Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A complete change of plan and a long day

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 the next-but-one lock and save ourselves the 4 locks each way we would have had to do if we turned at Bulbourne.

Can he do it?

1 enough room to turn at lock 44

Yes he can!2 yes just

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 view of course) – a great deal of road and hard standing at the front and no gardens to speak of.

3 uninspiring surroundings for the new housing

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).

4 fishing match at Marsworth

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.

7 old side ponds with all these locks

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.

9 tern tail at slapton

  9a tern head at slapton

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.

11 church lock gates wait till you have gone before they open

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!

12 moorings above grove lock

7½ miles, 15 locks, 1 swing bridge kindly operated by a walker.

Total this trip; 66 miles, 57 broad locks, 2 tunnels, 1 large aqueduct 3 swing bridges


  1. You should have tried High Line Yachting just up the Slough Arm. They do very reasonably priced short term moorings -- at a fraction of the price of Packet Boat.

  2. Thanks Adam, that might be one for the summer - have you used them yourself?

    1. Yes we left our boat there for a few weeks a couple of years ago. And a friend has just booked in 22 days in the near future. Packet Boat eventually quoted £990; High Line is going to be £122.