15. Inlanding to London – 1989

Grand Union

This is the fifteenth in an occasional series of postings which should, over time, record all the major ‘inlanding’ trips I’ve taken in the years since 1989. The archive of trips can be accessed via the Inlanding – Trip Reports tab at the top of the page.

Day 15. Berkhamsted to Kings Langley

6 miles – 16 locks – 9½ hours

(above) the Red Lion, Berkhamsted

This morning, ‘Lily’ is again showing her age. She’s breathless, mis-firing, her coughs blot out the sunshine. It’s her gearbox, definitely gearbox related? She won’t slow down, she won’t pick up, there’s no neutral and little in the way of effective reverse (apologies for my lack of ‘nautical’ terminology but this is getting serious, it’s threatening the continuation of the trip).

Tick tock, tick tock, goes the clock, mid-August and stuck in the middle of the Grand Union with a wilful boat.

The final straw comes when, at Winkwell, unable to slow the boat, I strike the damned swing bridge,  in full view of guffawing drinkers sitting outside the Three Horseshoes.

(above) Winkwell Swing Bridge 1970’s

(above) Winkwell Swing Bridge, 1950s

(above) Three Horseshoes 1980s, gongozzlers lie in wait for unfortunate boaters with wilful old wooden boats

I ring for advice.

(My one concession to modernity on the boat was an early Motorola cell phone, I hesitate to use the term ‘mobile phone’ it was huge, requiring a back pack to carry it with a battery larger than a house brick…).

(above) The Beast!

Engineer Dom, who’d previously serviced the boat was calmly reassuring. As imple as low oil levels. It’s summer, it’s hot, the boat’s working harder than it’s probably ever done. Dom’s advice fill ‘er up and keep an eye on the oil levels!

Late morning I moor below Fishery Lock,

(above) Beresford Bros. below Fishery Lock, 1950s

(above) Fishery Lock, Hemel Hempstead

and eat in the pub. Fortitfied by a pint, I walk into Hemel H. and buy oil.

I don’t linger.

The oil solves the issues immediately to my huge relief.

(above) Boxmoor Lock

An afternoon through industrial decay; the huge factories that must have once dominated this part of the canal, and been the source of much of it’s traffic, have now closed. It’s an enclosed landscape of sunk boats, broken glass, tired locks, and all the while drop, after drop, after drop, the relentless descent towards London.

(above) Apsley Top Lock

(above) Apsley Lock 65

(above) Nash Mills Lock

(above) Nash Mills Lock 68

I moor at Kings Langley.

(above) Kings Langley Lock

(above) Kings Langley

I was hoping to celebrate solving the mechanical issues, even celebrate nearing London, but this time the fates were in mischievous mood and with no food at the inn, I went hungry, and in a black mood, to bed.

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