Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Leighton Buzzard to Aylesbury

Monday 27th October

Leighton Buzzard to Slapton

 Moored at Leighton Buzzard 

Water art?

A warm sunny day.  First of all we visited Tesco to stock up for the week. The next shop for us will be in Aylesbury.  James’ back was particularly painful when walking today. He has been having trouble for about a month.

Returning to the boat, we discovered that Kookaburra had already gone. 

The first lock was Grove Lock, which was half full, or rather half empty, as presumably Kookaburra had left it full, and leakage had drained some water out.

Approach to Grove Lock

Above Grove Lock we called in at the Marina for some gas. Thankfully they had the 6kg size.  £24 seemed expensive, but we needed it.

The only other lock was Church Lock, which needed emptying.  We picked a sunny place to moor, shortly before Slapton Lock, because Hazel had done some washing.

Moored at Slapton

Amazing weather for the end of October.   A hire boat went past us very late when it was practically dark.

2 locks, 4 miles, 1hr55

Tuesday 28th October

Slapton to Marsworth

Morning at Slapton

Everything was very wet from dew this morning.  James got up earlier than necessary because the clocks changed at the weekend, and our bodies haven’t caught up yet.  He walked up to the lock to check where the water point was.

Last night’s hire boat had moored on the lock bollards, and was just setting off into the lock.  It was the first one they had done on their own, without sharing the lock, and James gave them some tips about which paddles to use first.  As they reached the top, another boat came in view at the bottom, and James suggested to the hire boat crew that they wait at the next lock for them.

It took a while to dry off the pram hood.  There had been no rain but everything was soaked with dew.  Two other boats went past while we were doing this.

When we finally set off (0955) there was no other boat to share with.  We paused at the water point above the lock, hoping another boat would come along, but none did.

By the time we got going again (1055) the sun was shining and it was warm.

Horton Lock was against us (expected).  We looked for the Whipsnade Lion all along this stretch, but we couldn’t see it.

Horton Wharf

Between the two Ivinghoe Locks

Autumn Leaves

Berries in profusion

After the two Ivinghoe Locks, and the first of the three Seagrove Locks, we met our first boat of the day.  The rest of the locks were then in our favour.  As we left Seagrove Lock 36, a guy on a bike shouted to us to leave the gate open, and he would open the swing bridge for us.  As we passed him he explained that there was a pair of working boats coming.

By Pitstone Wharf there are two fairly blind bends under bridges, and so we went warily under the first, and spotted the bows of the working boat coming towards the second bridge. We tucked in to the side to let them pass. It was Brighton and Nuneaton, The Narrowboat Trust pair, and we spotted a familiar figure at the helm of the butty. It was Ray, from Stronghold. It’s the third time we have seen him this year.

Nuneaton and Brighton, with Ray at the helm

A little further along we saw Eternity moored up. This boat used to be in Byfleet Boat Club, and Boaters Christian Fellowship.

We also passed Knot Normal, and the guy on board shouted that Henry was further on down, at Harefield.  We are not going that far until next year.

At Marsworth Locks, there was a boat coming down in the top lock, and the bottom lock was in our favour, so we crossed over in the middle between the two locks.  We moored just before bridge 130 on some rings.

Marsworth Locks

Another gloriously sunny day, but forecast wet tomorrow.

9 locks, 3 miles, 3hr10

Wednesday 29th October


We rose this morning to find Hugo curled up on James’ clothes, with both the cat and the clothes very damp.  He had evidently fallen in again!

We went for a wander around Marsworth, and spotted Miss Molly returning from their visit to Berkhamsted with Taverners CC. We called in at the Red Lion, a very pleasant pub with no piped music, no TV screens, and no fruit machines.  Good cider and a simple menu with good food means we will return at some point.

Red Lion at Marsworth

We discovered that the largest and best-located pub, the White Lion, is closed due to a dispute between the landlord and the brewery.  The landlord also runs the Anchor, which is a freehouse and apparently popular.

We had a coffee in the Bluebell Café, which has always looked closed from the canal, which is why we have never visited before.  We sent them an email afterwards to tell them.

We wandered back in the light rain.

We discovered that there is a 60’s show on tomorrow in Aylesbury, with Herman’s Hermits and the Swinging Blue Jeans among others.  We may try and get in on the door.

No boating today

Thursday 30th October

Marsworth to Aylesbury

It was a beautiful sunny day as we set off.  Our first pause was at the facilities block and we were at the top of the Aylesbury Arm by 0930.  The 16 locks are narrow, so you cannot share. The first two locks, a staircase, were in our favour, as were the next two. 

 Lock 1, Aylesbury Arm

After that, most of the locks had been left empty, with a paddle up on the bottom gates, as requested by signs on the lock beams.  The design of the lock gates means that you cannot step across from one side to the other as you can on the Oxford or Coventry Canals, so James used a long boat hook to push open or pull shut the opposite bottom gate.

The canal was fairly shallow in places, and going was slow.  Locks 14 and 15 had security locks, and in number 15 we found someone else’s key, with a Calcutt Boats fob.  There was a boat going down in front of us, so we collected the key and took it with us.  Number 16 did not require a key.  As we approached the basin, two boats were coming the other way. The second one was Jacob, and they were the ones the key belonged to.

Passing Aylesbury Canal Society

We moored on a pontoon in the basin surrounded by building work.  Adjacent was the new Waitrose, then the new theatre, then on the third, a building site.   There were only two rings on the pontoon, designed for 70ft boats.  We just about managed, but it would not be very good for a shorter, say 40ft, boat.  There was a “security” gate, but the lock was not the usual boaters key, but something else.  The gate was unlocked.  The railings at the sides were insufficient to stop people getting round, even when the gate was locked, so what the plans are for these moorings we are not sure.

Moored in Aylesbury Town Basin

We went first to the theatre box office and purchased two seats for the 60’s concert, which was mostly full.  We then went to find WH Smiths, and bought a car buyer’s guide, and two Ordnance Survey maps for Aylesbury, before returning to the boat.

At about 6pm we went to the Wetherspoons pub opposite the theatre for a meal, but it was packed and there were no tables. Everyone had had the same idea.  We went round the corner, and had a lovely meal at Wagamama’s instead.

The concert was good fun. First on was the Ivy League, who had excellent harmonies. Then came Union Gap UK, also good, but the words were not so distinct.  They were joined by Dave Berry who was very entertaining.

After the interval we had the Swinging Blue Jeans, followed by Herman’s Hermits.

They were all good, but they were mostly not the original people.  The original drummer for Herman’s Hermits was there, but the Swinging Blue Jeans had no original members. The band names have continued over the years, with changes of personnel from time to time, and the repertoire stays much the same.

16 locks, 7 miles, 5hr30

Friday 31st October

Another warm day

We went to explore the shops, and found the tourist information centre after following signs round in circles and eventually asking at the museum.  We were served by a very helpful lady who gave us bus timetables, maps, and suggestions about car sales places.  This was to be her last day, so we timed it well.

We had a look round the market, before visiting the library to look at local papers.  These were kept in the research centre, which was up a steep flight of stairs.  James’ back was playing up so we asked if there was a lift.  To our surprise, there was, but it was not public.  A helpful lady escorted us through staff offices to the lift, and then, up one floor, she escorted us from the lift to the research centre.  There we found that the Bucks Herald was the best for adverts, but even then there were only three of four pages.

We managed to find a way out without using stairs, through a shopping centre.

We walked back towards the boat and had lunch in Waitrose before buying a few essentials, including a Bucks Herald.

The only other boat on the pontoons was one called Mollie, and we met Tim and Margaret, who are also booked into the Aylesbury Canal Society, but they want to stay in the centre as long as they can.

Development around the old town basin

We moved to the facilities block, where we met Richard, another boater who is on Clayhanger. He has a long term mooring permit to stay on the rings, which say “Service mooring only”.

High Bridge

Further up, by the second lock, we met Jimmy, a fisherman with a very strong Scottish accent.  He had caught a few tiny perch and a crayfish.  So it might be worth getting the traps out!

We arrived at the ACS basin, and tied to the bollards on the outside, with difficulty, as a CRT workboat was moored right in the middle.  We went to find out where we were meant to be mooring, which is right outside the clubhouse, in front of the wet dock.  Someone kindly lifted the lift bridge for us, and we demonstrated our boat handling skills as we reversed into the space. 

Into the ACS basin

We had a tour of the premises with Bryan.  There is a lot of work still going on, particularly outside, with tarmac paths being laid, and grass to be sown.

2 locks, 1 mile, 1 lift bridge, 1hr15

Saturday 1st November

We went to find the bus stop (5 minutes walk), and discovered a One-Stop shop, a chemist, and a Salvation Army church.  We took the bus to Northwest Aylesbury where the car salesrooms are.

We looked at several cars, and our initial budget more than doubled as we realised that to get reasonable comfort we would need something a bit more recent.  We looked at a Honda Jazz (a bit cramped), then a Ford Fusion (too low for James to sit in), then a Nissan Quasquai (a possibility)

We then had lunch at a pub (Table table).

Then we found the Honda sales room, where we saw a more modern Honda Jazz, which was comfortable, had cruise control and Satnav. We took it for a test drive, and bought it.  Delivery on Wednesday.  We had a lift back to the boat.

Our Honda Jazz

No boating today

Sunday 2nd November

We had ordered a taxi for 10am, and it was there waiting for us when we arrived at the gates.  He wasn’t sure where Southcourt Baptist Church was, but he found it at the third attempt, and with the help of our map.

We had a good welcome and we met the worship leader, and the person who organises the home groups.  The worship was good, and the talk was excellent. Jim Graham was the speaker, from Goldhill Baptist Church. His son is David, the pastor, who has been seriously ill, and is recovering from pneumonia at present.

Although the church seems to have everything, we are not sure that we can contribute anything to what is already happening.  It may be better to test the waters at the Salvation Army, which is very close to the canal basin.

Southcourt Baptist Church

We walked back over a long footbridge across the railway, and had lunch at Noodle Nation – very nice.

The buses for our routes were not running on Sundays, so we walked slowly back to the boat, about a mile.

We have discovered that the only time that people get together socially in the basin is on Sunday mornings, so if we decide we need to be at church on Sunday mornings, we will miss out on opportunities to get to know people. There is a dilemma.

No boating today.

So here we are in the basin in Aylesbury until the end of March, by which time the maintenance on the locks should be finished.  We will not be posting a daily blog, as we are not travelling.  We will put up some thoughts and news from time to time. Watch this space.

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