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Summer 2006 trip to the National Waterways Festival.

Including the River Thames and Shakespeare's Avon

Part 1

After 7 weeks on land, and a superb 30th anniversary party, it was time to go boating again. We hadn’t really planned to go back to the Thames so soon, but we couldn’t resist the offer of a cheap licence for boats attending the IWA National Festival. So resolving to spend August on the Thames, we consulted the tide tables and booked a 6pm departure through Brentford Locks on 1st August (pre-booking was necessary because there was no suitable tide for several days within the normal operating hours of the locks).

Heading south from Milton Keynes in superb sunshine, we stopped below Denham Deep Lock to ask what was happening; it turned out that the local Country Park was having an open day and was including the canal in its weekend with boat trips and other displays. We spent a happy day there; Debbie particularly enjoyed having a massage at one of the stalls while I watched an impressive display by some birds of prey. At one of the canalside displays I learned that the reason Denham Lock is so deep, is that the canal had to be raised high enough at that point to cross an aqueduct over the river which fed the local mills.

 

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Colne Valley Park has seats shaped like beetles ...
... and some impressive aerial sculptures
There were Morris dancers ...
... and some birds of prey ...
... who gave an impressive flying display ...
... making their handler duck out of the way as they swooped

 

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We had a good meal at the Fisheries in Hemel Hempstead
We hadn't actually intended to moor up inside the lock anyway
Freight is still returning to the canals
A brand new freight depot under construction on the Paddington Arm
The aqueduct over the North Circular Road ...
...and the traffic underneath it

There were a few days to spare for a diversion down the lock-free Paddington Arm to Little Venice. Mooring up in the newly refurbished Paddington Basin (excellent moorings but no grass for the dogs to use) we walked through into the Edgware Road; for a few moments we stared at the chaotic traffic, at the hordes of hurrying pedestrians, and at the brightly-lit shops, with our mouths agape like country bumpkins. It had been a long time since we lived and worked in London, and now we just couldn’t cope with it; quickly we retraced our steps to the sanctuary of our world on the boat.

 

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Approaching Paddington you see houses ancient ...
... and modern
The local school children have created some wonderful murals
Moored in Paddington Basin
Passing through London Zoo (this is the Snowdon Aviary)
Macclesfield Bridge, aka "Blow-Up" Bridge

Back at Bulls Bridge we moored on the Tesco mooring for a much-needed shopping expedition. Again the dogs didn’t like it much as there was virtually no grass, so we pulled across to the opposite bank for them. The next morning we were really surprised by how easy a trip we had down the Hanwell flight, and by how much cleaner and generally more friendly the whole area was than when we’d been before. The main factor seemed to be that everywhere had been opened up so that the canal was now a part of the district instead of being hidden away behind fences. We moored just at the bottom of the flight to take the dogs for a run in the fields, and had a wonderful lunch and several excellent beers at the marvellous “Fox” pub hidden just a few yards away from the canal.

 

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Maida Hill Tunnel has an impressive house over one end of it ...
... and a smart restaurant over the other
The houseboat community near Hanwell appears to be thriving
View from Brentford Lock at low tide
The tidal boatyard at Brentford
Brentford Creek and the Thames at low tide.

Brentford has really changed since we last saw it. There are smart new flats around the basin, and there are good moorings and all facilities, but it was interesting to talk to a boater who had been trapped in the gauging lock a few nights previously; apparently the residents of the new flats didn’t want boats disturbing their peace in the evenings so BW have fitted a time-clock to the lock mechanism. The boat had come off the river at high tide (as you have to) around 9pm, and they were still in the gauging lock when the time-clock operated, leaving them unable to open the gates to leave the lock until the morning.

Soon 6 o’clock arrived, the creek had filled up with water, and it was time to go.

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