Visiting Christopher & Matthew

Christopher & MatthewMet up with Christopher and Matthew in Colliers Wood and went out for the evening to a restaurant in Clapham called Gastro, which is a lovely french restaurant, with french-speaking staff and organic food on the menu. We were served by a dashing Australian waiter, who spoke French, and who was very friendly and physical. The oysters were fantastic, as were the foie gras, steak and scallops. Afterwards we went for cocktails at Kazbar in Clapham. It was a lovely evening so we stood outside to have our drinks. Christopher and I had to make a DIY gin martini from gin, vermouth and ice cubes. It turned out ok! This also saved the frantically overworked barmen a few seconds.

Koi Carp & Tadpoles

In the morning Christopher made a lovely breakfast and we spent a couple of hours in their fabulous garden admiring their Koi Carp (which is over a foot long now). I love this photo, with the carp surrounded by little black tadpoles (which it had been eating). Matthew spent a good 20 minutes trying to catch four little brown fish from their pond for us to take back to Cambridge. We brought them all the way back and they are now deep down somewhere in our water feature (which must be slumming it compared with the massive pond they came from.)

We picked up a lovely Civil Partnership present from Jan, Matthew and Christopher’s neighbour. She gave us a lovely card (of a red mountain scene, which looked Scottish) and two smart welded steel planters for the garden along with a pack of bulbs. We didn’t get to meet Jan on this trip—she’s away in Cornwall at the moment.

After we left Colliers Wood we tried to get to Adonis Art Gallery to look for Michael’s 40th birthday present from me (still not bought). On the bus on the way to Wimbledon Michael found out from the web site that the gallery was closed on a Sunday, so we diverted back to a direct route home.

Final Goodbye to the Beer Festival

On the spur of the moment we had lunch at the beer festival: it was quiet today, but the weather wasn’t great.

We had some cheese, bread and pork pie/scotch egg type stuff and a couple of 1/2 pints of beer.

Michael tried:

  • A Rauch Bier from Germany, which was very smokey (beechwood-smoke flavoured
  • A Sour Cherry Lambic Beer, which we had intended to share but it was just too sour for me.

Graham tried:

  • Great Oakley (Great Oakley, Northants) Wot’s Occurring
  • Elgood’s (Wisbech, Cambridgeshire) Golden Newt

ICT Beer Friday

Tonight was the last night at the Beer Festival, organised by Matt Stiles from ICT at work. Matt and Rob were at the BF when it opened at 5, but ended up in a pub to avoid the queue. It was pretty busy, and the weather was great after a day of dull rain. (Invitation below, designed by Matt Stiles.)

I got there about 7 and tried some lovely beers:

  • Ufford Ales (White Hart Pub, Ufford, Cambridgeshire) Red Clover
  • Iceni (Ickburough, Norfolk) Maris Lane Bitter (I had this on Monday night and it is so nice that I’m surprised that it lasted the 5 days!)

Matt and Rob also bought me a couple of pints, but couldn’t remember what they had bought. Whatever they were, I enjoyed them. Tim arrived a bit later and it was good to catch up with him.

Cambridge Beer FestivalRobert EaglingCambridge Beer Festival

Beer Thursday

A lovely evening and so we popped along to the Beer Festival for beer and dinner. Started of with Hog Roast rolls with apple sauce, then Michael had a curry plate and I had fish and chips (bit of a greedy night).

Met up with Susan, Colin, Helen, Ian, Claire, Graeme, Andrew and Dave, which was lovely.

Michael tried:

  • Whitewater (Newry, Co. Down) Mayflower
  • Oulton (Oulton Board, East Anglia) Sunrise
  • Organic (Helston, Cornwall) Hazlenphron Gold

Graham tried:

  • Breconshire (Brecon) Red Dragon
  • Old Stables (Sir William Peel,Sandy, Bedfordshire) Palomino Pale Ale
  • Rockingham (Blatherwycke, Northants) Golden Dragon

The festival site on Jesus Green was really busy when we left at 9.15. It was great to see it packed. I had intended to volunteer behind the bar tonight but I left work too late really!

Beer Tuesday

Cambridge Beer FestivalPopped around to Jesus Green for a second night at the Beer Festival. It was pretty cold tonight 10°C, but warm in the tent from the number of bodies there.

Michael tried:

  • Fine Ale Club (Oulton Brewery) Against the Grain. Brewed with no wheat and ‘naturally cloudy’
  • Malvern Hills (Great Malvern, Worc) Priessnitz Pizen. Lager style.

Graham tried:

  • Old Chimneys (Diss, Norfolk) Golden Pheasant. Golden and hoppy, from one of my favourite breweries (for their Winter Warmer).
  • Loddon (Dunsden, Berks) Flight of Fancy. Beer made with 40% wheat malt, pale malt and gold hops. Really lovely, and my top beer for the night

33rd Cambridge Beer Festival

Tonight was the first night of the 33rd Cambridge Beer Festival. We went along about 6 pm and it was pretty muddy and busy already. We had a nice meal of ham, bread and cheese, with a chilli-pickled egg, pork pie and a scotch egg on the side. We happened to sit near a stand giving away free Woodeforde’s beer, so we tried some of this for free!33rd Cambridge Beer Festival Logo

Michael tried:

  • Hereward, St Ethelreda’s Golden Bitter (Ely)
  • Beartown Wheat Beer (Congleton, Cheshire)
  • Woodeforde’s Wherry (Norfolk)
  • Woodeforde’s Nelson’s Revenge (Norfolk)
  • 1648 Bee Head (Kings Head, East Hoathly, East Sussex)

Graham tried

  • Royal Ginger—ginger flavoured, which was good fun.
  • Woodeforde’s Wherry (Norfolk)
  • Iceni, Maris Lane Bitter (Ickburugh, Norfolk) Probably the best beer I tried this evening.
  • Moling Red (Southern Ireland) — I like red beers, but this was awful, I took it back and Toby (the barman) agreed and I got a replacement second beer!
  • Mayflower, Dandelion & Burdock (Royal Oak, Wigan) with Burdock syrup in it, tasted strongly of the favouring—quite medicinal.

The rain didn’t seem to dampen spirits and the first night of the festival was in full swing when we left around 8.45. Full beer list.

Bye bye Jessie

Michael was up before his 7.30 alarm this morning, but I barely heard the alarm going at all. We had a quick breakfast and finished packing before we had to move the boat about 20 metres to the mooring in the boatyard. I had to help Matt the boat boy get his spike unstuck as he’d driven it into the side of the bank so hard it was wedged.

We were off the boat by 9.30 and on a train by 10, back to Cambridge . It was a great break. Very easy to get from the boatyard to the train station. The boat was very comfortable and in good condition (it did list quite a bit, evident in the photographs).

Jessie, coming out of a lock

Back to Broxbourne

Quiet and peaceful night at our mooring at Roydon Mill. Michael cooked us a lovely full English breakfast: rather ambitious for eating on a boat. We left Roydon Mill, in the rain, at 11.45, so it was a very leisurely breakfast and start to the day. The rain was pretty constant in the morning and we went through a few locks and rejoined the River Lee again. We stopped to take on water and have a hot drink at Feilde’s Weir Lock and then continued on, arriving around 3.30 back at Lee Valley Boat Centre. Michael mooring the boat at Broxbourne in the rain

Our original plan was to head south of Broxbourne if we had time, but the weather was still bad and so we found a nice spot to moor up, close to the ‘Crown’ Pub and the boatyard. With any luck we won’t have to move from here for the handover tomorrow morning at 9am. We dried off a bit and turned up the central heating (Jessie is a very luxurious boat) and then headed out to have dinner at 4.15. We went across to the Crown pub, which was in the same chain at the Fish and Eels and had an identical menu but with the pub name changed! We had a good meal and some beer.

After dinner we tidied the boat a bit and then Michael and I went for a stroll up to the Church, Broxbourne Mill and we also had a stroll down the New River. Showed John and Dawn some Thailand photos and had a snack of cheese & paté.

Pootling to Harlow

Our mooring next to the Fish and Eels was rather noisy: I think there is an overnight pumping station close by that pumped away all night. There was also a leak somewhere in the boat’s water system and the pump came on briefly every 10 seconds. Finally, there was a very heavy rainstorm that woke us all up! Surprisingly I had quite a good sleep.

Filling up the lock

We set of about 10 and pootled up the river, branching off East up the River Stort. There are quite a few locks on this stretch and we did 4 locks in 4 miles before lunch. We had lunch just east of Hundon Mill Lock, in a quiet shady stretch of the river. There had been bright sunshine all morning. But then when we stopped for lunch there was a brief rain shower and then it got greyer and greyer. We continued on after lunch and decided to turn around when we reached Moorhen Marina in Harlow. Michael turned the boat around in a space that was (clearly in retrospect) 61.5 foot wide—the boat is 61 foot long!). Faced with a poor forecast for tomorrow, we decided to get close to out starting point today, so we didn’t have to do a long day in rain tomorrow.

Dawn winchingOn the way downstreamEntering a lock

Found a lovely mooring for the night just past Roydon Mill Leisure Park. The forecast for tonight is for it to be dry, so hoping for a peaceful sleep. This was our second mooring. Our first attempt was on a soft bank and we had to walk the plank to reach the shore. John slipped and had his foot in the water, narrowly escaping complete immersion. So we continued on!

Michael made a great meal, using the bolognese that he made a few days ago and we had a stroll to look around the leisure park after dinner. Played Yahtzee for a bit, but after an active day we were ready for bed at 10.30!

Boat hire in Broxbourne

We took the train down to Broxbourne today to spent the weekend back in the Lee Valley (see our trip of last month) and picked up our 61ft long narrow boat from Lee Valley Boat Centre, called Jessie. By 4pm we had been to Sainsburys and stocked up for our three day trip. Michael made Saturday night’s meal last night (bolognese) and it came with us from Cambridge, deep frozen.

The boat is great, very smart inside and only a few years old. Dawn and John arrived around 4.30, after being held up quite a while on the M25. By 5, we set off and arrived at Dobs Weir by about 6. We travelled most of the way with Matt, the young guy from the Boat Hire company who showed us how to use the boat and who was rushing a boat up to Hertford for the weekend.

Going through a lockJessie

We moored up outside the Fish and Eels pub and had a very good meal there, and some IPA. Dawn borrowed a bowl of sugar, in exchange for showing the waitress around our boat tomorrow morning.