Monday, 17 November 2014

Stanking planks

Saturday 15th November

For the second morning in a row we had to use an alarm.  We had stayed on a lock mooring on Friday night as Cowroast lock was closed when we arrived.  It was opening again at eight in the morning so we had to get through before we caused a traffic jam.  Lock moorings are strictly for use as a temporary mooring whilst setting the lock but we felt justified stopping overnight as the lock was shut.

It was a foggy Saturday morning and it looked set for the day.  Cowroast is at the southern end of the summit of the Grand Union and we had ascended 45 locks and covered 26 miles since starting out nearly two weeks ago.  We were going to travel with Mike and Aileen again and they took these pictures of us as we went through Tring.

We reached the top of the Marsworth flight after an hour.  This was the flight of seven locks we had to get through as they were being closed for maintenance from Monday.  We were following Quaintrelle and, unbelievably, a boat pulled out bewtween us.  They can't have seen us but thought they would take the opportunity to lock down with Quaintrelle.  Anyway, Mike put them straight and they let us past.  Here we are at the sixth lock down with Marsworth reservoir on the left - still foggy.

We found a nice quiet spot to moor in Marsworth and then went for a walk along the Aylesbury arm and into Wilstone with the sun starting to come out.

On the Aylesbury arm we met some CRT guys who were preparing to replace some lock gates next week.  Here are the new gates on their boats.

Replacing gates means they have to drain the pounds either side of the gates and this in turn means they have to move the fish in the pounds first.  They told us that they would be moving the fish on Monday so we will go back to watch.  They partly drain the pound and then use electric probes to momentarily stun the fish.  The fish are then netted and moved to the next pound.

Draining a pound involves stanking either end of it.  Stanking means damming and lock gates are a good example of stanking.  Where lock gates cannot be used, stanking planks are used.  These are slid down into the canal in slots cut into the canal walls.  This picture shows the stanking planks that will be used on Monday and the slots in the canal sides.  These slots are usually found at the narrowest points, e.g. under bridges where you can usually find a pile of stanking planks.

When we got back from our walk, Karen's mum came over for a cup of tea and some of Karen's delicious fruit cake she had made whilst we were cruising in the morning.  We then went to one of our favourite pubs, the Red Lion in Marsworth.

Sunday 16th November

We decided to have a quiet day so went for a walk in the morning.  My sister Judith and her partner Nigel came to visit us at lunchtime - we had to pay a visit to the Red Lion of course.  We were having tea with them in the afternoon and I heard a kingfisher and it landed on a tree outside our dining room window.  I couldn't get a close up and it was taken through a window but you can just see it perched practically in the middle of this picture.  I am still determined to hide out near a perch and get a proper close up.

Monday 17th November

In the morning we walked down to see the pound being drained and the fish moved to another section.  This is the pound partly drained.  The picture is taken from one lock and the next lock can be seen in the distance.

These guys waded in the water with electric prods powered by a generator on the boat.  The fish are only stunned for a few minutes and are placed in the blue bins and then released in the next section.  It will take these guys all day to clear this section apparently.

Karen was getting lots of input from the local anglers who were on hand to check their beloved fish were not harmed.

It was all rather exciting as we had never managed to see the operation before.  We then walked to Tring on public footpaths to avoid roads and let Buddy have some freedom.  We passed several of the reservoirs that are used for keeping the canal topped up.  The water is pumped out of the reservoirs into the Wendover arm which feeds the summit level between Bulbourne and Cowroast.

Our walk took us over the section of the Wendover arm that is currently being restored.

We were shattered when we got back home so are spending the evening on board.  We plan on setting off north again tomorrow in the hope of reaching Milton Keynes by Wednesday evening as my middle son Steve is joining us on Thursday.

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