The internet connections have been slow or non-existent for a couple of days, so three days in one here …
Wednesday 23rd July
We were up unusually early so despite a leisurely start we were still away by 9. Dudswell is a really pretty spot, cool and shady, just a shame about the trains so very frequent on the other bank. Last night a particularly noisy one went by and I thought it had set up a vibration somewhere on the boat, as there was a loud fast ticking sound. Nothing to be seen till I finally spotted this little cricket, stridulating away on the edge of the side hatch right in my ear.
The two Dudswell locks have to be left empty, so were in our favour. At Cowroast I got rid of some rubbish and recycling as the lock filled and Dave went up onto the footbridge to check out the position of the diesel pump in the marina. Somehow Meg managed to get through the side and in she went with an almighty splash! This is the bridge, taken as we came out of the marina, having filled up.
She was completely unfazed by her dunking – we were just thankful that she didn’t hit the concrete edge or it could have been quite another story.
We stopped for lunch on the summit near Tring station. We had hoped to walk to Aldbury for lunch but the road was very busy, the sun hot and the pavement overgrown so we came back to the boat instead. The canal is now beginning to look more like the area of the Grand Union we know already, further north.
On to Bulbourne Junction, where the old BW buildings now house a decorative ironwork manufacturer. You can get some very individual pieces made for your garden -
Holland is moored here.
We turned down the Wendover arm. It was a bit of a treat to have no lock work and I took the helm while Dave took some photos of the terns fishing behind the boat. They (or perhaps it was just one) were clearly finding fish that our passage had disturbed.
They are such beautiful, graceful birds - it is a pity their voice is so harsh.
I successfully navigated the tight turns at the flour mill, where the workers were having a tea break beside the pallets of ‘Fine Lady’ flour ready for despatch.
Here is the proof that I actually do steer sometimes!
Unfortunately Dave took the photo from the towpath after having to push me off when I got stuck, having failed to notice the edge of the derelict stop lock!
The moorings at the end of the arm were in full sun, so as it was still very hot we turned and came back down to the only other spot just past the flour mill, where it was a bit shallow but cool and shady. It was only 3.30 so we set to and cleaned the boat inside and out. It’s beautifully quiet here – no racketing trains, just the soothing whisper of aspens in the gentle breeze – and every 10 minutes a whoosh of water from a nearby outflow of some kind!
We have been monitoring the fridge this hot weather as it seems to be drawing too much from the batteries, and we end up having to turn it off in the early evening, leading to some sour milk a few days ago. Dave pulled the fridge out the other day and drilled out a couple of 2” holes in the floor to draw cool air up from the bilge – the drill battery ran out before he could do the third, but it seems to be working much more efficiently than it did before.
After we’d eaten we strolled back up the arm for a pint at the Grand Junction pub in Bulbourne, getting a better picture of the workshops from the bridge.
6 miles 3 locks – what an easy day!
Thursday 24th July
Today started cool and almost drizzly, but soon turned very hot again. We tried to turn left for the locks at Bulbourne Junction but there were several boats moored at the dock opposite, and we decided to retrace our steps to the winding hole on the south side of the visitor moorings. A wise choice – NB Daisy Chain was approaching as we completed the turn and we shared the first 6 locks, before they pulled in at the lovely moorings alongside the reservoir. The two crew had a brilliant system where we took it in turns to lock ahead, and we were down very quickly. Here is Daisy Chain following Chuffed between locks.
Someone must have collided with this at some speed – there was a bend between this and the next lock and they clearly got it wrong!
Here is the double-arched bridge at the bottom of the flight, taken quickly before the approaching boat blocked the view.
We knew from the stoppage emails that passage through the Aylesbury Arm staircase lock was restricted because of a broken lock beam (NB Valerie's blog has a photo ). We pulled in to a space on the end of the permanent mooring and went to investigate as it was only 11.30. There were 2 workboats in the lock and below, and they were in the process of fitting the new balance beam. Here the broken one has been removed. In the background is what looks like the start of an industrial unit – but it appears to be for houses. There is one closer to completion overlooking the main line – it is now clad in stone rather than the usual brick and will probably look good when all the scaffolding and netting comes down.
They were clearly going to be some time! “Maybe this afternoon but could be tomorrow”.
We went back for a cuppa and a boaters’ meeting and decided to go to the pub in Wilstone and leave them to it! By the time we had finished our tea the new beam was in place and they were beginning to fit the paddle gear in place.
After some banter with the foreman we had a lovely walk down to Wilstone, taking the footpath across the field and past the allotments. We popped into the delightful and friendly community shop for a couple of things, then went on to the excellent Half Moon, where we enjoyed a relaxing pint and some lunch in the garden, watching the gliders being towed up from Dunstable Downs.
As we returned to Chuffed, the men had finished the paddle gear and were fitting the step on the beam. Half an hour later, one of them brought one of the workboats up and we moved out so he could take our mooring, and down we went. All the non-slip was in place on the step and beam – an excellent job, by the looks of it! The bottom lock was filling as I took this photo.
It was a joy to be in narrow locks again. The Aylesbury Arm is quiet and peaceful, with few boats. There was a lot of water coming down, though it didn’t impede our progress.
Some of the paddle gear was a bit rocky but everything else, towpath included, was in good condition. We moored on the rings by the footpath at Wilstone, where we had a gloriously quiet night in a beautiful setting – with a heron imitating a cormorant! Perhaps it was a bit too enthusiastic going after a fish and got wetter than it intended.
2 and a half miles, 7 broad locks, 8 narrow
Friday 25th July
Phew what a scorcher! I lost count of the number of pints of squash we got through today. Although it was grey and almost drizzling as I walked up to the village shop, the sun was soon out. This is an excellent spot to moor.
Of all the 16 locks on the Aylesbury Arm, only 2 have the balance beam on the towpath side – this one is lock 9, Gudgeon Stream.
We had been warned that we would feel we were on the African Queen once on the Arm, but found this to be a very out of date view. The towpath was in generally good condition throughout – this was as bad as it got, though in wet weather I imagine it would be rather different.
Motel Boatyard (I wonder how often that joke has been made) specialises in repair of wooden boats and there were several moored or out of the waterThere is very little mooring between Wilstone and Aylesbury basin - we could have pulled in at lunchtime but were plagued by biting flies so carried on to the basin. We turned and moored on the shady side which turned out to be over 100yds of service moorings, with at least 2 water points. As there were only 2 boats on the pontoons, and 2 unattended boats on the long service moorings, we stayed put to have a late lunch in the shade. And as no-one else appeared, we stayed there and went up into town for a mooch around and to buy a change of bedding which we had forgotten to bring with us! Here is Disraeli, who used to be the local MP. He probably looked quite good there before the HSBC logo went up!
Daughter Jen was coming over later to help celebrate Dave’s Big Birthday (not saying which but it doesn’t contain a zero) and as it was so hot we decided to eat on board rather than sit in a roasting restaurant or squeeze into a crowded pub garden. While I popped over to Waitrose to get some goodies, Dave moved the boat over to the ‘proper’ mooring side as the sun had come round and now there was some shade over there. Jen duly arrived and we had an excellent evening before we escorted her back to her car and gave Meg her night-time walk.
5 miles 8 narrow locks