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Thursday, 1 September 2016

The joy of the boating life.

There was quite a nip in the air this morning and the whole day has felt like the approach of autumn. I'm not sure whether that is because it is already the 1st September. The weather became really warm later but it still had that 'back end' feel with a calmness and a quality of light that I love about the later part of the year.

Once up and coaxing Helen out of her pit with a cup of tea we hastily hid all the normal detritus of light in cupboards etc as Jaq and Les were coming round on a tour of inspection. Of course tea/coffee and biscuits were enjoyed and the quick inspection extended somewhat as we also found something else to discus. But partings have to be made and we set off in the wake of a boat that had just passed.

We were now on the Tring Summit so had no locks for a while. There are plenty of boats moored along this stretch and this makes the going a little slower.

A little later the cut goes through Tring Cutting that at 30' deep does cut out the day light a bit and the numbers of boats reduced and we were able to gain a little on the boat ahead. The cutting took nearly five years to excavate with very little to help the pick and shovel brigade. It would take very little time these days but I wonder if it would recover like this has over the years.

Bulbourne yard still made lock gates until 2004 so you still may see the name on the plaques of locks. Some of the buildings are now used by an ornamental ironworks and there is always some interesting articles on display outside. I'm not sure whether any of it would look well in our garden though.

By the time we arrived at the top lock at Bulbourne Junction we had caught up 'Mea Culpa' as we had to wait for a boat coming up the lock. We had thought about going down the Wendover Arm and mooring at the end overnight but time marches on and we have a deadline to meet as we are meeting a friend. We will have to complete that next time. You never know more of it may be  open then! We had a week or more moored here a couple of years ago as we bent our prop on a submereged log coming off the Aylesbury Arm and got sorted out at the dry dock at the top lock.

'Mea Culpa' were escaping Little Venice and heading to Market Harborough and we shared all the locks of the day with them. They were good company and as always things sped along. We even managed to impress some gongoozlers when we entered a lock on a bend together.

I was quite surprised to see so much water in the reservoirs after it has seemed to be so warm and such little rain for the last month or so. Another reason I wanted to stop here was that we found lots of wild mirabelle plums and damsons last time were were here and this is the right time of year.

There were more boats moving up and down the locks than we have seen for a few days now, and it wasn't that many either. Both boats stopped for an ice cream in the bottom lock before quitting the locks for a short time and passing through Marsworth Junction where the new houses on the Waterways yard have been completed. They do look quite nice and seem to have a little room around them in the middle. A bit more room by the water would have been better I think.

The afternoon turned out to be a gorgeous one and it was a pleasure to be on the stern and marking time whilst the girls turned locks and then chatting whilst descending the locks. This must be one of the nicest moorings on the cut, on a day like this. (Maybe not so much when it is blowing a gale and the rain is horizontal). Ivinghoe Beacon is resplendent in the background. A had stopped for Helen to open the Pitstone Wharf swing Bridge and had time to collect a couple of punnets of damsons. Then whilst waiting for the lock a little further on I was able to collect some more so there is more jam to be made later.

The locks on this stretch have the remains of the single narrow lock alongside. When the Grand Union was being upgraded in the 1930's they kept the narrow lock open whilst the double locks were constructed. I wonder how much water would be saved these days by single narrow boats being able to use a narrow lock. What ever saving of water that would be made would be dwarfed by the extra maintenance involved in an extra lock.

We decided that we would moor up after 14 locks and tried to get alongside in likely looking places and never got near the sides. All very frustrating. Here we are both still looking for a spot and heading down the last lock of the day at Horton Wharf. We managed to find a spot before Slapton Lock and even had a gap in the hedge so we will get the last of the sun this evening as well as the morning sun on the solar panels. Essential, as I am nursing the batteries until we go home. It has been a lovely day but I have a feeling that foraging for wood for the multi fuel boat stoves will now start in earnest!

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