Grand Union Canal adventure

Went on a kayak paddle from Chiswick Pier to Richmond and back via a detour to Grand Union Canal (River Brent) with Kiki, Julius and Harvey. PS: I wore my surgical gloves on the paddle..

Heron scared off by Kiki

We set off at a leisurely 10.30. We used Ventures and Fusion boats. The weather was overcast with low predictions of rain. Our journey with the incoming tide was smooth, we saw ample heron and it was nice to catch up with Julius. We paired off and arrived in Richmond in no time for a leisurely coffee, ice cream and sandwiches. We returned with a little help from the outgoing tide and headed to Brentford to attempt to get to the Grand Union Canal. This was not helped with it being closed to paddlers. It was the first time we felt prejudiced against. The lock keeper (or “more than my job’s worth”) would not do an “open sesame” with the lock, not for gold or muesli bars (well we had no gold. Kiki’s charms surprisingly even failed…) The large hefty wooden lock doors remained closed to us.

This was highly problematic as the lock was quite a jump in height (12-14 ft). Undeterred Harvey and John hatched a cunning plan. With combined slings and adapted tow ropes we pulled the hefty kayaks up the side of the lock walls. Julius decided this was a bit too challenging or foolhardy and wisely decided to paddle back to Chiswick.

Another hurdle – Kiki giving mental support in the background

We sadly waved him goodbye.

I had cycled the Grand Union canal before some 5 days from Birmingham to London (which I highly recommend) so had been along its riverbank and also done two canal boat trips on it, but not kayaked it. Annoyingly I could not remember all the locks.

What does it read? Another quiz beckons? GAME ?

Having overcome our first sizeable hurdle we paddled happily off on our newly found haunting ground , which was made up of boat yards, noisily hammering and drilling and plenty of canal boats. Soon we frustratingly found ourselves in front of yet another lock. But at least exit was easy, so left and carried our boats around the closed lock. Access was a small drop which we easily sorted. The trio then headed down the canal with lots of new housing developments and canal boats, soon  the area became more rundown with more boat yards which seemed closed and full of graffiti and at least some street artists had not been inactive due to Covid and vented their creative energy…I took a photo but was not sure what it read…I must be illiterate. Soon the heavens opened, these weather forecasts are becoming increasingly inaccurate. Harvey and John headed for a nice bridge for shelter and to watch the downpour whilst Kiki was getting drenched, well partially, she had a rainproof on and was fixated almost hypnotized by the myriad of droplets around her…

Had Julius only had a camera!

…Meanwhile on his return journey Julius stumbled on a wildlife battle between a svelt majestic heron and a cunning rat. The heron had the advantage of a long beak and an ability to drown his prey? They generally grab the neck of the rat, (from looking at youtube videos one from the heart of Amsterdam with lightning speed and suffocate or snap it. In both clips I watched it took all of a minute. Anyway Julius was mesmerized by the spectacle…(so I hear)

Inverted shopping trolley – but is it art?

…Meanwhile the intrepid adventurers headed further down the Grand Union, the scenery became wilder interspersed with concrete motorways, talk about brutal architecture. I was momentarily captivated by a couple of wheels sticking out of the river. I mean what makes people throw shopping trolleys in the river? I have a massive gallery of pix of this. But it still surprises me. In fact there were 3 expensive looking yellow bikes chucked in the river, which you could see at low tide around Battersea powerstation. We passed more canal boats and the inhabitants seemed friendly enough, though no beers or cups of tea were offered. Which made John & Kiki hatch a plan of bringing cocktails in future trips possibly pre-mixed in a thermos. The challenge was agreeing the concoction.

Harvey – spot the Heron
Oooi this is my boat!
Padding through the Amazon?

We then came across another lock and decided to venture up a side river. This became gradually wilder, as we imagined we were in Borneo or the Amazon (well Covid has made us dream or reminisce) and the snaking river ended up at a weir with a nice exit point with another customary gallery of graffiti, though I would really not call these worthy of the National Gallery. I think Neolithic man or woman were more talented! Certainly the rock art which I photographed in Australia, which was some 20,000 years old was much better they depicted beautiful crocodiles, and even mythological figures like rainbow serpents. This stuff was not even worth photographing.. Any thoughts? Kiki was again mesmerized by a couple of dragonflies using her fusion to explore their erotic passions. Nice contrasting colours of blue on orange.

John on slippery ladder – oops

Soon the honeymoon was over and we were on our way back, the only major event was that the last hurdle had gotten a lot higher by about 3 feet as the tide had withdrawn and the ladder had become slippery where the water had been. We arrived back around 4.40pm. (more pix on facebook)

1 thought on “Grand Union Canal adventure”

  1. Impressed by the high altitude kayaking, obviously nothing stops you lot!

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