect it’s not for fresh water.  When I smelt the air from the vent it seemed to be stale water.  I think this might be a stormwater or drainage pipeline.  There was a fourth column in overgrown shrubs beside the river.  I managed to take a photo of a concrete sign beside the column.

“WATER CP”   I understand the water but what do the initials CP mean?

The shop in the lock side cottage at Roydon Lock was closed. Perhaps we were too early!

The CRT contractors were busily working below the lock.  Jan asked them what they were doing only to see four blank faces.  Eventually one slowly said “I……speak……no……English!”  A fifth worker arrived and explained they were strengthening the lower lock approach wall and footbridge abutments.

If you look closely at the above photo you can see the threaded steel rods that have been grouted into the lock approach wall.  My assumption is a large steel plate will be placed over each rod and then a nut added.  By tightening the nut the cracked and sagging approach wall with be secured.  I found it interesting that only one of the workers spoke English.  The other four were east european.  It appears companies find it cheaper to import skilled labour rather than going to the expense of training them.  Something similar exists in Australia with employers allowed to import “skilled employees” on temporary 457 visas.  My personal opinion is that if a company has to import skilled labour they they should pay a training levy (a percentage of the company annual payroll) to assist in the training of suitable nationals. 

We moved on slowly with locks passing at regular intervals eventually arriving at the junction of the Lee & Stort.  Jan was about to open both gates at our first lock on the Lee when she realised we were back to wide double locks and Waiouru would fit through one gate.

The plan was to stop for the day on the moorings above Dobbs Weir Lock but they were full.  Probably because there is an adjacent pub and it’s the closest location to the supermarkets in Hoddesdon.  We carried on to the next lock (Carthagena) where there is a water tap in the lock.  A kind local boater arrived to help Jan with the lock.  Well he wasn’t that local being another of those Aussies who owns a boat in the UK and a home in the Blue Mountains behind Sydney.  Another of those antipodeans who gets two summers each year. Smile

Still no sign of that forecast rain.  If it is fine tomorrow we will probably keep going.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

A big sucker and a long day

Despite the predicted forecast it has been a very pleasant day.  The first boating task was to move forward to the CRT services at Bishop’s Stortford where we wrestled with the big green snake.  Eventually we managed to uncoil it and shove its nose down Waiouru’s hole.  Jan fed one of the two CRT cards we bought at Aldermaston in 2011 into the slot and the snake started to suck.  Boy did it suck!  We last emptied the toilet tank a month ago and today it had just reached half full.  The pump was so powerful it only took a few minutes to empty the tank.  It was probably the quickest pump out we’ve had to date!

A load of laundry was finished whilst we were moored at the services and then the water tank was topped up.  With the pump out connect is at the stern the idea is to leave the filling of the water tank to last thereby ensuring Waiouru is bow high.  .

Twyford House is situated a short distance from Twyford Lock.  It’s large Queen Anne style building from the mid to late 1700s.

At one stage the house was rented to Ralph Rhodes, brother of Cecil Rhodes (Rhodesia and Rhodes Scholarships).  At the beginning of WW2 is was requisitioned by the War Office and use as a maternity hospital for expectant mothers – mostly single mother evacuees from London’s East End.  Almost 700 babies were born there during the war.  After the war the estate was sold to a local builder who converted it into a hotel.  When that failed he converted it into apartments before going bankrupt.  Another building contractor purchased the property and converted it into maisonettes and offices.  He went into liquidation.  It is currently used as offices and accommodation.

Despite almost all the locks being against us we made steady progress south.  Having a set routine for doing locks makes the passage both quick and easy.  there was a slight holdup at Sawbridgeworth lock where we came upon an elderly couple (anyone older than us these days is classed as elderly) attempting to get their boat into the lock around that same inconsiderate boater who has left their boat moored on the lock landing.  Jan and I helped the couple through that lock, and the next two, until they stopped for water.  They did offer to let us pass but we told them we weren’t in a hurry.

Jan has been suffering from bronchitis and hasn’t been feeling the best.  Despite this she put in a sterling effort to see us arriving at Harlow around 3pm.  No vacant moorings so we pushed on finding a nice spot above Hunsdon Lock at 4.30pm. 

No dot in the sky but there is internet and a strong DTV signal. If it rains tomorrow then we will likely stay moored.  The stove flue has been re-erected in anticipation of the mercury falling.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Sunday Lunch

It rained rather heavily during the night and we awoke to a slightly cold morning.  Jan started the Refleks stove whilst I went to the stern to check if my Tesco bag raincoat had worked.  After peeling off the plastic the masking tape was removed from around the diesel filler point and breather.  To my surprise it doesn’t look that bad.  Perhaps I need to do all my painting with an artists brush!

A closer view

I’d like to give the new black paint on the counter a polish but we were told when the boat was first painted not to polish new paint for the first six weeks as it is still hardening.  Well that Is the stern deck done for the year.  One of the timber panel liners on the stern doors has developed a blister in the paintwork.  Actually it developed the blister late last year and I have only just got around to fixing it. When I sanded it back several holes appeared the panel as splinters were freed.  These holes need to be filled before the panel is repainted.  The obvious solution is to buy some filler but the holes are so small it seemed like a waste of money.  The alternative strategy is to keep applying layers of paint to fill the holes.  This seems to be working.

The larger of the holes used to be 3mm deep but it should be gone with another couple of applications of paint. 

Meanwhile Jan could hear squeaking from inside the cabin.  She opened the side hatch to see mum go by with her brood.

Lunch was at “The Spoons”.  Both of us attempted to select a dish that might not be cooked reheated using a microwave.  I chose the mixed grill and Jan had the chicken cheese melt.

A pint of tap beer or cider was included in the price of each meal.  Jan only drinks a half of cider but when I told the barman just give me a half instead of a pint I was told “If you want a half you’ll have to pay for it.  But if you ask for a pint it’s free!”  Can you work out the logic?  Neither could I!  Of course Jan didn’t drink half the pint of cider.

Another longish walk around the greater Bishop’s Stortford area in the afternoon.  More of those former malthouses on the eastern side of the town.  They now appear to be occupied by a variety of fast food outlets.

On reflection the town appears to be suffering from an infestation of thriving fast food outlets. 

The Rivermill looked an interesting restaurant.  Actually it’s a chinese restaurant and takeaway!

All the recent rain has made us wonder whether the River Stort has risen and if we will fit under that low bridge on the way back?

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Noisy and wet

Jan awoke around 3am to the sound of noisy yobs crossing the bridge on their way home.  A pity it hadn’t started raining earlier as that might have dampened their enthusiasm.  This morning the weather was passing showers with me deciding (or not) whether to do more painting.  In the end it was delayed whilst we listened to the ‘domestic’ in one of the flats opposite.  He was yelling and she was shrieking with every second word starting with ”F”.  It was uglier than lipstick on a pig!  Eventually they exhausted themselves and things were quiet for an hour before one of the young female residents came out on her balcony to loudly share her boyfriend problems on the phone with her girlfriend.  Eventually she realised she was shouting and we were listening (ready to applaud).

The weather looked better after lunch so I rubbed down and painted the area around the two stern diesel inlet points.  The sky then clouded over so I cut up a Tesco bag and covered over the wet paint.

Hopefully everything will look OK tomorrow.

Jan has been doing more genealogy research and discovered I have an ancestor on my mother’s side who lived, and died here in Bishop’s Stortford.  Another lesser known person was born here.  Someone called Cecil Rhodes, who apparently had a country named after him, along with some scholarships.

I’ve been attempting to work out whether we are in Bishop’s Stortford or Bishops Stortford.  I’ve seen it spelt both ways!  Wikipedia states in 1060 William Bishop bought the Stortford manor and estate for eight pounds leading to the town’s modern name.  My rudimentary knowledge of english suggests the spelling should therefore be Bishop’s Stortford.  Interestingly the River Stort is named after the town rather than the reverse.  The town Corn Exchange was established in 1821.

The proliferation of corn exchanges in England appears to have been a consequence of the Napoleonic Wars during which the importation of grains almost ceased.  As a result England significantly increased the national production of wheat.  After the wars the farmers didn’t want to compete with cheap imported grains and managed to have parliament pass laws to restrict the importation of wheat.  It wasn’t too had to achieve this as most members of parliament were major land owners.  However the high price of wheat also resulted in high bread prices for the average citizen and adversely affected national productivity.  My vague recollection of english history suggests eventually there were corn riots and deaths when soldiers fired on the crowds.

Another walk around the area this evening had me looking for a suitable Sunday lunch venue.  Unfortunately it was unsuccessful so we may be dining at “The Spoons” tomorrow.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Changing the awful and correcting the spelling

The last daily post didn’t include the photo of the newly painted fake rivet tops on the water tank hatch.  Jan has more than suggested the clash of colours couldn’t be much worse.  You judge!

After considerable thought and being mindful of the consequences of not taking action, the rivet heads have been repainted.

The small patch on the roof under one of the solar panels has also been given a first top coat.

Blog reader Bill sent us an email pointing out my incorrect spelling of Hertford.  However he missed the incorrect spelling of Bishop’s Stortford so he doesn’t get the bonus point.  Bill also passed on some interesting information regarding the mills

When the mills were built the rivers probably already had boats being worked along them, locks as we know them came later, the best way to move large loads was by water and London would have needed flour and grain, remember in the seventeen hundreds Thames barges would be bow hauled from Reading to Newbury up the river Kennet [yes river] by men in a day, so the Stort would have been much the same,

When locks came along mill owners had mill ponds built to help the water flow, this also meant water levels stayed pretty much the the same, some mill ponds were some way from the mill but a leet [a small man made water course] would have been built to aid the flow.

Yesterday evening I went for a local walk visiting the nearby “city park”.  At the southern end is Waytemore Castle.  The Normans built a motte and bailey wooden castle on the site.  The motte being an artificial mound with a timber or stone keep on top.  It was usually surrounded by a enclosed courtyard (the Bailey).  By the Tudor period all that remained of the castle was the motte.

The base of the motte is now circled by a shoulder high hedge.  My intention was to walk to the top but I discovered the gate was locked with a council health and safety notice stating entry was barred because there were sharp and uneven stones on the top which might pose a hazard to children.  Looking up I noticed three youths mucking around at the top.  Chaining the gate obviously only prevents adults!

We went for a stroll around the town.  Bishop’s Stortford has been able to retain some of it’s earlier character  with most of the High Street shops located in an inconspicuous shopping mall.

Jan particularly wanted to visit Coopers of Stortford.  She bought a small dehumidifier online from Coopers when we were living on the hire boat at Aldermaston in 2011.  The store is reasonably large and located in a former malt kiln.  Their website states

Situated on the Hertfordshire/Essex border, there has been a business premises on our Bridge Street site for more than 300 years, trading from the original 16th century timber framed building.

This charming building is made up of three linked premises including a 19th century malthouse.  Our main shop entrance leads into the original 16th century timber-frame building where, on the ceiling (currently above the cookshop), can be seen examples of original, early pargetting (plaster ceiling decoration) which would have been undertaken by highly skilled craftsmen.  The offices above the shop remain a labyrinth of passages with beamed ceilings and sloping floors and, amazingly, there is still a section of 17th century wooden paneling remaining.

Further along the High Street I noticed a shop I was sure Jan would want to visit.  I was right! 

The owner of the boat moored in front of us arrived back at his boat today.  He asked if we were aware we (and he) were on 24 hour moorings.  That was a surprise to me as we had passed the 14 Day Mooring sign when we arrived.  He had been on the moorings for five days and received an email from CRT notifying him he must move.  According to him CRT are patrolling all of the Lee & Stort every 7 days as part of a plan to eliminate continuous moorers.  Later in the day we bow hauled Waiouru so she was moored beside the 14 Day sign.  This proved to be quite fortuitous as we can now receive a signal from the ‘dot in the sky’ and also have terrestrial.

Not long after this a boat familiar to Pip & Mick (nb Lillyanne) arrived, winded and moored behind us.

Looks like we have a prime mooring for the weekend.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Hot Welsh Dragons and Awful

With a weather forecast of cloudy in the morning and sunny in the afternoon we decided to move after breakfast.  The forecast for Friday and the weekend is showers so we want to be settled before that occurs.
Four locks today with the first two against us and the last two in our favour.  At Twyford Lock there is another former mill which is now a residence.  We’ve noticed that there appears to be signs of a former mill at almost every lock.  One wonders if the mill owners were upset by the converting of the river to a navigation.
As we have cruised further up the River Stort we’ve noticed a number of locks have large oval plaques on one of the lower lock approach walls.  For a second I was wondering what the initial RSN meant but almost immediately realised River Stort Navigation.
Since entering the Lee & Stort we’ve noticed several large patches of river with the surface covered with the “stuff” in the following photo taken today.
Dirty cassette owners have been emptying the contents over the side.  Well that’s what it looks like! Winking smile  Jan thinks it is coming from the trees.
A large barn owl watched us pass and didn’t give two hoots when his photo was taken.
The Pride of Stortford was moored above Southmill Lock.
This is the third cleaner we have seen since arriving in the greater London area.  Only one of them has been seen working and that was in Little Venice.   Which was probably the cleanest area we’ve visited?
A little further on from Southmill Lock we passed a boat going in the opposite direction.  It’s the first moving boat we have passed in the last five days.  The steerer told us there were plenty of good moorings at the end of the navigation in Bishop's Stortford.  This was good news as we were concerned moorings might have been as scarce as our time at Hertford.
We winded Waiouru and reversed down the arm to moor close to the end of the navigation. 
Can’t reverse back any further as it Is too shallow. 
After lunch we wandered into town finding a local butcher.  Jan bought some of his Welsh Dragon sausages.  Apparently their ingredients include leek (Welsh connection) and a good serving of chilli.  Hot Welsh Dragons!  Later in the afternoon I painted the heads of the rivets on the water tank hatch.  Jan has told me I have NO colour coordination and they look awful!  Looks like they will be repainted at some future date.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Fuller than a Trout

A very misty and crisp start to the day.  The weather forecast for the weekend isn’t that great so it’s probably time to move.

A quick trip to Tesco restocked the cupboards in the galley.  Whilst there Jan noticed a joint roll of gammon on special and decided to buy it for dinner tonight. 

We were about to depart our mooring when I noticed some activity in the lock behind us.  A lady was beckoning me so I walked down to find out what was happening.  The three ladies around the lock were off a hotel boat that was stuck attempting to exit the lock through the lower gates.  Both gates hadn’t fully opened and the steerer had managed to wedge the boat in the opening.  The crew had been unsuccessfully attempting to free the boat by trying to remove the obstruction between the gate and the lock wall.  After watching for several minutes I suggested they open both top paddles to let more water into the lock whilst simultaneously putting the boat into full reverse.  This worked!  The crew were then able to remove the log from behind one gate which allowed the boat to exit the lock with an inch to spare.

We then headed off in the opposite direction stopping at Harlow Mill Lock to top up the water tank.  Good pressure from the tap meant it was a brief stop.

There are new residential apartments on the offside at Sheering Mill Lock.  They look rather attractive except there are no garages.  It appears to be one of those developments that gives the appearance of embracing boats when they really want them to stay away.  The development surrounds an old canal basin which has finger moorings, but no boats.  The bank has well maintained mooring bollards but ‘No Mooring’ signs.

Glimpse of the basin and vacant finger moorings.

Today the route of the river has been twisting and winding with a number of sharp bends.  Perhaps we have been fortunate that there are few boats on the move.  At this point we were on the southern outskirts of Sawbridgeworth.  A former malt kiln has been converted and now is a centre for a variety of small businesses.

The last lock for the day was Sawbridgeworth Lock on the northern edge of the village.  Some considerate boater had moored on the upper lock landing.  I guess it saved them having to use pins.

The ground floor level of the lock side cottages appear to be below the water level in the lock.  I wonder if they suffer from rising damp?

After dinner (the gammon from Denmark was delicious) I went for a walk around the village.  This canal side property looked interesting.  I think it is probably a former mill.

To the immediate right of the above photo is what appears to be a former mill race.

By now it was going on dusk.  No requirement for me to look for a dessert tonight as I must have swallowed more miggies than all the local fish walking back to Waiouru.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Local walk with a twist

What a great day for a local walk.  Sunny, not a cloud in the sky and warm temperatures.  A route of approximately 18km was planned using local public footpaths from the OSM.  You can see the planned and actual routes in the screen dump below.   Red is planned and purple is actual.  I didn’t record the beginning of the actual route.  The idea was to see if some high ground could be reached in an effort to get an idea of the terrain.

It was a gentle stroll of 3.5 hours as I’m breaking in a new pair of ‘all terrain’ shoes (Meindl from Germany).  Thirty years ago I would have broken them in by wearing them in the shower for 15 minutes getting them well soaked and then continue to wear them wet for the remainder of the day.  By then they would have moulded to the shape of my wrinkly feet.  Today I took a second (older) pair of shoes with me and changed ¾ of the way around once the new shoes started to rub.

After 4km I ended up on some slightly higher ground with views to the south.  It is almost impossible to see in the following photo, but with the naked eye it was possible to see Harlow (left arrow) and the Scottish Power generating station at the junction of the Rivers Lee & Stort at Hoddesdon (right arrow).

The hedgerows are in bloom and this next part of the local footpath was well mowed.

A couple of kilometres later I arrived at the junction of three narrow lanes.  Standing on the verge in full view and without a care in the world was this…..

No time to get out the camera so I took a photo with the cheap, low resolution camera in the gps.  Can you see the peacock in the middle ground to the right.  To the left, and out of view, were three peahens.  They were still behind the wire.  Mr Peacock might be an escape artist.  Further down the Bridle Path five birds were foraging in the sunlight.

Guinea Fowl according to Jan.  She tells me they are tasty.  Never tried them myself….. only guineapig! Smile The farmers around here are either growing rape or corn.  The rape appears to be coming along faster than the corn.

Halfway through the walk I noticed a bright red windsock and what appeared to be the radio and control tower for an airfield (point A on the map above).  But the field between them had corn growing in it?

Then I realised the two parallel grass runways were over my right shoulder along with a hanger and buildings painted green.

During WW2 this airfield was RAF Hunsdon and it was from here that in February 1944 the N°140 Wing (Mosquito’s) implemented Operation Jericho attacking Amiens prison in occupied France.  The aim of the operation was to free a large number of capture members of the French Resistance who were scheduled for execution.  In a precision attack the Mosquito’s were able to breach the outer prison walls and kill many of the guards.  Unfortunately about 100 prisoners were also killed and more than 50% of the escapees were subsequently recaptured.  The raid was carried out by No. 21 Squadron RAF, 464 Squadron (Australia) RAF, and 487 Squadron (New Zealand) RAF.  So both an Aussie and Kiwi connection to the airfield.

At one point the planned route almost doubled back on itself.  That’s when I noticed the stately home off to the right.  This is Gilston Park House, which in 1851 replaced an earlier house on the same site (point B on the map above).

In the late 1990’s is was purchased and converted to 31 apartments as part of a program of country house conversion.  Additional homes were constructed in the adjacent grounds.

During the final part of the walk I noticed two more of those 6ft high concrete plinths in the middle of a boggy meadow.  I managed to climb a tree (something not done for quite some years!) and took a distant photo of the top of the plinth (point C on the map).

It has a grate!  My conclusion is these plinths must be part of a stormwater or drainage system!  The footpath actually took me near this plinth only for me to discover 40 metres of the path was actually swamp.  I ended up wading through mud halfway up my calves. Wrong pair of shoes got a good soaking!

Back on Waiouru Jan had taken the final bag of last years blackberries from the freezer and baked a blackberry sponge pudding. <good girl>.  This afternoon we spend time going through the clothing lockers working on the principle of “If in doubt – throw it out!”  My winter pyjamas and long-john underwear have been cut up for rags. 

We bought them thinking it would be cold on Waiouru. I wore the winter pyjamas during our first winter on the hire boat in Aldermaston as it was very cold with the walls dripping condensation, but Waiouru is so warm I could now go “commando” during winter.  Jan doesn’t seem nearly as keen!