As we cruise along Les and I keep our eye's peeled for downed trees along the canal. As most boaters will tell you, usually these offerings fall on the off-side where the canal bed is shallow and a boat cannot get close enough to cut up the tree. Sometimes we are fortunate to find a windfall near a lock as we did near Seabrook lock last month. In years past with water levels low, we've had to pass on some good wood stock because there was no way to get near them.
With this winter's ferocious winds and millions of cubic feet of water relentlessly battering the UK, trees are uprooted everywhere; there is wood to be had it seems around every bend on the cut, as happened on the Grand Union Canal between Dudswell Locks 47-48.
|Les has nearly cleared all the tree branches from the cut|
We made plans to head south from Cow Roast after Les' winter of recuperation. Sadly still tied to the Watford area by two more surgeries to come, Les has decided to cruise slowly down to London for a week and then back up again. So we walked down to Dudswell locks and sussed out the situation.
|View from Dudswell Lock gate after nearly 6.5 hours of work|
This allowed us perfect access to the downed trees, and plenty of room just near the boat to cut it up with the axe and stack it on the roof. We could get away with mooring on the lock bollards because no boats were moving down to Berko yet--everyone was waiting for the Northchurch lock to open.
We weren't sure what species of trees were down but they weren't Willow. The bark was greenish gray with darker mottled spots on it. A review of the debris on the ground near the trees told us nothing further. I figured it for Ash but decided to force a small branch with swollen buds to bloom. Time will tell...
|A shy wood sprite watches us!|
During tea break a young bloke on a plastic cruiser came down through the lock and we invited him to moor up in front of us. He was interested in sussing out some wood for himself.
As the afternoon went on we discovered the young man was headed down to London and over to the Lee Navigation to moor up permanently. He was new to boating, having lived in squats around London until he saved enough money to buy a second hand boat on which to live.
He didn't say what he did for a living so I didn't pry. We talked about how ridiculously expensive rent is in and around London--especially for those in the service trades. Friends of his were living on a boat and convinced him it was the cheapest means of affordable living near the Capitol.
As we cruised south we discovered a feast of wood everywhere. We were so spoiled for choice we passed up some off cuts by CaRT who've been trimming the overhanging growth on the offsides, from Leighton Buzzard all the way down to Bulls Bridge over the mild winter.
As we traveled through Boxmoor Park and Hemel Hemptead we spotted two mighty uprooted trees near the canal. Boats moored nearby sported roofs covered in wood. We decided we would stop at the edge of Hemel near the B&Q (for Americans, think Home Depot) so Les could purchase another can of paint. In his spare time he's been grinding away at the rust spots on our boat, treating and repainting them.
As we approached Boxmoor Lock Les spotted yet another downed tree just near the lock on the offside! We moored up while he sawed the large branches into fat rounds. I brought the boat into the lock, we dropped a paddle to bring the roof down lower, and stacked the fresh cut rounds on the roof for splitting later. Again, while we know this tree wasn't Willow, we aren't sure what it is. There were conkers on the ground nearby; it could be Horse Chestnut. I took another slim branch with one big, fat bud on the end to force.
The first branch is in full bloom now. Frilly, bright green catkins with reddish ruffled edges drupe from sticky sleeves. No leaves have unfurled yet, but they are beginning to peak out from the buds. I suspect the trees downed at Dudswell may be Alder.
Since NB Val is now sporting a rash of different green colored spots where Les has been grinding off the rust, we have decided to paint her ourselves next year. In the meantime I can choose new paint colors. At the present I am favoring Dulux Weathershield Highland Green with light cream and Gold Rush accent colors, although I am liable to change my mind. As some bright spot once said, " A woman who doesn't change her mind doesn't have one."