Sunday, 21 October 2018

Milton Keynes to Leighton Buzzard

Thu 18th Oct  Stanton Low Park (MK) to Water Eaton (MK)

Misty morning at Stanton Low Park

Mist on the water

There was dew and a mist this morning as we made an early start, aiming to reach Giffard Park, just over a mile away, for breakfast.

We passed the boat we had shared Cosgrove Lock with, Bishy Barney Bee, which apparently is a Norfolk term for a ladybird.

Bishy Barney Bee

At Giffard Park there are 7 day moorings with concrete edges and no rings. Boats tie to any bit of sticking out reinforcement rods, or wedged in length of rope. The sanitary station has bollards, and we pulled in there to dispose of rubbish, before moving through the bridge where we could moor the bows on piling, the stern on a bit of string left there by a previous boater.

Tied on to bits of string

Then we went for breakfast at the Giffard Park sizzling pub.  Hazel went by bus from there into Milton Keynes Centre while James caught up on a few things on the boat.

Short term mooring for breakfast and shopping

A very wide boat went past. What happens when two of these meet?

Back end of a widebeam

When Hazel returned, we thought we would go for an extra hour or so, and we set off at around 2.30pm, intending to moor just before Fenny Stratford Lock. This would enable us to use the facilities the next morning.

We passed some sculptures, and one of those lifeboats which seem to have no windows.



Then we passed the sign announcing the site of the proposed Milton Keynes to Bedford link, but just after that we saw a lot of development going on, and it seems that there is to be a new marina, with an unusual three-way footbridge. It will be interesting to see how this will impact the new canal link.  For an image of the bridge see here

New marina under construction

Poplar trees are numerous around here

Under the A5

When we reached the Fenny Stratford visitor moorings, we found there were no spaces, so we had to go through the lock and associated swing bridge. As there were no more facilities before Leighton, we stopped just after the lock to fill the water tank, empty cassettes and dispose of rubbish.  

Fenny Stratford Lock and swingbridge

We moved on to search for a mooring, and ended up soon after bridge 97 where there was some piling. We couldn’t get fully into the side as it was silted up, but at least we had stopped, as by then it was cold and late.

1 lock, 7 miles, 1 swing bridge

Fri 19th Oct  Water Eaton (MK) to Stoke Hammond

Dense fog greeted us this morning, and it gradually thinned out and cleared as the sun began to shine.

Fog in Water Eaton

Foggy cruise

Swans in the fog

We didn’t have far to go. We passed Willowbridge “Marina” and went up through Stoke Hammond Lock, finding a pleasant mooring in countryside before bridge 106.

Stoke Hammond Lock

We found we couldn’t open the side doors as the boat was too low down. Later we found that the levels had risen, and we could.  Once before on this pound we had found ourselves stuck on the bottom in the morning as the levels had dropped.

Stoke Hammond mooring

We had a music practice, and then sorted out our clothes, getting our winter clothes out from under the bed, and stowing in vacuum packs some of the summer clothes we won’t need until next year. We also ended up with a sackful for the charity shops.

Sunset in Stoke Hammond

1 lock, 3 miles

Sat 20th Oct  Stoke Hammond to Leighton Buzzard

Dawn at Stoke Hammond

We had a leisurely start today. One hire boat came past from Three Locks before we set off, and there were two boats descending in the bottom lock when we arrived, so the lock was set for us.

Crossing over at the foot of Soulbury Three Locks

James found that the handle was loose on one of the lock beams. Surely the volunteers must know about this?

Loose handle

As we were reaching the top of the middle lock, someone started filling the top lock, which had been in our favour. We therefore had to wait in the middle lock, with the top gates open, while the lock above filled, and then a widebeam boat entered from above. The lady said she hadn’t realised how far up we were.

Soulbury Three Locks

We had a lovely sunny cruise from there, following the winding course of the canal and never far from the busy railway line.

Autumn sunshine

Beverley and Ascot, fuel boats.

Globe Inn

Leighton Lock was in our favour, but leakage had quarter filled it. We passed the blue and red hire fleet, and thankfully they were moored well with no slack in the lines. In other places, the boats can be moored three abreast with slack lines, and they all move across as you pass.

Leighton Lock

Hire fleet

We passed the Tesco moorings, with the usual flotilla of ducks waiting for bread, and we moored a little way further on, past the apartments, where there was a decent hedge for Hugo instead of vandal proof fencing.

Hugo on lookout duty

Hazel went shopping in the town, and James went to help her for the Aldi and Tesco part.

Back to the boat, and looking forward to the Baptist Church in the morning.

Leighton Buzzard mooring

Sunset in Leighton Buzzard

4 locks, 4 miles

Sun 21st Oct  Leighton Buzzard

We walked up through the town, passing our usual New Life Church, who have their meeting in a school.  We went to Hockliffe Street Baptist Church, where we understood from their website that our friend David Allsop had preached last Sunday. David is now part of Broughton Church, but is a retired Baptist minister.  We had a warm welcome, and mentioned our connection with David to several people.  It was not until talking to the pastor over coffee that we discovered that it is a different David Allsop, and today he was the guy on the keyboard! We must have confused several people today.

Inside the church

The worship band played from the first floor balcony where the organ is situated. Apart from the keyboard player, there was a guitarist, a lady singer, a trombone player, a drummer, and a cellist.  The talk was from Paul’s letter to Timothy, and was a call to declare our faith to others.

After coffee there, we went to Mevan Turkish restaurant, where we had booked a table for 1pm.  The menu was not the same as the lunchtime one we had seen online, and it turned out that the lunch one was only available Monday to Friday. Checking the website later, it does say that in small print at the bottom. However, we did not want the menu on offer, so we apologised and left. 

We went to the pub next door called the Picture House (an old cinema) which was serving Sunday Roasts. They advertised themselves as a traditional free house. Hoping for a decent cider, we discovered that they had a cider festival going on, with a range of cardboard box ciders behind the bar.  Brilliant, we thought, but on closer inspection, not one of them was made from just apples. They all had other pollutants like raspberry, rhubarb or mango. The only apple ciders were Strongbow or Magners.

We ordered our roast beef lunches, and James had half a Strongbow, while Hazel had a very sweet Mango “cider”.  When the food arrived, it was the worst roast beef we had ever experienced. It was actually inedible.  The first forkful took several minutes to chew, and was tasteless. We don’t often leave food on the plate, but we could not eat any more. We spoke to the manager to point it out, and he agreed with us and gave us a full refund (which we hadn’t asked for). The desserts were very good.

We walked back to the boat via Aldi and Tesco

No boating today

Next: A four day cruise back to Aylesbury, with probable good weather forecast. We are looking forward to catching up with boating friends and people from Broughton Church, plus the Boaters Christian Fellowship AGM in Rugby on Saturday.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Stoke Bruerne to Milton Keynes

Mon 15th Oct  Stoke Bruerne

This morning was dull and wet, as had been forecast for the rest of the day. We sent a text to Kathryn who came along later to hello, and have a cuppa on board. It was good to catch up.

We went to explore the Boat Inn “shop”. This is a small room in the pub that holds some basics for boaters and perhaps locals as there is no proper shop in the village, and the bus only runs on Sundays.  We came away with a loaf of bread.

On the way back we looked in on Kathryn to see her new sports car, and then went for tea and cake in the cafe with her, before returning to the boat to catch up on a few things.

Stoke Bruerne on a wet day

We went for a meal at the Boat Inn in the evening. Chicken Bruerne was very good – chicken, bacon and goat’s cheese. The cod in parsley sauce was also good.

The Boat Inn

No boating today

Tue 16th Oct  Stoke Bruerne to Yardley Gobion

A misty start, although sunshine had been forecast for later.

Moored in Stoke Bruerne

Foggy dew

We set off to the top lock to say farewell to Kathryn before going down the locks.

Passing Sculptor on the way to the locks

Farewell to Kathryn

While we were there the boat moored next to us had got organised and came down ready to share the locks with us. This was Shadow, with Bridget and Denis. It turned out that they had been in the Boat Inn last night as well, and had witnessed the guy behind the bar writing a song with his guitar. They had been in a different part of the bar.

Sharing Top Lock with Shadow

The first two locks were in our favour.  In the Long Pound we spotted Kathryn’s old boat Leo 2, so we sent her a photo.

Leo 2

After this the locks were against us, and we spotted a boat going down three locks ahead. However, another boat appeared, coming up the locks towards us, and there was another boat two locks behind that, so locks were back in our favour.

Synchronised boating

We emptied a cassette and disposed of rubbish at the facilities at the foot of the locks, and left Shadow filling their water tank.

There were very few boats moving. We stopped just after Bridge 62 at Yardley Gobion, as this was furthest from the busy A508, and there were wide views across farmland.  After about thirty minutes, Shadow went past.

Rural mooring near Yardley Gobion

There was a footpath marked on the map, so we decided to explore Yardley Gobion, as we had never been before. The footpath led us from Bridge 62 up a hill beside a farm, and across a very cloggy field. Thankfully we were both wearing boots.  After kicking off the mud as best we could, we walked along the road into the village where we saw a nice looking pub called the Coffee Pot Tavern. We asked a local where the shop was and were directed through a housing estate to a NISA store where we bought a few items. We returned along a different road, through the old part of the village, which has picturesque thatched cottages.

Cottages in Yardley Gobion

The Coffee Pot Inn

We saw a couple doing some gardening in the churchyard, and it turned out that they were Rob and Helen, and he is a volunteer with Scorpio, the historic boat at the Canal Museum, with Kathryn.

We stopped at the pub for a very welcome coffee, before walking back to the boat.  We chose a different route to avoid the muddy field, walking down the hill towards the canal basin, and crossing the canal at Bridge 60. It was slightly further, but a lot easier.

On the towpath we found what was left of a crayfish. We wondered what might have caught and eaten it. Apparently otters eat them, but we don’t know what else. Herons? Mink?

It remained cloudy all day – we never did get the sunshine we had been promised – just a glimpse at sunset time.

Yardley Gobion sunset.

Hugo caught a mouse later, and we heard a tawny owl in the trees close by.

7 locks, 4 miles, 1 mouse

Wed 17th Oct  Yardley Gobion to Stanton Low Park

It was misty this morning, and it was late by the time we left our mooring.  As we did so, another boat came into view behind us, and they followed us almost all the way.

We passed the Navigation Inn at Thrupp Wharf – one day we will stop and eat here. We also passed through Cosgrove without stopping, and even passed the sanitary station as we didn’t need it.

Navigation Inn

Solomon’s Bridge at Cosgrove

A boat had just come out of Cosgrove lock, but there was one still in there, which wasn’t moving. A guy was on the opposite side of the lock and he started to close the lock gate. We said not to as there were two boats coming in. So he walked back round the lock ever so slowly to get on the boat with his mate, before they came out at snail speed.

So we went into the lock, and the other boat, Bishy Barny Bee, came in beside us. There was another boat waiting to come up (a diesel bug cleaning boat) and another waiting to come down by the time we left the lock.  The boat we shared with stopped before the Cosgrove Aqueduct, but we continued across the Great Ouse, and on as far as Wolverton, where we paused on the bollards.

Waiting for Cosgrove Lock

We saw a container ship!

Cosgrove Iron Trunk Aqueduct

Crossing the aqueduct

Looking down on the Great Ouse

Under the Brunel Railway bridge

Hazel went over the footbridge in the direction of Tesco, while James tried to get to the station by using the steps up to the road. He found they were sealed off, but there was a footpath to one side. That had a turnstile preventing entry from the canal, allowing only exit. He gave up and followed Hazel to Tesco for serious provisions. This was the first large shop since Leamington Spa.

The sealed off staircase

Trying to get back with the trolley was a challenge as there were lots of steps. There was a lift that we have used in the past, but it was out of order.  We managed it with difficulty, and then Hazel started unpacking, while James went back across the footbridge to gain access to the station by the road. Here he managed to obtain our pre-ordered rail tickets to Suffolk from the machine.

Back at the boat, we set off again, with some sunshine at last, having spent two hours altogether at this temporary stop.

The Wolverton Railway Mural

Grafton Street Aqueduct looking back

We cruised for another two miles, stopping at what we used to call Stantonbury Park, but it now seems to be called Stanton Low Park. It is possible that Stantonbury Park is on the south side of the canal, where Stantonbury Park Farm used to be, and Stanton Low Park is on the north side, where it slopes down towards the Great Ouse. It was here that James saw a cuckoo in the spring this year.

Stanton Low Park

Our mooring

Hugo ventured out, but was soon chased back in by two very fast dogs from a boat moored further up. 

We had some red sky later. Hugo ventured out again.


1 lock, 5 miles

Next:  further round the perimeter of Milton Keynes, with a shopping break, and then up to Leighton Buzzard. (Down on the maps, i.e. further south, but up in terms of rising through the locks).  Aiming for Hockliffe Street Baptist Church for Sunday where David Allsop (a friend from Aylesbury) preached last week.