Monday, 14 January 2019

Tring Wharf (what a lot of gongoozlers)

Over coffee on Friday morning, Karen pointed out that we have never been to Northampton on the boat.  As we need to head in that general direction to be craned out in March, we may well have a little explore over our last week or so in the UK. 

Friday was food shopping day, so Karen and Buddy ran the 6 ½ miles into Aylesbury and I followed later in the car.  I picked them up at the basin which was still quiet; apart from Liz’s boat and her trip boat there was only one other boat on the pontoons.  That was one that was there when we arrived on December 1st so I can only assume he has an arrangement with CRT as the pontoon moorings are limited to 14 days.

We popped into the supermarket on the way back by which time it was lunchtime.  We needed to get water – well, we could have waited another couple of days, but Ann was visiting us on Saturday.  We were planning on having a roast lunch which creates a lot of washing up, therefore we wanted to make sure we had plenty of water.

Getting water from this week’s mooring in Marsworth entails a 1 ½ mile cruise including going down and back up a lock.  The nearest water point is about ¼ mile behind us, so we have to find somewhere to turn first.  There used to be a winding hole the other side of the bridge where we are moored but it has long since silted up.  This means travelling further on to a pair of locks, down the first lock and then turning in the pound between the locks before coming back up again, past where we were moored, past the water point, turn at Marsworth junction, get water and back to our mooring. 

The pound where we winded before heading back into Marsworth
We were soon back into Marsworth and heading past where we have been moored since Monday.  We then reached Marsworth junction where the Aylesbury arm heads west into Aylesbury.  This is a nice wide junction and therefore easy to wind in.  After turning yet again we were soon at the water point.  After filling up it was back to the same place we had left a couple of hours earlier.  Spot the difference…

…before we left for water and…

…after we got back
The difference can’t really be seen but the boat is lower in the water at the front in the second picture as it has a full water tank!  Although we didn’t cruise very far we still saw some kingfishers, although to be honest, we may counted one of them twice.

Karen’s suggestion about taking a trip up to Northampton had been preying on my mind all day and later on I suddenly realised why.  I had a look at the winter stoppages and found the Northampton arm is closed for maintenance from 28th January until 15th March.  As it happens that won’t matter as it gives us plenty of time, after the arm reopens, to get into Northampton and back to Gayton (at the start of the Northampton arm) by 25th March, our craning out date.

So, we will stay in this general area for a few more weeks with a few car/train trips visiting family and friends before we leave.  A week or so into March we will start heading north up through Milton Keynes and, at Gayton junction, turn off to Northampton.  We will also stop off at Bletchley Park, which is just before Milton Keynes, as we still haven’t made a visit there. 

The map below shows the general Marsworth area.  “Home” is where we are currently moored, and the dark blue line is where we cruised up and down today.   The Aylesbury arm heads off to the west from Marsworth junction.  The Wendover arm leaves the Grand Union a bit further down at Bulbourne junction.  Some of the reservoirs that feed this part of the Grand Union can be seen at Tringford (mis-spelled Tringforde) and Wilstone Green.  The services where we got water are by Church Lane bridge just above Marsworth Junction.

The Grand Union, Aylesbury arm and Wendover arm at Marsworth
Saturday was yet another relatively mild day and Ann came over to visit us.  This meant we could be lazy and just stay indoors although we did take Buddy out for a couple of short walks.  On one of the walks we went down the locks where we turned the boat on Friday on our way to get water.  The pound between the locks was about four to five feet lower than on Friday and would have presented a problem if we had wanted to turn.  We would have had to let water through the lock to raise the level in the pound before we could turn without grounding.

The pound a lot lower on Saturday compared with Friday
We decided to move on Sunday and set off for the Wendover arm soon after breakfast.  For the first time in a while it was windy but it was still mild and dry so off we went. Again, we were facing in the wrong direction, so we had to head north and spin the boat in the pound after the first lock.  On the way to the locks we passed two boats on the move in the opposite direction so we knew the lock would be set.  This time it was Karen’s turn to turn:

Karen winding in the wind…

…it was also her turn to use the lock ladders
Although we had topped up with water a couple of days ago, we topped up again as we passed the water point at Marsworth junction.  Well, we had to wait as there was another boat using the services, so we had some coffee and cake whilst we waited.  The couple taking on water have been moored just up from us this week and every time they walked passed us with their daughter they had to stop as she was mesmerized by the butterflies on the side of our boat.

Just before our tank was full, Duncan and his partner and daughter turned up on their boat as they needed water too.  Unfortunately, they were caught by the wind when they were mooring up to wait – there is a gap between a couple of houses where the wind whips through.  They just managed to throw me a line so I could hold them whilst they sorted themselves out.  I say they arrived on their boat, but they had three – two breasted up together and a rowing boat tied to the back.  Duncan is a chippie so stores waste timber on the rowing boat.

We were soon on the way again and heading up the seven locks of the Marsworth flight.  It had started drizzling (but not for long) and we were reminded that it has always rained whenever we have used the flight.  It must be really pretty when it’s dry and clear as the flight overlooks the Marsworth reservoirs.

Approaching the bottom lock at Marsworth
The narrow locks on the Grand Union were replaced with double width locks around 1929 to help improve traffic flow.  On the flights between Braunston and Knowle, most of the single locks remain in some state or other.  Those on the Marsworth flight have been completely filled in and there is not much left to show that they ever existed.  The bridge on the left in the picture above is where the original cut ran and there was a narrow lock the other side of the bridge hole.

Leaving a lock half way up with one of the reservoirs in view (yes, we did close the gate)
After the fourth lock we saw a boat coming down in the lock above us – always a welcome sight as it means we can leave our lock gate open and the same for the guy coming down.

Welcome sight of a boat coming down in the lock above us
Even with the dismal skies and the occasional drizzle, there were plenty of gongoozlers out and about.  It must be a nice place to take the family for a walk as there are the attractions of a lock flight and also the reservoirs to walk around.  Not to mention the pubs and café in Marsworth awaiting their return to the village.

Gongoozlers at the fifth lock
We were soon in the final lock of the day at a place called Bulbourne junction.  This is where the Wendover arm heads off west to Wendover.  Well, it used to run the seven miles to Wendover but only the first 1 ½ miles is navigable at present.  The local canal trust is doing a grand job restoring the whole length and there are many stretches in water further down towards Wendover.

Moving over in the top lock ready to turn right down the Wendover arm
The building on the left in the picture of the top lock above covers a dry dock.  The dry dock was originally the narrow lock that was replaced in the 1920s and was also the dry dock where we once had our previous boat blacked.

Turning onto the Wendover arm
Milepost at the entrance to the arm
The arm is very shallow but also very clear and not many boats use it.  When Karen ran down here the other day there was only one boat on the arm and that was moored at the end.  We were only going half way down to start with, to a point where we knew there was some Armco to moor against.  With the arm being so shallow it makes the going slow but that in turn makes it even more peaceful.

Gangplank required at our Sunday night mooring
All in all, it was a busy boat day as we saw six on the move, well eight if you count Duncan’s two extra boats.  In all, we cruised three miles through nine locks on Sunday.

We will take a walk down to the end of the navigation in a day or two and, if there’s room for us, take the boat down and moor there for a few days.

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