Time to continue on the Grand Union Canal, this time a walk that I had to end a little earlier than planned as it took a little longer than expected and the return train journey had to be considered.
This walk is a continuation of the GUC northwards from Rickmansworth.
For most of the walk, the towpath is on the left (western) side of the canal as we walk northwards.
The trickiest part of the walk is at the start where a number of waterways merge and split off at the Rickmansworth confluence – I had to backtrack at one stage as I realised I was no longer on the Canal.
To ensure staying on the towpath, cross over on the bridge near to the canal information centre. The hand painted lettering on the approach wall to the locks says ‘this lock’ on the one that you need to cross to.
Having negotiated the confluence at Rickmansworth, the canal heads northeast for a while past some moorings.
Even though we are several miles north of the city, its presence is occasionally seen as the metropolitan underground line crosses over the canal – a juxtaposition of the old and the new transport systems.
In general the feeling of this walk is that of peace and quiet along leafy overhanging towpath trees. In fact, though I started the walk wearing sunglasses, I removed them a while later as parts of the walk are quite dark, due to the overhanging trees and woods to the side of the towpath.
The locks and bridges on this walk are a varied mixture – locks come singly or as pairs and bridges range from simple wood and bricks to ornate stonework.
The area around Cassio Bridge Lock is quite picturesque.
Various boating communities seem to have sprung up on the non-towpath side of the river – some houseboats are adorned with sheds and small buildings on the canal path.
Despite the occasional cyclist and other walkers the route was pretty quiet. Occasionally road noise evidences the presence of some major London orbital roads in the vicinity.
At bridge 166 it is necessary to cross to the other towpath.
At around bridge 165 the canal zig zags a while as it runs through the land surrounding The Grove, a five start hotel and resort. The canal snakes around the edge of the golf links.
Bridge 164, The Grove Bridge easily wins the prize for the nicest bridge on this walk.
Don’t forget to cross to the opposite towpath at bridge 163. We remain on this side for the rest of the walk.
Road bridge 162 wins the prize for the ugliest bridge.
In several sections north of Cassio Bridge, the footpath has been renovated or is in the process of being worked on.
The meandering stops north of the Grove at around Hunton Bridge locks and the canal becomes more perfunctory than scenic.
One or two nice views still await now and then but as the canal approaches the M25, the traffic noise disturbs the peace.
On this day in late August, North Grove Lock was showing a very high water level difference.
Passing underneath the M25 road bridge it was time to check on progress. Google maps had suggested that the route from Rickmansworth to Apsley would be around 8.5 miles, but as I checked my SatNav and Google MyTracks, it showed another 2.9 miles to run to Apsley and 7 miles already walked. So it seemed like there was another hour or so of walking to get to Apsley. I checked the train times and found out that Kings Langley and Apsley are on the same line to Euston and the trains heading that way on a Saturday were every 30 mins. With another hour to walk to Apsley and a possible 29 minute wait if I just missed a train, that meant another 1.5 hours awaited. The time was already approaching 6 pm and I knew that the journey home was going to take 1.5 to 2 hours.
So I checked the next due train at Kings Langeley – due in 15 minutes, picked up the pace and decided to cut the walk short by ending at Kings Langley. A quick pause atop bridge 158 for an end of route photo, and the camera was put away as I walked briskly up the hill to the train station.
A quick payment at the automatic ticket machine and my route home (Kings Langley to Euston, then down to Vauxhall for the Shepperton train was picked). A few minutes later and the train arrived signalling an end to another canal walk. A quick check on MyTracks confirmed my suspicion – it was already 7.5 miles long and despite my ever increasing walking pace, the delay at the start (724 bus from Heathrow was late and the back track around Rickmansworth confluence) meant that Apsley was one bridge too far (actually it’s another 8 bridges from Kings Langley to Apsley, but that is for another day …)
Total distance: 12.12 km (7.5 mi) Total time: 2:35:39 Moving time: 2:24:49 Average speed: 4.67 km/h (2.9 mi/h) Average moving speed: 5.02 km/h (3.1 mi/h) Max speed: 7.95 km/h (4.9 mi/h) Max elevation: 120 m (394 ft) Min elevation: 85 m (280 ft) Elevation gain: 125 m (409 ft)
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