Saturday, 19 October 2019

Milton Keynes to Aylesbury

Tue 15th October  Peartree Bridge to Leighton Buzzard

Heavy rain in the night meant that the towpath was very wet and muddy as we set off on our final week of cruising. We can only imagine what wet paths were like in the days of horse drawn boats. There were some nice autumn colours around, as well as a fearless heron, who stayed put as we passed.

Muddy towpath

Brave heron

Autumn colours

We arrived at Fenny Stratford Lock, which has a rise of just a few inches, and a swingbridge over the top, which I won't go on about this time. We filled our water tank, which took some time as the pressure was low, but not like the trickle we had found at Peartree Bridge. We also emptied bins and cassettes.

James helped a lady with the swingbridge, as there is a foot catch which is not mentioned in the instructions on the notice board.

Fenny Stratford Lock

After Stoke Hammond Lock, we met Martin and Julie on Ruby Louise, the boat we had shared with on the Buckby and Stoke Bruerne Locks a few days ago. They had been to Aylesbury and back. Will we meet again? I hope so.

Stoke Hammond Lock

Ruby Louise

There were three volunteer lock keepers (like buses!) on the Three Locks flight, so we made good progress. James gave out “How do locks work” to one of them.

The Globe Inn looked very picturesque as we passed, and we paused for shopping at Tesco and Aldi. We seldom pass here without stopping! Out and About was moored up, but no sign of Tudor and Flo.

Globe Inn

Out and About moored by the shops

We moved on, looking for a mooring where our washing would dry. We found a place in the sunshine just before Tiddenfoot Park.

Moored at Tiddenfoot

6 locks, 10 miles, 1 swing bridge. Dep 0850 arr Tesco 1355. Dep 1505 arr 1520

Wed 16th October  Leighton Buzzard to Marsworth

There were some lovely red autumn colours as we arrived at Grove Lock, where we remember the old lock cottage being converted into a pub.

Red autumn colours

Grove Lock

There were no moving boats around as we headed south through Church, Slapton and Horton Locks on our own. At Ivinghoe Locks we met a small sailing boat. They seemed unsure of things, not getting back on the boat at the lock when it was easy, but fiddling around further down the canal instead. Several of the locks have double arched bridges, where there was a plan to have a second lock built.

Horton Lock

Ivinghoe Locks

Double arched bridge

At one point James was taking a picture of a cormorant on a wire, when two kingfishers appeared, and James had the camera ready.



Flying off

Seagrove middle lock

Side ponds no longer used

Red leaves

The swing bridge at Pitstone

Our final wide lock was at Marsworth, and we moored up on the rings soon after, where we still had some sunshine before some trees make it darker.

Marsworth Lock

Moored in Marsworth

We went for a muddy walk down the towpath to the Red Lion for a meal. This pub is very unspoilt, and has a quaint way of operating, with separate payments for the bar and the kitchen. The pictures on the walls are completely random, with a picture of the Thames next to a map of scotch whiskies. The ornaments on the shelves look like a bric-a-brac stall. The meal was good, and they had a decent Weston’s cider. The lady chef lives on a narrowboat called Princess Bess.

11 locks, 7 miles, 1 swing bridge. Dep 1120 arr 1555.

Thu 16th October  Marsworth to Buckland Lock

This was another lovely sunny day. We didn’t need to stop for facilities, except for a bag of ash which James left in the bin as we passed.

Leaving our Marsworth mooring

October sunshine

Sunshine at Marsworth

We turned into the Aylesbury Arm and descended the staircase pair of locks, continuing further down until it started to rain at Wilstone, so we moored up.

Marsworth Junction

Lock 1 on the Aylesbury Arm

Down the staircase

Sunny cruising

Raining at Wilstone

Eventually the rain stopped, and we started off again to do a further three locks, before stopping by the Arla dairy.

Restoration project

Moored near the dairy

A heron flies off

11 locks, 3 miles. Dep 1000 arr Wilstone 1150. Dep 1400 arr 1520 Dairy.

Fri 17th October  Buckland Lock to Aylesbury Canal Society

We had heavy rain in the night with thunder and lightning. A lot of leaves fell on our boat in the wind. Although the dairy was very close to us, there was no disturbance from lorries or machinery. By the morning we had bright sunshine as we faced the final three locks of the year. 


The dairy

Buckland Lock

Crinkly piling at Red House Lock

There is one very reedy section where the reeds touch the boat on both sides, reminiscent of some of the waterways on the fens.

A path through the reeds

The view from the bows

Squeezing through Bridge 10

We had phoned Andrew the moorings manager, but he was off site. Bryan was also unavailable, so we had to operate the lift bridge ourselves. There is nowhere for anyone to get off from the stern, so Hazel got off by the bridge from the bows and then James reversed back for some distance to make a wider sweep into the basin.

Our apartment

A tricky manoeuvre

Into the canal basin

We then reversed onto the fuel pontoon, where we filled the diesel tank, and offloaded flowerpots and coal bags. We sat out a small shower before making the final move across to our usual mooring for the winter.

We went to the bar in the evening where we caught up with lots of people and discussed the years cruising, house building, boat painting, pumpouts and cassettes. We tried to avoid the B word, as Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal will be voted on tomorrow, and the subject is very divisive.

Our winter mooring

3 locks, 3 miles, 1 lift bridge. Dep 1010 arr 1150.

Totals for 2019:

413 locks, 843 miles, 10 lift or swing bridges, 6 tunnels, 371 cruising hours.

No plans for blogging during the winter. We are off to Australia for a while. Next year’s boating plans are not made yet.

Monday, 14 October 2019

A few days in Milton Keynes

Thu 10th October  Giffard Park to Peartree Bridge

It was a lovely day for the short cruise to Peartree Bridge to be nearer the bus routes. WE passed some art works and the entrance to what will one day be a link to Bedford, now used for moorings.

Art installation

The MK to Bedford link

Moored near Peartree Bridge

Then we took bus no 4 into Milton Keynes. We ordered some waterproof boots for James from Hotter, then went to Chopstix for a meal before catching the bus back again. We had had some rain, and the towpath here was now very wet and muddy.

0 locks, 3 miles

Fri 11th October  Peartree Bridge / Saxmundham

Bus number 4 again, this time to Milton Keynes railway station, where we successfully acquired our tickets from a machine. We tried to go through the barriers for an earlier train to London, to give us more transit time, but the barriers would not open for us. Then we discovered that the only public toilets were on the platforms, so the guard had to let us through. We waited on platform 4 where other Euston trains were departing from, but noticed that our designated train was not listed on the departures for that platform. Making enquiries, we found it was going from platform 2, so we crossed the bridge again. As we got on the train, we found that it was stopping at several stations, and not direct, as the others had been.

The transit through London was an unnecessary rush as a result, on a section of the Northern Line, and one stop on the Central Line. A lady in her thirties gave up her seat for James, who  didn’t know whether to feel grateful or elderly.

At Liverpool Street we had no time to sit down for a drink as we would have liked, but instead had to grab take away things. Hazel’s mug of tea fell over in the paper carrier bag, and tea made the bag soggy, so the whole mug dropped onto the floor of the train, spilling tea everywhere. James used a lot of loo roll from the nearby train loo to mop it up before someone slipped on the wet floor.  Hazel went without tea as there was no buffet car.

We arrived at Ipswich and were met by Maggie, and we went to visit cousin Andrew in hospital, who is still suffering from a stroke, and has recently burned his hand severely from the hot water in his apartment. He was finding it difficult to find the words he wanted to say, and was obviously frustrated by this. He pointed to his hand and said, “Half of this is coming off next week”. We hadn’t been told that he was going to have an amputation. Then it dawned on us that he meant that some of the bandages were to be removed instead.

We left the hospital and went via Waitrose in Maggie’s car to join her and Clive for two nights at their home near Saxmundham.

We took the cover off our car on their drive where it had been for six months, and we reconnected the battery. The engine started first time, but the tyres were soft.

No boating today

Sat 12th October  Peartree Bridge / Saxmundham

There was some post to sort out today, plus car tyres to inflate with Clive’s compressor. Then we all went for a lovely pub lunch at the White Horse in Sibton. They have won AA rosettes and other awards, justly deserved.

We drove back through Framlingham to see the sausage festival, and then discovered that it wasn’t happening until tomorrow!

No boating today

Sun 13th October  Peartree Bridge / Saxmundham

Looking out of the kitchen window this morning, there was a kingfisher on a branch overhanging the pond. He dived in several times, but we didn’t see him catch anything. He was there for 15 minutes.

Maggie and Clive

We left Maggie and Clive and set off by car for Milton Keynes. Our route took us through Framlingham again, but we didn’t stop for sausages.

Before returning to our boat, we called in at Waitrose for some bits, including their Ancient Grains Muffins, which had been out of stock in Saxmundham.

Back on the boat, we lit a fire, and started the engine to give the batteries a boost. We went for a Sunday carvery at the Waterside, which was very good. We wanted to leave the car there overnight, and have breakfast there in the morning, but we were told we would be charged if we stayed beyond midnight.  James found an alternative place to park, the other side of the canal.

We visited Milton Keynes Christian Centre and enjoyed their café church. The sermon was based on the first verse of the first chapter of the book of James. We met someone who lives in Fenny Stratford, close to where we hope to have a mission next year.

Back to the boat by car, parking it on a small estate road, and walking back through a small park, avoiding the wet towpath.

The park

No boating today

Mon 14th October  Peartree Bridge / Aylesbury

We drove to Aylesbury, collecting a prescription for Hazel, and calling in at More+, the café run by our church. We met several friends there and enjoyed coffee and cake.

We then went to the canal basin where we collected parcels and post. We left the car there and took a bus back to Milton Keynes where we had a meal in a sushi restaurant for the first time. We collected boots from Hotter for James – not the ones we had ordered, as they were uncomfortable, but instead James chose a different style.

Then we took a number 4 bus back to Peartree Bridge and returned to the boat. It had rained for most of the day, and we stayed put.

No boating today

Next: We start the final leg of our journey back to Aylesbury, hoping to reach the canal basin by Friday, when many of the boat residents gather in the bar.