Thursday, 31 January 2019

Aylesbury (only two months to go)

If you remember we rushed back down the Aylesbury arm last week so we could moor in the basin while the predicted cold spell passed.  If we’re going to get iced in for a while, then it’s sensible to be somewhere near services and not stuck out in the country.  As it happened, the big freeze hasn't arrived yet and for the last week there has just been the odd smattering of snow and the cut frozen over some mornings but nothing serious.

Walking back up the Aylesbury arm with a pathetic layer of snow and some ice on the water
The main focus for the next few weeks is to catch up with friends and family before we disappear to France.  Of course, we also have to keep on top of the ‘do lists’ for getting ready for France and, possibly the most important, is having a day a week tracking down VR boxes. 

This has become more important as my son, Steve, is heading the family leader board at present and Karen and I need to get our respective scores well ahead before being in a country that doesn’t have Victorian post boxes, or indeed post boxes depicting any British monarch.

Matthew, Karen’s eldest has been on holiday in Argentina and Patagonia since the new year and surprised us all by sending a picture of a Victorian pillar box from Buenos Aires.  It was only after investigation I found that the Brits owned the Argentinian postal service from 1880 to 1946!

We spent a lot of last Friday scouring the villages around Hemel Hempstead and both found a few new boxes.

A particularly pretty box that Karen spotted in Great Gaddesdon (made by Smith & Hawkes in Birmingham between 1856 and 1871)
We were feeling confident that with a few more trips we would get well ahead of the game but on Saturday Steve uncovered six unrecorded pillar boxes in Hove and Brighton.  Those towns are ideal as they have a great many Victorian villas which seemed to have a high proportion of boxes compared with the population.  This is what we have also found in spa towns like Harrogate and Ilkley.

Saturday morning in the basin – still moored outside Waitrose
Catherine and Ann came to visit on Saturday and they and Karen popped over to the cinema to see the new Mary Poppins film.  I took the opportunity to get the valve sorted out on the poo tank. 

Karen always finds it better to be out of the way when I’m doing jobs due to the (apparently) large amount of swearing that goes on.  I managed to fix the problems but then uncovered a leak which I decided to worry about another day.  Don’t worry, the leak only happened when the valve was on the ‘sea’ setting which we are not allowed to use in anger on the canals over here, so it was only water from the cut.  Also, when I’ve been testing the whole thing it has all been with canal water.

Ann’s eldest daughter with her eldest daughter before their trip to the cinema
Colin & Liz popped around on Sunday morning for a cuppa and Colin did the final measuring for some more shelves he is building and installing for us.  Liz had two boat trips booked for the day and they disappeared just before lunch to take the first party.

Trip boat leaving for its first trip of the day on Sunday
Our plan for Monday was to wash the outside of the boat; a job we never relish doing in the winter.  But, as we are moored right by a water point, it’s an obvious thing to get done without having to cruise anywhere.  We were going to start with the roof and had just started taking things off and stacking them on the quayside when Judith & Nigel turned up. 

To be honest we were really pleased as it meant we could put everything back and invite them inside – the boat cleaning could wait until another day.

Later on, on Monday, Alison came over; she is Karen’s oldest friend as in longest standing.  We had a lot to catch up on and stayed in all afternoon and evening without even venturing to the pub although we made sure we had plenty to drink on board of course.

We went for a walk with Ali on Tuesday morning before she left and, after lunch, went for a good walk with Nigel.  We visited the sites of the medieval villages of Quarrendon that Nigel and I went to see last December but Karen missed out on as it was when Buddy wasn’t well.

Tuesday morning - Ali seemed to survive her first stay on a narrow boat
We drove over to Wendover on Wednesday to meet up with Miranda, one of my oldest friends as in longest standing.  Coincidently her mother lives in the town as does Karen’s mum and Miranda comes up once or twice a week to care for her.  Another coincidence is that Karen and Miranda both went to secondary schools in Wintney in Oxfordshire but neither they nor their parents knew each other then.

Later in the afternoon we finally got to the end of the boat related things we have to buy for France: a continental to UK adapter for shoreline hook-ups.  We’ve ummed and aahed about getting one as we have only used an electric hook-up once in the UK, at the end of the Llangollen canal in North Wales.  From what we have heard, and seen when looking around France last summer, many towns have them available at their moorings, so we decided to get one.

It’s frozen hard this morning (Thursday) and all the water fowl are standing on the ice.  Karen just remarked that they must all get well fed by the public as they never come up to our hatch for food like they would do anywhere else we have moored in the country. 



Thursday, 24 January 2019

Aylesbury (can’t seem to keep away)

Wooden boat restorer's boatyard on the Aylesbury arm
If you’re squeamish you may want to skip the first few paragraphs today.

When we move to France, we will no longer be able use pump out machines as black waste is still dumped straight into the canals and rivers over there consequently there are only a handful of machines in the whole country.  This means we need a way of being able to pump directly out of the boat without going via a holding tank.  When we had some of the boat conversions carried out in the summer up in Yorkshire one of the jobs was to install a valve that would meet our needs.

So, on Wednesday morning I decided to check the valve had been installed correctly.  I know we should have checked this before we left Yorkshire but it’s such a hassle as it means moving our mattress and getting under our bed.  Those of you familiar with narrowboats will know that’s it’s a not a simple matter to take a double mattress off a bed as, unlike in a house, there is nowhere easy to put it.

Anyway, I did this and could immediately see that although the valve had two positions, they were obviously the wrong two.  The position it was set to was fine as it connected the toilet to the holding tank, the other position should be to connect the toilet with the sea valve.  What I could see was that the second setting connected the holding tank with the sea valve which would be pointless. I rang the boatyard but the owner was away until Friday so I took a couple of pictures and sent them in a covering email to await his response.

As I said yesterday, it was too dark to take a picture of our mooring once we had finished for the day on Tuesday so here is the mooring as it was on Wednesday after nearly all the snow had gone.

Our Tuesday night mooring on Wednesday morning
The plan had been to walk into Wendover and meet up with our friend Miranda but with our change of plans regarding moving the boat we had to put that off until next week.  Instead, we walked back to Tring to get the car, popped in to see Ann briefly, moved the car to Wilstone and then walked back up the towpath to the boat.

Walking past one of the Tring reservoirs with the Chilterns covered in snow in the background
Just before we got back to the car, we passed the entrance to the Tringford pumping station.  This is on the Wendover arm and used to house two steam engines that pumped water from the reservoirs up to the summit pound of the Grand Union.  The engines have been replaced by electric pumps but at least the building has been retained.

Tringford pumping station
The walk back took us up five locks that were very close together and, as they were all set and overflowing, we opened the top gates to make our descent easier when we came down in the boat in a little while.  As soon as we were back at the boat, we set off down the five locks and moored at the sixth (Puttenham top lock) for lunch.  As all the locks were set with the top gates open, we had a very quick trip.  Before anyone says anything, we weren’t being selfish by opening the gates as we knew there were no boats coming up and if any were coming down they would be able to take advantage of the open gates.

After lunch we set off down the final eight locks into Aylesbury.  It was a gorgeous sunny day but beginning to get quite cold.  Jem Bate’s boatyard is below Puttenham bottom lock and some of the wooden boats he restores can be seen in the picture at the top.  We know Jem through two routes; we had our last boat blacked in his drydock at Bulbourne and he is married to the daughter of a good friend of Ann’s (Karen’s mum).

Good to be cruising down narrow locks after the broad locks of the Grand Union

Buddy as watchful as ever when the boat is in a lock
Ice was forming in a lot of the pounds, but it wasn’t very thick and therefore would do no damage to the blacking.  If the weather forecast is correct it will be quite thick after another couple of days and we wouldn’t want to travel then; hence our rush to get into Aylesbury before the weekend.

Thin layer of ice in one of the pounds
I heard from the Skipton boatyard during the afternoon as my email had been passed onto the owner.  He apologised and agreed a mistake had been made and said that if I got someone local to fix it then he would settle the bill.  I probably won’t bother with the hassle and fix it myself whilst we are moored in Aylesbury basin over the next week or so.  Clearly the job wasn't physically tested or they would have uncovered the problem.

Taking a call from the boatyard when in Red House lock

Cruising back through the paddy fields for the third time since the beginning of December

Footprints from a large bird on a lock gate
It was almost dark when we moored up in Aylesbury basin, but it was sort of nice to be back outside Waitrose even though we prefer being moored out in the country.


Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Paradise Cottage (too dark for a mooring picture)

On Saturday morning we were frozen in for the first time this winter and the forecast is for quite a spell of cold weather.  As continuous cruisers we need to make sure we have the right tanks full and the right ones empty when there is danger of being iced in for a while.  If the forecast was correct, we knew the cut would be clear by Monday, so we planned on moving and doing all the tank jobs on Tuesday.

Sunrise over the ice on Saturday morning

Blue skies a couple of hours later 
Knowing we would be staying at the end of the Wendover arm for another few days we spent the weekend going on walks and generally doing stuff indoors.

When the boat is frozen in, there is quite a grating noise against the hull as the boat moves when we walk around.  This is especially apparent first thing in the morning as the boat hasn’t moved for a few hours and the ice has had time to re-form up to the hull.  I mention this as the noise is one of those that seems to freak Buddy – we wish we knew how we could calm him down enough not to worry about these sorts of harmless (to us) noises.  Jennie (nb Tentatrice) commented the other day that their dog is scared of poles such as fishing rods and brooms, but they have no idea what caused the, apparent, irrational fear.

Ann came around for lunch on Tuesday and, after she left, we set off for Marsworth.  This entailed going back down the Wendover arm to Bulbourne junction and turning left down the seven lock Marsworth flight.

Heading back down the Wendover arm
Karen and Buddy walked to the junction in the lovely sunshine
All the ice had definitely disappeared and, with the highest water levels we have seen on the arm, we made it down to the junction without running aground.  I misjudged the turn and had to reverse back and start again to avoid potentially touching a restored wooden working boat.  The second attempt was fine – as should the first have been – but it was a reminder that it’s never worth being complacent.

Turning back onto the Grand Union
It didn’t take long to get down the seven broad locks and, with no wind on the flight at all for once, the cruise was really rather pleasant, if cold.  At the bottom pound there are a lot of residential boats and we followed a kingfisher for a while flying from perch to perch.  It stayed on the tiller arm of one boat for quite a while and Karen got a great picture of it.

Karen’s kingfisher – she hadn’t realised it had flown on
By the time we pulled up at the services it had started sleeting and Karen went inside to start preparing dinner whilst I got on with the man stuff (well, it is in our relationship).

Once finished, I decided to go down a few locks of the Aylesbury arm rather than moor up in Marsworth.  Karen stayed in and I reversed back to Marsworth junction and set off down the first lock which is a staircase of two.  By this time is was getting quite dark and the sleet was turning to snow.

Going down the first lock in the staircase
It looks light in the picture above, but it really was quite dark and, by the time I moored up after three locks it was pitch black.

I moored in the pound by Paradise Cottage which is the first lock cottage, still standing, down the Aylesbury arm.  With the build up of slippery, wet snow on the roof I decided it was too dangerous to keep locking down on my own.  Locking on your own means you invariably end up climbing up and down lock ladders and along the roof of the boat.

I know I normally include a picture of where we moor for the night, but it was too dark.  Our little afternoon cruise had taken us down ten locks and we had covered about two and a half miles, although, as the crow flies, we ended up only about a mile from where we set off.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Little Tring (it wasn’t really snow)

A smattering of snow on Thursday morning

Buddy has always been scared of metallic objects, so he is not keen on our current mooring.  There is a run of raised Armco alongside the boat and the uprights are great for tying up to as there are so many of them.  Unfortunately, Buddy has to leap the Armco so he can avoid touching it, but at least he does it in a delicate way.

Buddy’s leap
We had a rare visit to the cinema on Wednesday afternoon to see Bohemian Rhapsody.  It was our first trip to see a film since we saw Sex & The City goodness knows how many years ago.  We arrived just as the opening credits were rolling so we timed it perfectly.  We both enjoyed the film and, once the lights were up at the end, were surprised how many people were there.  Apart from a couple with a young baby everyone else looked a lot older than us.  Not many were getting up to leave so we rather wondered if they were staying for the next film to get their money’s worth.  Anyway, we both would recommend the film although it only brought tears to my eyes.

Soon after we got home, Steve arrived for a sleepover, as he had a business meeting nearby on the Thursday.  As ever, it was great to spend time with Steve and have a drink or two.

Me and Stevie (my middle son although I think we look like brothers!)
Soon after Steve left for work on Thursday morning I noticed it had started snowing.  It didn’t amount to very much at all and by the time I took Buddy out it had all but disappeared.

After the snow clouds had rolled away
It was good to see the sun and it made for a very pleasant cross-country car journey to Cropredy where we were spending the best part of the day with Mike & Lesley.  They have finally moved into their new house and did us proud with a delicious, relaxing, drawn-out lunch.

If you were reading the blog in summer 2017 you may remember that we moored for a few weeks right in the middle of Cropredy alongside Mike & Lesley’s building plot.  It was the first time we have visited since the house was completed and we had to agree that it’s a stunning home.  They also had a narrowboat built last year and they keep it on the mooring at the bottom of the garden.

Mike & Lesley’s new home and boat
When we left them, Karen spotted a VR post box near the old station building at the edge of the village.  We were amazed as we had walked around the village many times when we were staying there in 2017.  Studying Streetview we have come to the conclusion that the post box has been recently re-sited.  When we were living there it was hidden away on the drive up to what was the station building.

We fancied a cruise on Friday so headed back up the Wendover arm to get onto the Grand Union at Bulbourne.  We turned right (south) at the junction and then stopped to top up with water.  There was a water point between Bulbourne and Tring and as it’s in a lock-free stretch meant we could have a lock-free cruise and get water. 

We pulled up at the water point only to find it wasn’t working.  Fortunately, I am in the habit of checking taps work before getting the hose out of the gas bottle locker and clearing the cratch to get access to the water vtank.  Over the years we have been doing this I would say that probably twice a year we have arrived at water points that don’t work.  It can be quite frustrating, especially in inclement weather, to get all set up and then find there is no water.

Anyway, we thought that the pipes may be frozen, but rather doubted it as it hasn’t really been that cold for any length of time.  I refused to pour boiling water over the standpipe as we found someone doing that when were moored down on the Staffs & Worcs two years ago.  They ended up splitting a pipe and putting it out of action for everyone.  It was particularly annoying as it was during a cold spell when the cut was frozen over for over a week and we had to cruise through the ice to get to another water point once we ran out.

By the way, Bulbourne is the only part of the canal system we have been on where we can see a VR box from the boat – it is on the wall of the Grand Junction pub.

The only VR box we have seen from the boat
Back to the lack of water – there are usually two taps that have to be turned on before water starts flowing.  The tap nearest the mains seemed to be turning without any effect in either direction which made me think it was broken.  I called the local CRT team and we decided to stay at the water point and have lunch whilst we waited for someone to turn up.  We were just finishing when a CRT guy turned up, fiddled around with the taps for a bit and then water started gushing out.  He and I both came to the conclusion that the pipes had been frozen after all.

After filling up with water we turned around and headed back to the Wendover arm where we hoped our spot would still be free.  We knew it was most unlikely to have been taken as we had seen no boats on the move and, even if it had, there were plenty of other isolated spots to moor up in.

Bulbourne is one of the places that lock gates used to be made.  There are still a few old workshop buildings left but, sadly they stand empty these days.

Passing one of the disused buildings with a gantry that used to lift the lock gates onto waiting work boats
As we were heading for the junction a walker told us that the water levels were dropping as lock gates had been left open on the Marsworth flight.  As it was, we were soon back at the junction and were pleased to see the water levels were fine.  Maybe a boat had been going down the flight or something and the guy didn’t really understand what was happening.

Heading back for the junction

Jem’s dry dock at Marsworth top lock with a wooden working boat waiting outside
You may remember that when we came down the arm last weekend we were really struggling as the water was so low, but it was fine today and up to its ‘normal’ level.  As expected we were able to moor back at the spot we had left a few hours previously.  It is also quite deep at this point so, even when the pound drops, it doesn’t affect us.

Heading back 'home' down the Wendover arm
I know I keep saying, ‘You may remember’ but there’s just one more thing to recall.  I have been having trouble programming our radio so that it transmits our European identification (ATIS) number when we are in France.  After many calls and emails to the distributors it has finally transpired that it needs to be sent back to them for them to do the programming.  So annoying as I was warned this may happen by Mike and Charles who had had similar problems, but the distributor had told me that with the radio model we have, we could do it ourselves.  In the scheme of things, it’s nothing and with nine weeks or so to go there’s plenty of time for them to get it fixed (they estimate a week).

We’ll probably stay here another five days or so before heading back down the Marsworth flight.


Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Little Tring (the joys of shallow canals)

On the previous entry I mentioned that we had moored halfway down the Wendover arm for Sunday night and that it was very shallow.  Well overnight, the pound dropped somewhat and when we awoke on Monday morning, we had settled on the bottom and were at quite an angle – I’m sure I’d have rolled out of bed if Karen wasn’t in the way ūüėČ

I went outside and slackened the lines right off and managed to get the front free and pushed out to the middle of the cut.  The stern wasn’t budging so it would need both of us to sort it out.  We decided to put up with the weird angle inside and had tea and coffee first.  It’s strange how disconcerting it is to be at an angle and how the brain doesn’t adjust; we thought we would be used to it by now.  Even though we know the boat is at an angle we find it difficult to compensate and often stagger around and bump into things.

It took us a while to get the back free and the most effective approach was for both of us to hang off the boat, over the water, on the side opposite where the boat was grounded.  Whilst we were freeing the boat a CRT enforcement officer came past.  We asked if there were boats moored further down and he told us the end was completely free and there were just two moored either side of Little Tring bridge.  As we have always wanted to moor right at the end we set off.

The Heygate flour mill on the Wendover arm
Immediately after setting off we were passing a flour mill.  It’s such an incongruous building as the arm is so rural and then all of a sudden, this building appears.  I say all of a sudden, but it takes ages to go past as the water is so shallow and it’s particularly difficult finding the right channel around the mill.  I lost count of the times we had to reverse and retry a manoeuvre in order to move forwards. We couldn’t believe we got down the arm in our previous boat which, at 70’, was 13’ longer.

The flour mill was originally a windmill built in 1875.  Apparently, it was operated by two men milling half a ton of grain an hour.  Today’s automated mill still only requires two men to operate but they mill more than 12 tons an hour.

Back in the countryside after the flour mill
After a while we were passing Tringford pumping station which used to house two steam engines pumping water from the reservoirs below into the Grand Union canal.  The steam engines have now been replaced by modern electric pumps.  The Wendover arm was originally built in 1793 as a feeder to the reservoirs as there was plenty of fresh running water available at Wendover. 

As it happened, the feeder was converted to a commercial canal and opened to horse drawn freight in 1799 which operated until 1904 when the arm was closed as it leaked more water than it carried to the reservoirs.  A pipeline was installed in 1912 so that the water available at Wendover could still be used to fill the reservoirs at Marsworth.

The Wendover arm meets the Grand Union at its summit, known as the Tring summit, which, at 390’ above sea level, takes the canal over the Chilterns on its way from Birmingham to London.

Remains of the gates from an old stop lock just beyond Tringford pumping station
The stop lock was installed in 1800 to help save water and it was said that the canal company would not guarantee a navigable depth of water for the barges working down to Wendover after going through the lock.

It took a long time for us to reach the end but, as the CRT enforcement guy said, there was no one else moored there so we had the pick of the spots.

Happy to be moored on our own again

Our view from the current end of the navigation
 The Wendover arm trust is very active in restoring the complete arm and has several sections in water but as yet only this first section is connected to the main system.

Plaque at the current end of navigation
After lunch we went for a walk, taking in part of the dry section of the arm and were surprised how deep it looked following the shallowness we had encountered in the watered section earlier in the day.

  
Tuesday was still dry, but the wind was up a bit and we walked the six miles or so into Wendover along the route of the original canal.  The following picture shows the route of the canal from our navigation book.  The dotted blue line is where there is no water currently and we are moored just at the top end of that dotted line.

The complete Wendover arm
The first section we walked along has been drained and the canal bed and sides are being re-laid by the volunteers in conjunction with the Inland Waterways Association.

Part of the canal bed that has been re-laid

Plaques on a bridge commemorating donors and volunteers

A sluice gate has been replaced in existing brickwork
After the initial dry section, the remaining five miles were still in water, albeit in different states of repair.  Some lengths had been re-laid recently and had a good depth of water in, some lengths were very shallow but cleared of undergrowth and reeds, whilst others were covered in vegetation.

We stopped for a picnic on one of the many benches that commemorate dead volunteers or donors.  This was on a straight stretch by Halton Camp (the RAF base) called, ‘The Narrows’.  It was also at a point where a clear section turned into an overgrown section.

Buddy interested in our lunch
Buddy is very good and won’t beg for or take our food, but we have noticed a change in his behaviour since his bout of gastroenteritis.  You may remember that after he hadn’t eaten for three days, we boiled some chicken and gave it to him.  We did it slowly, a tablespoon at a time, every hour or so over a couple of days.  Since then he knows the smell of cooked chicken and whenever we have any, he becomes very inquisitive and looks at us in a way that seems to say, “Don’t you remember that I like that?”

Fortunately, when the new A41 was built, an allowance was made for the waterway and a culvert was built that is large enough for narrowboats.  There are, however, a couple of bridges that will have to be replaced before the navigation can be reopened.

Bridge at Aston Clinton: one of the bridges that will need replacing with another structure or maybe even a lift bridge
A bit further on a new bridge had been added in the 1880s – we could tell because it had a letter suffix to its number – 8a.  It had been added between bridges 7 and 8.  The custom of adding suffices to new bridges is fairly common across the country and not many canals have had their bridges completely renumbered.  It does get quite unwieldy in cities like London and Manchester where it is not unusual to see bridges numbers like 145aab.

Anyway, bridge 8a which is also known as Rothschild’s bridge was added when the then Lord Rothshild constructed Halton House.  Halton House is now used as the officers’ mess for RAF Halton.

Rothschild’s bridge 8a
Just by the bridge was one of the only two mileposts we found for the Wendover arm and you can just see it to the right of the towpath above.  A mile further we came across the other milepost.

Six miles from the start of the arm back up at Bulbourne

The end in Wendover
The end of the canal in Wendover; the area is still called Wendover Wharf although most of the houses were built long after the canal became disused.  We popped in for a cuppa at Ann’s and then she gave us a lift home.

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 caf√© 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.