Thursday, May 19, 2016

South Hackney, here we come (cruise retrospective)

It was extremely cold this morning, and continued to be so throughout the day, but we carried on, undaunted, dressed in multiple layers, and feeling like Michelin men.
We left our mooring at 9:30, unusually early for us, after a peaceful night in an unusual location. Down the river through Ponders End, Edmonton and Tottenham Hale.
We noticed today how the coots invariably build really scruffy nests of pretty much anything they can get their beaks on, while geese nest in rather more style, being more discerning about what building materials they use. And swans nest best. In the reeds, often simply by flattening and structuring them into the large mounds on which their eggs are laid. Then they sit on them, regally. Divas of the river.

It being Saturday, rowing boats were out in force, from solo lunatics going backwards at speed to sixes going backwards at higher speed, no less lunatic. Their frequent presence was something of a hazard to bigger boats, and our own problem was further compounded for a while by a narrowboat limping very badly towards the Lee Valley Marina, smoke pouring from her exhaust pipe in a most unhealthy manner. They finally beckoned us past at a moment when there were no manic rowing boats coming at us from all directions.

We passed by the marina. It was too early in the day to be stopping, despite the lure of a 230 volt landline. Laptop charging would have to wait. Perhaps we'd stop off at the Willowtree Marina again in a few days' time. And, we reminded ourselves, Willowtree are considerably cheaper, for a better service.

There's a tremendous amount of birdlife on the river. We noted that coots are common here, and moorhens far less so, while the opposite tends to be the case on canals. And we've been surprised by the large number of cormorants, too, which we used to think were exclusively sea birds.
And they swim so low in the water that they look as if they're too heavy, and sinking. Odd creatures.

Clapton next, and Hackney Wick, the river becoming ever more shabby, a reflection of the housing and industrial buildings on both sides of it. Then we took the right turn onto the Hertford Union Canal, aka Duckett's Cut, named after its builder back in 1830. There are three locks in its 1¼ mile length, and most of it runs past the Victoria Park. It's quite a pleasant stretch.

We were hoping to stop and get some lunch on the Regent's Canal just past Old Ford Lock, right turn out of Duckett's. But mooring boats filled every foot, sometimes two or three deep as far as Kingsland Road Bridge, on the border of DeBeauvoir Town (no, we hadn't heard of it before, either) and South Hackney. Here, we took the very last available space, and moored rather unconventionally with several ropes because of the inconvenient spacing of the iron mooring rings.
Here we stayed for the night, our plan being to overnight in Paddington Basin tomorrow, or, that being full, at Kensal Green Cemetery. Hopefully. The day after that, we'll spend the night at Willowtree Marina and spoil ourselves with some real electricity and a meal at their restaurant. The boat really needs to be vacuum cleaned, and it would be very useful to spend a few hours at the computer!


  1. Now the views in this post I recognise well, having actually walked along the Hertford Union Canal and the Regent's canal to Mile End quite recently. I really liked the Hertford Union. Well, I liked all of it, but I was a little shocked by the state of some of the boats. I mean I know all boats suffer over the winter, but some of these didn't look as if they'd seen a wash down, let alone a lick of paint, in years. Is that normal?

  2. Yes, I know what you mean, Val. It's unfortunately very common to see boats in really poor conditions. I can only think that the owners are down on their luck, living alone, possibly without employment, and unable to afford what it takes to keep their home the way they'd like it. In that situation, I think I'd be very depressed, and depression kills the "get up and go" drive they most need. It's a sad reflection on our society.