Sunday 8 October 2023

Little Tring

Today.'s Canals : Grand Union, Wendover Arm

It is surprising for how many days now that we have been to say that it was very warm and sunny, hot even.

The last bridge we passed under yesterday just before we moored still has the graffiti that we recorded 10 years ago. Back then it was bright and fresh, easily seen with little vegetation around the bridge. Now the decoration is still visible but much faded and the vegetation has really grown.

From the road over the bridge there is a splendid view of our mooring. Look closely and you will perhaps spot the gangplank.

The first lock is called Sewer Lock - a large treatment plant is on the offside and discharges into the canal below the lock. Although the water is no doubt clean enough to do this but there is still enough residue to create a steady stream of foam.

Bank Mill Cottage is midway between locks. It seems that the owners have not always appreciated boats as there is a large roughly drawn sign saying NO MOORING! Presumably they failed to persuade CaRT that their view should be kept clear - to the detriment of boaters!

Two tidy rows of plastic storage boxes filled with black solid fuel. Perhaps they say that they burn 'clean coal'!

The brightly painted bridge that proclaims the entry into the Port of 
Berkhamsted is still kept in pristine condition.  It is perhaps only from London to here that the every proliferating wide beams boats can  claim entitlement. That section was specifically designed to allow wide barges popular around the Thames. From here on towards Birmingham the companies concerned opted for cheaper structures that were only ever expected to be used by narrowboats, although two travelling side by side became common place. Wide beam boats are mostly a modern development, increasingly fuelled by more affordable housing demands.

It is obligatory to include a photo of the totem pole. It is an original dating from 1968 and was a thank you gift from people in Vancouver Island (that is, not an indigenous artefact that has be misappropriated!) Today it can best be seen from the canal, or the pub opposites, as recent housing development means that there is no direct public access. At least it is less likely to be vandalised.

There is a specially designated shopping section with direct access to Waitrose. When we arrived it was entirely free - helpful as the street before was quite full. By the time we had completed our shopping it was near enough to lunch time for us to eat before setting off again.

The next two locks are called Gas 1 and Gas 2. The first Berkhamsted town gas plant was built near to the town centre and gradually housing and a school, grew up around it. Naturally this made the gas company very unpopular at the same time as demand for the convenient sources of energy outran the plant's capacity. With no room to expand, the company found a space next the the railway and the other side of the canal, just above these two locks. A short branch line was used for horse drawn skips to deliver coal from the main rail line whilst more came by canal. The works finally closed in 1959. (More history here)

The  gas works site was later 
enveloped as a set of modern industrial units, with the land next to the locks given over to vegetation.

At Northchurch the pumpings station built in 1840s to provide a feed to the canal from the deep chalk aquifers. There is a similar station alongside Cowroast Lock.

Cowroast Lock took us up to the summit pound. Another boat ahead of spotted us coming and kindly waited to share with us. Mike was too distracted with dumping some rubbish that he forgot to take 'nice' photos of the lock and the attractive cottages.

We continued along the summit pound, much of which is in a wooded cutting. Whilst it is possible to moor here, the probable lack of a decent phone signal prompted us to carry on to Bulbourne. 

There is a large winding hole just before the former Bulbourne base. Perhaps this boater did not spot the sign - as usual winding holes should be kept clear in case someone needs to use them. It is often some distance to the next one. However, this did raise some doubts in our minds that there may be a lack of space closer to the junction and the next long flight of locks.

The former wharf and workshops we handed over to developers a few years ago and project is nearing completion. The above photo is the iconic workshop which many feared might be swept away for a new housing block but happily it has been re-purposed.

And one of the workshops has gained two extra floors.

These are the houses on the far side of the site. Whilst the development does not perhaps have the deep seated sense of history that might have been, but it has managed to keep much of the feel amongst an harmonious overall design. Arguably, better than the development just down the flight agt Marsworth Junction.

No spaces turned up before the locks and we felt that it was now too late to start down the flight of nine locks. So, we turned left onto the Wendover Arm and made our way towards Little Tring. Progress was very slow and we wondered whether we would make it but reversing would have been even riskier.

This bridge indicates that we were near to the winding hole and the limit of how far we could go. Although progress towards the end was much better we also remarked on the number of moored boats - but perhaps only about a dozen altogether. After turning around we immediately moored. By now the light was going an d so we did not take any photos . Perhaps we will rectify this omission in the morning before we leave!

9.2 Miles - 13 Locks

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