Boaters in West London and Uxbridge will be pleased to know that the Canal and River Trust are about to spend £700k on dredging the Slough Arm. 10,000 tonnes of silt, refuse, supermarket trollies, bicycles and plastic bags will become a thing of the past, making it much easier to explore this tranquil little backwater. I do love boating ‘off the beaten track’ and so I thought I’d share three of my favourite arms that the more curious canal boater can explore on the Grand Union.

The Slough Arm

Contrary to the grim view of Slough described in Sir John Betjeman’s poem (“Come friendly bombs, and fall on Slough!”) the 5-mile Slough Arm is mostly a natural haven of beauty and wildlife. Your cruise will begin by crossing several little aqueducts from which you can see the pretty rivers through the trees below. In summer the edges of the canal are lined with reeds in places and it remains very leafy and rural as you pass the outskirts of Iver. It is only as we approach Slough itself that we find the housing and industrial estates that may have prompted Betjeman’s poem. He later regretted writing it. So why not find out for yourself and visit Slough by unconventionally travelling by boat?

The Wendover Arm

You can find this arm on the outskirts of Tring in Hertfordshire. Thanks to an ongoing dedicated restoration project it is steadily increasing in length as the years go by. The Wendover Arm Trust usually hold an annual canal festival as part of their fundraising efforts and plan to restore full navigation up to Wendover eventually. The arm branches off the mainline at Bulbourne, opposite Bates Boatyard. This stunning junction is located at the top of the Marsworth flight, close to the Tring Reservoirs, and was the filming location for the 1964 British comedy The Bargee. At the moment it is possible to navigate along the narrow winding waterway, through fields and fruit trees past the old Tringford Pumping Station. The visitor moorings at the end of the arm offer stunning rural views of fields, giving you that amazing feeling of having completely escaped from modern life.

The Aylesbury Arm

This narrow beam canal begins at the charming village of Marsworth with a set of staircase locks. All 8 locks on the Aylesbury arm are single-width and you will barely see a building or farm house for much of your journey to Aylesbury. A short walk from the canal is the village of Wilstone where you might visit The Half Moon Inn and hear the sad tale of the last woman executed for witchcraft in England. We have a society of restoration enthusiasts to thank for re-establishing this once derelict waterway. It is a real pleasure to travel through the idyllic views of farmland and Chiltern Hills. You can also visit Aylesbury Canal Society’s new home at Circus Field Basin – they really are a friendly bunch!

What secret arms do you like to explore? Do you have any favourite places on the Grand Union that are ‘off the beaten track’? Let us know on Facebook.


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