Mon 22nd Oct Leighton Buzzard to Little Seabrook
Lots of sunshine today, and no mist for a change.
We spotted Brighton Belle going past. This boat used to belong to someone in Byfleet Boat Club when we were members there. We were almost ready to go, so we decided to get organised and catch them up to share the locks.
Brighton Belle going past
When we pulled out past the widebeam in front of us, we met Brighton Belle coming back. They asked where the water point was, so we told them. So we lost our lock sharing opportunity.
Just around the corner we spotted a boat called Out and About, which belongs to Tudor. We had expected to see him in Milton Keynes as we usually do. There was no sign of him on board.
Out and About
At Grove Lock we were ascending in the lock, when we saw a boat coming out of the marina in front of us and disappear in the direction of Church Lock. Perhaps we could catch them up and share locks.
When we arrived at Church Lock we found that there were two boats in the lock going up, so we couldn’t share. A CRT work boat was inconsiderately moored on the lock bollards so it was difficult to get into the side.
CRT boat on the lock landing
Between Horton and Ivinghoe Locks, the level was very low, and we just stopped on the bottom at one point. We managed to get going again, but we couldn’t get into the side for James to get off, so we went into the entrance to the lock where he could use the steps. The other two boats were still in the lock, and one of their crew had gone forward to let more water down from the lock above. It was still low when it was our turn, but we managed OK.
We decided we wouldn’t go all the way to Marsworth with all the locks against us, so we stopped after the first of the three Seagrove Locks.
Moored at Seagrove
We had a visit from Stewart and Jenny, BCF members on Shadowfax. We had met them before in 2013, when they had a boat called Unruffled.
Stewart and his dogs
Jenny on Shadowfax
It was a clear night with a full moon. The mooring was quiet, except for occasional trains in the night.
7 locks, 6 miles
Tue 23rd Oct Little Seabrook to Marsworth
A pair of historic boats went past early. We saw a flock of redwings feeding on the autumn berries opposite.
We didn’t have far to go today. The first lock (the middle Seabrook Lock) was almost empty, as was the top lock. Then came the swing bridge which seemed heavier, taking a long time to gain momentum.
Seabrook middle lock
The two Marsworth Locks were both against us, the top one with one top gate open. Having closed the gates ourselves, we looked back after we had left, and one gate had swung open again.
Marsworth Top Lock
We stopped on rings just as we arrived in Marsworth, as it is quieter here, with better views.
The rings at Marsworth
4 locks, 3 miles, 1 swing bridge.
Wed 24th Oct Marsworth to Puttenham
Last night we had the offer of help from Simon and Pat, who would walk up to find us and help us through the locks on the Aylesbury Arm. This morning we found a message to say they couldn’t after all because they had landlord duties to perform (a leak to fix).
We had cassettes to empty and a water tank to fill, plus breakfast to eat at Bluebells Cafe. As we arrived at the water point we realised that our hose would not reach unless we turned round, so we decided to go to the cafe first.
We turned at the junction and moored up almost opposite. As James was opening the locker to retrieve a mooring pin, his back went into spasm. Hazel took over the mooring of the boat, and we hobbled slowly towards the cafe for breakfast.
We now had 14 locks to do over the next two days, and we could have done with the help from Simon and Pat. While we were in the cafe, three CRT volunteers walked in for their breakfast. Before we left, Hazel asked them if they could help us on the Aylesbury Arm instead of their usual domain of the seven locks by the reservoirs. Confusingly, they are all called the Marsworth Locks. They said they were only meant to do the ones by the reservoirs.
Walking back from the cafe
Old wharf building and crane at Marsworth
We returned to the boat, and moved across to the facilities. While we were there, the volunteers turned up and said they had decided they could help us.
So we set off down the arm with James steering, and Hazel and three volunteers pushing lock gates and winding handles.
Help on the staircase
Angels disguised as CRT volunteers
We had the volunteers as far as lock 7, and then we had two more locks on our own. James managed to close two gates to save Hazel walking round.
On our own again
Hazels Turn to steer
Gudgeon Stream Lock no 9
We moored on piling just before Puttenham Top Lock no 10. We found some late damsons on a tree and with cunning use of our landing net plus a boat pole we gathered enough for some jam.
Our damson haul
Moored near Puttenham
Hopefully tomorrow we will be able to deal with the five remaining locks into our winter mooring.
James found that he seized up when sitting for any length of time, so he decided to go for a walk along a footpath that left from the lock. It took him about a mile to Wilstone Reservoir.
In the first field there were eight partridges, and in the second there were two pheasants. In another field there was a hare. When he arrived at the reservoir there was a bird hide, and he saw herons, egrets, gadwall, cormorants, shovelers, tufted ducks, pochard, plus all the usual coots, moorhens, mallard, etc. It was a lovely peaceful moment. On the way back he saw more hares and some rabbits.
The view from the hide to the left
The view from the hide to the right
There was a beautiful sunset later
Sunset over Puttenham
9 locks, 2 miles
Thu 25th Oct Puttenham to Circus Field Basin
Everything was soaked in dew this morning, and there was a pheasant on the towpath outside our window. The hedge on the towpath side blocked the sunlight from reaching the boat.
We negotiated the two Puttenham Locks, then passed Bates boatyard, which specialises in wooden boats. Many of them appear to need a lot of effort to get them into good condition.
Puttenham Top Lock
Wooden boats - suit DIY enthusiast
When we reached Buckland Lock, we paused in the lock to clean the boat, as it will be difficult to this when we are moored stern on for the winter. This lock has an old stone rim on the right, but on the left it has all been renewed following the collapse of the lock wall a few years ago.
At Red House Lock we discovered that the safety ratchet on the off side bottom gate was badly worn and would not hold the paddle in place. Email to C&RT.
Faulty safety ratchet
Soon we started to see the new development that is taking place. We saw four kingfishers today, and at Broughton Locks, our final one, there was a red kite circling overhead to welcome us back.
Red Kite at Broughton Lock
We tried to phone Geoff to warn of our arrival, but got a recorded message. Later we found that Bryan was temporary harbourmaster, while Geoff was recovering from an operation on his shoulder..
We passed our apartment but there was no sign of John and Ruzenka or our tenant. Hazel got off at the bows to lift the lift bridge as we entered Circus Field Basin. We saw that the welcome boat sign was on Bryans boat, so we rang him to find that we had our usual mooring space. We tied alongside him while he finished his lunch, and then filled our diesel tank.
Into the basin
We found a place to off load our coal from the roof, and Tim appeared, and offered to take down the heavy sacks for us, to save James’ back. We have also had a delivery of coal which Hazel managed to hide behind the sheds.
We moored the boat stern on and connected the electric cable, and installed our ramp for access.
What a great year it has been!
5 locks, 3 miles, 1 lift bridge
Totals for the year: 466 locks, 596 miles, 35 lift or swing bridges.
So here we are for the winter. There won’t be a regular blog – just occasional noteworthy entries – until the end of March when we will be off again.
On Friday we hope to see friends in the bar, and on Saturday we borrow a car from Tim and Hilary (Thank you!) and go to the BCF AGM in Rugby, followed by a family meal in a pub nearby with Cousin Anabel, Liz Zinn (cousin-in-law) Clare and Craig. On Sunday we go to our church for the first time since April. We have already been invited out to lunch after the service.