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 pub 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.