From the Thames, the Grand Union Canal climbs inexorably into the Chilterns. The locks are big if you are on your own, but reasonably manageable. They come frequently enough to make it difficult to make a cup of tea, but they’re not always close enough to make a “flight” where lock-wheeling makes sense. Hard work.
The other saving grace is that the locks are consistent. The books say that when you’re the only boat heading uphill in a wide lock, you should tie up to one side as far back as possible, then start by opening the ground paddle on that side, which seems counter-intuitive. The theory is that the water rushes in across the front of the lock, hits the opposite wall and rebounds, keeping the boat gently pinned to the wall. On the GUC, so far this works a treat, even when fully opening the paddle at once. After our experiences last year on the Kennet and Avon (where this technique works less than 50% of the time), we were most impressed. Don’t think we’ve had the boat bouncing around diagonally across the lock once so far. (Fate: you are hereby invited…).
The Captain was too hot, and made several efforts to go ashore and find somewhere cooler before accepting that the shade inside the boat was as good as anywhere.
Meanwhile the canal skirts around Harefield, Rickmansworth, Watford, The Langleys (Abbots and Kings) but stays somehow divorced from them, being largely tree lined. Plodding on through the heat and the locks provided little incentive to linger or take photos, but we were rather “impressed” by the modified front deck of this boat. People sometimes put motorbikes in the front deck (getting them in/on and out/off must be a problem) but welding a VW Golf body to the front was a subtly different take on things. And no, we have no idea why. An entry for next years Turner Prize perhaps?
Some people fit umbrellas or sunshades over the tiller, but we wouldn’t fancy trying to cruise with this one, even if we could put up with the clashing colours.
And despite the dry weather and heat wave, there doesn’t seem to have been any shortage of water: the pound above this lock near Maple Cross is clearly more than full!
This section of the canal used to carry significant commercial traffic (gravel from the nearby pits) until fairly recently, when the gravel ran out. But the only commercial traffic we saw was the floating honeywagon / night soil boat, travelling between Brentford and Milton Keynes on a fortnightly run attending to the needs of the many permanently moored boats that couldn’t or couldn’t be bothered to head off for a land based pump-out station when needed. He didn’t need a warning horn…