We knew we needed to make good progress today, to avoid excessive pressure the next day, by which time I needed to get to Berkhamsted for a scheduled nurses appointment. However we looked to have enough time if not severely delayed, and made a reasonable start, but little knowing what lay ahead.
|Passing breasted working boats in the Jackdaw pound.|
|A heron at Ivinghoe locks contemplates a relative lack of water!|
|Delightful lighting effects near Cheddington|
In the notoriously bad pound between Grove lock Cath had gone ahead to set Church lock, when I was not paying enough attention to where there is enough channel for a deep draughted boat. By the time I realised I was grounding, I was particularly impressively stuck! I was many yards from any bank, (in fact not actually that far off centre of the cut), but it is incredibly shallow on the non towpath side, and, as I was to discover the bottom is covered in hard slabs, and not forgiving at all. No amount of poling or use of the engine would free me at the back, although the front was swinging free, but fortunately Andy on the other boat was able to eventually get to a position where he could help drag me off. I'm extremely grateful for his efforts, and the delay was considerable.
|Swing bridge near Cheddington|
Thereafter every pound to Marsworth, yes, every single pound was down by anything between six inches and a foot. Hence even if we could plough slowly along them, we could seldom get the boat anywhere near the side at locks, causing much complication with the dogs, and continually increasing the delays.
At the bottom lock of the Marsworth flight we caught a boat towing another, so had to wait for them to lock through. As the pound below these locks was also well down we had not been able to get to the edge, so having reset the lock, I was alarmed to return to the boat, and find it now tight against the bank. Unfortunately the flush from emptying the lock had temporarily raised us up, washed us over to the bank but then dumped us down on more solid material again once the flow stopped. Once again we had become well stuck, and we hadn't even been going anywhere at the time. Again we are grateful to local boat owners who arrived with poles to help with the inevitable pushing and shoving that followed.
|The ever delightul Marsworth, but impossible to moor Flamingo.|
So, completely knackered, and having already taken hours longer than expected we were forced to carry on up the next six locks at Marsworth to Tring summit, with sunset arriving and passing as we did so. Every pound of this flight was missing nine inches to a foot of water, with the worst ones at the top. I could not have got up it on my own, as I could not have got on or off the boat, but with me staying on, two of us did eventually get there.
Completely trashed by now, we moored at the first spot available in failing light, and somehow Cath still managed to produce a delicious meal. There has been much criticism of maintenance standards on the Southern Grand Union in recent months, and, until today, I was not sure how exaggerated they were. If our experience is typical, not one single pound anywhere between Grove Lock and Tring Summit had enough water in it for deep draughted boats. I make that maybe 17 different pounds, totaling 7 or 8 miles. If the rest of the trip is like this, I think I could quickly tire of historic boat ownership!
Stoke Hammond to Bulbourne Junction
Miles: 14.2, Locks: 22
Total Trip Miles: 45.5, Locks: 32