Sun 29th March
Milton Keynes. Raining in the morning as forecast.
The clocks had gone forward so we made we sure were up and awake in good time before walking the half mile to King’s Church with our brollies. We were greeted like long lost friends. We have now visited this church on four occasions – twice in their previous location in a school, and once before at this location which is a community centre. In 2012 they purchased the old Wesleyan Chapel which is a listed building and needs a lot of renovation. Then in 2014 they also purchased the Community Centre next door, which the council no longer wanted. This has enabled them to meet centrally in Wolverton and to be part of the community. When the two buildings are in use and inter-connected, they will have a very useful facility, which should enable them to reach out with the gospel message. It seems that God has been leading them on this path, as this was not the planned course of events, but a series of opportunities that have been offered and taken. You can read more at www.kingschurchmk.org.uk
King’s Church in the community centre
The service this morning was very challenging, as we went into considerable detail about the suffering Jesus underwent for us on the cross. It was an execution that was designed to be as painful and long lasting as possible.
Afterwards we needed cheering up so we visited the North Western pub for a Sunday Roast. Very good value.
This whole area used to be involved in the manufacture of railway engines and carriages and there are branch lines and buildings still visible, including a Stevenson railway bridge across the canal. There is a long mural painted at the side of the canal depicting some of the engines and carriages that were produced here.
After a quick visit to Tesco, we returned to the boat to sit out the rain and wind.
No boating today. 1 mouse.
Mon 30th March
Milton Keynes to Stoke Bruerne
Hugo had caught a mouse. Thankfully he left the remains on the wooden floor instead of the newly laundered carpets!
We set off early as there was sunshine, with a forecast of rain later. We passed through Wolverton Park, with its modern flats and dramatic sculptures, and then we crossed the Great Ouse on the iron trunk aqueduct, which was built in 1811.
Wolverton Park flats
Sculpture at Wolverton Park
Iron Trunk Aqueduct
The drop to the Great Ouse
We approached our first lock of the day, at Cosgrove. There was a hire boat on the lock bollards, filling up with water. He suggested we went ahead. There was a day boat just about to come down, so James helped the lady through, before Gabriel could enter from below.
We next passed under the ornate Soloman’s Bridge at Cosgrove. We have always wondered why this bridge name is spelt with an ‘a’ instead of an ‘o’ in the last syllable. Perhaps after some local noteworthy person? A little research online has revealed the answer. It is spelt wrongly in the Nicholson Guide! It should be Solomon’s Bridge, built between 1790 and 1800, and it is grade II* listed.
We then had a pleasant but cold cruise north towards Stoke Bruerne, arriving at the foot of the Stoke Bruerne Locks nearly two hours later.
We emptied a cassette and mostly filled the water tank. A boat had just gone up in front of us, and Hazel spoke to them and they agreed to wait for us at the next lock. There are seven locks here. Their boat was called Melody, and they are selling it and buying another shorter one called Silver Melody, so they can visit the places they couldn’t reach with a 64ft boat. Sally and Steve were a very pleasant couple and we shall look out for them.
At the top lock there were several groups of people watching the boats and we gave out three leaflets.
Wind on the water at Stoke Bruerne
We visited the water tap to complete the filling of the tank, and Kathryn came out of her cottage to see us. We arranged for her come for a meal on board later on.
Hugo was pleased to be ashore again and we had a pleasant time catching up with Kathryn about all the goings on at Byfleet Boat Club
8 locks, 9 miles, 1 mouse
Tue 31st March
Very strong winds in the night, and still blowing strong in the morning. Lighter winds not forecast until tomorrow, so we decided to stay moored up in Stoke Bruerne.
This gave us time to catch up on a few things. Hazel went through some cupboards tidying up. James prepared a song sheet for the BCF Spring Conference and sent emails to a few people.
Despite the wind, Mike was steering the small trip boat up and down to the tunnel and back all afternoon.
As we are no longer members of Byfleet Boat Club, we have taken down our old BBC burgee, and replaced it with a smart new Aylesbury Canal Society one. Our old BCF burgee, on the same flagpole, looked very tired in comparison. James replaced it with a nice new one that Anne Clark had given us about two years ago, so we now have two new burgees flying at the bows.
New for old burgees
We decided we should now make a visit to the excellent Indian restaurant here this evening. Thankfully we have some slack built into our schedule. Kathryn said she would join us, and who was waiting on our table but Mike! He is trying to save for the deposit on a house, hence the two jobs.
No boating today
Wed 1st April
Stoke Bruerne to Gayton Junction
The weather forecast was for sunshine in the morning, with rain from midday onwards. We decided therefore to get away early and head for Bugbrooke.
We were away before 9am, but didn’t get very far. We were flagged down at the entrance to the tunnel ten minutes later, and were told that a wide boat was coming through. When this happens they need to book an appointment with CRT, who will then hold up the traffic in the tunnel. Two narrowboats can pass, but there is no room for anything wider. Sure enough, a wide boat appeared out of the tunnel within ten minutes. We were told that there was a second one which was a bit slower, so we continued to wait.
James chatted to the CRT man who was very pleasant. We saw a tree creeper on the other side of the canal, as well as a coal tit. The blacksmith came out for a long tea break and talked a lot about many things. Finally, after an hour and a half wait, the second boat appeared going very slowly. It was battery powered, and the battery was nearly flat, being topped up by a small generator. They had taken two hours.
Approaching Blisworth Tunnel
The cause of the delay
When we went through the tunnel, it took 30 minutes. It was very wet at the ventilation shafts. We met three boats coming the other way.
Wet roof after Blisworth Tunnel
By the time we emerged at the Blisworth end, it was 11am, instead of the planned 9.30am, and it was cold with threatening dark clouds. We passed Melody moored up. They had evidently also stayed put yesterday because of the wind. We paused at Gayton Junction to fill the water tank, dispose of rubbish, and empty two cassettes.
When we got going again it was starting to rain, so we pulled over and moored up just before bridge 46. A sparrow hawk flew past, going low over the water.
Melody went past a few minutes later, with Steve at the helm.
Heavy rain later
0 locks, 4 miles, 1 tunnel, 1 long wait
Thu 2nd April
Gayton Junction to Norton Junction
It was cold and windy. There were two yellowhammers in the hedge opposite before we set sail.
Soon after we set off we saw Anjuna moored up, and said hello as we passed. This is a boat we have seen several times over the years and always had a brief few words – never managed a proper conversation as we have never moored up together.
As we passed Anchor Farm there was a large brown rat running around between the chicken enclosures.
At Bugbrooke Wharf we saw Roberta on Inchy, and paused for a passing chat. She is going through a breavement at the moment – a close friend.
We have always noticed that the diesel prices around here are very good. This time Bridge 32 was 68p and Stowe Hill Marine was 65p.
We stopped at Weedon to visit Tesco for provisions, and to have some lunch. Afterwards the sun came out and the wind dropped, as we went further north and came into view of the M1. This is usually deafeningly noisy. Today it was slightly better because we could see there were roadworks, and the traffic was going much more slowly.
A newly painted 1935 working boat
At Whilton Marina, at the bottom of the Buckby locks, we waited for another boat to appear but none did, so we proceeded on our own, following two boats, Hawk and Frogmore. It seemed as though we were always catching up with them and waiting for them, and we thought they might be solo boaters. We discovered that this was not the case – Frogmore had a middle aged couple and Hawk had a man, a lady and their daughter, plus two dogs that were tied together with a lead. I am not sure which one was taking which for a walk.
We didn’t need the water tap at the top, so we went on past Norton Junction, and through Bridge 10 to our usual mooring spot, where there are mooring rings and a view. On this occasion the moorings were full, so we went on a short way and had to use our mooring spikes and a mallet.
Hugo was delighted with the place, and spent a long time out and about.
7 locks, 11 miles
Fri 3rd April. GOOD FRIDAY
Norton Junction to Wolfhampcote
It was damp and slightly misty this morning as we set off towards Braunston. There were several boats moving, and we thought we would find someone to pair up with at the locks.
The tunnel was a lot drier than Blisworth, but it does have a few kinks in it. As we went in we could see some lights in the distance. We crossed after about 10 minutes, somewhere in the middle. There was still one more set of lights coming. This turned out to be an old working boat, and despite best efforts, we were in one of the kinky sections, with uneven walls, and the boats collided with a loud thump. Fortunately we were both going slowly so there is unlikely to be any damage. It is the first time in eighteen years boating that I have hit another boat in a tunnel.
Leaving Braunston Tunnel
When we arrived at the top lock it was against us, so we had to fill it. There was no sign of another boat behind us, so we started down. As we were halfway down the first lock, another boat appeared behind, so we decided to wait at the next one. Then we saw another boat behind the first, so we figured that they could pair up instead. Then we had to wait anyway for a boat to come up the second lock. By that time the other two boats were with us in the first pound, and they said there was another behind them. So we paired with one of the hire boats, and the second one paired with the odd one behind. The boat we were with had three on board, so we had an extra crew member to help set locks, and we descended the remaining five locks easily, with the two boats travelling side by side in and out of the locks.
We met a BCF boat coming up – Lindi Lou.
In Braunston it was quieter than usual. We saw Alpha (BCF) moored, but no-one aboard. We paused briefly to use the facilities and to visit the chandlery, before leaving under the footbridges at Braunston Turn.
We moored up in open countryside between bridges 99 and 100. The larks were singing and there was a lovely view of the surrounding area.
BCF boat Ragtime came past.
6 locks, 6 miles
Sat 4th April
Wolfhampcote to Napton
Several boats went past before we set off at around 9.30am. It was cold and not quite raining, but feeling damp. This didn’t stop the skylarks which could be heard and seen at several places. We also saw a reed bunting, although there weren’t any reeds.
We followed one boat almost all the way. Passing moored boats he went ahead, but on the open stretches we gained on him. He finally turned right at Wigrams Turn onto the Northern Grand Union, while we continued straight on to the South Oxford Canal.
We had arranged to meet Ricky at bridge 111, but the towpath was really muddy here, so we carried on to Bridge 113, where we found a mooring a short distance from the Folly Inn. After a call to Ricky to explain where we were, we phoned the Folly Inn and booked a table for 1230.
We all met at the pub, and the food was very good, although the service was not. (e.g. Steak and kidney pie instead of a steak and ale pie). A group at another table were all wearing moustaches, even the ladies and youngsters. They were from a hire boat.
Ricky and Martina
Outside the Folly Inn
After the meal, Martina drove us up the hill to the village hall where an art exhibition was taking place. There were some excellent paintings of a high standard.
We came back via the shop where we bought some milk, before the walk back down the hill.
0 locks, 5 miles.
Tomorrow we are climbing the hill again to go to the Easter Sunday service in the Anglican church. Next week we are heading for Banbury, where good friends of ours are giving a lift to the BCF one day conference, where we are leading the worship time at the end of the day.