When we woke on Wednesday (30/7) the weather had changed. It was cloudy, humid and warm with showers. As we were casting- off we were passed by NB Gwyniad who was travelling single-handed down to Grove Bridge. Dave the skipper had a good local knowledge and together we managed to work the locks efficiently.

Working the locks with Gwyniad

Maggie was particularly taken by pretty lock cottages in this section. Most were decorated by bright hanging baskets. The section by Grove Bridge was particularly picturesque.

Cassiobury Park Locks

Cottage Door and Boatman's Table

We were hoping to see signs of the Ovaltine factory and Albert (ex-Ovaltine boat). In 1997 when we first travelled south on the Grand Union towards London both used be in this section. The factory is now housing and we don’t know where working boat Albert is. However, in 1997 the wooden working boat Roger was just a shell lying by the canal centre at Rickmansworth, now she looks splendid afloat on her moorings.
We stopped early today, 2:30PM and moored up by the Aquadrome at Rickmansworth.

As evening came the heavens opened!

Kings Langley

On Tuesday (29/7) we left our mooring by the park in Berkhamsted at about 9:30. The weather started warm but cloudy. Steve was disappointed to find that the Welcome to the Port of Berkhamsted sign was missing from Bridge 141.

Berkhamsted Totem Pole

We decided to pick up water at Old Mill and were just on the point of leaving when two boats passed us. It looked like we might have a day of filling locks as we followed them, but one of the boats, NB Sheherezade, moored up near Bourne End and we spent most of the day going down locks with the other boat, NB Muddy Walters (from Kent). They were not only great company but, because they moored at Watford , they knew the locks and the canal well.

Unfortunately the swing bridge at Winkwell was being serviced. As a result we missed the opportunity (fun) of stopping the road traffic because a contractor operated it for us.

Swing Bridge at Winkwell

The weather got hotter and hotter as the day progressed and so we by late afternoon we were quite “rosy”. Muddy Walters stopped in Apsley but we continued down to Kings Langley where we found some shady moorings by a fishing lake. In the end we did eighteen locks.

An evening walk down to the lock revealed that NB Banstead was moored up there.

NB Bansted


It did rain last night (Monday 28/7) after lots of lightning but little thunder. This morning (Tuesday 29/7) was fresh and clear but we had a short shower at lunchtime.

So what of our journey? We went up the Marsworth flight with Splendid from Wyvern Shipping. Good to have help with locks. They stopped for lunch at the Grand Junction Arms at Bulborne and we continued.

Going up Marsworth Flight

The Tring Summit was interesting and quiet. We only passed one boat going the other way. Near the southern end we heard and then saw a jet-engined model aircraft. It looked a little like the ill-fated DH101, but that probably betrays my age. BW contractors were cutting grass. We had seen their evidence in the canal all the way from Slapton, but we actually saw some of the action along the Tring Cutting. An operative was blowing the grass cuttings into the cut using a two-stroke blower! He was also trying to damage his hearing by not using ear defenders. What sense is there in putting cuttings into the cut to rot when they could so easily be composted. Albert collected a fine crop of hay around her bows. Good job the prop remained clear. Somebody we passed yesterday was not so lucky.

Tring Cutting

Grass Cuttings

The journey down the locks to Berkhamsted was pleasant and quiet. At the first Gas Lock we found a young duckling separated from its mother on the otherside of the lock. We were urged by some local youths to help but try as we may we couldn't retrieve it.

We have moored up in the park at Berkhamsted. Early this evening we walked around the town visiting the places that Maggie's mother, Mollie, recalls from her time here in the 1930s and 40s. Although much has changed and her house was demolished some time ago, it was encouraging to find that much that she remembered still remained.


Left Stoke Hammond on Monday (28/7) at about 8:30AM in glorious weather. The whole day we managed to climb 14 locks but not one was shared with another boat.

Stoke Hammond Lock

Globe Inn Linslade

We stopped and took on water at Leighton Buzzard and Maggie did a quick Tesco top-up of our supplies. Ewen arrived finding the new inproved gravel-covered towpaths not to his liking. They were hard on his feet. We managed to provide him with some sustenance - bowl of cereal, coffee etc. and bid him farewell.

The journey through the "Fields" started pleasant enough but got hotter by the hour. Maggie had to fill all but one lock. We spotted a red kite close to Slapton, the first we spotted from the canal. At Pitstone we met up with Carole and Diane from Heelands School, and Diane's parents who live at Marsworth. In a repeat of the Stoke Bruerne trip last week we had tea and cakes, but then followed it up with a trip to the Red Lion at Marsworth for thirst quenching drink.

While we were enjoying the late afternoon sunshine outside the Red Lion, Ewen turned up. He was waiting for a friend who was going to put him up in Tring but before we had time to say hello, a friendly customer had already bought him a beer!

We ate Maggie's delicious chilli back on board and watched the lightning over the Chilterns. Hasn't rained yet.

Stoke Hammond

On the move again - at last!

We are on an extended cruise the first part of which involves a journey down the Grand Union to London and then along the Thames to the River Wey Navigations. The purpose of this, apart from the obvious pleasures of boating, is to attend a wedding in the Farnham area.

We left Yardley Wharf mid-morning on Sunday (27/7) and picked up our friends Lin & Roy Healey at Cosgove Lock just about midday. The weather was glorious. The new developments at the Wolverton Works site (ex British Rail), which are nearly complete looked amazing. It will be interesting to see just how it pans out when the flats are full. It certainly looks like it could have a big impact locally. There are numerous mooring rings let's hope they become occupied by visitors.

We moored up by the "Secret Garden" close to Wolverton station and were having a great lunch when Roy and Lin's other boating friends, Dave & Janet on NB More arrived going north and they hadn't had lunch! We then had an extended lunch with the odd bottle of wine (or two). The highlight was when Janet got out her laptop and showed off pictures of her grandson. To cap it all, because she was on Skype, we had a video link to her daughter. 21st century boating or what! We all had to agree that Janet and Dave's grandson was probably the most beautiful baby in the world.

Looking at the baby!

NB More went north and we continued south to Campbell Park where Lin & Roy departed. It was getting late (around 8.00PM) when we got to Stoke Hammond but it was there that we met Ewen Hardie who is walking barefoot from Edinburgh to London to draw attention to the dreadful human rights issues in Burma. We had a good discussion about his journey and how he is to be met Gavin Strang his MP in London despite the House being in recess.

Ewen & Maggie

It looks like we will meet Ewen several times during our trip because his schedule and ours are very similar. He planned to stay overnight in his hammock in a field close to the lock. Lucky for him it doesn't look like it will rain.

Maggie's Retirement Cruise

On Sunday, 20th July, we took Albert up to Stoke Bruerne with a group of Maggie's colleagues and friends from Heelands First School in Milton Keynes. Maggie retires at the end of term (July 22nd) after many years at Heelands. The cruise was a "thank you" cruise for her colleagues. Because of the numbers involved we had to carefully organise the joining instructions and the car parking (always tricky at Stoke Bruerne). We split the trip into morning and afternoon sessions with lunch taken together by both groups.

The trip up to the locks was uneventful but it was fun with around 8 visitors on board. Good job Albert is well-ballasted and pretty stable. It was a pity that the weather forecast, which was for clear blue skies, didn't turn out to be accurate; it rained! However, it cleared up for the trip up the Stoke Bruerne lock flight and the rest of the day was thankfully dry. The large team of helpers soon got the hang of lock mechanisms and the procedures involved. We joined up with NB Steamline, an Ownerships boat, at the second lock. They stopped for lunch in the Long Pound but we continued to the top of the flight where we met the rest of our visitors (the afternoon shift) and moored up close to the tunnel.

Lunch was great fun but we had to spill out onto the towpath to accomodate the over a dozen people that were involved! Serving had to be carefully organised with a queue of people boarding Albert at the stern, picking up food in the galley and then leaving via the bows.

Serving lunch in the galley

Taking lunch in the well deck

The "bank" party

Some of our vistors left after lunch, but because a number wanted to experience the tunnel we went up to Blisworth and then returned back to Stoke. As a result, they got the experience twice! Going north through the tunnel we passed NB Venice, a Mel Davis boat that was at the Crick Boat Show and has been featured in Waterways World; more later.

Some of our vistors were picked up by car at the Spice Mill at Blisworth. We then turned around and came straight back through the tunnel. As a result we met Venice again, at Stoke Bruerne Top Lock, where they were taking on water. They came down the flight with us and we had some good chat, mostly about boat design, classic engines and their marvellous boat. Howard Nobel appears to have a great eye for traditional detail; lots of the features on Venice have their roots in FMS and Ovaltine boats. Their sign writing by Peter Hill looks paticularly good.

At the Top Lock we also met our neighbours Liz, Ross and Millie Capps and managed to give them a trip down the Stoke flight. The Capps were out for a walk along the canal at Stoke and just happened to discover us. They had visited Albert back in 2005, before Millie was born, but then we were moored up and didn't move.

All our visitors left us at Stoke Bottom Lock. It was very quiet travelling back to Yardley Gobion with just the two of us! Next weekend we go south on the Grand Union to London (and beyond) for an extended summer cruise. We can't wait. We will be blogging regularly.


Narrow Dog from Llandaff

A few weeks ago Maggie was reading Terry Darlington's follow-up to Narrow Dog to Carcassone - Narrow Dog to Indian River. It covers Terry, Monica, and Jim as they travel along the Intracoastal Waterway in the US in their narrow boat Phyllis May. When she got to page 238 a name jumped out of the page - Dai Morgan in Llandaff who was a rowing partner of Terry. He is quoted as saying - "one slip boyo and your buggered".

I contacted Terry. It turns out that this is the same David Morgan (n.b. more formal) who was the Captain of Llandaff Rowing Club and whom I steered to victory as a cox in the 1959 regatta at Penarth. I sent Terry a photograph of Dai showing the moment were presented with the cup. He confirmed that not only was this the Dia Morgan (not exactly an unusul name in Cardiff) but that his brother was also rowing in Llandaff in the Maiden (Novice) Four B when I was coxing the Maiden Four A. It also appears that both Terry and I rowed in scratch races with the famous Commonwealth medal-winning Luke twins.

Now that Maggie has finished ND to Indian River I am delving into the mysteries of boating along the east coast of the USA and enjoying Terry's laconic humour. It is a good read! Good luck to the crew of Phyllis May with your British travels this summer.