Days 14-18: over the hills and far away

June 29th, 2010

Sorry for the monster blog update, but I’ve been too busy/tired/hospitable to blog for the last few evenings. On Friday (25th June) I had a very gentle cruise to Fenny Stratford on the southern edge of Milton Keynes – which involves going all the way round the town on a long level pound. For all people like to laugh at Milton Keynes, it always seems very leafy and quietly prosperous from the canal, even if the road system and its countless roundabouts are less inspiring!
I met Mike and Chris at Fenny Stratford, and we repaired to what we thought was a pub, the Bridge Inn, for dinner. In fact, the Bridge has partly rebranded itself as Medina’s Bar and Grill, serving steaks and interesting Spanish dishes, all of which were very good indeed.

Saturday was spent climbing gently up the Chilterns – all glorious countryside, and nice to have a canal with a commanding view of the valleys below. The locks come gently at first, and then gradually become more frequent as you approach the summit. We stopped at Marsworth, just below the summit, had dinner on board and then repaired to the Red Lion…

Sunday was Hard Work, mostly for poor Chris and Mike who were happier working locks than driving. We started with eight locks in quick succession up onto the summit at Bulbourne, followed by a leafy and cool three mile cutting before coming to Cowroast lock and the start of the descent. Locks start to come thick and fast, and suddenly we were in Berkhamsted. We stopped for lunch in a small cafe, and then progressed on through the hot afternoon, our cruise punctuated by cheers and groans from pubs where the punters were watching England lose to Germany…
We pressed on to Hemel Hempstead and left the boat by the railway station.

Monday featured Yet More Locks, this time in the company of Matt, who had heroically cycled to Hemel from Wandsworth for 9:15am… more fool him! A long gentle descent continued through Kings Langley to the little village of Hunton Bridge, tucked just inside the M25. The guidebook promised a pub, the King’s Head, which we totally failed to find – in its place was a building called the Waterside Tavern which appeared to have in turn transformed into an Italian restaurant. A sign on the canal bridge pointed to a pub, the Dog and Partridge, which we also failed to find until our way back. We did, however, find an excellent and reasonably-priced lunch in a smart but otherwise deserted pub/hotel – the King’s Lodge – which also did a nice pint of Fuller’s. Given that Hunton Bridge is a stone’s throw from junction 20 of the M25, I shall remember that for future road trips!
Once outside Hunton Bridge the canal skirts the edge of Watford. What image does that create in your mind? I had imagined starting to see the backs of interwar semi-detached houses and the like, but in fact we found a golf course, a selection of old mill buildings turned into flats, and some locks set in a large woodland park. This is Cassiobury Park, once the estate of the Earl of Essex and now the playground of the citizens of Watford.
The southern edge of the park brought us our first taste of London – an Underground train rumbled over the canal on a high viaduct, heading to the Metropolitan line’s Watford terminus (which is actually at the edge of Cassiobury Park as the Earl refused permission for a tunnel under his land for the line to reach Watford High Street). Below the viaduct were increasing numbers of moored boats, some smart, some scruffy, some very scruffy indeed, and we meandered our way down to Batchworth Lock in Rickmansworth to stop for the night.

Today I’ve done various odds and ends. I did some data analysis first thing, and then went to find a nearby laundrette (named Scrub-a-rub-dub!) before returning to do a bit of job-hunting and CV writing. I went to Tesco for some supplies, collected the laundry and then motored on down a few locks to the vicinity of Denham railway station so that another Chris can meet me tomorrow morning for the journey into the Big Smoke.

Days 14-18: Cosgrove to Widewater lock via stops at Marsworth, Hemel Hempstead and Rickmansworth, 52 miles and 66 locks.
Total so far 185 miles and 125 locks. Thesis 8791 words and 45 pages.

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