Monday, 4 August 2014

London-bound: Day 4

Although we are still generally London-bound, today we've actually got further away -- by taking a detour down the Aylesbury Arm.  We tried to do this stretch of water on two previous occasions, and both times it's been closed.  So it was third time lucky.

We set off at just before 8am, making our way along to the junction -- again wondering why most of the visitor moorings were empty.  Work is progressing on the development at the junction, with the new houses having steel frames.

The top two locks are a staircase, and it's just as well we knew what we were doing, as the instruction sign is behind the development fence, with just the CRT logo sticking over the top.  Lock 2 has a new balance beam, fitted just a few days ago -- in fact, at one stage I feared that stoppage would scupper for a third time our chances of doing the arm

At first the locks come thick and fast, with the first nine in about a mile.  They're narrow locks, which should make things easier, but in fact these aren't as easy as some.  The bottom gates are mitres, but the way to cross them is on top of the gates, rather than with a projecting walkway, so it's really not possible to step across when one gate is open and the other closed.  The depth of most meant that once the lock was empty, I could walk across the roof of the boat to open the second gate.  Also, most of the locks have to be left empty, so we usually had to close a bottom paddle and fill the lock before we could use it.  There was quite a lot of water coming down, too, often cascading over the top gates.  However, it's a very pretty run down the hill into the vale.

I worked the first nine locks, then Adrian did the next four, which are in two pairs.  Lock 12 is the one which collapsed recently and had to ave one wall rebuilt.  It's next to the vast new Arla dairy.

After Lock 13 is a stretch of a couple of miles without a lock.  Again, the countryside is very attractive, the channel is narrow and lined with reeds, and the bridges seem impossibly small, partly because the offside is frequently rather overgrown.  At one bridge, two horses appeared to enjoy watching the boats, one on one side of the bridge, and the other facing the opposite way -- like a classic push-me-pull-you.

A couple of locks from the end of the arm, we passed the new basin when the Aylesbury Canal Society is based.  They used to be in the basin in town, but moved and have brand new facilities at Circus Field instead.  Houses are being built alongside.

We carried on down the final two locks into the basin at the end of the arm.  A lot of work has been done here, with a new Waitrose and Travelodge having been built, and the Waterside Theatre a major new landmark.  There's more work being carried out now, with a new educational centre currently at the below-ground level.  Some new finger pontoons have been installed, and Adrian did a great spin and reverse into one of the gaps.

It was almost 1pm, so we went and had a very nice lunch at the cafe in the theatre, then walked around the town centre (everything you could need, but not very inspiring), before returning via Waitrose.  It really is just steps to get back to the boat.

This afternoon, Adrian went to Costa just over the road to make use of their wifi, with only limited success.  I washed the roof of the boat, which has looked like a disgrace so far this trip.  Before we left the marina, the neighbouring field was harvested, meaning the whole boat was covered in baked on dust.  We then both washed the pontoon side, which looks a whole lot better.  We'll do the other side later in the week.

All in all, the Aylesbury Arm is a worthwhile detour.  It's very pretty, and Aylesbury itself is beginning to make the most of the basin.  There's been some noise from the building work this afternoon, but the workers all knocked off at 5pm.  Tomorrow, we retrace our steps back up the hill.

7 miles, 16 locks.  (35 miles, 34 locks)


Tucker said...

Hi Adam
From your pictures the Aylesbury Arm looks a great detour to make if we have enough time on the way back. Have delayed the Thames trip to Thursday due to the weather forecast being bad for Wednesday. May catch up with you if Friday is OK.

NB Holderness said...

Hi There,
I saw that you were on the Aylesbury Arm and as we are in the Aylesbury Canal Society marina I was just leaving to find you when I saw you pass this morning. I wanted to say thank you for having us on your blog list as nearly half of our 'hits' are routed via your site! Also our name is Porter too!
We are heading to London too, so may well see you at a later date.
Cheers for now, Tony Porter