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The 1999 "Earnest" Maiden Voyage Cruise

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12. Lechlade to Harefield, via the River Thames, Southern Oxford and Grand Union Canals, inc. the Aylesbury and Wendover Arms.

Ian and Sharon looked after Peter and Wendy until the next day when Linda had to come out to rescue them. "Earnest" stayed put until next Saturday 21st August when Linda and Colin came out to get "Earnest" off the River Thames as the Thames license would soon run out. They left the car in Lechlade as they would get a taxi back to pick it up when they got the boat on the Oxford Canal. The first day they got away at 10.50am and got to just below Eynsham Lock by 6.50pm.


Sunday 22nd August saw Linda and Colin get away at 9.00am. At 9.50am they were through Dukes Cut Lock and on home waters. Linda wanted to get the boat away from Oxford and preferably on some moorings with no time limit. Linda phoned the Thrupp Cruising Club and the bloke she initially spoke to said that in the circumstances we could leave "Earnest" on 14 day moorings that they control until the half term in October. Linda and Colin got on these moorings at 11.30am then got a taxi back to Lechlade to retrieve the car.


Neil's reception when he phoned the Thrupp Cruising Club was surprisingly frosty. They said that they would have to have a board meeting to waive mooring charges even in these circumstances! Neil thinks even B.W. would have been more sympathetic!. Neil found out that the charges if levied would be more than putting the Boat in Fenny Marina! We could not take chances like these, so late afternoon of Friday 3rd September, Neil, Linda, Peter and Wendy went up to Thrupp in Linda's Micra, abandoning it in the "Jolly Boatman" pub car park. From now on "Earnest" would lead a more nomadic lifestyle than "Beatty" ever did! Neil, even though he should not have been driving or lifting any thing had already been back to "Earnest" on his own, then again with Julian and Colin, to remove the offending Inflatable boat, outboard and any thing else of value. That Friday we left at 5.10pm and got to surprisingly deep mooring in a very secluded and peaceful spot, near the pipe bridge half way between Bridges 213 and 212. We had wanted to moor on the ex- water gypsy moorings, non towpath side on the old quarry wharf just a bit below here, but the water gypsies had returned!


Saturday 4th September, 8.14am was the cold misty start time, we had to have the boiler on last night. The sun eventually came out and it warmed up a bit. That day we ploughed on and got to Cropredy, just below the lock at 7.15pm. Amazingly Linda had had her way and we enjoyed an excellent meal and pint in "The Red Lion", which was back in business again after the Folk Festival restaurant closure. There were still quite a few hardened water gypsy type Fairport fans about, but I expect these moor here all year!


We set off at 10.20am on Sunday 5th September, getting to Fenny Marina at 2.15pm. Here we got water, diesel and had to have a pump out as the 240v pump out pump had packed up. We moored on the 14 day visitor moorings just above the marina at 3.15 pm. Ian Scot was going to kindly pick us up again at 5.00pm, so in the interim Neil removed his splint and with one hand managed to get the offending pump out so he could take it home and check it out. Ian arrived at bit early and by 5.00pm we were off, Ian dropping us back at Linda's car.


The next move was on Sunday 19th September. We arrived in Linda's Micra and left it in the pub car park, Linda would cycle back an retrieve it when we got to our supposed destination of Marston Doles, the top of the Napton flight. We shoved off at 11.00am arriving at the end of the Marston Doles moorings at 1.15pm. The moorings were not very good at all, shallow and only a low muddy bank to get the pins into, which were not very secure. Linda retrieved the car on the bike and during this time Neil managed to re-fit the repaired 240v pump-out pump. (The start capacitor had failed and was replaced, Neil also fitted it with a thermal cut-out.)


Because the mooring was so grotty where we last left "Earnest" we decided to move it yet again next Sunday 26th September. The same method of Micra / bike was used again. We left at 11.20am and got to a nice mooring on the Napton 14 day visitor moorings at 1.20pm.


The 10th October saw another Micra / bike one day movement. We checked that there was some space on the "Napton Bridge Inn" 14 day moorings first, but when we passed it they were all taken. We eventually stopped on some deep not restricted moorings by Bridge 102, Flecknoe. We started at 12.40pm and got to Flecknoe at 2.40pm.


The final part of the jigsaw of getting "Earnest" home started on Sunday 24th October, which was the term week. Ian Scott dropped us off, and we got under way at 9.50am. Braunston Turn was passed at 10.40am. After this the weather took a turn for the worse and the rest of the day was squally showers. Below Buckby Locks Neil steered as it was getting dark prematurely due to the awful weather. We had been surprised how busy this week turned out, every body having their last holiday of the year, or like us moving their boat home before the winter work program started. Eventually Neil gave up at 6.20pm as he was getting sick of steering "Earnest" along sideways in the dark with driving rain. This was just below Banbury Lane bridge No 43. Surprisingly many people still carried on passed us. After dinner we retired early with the boiler on all night. 


Monday 25th October saw us make a reasonable start in much improved weather, though still fresh. This was at 8.45am. Gayton Junction was passed at 9.30am and we started Blisworth Tunnel at 9.56am. Ahead we could see a narrowboat jam, as a slow moving line of boats ahead attempted to pass two boats coming the other way. Neil hung right back so he could get steerage passing the other boats. Still the boat right in front would not speed up, at this point Neil started going backwards to relieve the boredom! We exited eventually at 10.42am, nearly an hour!, (Julian and Neil once did the Blisworth Tunnel in 22minutes in "Beatty" after they came out of "The Boat" pub one evening and decided to go on!) At the winding point to the South of the tunnel there was another jam as people winded and moored. The slow culprits turned out to be the friendly young couple who we went through Buckby Locks with the last day. They had only had the boat a matter of hours! We arrived at Stoke Bruerne Top lock to share with a couple about our own age. These people were fairly quick through the locks. They said they had got particularly pissed off through the tunnel as they were directly behind the slow young couple. We eventually stopped at 3.45pm on Great Linford Wharf, which amazingly we had all to our self. We had noticed throughout this week that the most patronised mooring spots were those with all services,  these must have been live aboard people getting in a good position for the stoppage season! We went to the pretty but big breweryfied pub in the "petrified" village of Great Linford for an uninspiring pint and meal. 


The next day, we left Great Linford at 8.50am and went straight through to Leighton Buzzard. There was light traffic and we shared a few odd locks. We shared Stoke Hammond and the Soulbury Three Locks with another together couple who were also taking their newly purchased narrowboat "home" for the end of the season. All the visitor moorings out side Tesco's in Leighton Buzzard were taken, so we had to moor just after the winding point below Town Bridge No 114. The Tesco stop started at 2.30pm and took half an hour. Onwards we ploughed on, our destination being Slapton, so we could go to the excellent "Carpenter's Arms" pub. Just above Slapton Lock there is a water point just before Bridge No 120, opposite this are some residential moorings with a stroppy "Mooring Warden". When we stopped here for water in 1997 it was quite late and the woman came out of the boat saying we could not moor there! Julian told her in no uncertain terms that we were not mooring, that we were taking on water and yes we would be stopping round the corner under the bridge and passed the winding point! We stopped at 5.00pm, Neil could see the same woman moving about in her boat in an agitated fashion, even though we had the hose out and were obviously taking on water. Neil remarked to Linda "I bet she comes out and says there is no mooring here!" She did indeed come out as expected! Neil's reply was "You are getting predictable! What does it look like we are doing, mooring? and yes when finished we will be moving on!" We moored round the corner again, where it is deeper and quieter. It is about mile walk to the village of Slapton, but the pub is well worth it. As well as an good range of real ale it serves excellent and imaginative food, from a small and daily changed menu, so you know it is all fresh.


Wednesday 27th October was a nice day and we started off at 8.45pm, destination Aylesbury. Almost all the way up to Marsworth we shared locks with an elderly couple who were just finishing their season out, by returning to their winter moorings in Aylesbury Basin. They said every body had to be in the basin for the winter by next Monday as B.W. were demolishing and rebuilding a bridge on the Aylesbury Arm. At Marsworth the other boat stopped for water and we started the narrow Aylesbury Arm at 11.30am. There was no traffic on the arm and it seemed deeper and better kept than when we last came down here. This surprised us as being quite a while ago, in 1992. Near the outskirts of Aylesbury we went under the remains of the bridge B.W. were to replace. Work had already started and all that was left was the brick arch! We reached the end and winded, here we asked the "welcome" boat where we should moor. The lady present apologised for being vague, saying moor wherever we could! The basin was nearly full up for the winter but after reversing right back we managed to find one towpath spot where "Earnest" would just fit. Eventually we were moored up at 3.00pm. Aylesbury basin, though still intact has had a 1970's office block built to the end and to one side of the basin which is not exactly sympathetic to it's surroundings. That evening we went out to an alright kind of Indian Restaurant as it was Neil's birthday.


Thursday 28th October we shoved off at 8.55am and after yet again meeting no other traffic we arrived at Marsworth Junction at 12.50pm. It was a lovely sunny day and the only traffic we met was in the opposite direction. Half way up the flight, just below one of the locks is the Arlidge Tree which we sponsored in 1996. At the top of the Marsworth Flight of seven Locks we decided to turn left at Bulbourne Junction and "do" the truncated remains of the Wendover Arm. This little arm was started at 2.10pm and has just about enough depth of water. At the winding point which is about mile from the end we winded and proceeded astern to the point where the water ran out! The winding point is at a junction of another feeder. Due to the mooring of two water gypsy boats overhanging the winding point, we actually went up it a small bit to enable us to turn. We them had to reverse past them. The tried and trusted method of one person steering and the other keeping the bow centre channel with the bow thruster enabled us to soon be at the end. We had a hairy moment going passed the Tringford pumping station, because of the force of water coming out of it. The end is in an old wide stop lock in the cutting leading up to the dropped Little Tring Bridge. We were thinking of stopping in this peaceful spot, but Linda wanted to moor in the equally peaceful Tring Summit Cutting. Neil popped over the dropped bridge and did a small bit of video of the restoration progress. The first phase of restoring the dry centre section is to rebuild Little Tring Bridge and rebuild the channel beyond for a few hundred yards to a new mooring and winding hole.  This last part of the work was well advanced using volunteer labour, with one new concrete wash wall nearly complete. Over this dry section water from the springs are piped to the reservoirs. After clearing the prop we were off again, this return journey being much faster as there was an appreciable flow from the pumping station. Just as we rounded the final bend we were surprised to pass a Bridgewater Boats hire boat going up the arm. We bade him well saying it was best to turn in the winding hole then reverse to the end. At 3.55pm we were back on the mainline. Bulbourne B.W. workshops had been busy with many lock gates made and waiting to be fitted in the winter stoppage period. Not far into the Tring summit cutting we came across a pair of totally knackered water gypsy boats which were barely creeping along. The normally fresh and mossy smelling cutting was filled with nasty acrid diesel and burnt oil fumes. We really held back, at least appreciating the lovely coloured Autumn leaves on the trees. We crept along further than really necessary, to just above Bridge No136. Here there is an old 1930's lay by, which is virtually opposite the army store depot which has been converted into business units. Here we stopped for the night in failing light at 5.00pm.


On Friday 29th October we shoved off at 8.50pm in very misty conditions. As soon as we were under way we noticed a boat behind us, we were going to have company on the descent down. We arrived at Cowroast Summit Lock at 9.05am which we had to prepare. By the time we were in, the approaching narrowboat was there beside us. The boat was one of the very used and well known, Reach Out Projects Community Boats. The captain was a young fully trained steerer and he ordered the troop of scouts he was with, with an air of authority. Peter set off on the ready prepared bike. Neil got the impression that as long as we did not meet any one else, we were in for a quick descent! The scouts were very keen and well controlled and did most of the work and shut up behind them .We started off first into the next lock down, prepared by Peter. The captain of the Reach Out narrowboat was very experienced. He said they were going straight through to their base just below Nash Mills Locks. Neil said that we would be with them all the way, as we never stop for lunch and we wanted to get to Kings Langley that night. It was indeed a quick descent, with no one else being met! Neil took a fair bit of video considering this was our home waters and had too much video exposure over the years. The reason for this was the amount of changes taking place. Below Berkhamsted the somber always deserted factory on the SW bank was in the final throws of destruction, to be replaced by a new housing estate. John Dickinson Mills, including bits only put up in the early 1990's was in the throws of complete annihilation. Amazingly the older Nash Mills were still holding on, apparently still in production. Beyond here we bade farewell to our Reach Out friends for the day and arrived at one of our "set" mooring spots, just above Kings Langley Lock. Here we arrived at 2.40pm, having done the 24 locks and 12 miles in 4 hours. One reason we stop in Kings Langley is the excellent and very established "La Casetta" Italian restaurant which was Neil's official birthday treat.


30th October we started at 10.25am as we were not getting back to Harefield Marina until Sunday. We had a very quiet and peaceful descent, this is one of our favorite cruising times of the year. The first hold up was at Cassio Bridge Lock. We stopped at the Rickmansworth Tesco's between 2.10 and 2.30pm as we had run out of food. After this the weather broke and it quickly blew up into a storm. We stopped at 4.00pm, just above Black Jack's Lock, being blown about all night. This is somewhere we have never stopped before, because it is so close to home.


The final day of our very extended Summer Tour / Maiden voyage was started at 9.20am. Within the hour we were on Harefield Marina main jetty filling up with diesel (to stop condensation in the tank when laid up) Phil Musk said we had a choice of two moorings they had saved for us. One was in a roped together line in the "Toby Philpot" club moorings and the other was in the final little pool just before where "Beatty" was and spent most of its life when it was ours. This spot Neil jumped at, as it had been "Hampshire's" residential mooring. The mooring was between three telegraph post poles, so not touching any other boat an it had a nice bow landing stage complete with door mat and handrail pole. Mooring ropes had even been left. "Earnest" was installed by 11.00am in its new home.


Telephoto shot of us leaving Aylesbury Basin. Aylesbury Arm, Grand Union Canal.

Bridge No 14, Aylesbury Arm, about to be replaced.

Redhouse Lock and Bridge, Aylesbury Arm. This shot shows how close roof handrails come to scraping bridge arch.

Redhouse Lock cottage, Aylesbury Arm.

Marsworth No4 Lock, Black Jacks, Aylesbury Arm.

Marsworth No3 Lock, Staircase Locks under bridge. Aylesbury Arm.

Marsworth Staircase Locks No 1&2, Aylesbury Arm.

Coming out of Marsworth Staircase No1 Lock, Aylesbury Arm, onto Grand Union Canal main line.

Marsworth Lock No43, Grand Union Canal.

Marsworth Lock No43, Grand Union Canal.

Linda about to enter Marsworth Lock No43, Grand Union Canal.

The plaque for our tree just below Marsworth Lock No 43, Grand Union Canal.

Wendy standing by our sponsored lime tree.

Just started on the Wendover Arm, Grand Union Canal main line the other side of bridge.

Disabled persons narrowboat and Tring Wharf  Bridge, Wendover Arm.

The flour mill the other side of Tring Wharf Bridge, Wendover Arm.

We have put "Earnest" right up the little feeder which forms the winding point. Although specified as only 50ft you could turn a full length narrowboat here.

Near the end for present, Tringford Pumping Station on line. Wendover arm.

The stop lock which makes a nice mooring at the present end of the Wendover Arm.

Beyond the stop lock, this embankment was Little Tring Bridge.

Work in progress the other side of Little Tring Bridge.

Bulbourne Workshops, with many new gates ready for fitting. Grand Union Canal, Tring Summit.

The Autumn colours in Tring Summit cutting. Grand Union Canal.

Sharing Rising Sun Lock No54,Berkhamsted. Old factory below almost gone.

"The Rising Sun" pub.

Take a last look at John Dickinson Mills in Apsley, to the right of this image they were already demolished.

John Dickinson Mills, this early 1990's modern warehouse was being dismantled.

Nash Mills and Top Lock No 68, Apsley, Grand Union Canal.

Nash Mills, how much longer will they hold out?

Reach Out Projects community boats base, just below Nash Mill lower Lock No 69. These two craft are their new wide beam boats.

The crazy Physio's narrowboat, moored just below Nash Mills.

"Earnest's" new home in Harefield Marina.

The tour has ended. Index


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