Get Back

10th to 16th June – back on the Mainline and heading vaguely East

We left Aylesbury Basin on Monday at around lunchtime. Once again, we’d had a surprisingly quiet night. Paul carried on working and popped out for the couple of locks we had to do, in lieu of a lunch hour. It seemed a quicker trip back up and we were soon safely ensconced on out berth in Circus Field Basin. It felt like coming home.

Paul had some important meetings on Tuesday, so we had to wait until after work before we could leave. But the evenings are light and I’d already made our evening meal, so it was all good. We have really liked it here in Circus Fields – it has a very nice vibe and everyone has been very friendly.

As we were leaving, SIlver Fox was arriving – previously owned by the Foxes Afloat YouTube vloggers. She looks very smart indeed, still. It wasn’t far to the first lock and a boat was just exiting as we arrived, so we drove straight in. Love it when that happens. There was some kids out for a walk with their Dad and they were fascinated about the boat and the fact that we lived on it. The little girl was at that age where everything is a question. We had quite a long chat about what fruit we had on board (apples, lemons, plums, bananas, nectarines, pears, grapes and cherries as it happens!) .She seemed quite impressed! We left before we got onto veg.

You may recall I had marked spots (using What 3 Words) that were mooring possibilities on the way down and they came into their own now. In fact we moored on the first one we came too, rural and nothing but bird song. Excellent. I had marked the spot “Possible, quiet, Armco-ish”. This was quite accurate – the banks were lined with a sort of plastic Armco – see below. We didn’t even need fenders as it would do no damage.

We spent a lovely quiet night and day there – Paul working and me sewing – before upping stakes and cruising on, on Wednesday evening. Just a short hop and slow progress because of the pesky weed. In fact the weed was so bad that Paul had to nip down into the murky depths of the weed hatch, armed with his trusty knife (which George gave him).

We only saw off two locks before pulling over for the night. A nice spot, but accompanied by very low hummmm noise from the nearby Arla Mega Dairy which boasts c. 900 farmers supplying 1.1 million litres of milk per year. All probably making a loss? The controversial dairy has been open 10 years – that’s a lorra lorra milk! But the noise troubled us not one jot. We snored like babes.

Imagine my surprise when I drew back the curtains on Thursday morning to find myself looking into the black beady eye of Mr Cormorant! He was happy to pose while I took a couple of snaps. I got both angles as he wasn’t sure which was his best side.

We moved on in Paul’s lunch hour on Thursday. I was accompanied by several Little Gulls (Hydrocoloeus minutus) – agile little flyers – who had clearly worked out that boats on the move means fish on the move. They squawked and twirled above and occasionally plunged into the water with a big plop, before coming up with a fish. It was a joy to see. Paul had to work late on Thursday so I watched some trash on the box – after I’d cooked dinner and washed up.

We’d picked a lovely spot – utterly silent when I awoke a couple of times in the night. And we were in a good position for an early start on Friday morning, ready to lock up through the remaining locks on the delightful Aylesbury Arm. We’d be sad to bid it adieu.

It was bright sunshine when we got up on Friday morning – although this wasn’t to last No sir! We had 9 locks – mostly one after another – and we picked up a CRT guy (Howard) half way up the flight and he accompanied us all the way to the top, which was helpful and speeded us through.

Once at the junction, we popped into the facilities to do the usual services and then set off to tackle the Marsworth flight – back on the GU main line. We were a little worried about the weather – rain was forecast from about 2 pm – so we decided we’d very much play it by ear. If a nice mooring opportunity presented itself, we’d take advantage of it, rather than get a soaking.

We’d done one lock, when I remembered that there was a rather nice cafe that I’d been looking at – a quick conflab with the Cap’n and we’d made a decision – lunch at Waters Edge would do nicely. We pulled over, moored, locked up and were soon sitting at a table in the garden. Paul had a rather nice IPA – Pale 4 – from the local brewery in Tring. The cafe uses almost exclusively local produce and It is excellent. Paul had a massive fish finger Ciabatta sandwich and I went for the Reuben – Salt Beef, sauerkraut, swiss cheese, cream cheese, dill pickle. Both delicious and way too much! We had to move table once as it rained, but we were joined by a little robin at our new table – a bold little chap who clearly expected (and got) crumbs.

Back to the boat and the skies looked leaden and the wind was getting up – we saw a spot right by Startops End reservoir – one of two feeder reservoirs near the Tring summit. Howard had told us that the reservoirs were both very full and part of his job is to whisk the water off and down the Aylesbury Arm, presumably to avoid Toddbrook-like incidents. Toddbrook – you may recall the Whaley Bridge-based drama back in 2019 – is still not fully restored to capacity – indeed work will not now be completed until Spring 2026 – a two year slippage. I dread to think how much that little lot has cost CRT – it was originally estimated to cost £15 million but that must have escalated substantially.

The pic below shows the state of CRT owned reservoirs – interesting reading, I thought.

The wind made tying up really tricky – and we’d just finished when the skies opened and it properly tipped down. Nice timing. And yet as I wrote this, the sun was shining brightly and we were harvesting 1.48 KWh of solar. It was that kind of day. After tying up, we set some bread to bake and went for a lovely snooze.

It was a nice spot – beautiful when the sun shone, glinting off the surface of the reservoir. We had moored here once before with Anne and Gray on a dayboat from Cowroast in 2019 – the boy’s’ first boat trip, in fact. When Ted made the discovery that just because it’s green, doesn’t mean there is dry land underneath it! He strode out with such confidence, only to sink, much to his (and our) horror. It was like a Tom & Jerry cartoon. We checked the weather for the next day and agreed that it would be best to have an early start in hope of beating the rain, which was scheduled to start at around 09:00.

It all started very well – a bit breezy but lovely sunshine until about three locks in, when the rain arrived ahead of the forecast time. Coats on, brolley up time. Dagnammit! We finished the flight in drizzle and pulled over as soon as we could find a space. We passed Bulbourne Yard – looking very smart after its very sympathetic redevelopment. We also passed the entrance to the Wendover Arm, which we would have liked to have gone down but it has some leakage problems, the reason for which is proving problematical to establish. It is not closed to navigation, but we are too long to wind so would have to reverse back. It’s a shame but at least we have done it before – once again with Anne & Gray on that same trip. More info here, in case it’s of interest.

It rained solidly and quite hard for quite a while and we resorted to a quick burst of heating, it was so col. But Accuweather informed us of a window and for once the weather was actually Accu! We mopped up outside and then set off. The trip to our destination for the night – Cowroast Marina – was mainly in a cutting and we met a widebeam at one point, which put us in the undergrowth, briefly. Proof that wide beams do occasionally move! But the sun was shining!

Those with a long memory may recall that we had planned to spend our very first winter in Cowroast Marina, but Covid had put paid to that. It’s an Aquavista Marina, so we could take advantage of the moor for free scheme. NIce. Oddly, they aren’t open on Saturday, but had left a key fob for us in the boaters’ lounge. The access to the marina is pretty tight and the berths are far from spacious, and of course it was windy. But with everything done slowly, the odd bump was no biggie and we were soon hooked up and sucking up a decent chunk of juice.

We had planned a late start for Sunday to coincide with the weather but awoke to a beautiful sunny morning. One of those mornings when everything looks freshly laundered. Notwithstanding we had a slow start. We arrived at the first lock – just by the Marina and went down solo. We were preceded by a trio of boats, all tied together, who were making their very, very slow way down the locks. When we arrived at lock 2, they were broadside across the canal – what is now termed in canal parlance as “going full Suez”.

It seemed that there might have been only one engine between the three boats which didn’t help their progress – or ours if I’m being honest. We were hoping to get to Waitrose in Berko (the boaters’ name for Berkhamstead) before closing and it didn’t seem likely at this rate. We were joined by a second boat and travelled down a couple of locks with them before they pulled over. It seems that electric boats are a bit of a rarity around these parts as we got lots of comments and admiration from passers by. Many saying they’d never seen one before.

As we neared Berko, we met another couple of boats towing other boats – I guess you could maybe call it green energy? They sailed straight out of the lock, leaving both gates wide open and they had also left the next lock’s gates open. Annoying for all who followed after them. Humph.

The Stop and Shop moorings (limited to 4 hours) were free and Paul nipped in and grabbed the bits we needed – although no strawberries. And this was in Waitrose! In Berkhamsted. Whatever next! As we left the S&S mooring, we spotted a rather nice space on the bank just ahead, with good solar potential. That settled it – we’d risk a night in town rather than do more locks. They’d keep for next week. We’d cruised all day, doing locks, stopping and starting and had finished the day 99% SOC – a good result, we felt.

We will do another succession of short hops next week, heading towards Hemel Hempstead and King’s Langley – as long as the beleaguered Winkwell Swing Bridge – a motorised swing bridge – plays ball. It has a long history of failures, having regularly suffered from vandalism, mechanical faults and vehicle strikes. But it’s being particularly awkward at present and causing the CRT a few headaches. Fingers crossed!

10th to 16th Jun1223

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