Wednesday, 31 July 2013
Thursday, 25 July 2013
Last night it rained heavily again and as a result the air is a little cooler this morning. There was no accompanying loud bombardment of thunder this time as had happened twenty four hours earlier; the rapid staccato on the roof was all that broke very briefly the quiet slumber of the night.
My overall impression here at Hertford Visitor Moorings is in fact one of peace and quietness. The bustling town is so close and yet no sound of it emanates this far. The pretty cottages, summer gardens filled with the fragrance of lavender, honeysuckle and rambling rose that run in a row alongside us, are always very quiet and the proximity of the ‘Old Barge’, the busy pub nearby does not disturb us, even when its customers spill out with the sunshine into the garden. As I write now all is total tranquillity apart from the sharp call of the Coot and the slap of wavelets against the hull as a kayak flies swiftly past.
We arrived here from Stanstead Abbots on Sunday afternoon and were surprised to find that so many moorings were available. It was three years since my last visit and as the mooring position I occupied then was available once more, I tied up ‘Futurest’ in the same place. Almost immediately I was welcomed by the lady living in the cottage adjacent. Her name is Vi and I was flattered that she remembered me from the previous time. She couldn’t quite bring back my name she said “But definitely I remembered the gentleman on ‘Futurest’” she concluded.
Monday morning arrived and bathed in beautiful sunshine Janis and I set off to bike the eight or so miles along the disused railway line that is now called ‘The Cole Green Way’, which runs between Hertford and Welwyn Garden City. However we deviated slightly before arriving at the built up area, to make our own way to Old Welwyn, the village where an old school chum of mine lives with his wife.
I am proud to admit that Roger and I have known each other for about sixty years and though for much of that time latterly, we have only been in contact via Christmas and birthday cards, we have still remained the best of friends. The last time we met was during my visit to Hertford three years ago so it was very splendid to see him and his wife Judith again after so long. They both looked fit and well even though Roger was recovering from a recent quite serious cycling accident. A few nasty bruises were evident but as is usual my friend made very light discussion of them and soon changed the subject.
After a couple of hours of reminiscence between Roger and I which must have been very boring for Janis, and Judith even more since she had heard it all before, my lady and I began our return journey. As always the time taken to get back seemed quicker than the same route out and in about an hour we arrived back at the ships hot and saddle sore and very ready for a cooling shower.
The following morning Roger came to visit me on ‘Futurest’ and later after coffee, we two and Janis went for lunch at the ‘Old Barge’, joining other customers in the garden. It was another lovely day and one more satisfying reunion with my old friend.
Friday, 19 July 2013
Currently we bask in sunshine and revel in its warm embrace, while the wide river here is sparkling, cool and clear. We are at the small village of Stanstead Abbots and though we have walked once up the one and only street to shop at the Co op, the heat radiating from the pavement and road does not encourage any further excursions in this direction.
Instead Janis and I have had our bikes out and travelled the one and a half miles along the dusty towpath as far as Ware, the next larger town on our route up to Hertford. Here we found a Tesco and were able to buy provisions for our cupboards, ready for the return of Janis’ sister Sharon from Morocco tomorrow. The air temperature being high outside made the shopping a pleasure for once and refreshing in the cool air conditioned atmosphere of the store.
On the ride back we stopped off at the mooring in Ware of ‘It’s Five O’clock Somewhere’ and enjoyed a glass of wine or two with our friends David and Heather. It was a surprise though good to see them again and with any luck we shall pass them a second time on our way up to Hertford. We knew they were destined for these parts so it was satisfying to make contact.
Earlier yesterday morning we biked in the other direction southwards and crossed the bridge over the river to the Fifteenth Century gatehouse of Rye House. This impressive stack of Tudor bricks is all that remains of a large fortified manor house which was surrounded by a moat, the imprint of which still remains.
The gatehouse of Rye House in Hertfordshire
Later we made a second visit to the nearby Rye Meads wild life Sanctuary, managed by the RSPB and spent the morning in the coolness of the many hides awaiting our wild friends to show themselves. It was very pleasant watching the very ordered life go on in the bright sunshine.
A tender gesture between Coot Mates
The young Kestrels that we had noticed were near fledging on our last visit had gone and the nesting box on the tall electric grid-pylon was empty apart from small pieces of down that adhered to and fluttered at the entrance in the light breeze. However the Kingfisher was still busy taking morsels of fish into his nest but only slightly more frequently than he had been before. The young here must be nearly ready for fledging by now.
Black Headed Gull looking on vigilantly
Incidentally the small water bird that I was unable to identify in my last posting, with further research was a Little Grebe I think. He was there again yesterday, his puffed up little body consistently diving for long periods every few seconds.
Kingfisher on familiar post with tasty morsel
We enjoyed another good day and the warm bright sunshine altogether has enlivened tremendously this month of July for us.
Saturday, 13 July 2013
It’s taken us a long time but at least we’re here now. And as usual it hasn’t worried the Old Man at all. He seems to be quite happy with our overall .....slowwwwww..... progress up the River Stort.
I do wish he’d get a life.
I’ve loved the warm summer weather but the going’s been hard. The river is shallow and well weeded and quite often he’s had to stop to untangle it from my propeller. And because he and Janis have been going off for their long walks together it has meant that I’ve had to be secured in the most uncomfortable of places.
There are hardly any decent visitor moorings. Often I’ve been tied up to trees and because I have such a deep bottom, I’ve not been close enough to the towpath (if that’s what you can call it). He’s had to put the plank out to get onto the bank, which is very unsafe.
The fifteen locks have been long winded as well. The big steel gates I’ve noticed are so difficult to shift and the Skipper’s had ever such a job to move them. The steel arms are too short to give a proper purchase and are often fixed at right angles to the gates anyway for no apparent reason. Also the locks themselves though wider than a narrow one, are not wide enough for two narrow boats to lock at the same time. So it’s made the whole process of getting the two boats through very longwinded.
And so I’ve missed my friend ‘Roots and Wings’ a lot. We’ve locked now so many times snugly side by side on the journey south so far, that I now feel lonely rattling around all on my own in these big locks without her.
I’ll tell you ..... I shall be glad to get off the Stort and back onto a proper waterway again.
It doesn’t seem to worry him though. He seems to love the whole adventure (as he calls it ... That word is so so irritating all the time too).
I think the time it’s taken us to cover the distance is making Janis a bit anxious too. She keeps talking about dates with him because of course she has to arrange to meet up with her sister somewhere civilised on the 20th July, the date when Sharon gets back from Morocco. But the skipper doesn’t like to face up to any date responsibilities at all if he can get away with it, ‘coz I know he thinks it ties him down too much.
But there we are.
I think they plan to move back down the river tomorrow. Hope they do it quickly this time.
I like this weather though.
Wednesday, 10 July 2013
Still blessed by the weather, we are currently sprinkled by dappled sunshine as, from a cloudless blue sky, it reaches us moored beneath a mushrooming willow tree near Sawbridgeworth Lock. Its gentle morning heat is therapeutic to our cold hardened bodies and in respect, limbs have been gratefully browning as we shed our hitherto winter clothes.
Summer is here we tell ourselves eagerly and cruising gently along is even more of a pleasure than before. From our schedule so far it will be noted that it has taken us four days to travel the River Stort from its junction with the River Lee to where we are now and still we are some distance from the navigable end at Bishops Stortford. Had we had the urge to do so, we could have easily travelled there and back in the time it has taken us till now.
But we cannot hurry when this river is so beautiful, especially in weather that enhances the surrounding colours and gives everything such a bright sparkle.
For example we intended to stay at Roydon only over night but in the end stayed for three (so thrilled were we to have iron mooring rings to which we could attach our ropes on this river at a proper Visitor Mooring was one of the reasons I’m sure). But also by chance on their walk back to collect Nigel’s car, he and Janis came upon Rye Meads, the bird sanctuary managed by the RSPB. They had a quick look around and Janis enjoyed it so much that the following day, after Nigel had left to return home, she just had to take me there too.
We took a picnic and spent the whole day at the reserve until it closed at five o’clock. It was a wonderful experience with such a wealth of wildlife there. Through narrow openings in hides I was very privileged to share at close quarters the private lives of many birds that I had never seen before, certainly that close, and was thrilled to take a number of photographs also. It was a superb day out altogether.
The Little Egret was there as was a large Marsh Harrier, which I had never seen before. All types of water fowl were on the lakes and ponds among the reeds and I was thrilled to get photos of a kingfisher and to spot for the first time a little brown Reed Warbler.
The Kingfisher with sustenance for its young
White Water Lily on one of the ponds
Old friends together. The Lapwing and the Mallard
A touching scene. Coot and young
Unidentified Chick. (perhaps someone can help please?)
Kestrel siblings soon to fledge
St James’ Church, Stanstead Abbots
The day passed by quickly but on the walk home we called in at St James’ Church, which during the Middle Ages had been the parish church of Stanstead Abbots. Though it is still consecrated only a few services are held there today and mostly it is open to visitors as an historical relic with its tall, enclosed Victorian pews. By the way she talked to us the lady, who showed Janis and me around, obviously loved the place very dearly.
What another wonderful day.
Saturday, 6 July 2013
We remained at Stonebridge Lock for two whole days and three nights and though, when we first arrived, we deemed the area unattractive with its dense urban build up on both sides of the river, we noticed the green bank of a large reservoir on our right and some kind of nature reserve to the left that could be promising. The former proved to be exactly what it looked like, a large drinking water tank with tall well manicured steep grassy sides, which were not designed for anything except to keep the water in.
‘Roots and Wings’ taking the lead
But on the left of our mooring, by chance en route to the local Tesco Extra for provisions, we walked through a nature park of delightful wetlands and meadow which we found full of wildlife and flowers. Being on a shopping expedition I had forgotten to carry my camera so we returned the following day armed with all the essentials.
A Cormorant drying himself
Little Egret from the hide
Rabbit in the grass
At one of the wet boggy pools a heron was grazing and at maximum zoom of fifty times I managed to take numerous shots of a Little Egret. But because he was so far away, through the telephoto lens, most of the pictures were spoilt either by wrong focus or simply that the camera, being without a tripod, had moved marginally as I pressed the trigger and missed the subject altogether. However the rabbits that we saw on our walk were quite tame and therefore quite unperturbed at posing for the camera.
The Norman Nave of Waltham Abbey
with Victorian eastern end lookalike
It was a popular mooring but turned out to be most pleasant even though the weather began to deteriorate a little towards the end of our stay. While we were there I was very sad to have missed my friend Maffi who apparently passed us by whilst we were out. He’d been on a grand voyage delivering a boat to the new marina on the River Stort and had me managed to meet, it would have been a great opportunity to ‘swing the lantern’ awhile.
Well done Maffi on your epic voyage
From Stonebridge Lock our two little ships sauntered the six miles up through Waltham Abbey Town Lock, mooring just above it and adjacent to the white water canoe run. We stayed here for three nights as well, taking in the town and its historical associations with King Harold II and the Battle of Hastings, while the nature on both sides continued to enrich us on our walks. However while we were there, I was unable to persuade Janis to join me for a meal of ‘Eels ‘n’ Mesh wiv Likker’ at the restaurant in the market place. But both of us did enjoy an evening out at the Town Hall for the local film show in the main room. It was ‘The Great Gatsby’ and was very reasonably priced at £9 for the two of us. I enjoyed the film too with Leonardo Di Caprio in the starring role. We were very nearly persuaded to see the movie while we were in London’s West End but then it would have cost us £50 each I expect, so we were lucky to see it here with a glass of red wine instead.
The acrobat at Waltham Common Lock
Our next stop on Thursday evening was just above Dobb’s Weir Lock and it was there the following day that Janis’ friend Nigel joined us and is crewing on ‘Roots and Wings’ until Sunday. Yesterday we entered the River Stort and are currently tied up at the visitor moorings (rare it would seem to be on the River Stort) and while I write this up, the two of them are walking back to collect Nigel’s car.
‘Roots and Wings’ winding her way behind us on the Stort
The mooring at Roydon
The weather continues to improve with ‘Blue skies up above and everyone in love’ and the legend of Wimbledon appears to be enduring. The winding narrowing waterway here is so beautiful with its lush, green overhanging trees that caress our faces softly as we pass and with meadows all shining vibrantly in the sunshine. Healthy looking crops are growing furiously and the Water Lily both white and yellow is appearing on the surface of the clear water accompanied by profuse collections of green silken weed beneath that continually lay in wait for us and clog our propellers no matter how careful we are to avoid them. The young families of Mallard, Coot, Moorhen and Swan like we Humans all seem to be benefitting enormously from the Sun’s welcome embrace.