Our mooring at Marsworth had been a good one, quiet after the previous two nights when we had been within earshot of the West Coast mainline. Nevertheless, we had no reason to stay so we decided to move on and get part way to Leighton Buzzard, the next biggish place on our route. The first lock of the day was just around the corner from where had been tied and a few minutes later we were faced with a decision, turn left down the Aylesbury arm or bear right and stay on the mainline. In reality, we had already made that decision, Aylesbury had looked alright when we had visited but hadn’t appealed to us so much that we felt inclined to tackle the sixteen narrow locks down to the town. When we last passed this way, the wharf was, I think, a British Waterways service yard with boaters facilities. The facilities are still there but the site is now occupied by waterside homes, no doubt commanding a high price given their location. We stopped and topped the water tank before moving on to the next lock where we caught up with a single hander on nb Sunflower. We worked through the next five locks and the swing bridge at Pitstone with him before we tied up near Ivinghoe/Pitstone/Cheddington.
This seemed like a natural place to stop, being half way between Marsworth and Leighton Buzzard but after lunch and a short discussion, we decided to move on and do a bit more. We only travelled for just over an hour before mooring above Slapton lock but by working down another three locks, we had left ourselves with less than two hours cruising to Leighton Buzzard. In 2012 we were moored below this lock on our journey south and had, after a long day cruising, gone to explore the nearby village. We failed on that occasion so there was nothing for it but to try again. The walk only took ten minutes so I have no idea why we didn’t find the village last time around – maybe we took a wrong turning or maybe it’s the Buckinghamshire equivalent of Brigadoon and today was our lucky day! We visited the village church and then popped into the local pub, the Carpenter’s Arms, before walking the half mile back to our mooring.
In August 1963, the Great Train Robbery took place about a mile away from where we were moored at Slapton Wharf. If you take a look at Google Maps, you will see that it is marked (click here), then look at the poor reviews it gets. One person complains that it is “just a bridge”, what were they expecting, a re-enactment?
Another dull start awaited us on Tuesday morning but it was dry and mild so not too bad, although for August the weather continues to be pretty pathetic. Anyway, we were underway by ten and crossed the Tring summit in just under an hour. Most of the summit is tree lined and would make for a welcome respite from the summer sun for the boater if there had been any, which there wasn’t. When we reached the junction with the Wendover arm we decided to swing left and visit it again as we did five years ago. Little had changed except that this time around we had the only boat on the navigation. We turned at the end and stopped for lunch on the visitor moorings; had it not been for the fact that we had spent the previous day in Tring, this would have made the perfect base from which to explore the town which is just one mile away.
After lunch we returned to the junction and began the descent of the Marsworth flight with nb Que Sera Sera. It didn’t seem to take long and we were soon at the bottom, our lock buddies tied up almost immediately whereas we carried on around the bend and moored just above the next lock. The canal passes between Marsworth and the enigmatically named hamlet, “Startop’s End” so we decided to have a look around the immediate area. The first place that we found was Bluebell’s Tearoom which occupies the old lock cottage and is of course, next to the lock. We had tea and a scone each and by way of an apology for not having cream for the scones, we were given an extra piece of cake to take away with us which we thought was exceptionally generous. After that, we popped across the road to the local pub, the Angler’s Retreat and sat outside with a drink looking at the birds in the aviary there, I can’t remember ever visiting a pub with an aviary before.
We dropped the free piece of carrot cake off back at the boat and then went for a walk around the nearby Tring reservoirs. There were one or two fishermen, a few dog walkers and others, like ourselves, out for an early evening stroll. The sun had come out and the evening was very pleasant. It did strike me that a lot of fuss had been made about the eclipse of the sun observed in America the previous day, spectacular maybe but for those watching it only lasted a few minutes. Meanwhile here in Britain, the sun disappeared on Sunday afternoon and didn’t reappear until Tuesday evening, now that’s what I call a Solar Eclipse!