Rather than rushing by, we decided to spend a few days exploring the Aylesbury Arm and Wendover Arm.
Tuesday 28th March
Marsworth Junction to Bridge 12 Aylesbury Arm
As is normal for us we were away by about 8am, on what looked like it would be a day of good weather. It was just a short hop to the turning for the Aylesbury Arm and straight away you are into a small staircase of 2 locks. All the old buildings at the junction have been demolished and some very modern new ones built. I have to say for modern buildings I quite liked them, though with all the large windows some must be a bit like living in a goldfish bowl.
The locks came thick and fast but as they are all narrow locks progress was quite quick. The water levels at 3 and 4 were very high and the water was slightly over the top near the entrances. As well as narrow locks, the towpath under the bridges meant that the clearance was about the same as the locks. They were though very convenient for Angela to get on and off.
Progress came to a standstill at lock 9, as a mass of uprooted rushes were around the exit gate and I was not able to get the boat out. It took about 10 minutes to pull them out of the way and get past.
We continued to make steady progress with Angela spending more time walking than on the boat. After lock 13 we found a good stretch of piled bankside to moor. Looking on the OS map there wasn’t a house within a kilometre of us. Our type of mooring.
Apart from passing a large dairy factory, the scenery to this point was very quiet and tranquil and we didn’t see another boat all day.
Wednesday 29th March
Bridge 12 Aylesbury Arm to Aylesbury terminus – then return to near lock 5.
With just 3 more locks to reach the end of the canal we were now getting close to the sprawl of Aylesbury. New houses are going up all along here as the town continues to grow. Within about an hour we were through the last lock and arriving at the basin. The basin is another new feature with a Waitrose supermarket, TravelLodge and university building. There are 6 permanent moorings, 3 lengths of finger moorings and a stretch of 48 hour moorings with water points.
Whilst turning the boat one of the hotel staff said she didn’t envy us doing all those locks. My reply was that it was much better than working an 8 hour shift. She couldn’t argue with that.
We moored up and went to explore the town. Like so many towns it is the usual mix of featureless high street names and shopping arcades. However, go beyond this and near the church there were some lovely old houses and a pub that is partly 15th century. All too often buildings like this were cleared away in the name of progress. Thankfully many have survived here.
As usual we were not very interested in the shops. We have reached the stage in life that we have pretty much everything we need and don’t have the space for new things anyway. We are more likely to throw things away than buy more.
So it was that we were soon on our way again. We made a big hole in the return section and finished the day moored near lock 5 for the night. Along the way though we were warned that the pound between locks 2 and 3 was empty.
As this was part of the section that had been very high the day before, I assume someone lowered the level and drained too much water away. It certainly wasn’t other boaters as we hadn’t seen a boat all trip.
Thursday 30th March
Aylesbury Arm lock 5 to end of the Wendover Arm
As the water level was still very low in the pound, we started the day by running some water down the staircase. We were careful not to put too much in and watched the level carefully. Within about 20 minutes we were good to go.
We were soon back on the Grand Union and continuing our journey South. We had a flight of 7 locks ahead of us and were hoping to share with someone. No one appeared though, so we were on our own. Fortunately three lots of boats came down the flight, so our journey up was quite swift.
After the last lock at Bulbourne Junction, it’s a sharp right then through a bridge and on to the Wendover Arm. I couldn’t manage to swing straight round the corner as I came out of the lock, but I got there eventually and was given 8 out of 10 from one of the spectators.
We were now in the middle of the best day of the trip and for the first time we took our coats off. The hedgerows are now turning green as well as a profusion of white flowers from the hawthorn bushes. Spring is surely here now.
It’s only about 2 kilometres to the current end of the Arm and some 48hr moorings. Winding (turning round) looked straight forward at the L shaped junction, but half way through the turn, the wind suddenly sprung up and I was blown sideways on to the bank. Try as we might we just couldn’t get turned around. We were constantly being pushed back to the side or the gap was too narrow. It probably took about 20 minutes before we finally managed it. Just round the corner and we moored up with barely any wind.
Later in the day another boat appeared and I went to have a sneaky look to see how he got on. He had exactly the same problem as me and he couldn’t believe how much trouble he was having. It made me feel a lot better!
A walk from our mooring showed us what still needs to be done to complete the route to Wendover. The next 2 kilometres or so are dry, or to be more exact muddy. Finally the last 5 kilometres have water but it is currently quite shallow. The Wendover Trust are working to restore the dried section but at £500 per metre, it needs a lot more money and work from the volunteers. Hopefully one day it will be possible to once again to travel the 9km to Wendover.
Friday 31st March
It’s about a 20 minute walk to Tring and we were on a mission. Recently on Danny Baker’s radio show he had been talking about the fleas in Mexican costume at the Museum. Tiny fleas in costume, how could we resist?
The museum is part of the Natural History Museum and was originally the personal museum of Walter Rothschild. It houses part of his massive collection of stuffed animals and birds as well as many insects. Sadly the fleas were hidden away in a wooden cabinet and at a height that children can not see them. You have to look through a magnifying glass to see them as they are so small.
2 swing bridges