The Tring summit pound is only three miles long, and most of it is in a steep wooded cutting (cue a pathetic excuse for one of the cook’s favourite bits of music – heavens don’t they look so young).
So not much to see, but after lunch, when the rain stopped, the interrupt free section was most welcome, and we spotted a Little Egret flying overhead above the cutting, up the canal. We’d decided to head down the Wendover Arm, off the main line – it’s currently being resurrected all the way to Wendover, and the end of the first section looked to be in pleasant countryside, close to the several reservoirs around Tring needed to supply all the water flowing downhill off the summit to Brentford, Milton Keynes, Wendover and Aylesbury.
The sun came out as we approached Bulborne Junction, where the Wendover Arm turns off, and the main line starts its long descent. Just before, one of the old canalside buildings seemed to have been taken over by a metalwork sculpture emporium.
The turn onto the Wendover Arm just by Marsworth Top Lock is interestingly tricky and a bit tight for a longish boat. (Crunch).
There’s quite a flow on the arm as it’s a feeder for the main line, and a lot of water is pumped up from the reservoirs not far from the current end of the navigable section. Also, the cut is narrow, with some tight bends, and poorly positioned moored boats. Add to that the distractions of warm sunshine, pleasant open scenery, hundreds of damselflies and dragonflies buzzing and zooming around, and a common tern following the boat doing gannet impersonations just behind us, and it was an interesting steering challenge, but we made it to the end. Where there was indeed a most pleasantly rural spot to moor up (and after a quick exploratory foray up the path to check out the facilities) take a well earned break.
The starboard side of the boat hadn’t been so perfectly positioned since we started out, and was in desperate need of wash and brush up, so next morning – unable to find any willing gang of Eastern Europeans with a pressure wash in the adjacent field – a start was made before the sun became too hot. And although it really looks nice when it’s done, there really is an awful lot of boat paintwork to wash and polish just on one side, let alone the front, back and other side. There’s no way you could do the whole boat in one day, so somewhere’s always dirty!
With the promise of a farm shop (for her) and café (for him) at the far end, a post lunch walk over the hill – the pretty way – to Wilstone Reservoir seemed necessary, even though it was getting pretty hot again. We were moored up just by the winding hole: you can just make out the boat in the picture above.
The route took us back over the unwatered section of the canal currently under restoration. Apparently that section was always leaky from day one, and the main challenge is making it watertight for the first time.
Wilstone Reservoir looked very low, and while we were waiting a CaRT chap turned up in a van with a clipboard taking measurements, and a long chat ensued. With no significant rain since Easter they were getting decidedly twitchy, on two fronts. Apart from the obvious lack of water, they were beginning to worry about blue green algae. The reservoir had numerous hay bales dumped in it, which is supposed to help prevent it, but the jury’s out on how effective that is. And if the algae starts up, CaRT can’t pump water from the reservoir into the canal system, even if there’s any water to pump. And we’ve just seen that Daventry Reservoir has a suspected outbreak.
So there’s beginning to be mutterings about the “R” word: restrictions (on navigation). Wouldn’t be surprised – let’s hope they’re not too onerous.
Anyway, we saw some more Little Egrets on the island, and we made it to the farm/tea shop before they closed, so that’s all right. And there was a pleasant wild flower meadow to wander round as well. On the return journey we bumped into a bird photographer that had travelled out for the day all the way from East London to the Tring Reservoirs despite rail and tube strikes, so this is clearly a popular spot. He’d failed to get any decent pictures of a tern, so perhaps our pathetic attempt isn’t too bad.