The river misses the urban nature of Harlow as it skirts its northern edge, parallel to the railway. Burnt Mill Lock is right next to the station, only a matter of a few tens of metres away. It's never far away. Roydon Lock, too, is very close to the tracks. You just can't shake off railways when you're on the canals!
At Hunsdon Mill Lock, we found a widebeam day-boat for the disabled on its slow way down. It was a training day for new crew, apparently, so we weren't expecting them to go particularly fast, and it wasn't likely that we'd be able to overtake for some miles. It was only 12:30, but we decided to make it lunchtime, to give them time to get well ahead of us, so that we would be able to move on at a sensible pace after an hour or so.
Returning to the lock after we'd eaten, I found the same flipping boat in it again, this time ascending. And it turned out that they'd gone down the lock, practised winding a few times, had their lunch, and were now on their way back to their yard! We needn't have stopped at all. The lock was now in our favour; full, and ready for Grace to drive in. Down we continued, past Roydon, and then a pause at Roydon Lock.
Here, there was a narrowboat in the lock, and the chamber was filling. I opened one of the top gates while the single-handed woman from the boat opened the other.
"Do you want both gates left open for your boat to get in?" she asked.
"Oh, yes please," said I. "You can't get it through just one gate."
"Oh yes you can!" she replied, somewhat derisively. "I do it all the time. It makes locking so much quicker! (you idiot!)"
"But these locks are only 13 foot wide," I protested. "Each gate's only 6 foot 6 wide." (a narrowboat's 7 foot)
There was a long silence, broken by a subdued, "I wondered why I kept hitting the gates."
And then we're at the junction with the River Lea again, and we turn left, north towards Hertford.
Stanstead Lock's an odd one. Rather like the one at Fenny Compton, it has a swing-bridge across it, manually operated. Unlike the one at Fenny Compton, the lock is deep and wide, and very rough on the boat, throwing her about mercilessly, with Grace holding on with all her might to the stern rope around a lock bollard.
After a couple of beautiful miles on the Lea, the river wider here than the Stort, we came to the southern edge of Ware, mooring at a lovely spot opposite some very tasteful modern housing. Grace went to college here in Ware, back in the day. The weather throughout the day had been mixed, at times quite cold, and with some rain. But now the sun shone, and the air was warm again.
We learned a neat trick from the man in the boat next to ours. In the grassy verge against which we're both moored, he's using a couple of "dog anchors" instead of mooring pins.
Since this screws into the ground, there's no way it's going to get removed accidentally. Dogs and yobs both would find it more than just a challenge! The guy says it works really well, even in very wet ground. I've just ordered a couple for £3.96!
As Kantara sat bathing in the warm evening light, the temperature inside rose, and the windows steamed up, despite the open ones. Grace had embarked upon one of her major cooking sessions. These happen from time to time, and the result of this one was not only a tasty supper of roasted butternut squash with goat's cheese and a rich tomato sauce, served with fresh baguette, but also delicious parsnip soup - enough for two meals - and a large Boaty Apple Cake (see "Life with our feet under water" for the recipe!)
While she was doing all of this, making me feel lazy, I looked lazily out of a window, at the houses across the canal. And my eye caught the naked figure of a young woman walking around in her bedroom. I looked away immediately, of course, not wishing to be intrusive upon her privacy, nor to be a Peeping Tom. But she didn't seem at all bothered, and she was still there 25 minutes later when Grace called me away for supper!