Kings Langley to Berkhampstead
7th August 2010
9 Miles - 18 locks - 6 hours
The mooring at Kings Langley just below bridge 158 is excellent, sheltered from the busy A41 which runs through the town, and the railway which runs behind the flats built on the old Ovaltine factory site.
After our efforts yesterday we didn't stir till 9.30 am and then did a mid season oil change so we didn't get moving till 10.30.
As we moved up to Kings Langley Lock the boater moored behind us wandered over to chew the cud, as boaters have a habit of doing. I commented on the balloons flying above his boat and asked who was celebrating what. He sheepishly confessed that it was his birthday the night before but that he had celebrated alone with a few bottles of wine. It was more than a little bit sad.
Welcome to Berkhampstead
Progress was agonisingly slow due to a mixture of additional boat traffic and very slow filling locks which didn't have gate paddles. We finally drew into Hemel Hempstead, scene of Belle's miss spent youth and moored up to take a closer look at the lock, the cricket club and St Mary's Church - but more of that tomorrow.
Slow progress continued and hopes of a pump out and re fuel were dashed when Middlesex and Herts Boat Services, the only boatyard in the area, was as deserted as the Marie Celeste. Everything was unlocked and ready to go, but no one was in sight.
Things went from bad to worse at Lock 60 - Wirkwell Lock with a jammed top gate. Try as we might, we couldn't get it closed. Eventually, after much pushing and pulling, we got it nearly closed - closed enough to empty the chamber and reveal the end of a car bumper. Knowing what it was we snagged the other end with a boat hook and pulled it clear and the gate swung open.
The canal is quite shallow about there and much dredging work was in evident near Bam End Locks, but the pounds were 2ft down leaving us to drag the bottom for ages.
We finally entered Berkhampstead at 7.30 pm, picking up two much needed pints at the Rising Sun, a popular freehouse which overlook lock 55. Berkhampstead has taken the canal to its heart, with colourful signs welcoming visitors. Surprisingly there appears to be an alcohol and youth issue in the town, with both drunks and Police in full visibility. The parkside moorings were shunned by the boaters and so in stead we found safety in numbers and moored beside Waitrose.