The Summit Attempt

The various “authorities” are a bit vague as to the maximum beam (width) available on the Grand Union Canal (but then it was built in several different sections – there’s a clue in the name). Up to Berkhamstead the locks seem to accommodate barges up to 14’6” – certainly we could get 6’8” wide Song & Dance into a lock with only one gate open without any problems. Beyond there the locks seem a tad narrower, and just using a single gate more of a challenge. Mind you, some of the bridge holes seem even narrower – even a 12’6” wide-beam might be struggling. Still, not a problem for us.

Anyway, leaving Berkhamstead, we had another seven of those wide locks to surmount before reaching the Tring summit pound. We eventually exited the oddly named Cowroast Lock and moored up outside Cowroast Marina, wondering when exactly it was that the Argentinian Polo Team held one of their infamous post-match barbeques in the Chilterns.

Sherpa Bigglesworth had originally proposed a little celebration at successfully dragging his 16 tonnes of steel cat basket uphill through 35 miles and 57 broad locks, but just as we pulled alongside the bank the skies absolutely opened. With no option other than to complete mooring up in the sudden torrential rain, without any chance to tog up in waterproofs before the boat was secure, it was then necessary to batten down the hatches and indulge in a complete change of clothes, shoes etc. and find somewhere to dry the old ones. By which time all thoughts of ceremonially planting a flag at the summit had passed, and he’d gone for his lunchtime nap.

Going uphill through broad locks largely without a companion boat or even just one extra crew member to share the locking is quite hard work. The climb up from Brentford is fairly unremitting with the locks averaging less than a mile apart so there’s not much chance to rest in between! Still, for a couple of old narrow canal hands, it seemed quite an achievement.

Someone (can’t remember who) at Apsley had asked how far we’d come this year. So far, since leaving Cropredy just after Easter we would appear to have covered approximately 300 miles, and passed through 209 locks to Cowroast. Wonder how much further we’ll go this year – last year our total was 522 miles and 372 locks.

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