Starting a new life living aboard narrow boat Betty in and around London. This is my journal of life aboard Betty,exploring canal-side living, self-sufficiency and finding some quality time to do my painting.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Life at Stonebridge Lock

Stonebridge lock is a relatively tranquil haven, hidden from the busy North Circular, neighbouring Tottenham Hale and Walthamstow, you find a small community of boaters, a canoe centre, fishermen, allotments and the vast expanse of the Lea Valley Park, following the river Lea all the way to Hertford East.

We are moored on narrowboat Betty opposite the canoe centre, where every day novices take their first plunge and paddle up and down the Lea, getting tangled in duck weed along the way.

Being relatively new to boating life, having only lived on the Cut since Easter we have been genuinely surprised by the friendliness and community spirit of this way of life; borrowing and lending tools, sharing beers, barbecues, fixing stuff and stopping for a chat in all weathers.

Our neighbours also keep us entertained. The other night, past midnight we heard a loud noise, unsure as to what it was as noise bounces around on the water, we looked out the window to see midnight swimmers, splashing across the river, then shivering along the towpath. We thought this was a bit strange and only discovered later that there had been a domestic, resulting in one half of the couple deciding to leave via the river. Happily she was rescued and calm was restored to a slightly chilly night.

We are more used to seeing dogs swimming in the canal, a small ledge beside the Canoe Centre tea room provides a diving platform for the more adventurous mutts. Four Rottweilers chased big sticks, playing tug of war, tirelessly launching themselves into the river for their nightly bath. An over-excited Collie stood on the ledge pawing the bobbing water, yelping in excitement, it's owner flicked water and the Collie jumped in, barking and yelping, swimming in circles; herding an imaginary flock.

Last Friday a strange, half-naked bearded chap decided to go snorkeling above the lock. Apparently he is is a trained deep-sea diver, and frequently swims in the Lea, recovering gruesome momentos from his escapades - murder weapons, dead bodies and such like, along with the ubiquitous shopping trolley, traffic cone and white plastic picnic chair. He jumped in above the lock wearing flippers and a snorkeling mask and bobbed around for a while, dodging the large steel hulls of a couple of passing narrow boats, his movements followed by excited Jewish families in canoes.

The towpath has a wonderful variety of edible wild foods to collect. We spent Sunday Afternoon collecting the last of the Elderberries and Crab Apples and I plan to make Elderberry Syrup, rich in vitamin C to ward off all those cold and flu viruses circulating on the underground at the moment. We've also just purchased all the kit to make homemade wine and beer. So Betty should soon be a hot-bed of activity with plenty of elderberry wine and homebrew stored in the bough, ready for Christmas festivities.

I had never seen Swans in flight before I lived on the water. This morning leaving the boat two Swans took off, flying directly overhead, with their immense wing span, sounding like flexing corrugated metal as they soared into the sky. It was breathtaking and a perfect start to the morning before coming into Central London to work.

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