Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Norton Junction to Milton Keynes

Monday 13th October

Norton Junction

A very wet day.  An amazing number of boats were still on the move despite the rain.

Rang Kathryn to arrange to meet at Stoke Bruerne, to find she was working up the Buckby flight on an old working boat belonging to a chap called Mike.  James went to meet her and helped her through the last lock.  They came for a coffee on Gabriel, before Kathryn went back by car, and Mike went on towards Braunston where he had booked into the dry dock for a week to paint the boat.

No boating today

Tuesday 14th October

Norton Junction to Bugbrooke

We cruised the short distance to the facilities and as we emptied cassettes and disposed of rubbish, we filled the lock – the bottom gates were open.

Buckby Top Lock
Busy A5 by Buckby Top Lock

We passed under the busy A5, and as we passed a boat called Lady Elizabeth, Andy suggested we share the rest of the locks.  We also saw BCF boat Padworth but no one was evident.

As Andy was on his own, we tied the two boats together, and Hazel steered.  At one point there were two sets of two boats coming up, and they were very slow, which held us up.

Sharing with Lady Elizabeth

Breasting up

After the seven locks, we stopped and had a late breakfast at Whilton Locks Café, which was very good.  Perfectly done fried eggs.  We visited the chandlery and bought a large bottle of their own brand of toilet blue.

We stopped at Weedon where we visited a new Tesco express. Kathryn had told us about it.

A little further on we saw Padworth again. This time we were able to say hello to Jeff and Gill Crow, BCF members we hadn’t met before.  They have shared ownership of this boat, and put BCF stickers in the window when they are using the boat.

Alpha was moored a little further on. They had a BCF sticker but there was no one around, and we couldn’t find them in the BCF directory.

Just after that, we were hailed by a young man who spotted our BCF sign.  He had just bought a boat from Whilton Marina and this was his maiden voyage. He had never been through a lock before but this boat was to be his home.  We gave him such literature as we had, but we have no suitable BCF membership forms.

We stopped at Stowe Hill Marine, but discovered that it was closed. The fuel price at 77.9p was very good.  Thankfully, two miles south, we were able to fill up at Bridge 32, where the price was 76p!  We also bought some coal.

We stopped a few minutes later just before Bugbrooke, where the railway is slightly quieter and there are some badger setts.

Moored near the Bugbrooke badgers

Active badger sett

When it was dark, James crept along the path towards the sett, and could hear some scuffling noises.  With camera at the ready, and with great excitement, he waited for the badgers to appear. Then the phone rang! It was Enterprise Car Hire following up our recent rental.  The moment was ruined and he never saw the badgers.  Having a camera and phone in one gadget does have disadvantages at times.

Back at the boat, Hugo was hiding behind a bush, and he leaped out as James went past. Very playful.

7 locks, 7 miles, 5hr05

Wednesday 15th October

Bugbrooke to Blisworth

The day started mild, turning chilly later.

We paused at Gayton junction services 25 minutes. A boat called Elan was there, and was still there when we left.

We called in to Blisworth Marina where we saw our old boat at its mooring. We phoned Arthur to find out where he was, and it turned out he was on board.  We had a chat with him, and invited him for a meal that evening.

Our previous boat in Blisworth Marina (The green one)

We cruised on to Blisworth, where three fishermen were occupying most of the mooring length. We squeezed in at one end, and went shopping in the village.

As we arrived back at the boat, we noticed Elan moored further along. Heavy rain started.  We send Arthur a text suggesting he come by car as more rain was forecast.  We had a pleasant meal with him, but were concerned that he has no heating on his boat.  The corner bubble won’t light (it probably needs a service), and, although he has electricity at the marina, he has no electric heater.


Moored at Blisworth

0 locks, 5 miles, 1hr50

Thursday 16th October

Blisworth to Stoke Bruerne

An old warehouse in Blisworth

After all the rain, we had a very wet pram hood to dry off before we folded it down for the tunnel.  The tunnel was wet in places with water pouring through holes in the walls and roof. We met no other boats and it took 28 minutes.  There were plenty of moorings, so we stopped almost opposite Kathryn’s boat Leo II on some piling, just before the bollards.

Leaving Blisworth Tunnel

We went to explore the village and found Kathryn looking out of her cottage door. She invited us in to look round, or rather, up and down. Her place is on four floors, with a room on each floor. It is ideal for her, being very central to all that goes on in the village.

After coffee we explored the two pubs.  The Boat Inn first, which has bar food in one area, and a restaurant with a more up market menu upstairs.  We found that they had a still cider, and we booked a table for four tomorrow at 7pm in the restaurant.

We looked at the shop in the pub, which has very basic items, but no bread or vegetables.

The Navigation Inn had a very standard looking menu, and we stopped for a cider, which was OK, but nothing special.

We had lunch back on the boat, sitting in the stern in the sunshine.  Kathryn went past on the heavily laden Sculptor, with BBC cameras capturing the scene for an item on Look East.

Kathryn at the helm of Sculptor

Later we went to meet Kathryn for dinner at the Indian restaurant, which was very good, especially as she is known in there, and we had some extra dishes on the house.

We then went to a room behind the museum where there was a talk from the lock keeper at St John’s Lock, Lechlade

Back on the boat we managed to get Look East on i-player, with a lot of buffering. There was shot where Sculptor went past our boat and we were sitting on the back deck.  There was no mention of Stoke Bruerne or the Canal Museum. That was a shame because the BBC made no payment for the use of the boat, as the museum was hoping to gain some publicity from it.

Hugo was out somewhere, but we suddenly saw a mouse running from the galley area into the saloon. Galvanised into action, James managed to catch it and release it into the hedge. Hugo must have brought it in while we were out.

0 locks, 3 miles, 1 tunnel, 1 mouse

Friday 17th October

Stoke Bruerne

This morning there was some blood on the floor indicating the demise of a mouse.  Whether it was the same one as last night we will never know.

We had a short walk to the tunnel mouth to explore. James came back via the “woodland walk” which was parallel, but higher up the bank.  There were some wire sculptures of animals.

Hazel went to see Kathryn again.

We saw Elan going down through the locks

The Boat Inn at night

Allen and Angela
It was good to catch up over dinner with Allen and Angela (previous residents at Portmore Quays) in the upstairs restaurant at the Boat Inn.  A very good meal, but there was only one other table in use.  A shame for a Friday, which should be busy.

No boating today

1 mouse

Saturday 18th October

Stoke Bruerne to Cosgrove

Cloudy and windy

The first lock was against us. As it was filling, James tried to raise Kathryn, but the TV was on and she evidently didn’t hear him call.

The rest of the Stoke Bruerne locks were in our favour, except the last one, which was empty with the bottom gates open.  We used the facilities at the bottom before moving off again.  As we left, we noticed that the bottom lock was emptying, and a boat appeared about ten minutes behind us.

Locking down from Stoke Bruerne
We travelled through some open countryside past Yardley Gobion and Thrupp Wharf. At Cosgrove we passed under the lovely Soloman’s Bridge, built of mellow stone. What a contrast to the ugly bridge 54 which carried the A508 Northampton Road across the locks just south of Stoke Bruerne.

The ugly bridge over the Stoke Bruerne lock flight

The mellow stone Soloman’s Bridge at Cosgrove

We paused at Cosgrove facilities to empty our final cassette, and to let the boat behind catch up before we used the lock.  We shared the lock with them, and they were heading for Stoke Hammond that night, a lot further than we were going.

Sharing Cosgrove Lock

We stopped on the embankment, on some piling before the aqueduct.  We had a little rain, which had been forecast.

James went to explore the aqueduct, and read on the information boards that there was a small horse tunnel under the canal at Cosgrove, as well as the one by the aqueduct.  Perhaps we will try to find this next time.

Cosgrove Iron Aqueduct

The tunnel under the aqueduct

8 locks, 6 miles, 3hr35

Sunday 19th October

Cosgrove to Wolverton to Bridge 75 Stantonbury Park

As we were getting ready to leave, a hire boat went past, and we pulled out behind him.  He was very slow, but we weren’t going far.

We stopped in Wolverton on some rings in a new development of apartments near the station.   We used the new footbridge to cross the canal, and headed into Wolverton in search of King’s Church. 

Moored on rings in Wolverton

The new footbridge

We have been to this church twice before, when they met in a school.  From their website we found that they have managed to purchase the old Wesleyan Church which they are restoring.  They now also own the community centre next door, which was previously run by the council.  We were expecting to meet in the church, but welcome signs were out by the community centre doors, so we went in and up some stairs to where the band was practising and people were gathering.

There was a good mix of modern worship songs and old hymns.  The talk was based on a passage in Hosea, where the people had let the temple remain in ruins. When they started to restore the temple, God’s favour returned.

This is an exciting project. The church has moved from being a small, almost private, family church meeting in a school, to finding a place in the heart of the community where they are visible and active.

King’s Church

The project

We had lunch in a café afterwards and looked round the shops.  As well as Tesco, there is a small Asda, and Wolverton supermarket, which specialises in Asian food.

We stocked up with a few things, and then cruised to quieter moorings just before bridge 75, where, a few years ago, we couldn’t see any houses, but now a housing estate has stared to creep over the brow of the hill towards the canal.

There was a bit of a cat fracas – Hugo and a small black and white cat. Otherwise a peaceful night.

0 locks, 4 miles, 1hr25

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