Sunday, 26 March 2017

Aylesbury to Cow Roast

2017 01 Aylesbury to Cowroast

Thu 23rd March  Aylesbury to Black Jacks Lock

So here we are once more creating a boating blog. Today is departure day.

Yesterday we filled up the water tank, and used the laundry in the clubhouse for the last time.  It rained heavily in the night, but this morning was dry and windy.

There were lots of final jobs to do before we set off.
We put the hood down,
We took down the TV aerial (with difficulty as it was stuck),
We disconnected the electricity cable,
We emptied a cassette,
We dismantled the gangplank,
We vacuum-packed the bows cover and took it to the car
We set up the time-lapse camera.
We put all the fenders and ropes in place
We put the life ring on the roof, with our planter inside it.
We started the engine. It took two or three tries but it eventually fired up.
We moved the boat to the fuel pontoon so that we could load on four bags of coal onto the pallet on the roof.
We said farewell to a few people, waved to Norma on her balcony, and we were finally ready to go.

Eric went to man the lift bridge for us, and we did a zig zag reverse out of the basin, as there was a strong wind coming down the canal, which helped push our stern round so that we were facing where we wanted to go.

Leaving Circus Field Basin

 Eric came with us as far as the first lock.  As we passed our apartment, we waved to John and Ruzenka from the apartment below.

A typical canal bridge – this one is Bridge 11

We arrived at our first lock, No 14, which was half empty. Eric helped us through the lock before saying farewell, and then we were on our own.

Hugo enjoying the cruise

We saw a large buzzard, plus the usual red kites. We also heard sky larks although we couldn’t see them as they were so high up.  We spotted a yellow flower on one of the locks which we think we identified as Coltsfoot.


At the next lock, Red House Lock no 13, we noticed it was being emptied as we approached, and a boat was coming down.  “Good”, we thought. “All the locks will be in our favour.”  No such luck, it turned out. Just above the lock, a boat was setting off in front of us.  The people in the two boats were friends, and had met by chance at the lock, and had spent an hour on the lock bollards having tea (as you do). The boat in front was Nutshell, which we had heard go past earlier this morning.

Red House Lock

On board were two pleasant Aussies, from Northern Queensland. We followed them through the next four locks, and then at Wilstone it got more complicated. We noticed that there was a mooring space there, which is unusual – the moorings here are popular and usually full as there is a pub, a shop, and somewhere to park a car nearby.

At lock no 8 it seemed as though there was a boat coming down, but it turned out to be a boat going up backwards in front of Nutshell.  There is no winding hole at Wilstone, the next one being five locks and two miles further down at Red House lock, which would take two hours each way.  This explained the empty mooring space, as the boat had just left. The progress was very slow as there was a strong wind and they had no bow thruster.

Reversing boat

We followed slowly, and in lock 6 we stopped for a hot drink while we waited for them to negotiate lock 5.

Sunshine cruising

Lock 5 was the last of the day for us, and we moored on some piling just below Black Jack’s Lock (No 4).

First night’s mooring below Black Jack’s Lock

Hugo seemed delighted to be boating again, and went to explore the bushes as soon as the engine noise died.

10 locks, 5 miles, 1 lift bridge.

Fri 24th March   Black Jack’s Lock to Bulbourne

A cloudy morning with a cold east  wind.

James set the time-lapse camera again, but this time forgot to put the SD card in, so no pics!

There two skylarks hovering just above the hedge as we departed.
We set off through the final four locks of the Aylesbury Arm, but after lock 3 there was a very low pound - so much so that Gabriel got stuck on the bottom, right in the middle of the channel.

Going nowhere in the low pound

Fortunately James had decided to walk this section, so he was able to go ahead to let some water down.  He found the staircase locks completely empty, as though a boat had come down, but they hadn’t.  Nothing has passed us since we moored up. The last boat to pass was Nutshell yesterday, going up, which should have left both the top  locks full. 

Empty staircase lock

So we ran water down through both the locks until Gabriel was afloat once more, and then we were able to proceed up to the main line of the Grand Union at Marsworth, where we turned right.

Going up the staircase

Leaving the Aylesbury Arm

 On the Grand Union main line

The seven locks by the Tring reservoirs are a delight. They follow a series of bends up around the reservoirs, with good views and opportunities for wildlife spotting. James saw a shoveler and lots of tufted duck. There was another bird spotter who said that the swallows had arrived, although we didn’t see any.

The first double lock of the season

For some reason these locks (39-45) are called the Marsworth Locks, although locks 37 and 38 are also called Marsworth Locks, and so are the first four locks on the Aylesbury Arm. As Pete and Dud once said: “It could confuse a stupid person”

 Passing the reservoirs

Approaching one of the lock cottages

We were on our own on the locks, but we met two boats coming down together, one of which Dave on Hallmark, who we know from Little Venice Cavalcade, where he joined the BCF quiz team on the Friday night, and we won!


We moored up on rings on a steep bank at Bulbourne, where we had good views across fields.
 Moored at Bulbourne

We walked to College Lakes Nature Reserve and saw oyster catchers, lapwing, widgeon, shelduck, redshank, and snipe among others.  Beautiful sunshine.

College Lakes nature reserve

There was lovely evening light, so James went to take some more pics of reservoirs and canals.

Zig zags on the Marsworth flight

Marsworth Reservoir

 A boat with character

We visited the Grand Junction Arms for a meal in the evening. Excellent food in this pub these days.  Instead of leaving by the front door near the traffic, or the back door through the smokers, we left by the side door into the car park and through the garden.  The path goes down a slope covered in gravel, and Hazel’s foot slipped on the gravel in the dark, and she fell over, grazing her knee in three places.  There was an alarming amount of blood to start with, soon sorted out with blue chef’s plasters from the pub kitchen!

11 locks, 2 miles.

Saturday 25th March  Bulbourne to Cow Roast

It was a lovely sunny day, so we decided to renew our acquaintance with the Wendover Arm, not visited by us since 2011. We reversed the boat to the junction by the dry dock, and set off under the footbridge.

Dry dock

 Into the Wendover Arm

There were lots of brimstone butterflies around, and primroses, celandines, daffodils, forsythia, in fact a very yellow time of year.  There were also some blackthorn bushes in flower.  The waterway was very shallow, and we were churning up muddy trails through the silt with our propeller.


Churning up the mud


Tringford Pumping Station

The end of the canal (until it is restored further)

The lovely mooring at the end was deserted. It took us 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete the excursion back to Bulbourne.

Past the mill

The workshops at Bulbourne

We then began the Tring summit, most of which is in a cutting, usually dark with overhanging trees.  Today the sun was shining and the leaves were not properly out, so it was much brighter.

The massive bridge on the Tring summit

However, there were several dead animals in the water including two badgers and a deer. Presumably it is difficult for them to get out because of the steep sides.

Poor old Brock

We arrived at Cow Roast, and turned in the winding hole, before finding a mooring six boat lengths along from the marina entrance.

Moored at Cowroast

58 miles from Braunston

We returned to Aylesbury by bus to collect our car, and saw that another boat had taken our place, with a large Buddha on the roof.

Circus Field Basin

Arriving back at Cow Roast, we spotted that Darren was in his workshop, so we went to see him to establish when to bring our boat in tomorrow. He also lent us an electronic fob to open the main gates with.  We were going to put in on our car key ring, to ensure we did not lose it. Then we realised we would have to open the car window and swipe the fob across the sensor, and we couldn’t do that if it was attached to the car keys. So we left it in the car, and walked back to the boat on the towpath.

We saw Erigeron go past – we shared Stoke Bruerne locks with them last year.

There was no TV signal, so we watched the first two episodes of Poldark. We haven’t seen it before.

As we went to bed we realised that the boat was at an angle, as the water level had dropped.

0 locks, 6 miles

Sun 26th Mar  Cowroast

The clocks went forward, so we set an alarm to make sure we weren’t late for the church service in Aylesbury. As we walked towards the car, hoping to go through the gap in the hedge into the marina, we discovered that the gap had a gate, which was locked, not opening until 1000am. We had been lent the key fob which would have allowed us to pass, but it was in the car in the Marina car park.

Yes, go on – say it!  “How stupid can you get?” We agree! That’s what we were saying to ourselves.

Fortunately James managed  to get into the field next to the marina, and found a small hole in the hedge where he wriggled  through backwards. Once inside the marina site he retrieved the car, drove to the gates, opened them with the fob, and picked up Hazel who was waiting outside.

We drove to Aylesbury (15 minutes) and Hazel used  the laundry washing machine for our clothes. It was a lovely sunny day, and we could hang the washing out to dry in the sun.

The Broughton Church service was excellent (it usually is), with Jack leading the worship, and one of the Alpha videos being shown.

Afterwards we returned via a scenic route, looking for a pun lunch somewhere. It was Mother’s Day, so we were lucky to benefit from a cancellation at the Full Moon at Hawridge. Very good food and friendly service.

Back at the marina, we parked the car and took the precious key fob with us!

We reversed the boat off the underwater obstruction that had tipped us up the night before, and cruised just half a mile to turn round and find another mooring, this time with rings.

We heard a kingfisher make its characteristic “cheep” noise as it flew past.

No photos today.

0 locks, ½ mile.

Next week: up the ramp for a new propeller, black bottoming and some welding work. Hugo will have to remain on board.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Cowroast to Aylesbury

Fri 28th Oct  Cowroast to Bulbourne

Moored at Cowroast

We set off for our short cruise through the cutting in lovely sunshine and with beautiful autumn colours everywhere.  At one point the towpath changes sides, crossing over Bridge 134, a massive bridge built across the cutting.

Autumn on Tring Summit

Bridge 134

Bulbourne workshops

We arrived at Bulbourne where we found some mooring rings. They were on a steep bank, so we put out the plank so that we didn’t slip in the dark (especially returning from the pub!).

We walked to College Lake nature reserve where we had a pleasant time looking at Widgeon and Tufted Ducks, as well as some lovely autumn bushes.

College Lake reserve

Old Man’s beard

Golden leaves

We had tea in the cafe and then walked back to the boat.  When we were back on board we realised that Hazel had lost one of the protective plastic lens caps from her pair of binoculars.  She retraced her steps back to the road, but there was no sign. She reported it missing to the staff at the reserve.

0 locks, 2 miles.

Sat 29th Oct  Bulbourne

We walked back to College Lake hoping to find the lost binocular cap.  We went first to the reception area, but it had not been handed in. We then went to the main hide and looked where we had been sitting – no success.  We then walked down to the lower hide, and again there was no sign. On the way back we met Brian, the guy we had spoken to by the reservoirs three days earlier. We exchanged sightings as you do, and then we told him we were hunting for the lens cap. “Well, aren’t you the lucky ones?” he said. He had found it earlier as he was a volunteer and was collecting rubbish from the paths and hides.  So we accompanied him to the volunteers hut, and retrieved it.  Brilliant.  Answered prayer.

College lake again

 Fallen leaves

Back at the boat, another narrowboat pulled in and moored just in front of us.  In chatting, James mentioned that they needed to book if they wanted to eat in the pub tonight. They had a booking, they said. They were Aylesbury Canal Society moorers whom we had not previously met - Tony and Sue on Euston 73

Later we all went for a meal at the Grand Junction Arms, about 20 of us. The food was excellent, much improved from the basic pub menu that James had experienced here in 2000.

No boating today

Sun 30th Oct  Bulbourne to Black Jacks

The clocks changed this morning

Barnabas went past very early. We found out later that they needed to get the boat back to Aylesbury and then drive to the West Country by this evening.

We set off with Euston 73 and headed for the top lock.  Euston was already in and they had discovered that there was a very low pound. Barnabas had run some water down and was one or two locks down.   Hazel was about to bring Gabriel into the lock when a CRT man turned up and said “You can’t go in there. I need to run some water down.”  We pointed out that the lock was full, the gates were open, Euston was already in there, and if we shared the lock, then we would be delivering a lock full into the next pound. He reluctantly agreed to let us through, but as soon as we closed the top gates, he padlocked them. He made us wait in the next pound for 30 minutes while he opened a paddle on each set of gates for the next few locks.

Into the top lock

 Top gates padlocked

Waiting in the pound

Eventually we were allowed to move on down the lock flight, with lovely views of the reservoirs.  Halfway down we met Warren on the Pumpout Boat coming up. We last saw him at the Rickmansworth Festival in 2014.

Marsworth Reservoir

Warren on the Pumpout Boat

Sharing with Euston 73

A misty cruise past the reservoirs

Euston 73 heads for Aylesbury

Tony and Sue turned off at Marsworth Junction, while we moved on to the water point and elsan.  It is a pity that the elsan in this new facility is tucked in a corner making it difficult to use.  It is also a shame that the new residents who have moved in have successfully had the pumpout closed down, and they have put up “private” notices on the mooring rings for the facilities.  The houses have been built too close to the boaters facilities.

Elsan in a corner

 Private sign

The water point moorings

While we were filling up with water we heard the sound of church bells coming from All Saints Church in Marsworth. We realised that we just about had time to get to the service. We had abandoned the idea of getting to church today as there is no church in Bulbourne.

We quickly moved on through Bridge 131 and found a place to moor using our mooring spikes. We walked as quickly as we could up the hill to the church, where we arrived just on 1030am.  As we sat down they were just going through the notices.

Marsworth All Saints

It was a traditional service, with a robed choir and sung responses for communion. We had some pleasant conversations over coffee afterwards and two ladies wanted our contact details.  We went to the Red Lion for lunch, where found some decent cider.

Red Lion

Our hasty mooring in Marsworth

We had to reverse round a corner past moored boats and through a bridge, but it is amazing how helpful a bow thruster is in situations like this.  We then headed west down the Aylesbury Arm.

Lock 1, Aylesbury Arm

Down the staircase pair

Locks 3 and 4 were already full from water flowing down and over the top gates. Lock 4, also known as Black Jack’s Lock, was beautiful with autumn colours, and we could see the two owners of the cottage working away in their lovely garden.

Autumn colours at Black Jack’s Lock

Fallen leaves

We found Juniper moored up (Graham and Sara) and we decided to stay there as well. There was piling, a good view, and we could get properly into the side.

Moored with Juniper

Three other boats joined us later on.

11 locks, 2 miles

Mon 31st October  Black Jack’s Lock to Aylesbury

Juniper left early, before we were properly up.  Our final day was misty to start with, but soon turned into a lovely sunny blue sky day.

Misty morning

Gulls flying overhead

We had a bit to do so we started with a cooked breakfast, so we wouldn’t need lunch. We had found out from Bryan that we were going to be moored where we were last year, i.e. not alongside a pontoon, but stern on.  This means that we can’t get at the sides of the boat without moving, so we decided to clean the roof and sides, and the bow well. 

We began with the bow well, putting the mats on the bank while we scrubbed the deck. We then took everything off the roof and stowed the bags of coal in the front.  The roof was a bit messy under the pallet, so it was scrubbed from bows to stern.

Clearing things off the roof

Grubbiness revealed

A clean roof

It was midday before we set off, with most of the locks against us. No boats had passed either way since Juniper had left.

It was a glorious day to finish our cruise for the year. Autumn colours everywhere, and colourful berries and seed pods on the bushes.

Seed pods

Red berries 

Wooden boats at Bates Yard


As well as ladybirds all over the locks there were unseasonal flying ants, and money spiders dropping onto us (apparently from high up almost into space).  We collected some late damsons at one point, and saw a deer in a field.  Some cows found us very interesting.

They don’t see many boats around here

We noticed that the building work had been progressing well, with some new houses apparently finished and occupied since we had left. We passed our apartment but we didn’t see our tenant.

We had sent a text to Bryan, giving him our ETA, and he was ready with the lift bridge raised as we arrived at the Canal Society basin. He had also brought out the small ramp we need to access the boat via the stern.

Looking clean in Aylesbury

Back where we started.

Hugo steps ashore

10 locks, 5 miles

So that’s it for this year.   We have gone through 513 locks, travelled 858 miles, opened and closed 109 swing or lift bridges and steered through 11 tunnels.  There may not be much blogging for a while.  We need to collect our car from Suffolk, practice some worship songs for the BCF AGM on 12th November, and Broughton Church on 13th November. Then there are doctors, dentist, and optician’s appointments, boat engineers, folk clubs, a carol concert at Byfleet Boat Club and before we know it, Christmas will be upon us!!