We dropped down five locks into Berkhamsted on Wednesday – in the rain. We wouldn’t normally have travelled in such conditions, but Sue and Vic needed to be close to the railway station for another visit to their boatbuilder in Liverpool. It actually wasn’t too bad. Mags was under instruction to stay dry inside, but with the two boats in the locks it wasn’t a problem.
Approaching Northcurch Lock, Sue’s walked down to set the lock for us
We soon got into a routine. I’d take Seyella in then get off to lift a bottom paddle. Vic would do the other. Meanwhile Sue had taken a rope around a stud on our stern to stop Seyella moving around too much. With the lock empty Sue then motored out, towing Seyella out with the rope, then stopping just clear of the gates for the men to re-board their respective boats.
Sue towing Seyella out of Gas 1 Lock.
In this case we’d gone a step further, lashing the fore-ends as well for the short pound to Gas 2 Lock.
I think we upset this chap…
The moorings were busy above Berkhamsted Lock, so we dropped down and pulled in alongside The Moor, an area of open parkland opposite the station.
The town is also busy with waterfowl youngsters. Toddling around the park were two families of Canada geese…
…and opposite us a newly hatched foursome of moorhens were sticking to mum like glue!
Well, three of them were…
Ugly little critters, aren’t they!
In the afternoon Meg and I went for a look around Berhamsted Castle, although there’s not much left.
Built soon after the Norman invasion, around 1070, it started out as a basic pattern Motte and Bailey, a conical mound topped by a wooden keep (the motte), overlooking a level compound (the bailey) with the whole lot surrounded by a defensive earthwork and maybe a moat.
Looking across the bailey to the motte
The motte, now missing the keep.
The town was granted to Thomas Beckett in the 12th century, and it was during this period that the stone curtain wall and outer defensive rings of embankment and ditch were built.
The curtain wall is still intact in several places, making the shape of the castle easily discernable. But the dressed stone facings have been removed for other buildings.
The outer ditch has been destroyed to the south, by the building of Station Road and the railway, but the embankment remains.
Walking the outer defenses
There’s a lodge against the remains of the south-east wall, a later addition built in 1865.
The castle was abandoned in the 16th century and most of the decent building materials plundered. This was common practice going back to the Dark Ages. There are many farmhouses in Northumberland and (what was) Westmorland that owe their solid construction to stone “borrowed” from Hadrian’s Wall. And Newark Castle’s walls have been recycled into many of the town’s buildings.
Moving on into the 18th century, and we come to the start of the canal age. The 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, Francis Egerton, was born in 1736 and raised on the family estate at Ashridge. About 4 miles north of Berkhamsted, the estate, now a National Trust property, sits in the Chilterns near Ringshall.
Inheriting the title at the age of 12 on the death of his brother, the 3rd Duke was sickly and considered a bit dim. But he must have had a good business head on his shoulders. Impressed by the continental canals during his “Grand Tour” he realised that the same techniques could be used to improve transport of coal from the collieries on his Worsley estate to customers in Manchester. He employed a hithertoo little-know and self-taught engineer, James Brindley, to survey and build a canal.
The Bridgewater Canal was opened in 1761 and was an immediate success. His name, and that of Mr Brindley, are irrevocably linked to the birth of the English canal system.
The Duke, who died in 1805, would have been delighted to see the Grand Junction Canal reach his home town in 1798 and Berkhamsted becom a major port on the inland waterways.
Sue and Vic arrived back yesterday evening, with plenty of news about how well the build of No Problem XL is going.
In the afternoon Kevin and Ann, owners of NB Rock’n’Roll, turned up, having moored above Berkhamsted Lock. We had a chat, then invited them to join us, with Sue and Vic, in the evening.
It was a good session judging by the number of bottles I’ve got for the recycling…
K&A have a delightful Staffie pup, by the name of Jaz. She’s a bit fussy at the moment, and kept getting warned off by the other three dogs sprawled about the saloon floor if she got too playful. But they all got on quite well.
Jaz is trying to get on Mags’ knee…
Locks 5, miles 1¾