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The Odyssey – Summer 2008 Day 5

Posted by indigodream on 9 June, 2008

Berkhamstead to Tring Reservoir (Foot of the Marsworth flight between lock 39 and 40)

We have had amazing weather today – hot and sunny all day. It made for a perfect day’s cruising through this so typically English countryside.

We had a peaceful night in Berkhamstead and reluctantly said goodbye to a very sociable couple moored behind us. Our pins only just held after a few early morning cruisers went past. We soon found new company in the form of nb Leigh owned by an older couple – “old and decrepit” (her words!), “pushing 80” (his words!). We shared locks with them up as far as Cowroast and they were thoroughly pleasant company. I hope we’re still as fit and still boating when/if we reach that age. One top tip for all girl boaters though – LEARN TO DRIVE – otherwise you’ll end up pushing two-ton lock gates around when you’re 103! Best way is go and do a quick course with Malcolm at Toplock Training <insert link>. Even Richard (typical bloke thinks he can drive anything) admits he learnt loads.

On the wildlife front we saw loads more ducklings and cygnets but maybe of more interest was the crow dipping right into the canal to pick up some morsel of food. Then there were the large flocks of swallows dipping and wheeling after insects and touching the water fleetingly before swooping off again. They come so close to the boat it’s a wonder there aren’t more collisions. It was such a hot day that on the towpath I saw several just-fledged starlings sitting with their beaks wide open – panting in the heat. I don’t know why, particularly, but I’ve seen more Jays in these last few days than I’ve seen all year.

Entering the Tring CuttingCowroast is the last lock up on the canal – we’d reached the summit and now we had a long-ish lock-free pound at the canal summit before starting the long drop down towards Marsworth. The summit passes through the Tring Cutting – a deep cutting with the canal, in places, at the bottom of a 30-foot deep slope lined with trees. It was blissfully cool here under the trees and we stopped for lunch near Bridge 134. The towpaths are overgrown but the moorings are deep and previous boaters had helpfully cut down the vegetation to give us a clear space to tie up. I thought that the dogs would love this spot – cool, overgrown, lots of trees – perfect place for a rummage – but they weren’t interested. They’ve been flat out all day – it’s been too hot and they’re still tired from their exertions on the first two days!

Mooring in the Tring CuttingFor anyone who takes the Indigo Dream out solo (this is a very short select list as we don’t trust our boat to just anyone!) the freezer compartment is just the right size for a big bag of ice cubes!

We had a heavy day on the locks today and Richard cycled between most of them – he says I’m making him cycle all the way to Birmingham! I want it on record that the cycling is entirely his idea – I’m very happy to pick him up at each lock and give him a lift to the next one! “Believe that if you want” says Richard!

Because we’re not on a strict timetable we’ve decided to explore the various arms of the Grand Union Canal – there are quite a few! We chose not to do the Slough Arm as that’s within easy reach of our mooring so we’ll visit that in the winter. Today though we explored the Wendover arm – this is just a thoroughly beautiful bit of waterway – not very long, as it’s just a feeder canal which supplies water to the mainline from the several large reservoirs. This is essential – it’s always a problem with canals – how do you keep them in water when boats keep moving the stuff downstream in the locks! Big reservoirs with large pumping systems are the answer!

A view of the Wendover ArmRichard did a 20-point turn in the very small winding hole (turning point) near the end of the Wendover Arm. We’d already turned into the canal before Richard said that the winding hole was only good for 50ft boats – bad news – we’re 60ft – this could have been a real boat jam! However, the notes also reassured us that in high water, larger boats could turn and so it proved.

One interesting thing on the Wendover arm was a large modern flour mill (Heygates) – it fitted in nicely with the landscape as the modern machinery (clearly visible through the windows) were housed in traditional red-brick buildings. We spotted some machines made by Sortex but could not spot Nick’s engraving.

Richard wants it noted that he did the 6 Marswoth locks in 45 minutes even though most of the locks were set against us. I’ll let him expand on this feat!

The sunset part 1We’re moored between lock 39 and 40 of the Marsworth flight next to the Tring Reservoirs – this is a magical mooring. The scenery is lovely and the sunset across the water was amazing – the light show just went on and on. We had a long evening walk with the dogs who perked up when it started to cool down and they’d had an enforced slosh in the local stream [1]. We perked up after an ice-cream each from the fine teashop nearby! We sat on the back deck and just watched the sunset – what a great end to the day.

The Sunset Part 2[1]: Dogs should consider themselves lucky as the last minute change in route to avoid the Thames meant that they missed out on their annual swimming lessons – basically Richard wading out to as close to the middle as he can and then letting them swim back [2]. Greyhounds are not that good at swimming and the whole scene tends to have innocent walkers wetting themselves laughing.

[2] After this palaver, the greyhounds tend to run away when they reach shore adding whole new show to the towpath entertainment as Sue tries to catch them!

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