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The Wendover arm

Being the August bank holiday, the weather had been forecast to be rubbish as usual. It was dry but a bit chilly when we emerged into the daylight. After the usual engine checks we started up and were about to leave when Sue’s new best friend Lindy came out of her (ware)house and told us that if we left we would miss the annual fete. We expressed our sorrow but explained that we really had to move on. We met a few boats on our climb out of Berkhamsted and a number of the locks were in our favour so we made reasonable progress. On two occasions we were hampered by paddles left partly open on the offside, not open enough to be obvious but certainly enough to slow the filling of those locks. The rain started at around eleven when we were working the first of the Dudswell locks. We met two boats coming down the next lock, both crewed by hapless souls. The lockwheeler on the opposite side asked how many gates we would need open and when I said, “one please”, she told me that she would shut her side. She then nipped down the steps and jumped on her boat leaving the gate open. I persuaded the lockwheeler from the other crew to pop round and shut it for me, which he did. By now the entertainment was going on in the pound below. Sue making her way towards the lock was faced with the two boats, one passing on her left, the other trying desperately to get into the side to pick his crew up and succeeding only in blocking the canal at some forty-five degree angle. I pointed out to the other crew member that the next lock was only just around the corner and that she might want to tell the steerer that there was no need to pick anyone up. Sue was annoyed but what she couldn’t see was the water shooting up through the rudder stock and soaking the steerer as he revved the engine at high speed as he tried to execute his manoeuvre.

The rain stopped as we approached Cowroast lock, a lone locker was already in the lock so after telling him that he could get back on his boat, I sorted out the lock and then Sue drove in. A family out for a bank holiday stroll asked us the usual sort of questions that gongoozlers do and of course we were very happy to answer them. Once through, we took on water, emptied the toilet cassettes and dumped our rubbish. I’m always happy when we’ve completed our services but today seemed a bit more special since we had finally reached the Tring summit again although it actually felt like we had reached the summit of Everest!

There would be no more locks before we moored and indeed the next series of locks would be downhill, all the way to Cosgrove. The locks south of Cowroast are just too regularly spaced for our liking, we would rather have them grouped together and then separated by some pounds of a decent length.

It took us exactly an hour to cross the summit, a lonely sort of crossing but with one magnificent highlight. I thought that Sue was inside finishing the washing off, which she was but I hadn’t expected her to emerge with the couple of bacon and egg baguettes and a steaming mug of coffee that she had been secretly making. That unexpected treat really hit the spot and I was fortified once more.

The Grand Junction Inn was busy as we passed by, they were holding a Bank Holiday Beer and Music festival and the visitor moorings were full as a result. We soon reached Marsworth top lock, or “Leg O’ Mutton” lock as it is called in the film “The Bargee”. A day boat was about to emerge from the lock, usual story – six people on board, six on the lockside, both gates open and one on the opposite bank wearing a captains hat shouting instructions. It had never been our intention to descend and we quickly made a left turn on to the Wendover arm. It is a narrow canal that twists its way to its present terminus. We turned around with some difficulty at the end, mainly due to the wind but partly due to the boats that have moored in the winding hole. Anyway, did get round and then returned to the bridge where we moored for the night. We had a little walk around but with the exception of the information boards, there’s not much to see around here. We returned to the boat and just relaxed on the back deck while the sun shone. There were a few light showers in the late afternoon but overall it hadn’t turned out to be as bad as we had expected.

Information about the Wendover Arm can be found here and here.