Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd May this year was the date for the annal Rickmansworth Festival organised by the Rickmansworth Waterways Trust as the culmination of Ricky Week. The festival is a real mixture. What is technically the main attraction is the display of narrowboats, moored four abreast all the way down from Batchworth Lock to beyond the entrance bridge to the Aquadrome. The towpath was heaving and the boats were impressive and from many eras – cargo barges, those converted to houseboats and new builds too. Live music is performed by the lock and boat trips are available for a small fee.
The festival also spans into the Aquadrome where stalls selling cheese, sausages, handmade gifts and traditional painted barge fare are interspersed amongst burger vans and morris dancers. It’s busy and hard to move through the crowds but the food stalls do offer free samples and we did walk out with cheese and sausages. The final area of the festival consists of a fairground with the usual array of garishly painted rides and games. You don’t need to stay long, but it is worth a visit if you’re in the area. The event is always the third weekend of May and the London Transport Museum occasionally run heritage vehicles though these seemed to be absent this year. It was a few years ago that the heritage A Stock run was put on to tie in with this event.
Soph and I live in Watford, so we had two options to reach the festival. Driving and trying to find somewhere to park in the town didn’t seem feasible so we elected to walk. Luckily there is a handy route between home and Ricky, the Ebury Way – the route of the former Watford and Rickmansworth Railway, the Croxley branch of which is currently being converted into the new Metropolitan Line Extension. The line from Watford Junction to Rickmansworth (Church Street) via Watford High Street opened in 1862 with the branch to Croxley Green opening later in 1912. Both branches were single track west of the junction with the new Watford DC line that opened in 1913 and is now part of the London Overground.
The walking route itself is very easy going. It is actually the continuation of National Cycle Route 6 that we partially followed to St Albans a few weeks ago. It also follows the Colne down so this can be seen as a continuation of the Abbey Line Trail. It begins near the construction site of the new link road which is on the old site of Croxley Green depot, that was used for BR and Bakerloo line trains, and goes through the park up onto the old railway embankment. Here you can look through the fence to see the tracks that the Met will run along in a few years time as well as the Network South East red lampposts that are still visible at the distant Watford Stadium station.
The route then continues along the old railway across various bridges reconstructed on the old brick and metalwork underneath (where cyclists are told to dismount but none of them do – we were very nearly knocked off the bridge). There are various points where the view is simply stunning across the Colne Valley. Eventually you come pas the back of the Croxley Green business park whose access road resulted in the closure of rail services on the Croxley Green branch by demolishing part of the railway embankment at Ascot Road. The next point of interest is Croxley Common Moor with the buildings of the village visible on the hill in the distance. The Moor is a local nature reserve and often has grazing cattle on it.
The final approach into Rickmansworth crosses the Grand Union Canal and reveals a hint of the routes’ railway history with a gradient marker still in situ beside the path, before the trail weaves amongst newer buildings to bring you out at the site of the old station that is now a Travis Perkins. It’s a short walk – no more than a couple of hours – but worth it just to see the area and to contemplate on how the Metropolitan Railway were mostly to blame for the lines’ demise.
ADDENDUM TO THE EBURY WAY
The Ebury Way is split over two maps, OS Explorer 173 London North and OS Explorer 172 Chiltern Hills East.
There are seventeen Geocaches on or near the route and inside the Aquadrome. I do not maintain this bookmark list so do your own research for any new ones.
Monday was a day for us to relax and indulge ourselves. No walking around the capital this time, we’re going in to it. With a rather exclusive gig to attend in the evening, we decided to make a day of it.
First stop: The Cartoon Museum
If you are a Doctor Who fan in London, I hope you knew about the target cover artwork exhibition in this little building near The British Museum. It was supposed to end on Wednesday, but it has now been extended until early June and is a rare chance to see the original drawings of some iconic book covers that are now kept in private collections along with new illustrations for reissued books.
We’d been to the museum before a year or two ago, but noted the prices had risen, £7 is a little expensive if you’re only going for the small upstairs exhibition but probably worth it if you are in to graphic novels. Unfortunately neither Soph or I are so we skimmed the main room and ventured upstairs. There are 35 pieces on display, mostly from Chris Achilleos and Andrew Skilleter and I certainly spent a while staring at the artwork and comparing it to the scan of the book cover provided next to it to spot the changes made by the publishers such as the removal of Achilleos’ signature on a couple. If you have a spare half hour while you’re in the area, it is worth a look. Kklak!
Second stop: The British Museum
The unplanned trip of the day after we realised we still had far too much time to play with before heading across London for dinner. Tearing Soph away from her beloved Egyptian section, we looked around the Enlightenment hall as we both decided we’d never been in this part. Finding no eternals or guardians, we traipsed through a mind-boggling array of artefacts from all over the world that travellers of the past collected during the age of learning.
Third stop: Dinner
We had dinner in South Kensington just as the heavens opened.
Fourth stop: The Royal Albert Hall
It’s not everyday that the famous music hall hosts 80’s Synth Pop, but on Monday 9th May OMD were in town. Neither Soph nor I were born until the 90’s so, as you can imagine, we lowered the average age somewhat but we weren’t the youngest people and we’d done the same at the gig two years ago in the foyer of the Museum of Liverpool. Despite our youth and the fact that they are the age of our parents, we are big fans of the band and tonight they were playing two of their albums in full – this was a real hardcore fan gig.
The first half was Dazzle Ships, the masterpiece of 1983 that was so poorly received at the time. The band appeared on stage with the customary semaphore flags for ABC Auto Industry before launching into the rest of the album including two songs never performed live in their 33 year history. It was amazing, and by the time they played a few songs from the first album after running out of Dazzle Ships content, nearly the entire hall was on their feet
windmilling dancing – probably not something the Albert Hall usually sees. It was also clear to Soph and I that the people in front of us didn’t really know who they had come to see, they just didn’t seem to understand why these people were signing about cold war divisions to lively electronic melodies!
Queuing for Ice Cream in the interval revealed further people who weren’t quite sure what they were watching. A couple of chaps behind me in the line were actually googling to see what half the songs were – I expect they came along because they liked the hits, but that is not what we got tonight. Part two was the much more critically acclaimed Architecture and Morality. Although this album was much more the hit maker then it’s follow up, it still provides some wonderful melancholic music concrete.
All in all, it was the best evening out for a very long time. Stuart Kershaw successfully filled Malcolm’s shoes, it was great to see Martin out from behind the keyboard to play bass again and we can forgive Paul’s mistakes in Sealand or Andy singing the wrong verse in Joan of Arc – the audience sang the right one anyway! Mind you, the mistakes are forever enshrined as the show was recorded live with CD’s burnt and collected within 15 minutes of it ending.
This was the only UK gig, but they play three more in Germany this week. We’ll see them again on the new album tour next year, I’m sure.