We made an early start at 8.45 on the long journey down to Marsworth as we had arranged to go at least part of the way with a boat moored in front of us at Leighton Buzzard. (I guess I should say early for us – we did set the alarm for 7.00!) Alan prepared a lamb hot pot to cook in the Dreampot that was delicious when we ate it in the evening. While he did that I raced along the towpath to Tesco and back to get the Saturday Guardian.
Our companion boat had gone ahead to take on water so we went to meet up with them, moving slowly past the Wyvern hire boats that are moored up to four boats abreast across the canal which can make passing tricky when there are also umpteen kayaks squeezing through the same gap. Sometimes it was almost impossible to see them coming with the ranked hire boats one one side and moored boats on the towpath side. We had quite forgotten the cardinal rule: don’t travel through Leighton Buzzard at the weekend. The kayak club is between the outskirts of Leighton Buzzard and Grove Lock and it was particularly difficult going through the boats as they milled around in front of their base. Apart from the worry of not banging into them its good to see so many people of all ages out on the water. They were certainly out in the best of the morning because the sun came out as we got to Grove Lock and shone brightly in our faces.
Since we last went through Grove Lock in April 2009 a new marina has been set up along the off side immediately after the pub with the boats moored at right angles to the canal. Its a very attractive setting as the stretch between Grove and Church Locks is probably the prettiest in the eight miles to Marsworth. I have to confess here that this is probably my least favourite part of the Grand Union Canal and its a journey that I always dread. Alan doesn’t feel like that and can’t understand why I dislike it so much. I suppose its because there are 11 heavy double ascending locks and we always seem to work them solo with all the locks set against us, on a grotty day. Even yesterday our companion boat moored after the first four locks in time to see the start of the Grand Prix. (Lately we have met several boaters who are fanatical followers of Formula One and who must always have a mooring with good TV reception for the whole of the racing weekends. But I digress, and as a person who must watch Strictly Come Dancing I have no right to comment. Just seems a great contrast to a boating life!)
And true to form as we went on alone after Horton Lock the sun vanished for the day, the wind blew chill and the hedgerows looked bare and bleak. Even the sight of the Dunstable Downs left me cold. However we moored for lunch which is more than we have often done in the past, Alan worked the locks and I steered using our technique of throwing up the ropes for him to tie front and aft so the lock filled quickly, and actually it wasn’t too painful.
We passed Cheddington where the Great Train Robbery took place. When I was arranging meetings of the Watford Arthritis Care group one of our speakers was the policeman who found the hideout of the train robbers and he does a very exciting talk about it. When I asked him to speak I didn’t know that he had a personal stake in the matter and asked if was the only thing he spoke about. “Its the only thing anyone wants me to speak about” he said, slightly bemused.
And at last through the two Marsworth Locks and we were back to our old stamping ground. We found a mooring at the Aylesbury Arm Junction and have settled down for a few days. Before Strictly there was time for a quick trip to the Anglers Retreat, which was busy as usual. However we were a bit put off because when we tried to get in the front door we found a group of people (local boaters) sitting blocking the entrance and they made it very difficult for us to get in, and later complained when Alan had the nerve to stand between them and the bar to buy a drink. It a shame because it does put you off a place especially when we now contrast it with the many wonderful and welcoming pubs we have been to in other places.
Today we did 8.57 Miles 11 Locks and 1 Swing Bridge
Statistics so far:-
2123.75 Miles, 1169 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels