Thursday, 31 July 2014

‘Another scorcher’ x 2 and we get to Soulbury

Saturday 26th July

It was hot right from the word go today.  I jogged up to Aylesbury’s Quarrendon Park to take part in their weekly 5k parkrun – even at 9 am people were hugging the shade when they could.  I got a lift back to the basin from a delightful lady whose uncle owned the ‘Welcome boat’ when the Canal Society used the basin as their base before their marina was constructed.  Luckily Chuffed was still in a shady spot, so we were able to start with a cool boat for Meg even though we were out in the sun.  Looking back at the basin as we left – it’s a pretty quiet place to moor, and convenient for the shops, though it doesn’t have electric hook-ups like the marina.

3 leaving aylesbury basin

Aylesbury has a pretty good market, but when we went yesterday afternoon the fruit and veg had been sitting in the heat all day and the strawberries, for example, were going mouldy when we checked them out.

At Red House lock, where the gates are very heavy,  a group of delightful young men broke off from their lunch to help me with the gates – they had never worked a lock before and were astonished at how heavy the gates were.  Here they are later as they passed us when we made our lunch stop.

8 helpful lads

On our way back to the lovely Wilstone mooring we passed under a couple of horses drowsing in dappled shade.

4 horses on bridge

This was the nearest to the ‘African Queen’ scenario we had been warned about – just one bridge with too much growth and a reedy section beyond.6 one difficult bridge

There was a lot of water coming down as we neared Wilstone – the level in the lock was about 6” above the bottom gates.  Impressive, but didn’t cause us any problems.

7 lots of water

It was far too hot to sit in the boat, even under the shade of the trees, so we sat out on the towpath with the paper before walking up to the pub for an excellent meal out in their garden.

5 miles, 8 locks

Sunday 27th July

The forecast said it would be cooler today but it was wrong!  After walking the dog and doing some washing we were off around 10.  The Aylesbury locks are mostly pretty easy and the bottom gates well balanced so I can open the opposite side one with a gentle shove; the photos make it look really hard but it was a doddle.

1 opening offside gate 1  2 opening offside gate 2

We only met two boats on the move our entire time on the Aylesbury Arm.  We were soon out onto the Grand Union again and stopped at the services just above the junction for water/cassettes.  The water pressure was good, meaning that the hose on the sluice is very lively and whips about if you accidentally let go – I got drenched, but at least it was cool!  While we came up the staircase and took on water we could hear the bells of Marsworth Church – they were ringing a quarter-peal (about 40 minutes long) which was a pleasure to listen to.

After finding a shady spot for lunch, we cracked on to get away from the railway and try and find a shady spot out in the country.  Having been warned that the pound between the Ivinghoe locks sometimes drops overnight we went on towards Horton lock and pulled up in a pretty and quiet spot opposite the Whipsnade Lion.

3 whipsnade lionThe only noise was some strange bird calls from the farm at the lock – they turned out to be from a speaker hung on a barn as some sort of bird scarer but there still seemed to be plenty of birds around!  We were several hundred yards away though, picking blackberries, and it wasn’t a problem.  What was a problem though was the water level dropping as the evening went on – we managed to push the bow off but the stern was resting firmly on the bottom, so we slackened the ropes a bit and went to bed hoping not to fall out!

8 narrow locks, 7 broad locks, 1 swing bridge, 5 miles.

Monday 28th July

The pound didn’t drop any further overnight luckily.  At 8 a widebeam went up – Still Rockin’ – and presumably let a lockful down as the level came up a bit. We got on with some jobs for a couple of hours hoping someone would go up, or come down – either would do – but no-one did, so eventually I went back up to Ivinghoe locks and let a lockful down.  With both of us shoving/using the pole and the help of the engine we got the back off and finally at 10.30 we were on our way. 

The Grove Lock pub has lovely hanging basket brackets!

 1 hanging basket brackets at Grove Lock

After lunch we stopped at the Tesco moorings in Leighton Buzzard.  There was a heavy shower before we left the boat, the first rain for ages.  After we got the shopping back to the boat Dave popped over to Homebase (in default of a B&Q) and I went over to the recycling bins.  They must drink an awful lot of wine in Leighton Buzzard!  There were 7 or 8 glass bins and two for everything else! which were overflowing so the plastic milk bottles and newspapers came back to the boat.

As we approached the Wyvern Shipping Co’s base our hearts sank – changeover day at 3.30.  We found out later that every day is changeover day at Wyvern!  But we weren't held up and shared the lock with a lovely family on their first boating holiday.  As we neared Soulbury a boat coming the other way warned of a queue of 8 at the locks, so we pulled in before the bend for the night.  We walked down for a beer a bit later – most of the queue had cleared, but more boats were approaching and the good-humoured volunteer was looking tired!  The menu at the Three Locks looked expensive and not very interesting so we ate on board.

7 and a half miles, 5 locks