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Friday, November 30, 2007




Wednesday, November 28, 2007


A typical view of a retail park that could be anywhere in the country but up until the 1990`s you would have been looking at the John Dickinson paper mill. In the early 1800`s John Dickinson (1782-1869) acquired Apsley, Nash and Croxley mills.
The main site here at Apsley, Hemel Hempstead had in 1809 no trains, buses or cars but what it did have was a wet motorway system of the 1800`s called the Grand Jct. Canal. The London & Nth. Western Railway came along in the 1830`s but it was not until 1938 that Apsley station was built because of the paper mills. It was about this time the railways played a big part in the transport of the mills products.
Up to the railway era and for a long time after the canal played a big part in distribution of the mills paper products and in fact J. Dickinson`s had its own fleet of steam powered narrowboats bringing in coal and raw materials and re-loading paper and stationery for shipment not just in the UK but across the world.
Esparato Grass was a raw material used in paper making and came from Africa never touching dry land until being unloaded at Apsley having been transshipped onto narrowboats in London.

In 1818 Mr Dickinson had negotiated with the canal company to re route the canal closer to his mills (must try and find some evidence of the old route sometime) which i suppose must have been the reason boats played a big part in the daily life at the mills for so long.
Workers at the mills were treated fairly well and in the late 1800`s a whole train would be hired to take workers to the south coast. The 1904 centenary saw every worker getting an extra weeks pay and many workers were in the company Silver Band that often played to radio audiences.
Well before the NHS came about Dickinson maintained a ward at the local hospital for his workers.

The Basildon Bond brand was established in 1911.
No Mr Bond we don`t expect you to talk we expect you to make paper (sorry couldn`t resist)
Other than this clock and 2 small buildings nothing else remains.
The mills closed in the late 1990`s and having lived myself in Watford for 12 years i remember in the early 70`s the site was a landmark along the original A41 to Aylesbury before the new by-pass was built. Nowadays just a retail park, housing and a hotel line the route past this once magnificent group of buildings.
What started me off looking into the John Dickinson site was the need to satisfy my lust of knowing whats around that corner or where does that lead to. Having always had this desire and i think that`s how i learnt my way around London & the home counties when driving it was on

this my 6th time cruising through the lock pictured above that being moored here for 2 weeks it was time to find the answer. Where does that bit to the left of the lock go?. So i set off wandering around the streets at the side of the canal until i traced the end and it turned out that it lead to Frogmore Mill. The mill wasn`t part of the JD site but they did do business with each other.

This is the basin by the mill that is behind me and here boats would un-load coal used to power the steam driven paper making machines.

The mill is owned and operated, yes still making paper today, by Apsley Paper Trail Charitable Trust- using machinery a 100yrs+ in age.

In 1803 the first commercial paper making machine was developed here. The mill is open during the year giving guided tours and boat trips during the warmer weather.

The trust has recently been awarded a £1 million lottery grant to preserve the site and hopefully re-instate the mills waterwheel.

So i`ve enjoyed my myself delving into a bit of history and if you would like to read more try scroll down the page almost to the bottom to" Local History "and click on" Hemels Mills " Happy reading.
Red text added Thursday-must employ a proof reader.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Well don`t quite know what to say to you wonderful pep es out there. Just thought i would leave it for a few days to see IF any body replied and holy narrow boats did the replies come in, not just via comments but e mail also. Thank you all.

All the replies were fantastic but one that sums it up for me was posted on "Black Weekend" from Lesley K.

enjoys daily updates but pops in to NB VALERIE to see if i have posted

If not what the heck............keep family informed but allows others to peek in

Now that Lesley is what i call Blog Hopping and i do it all the time it`s good fun.

I suppose for you ladies it`s a bit like shopping you wander shop to shop just checking if anything knew has arrived.

You know folks what surprised me was the new names that came up amongst the comments, it just goes to show how many people read the blog but exercise their right on weather or not to post comments.

Anyway i will keep blogging so pop in now and again.

Had a nice walk the other day to check something out and i was not disapointed. Will tell you what i found soon but for now what have Sainsburys, Currys, Argos, Comet and a few others all got in common in Hemel Hempstead.

Again thankyou all very much for your support and may i wish you all the very best of health.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Before you read this post maybe you should read the comments left on the "Black Weekend" entry.

First and most important is my Grandson Jack who is upset by the picture of the truck pulling the boat out for blacking. Well Jack as grandad explained Friday when you visited me i did not look closely at the picture when i put it on the blog and yes you are right it `s not very nice little fella, and i am glad you are being brought up by parents who are teaching you the rights and wrongs of the world.

Thanks to JO, yes be nice to meet you again and hope you get going soon. Also LES D i am sure we will meet i estimate early next year.

The longest comment from "annon" is the one that caught my eye and yes i agree that from your side of the fence the blog would appear to be going downhill. It would seem you have been reading the blog for sometime weather you have commented in the past i don`t know as you remain "annon". That of course is your right.

Have you read the lines at the top of the page that state i do not blog daily but as and when etc.

When travelling far and wide during the summer i see and do many things and just a few i decide to blog, i decide being the words i would like you to appreciate. I would also like you to remember i am retired and after 45 years of working the last thing i want is to be tied to any routine even one as small as doing a blog.

I don`t know who the other bloggers are who agree with you to the extent they don`t read the blog anymore but by the phone calls and e mails i recieve from blogger friends i know it is still read by many people.

The decline in comments you mention is correct but it doesn`t worry me as i also get e mails re many of the blogs and in fact got 3 e mails on the blacking blog.

You mention the "Non important" blogs, by this do you mean things like power saving and the wind genny? If so then i must tell you i recieve e mails asking for more info from fellow boaters and people who are thinking of starting a new life afloat so although these blogs are of no importance to you personally some people take an interest.

So summing up, i am sorry you have been dissapointed of late but please take in what i have said above and by all means comment on this blog or e mail me if you prefer.

This years plans have been spoilt by the summer flooding and i have spent longer moored in places than normal. The boat blacking at Cow Roast Marina meant being tied to a timetable and in fact i arrived 2 weeks before hand. Now i am in the Hemel area and have been for the last 12 days. This time of year always brings me south as i spend christmas with family in Herts/Beds.

Plan at the moment is go into London and back to this area for the Christmas hols.

Some of my blogger friends moor up and travel to family for this time of year but as i can travel by boat near to mine it does mean this bit of canal becomes very familiar.

Next years thoughts, not plans, are maybe to travel across East Anglia through N` hampton, Peterborough, St Ives but at the moment just thoughts as with this life you can decide on the spur of the moment.
So should i keep blogging. Tell me what you think.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Well Friday morning arrived and it was time to caste off and head round to the marina to watch my baby being dragged from the water so i could spend the weekend blacking the bottom.
A narrowboat should be blacked every 2/3 years as rust is the biggest enemy of a boater. As this was the first time the boat had been blacked other than the coat it had when new i was keen to do it myself so i could prepare the hull properly and make sure every nook and cranny (wonder where that expression originated) was well coated with the bitumastic.
I have heard stories of boatyards just jet washing off the slime and then painting on the blacking with no regard to treating any rust that might be present. Do the job yourself and you know its done proper is my philosphy. With this in mind after jet washing the whole surface was sanded down using some heavy duty sanding discs. This was followed by 2 coats of black and a 3rd 6" each side of the waterline as this is the spot where a combination of air and water is a recipe for rust to form.

So this is where i need to go and you can see the trolleys just entering the water. The boat will be floated over the trolleys and the tractor unit will pull her out. Hope it doesn`t hurt her.
The tractor unit is ready.

The front rises up like a plane taking off

and of course the back follows.

Well she seems to have survived being pulled out and i am just holding her to reassure her.
Plenty of room in the shed so on with the washing.


and front.

Here`s the finished product
That ladder was my means of getting aboard.

So job done back in she goes

Don`t know how she feels as she slides back in but i miss the feel of water under foot with that little movement as you walk around inside.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Hope you all enjoyed the fireworks. These were some i pictured from the towpath that were part of a display by boaters on the long term moorings opposite my present mooring.

Had a nice surprise yesterday when a chap walked by and introduced himself as Les and just for a moment i was puzzled and then realised he was a member of the canal forum (link on right above) Les will soon be afloat as his boat is nearing completion. So the kettle went on and we had a nice chat.

NB VALERIE comes out of the water Friday morning and i will have the w`end to black the bottom, must get some pics. Luckily the boat will be under cover so the rain and wind forcast for the w`end won`t have to much effect on my work schedule.

Yes very nice but it`s chilly and the pubs open.

Friday, November 02, 2007


P0wer is one of the most important things to be aware of when living afloat and just lately i have been giving the subject a lot of thought. As you have read already the wind generator is up and running and helps to top up the batteries but whatever way you charge those batteries it`s the way you make use of the stored power that is the important bit.
Onboard i have mains power that is obtained via an inverter from the battery bank but the problem is it`s capacity is large at 3000w which is fine to run the washing machine, although i usually do the washing when cruising, but when all you want to do is use the laptop or watch TV running a 3000w inverter for 40w-60w is a waste. As far as the laptop is concerned i bought a

small 100w inverter from Maplins that as you can see in the picture above plugs into a cigarette plug to which i have connected a 12v plug and the laptop now gets its power from an 100w inverter as against 3000w. A small saving power wise but every little helps those batteries last longer.
Another thing I previously used the 3000w inverter for was watching TV and the 15" flatscreen i bought in Asda works on 240v but the current is stepped down to 12v and in the pic below the
lower box connected to the mains plug is what came with the set and the box above it is the replacement. What it actually does is accepts a 12v input and gives out a stablised 12v. This is important as although the TV will run straight from 12v these flatscreens are very fussy and a rise in voltage input can render the TV dead.
So TV is now watched direct from 12v and as the Sky box also works from 12v there is no need to run the 3000w inverter. Since doing these changes i have noticed a higher battery reading in the mornings which means less engine running to charge batteries.

Right where am i ? Not saying exactly but have moved from Stoke Bruerne through Milton Keynes and L. Buzzard and am at the moment passing some time, before the boat comes out of the water so i can black the bottom, altering the locker at the rear of the boat to make it bigger to accomodate the water hose amongst other things.
Cruising along you see many things and in the pictures below is a boat that appears to have a tent pitched on the front and a summerhouse on the back.

Oh well must go now as i am off to a firework display so i leave you with this sunset a couple of days ago.

Goodnight and take care with the fireworks.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs