Slough Rider

24th Jun to 1 Jul – Slow (Slough) progress and meeting friends

Having moaned for a few weeks about how chilly it was “for the time of year” is it wrong to be moaning about how hot it is? Well of course it is, but that’s what we Brits do, constantly kvetch about the weather – good or bad we are rarely happy.

Did I mention how hot it was on Monday? In the old days we’d have sought out somewhere cool and shady for a hot day, but in our constant quest to harvest solar energy, it’s full sun for us! But we do remove the windows to get as much air in as possible – and we run our electric fan all day. We are just approaching 4.5 Megawatt hours since launch. Roughly 1.5 Megawatts per annum. Not bad eh?

We did not set off until Paul finished work on Monday evening. The cruise was not a particular joy in some respects, as we were following a single-handed wide beam boat down through the locks. The section is also very heavily moored, with boats nose to tail as far as the eye could see, often double banked. But it was a lovely evening to be cruising and we found a very nice spot for the night and, although it was near a sewage treatment works, it wasn’t too smelly.

The River Colne is our partner on this stretch – a tributary of the Thames which it joins at Staines. The flow on the canal in this area is pretty strong, thanks to the fast flowing R. Colne’s contributions, so we made sure we were more than usually securely moored.

The spot backed on to one of the many gravel pits that we have been cruising alongside and was very quiet. We decided that summer was finally here and changed over the 1 Tog summer quilt, which was more than adequate. I’ve seen an ad recently that asks “What is a tog?” In case you too are wondering, TOG stands for “Thermal Overall Grade”, which is a measure of the “thermal effectiveness” of your duvet; the higher the tog, the warmer the duvet will be – although we knew that.

The alarm went off at 06:00 on Tuesday morning – we need to get somewhere by Thursday, so really need to keep moving. It was a fab morning – warm with a cool breeze as we slipped down through a couple of locks. I had a bit of trouble at one of them – Black Jack’s. The Colne leaves the canal through a wide mouthed culvert right by the mouth of the lock, and I really struggled to get away from the bank. I had to call Paul to come and push as I went forward. Tricky – but teamwork made the dream work.Can’t abide that phrase!

After a couple of hours cruising, during which we heard a late cuckoo, we came to a lovely spot (see X above) and quickly got ourselves set up for the day – plenty of cool drinks, shades down, windows out and fan on. It seems counterintuitive to run the fan from an energy POV, but there is so much solar coming in, it barely scratches the surface!

I did a couple of loads of washing – bedding and general and set them to dry. Pegging out the washing in that heat nearly made me peg out! But it should be bone dry by the end of the day, which is good because the bedding will go into storage until Autumn comes a-knocking.

Progress feels painfully slow this year, mainly because there are so many locks. Barely have you got back on the boat than it’s time to get off again. This makes it difficult to make much progress Mon -Thurs as Paul is working. I could probably manage them single handed but it would be slow and Paul would miss out. We will get there (wherever that is!) eventually and we are enjoying ourselves, so why hurry anyway?

By the way – I’ve been waiting to see/hear my first green parakeets or ring-necked parakeets (Psittacula krameri ) as we near London. We heard a couple of odd ones towards the end of last week but we are now firmly in their territory. Scientists have worked out that most wild UK parakeets are descended from birds that originally came from Pakistan and northern India. They were kept as pets before being released – possibly as a reaction to the fear of catching what was known as ‘parrot fever’ in the 50s. It was feared that bird owners could contract psittacosis, a respiratory disease that can result in pneumonia and which can jump from birds to people. It led to a national ban on importing birds lasting 20 years.

Of course they are not native to this country, sadly, and there are various studies to determine whether they should be classified as an invasive species. Their natural predators are tawny owls, sparrowhawks and peregrine falcons. It seems likely that they must be having some kind of impact, which is a shame as they are such pretty birds.

It wasn’t the quietest of moorings – but it wasn’t traffic or rail noise that disturbed our peace. We had Coot Wars! Several Coot families with chicks – almost adult size – who clearly didn’t get on. They spent most of the day tooting and flapping and doing that peculiar coot thing of treading water and fluffing their feathers up so they look more formidable. I wish I’d filmed it! Luckily they quietened down at Coot bedtime.

Leaving Tuesday night’s mooring.

It was another early start on Wednesday. Another jewel of a morning. It’s hard to believe, as you slip along this green and peaceful corridor, that you are just on the outskirts of Uxbridge,It was so lovely I took a quick video – complete with Cuckoo calling.

Hear the Cuckoo!

Sadly, my bête noire – the horrible waste of money that is HS2 – is soon going to shatter the peace. A new viaduct is currently under construction that will carry it over the the Colne Valley. The 3.4km long viaduct is made up of spans up to 80m long, supported on 56 piers. The surface they are building on is chalk and they have had to take special measures to support what will be the highest speeds and dynamic forces of any UK railway viaduct. It was vigorously opposed locally but to no avail and deep disappointment. Understandable. I’d be gutted too.

It was a very hot day on Wednesday, with the mercury hitting 29C. But we mustn’t complain. That would be churlish! A quick look at the weather shows it cooling down a bit as we near the weekend, which is good news as we have some serious cruising planned!

We pulled an early start, on Thursday coming down Denham Deep Lock (it was!), Uxbridge lock and finally Cowley look, which was very pretty, bedecked as it was with patriotic bunting and Stop HS2 signs. I’m afraid that ship has sailed, sadly.

We saw a widebeam called Audrey May on the way down which raised a smile and a little misty eye – it was my Mum’s name, although she wasn’t that keen on it.! I do miss her though. Hot weather reminds of how she loved a hosepipe fight – although woe betide you if you made her hair wet!

We moored below Cowley lock on the 7 day Visitor moorings. It was shaded but as we were only stopping temporarily and going into a Marina later, it was fine. I had some baking to do, so I did pop the genny on while I did that. Banana Bread (the bananas ripened way too quickly in the heat) and some Cheese Shortbread* biccies for nibs that evening. On Old Nick, nibs is essentially food that you eat with alcohol before dinner. It could be olives or crisps or cheese straws or prawns or even cocktail sausages – anything bite size and savoury really! Often served with accompanying dip.

I used the time to do some cleaning and tidying and then I brought the boat down to the Slough arm and Packet Boat Waterside and Marina. As we approached the junction, we saw a boat full Suez across the canal. It was adrift at the bow. It was very windy and quite a tricky manoeuvre to get it re-pinned.

I brought Old Nick onto the bank at the bow and Sumps leaped off, mallet in hand. He had to get on the errant boat and walk along the gunwales to retrieve the bow rope. As he was doing that, someone dozily opened the bow doors and asked what was happening. Paul explained and she looked very shocked. We assumed she’d been asleep, blissfully unaware of her predicament.

Like the gallant chap he is, Paul hammered her mooring pin back into the bank and bid her adieu. What a hero! I, meanwhile, had been holding the boat in position in the stiff breeze, avoiding boats (which were moored both sides of the cut). I swooped in and – heroine that I am – adroitly picked him up and we went on our way. It’s all part of the service!

We arrived at the Marina, first turning into the narrow mouth of the Slough Arm (at Cowley Peachey Junction) and shortly after, into the Marina – passing two sunken boats on the way. That augurs well!

We do plan to explore the Slough arm – all 5 miles of it – maybe next week? But we were in position, ready for our rendezvous with our friends Nick and Sarah. This is their 4th year of visiting. Larks! Now to prepare – beds to make, bathrooms to clean, floors to wash etc etc.

Our guests arrived at around 8 pm bearing mahoosive home-made Cornish Pasties for supper and copious amounts of alcohol. I doubt they’ll leave similarly encumbered! We spent the evening eating and catching up – yakking until midnight.

We had a leisurely breakfast on Friday and set off at about 11 am. We had decided that we’d go back the way we had come on Thursday, as we knew the section and seen some nice moorings. It was a very sunny day and we had a lovely cruise up through three locks, hoping to moor in the spot where we had spent Wednesday night.

Sadly our spot had been taken – hardly a surprise but disappointing. We eventually found a spot that we were happy with and moored up. The alcohol started flowing shortly after. We started with Sgroppini (Sgroppino al Limone to give the cocktail it’s full name). Once we had run out of the ingredients for that, we moved on to Margaritas and finally Rum Punches. DInner flew out of the window, and so did reason. I think you could say it was a good night! Much laughter and silliness.

The next morning we were all a little hazy about how and when we had got to bed and were all feeling a little jaded – some more than others. We had some brekker and then relaxed for a while – some horizontally! It seems that we ploughed our way through over half a bottle of Vodka, a whole bottle of Tequila, half a bottle of Pussers Rum and half a bottle of Prosecco. Eventually, we felt like moving on and winded the boat ready for the homeward journey.

The sun was pretty hot and we found a nice spot, with shade for the stern seating area and sunshine for the solar panels. We spent a very pleasant afternoon and evening playing games (UNO Flip, Grabolo and Outsmarted). Although we were all now feeling more like normal, very little alcohol (no spirits!) passed our lips apart from a shot of Rum (and a sip of beer for me) to toast Sarah’s Dad Terry, who had sadly passed away on that day a year ago.

We had fun feeding the coots (Fulica atra) and their chicks and watching them diving for tasty bits of weed. The water was so clear we could see the dive in its entirety. Did you know that Coots have white feet? This made it easier to see them under water. It’s one of the things I love about this life – watching the wildlife.

A Coot foot

It was raining when we set off on Sunday morning – mostly drizzle, although requiring a brolley occasionally. But it soon petered out to another fine day. We arrived back at Packet Boat and our guests stayed for lunch before departing on their journey back to Portchester. A lovely weekend with lots of laughs and fun.

After our guests had left, we tidied up, sorted the water and toilet, showered and relaxed for the rest of the day. Paul watched the England/Slovakia game (distinctly lacklustre but ultimately successful) and I caught up on my “guilty pleasure” type progs. Another week over! They are flying by – not long now until our grandson Chester’s 1st birthday. I can hardly believe that this time last year, we were excitedly anticipating his arrival!

We have managed to get a berth at Packet Boat Marina, so that we can pop down and celebrate his first year. Unfortunately, the time left until his birthday does not give us quite enough time to get into London, explore and get back out, so we are going to have to spend a couple of weeks stooging around these parts, until after we have been home.

24th Jun to 1st Jul1813

*Cheese Shortbreads – they are very quick and simple to make and so tasty. Just three ingredients – drop me a comment if you’d like the recipe?

7 Replies to “Slough Rider”

  1. Love your blogs Kay. I’m almost there with you when I read them. We used to have such laughs when we cruised with my sister and brother-in-law. I’d love your cheese shortbread recipe. Hope the weather stays good for you. X

  2. This is the first time I have read your blog – such a delight. I recognise that thing of friends on board and dinner being overtaken by nibbles and alcohol – wine in our case.
    We have lovely memories of boating where you have just written about – it’s so special to be so close to a huge city and yet for it to be rural and peaceful, isn’t it?
    By the way, I have found the cheesy shortbread recipe online and will be making them tomorrow.
    Cheers, Marilyn McD
    formerly of nb Waka Huia (but still blogging at

    1. Hi Marilyn – lovely to hear from you. I hope you enjoy the Cheese Shorties Thank for reaching out. I’ll take a look at your blog.

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