We’d invited our friends, Pete and Sue, to join us on our tour of the Olympic Park as they were keen to have one last trip on Blackbird before we sell her. They arrived promptly at 8.45am.
We had a coffee before we headed out onto the River Lee. The lock ahead of us was manned as it needed a special key of power. A guy standing at the lock-side asked us if he’d seen our boat for sale on the ApolloDuck website. We said he had. He was moored just below the lock, and after he’d asked quite a lot of questions, we said we would pull in on our way back from the village so he could have a closer look.
While he’d been asking questions of the skipper at the back of the boat, I’d started talking to the lock-keeper from the front of the boat and he asked me where we were heading. I said we’d booked to go through the Olympic Park. He looked rather puzzled and he asked me to clarify exactly where I was going. I mentioned that we’d booked to go through Carpenter’s Lock at 9.30am, go round the park, and come out at the other end. He made a phone call. After a few minutes he came back to talk to me.
He explained to me that he was responsible for operating the lock at the park and nobody had let him know that we’d booked. He promised he would follow us round to the park on his bike. His bike ride took a lot longer than it took us to get to the lock and with no-where to moor, other than a a chain to hang on to on one of the concrete walls, we just hovered mid-stream waiting for him to arrive.
It was a good job we’d had that chat, otherwise we’d have made this monumental effort to get to London in time to cruise the park, only to find the lock unmanned. I was quite disappointed that despite the CRT emailing us only the day before to say they were looking forward to seeing us in the Olympic Park, they hadn’t actually made any arrangements to ensure this happened!
We discovered that the lock is the only one of its kind in the country and acts both as a weir against strong tidal surges caused when the tidal Thames meets the tidal Lee & Stort, helping to protect the area from flooding and in lock mode operates a little like a guillotine gate in that it raises up out of the water and boats pass underneath. The only down side from the boater’s point of view is that the gates drip water and pondweed on you as you pass underneath. Thankfully we had brollies at the ready.
Our trip through the park didn’t take long at all. The concrete bank sides are quite high and from the water level, there isn’t a lot to see other than the West Ham Stadium, the Aquatics Centre and the Arcelormittal Orbit. As boaters, you are not allowed to stop while in the park so it was literally in one end and out of the other. When the lock-keeper let us out of the park, he asked me what I thought of the experience.
Having had time since to better evaluate the experience I would say that on the plus side we’ve taken our own boat into an area, that prior to the 2012 olympics was unnavigable. However, it is a pity that there is no opportunity to moor, to better explore the park after they’ve spent so much money making it navigable and it’s a shame that more thought wasn’t given to how the waterway was to be used in the future. Apparently consideration had been given to putting in an extra couple of locks to raise the water level but this idea had not been carried through. I won’t be suggesting to other boaters that it is a must-see experience!
Before we headed back to the Hertford Canal we kept our promise to the guy interested in our boat and while Storm showed him round, we chatted to the lock-keeper. He was asking us where we’d come from and in passing he happened to mention that he’d undergone helmsman training in Market Drayton. I laughed and said, “Terry?”. “Yes’” he said. “Me too” I replied. It’s a small world.
Eventually we headed back to the Hertford Canal and we moored up beside Victoria Park where there was plenty of space to moor. This afternoon we had a walk through Victoria Park, stopping for some chilled medication before heading out this evening to The Distillery for a bite to eat, via The Young Prince in Tower Hamlets for a drink in its lovely quaint beer garden.
All in all, a very enjoyable day with Pete and Sue. We said our ‘goodbyes’ and headed our separate ways.