Sunday 24th April to Monday 2nd May 2011

Can you believe it – it’s too hot to take tea on the lawn. Not bad for the third week in April is it.

We’re all ship shape and Bristol fashion and out of bed just in time to meet John and Jean who are up from Saints Land and waiting for us in Stortford.

A short cruise, top up with water, collect guests and back to the moorings under the trees one lock down from town.

Some bring cake, but J+J brought a huge chocolate Easter bunny and a massive tin of Cadbury’s Heroes. Thanks you guys, please help us eat them.

Can you tell how much my Bunny Girl loves chocolate?
bunny girl

We found the perfect way to cool off on a hot day, sit in the shade and sip ‘redcurrant juice’, yeah, yeah.

Another couple taking the air were Mike and Janice. From somewhere beginning with ‘M’ (Malden I think) and out for a walk, they stopped for a natter. Boaters with a ‘share’ in a boat based at Fradley they were doing what I think most of us do when not onboard – finding it difficult to stay away from canals and rivers.

Monday 25th
It was an easy cruise down river to the moorings at Feakes Lock where we were joined by a bunch of well behaved lads doing a spot of outside cooking.

They appeared to be oblivious to boats passing through their front garden and to my surprise and relief showed no interest in swimming. A credit to their Mums.

Tuesday 26th
En route to the Lee I was roused by a “Read your Blog” from nb.Brimstone. Right on a corner and soon out of sight I didn’t dare let the tiller go and grab the camera.
Another boat sticks in the memory , nb Asterope. We leap-frogged each other down the Stort on account of the narrow locks (13ft) and carried on bumping into each after we’d turned right onto the Lee.

Wednesday 27th
Back to 14ft locks we paired up with Asterope for the cruise to Hertford (or Hereford as V keeps calling it). I discovered she was built in 1935 (I don’t mean V) and is powered by a Lister HR2.

Hertford welcomed us with its moorings behind Waitrose, opposite the terraced houses where residents very cleverly dig the grass verge and plant flowers to discourage boaters from hammering in mooring pins.
We did the museum with its small but delightful displays and followed that by calling in at pound shops and second-hand bookshops in my hunt for merchant navy books. The castle didn’t rock for me but we paid our respects anyway.

Thursday 28th
We had a quiet night at Waitrose, the blackbirds made more noise than the 6am delivery vans. I discovered the reason for a bunch of ropes at the river’s edge when a resident pulled up a wire cage and checked it for contents before throwing it back again. Might there be crayfish along here?

We’ve done well with bird-spotting this week. Coots, moorhens and geese have all proudly shown off their babies but we nearly didn’t spot these tiny grebes on mummy’s back.

A couple of incidents along the way are worthy of note.
We watched as an old couple pulled in at Stanstead Abbotts marina for gas and no matter how the lady on the bow shouted “stop” the old boy wouldn’t and finished up ploughing into a plastic cruiser moored near the diesel pump. That cracking sound will stay with me for a while.

The other was a boat we shared a lock with. He’d gone below and she was in charge of the tiller when his voice boomed out of the side doors “CILL”. I thought her name was Cilla but when he bounded up the steps to the stern we soon found out what he was on about. The scraping sound of metal on concrete will also stay with me for a while. They didn’t get on too well at the next lock either so our crew named them Happy Harry and Cilla.
Talking of concrete noises, V helped stop the boat – dead – at a water point. I’m not so sure about letting her loose on concrete bollards any more.

Our day ended well – treated to a sit-down nosh at the restaurant 2 minutes walk from our mooring at Broxbourne. Delicious, thanks John and Jean, very much appreciated.

Friday 29th Broxbourne to Waltham Abbey
Oh dear the weather is on the change. Wind from the northeast and short sharp showers got us on the approaches to Waltham Abbey.
But it didn’t spoil ‘The Wedding’ and our tele went on at various times to catch all the important bits, which was nice.
And we were treated to our own display of WW2 aeroplanes as the Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane passed overhead on their way home from the Palace. You could have paid good money to see that.

We’re parked up right next to the Lee Valley White Water Centre. I know that’s exactly where we are because a loudspeaker tells us from time to time as it announces forthcoming events.

Saturday 30th
Yes, the white water events have started, we know competitor’s names and their times, they shall have another go in 90 minutes to try to improve their times as they battle the water without missing or touching the gates. We know all about it because we’re treated to the commentary at 90db. It might be an improvement if they’d let us see some of it but that’s only for those that pay.

Nb.Ernest passed us without incurring any penalties (it would have been 2 seconds for touching the gates and 50 seconds for completely missing a lock). I wonder where they are going, somewhere brilliant I’ll bet.

Another fine end to a day, the slalom closed at 7pm and we celebrated with a takeaway. It’s John and Jean’s last day with us, it’s been a brilliant week, good company for V on the paddles and a rest for my tiller arm.

We are a two pack boat now, Badger takes two packs of playing cards and 2 hours to complete. I now dream about runs and sets. Crib and Rummikub (and red wine) got a thorough hammering too so be warned if you’re thinking of mounting a challenge.

Sunday 1st May
Another sunny but chilly day when in the shadows. The Royal Gunpowder Mills is on the first of its three open days combined with VE Day Commemoration. All I can say is it was brilliant.
Met some really nice Germans, Japs, Yanks and Italians, saw some excellent displays and wore my legs to a stump trying to get round to see everything.

It was so good that I think my mum would have enjoyed it. Although she might not have appreciated there being so many Gestapo about.


The 3pm Hurricane aerobatics was amazing and brought back wonderful memories to the few 80 year olds around us.

The guys and the girls who performed in uniform must be congratulated for their excellent acting, use of foreign language and attention to detail.
The post-Normandy landing battle was amusing as one side captured the other before losing again. I suspect it had less to do with Normandy and more to do with getting their machine gun fix.

The policeman didn’t relax all day, taking notes and handcuffing people for no apparent reason. Bit like real life in some parts of the world.

We were treated to some brilliant WW2 dancing while we sampled tea and cakes. How some of them managed in that heat I don’t know.

There were plenty of invitations to join up (re-enactment) and I was close to putting my name down as a pilot when I saw how easy my part would be.

The only trouble is what to do with the plane between shows. Sadly I declined and instead got issued with a National Registration Identity card for Germans resident in Britain between 1939 and 1945.

Oh, and the gunpowder mills displays were good too, especially the armoury. Oops there I go again. Despite the VE Day distractions there was much to see on the subject. Traverses or blast walls, as I call them, and the remains of the buildings that survived the numerous explosions between 1660 and 1960 lie scattered over many acres. The site is laced with canals, sadly dry but walkable with remains of locks and cast iron aqueducts that moved explosives between grinding wheels and goods out.

Monday was a bit of a tease. The booms of artillery and staccato gunfire made me want to return to the Royal Gunpowder Mills (or Secret Island as they are marketing it) but we stayed put with the windows closed to keep the towpath dust out of the boat. Small cyclones follow cyclists along the towpath as their tyres grind the tiny stone chippings to talcum powder. Every evening I brush a small gravel pit off the boat but by 10 o’clock the next morning we’re having difficulty seeing through the windows again.

Shouldn’t moan, at least the sun is shining and the wind didn’t deter the Spitfire display which we were just able to see through the trees.

It’s marvellous what you can do with a 12 times zoom isn’t it.