Thursday, 31 July 2014

Markets and Fountains in the Capital – 31st July

At 5 am this morning when I took Jimmy for a busy I noticed that the slip road on the eastbound A40 was closed off and police were redirecting the traffic. Later, on the news it was announced that there had been a serious road accident and the flyover was closed. Fortunately when we went for the bus to Regents Park the slip road had opened and the buses were running normally. We got off at York Gate and walked through the park stopping off at the Broad Walk cafe for a coffee and chat with other visitors. We continued in the shade of the large trees to London Zoo where, peaking over the fence we could see the Penguins swimming in their pool. As we crossed the canal bridge we could see the large Snowdon Aviary which was built in 1964.

1 london Zoo

We descended the steps down to the Cumberland Basin with the Feng Shang Princess, Floating Chinese Restaurant, magnificently hand crafted in the 1980's, as the first floating restaurant of it's kind in London, and then along the Regents Canal passing this cow on a balcony, the Pirate Castle centre for children’s boating activities, and this punt outside the entrance to the Camden Market.

2 Regents canal

From the Canal Foot Bridge you can look over Camden lock and the other direction into the Market.

3 Camden Lock

Camden Market was really buzzing with people and stalls selling everything from clothing to food from all over the world. There are around 700 stalls in the complete market which is open all week.

4 Stables market

Camden Stables Market, the largest of the several markets making up Camden Market gets its name from its previous incarnation as a horse hospital. In Victorian times, the stables were where horses injured pulling barges down the canals would come for treatment. Now it and the catacombs under the arches opposite have been combined under the umbrella term 'Stables Market' and together make up the largest of Camden's popular market spaces. Over 450 shops and stalls are housed here selling a variety of antiquarian and unique items from accessories and jewellery to furniture and clothing. Even media mogul Chris Evans famously has a stall here. If you tire of shopping and gawking there's plenty of entertainment within the market.

I could not resist including pictures of these two shops selling Burlesque costumes and way out shoes for Gaynor. She would have a field day here when selecting clothes for our Murder Mystery Nights or her way out weddings.

5 Shoes Dress

We eventually ended up in Camden High Street and outside a very famous pub, The Bucks Head, once owned by my nephew David when he was a very young lad.


Returning on the No27 bus we arrived at Merchant Square just as they were about to test the new Water Feature next to the Kinetic Fan Bridge. It looks as though it will be a great attraction and I understand that they will be able to control it so that you can walk through the middle without getting wet. I must say in the last couple of days they have made great strides with completing the work and it is now looking really good with grass and decking in place and shortly the benches and stone arena will be completed.

6 Fountain

Outside the M& S building the square was filled with stalls selling food from around the world and the local office workers were taking full advantage of the nice weather to enjoy the food sitting on the steps or in deck chairs. The local classic car group had a several cars on display including a VW campervan, Fiat 500, and Corvette Stingray.

8 cars

In the lower area there were a range of animals and insects on display and children and adults alike were experiencing holding snakes, hedgehogs, dragons, and stick insects. We declined the offer.

7 Creatures

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Day 3 in the Capital–30th July

This morning we took a walk to Little Venice and then up the Regents Canal to the Edgware Road; from there we walked along St John’s Wood to Lord’s Cricket Ground. It is named after its founder, Thomas Lord, and is now owned by Marylebone Cricket Club and is the home of Middlesex.

The entrance gates are a tribute to WG Grace 1848-1915 from his friends and admirers. The plaques on the Stadium give tribute to GA Gooch who achieved the Highest Aggregate Score in a test match at Lord’s of 456: IT Botham for the Best Bowling in a Test at Lord’s of 8 for 34.

The picture at the bottom right shows the only glimpse we could get of the pitch through the opening by the stairway. they do do organised visits but not today.

1 Lords Cricket

We then strolled through Regents Park with its Boating Lake and were surprised to see lots of  Herons together, so tame that you could almost walk up to them before they would reluctantly move away. Not like those on the canal.

There was also a good view of the BT Tower which unfortunately you are no longer allowed to climb.

2 Regents Park

Back on the Marylebone Road we passed the long queues for Madam Tussaud’s and then caught the no.18 bus back to the basin ready for lunch and collecting June and Jimmy from the station.

3 madam tusauds

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Day 2 in the Capital - 29th July

This morning we decided we would go to the O2 Arena and the Emirates Air Line so we took a bus to Westminster Bridge with the intention of going by river bus but the queues were so long to get a ticket that we thought we would try a bus. No luck there either. So we went by tube after buying a Day Travelcard.
We were soon at North Greenwich and the O2 Arena. Walking inside I could not believe how big it is. You see it on TV and it seems quite small but it is enormous. It has shops and restaurants around the edge inside the tent and even a cinema. If you wish you can walk over the top.
2 O2 arena
Next we moved on to the Emirates Air Line cable car across the Thames to the Excel centre. It was opened in 2012 and rises to a height of 295ft and covers 1103 metres .
3 Airline 1
It has amazing views of the river way out to the Thames Barrier and back into the city. As you approach the other side you look down onto and artificial beach with people swimming in the old dock which is now surrounded by smart apartments. The cruise Ship Seaborn is now docked there as a hotel and restaurant.
4 airline 2
After a quick lunch in the Excel Centre we took the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) to Stratford International station and the Olympic Park. It was buzzing with people and the Aquatic Centre is a sight to behold. The Main Stadium looks as though it is being demolished as there only appears to be the seating and main frame left.
5 aqua stadium
The children were enjoying the fountains and as they suddenly shot up there were shrieks of delight from them. A couple of water buses are moored on the river. Such a shame it is not open to boats as it looks a great place to visit.
6 aqua stad
The sight of the Orbit meant that we could not resist going up it and it was well worth the money. Fantastic views for 20 miles all around London. From the transmitter at Crystal Palace to Wembley Stadium to the Thames and the City as well as great views over the Olympic Park.
The Arcelor Mittal Orbit is a 114.5 metre (376 feet) tall sculpture and observation tower. It is Britain's largest piece of public art, and is intended to be a permanent lasting legacy of London's hosting of the 2012 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, assisting in the post-Olympics regeneration of the Stratford area. It is made from 2000 tons of steel and has a 455 step spiral stairway to come down from the two observation platforms.
9 orbit
We walked back through the Westfield Shopping Centre to the Stratford station of the DLR and caught the next train to Canary Wharf which again was buzzing with people. We had intend to walk to Limehouse but time was running short so we continued on the DLR to Limehouse and arrived at the Thames lock just as a cruiser was going out at high tide and a yacht  coming in.
7 limehouse
It was interesting to see the road bridge being swung open and the lock gates opening to let water into the lock as the river was higher than the canal basin. It will be different when we plan to go out as it will be before high tide. The lock and marina basin were much smaller than I had imagined.
8 limehouse 2

Monday, 28 July 2014

First Day in London - 28th July

This morning Adam called in to see us and stayed to have lunch. It was really nice catching up with all the news. Hope you and Adrian enjoy your next canal adventure.

Later in in the afternoon we went a walk to Hyde Park passing some lovely houses and interesting Mews leading off them.

1 Mews

We came across Sir Henry Moore’s sculpture “The Arch” with its view back to Kensington Palace. The view from the Palace is one of the longest uninterrupted avenue vistas in London and takes in The Round Pond, the Physical Energy Statue, and Long Water. A short walk on gave us a view down the Serpentine to the Shard and the Tower.

2 arch

Crossing the bridge we saw the Princess Diana Memorial surrounded by adults and children who were taking full advantage of the water to cool down.


Passing the Serpentine Gallery we came upon the Albert Memorial with all its shining gold and across the road the Albert Hall with the Proms prominently advertised on the front.


Further down the Kensington road is the Hyde Park Barracks the home of the Household Cavalry. The Princess Royal unveiled in 2008 a wall of plaques at the Barracks as a permanent home for the British Horse Society’s Equestrian Hall of Fame, which was launched in July 2005. Speakers corner was vacant so perhaps everybody has had their say for the day.

3 spker albert

Back in Paddington Basin the work is progressing well with the new Kinetic Fan bridge. The three-metre-wide cantilevered moving structure will span 20 metres across the canal and is raised using hydraulic jacks with an action similar to that of a traditional Japanese hand fan.

The deck of Merchant Square footbridge is made of five fabricated steel beams which open in sequence, with the first rising to an angle of 80 degrees; the four subsequent beams will rise at lower increments. Shaped counterweights assist the hydraulic mechanism and reduce the energy required to move the structure. The handrail will house a low-energy LED downlight which will illuminate the structure.

5 new bridge

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Bubbles and Boats in Paddington Basin - 27th July

We had a late start this morning as we only had a couple of miles to do and did not want to arrive at Paddington Basin before people were ready to leave on a Sunday morning. It was just as well as the majority of the canal into the basin was lined with moored boats so we could only go slowly. Surprisingly we spotted this coot with some tiny little chicks on a nest, I would say that they had only just been born. This heron had chosen a strange place to fish, under a bridge. The unusual wall mural has been created from litter by the Stowe Youth Club and artist Kevin Herlihy.

1 Birds and Mural

As we approached Little Venice the boats which lined the towpath were breasted up and were opposite Houseboats making a very congested feel to the area.We passed the C&RT Office which marks the entrance to this wide junction of the Paddington Arm of the GU and the Regents Canal just as a  trip boat was to set sail. Business must have been good as there was already a queue for the next trip.

2 little venice

We turned right down the arm into the basin and passed an unusual wooden broad beam boat coming out which raised our hopes that we might find at least one space free. As we turned the final corner into the basin we were amazed to find there were just two spaces waiting for us as another boat was about to leave the basin. We soon got ourselves onto the pontoon mooring and chatted to our neighbours one of whom had a lovely garden on his roof for us to look out onto.

3 mooring Paddington

Later I had a look around the basin and spotted these couple of unusual boats moored near the entrance. The one on the left had an enormous  life raft on the roof, being used as a paddling pool to cool off in the heat; and the other was selling 2nd hand books way into the evening. As we had entered the basin we had crossed over these two sets of bubble aerators which help to keep the water clean and which seems to stop all the duck weed from filling the basin.

4 Boats and Bubbles

A little further on near Sheldon Square are these two very life like figures of Commuters standing at opposite ends of a strip of concrete looking at one another.

6 men

Sheldon Square is like and amphitheatre with lovely grassed steps and a variety of shops including a Sainsbury Local at the base.


Saturday, 26 July 2014

Kensal Green - 26th July

Another hot and sunny morning so we moved across to the Tesco side of the canal and breasted up with an interesting guy who was going to take out a group of Scouts on his 70ft boat. He was a volunteer for C&RT, Fostered children, drove a bus for two county organisations as well as numerous other voluntary roles. We then turned right under Bulls Bridge and down the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal, some 88 miles from Braunston.

1 Bulls Bridge

The first part of out journey was quite rural with the lovely Willow Tee Open Space and its nice moorings. Further on I got my golf fix as we passed golfers on the Greenford Golf Course. Later we began to hit the more urban areas with large blocks of flats being built near to the canal.

2 Locals Golf

Soon we were passing over the busy North Circular Road with an old Gauging Station in the middle of the aqueduct.

A toll point or toll island was a place on a canal where a fee was collected as boats carrying cargo passed. These were sited at strategic points, generally this was at a lock or an artificially constricted part of the canal so that the boat had to pass within inches of the toll point unable to evade the toll. On canals where the fee was based on cargo weight it also put the boat in a convenient place to read the gauging mark height from the water line. On busy canals which were built with a towpath on either side the toll house would be built on an island between two constricted channels so that one toll point could collect from boats travelling in each direction.

3North Circular

We moored up for the day opposite Kensal Green Cemetery and a short walk down the canal brings you to a large canal side Sainsbury’s with 4 hour mooring outside. On the way there I saw this intriguing boat with all sorts on the roof. Next to it was Nb Gremlin with a working water feature on the side and a roof garden with gnome.

The young lady was carving a Gargoyle out of Bath Stone and she said that she found it a very relaxing hobby.

4 Boats People

Friday, 25 July 2014

And so to Bulls Bridge - 25th July

Whilst taking Jimmy an early morning walk I discovered Boston Manor Park behind the Glaxo Smith Kline Building. The history of the Manor House goes back to the year 1307. The manor itself had several owners and was crown property twice. At one time it belonged to the Earl of Leicester, the favourite of Queen Elizabeth, then it came into the possession of Sir Thomas Gresham, a name associated with the founding of the Royal Exchange. It was the property also of Sir William and Lady Read, by whom the mansion was further beautified. In 1670 it was purchased by the Clitherow family for £5,136. 17s. 4d. The size of the property acquired by the Council was approximately 36 acres, made up as follows: Park 23 ½ acres: Ground of Boston House 9 ½ : Lake 1: Kitchen Gardens 2. It was purchased from Colonel Clitherow on 24th June 1924 for £23,000 after negotiations extending over a period of 12 months. The Park now belonged to the people of Brentford. There are the beautiful woodlands, places for the solace of the aged, the health of the invalid, the sport of youth and shady walks obviously ‘for whispering lovers’. Before leaving the park I could not help but pick the delicious blackberry’s growing wild for our pudding this evening.

1 Bolton Manor Park

We made an early start so that we would not be doing locks in the full heat of the day. Just as we started the C&RT guys came and moved the weed barge from under the bridge towards the locks. They saw us leave our mooring behind them and kindly called us through so that they did not hold us up. This stretch of the Grand Union Canal follows the river Brent and is very weedy and shallow. We passed under this cast iron bridge dated 1820 and just before the first of the Hanwell flight of locks the towpath crosses a bridge which is the junction with the River Brent with a sign declaring it as non navigable. We also passed this a notice saying that this part of the bank was British Waterways Kerr Cup Pile Driving Competition Prize Length of Piling in 1959. I could not however find any reference to what it was all about on Google so presumably its history will die out with the older C&RT guys.

2 bridges and Piles

A complete change of water conditions happened as we ascended the Hanwell flight. The water was as clear as a bell and you could watch the fish swimming including one enormous Carp. The Volunteer Lockies we met at the top lock told me that there were lots of large carp in there. However you could also see all the rubbish which gets into the canal.

Part way up the flight is the Ealing Hospital, formally know as the (1st Middlesex) County Asylum at Hanwell, also known as Hanwell Insane Asylum, and Hanwell Pauper and Lunatic Asylum. It was built for the pauper insane. Hanwell was the first purpose-built asylum in England and Wales, and it opened in 1831. Some of the original buildings are now part of the headquarters for the West London Mental Health (NHS) Trust (WLMHT).

Its first superintendent, Dr William Charles Ellis, was known in his lifetime for his pioneering work and his adherence to his "great principle of therapeutic employment". Sceptical contemporaries were amazed that such therapy speeded recovery at Hanwell. This greatly pleased the visiting Justices of the Peace as it reduced the long term cost of keeping each patient. Under the third superintendent John Conolly the institution became famous as the first large asylum to dispense with all mechanical restraints.

The boatmen of old gave the eerie names of Asylum Lock and Asylum Dock to the the adjacent lock and the arched hole in the wall now bricked up where coal was delivered and excess produce from their gardens was taken to market in London.

3 Hanwell Flight

In 1815 the locks had side ponds added to help conserve water and they are still there, although not used today. They have become a wonderful habitat for wildlife.

Nearing Bulls Bridge we passed under the Western Road Bridge and saw a Purple Parking van and trailer go over the top. We then recognised where we were, as we usually cross this bridge when we leave at our car at Purple Parking to fly from Heathrow. We also recognised the Tesco 24hr store at the side of the canal as we have used it when returning from a flight to stock up on essentials on the way home.

4 Purple Parking

Just before the junction are a series of Houseboats some with colourful flower baskets and pots.

5 House Boats

The Tesco mooring at Bulls Bridge was full so we moored up on the towpath side and  walked around to the Store. However whilst we were in there the heavens opened and there was thunder and lightening so Carolann and I decided to wait it out and have a coffee. When it eased we phoned Graham to come across and pick us up so that we did not have to carry a heavy load back to the boats.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Tidal Thames–24th July

Another really hot day so we set off early and motored the short distance to Kingston on Thames and moored up in the shade along the promenade. It was just a short walk into the town which to our surprise was a great shopping centre with its Thursday market stalls full of lovely fresh fruit and vegetables and all the big name stores including John Lewis and Waitrose at the side of the river and main bridge.

1 a

The riverside walk was really buzzing with people waiting for trip boats, restaurants with riverside patios and  groups of youngsters singing and playing instruments to advertise a forthcoming show.


We left Kingston and headed down to Teddington Lock for 1.40pm to enable us to lock down onto the tidal Thames and take advantage of the high tide at 2.08pm to take us down to Brentford. There are two locks at at Teddington and we entered the northern one which is double length and easily took 5 narrow boats and a cruiser in the first half of the lock.  It is the largest lock (The Barge Lock) and is 650 feet (198.12 metres) long and holds 1.75 million gallons (8 million litres) of water.

One of the narrow boats was going to Limehouse and had to make good time to reach it before the Lock keeper went off duty at 6pm.1c

We passed the National Trust Ham house, and then through Richmond again with all the busy trip and hire boats. A short glimpse of Syon Park was seen before we came to out turn off the Thames.

1 f

Next came Richmond Lock which we did not have to use as the weir is lowered for 2 hours either side of High Tide to allow boats to sail straight down river under the foot bridge. The Lock can be seen on the right hand side and as we went under the bridge we could see the guides where the weir is raised and lowered.

5 Richmond Lock

Isleworth came next with its church close to the river frontage and in the distance could be seen Kew Gardens.

6 River

We made a turn to port opposite Kew into the River Brent and up the short distance to Thames Lock manned by a young lady. Once through the lock we were brought back to reality after travelling on the lovely Thames for the GU here is shallow, narrow and weedy and lined with houseboats. The second set of 2 locks (the old Gauging Locks) are unmanned but are electrically operated and as a boat had just gone up we used the right hand lock.

7 Brent River

We immerged into the basin with its new properties and  restaurants at one end and the old Warehouse and Transhipment dock at the other. There is a new facilities block with pump out, showers, and laundry.

8 Brentford

All the visitor mooring in the basin were occupied so we moved a little way further on and found a nice mooring just before the main A4 road. Under the bridge was the weed cutting boat full of weed. It obviously still has a lot of work to do.

9 Mooring

After dinner we went a walk into Brentford along the High Street and found a Costcutter and Morrison's. Further on we came across St Pauls Church with its lovely steeple and turning down The Butts some nice old houses.

9 a Brentord

Just a few of the wonderful selection of boats we spied today on the river.

9 b Boats