Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Ducking`into Aylesbury

The new Circus Field Marina, Aylesbury. Our home for the last few days
One of the many delights of cruising the canal system, are the occasional arms you happen upon. These were built to link remote towns and villages to the main system and many are idyllic and unspoilt, though often they have to rely on local societies for their maintenance and care and you often take your chances with water levels.
We had passed the Aylesbury arm at Marsworth on the Grand Union a number of times and often said to each other we’d like to explore this seven-mile stretch that runs into the old market town. A damaged lock and a bank collapse has meant the arm has rarely been open for the last two years, but here we are, in a brand new marina, about a mile from the town centre, enjoying excellent conditions, as we stop for a week, guests of the Aylesbury Canal Society in their new facility at Circus Fields, across the road from the Askeys wafer factory.
But let’s backtrack a bit, for our last blog saw us chugging back from Rickmansworth, through Cassiobury in Watford as we returned to Apsley again.
Don't see that many dinosaurs in Hertfordshire. This one is near King's Langley
We got there Friday afternoon and Saturday was a wet old day. I had been tipped off that there was a dog show `Paws In The Park`, in Hemel Hempstead, so we walked up the towpath in the rain to check it out. I have organised a number of events such as this when I was working so was keen to see how this one worked. The rain stopped and the event was very entertaining.
This Bassett Hound couldn't be bothered to take part
Last Sunday we had on board a gang of old John Lewis pals, all who work in the leisure benefits side of the business, along with their other halves. We did a similar thing two years ago, when we were in the area, but we only cruised a mile or so that time. I was keen for us to get from Apsley  to Berkhamsted. It’s not that far, around six and a half miles, but there are about 17 locks along the way, and the weather when we set out was far from ideal, with a constant drizzle. They all had a go at lock duty, though because they don’t see each other much, they were more interested in soaking up the views and catching up with the gossip. The weather picked up as the day progressed and we moored up beside the Crystal Palace pub, around 3pm. From what they are telling me, I retired at the right time. Things seem very different in John Lewis and Waitrose these days. It was good to see them all and we are planning another reunion in the autumn – this time on dry land.

Sally, Tracy and Jim

Tracy hands out the mini Cornish Pasties
The John Lewis crew in Berkhamsted
Then, out of the blue, we had another old JL colleague pop in on Monday morning to see us. Sue was last on board when we cruised into Liverpool last May. She was in the area with her grandson who she often brings to the waterfront at Berkhamsted and came looking for us.  We had a little cruise with them and they stopped for lunch. The young lad, who they call Jem, later told his sister, he had been on a boat, that had a house in it!
Then, on Tuesday, Penny and Bob, two of our oldest friends, came on board for three days. They have been on TCW a number of times, so know what the drill. Within a few minutes of their arrival the swans came calling. They tap on the side of the boat. It sounds like they are trying to get your attention but they are just pecking on the algae that attaches itself to the boats hull.
Penny welcomes a family of swans
We cruised with Penny and Bob from Berkhamsted, overnighting at Cow Roast and then after turning on to the Aylesbury arm, we stopped the following night in Wilstone, before arriving here at the new Circus Fields Marina on Thursday afternoon. It’s good to have electric hook up again and have all the facilities, such as good showers, loos and a launderette on site. It’s been a long while since I was last in Aylesbury. The town centre is a bit of a building site, with huge amounts of money being spent at the canal terminus, where there is a very stylish new regional theatre, a new Waitrose and Travelodge.
Penny and Pat on lock duty

Penny and Bob work the narrow locks on the Aylesbury arm
It’s also much bigger than I remember it. It’s got a spiritualist church, that Pat visited on Sunday evening and a uke club that meets in a pub called the Hop Pole on Wednesday nights, which I am looking forward to getting to tomorrow night.
Back in the old return. Beats painting steelwork on boats.
One of the reasons we are stopping here for a week is that it is only about 40-minute car journey to Welwyn Garden City. Our tenants will be moving out between now and the end of August. We then  move back in, decorate, and then put it up for sale. While most of the windows are plastic, there are a couple that needed re-painting, as does the paintwork around the conservatory at the back of the house. So Sunday and today (Tuesday), we rose bright-eyed and bushy tailed, and set off down the A41, via B&Q. We’ve made good progress but the garden is also in a bit of a mess and we are going down Wednesday and Thursday afternoon (after Pat’s had a hair-do) to finish off, when we hope to see another of my oldest pal’s Roy, who is poorly in hospital in North Finchley.
Back on the main line of the Grand Union next week, heading back towards Milton Keynes and Braunston. Toodaloo Chums.

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