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The Odyssey 2010: Day 5

Posted by indigodream on 12 April, 2010

Friday April 9th

Marsworth to Grove Lock

The BW facilities at Marsworth - take a good look - it might be housing soon......

We took the afternoon off to move the boat up to a momentous meeting of the waters on Saturday – Greygal was coming to join us and we hoped to catch up with Matilda Rose and Caxton. We’d arranged to meet Greygal at Grove Lock before moving up to meet the others for lunch at a convenient pub. As it happened our plans went a little awry and what eventually transpired exceeded our greatest expectations and Saturday became a sparkling diamond day – but that’s for other keyboards to describe…..

So, Marsworth to Grove Lock – piece of cake! Well, it would have been if we hadn’t got stuck in an interminable queue on the M25; we turned off onto the M4 for a Tesco detour in the hope that the traffic would clear while we were shopping – no such luck! It did help that after my last ‘trivia’ entry we knew exactly why we were stuck and did catch a glimpse of the Gade Valley aqueduct as we turned off at Junction 20! We didn’t get to the boat until 4.20pm, though nowadays that still leaves over 3 hours of light for cruising. Marsworth was buzzing – boats, walkers and fishermen – the fine day had drawn everyone out – it’s a great spot to spend a sunset.

At it happens, our timing wasn’t so bad as we were able to team up with nb Barnacle Bill at Marsworth. It took us a while to cast off (our chains had been pulled tight into the sheet piling) and we apologised profusely for making them wait for us, but as it happens they’d used the time to get ice-creams from the nearby cafe so everyone was happy! We tried some tandem manoeuvering between the closer locks – it was the first time for their helmsman and it went very smoothly, despite the fact that Barnacle Bill was a lot shorter than Indigo Dream. Barnacle Bill’s crew were pleasant and efficient locking partners and we were a bit sad to say goodbye to them at the Seabrook locks.

Lou having a little lie down!

This section of canal is so scenic – the views over the far chilterns, the Whipsnade Lion glowing in chalk hills, nicely manicured towpaths and acres of green pastures. The canals have been called green corridors – how can you tell when they’re passing through a green land! The countryside seems unsullied even by the train line which weaves along the canal and the landscape. We saw a few VERY long freight trains today – unusual during the daytime.

Our decision to meet at Grove Lock was partly driven by emptiness of this green land – past Slapton there are relatively few places where civilisation touches the canal for car shuffles and whatnot. Between Slapton and Church locks the countryside is empty apart from the almost industrial scale Bury Farm.

But I’m ahead of myself – we passed by Pitstone Wharf where we moored last year. There’s such a contrast in the view now – the fields that looked so brown and fecund after ploughing in the autumn were now vivid with the fresh green of a new crop. Also new on the landscape was a sunken cruiser – the owner was on the towpath – he reckons it was frost damage – just a little leak that gradually took the boat under over the winter. He’s apparently sorting out its removal with BW.

Blue and Lou had their customary lockside rummages but Lou’s back with the walking wounded – she’s cut her leg badly on Eater Monday and had to have 7 stitches so she’s not as mobile as usual. She got off at Ivinghoe top lock and Richard had to go back and fetch her – instead of following the boat as she normally would she’d stopped to have a little lie-down!

The owner said I could have this boat for nothing!

I’ve noticed that there’s a different range of vegetation on the canal – we’re haven’t started our odyssey that early so I can only guess that everything’s had a check with the hard winter. But I can report that the daffodils are back in a ‘host’ – I heard so many radio and TV reports in March with people fretting that we’d lost the daffodil crop this year! I’ve also noticed a lot of violets, white and violet! They’re one of my favourite flowers and it’s lovely to see the abundant clumps growing along the towpath. My idle brain did wonder about the rhyme – “roses are red, violets are blue” – where did that come from? After all, it will be several weeks before the wild roses flower and the violets will be long gone by then! The trees are not as green as in our previous spring odyssey’s, though this have given us a much better view over the surrounding landscape. We did see 2 swallows today so that’s it – it’s officially summer (though I haven’t heard a cuckoo yet!).

As the evening drew in the swallows were replaced by bats – rather large ones – I wondered whether I could work out which species it was but they didn’t stay still long enough for me to pick up on the essential characteristics needed for a proper identification!

Many of the hedges along this stretch have been nicely laid – the work of a craftsman. The bare branches show the neat structures but the real beauty will come later when they’ll form a tidy stock-proof hedge – useful for keeping sheep separated from canal and greyhounds separated from the sheep!

I quite like these canalside memorials - they make the place seem more human. Mind you, this one was accompanied by a thriving sapling which looked like a horse chestnut - give that 20 years and the roots may be pushing the sides of the lock in....

I noticed that there were more anglers around today – now is that the time of day, the fine weather or the start of the fishing season?

I’m happy to report that the church wall at Church Lock is now clean and free from clinging ivy. There was a man doing battle with it when we passed through here last year – he’s definitely won the battle, whether he’s won the war against the pervasive stuff is yet to be seen!

We arrived at Grove Lock as the last of the light was draining from the sky. The new marina has opened – it looks good and would be a pleasant place to moor. I was a bit dismayed that the length of the marina cuts down the towpath mooring opposite but we still managed to find a spot on the mooring rings above the lock.

We popped into the Grove pub for supper, hoping to catch Caxton and crew, who we believed were moored below the lock. We were too late and arranged for them to come up for lattes and pastries the following morning – it never happened, but that story’s for the next episode!

The Grove pub itself does good food and the service at the bar was very friendly, though one of the waitresses was surly to the point of rudeness and that spoiled things a bit. The pub was packed, though I was surprised at how its turned its face from the canal. There’s no footbridge over the canal and the towpath is on the opposite side – you have to cross the precarious lock beams, looking down at the unguarded drop onto the concrete cill below. The canalside pub gates and doors are all locked – you have to walk round to the front roadside entrance – not a big effort, just a little strange for a canalside business. We left the dogs on board – they were knackered and no way would I let them cross the lock-gates – they’re accident prone enough on land!

Blue having a little rummage....

Today’s Trivia

There’s always a lot to choose from when it comes to deciding on ‘today’s trivia’. This stretch of canal has miles of uninterrupted countryside which made the sight of a complex of large sheds in the distance all the more startling. We’ve worked out that it was probably Bury Farm – it looked quite ‘industrial’ with it sheds and a few tall chimneys and I wondered what went on there. I’d been listening to an article on Radio 4 about the anaerobic digesters that some farms are getting into for turning food waste into energy – there’s a big site in Bedfordshire which made me wonder whether there was a link. Well, there isn’t, as far as I can make out. But Bury Farm is not your usual mixed arable farm – for one thing, it has its own, quite sophisticated, website! As an ardent follower of “The Archers” (and a country upbringing in Wales), I understand that farms have to be innovative to survive. Apparently Bury Farm was a buffalo farm – no why didn’t we ever spot buffalo from the canal! Nowadays it’s an equestrian centre and the website suggests that it also has conference facilities and can host weddings. I have to say that in the dusk light, from a distance, it doesn’t look posh enough for purpose but the website photos show the interiors so appearances may be deceptive.

So, if you’re coming down Slapton lock, look over to your right and you’ll spot a complex of buildings in the distance – now you know what they are!

Photoblog:

Lou blending in with the background...

The daffs aren't dead, just delayed!

Wonder what's on their bonfire......?

That's a BIG nest - glad it's on the offside...

This cottage will look spectacular when that creeper's in flower - for now it looks as if its been taken over by some relative of the triffids!

2 Responses to “The Odyssey 2010: Day 5”

  1. Graham and Jill said

    Lesley and I took that place in on our walk today, the roadside farm sign says ‘collectible ceramics’. The footpath side shows SERIOUS horse quality with indoor menage, outdoor gallops and post and rail strip paddocks. I could happily have kidnapped several (horses not paddocks). Thank you for the very best of days … until the next time.

  2. Lesley said

    Jill might also have mentioned that we went and had a look at Slapton Church(exterior)where they are using sheep to graze the graveyard – Fletcher was less than amused to be ‘stalked’ around the Church by four enormous woolly ‘things’ that wouldn’t stop following him – the trials of a dog…
    The weekend was magic – See you all again soonest.
    Lesley

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