Saturday 20th April
Berkhamstead (below Rising Sun lock) to Marsworth bottom lock
Guest hound Monty has not been very well this week, so we decided to travel up to the boat this morning in order to save him (and us) some overnight distress (of the poopy sort!). We set off early and got to the boat by 9.30am-ish.
We had an exciting day ahead. As I was unpacking the car, I met up with our first guests, Margaret and Roger with experienced Indigo Dreamers, greyhounds Bess and Shari. It’s two years since we last moored in Berkhamstead, but Bess and Shari walk the towpath every day and they recognised Indigo Dream instantly – they’ve been peering into the galley hatch all week and trying to get onto the deck, looking for their greyhound friends. They don’t respond to any other boat in this way!
Bess and Shari have been disappointed all week, but they were delighted today as they peered into the boat and there were people and hounds! They’ve met Ty before, but they hadn’t met Ollie, Monty or Miffy. As you might expect, all six dogs got on fine i.e. completely ignored each other! Bess and Shari settled in straight away – they’re born Indigo Dreamers. They’re a bit younger than our pack (well, they’re the same age as Ty), so they spent most of the day on deck looking at stuff – Shari is still very keen and was fascinated by everything.
We cast off and headed for Rising Sun lock, where the rest of our crew was waiting – Debbi and Simon, who had popped in last week, were joining us for a day’s boating. They had got there early, closed the top gates, dropped the top gate paddles before turning the lock for us and best of all got a cup of tea out of the landlord of the Rising Sun! I’d hoped for a more civilised day’s cruising today, and so it was – on every count. It was easily the warmest cruising day of the year – the sun came out, the cutting wind vanished, we had great hound and human company and we stopped for coffees and for lunch, giving us plenty of time to chat. We could afford to take our time – it was such a fine day that we knew we’d cruise until late and make up ground that way.
We did have a slight blip when Richard took his bike back to the car to get the camera – he got an intractable puncture which resisted several repair patches; he put in a new inner tube, but that got punctured too. That put a stop to any lockwheeling, though with so many crew members on board, we didn’t notice the lack until we got to Marsworth 🙂
We had a reasonably smooth passage through the first few locks in Berkhamstead, though I did pick up a woolly scarf in the propeller, which was surprisingly effective at, er, ‘muffling’ the steering! At the Gas locks, our advance crew advised us to tie up – there had been a problem in the flight involving open lock gates and paddles and a near empty pound in between the locks. A pair locking down insisted on coming right through (rather than passing in the middle, which would be more usual) – we were happy to wait – the pair would bring a lockful of water down with them and make our passage easier.
Our crew worked very hard on the morning’s locks, so we decided to stop and have a proper lunch in the countryfied area below Dudswell lock – bliss! We sat on deck in the blazing sunshine, eating fajitas and talking boats (including the inevitable toilet tales!) – our guests are fascinating people with a shared love of boating and the canals (it’s a bonus if you also love greyhounds!).
Margaret, Roger, Bess and Shari stayed with us until Dudswell top lock, near to where they’d left the car. It was so good to share the day with them, especially with Bess and Shari of course, they’re adorable 🙂 I hope that we can catch up with them again on the way back. Debbi and Simon stayed on a bit longer, though that meant that they had to endure a stop at Cowroast Marina while we got a pump-out!
After doing that essential chore, we set off along the Tring summit – Debbi was on the look out for kingfishers – Simon told us that they were more likely to be fishing at dawn and dusk, so Debbi pointed out kingfisher nesting holes instead. It was fascinating, I didn’t even know that they nested in holes! The dense woodland of the Tring cutting shows signs of having been trimmed back extensively – apparently a woman was killed here a few years ago when a tree fell on her boat. They’ve had to take steps to prevent a recurrence. Although I wouldn’t want any more accidents here, I was afraid that the tree surgery might have spoilt the bosky magic of the cutting; but it remained as mysterious as ever – even though the trees are still bare. We dropped Debbi and Simon off at the bridge in Tring – they could catch an easy train home from there. We carried on towards our target – Marsworth bottom lock.
There was an awful lot of wood in the water – including one slender tree trunk floating in the water right across the canal. There was no avoiding it – I popped the engine into neutral and Indigo Dream glided over the obstruction. It was useful to have Richard at the front as a look out – a log in the propeller would have seriously inconvenienced our cruising!
I dropped Richard and the dogs off above bridge Upper Icknield Way bridge – we met up again at Marsworth top lock. It must have been about 6pm, and the sun was slowly sinking into the reservoirs below us, turning the day to golden syrup. We had another magical passage down the flight. I love Marsworth at dusk, it surely is the best time – most boats are moored up, the towpath is a bit quieter (hundreds of gongoozlers inhabit the place during the day) and the views across the reservoirs are stunning. The dogs came off for a bimble halfway down – there’s top rummaging here, though Ty and Monty are far too nervous to be allowed off-lead. Miffy was a very good girl, but Ollie inherited the spirit of Blue and wandered off to explore the path around the lake – I could still see him though 🙂
Although every lock was set against us, and Richard had to walk rather than ride between locks, we soon reached the stretch above Marsworth bottom lock and found an ideal mooring spot near to the entrance to the car park. With two cars to pick up, we decided to get a taxi back to Berkhamstead rather than mess around with trains – although it had been a full day’s cruising, we’d only travelled around 7 miles by road!
The cars had been fine in Berkhamstead and we were soon back on board. By now it was 8pm and we had a debate about whether to stay or go. In the end, Monty’s bottom carried the vote – it’s much easier to deal with a poorly hound at home! It wasn’t an onerous decision – much as we’d have enjoyed cruising on Sunday, I’ve come down with yet another heavy cold and Richard’s chest infection keeps recurring so a day of rest at home wouldn’t do us any harm either.
As we were packing up, the car park had filled up with people unpacking – mainly bottles of beer! The reservoirs seem to be THE place to be on a fine Saturday night. We left them to it, having re-checked our locks and mooring ropes! Luckily we had a quick trip home, though we’re starting to feel the distance now.
We’re still hopeful of getting to Stoke Bruerne and meeting up with some greyhound friends before we have to turn back in order to get back to London in time for a SPCC convoy.
Note: It’s Sunday, and the weather is even more glorious than forecast, but I think we made the right decision not to cruise – it’s lunchtime – both human and canine Indigo Dreamers are flat out and still loafing around in our pyjamas 🙂