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The Odyssey 2011: Day 45

Posted by indigodream on 11 September, 2011

Marsworth (Bridge 130) to Berkhamstead (Bridge 143)

Monday 29th August

I love the view from the Marsworth flight...

It seemed unnatural to have cruised a whole two days without any visiting greyhounds so we set out to rectify that today!

We had a relaxed start to the day as our planned destination was the far side of Berkhamstead – a short day’s cruise away. Just as well, we’d had a disturbed night’s sleep – Ty regained his courage and his appetite at 2am – the subsequent commotion woke Lou up, who also decided she was hungry, and she’s a LOT more vocal than Ty. Then Ty decided that maybe it was safe enough to go outside for a wee – this woke Lynx up. Three hours later, the gas alarm went off, and, once again, we couldn’t find an obvious reason for it.

We woke up slowly but still managed to get up and dressed by 8.30am-ish. Richard went off to find a shop selling milk in Marsworth (there wasn’t one!) and I sorted the rubbish out and swept the floor – it was pretty grubby after two rainy days. We got off before 9am, did a quick stop at Bridge 130 to drop off our rubbish into the nearby skips (better than at the junction – less used and therefore empty). We then moved onto the water point at the junction with the Aylesbury Arm – I was pleased to see that the services were still available – I’d thought they were closed down as part of the redevelopment. There was good water pressure here but we only did a partial fill as we wanted to get into Marsworth flight proper before the bank holiday stampede.

The flight was surprisingly quiet, though there were plenty of boats moored in the long pound between locks 45 and 44. We didn’t find a locking partner and, with few boats coming down, most of the locks were set against us – we were following a pair which included Blue Moon, our old neighbours from Engineers Wharf. It didn’t matter – Marsworth is one of our favourite spots and it was a pleasure not to rush through. Lou and Lynx had a good bobble between the upper locks – especially Lynx, who ran behind Richard’s bike. I took Lou on board a bit sooner – it’s important that she doesn’t overdo things. I think Lynx may have felt the same way – he was exhausted by the time we got to top lock and there was more excitement to come…

The Wendover Arm called to us but no time today....

We had wondered whether we’d feel a bit flat to be coming back onto such familiar waters, but we’d forgotten how much we love the Grand Union – it’s much under-rated but we find it fascinating. Once again I felt a pull towards the enticing entrance to the Wendover Arm, which we know to be a very special bit of water; we admired the artwork at the Bulbourne blacksmith’s workshop and we were entranced by the mysterious deeps of the Tring cutting – deeply shaded even on a bright mid-day, with coolness of a valley that has never felt the sun – marvellous.

As we cruised along, we got news of today’s guests – Margaret and Roger along with greyhounds Bess and Sharry – we met up with them at last week’s greyhound gathering and they came cruising with us on our way up earlier this year. We picked them up at Bridge 136, just outside Cowroast. The usual commotion of trying to board new hounds while ours jumped off to explore was compounded when Ty jumped off and did a runner – off the canal and up the road – at a steady but implacable pace. Richard headed off after him and I followed with Ty’s lead, leaving our bemused guests to hold the boat (luckily they are experienced boaters and greyhound owners so took it all in their stride). By this time Ty was well down the lane. Lou and Lynx had gone up to the lane to check what was happening but had stayed with Richard – I rounded them up and took them back to the boat – leaving Richard to chase Ty. We took the boat out of the bridge hole and moored up – it was rather shallow, and subsequent pounds were low, leaving many of the moored boats aground at interesting angles.

It must have been a good 15 minutes before Richard returned with Ty – fate was with him – the lane was relatively quiet – the traffic had largely been blocked by the passage of an enormous combine harvester from the nearby farm; the harvester’s progress had been halted by parked cars so Ty came back safely.

With that drama over we set off down the canal – starting a chat about all things boating a greyhounds and boating which was to last all day.

Roger and Margaret are very efficient crew, both are very spry and have many years of boating under their belts – we whizzed through the locks and the hounds enjoyed a good rummage between the Dudswell locks. So much for loyalty – when they saw Roger walking on with Bess and Sharry, Lou and Lynx immediately joined them and left us behind!

View back to the Bulbourne workshop and Marsworth top lock..

We stopped for lunch in a quiet spot above Northchurch lock – the human and canine crews were getting on famously – we were very impressed that Lou let girls Bess and Sharry into her space – all three girls were happily asleep on the back deck at one point. Jelly boy Ty was particularly taken with Bess – she’s quietly confident and not as bold as Lou – just his type in fact. He walked nicely with Bess and seemed to gain some courage from her company….

By 3pm we were at the Gas locks in Berkhamstead and it was time for me to decamp and head for the train station. There was one train an hour to Wolverton at 23 minutes past the hour so I needed to shift. I handed the helm to Roger, who unsurprisingly proved to be very competent. Richard was asked by a complete stranger outside a pub at one of the locks is that Lou or Blue (sadly not Blue but Lynx), as they talked he racked his brains as to who she may be till she let him off by introducing herself as Debbie who has commented a few times on this blog.

I had a smooth train journey to Wolverton and there was my car, all safe under the station car park’s CCTV cameras. I programmed the satnav and set off. Alas, I followed the satnav onto the M1, slap into the middle of a stationary traffic jam. It was a tedious trip to the next junction (Junction 13), where I ignored the satnav and turned off towards the A5 instead. Bah – there was a 25 minute queue to get onto the A5 and it, too, was a car park, so I headed off gird again and eventually found my way back to boat by just after 6pm – what a disaster!

People often ask us how we manage the car shuffle which is so essential to our style of cruising. Well, Richard’s efforts on the bike are obviously crucial as he often cycles back for the car; the foresight of the great railway engineers in putting trainlines next to canals is very helpful, so we can often get trains back to the car. However of paramount importance is the goodwill of our friends, who, in exchange for a paltry day’s cruising, help out with lifts or take the helm so that one of us can travel back for the car – thanks to them we’ve had yet another magic summer’s cruise.

Roger and Margaret had kindly invited us to their place  five minutes away, for tea – we were glad to accept, especially as it meant that Lou, Lynx and especially Ty could have a run round their garden. The hounds and the best time – they hared round the garden, ate a big tea, scrounged food off their adoring humans and generally made themselves comfortable (in Ty’s case he ran to the top of the stairs and hid there). We had such a pleasant evening and could have talked all night – we eventually dragged ourselves away at 8.30pm. Many thanks to Margaret and Roger for their hospitality and to Bess and Sharry for letting our hounds take over their home (though not their sofa – there are limits :-))

It was good time to leave, the traffic had vanished and we were home by 9.45pm. We’ve had a big weekend’s cruising and we’re comfortably close to home now – that’s another sweetener as the end of the odyssey approaches…


These early starts are wearing the hounds out!

The lock cottages are dated 1909 and the locks themselves are dated 1914 - I can't help but sorrow - what hope there must have been in the new infrastructure and how it must have been dashed by the war....

These young trees at the sides of many of the locks along this stretch all have little memorial plaques...

The wonderfully shady Tring Cutting...

Indigo Dream looking mighty fine...

Lou, Sharry and Bess, with Lynx in the background - great to see Lou accepting the girls onto her territory...

Roger supervising the black pack - rescue centres have trouble rehoming black hounds but they look mighty fine to me!

A safe pair of hands on the helm...

That's Ty in the foreground - he's so happy to be in a house with a safely enclosed garden.....

The girls having a little rest between locks...

Bess (I think) appreciating all the comforts of home...

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