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!!

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Leighton Buzzard to Cowroast

Mon 24th Oct  Leighton Buzzard to Horton Lock

In the morning there were fork lift trucks operating in the depot the other side of the fence and they had reversing warnings blaring out across the area.

James trundled a cassette back to the facilities before we both went to visit Aldi and Tesco to stock up. There will be several days before we find the next decent shop.

From our mooring in Leighton Buzzard

Leaving Leighton Buzzard

As we left Leighton Buzzard we passed the wharf with the narrow gauge railway lines, which apparently used to be connected to Grovebury quarries.

The railway lines on the wharf

As we approached Grove Lock a kingfisher flew past and landed on a bush next to the canal.  Sadly the phone needed booting up so the fantastic picture we could have had as we passed so close will have to be left to the imagination!

At Grove Lock we met Malcolm, the Aylesbury Salvation Army man who started the Waterways Chaplaincy. He was on duty, going to offer help to a boater who was in difficulties.

Malcolm at Grove Lock

Grove Lock

We noticed that the house that used to be a Church at Church Lock had been sold. Above this lock we noticed that the pound was very shallow, with rocks showing at the edges.  We were hoping to moor below Slapton Lock but it was too shallow. We discovered some engineers who had a water pump extracting water from the canal.  When we arrived at Slapton Lock we found a notice about a new marina proposed

Shallow pound

Water extraction

Slapton Marina proposal

We moved on through Slapton and Horton Locks, where we found a mooring, although it was opposite a farmyard, and was accompanied by some country aromas. At least we could get into the side.

Horton Lock

4 locks, 4 miles

Tue 25th Oct  Horton Lock to Tring reservoirs

The boat behind us was just setting off as we emerged to get the boat ready. It was Intrepid and we shared the locks with them as far as Pitstone Wharf, which is where they stopped for a pumpout.

Sharing with Intrepid

Swingbridge near Pitstone

On our own in Marsworth Locks

We continued to Marsworth where we filled up with water and emptied a cassette.  There is a new sanitary station here, opened earlier this year. Sadly the elsan facility is tucked away in a corner where it is difficult to use. The hose has therefore already got a kink because it has to be bent to get it to the right place.

New houses have been built along the facilities moorings but there is now a notice saying “private property” there!

While were there, Intrepid turned up, because they had not been allowed to use the advertised pumpout at Pitstone Wharf. It was just for their moorers!  Fortunately the new sanitary station at Marsworth includes a pumpout facility.  Intrepid was then going to head down to Aylesbury so we said farewell.

Intrepid investigating the pumpout at Marsworth by the new houses

We passed the turning to Aylesbury and went through the first of the Tring locks to moor one lock up opposite the reservoirs.

Marsworth Junction

Intrepid went past: Pumpout not working at Marsworth, so they were heading for Cowroast. We have since found out that the residents in the new houses objected to the pumpout being too close!!!!! That is one of the reasons why we have a cassette.

James went for a walk by the reservoirs and saw lots of shovelers, and a flock of starlings having a murmuration.  There was also a pleasant sunset over the reservoir.

Sunset over Tring reservoirs

Moored near Marsworth

8 locks, 4 miles, 1 swing bridge

Wed 26th Oct  Tring reservoirs

We stayed put today and had a song practise, preparing for the BCF AGM and the following day in Aylesbury.

We both went for a walk and saw another murmuration. It is extraordinary how the birds not only turn together, but they all flap their wings at the same time, and then suddenly glide in unison. Remarkable.

We went for a meal at the Angler’s Reach.  They are a very friendly bunch in there.

No boating today

Thu 27th Oct  Tring reservoirs to Cowroast

The first job was to retrieve James’ hat from the pub, where he had left it last night.  Well it was dark when we left – who needs a sunhat in the dark? Thankfully they were open early for breakfast.

We then went across the road to Bluebells cafe for breakfast.  Eggs Royale and Eggs Benedict.

We had noticed a BCF boat called Interlock moored almost opposite to us, but we hadn’t seen anyone aboard.  As we were preparing for departure, we spotted some people there, and they were also getting ready to go, so we were able to share the locks together.

Sharing with Interlock

 Synchronised boating

Half way up


We saw some filming going on, with a kayak as the subject matter. We never found out what was happening.

Kayaks being filmed

Interlock paused at Bulbourne while we carried on through the cutting on the summit pound to Cowroast. There were beautiful autumn colours as well as squirrels and pheasants on the towpath.


Autumn leaves

When we arrived at Cowroast we turned in the winding hole and reversed to the facilities by the lock. There was another boat called Nomad on the lock bollards, which also serve as the bollards for the facilities, so we marked time mid stream until he had finished. He was having problems with the notice which asked him to leave the lock empty, as he thought he should drop all the paddles and wasn’t happy with leaving one up.  Another boater was patiently explaining that if the lock filled up for any length of time the adjacent cottage got flooded. It took a long time for this conversation to take its course, before he finally took his boat into the lock and we were able to use the facilities.

We emptied two cassettes, dumped the rubbish and filled the water tank, and then went to visit Darren to discuss some engineering work needed next April as we head down towards London. He seems to know what he needs to, and others have recommended him, so we will get him to do the work, which includes fitting an Axiom propeller, making ventilation holes in the front locker, and blocking up some drain holes either side of the engine bilge compartment.

At Cowroast

We left to find a mooring, passing a boat with messages about witches, with a pentagram on the front.


We moored a little north of Bridge 136. The boat in front had a black cat which chased Hugo twice, and tried to come in even after we had locked the cat flap.

6 locks, 5 miles

Next: back to Bulbourne for a meal with Aylesbury Boaters on Saturday, then down 21 locks to Aylesbury for the winter.