Sunday, 16 February.
With Emma working a couple of night-shifts, back-to-back, I decided to take the two girls out, on Sunday morning, so that Emma could sleep.
The weather had decided that it was Spring, rather than Winter, and hit the area with sun and warmth (10c). Regardless, I dressed Erin in her pink wellies and matching pink one-piece, waterproof all-weather suit, while Keilyn wore her trainers and a one-piece outfit. With both girls suitably attired, and with provisions (raisins, bread sticks, crisps and drinks) stored in a small rucksack, I strapped the girls into the Battle Wagon, and off we set.
Our Battle Wagon is a standard two-seater buggy, with all the trimmings; Rain cover, sunshade, reclining seats, 5-point safety straps with a small shopping basket beneath the seats and a drinks holder. The wheels are standard, for a buggy, but our Battle Wagon has been everywhere. Besides the normal footpaths, for which it was designed, we have taken it along rugged cycle tracks, potholed paths, through woods and forests, around parks and through mud. It has been through hell and some fairly high water and is still going strong. Well, the brake sometimes clicks into place, at the most inopportune moments, so we have an elastic bungee holding that in place. The wheels are more ovaloid than round, due to the incessant snacking by the two year-old than the rough terrain, I feel, but it is still going, just.
Luckily, for me, the Ebury Way cycle path is just a few hundred yards from the house, so we were on it in minutes, heading in the direction of Rickmansworth. But, what with the recent flooding, I had decided that it might be fun to explore Croxley Common Moor, which is a natural flood plain for the River Gade. Within fifteen minutes we arrived at the Moor, where I released Erin from the buggy and tilted Keilyn’s seat back, as she had decided to doze off. Something she does whenever we go out somewhere different.
With the Battle Wagon now a half-ton lighter, now that Erin was no longer weighing it down, it was a lot more manoeuvrable. Even so, I locked the front wheels in place and we began our stroll across the Moor.
Erin was in her element. She pounced on every puddle and mashed every muddy pool. Her pink clothing was gradually getting darker and blacker, but she didn’t care, and neither did I for that matter, because that is what kids love to do.
Croxley Common Moor is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Local Nature Reserve. Covering some 100 acres it is a historic grassland which, after years of grazing and being the flood plain for the River Gade, which flows along its western edge, has turned it into an amazing and diverse habitat for wildlife. During the Summer months, cows are grazed on the Moor, which helps to keep down scrub and trees from taking over. Since no pesticides or chemicals have ever been used, the grassland is perfectly suited for all wildlife, which has seen some rare animals taking up residence. Water Voles, Red Kites, a Red Backed Shrike and some uncommon, and rare, spiders, moths and even glow worms have been seen on the Moor. There are also over 100 different species of grassland plant, some extremely rare, to be found on the site.
Making our way south west along a fairly smooth grassed path, parallel to the Ebury Way, we soon hit an obstacle. Some of the dips in the Moor, were filled with water and, although not very deep, they were wide enough to prevent the Battle Wagon from progressing. So, we backtracked slightly until we found a route. This went on as the morning progressed and the heat began to rise. Erin didn’t seem to mind. She was off clambering over mounds and jumping in ditches, before running off to see what was around the next bush. All the while Keilyn slept. Slowly we made our towards the river Gade, where we sat and had a drink and a snack. Keilyn had awoken and was busy munching on a bread stick, while Erin demolished her hula hoops. The river Gade was very swollen, from the localised flood water, and was flowing at a fair speed. The water was crystal clear, allowing us to see the small fish who were harbouring at the water’s edge.
With time getting on, and the girls suitably nourished, we turned North and headed back along the river Gade. We exited the Moor via its northern entrance, crossing the bridge across the river Gade and followed the path to the Grand Union Canal. The water level in the Grand Union Canal was so high that it was pouring over the top of the lock, which I had never seen it do before.
We then followed the canal, passed Byewaters, towards the weir. Since we had a few bread sticks left, Erin decided to feed them to the Canada geese, ducks and Swans, saving the last one for her little sister. Bless her.
From here we made a slight detour. Instead of following Blackmoor Lane, towards home, we took Beggars Bush Lane, just because I thought it would be different. This brought us under the old bridge that carried the Watford to Croxley rail line, which ceased in 1996, allowing me to get some photographs.
We then turned out on to Watford Road, then crossed Ascot Road, which brought us out just minutes from home. With Erin beginning to flag (she had walked about 3 miles, which isn’t bad for a two year-old) she got back into the Battle Wagon, much to its groaning, and I pushed them the final distance home.
All in all it was a great morning out.