Thursday, 1 July 2010

To Hertford via Narrowboat

I must tell you about almost losing our passports. When staying in Paisley, we made sure our passports were safely held in the Hotel’s safe. They were still safely there after we checked out and had travelled many hours down to England. However there is nothing that induces instant insomnia so much as to be awakened by husband at 4 am swearing: “Oh S***! I forgot to pick up the passports before we left!”. Problem was solved next morning by phoning the hotel and asking them to send them by registered post to our next port of call – the Broxbourne based Lea Valley Boat Hire company. Bless them, they posted them off that day, then phoned us to say they were in the hands of the Royal Mail and would be delivered in good time for us to collect them. Disaster averted.Whew.

We then had three visits to different relatives in two days which was a nice experience. All were Peter’s relatives – the first were some Becketts living in Norfolk who kindly loaned us an album of old family photos, and some other Leylands who also lived nearby. All very friendly folk pleased to meet for the first time some of the family from the other side of the world. The last visit was to Bert & Win (cousins of Peter’s father) whom we have known and visited for quite a number of years. Bert has a wicked sense of humour and it is always fun to spend some time and share a meal with him and Win.

Family visits over, we fronted up on Monday morning at the Lee Valley Boat Hire company in Broxbourne to begin our 5 day narrowboat experience (and to pick up our passports!).We had lived in Hertford for several years in the early 1970s, and decided this would be a great way to travel back to our old home. Leaving Broxbourne after some instruction, we slowly motored the Amelia along the Lee Navigational Canal. Broxbourne is only about 4 miles from Hertford, but there are 7 locks to negotiate and all take considerable time and muscle power. The top speed of the boat is only 4 miles/hour, so it is an extremely leisurely and relaxing way to travel through some very pretty countryside. We managed 4 locks on the first day and then tied up along the bank by some trees for the night. Next morning we felt more confident at the opening and operating of the various locks and so eventually sailed into a very nice mooring right in the middle of Hertford. The town’s layout is still the same as ever but many of the businesses we knew had gone whilst some were still operating in the same shops as they did in the 1970s. We are moored right beside the Old Barge Pub on Folly Island, and so walked precisely 10 steps to the pub for our evening meal. Afterwards when we strolled around the small island, the town’s church bell-ringers practiced their chimes. Such a lovely summer evening and a perfect way to end our first day’s return to lovely Hertford.

Next morning we walked about 20 minutes across Hartham Common and up a small hill to Bengeo where the lovely, ancient St Leonard’s church has been a place of worship for over 1,000 years. It has the oldest hung door (Saxon) in the country. We knew it well from the early 1970s, so it was on our ‘must visit’ list this trip to see how it was faring. We had made prior contact with one of the ‘Friends of St.Leonards’ and met her there for an inside viewing. We’re pleased to say that the little church is now very well maintained (and loved) with weekly Sunday services throughout summer and they hold concerts and weekend events to raise money to keep it in wonderful order.

Leaving Hertford and travelling back along the canal, we passed many other narrowboats – some moored and others that were travelling the canals and so well maintained they were the homes of some people. One couple cruised the canals of England during the summer months from May to September, then left their narrowboat for winter and went to India for a few months. They had been living this way for 7 years!

Tomorrow we’re off to Guernsey!

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