I used to dread trips into the Chilterns to see my Grandparents as a child. If only I’d been able to visit the pubs along the Grand Union as an 11-year old for pre-emptive ticks, I’m sure I’d have had more fun than the trips to Ashridge Monument or Dunstable Co-op for Golden Nuggets.

Peter Allen’s excellent blog is the most comprehensive record of canal-side pubs I’ve seen. I don’t know if he’s visited the Aylesbury arm of the GUC, but the canal side pubs round here seem a lot less fancy and food-driven than you might expect.  Still not a good idea for walkers to bring their own sandwiches to eat in the pub though.

The unfairly maligned Explorer 181

I warmed up with a walk from Aylesbury, and some amateur ornithology.  This is the bird that stopped still for me.

What bird is this ?

The theory of walking along canals is better than the practice, unless there’s lots of uphill walking (e.g. Delph).  This was quite flat.

Image result for grand union canal aylesbury arm

Wilstone has the added draw for oldies of its own reservoir, round which a group of overdressed ramblers were trudging in the drizzle. Sensing they were counting down the minutes to the opening of the Half Moon, I put on a sprint.

The pub is exactly the sort of Little Old England you want, immaculate and cheery, with fresh flowers and a sense of “You can eat if you want, but we’re a pub“.


Being first in the pub brings all sorts of dangers (where to sit, has someone just died, will the beer be pulled through).

Top marks to the happy young lady who pulled through plenty of my ubiquitous Tring Side Pocket, a beer that was cool and full-bodied on the first session of the week.  Plenty of chat, mostly about impending End of Times weather.

Luckily that was nonsense, and I made it the two miles to Cheddington, and an altogether different proposition.

The Old Swan is a posh dining pub in a relatively affluent village, where the locals’ accents would make Mrs RM sound common.  Gents in blazers drank huge glasses of wine, and recounted their big shopping trips for clothes.  The fascination with payment cards suggested credit has just been invented.  And perhaps it has here.  I’m not sure cash has arrived in Eaton Bray* yet.

Tables were set for dining, which I confess looked very good..  I had a tolerable (but cheap) Vale on a posing table, and contemplated whether the (even cheaper) Cottage is the new Archers.

 *No offence to Eaton Bray. We spent our honeymoon there.  A great night, the Benskins  in the Hope & Anchor was NBSS 4.


  1. It is a long while since we visited Aylesbury on the cut – Summer 2001 to be precise! It is at the limit of navigation when our boat is moored near to Birmingham. It took just over 4 hours from Marsworth to Aylesbury (each way) and our only stop along the way was at the Half Moon in Wilstone! Back then it did food at lunchtime and I seem to remember an over indulgence on my part with some apple pie and lots of custard. From your picture it doesn’t look like much has changed.

    During the early 1990’s our boat was moored at Winkwell (near Berkamsted) and we passed through Marsworth on many occasions, but never ventured down the Aylesbury Arm.


  2. I agree with Dick. Painting of a kingfisher, with the painting photographed by Martin. Although it appears to only have one leg it is otherwise a classic pose well captured.

    When you say cheap, I take it you mean by the standards of posh Buckinghamshire villages with mail trains robbed daily? How much, as a matter of interest? With the clue of cheap, in those parts I’d punt at £3.40. The way the name of the pub is painted on the wall shows what will be inside. Rarely do such indicators fail.


    1. Excellent challenge Tom. £3.20 a pint in both, though Cottage was £2.75. A pound cheaper than Winchester.

      I was going to make the train theft the answer to a question here but knew you’d get it.


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