Living the good life on the Grand Union Canal

Living on a canal boat certainly means that you’re lucky enough to get up close and personal with wildlife every day…

OK, the cat’s not exactly a wild animal but it was lovely that it paid us a brief visit from its own boat moored nearby.

Even some of the lock gates get in on the act. I know these plants are not very good for the gates as they destroy the wood, but it is very attractive to look at.


There are also multiple opportunities for forraging. Gordon is happiest in autumn when he finds a good supply of wood that we can use for the winter.


There’ve also been loads of pickings in the hedgerows this year….

…I’m going to have to put in a fair few hours making jams, jellies, cakes and crumbles over the next week or so!

The London Bit 

One of the excursions we enjoyed while we were in London was a guided walking tour arranged by Fun London Tours. It was called Hidden London and it was included in the two for one brochure if you had a train ticket so it was amazingly good value. It lasted for about an hour and a half, had a fascinating commentary and took in, amongst other things, a cabman’s shelter erected in around 1875 for London Cabbies to shelter while staying close to their horse and carriage, a disused tube station (outside only unfortunately), Samuel Johnson’s house, St Clements Church, one of the dragons that mark the entrance to the City of London and the church that inspired the design of the tiered wedding cake.

We passed by Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Pub which was allegedly Samuel Johnson’s local. The lower levels of the pub are in the old cellars of the long gone Carmelite Priory. When the tour finished it would have been rude not to take a look.

Very atmospheric and rather reminiscent of cellar bars in Krakow in Poland.


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Out of London and heading north

Our last week or so in the London area was spent around Yiewsley, just outside Uxbridge. On the surface, not a very pretty spot but it’s actually a bit of a water wonderland. It’s got the Grand Union Canal, the River Fray and the River Colne and Little Britain Lake (so called because it’s got a roughly Britannic shape – ish)


We took a few walks exploring various aspects of the area. On one side of the canal Yiewsley and West Drayton are fairly typical London Suburbs. On the other you have this…..

Today, in some distinctly autumnal weather, we officially left the London area and are heading north for the winter. We know we’re out of London ‘cos we went under the M25 – twice!



We’ve spent the best part of the summer in the south east this year and the weather has been very kind to us. The last few weeks in and around London have been particularly glorious and we’ve made the most of them. When you’re in London there’s always something to do but you’re so busy doing it that blogging about it takes a bit of a back seat. In the next few  weeks we’re heading back up north over old territory which leaves nothing much to blog about. Rather than try and condense the last week or so in London into one enormous post, I’ve decided to put up photographs of our trips out, in a section added to the next few posts I write. As the weather worsens it should have the added bonus of bringing back a touch of sunshine.

The London bit

A trip to Kew Gardens


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Farewell Elaine

Last Wednesday saw us, together with Ray and Diane from Ferndale, head off to Macclesfield  for the funeral of our very dear friend Elaine. So many people were there to say goodbye including boating friends from far and wide. The readings given by Elaine’s nieces Leyna and Josie-Beth were wonderful and Paul’s tribute was amazing. It was a beautiful service, led by a minister who had known and loved Elaine.

There really aren’t the words to say how wonderful this lady was and to describe the impact she had on my life and indeed the lives of everyone around her. Without doubt she was the kindest, most generous and lovely soul that I’ve ever encountered and she will be missed.

I consider myself lucky to have known her and been her friend. We knew her for such a short time but shared so many wonderful memories! Thank you and farewell Elaine.

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An eclectic couple of days in London

Last Sunday nb Ferndale set out from Paddington Basin to head to Limehouse for a trip up the Thames. We were just outside the basin on a booked mooring but decided to do the ‘London Shuffle’ with them at 6.30am as it would give us a further seven days mooring. London is busy and moorings can be difficult to find so this kind of swapping of spots, early in the morning or late at night, is a common sight. Ferndale came out, we went in – perfect!

When we’d got the boat sorted out we went out again for the day for a walk along the Embankment from Tower Bridge to Blackfriars passing this guy who was providing an original service. Fascinating but we didn’t indulge.


We were heading for The Blackfriar – a wonderful little pub which sits on the site of the long since demolished Benedictine Abbey.

To quote from the blurb on the pub menu “Our historic Art Nouveau Grade II masterpiece of a pub was built in 1905 on the site of a Dominican friary. The building was designed by architect H. Fuller-Clark and artist Henry Poole, both committed to the free-thinking of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Jolly friars appear everywhere in the pub in sculptures, mosaics and reliefs. We are lucky to still be here as our wonderful pub was saved from demolition by a campaign led by Sir John Betjeman”

It is an absolute gem of a building

The following morning we headed back to London Bridge to wait for nb Ferndale to come up the Thames and hopefully catch a photograph or two of her as she passed the Houses of Parliament.  We managed to spot her as she was coming up to Westminster Bridge. Seeing how small she looks makes you realise exactly how big the river is and the size of the venture you undertake when you brave the tidal Thames.


We did manage to catch a few photographs as she passed in front of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.


I really enjoyed coming out of Limehouse and travelling up the tidal Thames a couple of years ago. It is truly one of the most exhilarating trips you can undertake in a canal boat.

Our next adventure was to head across to Notting Hill for Carnival. I was a bit nervous about how crowded it would be and I was spot on about that!



We shimmied our way through the crowds and found a fairly clear spot to watch some of the floats go past. Our first spectacle turned out to be a parade of coppers carrying riot gear – and packed lunches!


The three floats we watched definitely lived up to expectations. Colour, noise, wonderful costumes – that’s what I’d imagined Carnival to be all about.

That was enough for us though, as the crowds were increasing and we were feeling more than a little claustrophobic. We wandered back towards Paddington, stopping at a pub close to Bayswater tube station. Crowds of colourfully dressed people of all ages and ethnicities were flooding past the pub heading for Notting Hill and we were very glad that we’d made the decision to leave. In many ways watching the crowds passing from the comfort of the window seat in a bar was better than actually being in the midst of things – the best session of people watching we’ve ever experienced.


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A trip to Suffolk and then back to the centre of London

It’s a while since I did a blog so I’ve got rather a lot to catch up on! The trouble is that being in London means there’s loads of stuff to do and loads less time to actually write about it.

While Gordon looked after the boat in Alperton, I took a few days out to visit Jenny, Al and the boys in Aldeburgh. The weather was wonderful and I had a great time playing with the boys in the garden. I also had the privilege of taking Sebbie out to dinner in the local American Diner. It was a lovely few days.

Before I headed to Suffolk, we went into London on the tube from Alperton to visit Southwark Cathedral. Westminster and St Paul’s get all the publicity but we found that Southwark, while not so elaborate, is right up there alongside them and well worth a visit. There are some wonderful stained glass windows. Far more than I’ve been able to successfully photograph here.

The carved screen behind the altar is incredible.


There is a memorial to William Shakespeare and the wonderfully decorated tomb of John Gower, Poet Laureate to Richard II and Henry IV as well as being a contemporary and friend of Geoffrey Chaucer. There is a window depicting pilgrims setting out from the nearby Tabard Inn from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales but unfortunately my photographic skills let me down.  From more recent times a stone in the shape of a ship’s wheel commemorates the disaster in August 1989 when the motor vessel Marchioness, full of party goers, was struck by another vessel, resulting in the deaths of 51 people.

One of my favourite pieces in the Cathedral was this ceiling boss. Several of these have been taken down and are on display where you can get a really good look at them. This one, at first glance, looks like the devil with his fingers in his mouth. What it actually portrays is the devil swallowing Judas Iscariot. If you look carefully you can see his little feet!


In Cathedral gardens there is a memorial to the Mohegan Chief Mahomet Weyonomon, who visited London in 1736. He had travelled there to request an audience with King George II to ask for stolen tribal lands to be returned to their rightful owners.  Unfortunately he died of smallpox before that audience could be granted. The site of his grave is unknown but a stone was brought from Mohegan lands and carved with traditional forms. On 22nd November 2006 the Queen and Prince Philip met with Mohegan tribal chairman, Bruce Two Dogs Bozsum and the US Ambassador, symbolically granting the audience Mahomet was never able to receive.


We also paid a visit to the Old Operating Theatre in the attic of an English Baroque Church in St Thomas Street beside London Bridge Station. When it was, forgive the pun,  ‘operational’ it was the chapel for St Thomas’s Hospital and was handy for the wards. It consists of two main areas. The first is the herb garret with its herbs, jars and potions……

…….its recipe for Snailwater which was used as a cure for VD and a list of hospital rules from 1663.

The second part is the actual operating theatre. Operating theatres got their name because they were exactly that, theatres. Operations took place with trainees and interested parties jammed into benches learning from the experts. This one was blessed with great natural light from a large skylight. I don’t imagine this provided any consolation for the poor sods who were undergoing amputations without benefit of anaesthetic.


This painting, displayed in the theatre, portrays the rather gruesome spectacle of one of these amputations!


From Alperton, we moved the boat along to a booked mooring in Little Venice for the August Bank Holiday weekend. It’s a lovely spot and, as the weather was hot, we got to sit outside on the poop deck and watch the world go by in the evening.



Our friends Ray and Diane from nb Ferndale were moored close by in Paddington Basin and we had a great couple of days with them visiting markets and drinking the odd beer.




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Walks around London

For the last few days we’ve headed off on walks rather than planning to visit a specific attraction. On one day we wandered down the South Bank and the Embankment past some of the most recognisable parts of the city. I needed somewhere to sit and wait for a phone call from my GP about sorting medication. Couldn’t have found anywhere better than right opposite the Houses of Parliament with Big Ben donging away in the background.


After Paddington we moved on to Islington where we were extremely lucky to find a free spot to moor – someone was just pulling out as we arrived. It’s provided us with a great base for exploring the East End – and it’s right beside a good pub – the Rosemary Branch.

Last Sunday we headed out to walk to Brick Lane for another treat from Beigel Bakes. While we were strolling through Bethnal Green we came  across this colourful and joyful celebration of the Bangladeshi New Year with its performances, parades and food stalls.


Just up from where we’re moored we spotted this flowery boat which my mate Nige christened ‘the boat-anical gardens’…..

…and in a park near Angel, this artwork in a tree.

BirdBoxTree     20160801_122710

Always something new to see. We’re planning to stay here for another couple of days and do some more exploring. I reckon a visits to a few markets are on the cards – including Billingsgate if we can manage to drag ourselves out of bed in time!





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Inside Tower Bridge

One of the top items on our London ‘bucket list’ was a visit to Tower Bridge.  Diane from Ferndale (otherwise known as the twofer queen) had given us a booklet, available at overground stations, that contains two for one offers on London attractions provided you produce a British Rail ticket – any British rail ticket. We rather nervously tried it out (on account of the ticket we were using was for a trip to Saxmundham) but there was no problem – they just glanced at the it before allowing us in at half price – bargain! We arrived early and there wasn’t much of a queue but, as you go up in a lift in batches, it was taking a while to get people through so we took their offer of climbing up the wonderful Victorian staircase.


I don’t know exactly how many steps we toiled up, but it was worth the effort as we got to see the building from the inside.

When we reached the top we went out onto the two high level walkways that offered spectacular views both across London….


…and beneath our feet on the glass floors.



By the time we left and headed down to the Engine Rooms, we saw the bridge in a completely different light as we’d looked down from the windows and viewed the people and traffic from a totally different angle. You can’t actually see anyone standing on the glass floor when you’re back on terra firma but we waved up anyway.

Gordon was in his element in the engine room, where one of the two engines was steaming away gently.

After we left and headed to The Draft House for lunch there was some drama on the bridge. Police cars blocked off the road and an ambulance was parked on the bridge. Apparently there was a ‘jumper’. I couldn’t find any information on news sites about the fate of this poor soul. Apparently it’s such a common occurrence in London that it doesn’t warrant any column inches at all. A brief moment of inconvenience, then everyone proceeded about their business as if nothing had happened.



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