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Monday, December 22, 2008


Not been much happening of late other than spending 18 days moored in Berkhamsted to get my teeth sorted and after having 3 out and a new set fitted the following 5 days were very uncomfortable. My own fault should go regularly but have a very bad fear not of the dentist but a serious fear of needles in fact I shake violently when the needle comes near but as this was on my list of things to do before .....well you know, so another on the list is to travel on Eurostar amongst other things.
Two days after the dentist i had to move as i was bored to tears, must be the water gypsy blood running through my veins, and made my way to Apsley for a few days then down the Watford area for Christmas with friends and some of the family.
Have already made my mind up that soon after Christmas I will be heading north possibly for a return visit to the Llangollen canal into Wales and after that is anybody`s guess....aaah the freedom of this life.
So my journey nears its end as i cruise under the very ornamental bridge that the Earl of Essex

ordered to be built before he would allow the canal company to cut their canal across his land. Just a short distance past the bridge is Grove Mill and it was opposite this wonderful building
i moored for the night before travelling on to what is now home till after Christmas.
I think next year will be a case of looking at the places in between last years visits as there is so much to see so stopping at some different locations might be a good plan.
Below is one of the canal related Christmas cards i sent out to friends and family ashore and it is re-produced to wish all blog readers a HAPPY CHRISTMAS.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Port? Well after reading the description in a book it got me wanting to know more and me being me I want to learn about the history of the waterway system I now live on.
So what i found out was that in 1798 the Gd. Jct. Canal (now Gd. Union) had been completed from Brentford to Berkhamsted, the onward connection to Birmingham of the canal was not to be for a few more years, and that meant cargo from around the world being transshipped onto barges could end it`s journey at what was and still is fondly called `The Port of Berkhamsted`.
During it`s heyday the `Port` had 7or8 wharves dealing with cargoes of timber,coal ,grain & chemicals to name a few and with the arrival of the canal boatbuilding began.
Before the canal arrived in Berko as the old boatmen use to call it Berkhamsted was well known for carpentry with one established company, Job East & Son making tent poles amongst other things during the Crimean war and they went on to make 202 lock gates for the widening of the Warwick section of the canal in the 1930`s the company lasted till the early 1980`s. Just as a point of interest the Bulbourne workshops where British Waterways made lock gates was built in 1810 & extended in 1848 so i assume that if at this time the Bulbourne site was producing gates that this amount of extra work had to be given to an outside contractor. Must check it out....I just love this boating life so much to find out as one thing leads to another.

The canal passing through Berko with the town and Waitrose to the left and the railway to the right. The railway, followed by road transport, first put the knife in to kill off canal transport but it was the canal that was used to carry materials to build the railway a bit like you helping build the gallows before you`re hanging. Still at least after 200 yrs much of the canal system is still here for everyone.

Above Coopers quay lower works where Sulphur & Arsenic were the main cargoes to be used in the production of sheep dip. William Cooper came to Berkhamsted in 1840 and on this site was the last of his factories making sheep dip, The site closed down in 1997 after being owned by several different company`s. More about it HERE.

Ravens Lane was a coal wharf now the usual money spinning housing development.

Castle wharf once a busy boatbuilding site and was until recently the home of Bridgewater boats hire base. Planning for 3 houses and 2 flats has been turned down so perhaps this is one wharf that will survive. The tall building to the rear was once used to stable boat horses and the upper floor as warehouse space for boat cargoes.

At the far end of Castle wharf is Alsford wharf once the home of a timber company. The Totem pole is Canadian red cedar wood and was erected some 30 yrs ago. It was carved in Vancouver for J. Alsford timber merchants. The site was sold and developed into flats and as the residents now own the freehold of the site the Totem pole belongs to them all.
This is Knowles animal feed mill now converted into flats

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


I have cruised down the Wendover Arm in the past but this time decided to have a look at the restoration work going on past the present limit of navigation.
The Wendover Arm was built in 1797 and closed in 1904 due to leakage that got so bad the mainline canal was suffering water loss.
Entry to the arm is at the top lock of the Marsworth flight at Bulbourne but at present only about 1 1/2 miles is navigable and it`s very narrow and shallow in places but with the prop gently turning no problems will be encountered.
Just a couple of bridges and a few houses canalside before passing Tring Wharf and the Heygates flour site then comes the winding hole that looks too small to turn a full size working boat as claimed in the Nicholson guide but they do say nominally for 50` boats. Before the restoration started on this section boats would have to turn here and reverse back to the stop lock just pass the pumping station.
With the restoration it is now possible to carry on past the stop lock where an artificial bank was in place to prevent water loss and cruise into the newly created winding (turning point) hole at Little Tring just through the newly built bridge. The bridge is a concrete construction but has been faced in brick to create typical canal type structure. It was opened in 2001 to replace the original bridge demolished in 1973 due to safety concerns.
So a couple of nights stay at the end of the arm will give me time to walk a bit and check out how the restoration is going.

The winding hole that looks to small to turn a full size working boat as stated in the Nicholson guide.

The stop lockThe new bridge at Little Tring

The new winding hole and end of navigation for now. Where the boats are moored is the route the arm will take to skirt the hill on the left

Some concrete walls in the making and in the distance on the left can be seen some of the lining material being laid to combat water loss.

The same section as above viewed from the opposite direction and now the first bit of canal water.

The pictures above and below showing the huge amount of work that has taken place clearing the canal bed of trees and vegetation and one of the footbridges installed so a public foot path can cross the canal.

In the picture above the canal has been diverted to the left because of the Aston Clinton by-pass that crosses the canal around the bend. The original route was to the right through the trees.
Above the new section of canal on the right joins the original route that is now blocked off on the left. The newly constructed by-pass bridge can just be seen in the distance. The new road is downhill right to left and I assume this was the reason for a new crossing point of the canal to gain headroom. The cutting each side of the bridge was created by the road contractor as part of the build plan.
This is the point the canal passed under the old A41 that was the main road before the by-pass and I only walked a short way past the bridge as my legs were aching.
Click HERE to have a look at the Wendover Arm restoration site.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs