It’s all very well mooring next to a Waitrose – you can get fresh croissants for breakfast – but when you lose track of the days and find (a) it’s Sunday, (b) they don’t open until 11:00 and (c) the weather is inclement, then the promised early start never happened, and we didn’t get off until after lunch. Much the same happened the next day, so we had plenty of time to reflect on the Aylesbury Arm of the Grand Union.
It descends/climbs through pleasantly remote countryside, but it’s not that quiet: there are loads of old narrow canal bridges carrying roads across: they’re all little country lanes, but with relatively lots of traffic, so being anywhere near a bridge means being subject to a fairly constant barrage of “beep beep beep”s from vehicles going too fast and adopting the Italian approach to collision avoidance on hump-backed bridges. And due to the wonders of SatNavs and lorry drivers too mean to buy the more expensive commercial versions, watching a 44 tonne artic trying to negotiate a small brick bridge that’s hundreds of years old makes you wonder why there are no obvious weight restrictions, and glad you aren’t underneath at the time.
The (many) locks are a bit neglected, too. The grass areas around the lock are rough, untended, and present plenty of tripping risks, while the concrete or brick edges to the lock are pretty rough and crumbling, and in some cases seem to be coming away altogether. This happened a couple of years ago at Lock 12 when the lock wall collapsed completely, resulting in the arm being shut for months; CaRT had to crane out quite a few boats stick between there and the town as there was no other way out. One local retailer remarked that boat traffic has never recovered on that section: one can see why.
So, in iffy weather, we slowly climbed our way back up to the main line, then resumed our descent off the Chilterns.