Wendover Arm & Aylesbury Arm


My mum and I are walking parts of the Grand Union Canal. On 25 May 2009, we walked two side-branches. Both the Wendover Arm (which goes to Wendover, except where it doesn't because the canal got filled in) and the Aylesbury Arm (which really goes to Aylesbury) leave the main canal near Tring. So we started from Tring, walked to Wendover, got the train to Aylesbury, and walked back to Tring. We were joined by Dad and even by my brother Joss, who happened to be staying with my parents that day.


I got to Tring station a couple minutes before the train from the other direction, so I walked across to the next platform to meet it. My family made up all three of the people who got off the train...

We then had to re-walk a mile or so to the junction, along the rather long canal cutting that we'd walked last time.

A bridge in that cutting. It looks like a tunnel entrance, but isn't. The bridge is really tall, but the arch in it is only normal-size.
1/90 at f5.6, 55mm, ISO800 51°48′24″N 0°38′21″W

Wendover Arm

Reaching the junction, we turned off onto the Wendover Arm - which considering it doesn't go anywhere, had an awful lot of boats parked. (Moored. Whatever you do with boats.)

More excitingly, a large factory (it seemed to be a bakery) beside the canal was actually still operating, and on a bank holiday too.

Blue doors onto the stairs. If this is a fire exit, um, people aren't going to burn to death, but they'll get pretty wet. (Okay, there's a path along the side, but.) And I actually saw somebody using the stairs to go between floors while I was taking pictures.
1/90 at f8, 14mm, ISO200 51°48′28″N 0°39′39″W
Two of six large silos and a yellow balloon.
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The silos again.
1/350 at f8, 16mm, ISO200 51°48′27″N 0°39′39″W

One reason for the increased boat density was that there was a canal festival a little further on. A 'canal festival' seems to consist of a gratuitous funfair and lots of boats, each with a little form stuck in a window that told you where it came from and so on. I assume there were 'best boat' competitions; we don't know who won.

After they closed the canal between, they wanted to keep pumping water from Wendover, and this is where it ends up.
1/250 at f8, 13mm, ISO200 51°48′27″N 0°40′11″W

A café boat was selling cake, which was good! After that, it wasn't far to the end of the canal... for now. They are currently (re)constructing the missing length. This confused us because the canal actually went further than was shown on our map. Anyway, the towpath was officially closed so we took a rather circuitous route to rejoin it further on.

The new canal.
1/250 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°48′21″N 0°40′50″W
Look both ways before crossing the canal. (My brother did have to get out in a hurry as this approached. It was going pretty fast.)
1/250 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°48′20″N 0°40′52″W
A footbridge over the canal.
1/1000 at f8, 11mm, ISO200 51°48′12″N 0°40′58″W

We passed an area where a crew was working on the sides of the new canal, too. I think supposedly it will be finished soon.

1/500 at f8, 14mm, ISO200 51°47′45″N 0°42′7″W

We came up onto London Road (one of many) where it crossed the canal. I think by this point the canal actually had water in it again (we had passed the section that had historically been closed, I think because it leaked) - but it's definitely not navigable for boats.

Building for some kind of church (disused).
1/350 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°47′42″N 0°42′10″W
Nice bridge.
1/125 at f8, 22mm, ISO400 51°47′40″N 0°42′48″W
Another nice bridge. (No it's not the same one!) Also featuring traffic cones.
1/60 at f8, 18mm, ISO200 51°47′17″N 0°43′32″W
This makes three nice bridges in a row! (Footbridge railings.)
1/1500 at f8, 84mm, ISO200 51°47′2″N 0°44′0″W

Some way after that we found a sign telling us we should go back and cross over the most recent footbridge because the swans nesting on the bank might peck people! We ignored it and scurried past the swans, who didn't peck us. They had about a dozen offspring though.

I don't have any decent pictures, but the 'canal' into Wendover had a pretty impressive assortment of wildfowl - no, I'm not impressed by swans, but there were loads of different types of ducks including some really crazy-looking shiny ones. (I took a few pictures but they didn't really come out well, sorry...)

We had to cross a road again at a little village, which featured a house with lots of chimneys.
1/250 at f8, 250mm, ISO200 51°46′59″N 0°44′5″W

After that it wasn't very far to Wendover, which appeared to be a not-very-exciting small town, though with some nice old buildings. We couldn't really spend very long there anyway because, being as we were on a mission and still had half the walk to do, we decided to catch the 15:00 train or so, after eating lunch in the churchyard.

Building with bolt-on spiky bit.
1/750 at f8, 70mm, ISO200 51°45′45″N 0°44′28″W

Aylesbury Arm

Aylesbury seemed to be a bigger place. It had a really crazy high footbridge over the railway, which Dad and I climbed up on to admire excellent views of the spectacularly ugly shopping centre. Then we went into the town centre, managed to temporarily lose Joss despite the fact that he was wearing a bright pink t-shirt with dinosaurs on, found him again and acquired ice cream. We also had a brief look at the old buildings around the church.

Not such an old building relatively, but I love their punctuation: correctly-opposed quotation marks and a full stop.
1/750 at f8, 65mm, ISO200 51°49′3″N 0°48′53″W
The church door. Great colours and all, but maybe they should turn that lamp off during daytime...
1/45 at f6.7, 15mm, ISO400 51°49′4″N 0°48′58″W

The canal in Aylesbury began rather surprisingly by an entirely bland 1980s brick office building. Presumably there used to be an interesting derelict factory or warehouse on the site.

Beside some kind of overflow thingy.
1/250 at f8, 10mm, ISO200 51°48′50″N 0°48′29″W

Finally! On the other side of the canal, we saw this interesting building (well, what was left of it).

End wall with graffiti.
1/350 at f8, 116mm, ISO200 51°49′0″N 0°48′3″W
End and side walls, with helpful tags by the window in case you need gravitational advice.
1/250 at f8, 84mm, ISO200 51°49′1″N 0°48′0″W

After that the canal ran through pretty but admittedly fairly dull countryside. We were all - with probable exception of Joss who is stupidly fit - getting fairly tired by this point so it went in a bit of a blur, except for counting bridges. An information sign had said there were 18 bridges on the six-mile canal stretch; in fact, there were 20. Hah!

I didn't count pipe bridges, either.
1/750 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°49′11″N 0°46′59″W

Finally we reached the junction and I took the opportunity to get another look at the yellow tank thingy.

Narrow Aylesbury Arm lock with yellow tower in background.
1/180 at f8, 16mm, ISO200 51°49′14″N 0°40′14″W
Crossing the canal to take a close-up look.
1/1000 at f8, 14mm, ISO200 51°49′14″N 0°40′13″W

After that Joss called (he and Dad were ahead) to tell us which pub they'd gone into; we cheekily told him to get us drinks. It was definitely nice to have a cold drink; I was really hot... Then we trudged back through the canal cutting to Tring, argued about missing a train, got the next one, and went to our respective homes. (I had a three-mile bike ride once I got there; they had a rather long train journey, so I guess it was kind of even.)

Some random GPS analyser program claims we walked 23 miles (yes, I did remember to subtract the train part). Don't think I believe that, but it was definitely quite a long way! I was pretty sore for the next couple of days and also had a bit of a headache presumably from the sun - despite that I wore my wide-brimmed sunhat (and didn't get sunburn, yay). But it was an interesting day out, even if a little on the gruelling side. :)

Oh, and I forgot to mention. My brother decided to run the last couple miles from the pub to the station. I said he was stupidly fit...

By the way, Dad posted his pictures of this walk too.

All images © Samuel Marshall. All rights reserved.