We met up at 10am at Pitstone Wharf, Cheddington (which is only a few minutes walk from the location of the 1963 great train robbery) and divided up into two groups, each comprising of 14 for each barge, which was probably just the right amount of people-ensuring it wasn’t too crowded, and that we all had enough space for food and drink and coats etc. Though there were seats inside, most of us stood at the bow or the stern of the narrow boat, because that’s where all the fun was. 🙂 One or two, even climbed on top of the barge!
After being given basic instructions on how to steer the barges, and control their speed, we were given a barge called the ‘Lady Jane,’ while the other group’s barge didn’t even have a name-at least not one I could see. Maybe, it had fallen off. I think we had the better barge by a long way!
Our barge was the first one to leave the canal basin. We did an immediate left turn, and then headed off towards Marsworth at the breakneck speed of about 5mph, with the second group in hot pursuit. Within 20 minutes, we nearly hit an oncoming barge, which was a bit embarrassing, especially since I was on the bow, and was the first person they saw, so had to apologize. We literally came within about 2 inches of crashing into the barge! I don’t think the oncoming driver looked too happy. Then shortly after that, we ran into some overhanging branches. At this stage, I could see us rapidly losing our deposit, if not the barge itself. 🙂
10 minutes after that we reached the first of our locks. While waiting for the water to empty from the newly unlocked gate, we were told off for allowing the barge to get too close to the gate, by someone passing by. There is a huge, concrete step, on the lock itself, and if you get too close to the step, while the water empties, your barge can actually tip over, as it gets lifted up onto the concrete. The passerby said this was really serious! Yet, we hadn’t even been warned about it!
After that, thankfully, the rest of the day was a lot more settled, and the steering became less erratic. We saw lots of ducks, and geese and swans pass by, skillfully weaving in and out of the many barges on hire.
At about half eleven, we moored the boats, close to Tring Reservoir, and all got out and had our picnics. Some wanted to go to the pub afterwards, so after eating, we set off again, and this time moored near the Anglers Retreat in Marsworth.
While they had a pint, I walked up to Marsworth reservoir, which was only 5 minutes walk away-that’s where I took the picture of the Anglers Retreat and the dandelion seed head. After about 30 minutes, I walked back down to join the others, and then get back on the barge. We got back to the basin at about 3pm.It is definitely peaceful on the canal, just as people say.
Some of the locks had their date stamped on them, and many were in the 1890’s. It’s such a simple way of life, and it’s been going on for so long. I do wonder what it would be like to actually live on one, rather then just taking a day trip…On reflection, maybe, the bank holiday wasn’t the best day to go on a barge, because of the huge increase in traffic, and as a result, at some locks you had 3 or 4 barges waiting in line to come through.
It is a very slow means of getting around, but that’s not a bad thing. You get to notice more. In fact, because it was so slow, some found it just as quick to walk along the tow path, as sit in the barge itself, and a few did just that, as they walked along to the next lock, to see what the status of the lock was before re-boarding the barge at the next lock.
It was a good day & I’d recommend going on a narrow boat to anybody! 🙂