Sunday, August 24, 2008

Another quick scene change

Day 26, Limehouse Basin to Waltham Town Lock, River Lee

After nine long days on the Thames, it's amazing the changes of scenery we've seen over the last few days: from Teddington (big) to Little Venice (er, little); to Limehouse (ginormous) to here, about two thirds (at a guess) up the River Lee. Which, thankfully, isn't really a river in the Thamesey sense, but much more canalish, and very enjoyable, with some heavy lock gates providing for a good workout.

I walked a circuit of Limehouse Basin in the rain this morning, taking some pictures of Warrior looking even more insignificant, with Canary Whaf in the background. I also got eight swans in a row - one broke ranks slightly at the last minute, but hopefully this still qualifies for the Granny Buttons Birds in a Row Challenge Cup.

We were in any number of minds about when, where and how to set off this morning, but I CanalPlanned the route to Hertford, as we were thinking of going up the Lee, and CP gives it as twelve hours the whole way, so I reckoned we could get there and back in three days easy - long enough to keep clear of the Notting Hill Carnival (though how much does that actually affect the canal anyway?) and still be back in time to get to Uxbridge for the weekend, to banter with the Moomins and Chris (Baldock) hopefully, before starting to worry about how we're actually going to get back to Ramsey. Apparently it's only about thirty miles north of Hertford ... if only they'd built that canal back in the eighteenth century.

The Limehouse Cut, down which we set off, and the Lee, provide plenty of contrast. Talking yesterday to someone who has a boat here, he said it was industrial to start with, but pretty later. Oho, we said, we like industrial. And it was, and it was great. It was very weedy, and it was the green stuff rather than the litter that did most to chog up the prop, but the occasional blast of reverse got it off. It was still hard to believe that we were in London, as there are still so many derelict buildings. There were also the usual quotient of horrendous new builds, and some nicer ones, and a fantastically sympathetic conversion of the old Spratts factory. Most of the building and conversion was so recent it must be unrecognisable from even ten or fifteen years ago.

We passed the new Bow Locks, and the entrance to the Bow Back Rivers, which are now off limits as part of the Olympic site, and saw first hand some of the famous blue Olympic wall, now covered in expensively reproduced Olympic-themed artwork by local schoolchildren. I'd love to post photos of all this, but be patient, and when I get home it'll all be on Photobucket. I dread to think how many photos I've taken. Friday was the heaviest day - I downloaded 143 then, in my delight at being back on the interesting canal system. The Olympics do not appear to be popular with local graffiti-ists; there were lots of adverse comments, and accusations of corruption to be seen.

Another sad sight was the handsome house at Enfield Lock, built for the Lee Conservancy in 1889, and now boarded up. I wonder what its future is, and in whose (BW?) hands it lies.

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