Sunday 23rd April (St George’s Day); Startops to Grove Lock
Our original idea was to cruise towards London and take the opportunity to spend more time exploring places like Berkhamsted, and then we would leave Chuffed at Packet Boat marina as we have done before. But we had difficulty even speaking to anyone there; all enquiries get routed to Limehouse, where they cannot help. So rather than get all the way south and have nowhere to stay, we decided to turn at Bulbourne and go back to the Midlands.
A volunteer came on duty as we left – good timing, as he told us we should be able to turn above lock 44 and save ourselves the 4 locks each way we would have had to do if we turned at Bulbourne.
Can he do it?
It is not marked as a winding hole but the volunteer said longer boats than ours (55’) have managed it, though with difficulty. While we were going up we heard the first cuckoo for a couple of years, and a couple of birdwatchers managed to spot it the far side of the reservoir.
We were swiftly back down again and stopped on the service point just as the Marsworth ringers were ringing for Sunday service. I had forgotten it was Sunday, or I would have joined them! The new housing at Marsworth junction has been completed since our last visit here and is very ….. neat and tidy. Not what I would call inspiring (apart from the canal of course) – a great deal of road and hard standing at the front and no gardens to speak of.
As we moved off again we encountered the first fishing match we have seen for ages – no grumpy old gits, and everyone smiling in the sunshine (though we saw two fish caught so that would be making them happy too).
Walkers swung the bridge for us above Seabrook locks and when we caught up with the widebeam we had been warned about (by a boater at Pitstone Marina) we pulled in and had an early lunch.
The glorious weather continued all afternoon. All the locks have side ponds, in various stages of being reclaimed by nature.
At Slapton lock we got good views of a tern sitting on a telegraph pole. For such graceful and elegant fliers they do have a harsh and unpleasant call. You can see why they are sometimes called sea swallows.
We had hoped to stop for the night below Slapton Lock but every decent mooring for a couple of miles had been taken. I found both bottom gates at Church Lock wide open, which was very annoying and I congratulated myself on getting both to close properly once we were down. We were 50 yards away when one of them slowly swung itself open again.
We pulled in on the rings above Grove lock for the night. We had gone further and worked harder than we had anticipated so we treated ourselves to the second roast dinner of the weekend – this time in the pub rather than on the boat, which we did last night. And very nice they both were!
6½ miles, 15 locks, 1 swing bridge kindly operated by a walker.
Total this trip; 61 miles, 57 broad locks, 2 tunnels, 1 large aqueduct 3 swing bridges