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A journey down the Aylesbury Arm

October 2007

Our final trip of 2007 was down the Aylesbury Arm, to meet the members of the Aylesbury Canal Society at an annual firework party, and to visit the basin before this wonderful facility is compulsorily purchased for redevelopment.

 

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The staircase pair at the entrance to the Aylesbury Arm (we have just entered the top lock)
Looking down from the top lock
About to pass from the top lock of the staircase to the lower lock
Looking back as we leave the staircase (before shutting the gates)

The first locks of the arm are a staircase down from the Grand Union main line at Marsworth. The narrow locks feel tiny after the wide locks of the main line, and the staircase feels quite claustrophobic.

 

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The cottage at Black Jack's Lock
The cottage at Black Jack's Lock
An unusual lock cottage (Debbie is smelling the roses in their garden)
This house has the Arm's only winding hole in their garden

Most of the locks are in the first mile of the canal, and are relatively isolated. In fact the whole arm is peacefully isolated, but there are a few attractive lock-side houses.

 

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Bates' boatyard specialises in restoring wooden boats

There is only one boatyard on the Arm, that of Jem Bates who keeps alive the old tradition of wooden boat building and maintenance.

 

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The reed beds encroach to make a narrow channel
It feels like boating through a swamp
The reeds do not actually slow you down much
Under the bridge at  the end of the reed beds

There is one stretch where the reeds appear to make an impassable barrier across the canal for about a mile, but the channel is easily wide enough for a boat and the reeds will easily move to one side if you need to pass another boat. They do not really represent any obstacle and although some people ask for them to be cut back, I for one would be sorry to see them go.

 

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Travelling in the other direction you need to remove the chimney
Most bridges on the Arm are like this; they are about 7' 6" wide.
Many bridges are below the locks, which makes it easy to get on and off the boat
This is the only wooden footbridge on the Arm, at Wilstone

If your chimney is on the right-hand side of the boat, you will need to remove it to get out of the first staircase, and to keep it off until you reach Aylesbury itself, but you will then be able to replace it for your return journey. On the other hand, if like us you have your chimney on the left, you can keep it in place until you have turned round and are heading back.

 

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The last lock on the Arm drops the canal down below the Ring Road bridge
This bridge leads into the Aylesbury Basin
Passing through the bridge into the Aylesbury Basin
Aylesbury basin is crowded with boats

The entry into Aylesbury is quite sudden, and you soon reach the basin which is convenient for the town centre. You can be certain of a friendly welcome from the Aylesbury Canal Society, who will always find space for a visiting boat somehow. It is sad that the Society is almost certain to be compulsorily relocated to a new basin out of town, in order that the area around the current basin may be redeveloped.

 

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Tesco's is conveniently situated beside the canal
How many disabled anglers are there in Wilstone, where most of the moorings are out-of-bounds to boats
The water usually flows over the top gates of the locks
A peaceful evening on the Arm

Before leaving Aylesbury you can stock up at Tesco's superstore which is just above the first lock, and then make your way back up to Marsworth. The length of the Arm can be covered in 4 hours, but why not take your time and enjoy the peace and quiet of this beautiful canal more slowly?

 

 

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