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The Odyssey – Summer 2008 Day 6

Posted by indigodream on 9 June, 2008

Marsworth to Aylesbury Basin

I should mention though that odd delays in posting the blog are because of poor internet reception rather than any mishap! I guess that’s the one problem with Marsworth – it’s a wi-fi blackspot!The two pubs were disappointingly empty and weren’t serving food on a Sunday night (hardly a tragedy as we had plenty of supplies on board!). Other than that it’s a great place to moor – peaceful and quiet.

After what Richard had said about the doggie swimming lessons in yesterday’s blog I was a bit surprised to see Lou running back to the boat from her morning walk totally soaking wet from head to toe! Apparently she’d been chasing some ducks and didn’t apply the brakes fast enough and went flying after them into the reservoir! No harm done and very funny! Pity Blue didn’t do the same (he doesn’t chase birds) – I think she benefited from the cool down – it’s been remarkably hot today – the inside of the boat felt cool at 27oC!

A rural idyllI’m going to run out of superlatives today though – we’ve come down the Aylesbury Arm of the Grand union and it is a stunning bit of canal. It’s very quiet and the countryside has an almost manicured perfection about it. The canal is surrounded by rolling meadows – well cultivated and full of livestock. The hedgerows are neat with textured hawthorns and big white puffs of elderflower. The cascades of pink dog roses shower their fragrance over the water and as the boat passes the reeds sway and sigh gracefully. It is absolutely idyllic yet not anywhere that you’d find in a holiday brochure.

Narrow staircase lock

I particularly like this canal because it has narrow locks- they’re so much easier than broad locks as they’re a snug fit and the boat can’t jostle about in them. Interestingly the first lock is a staircase lock where the bottom gate of one lock is the top gate of the next – it’s the only staircase on the whole of the Grand Union. The trick with a staircase lock is to make sure that you set both locks right before you start – locking down we needed to make sure that the lower lock was empty before opening the top lock (so that the water from the top lock had somewhere to go! The bridge holes are slightly narrower than the locks and most of then have gouges and scratches where boats have scraped their way along!

High water levelsThe water levels all along the canal were very high – this makes a pleasant change as they tend to be much lower when we do our autumn cruises (making for shallow mooring spots). However, most of the top lock gates were totally submerged and when we emptied the locks the water just cascaded over the gates. This was quite alarming at first but them we got used to it! We let the British Waterways guys know about it but they didn’t seem bothered so we just carried on.

The dogs had another day of inertia after the excitement of Lou’s dip this morning – it’s just too hot for them.

Tame duck posing for photos at the lockOn the wildlife front we had the usual ducks, including two very tame white ducks at one of the locks (Lou luckily didn’t spot them!). Another thing that caught my eye though was a pair of Goldfinches feeding on the seed-heads of the water grasses that grown intermingled with the bulrushes. The birds are so light (and the grasses so tall) that they barely bend when the birds land on them. I also saw clumps of yellow irises and the small yellow flowers of large-leaved wild waterlilies. In the one of the fields we spotted a couple of herons – they looked like two old fenceposts standing there and I was surprised they weren’t at the water’s edge. The other things of note was the Dock leaves growing by the canal – they were the biggest I’ve ever seen – around 2ft per leaf – as Richard wryly commented, just the right size for treating stings from the super-abundant nettles!

Dates on the Grand Union

Richard’s noticed that the engineers who built the Grand Union (and who subsequently maintained it) put dates on key structures and components – we’re glad that they did – it gives a real sense of the canal’s continuing history.

lock wall dated 1915We ended up at Aylesbury Basin which is run by the Aylesbury Canal Society. It’s a very comfortable place – there is a ‘welcome boat’ and the volunteers from the society are friendly and helpful. They’ve found us a perfect mooring spot where we can easily get the dogs on/off board and which is conventietly close to all the amenties of the town centre. There are a lot of boats moored here so it feels secure. A town mooring is a bit barren for the dogs but, to be honest with you, they’re knackered from the heat and wouldn’t make much of a more rural spot.

It’s funny but you lose all sense of perspective when you’re on the water – it felt so odd to be back in town (Aylesbury looks to be a modern market town – very pleasant). We went to the cinema to see the new Indiana Jones movie – not a classic but good fun and just what we had in mind. We passed by a ‘rock bar’ which was open but so totally empty that we decided not to eat there – we put it down to being a Monday night. When we got out of the cinema the bar was heaving with hundreds of the town’s youth – they looked to be at least 25years younger than us so we just walked by quickly!!

News Flash

Boaters at Tring reservoir were appalled at the yobbish behaviour displayed by the local gang of male ducks today as they gang- raped a female duck in front of her 10 dear little ducklings. The obviously distressed female, who wants to known as ‘mother duck’ to preserve her reputation said “quack, quack, quack”. Rumour has it that this gang culture has been imported from the big town ducks at Batchworth where male ducks regularly bully baby moorhens and, in a shocking eyewitness report, have drowned a duckling who’s mum had resisted their strong-arm tactics. Although it is said that canal crime is on the way down, this reporter begs to differ……….

One Response to “The Odyssey – Summer 2008 Day 6”

  1. Matthew said

    I’m loving these gentle tales of country folk floating along the waterways of Southern England – though keep getting reminders of the pace of life when after 63 weeks on the boat, you’ve only just reached the M25…
    Do you think that there could be book awards in “Canal bricks of Britain?”
    And I’m not sure that you needed to sex up the series with that disgraceful tale of the Aylesbury duck!

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