Mon 18th May Hazel’s Birthday
Rickmansworth to the Grove
We had a visit from each of the two Lins, with flowers and cards for Hazel.
Forecast wet in the morning, and so it proved to be. Hazel went to Ricky High Street for some bits and James joined her at Tesco’s. We had worked out that we couldn’t get to Kings Langley in the time left as we had planned. We would end up somewhere not very close to a restaurant, so we bought some things from Tesco’s finest range to celebrate her birthday.
Peter and Henry and the two Lins had gone into Watford for launderette purposes, and they were not back by the time we left at around 1pm.
Trinity and Gospel Belle
The Ovaltine boat
As we approached Batchworth Lock we could see several boats positioning them selves. Blue Moon was on the water point. Merlin was waiting to go in the lock with Theo, with lots of school children on an outing.
Eventually we went in with Linda and Bob on Blue Moon, and Roma was waiting behind us. The lady on Roma was insisting we only use one gate, so our boats went out singly, which took a lot longer that using two gates would have done. We didn’t do that again, using both gates on the subsequent locks.
Sharing with Blue Moon
We kept catching up with the two school boats, because at every lock all the kids had to disembark, and this had to be done safely. They were all having turns in winding the handles and pushing the beams, and then they had to get back on board safely. Sometimes they forgot to wind down the paddles until the last minute, when they should have been embarking. Very often they found themselves the wrong side of the lock, and had to walk round to get on “their” boat, and it all took more time than usual.
We passed a boat that had a car built in to its bows. It seemed as though there were two boats fixed together. Very unique.
Built in car
In Cassiobury Park we found Millie, with Tim and Margaret who had spent the winter in Aylesbury with us, so we hovered and had a chat.
Tim and Margaret
At the fifth lock of the day, Iron Bridge Lock in Cassiobury Park, the third school boat The Star was spotted, moored up, waiting for the other two. At this point Theo got something large round the propeller, so Merlin breasted up with them and towed them out of the lock, and joined The Star, three abreast.
Theo with fouled prop
While we were ascending the lock with Blue Moon, all three school boats moved off. This would mean that two would take the next lock, leaving one behind. It was decided that we would go to share with the third one, and Roma would share with Blue Moon. When we rounded the corner, we saw Theo and Merlin in the lock, and three other boats. One was The Star. Another was Joseph, an ancient boat, over 100 years old, who had broken down and was waiting for an engineer. The third was Warren on the pumpout boat, who had just finished pumping out Joseph.
Warren shared with The Star, and we shared with Roma. It seemed that Blue Moon had decided to moor up.
The Star with the pumpout boat
We went through the two Cassiobury Park locks, and moored for the night near the Grove, which is a fairly quiet spot, except for background noise from the M25 a mile away.
James cooked the birthday meal we had chosen at Tesco
Moored near the Grove
The view behind
7 locks, 4 miles
Tue 19th May
The Grove to Berkhamsted.
We set off early (0740) as the sun was up and showers were forecast later.
We went through Hunton Bridge, under the M25, and through Kings Langley on our own, with no incidents. Then at Red Lion Lock we found ourselves behind a working pair of fuel boats who had just set out with a full load of gas bottles. They were fairly efficient, and didn’t hold us up. They paused after two locks to service a boat at Apsley, and we went past.
Passing the fuel boats at Apsley
We had intended to fill up with water in Hemel Hempstead, but we found the three school boats on the water point. Two moved off as we arrived, and the third, Theo, was still using the hose. We emptied a cassette and disposed of rubbish, but decided to get water somewhere else, and share with Theo. The two fuel boats were coming up behind.
Sharing with Theo
At Boxmoor Lock we met two ladies who were interested in what Boaters Christian Fellowship was all about. They were from Hemel Hempstead Community Church, which we visited in 2003.
Just after Boxmoor Lock, The Star had got stuck, as the pound was shallow. It was suggested that we carry on to join Merlin, while Theo towed The Star off the bottom.
So we shared with Barry on Merlin for three locks. At Winkwell he waited for the others, as all three boats wanted to go through the swing bridge together. We carried on by ourselves through another eight locks.
The moorings in Berkhamsted were very congested, and we had to go right to the end near the lock. The ground was very soft, and we needed a spring to keep the boat in place. The railway was also very close and noisy.
James went to buy one or two bits from Waitrose before they closed.
Moored at Berkhamsted with trains in background
22 locks, 9 miles, 1 swing bridge
Wed 20th May
Berkhamsted to Marsworth
The loud trains woke us up early, and we set off at 9am, hoping to dodge the showers that were forecast.
We noticed that the locks no longer needed a CRT key as they once used to. They used to have a problem with youngsters letting all the water out, but the kids are probably spending all their time on their smart phones instead.
We noticed the two fuel boats approaching the first lock as we left it, but a boat was coming down so they had to wait a while.
There were seven locks to take us up to the summit. Several were empty and ready for us, as there were notices requesting boaters to leave a paddle raised due to leakage. We had two tiny showers, which were over in a minute or two.
White flower profusion
The final lock was Cowroast, where we were able to fill the water tank, and empty a cassette, and dispose of rubbish. James also went into the engine hole to visit the weed hatch and clear off some accumulated rubbish from the propeller. He then came out, put the engine covers back in place and looked around for his glasses. They weren’t where he thought he had left them, but his memory about such matters is not to be relied upon! After some fiddling about, the engine covers came off again, and there were the glasses, at the bottom in the bilges. We have a calliper on a stick, like rubbish collectors use to gather crisp packets in the park, and it did the job. A quick wash and rinse, and they were back on his face.
The summit level followed, with the tree-lined cutting, where we saw a kingfisher. There is a ridiculous sign saying “Visitor Mooring”. The towpath here is solid stone or concrete, and only very narrow. There are no mooring rings or bollards, so it would be impossible to moor. A little further, on the opposite side, after the towpath has changed sides, there is another similar sign. The towpath here is a bit wider and softer, but the stone walls of the canal are all collapsing into the water, so again it is impossible to moor.
We passed through Bulbourne where there are always a number of boats moored, before passing the end of the Wendover Arm and starting down the Marsworth Locks by the reservoirs.
First lock going down
There was a boat coming up at the third lock – Guildford Regent – one we know well as it used to go past our house about twice a week in the summer.
There were also some CRT volunteers who set the rest of the locks for us – very helpful.
We moored after six locks, near the reservoir. Some boats came up – The Star, Theo and Merlin, with a different set of school kids.
After lunch we had a snooze, and James went for a walk. He crossed the causeway to the Tringford Reservoir, where in the winter we had seen pochards, egrets and other birds on a shallow beach area. Today there was only a solitary crow. He followed the road to the Wendover Arm, and as he joined the towpath, two boats came past - The Star, and Theo. They had evidently been on a side trip, perhaps for lunch.
Tring reservoir mooring
Theo on the Wendover Arm
The walk back down the locks in the sunshine was notable for the variety of birds. There was a cuckoo calling, and lots of swallows and swifts. There was a kingfisher, a hobby swooping low over the water catching insects, and a pair of mandarin ducks. Also families of Canada geese, greylag geese, coots, moorhens and mallards. Great crested grebes and herons in abundance.
Canada goose family
Greylag goose family
Sunset on the reservoir
13 locks, 6 miles
Thu 21st May
Marsworth to Leighton Buzzard
A lovely sunny day. We started late with breakfast at Bluebells Tea Rooms, who don’t open until 10am. Eggs Benedict and Eggs Florentine. A good way to begin the day.
We did some research and booked a restaurant for Saturday night to celebrate our ruby wedding anniversary. Cameron’s Kitchen in Stony Stratford. The chef was a Masterchef finalist. The anniversary is not until the Sunday but we may be in the wilds then.
We had a chat with Kelly on an orange boat called Zest. She had a dog called Storm. We also met Alan Harvey and his wife Pat. He is the pastor of Limes Avenue Baptist Church in Aylesbury. They were out for a walk.
We saw another boat coming down in the lock above us, so we set off and prepared the lock below. We shared it with single boater Owen in a boat called Flying Kipper. We stayed together for a further two locks and the swing bridge at Great Seabrook, where he stopped for lunch.
The Aylesbury Arm
Sharing with Flying Kipper
Soon after this we saw Elidir, a boat we have seen several times. The man asked James if he was a Reverend. This seems to happen very frequently.
At the Seabrook locks a boat coming up in the locks was flying an Aussie flag, and they come from Perth, where they live in the winter, spending six months on the canals in the summer. The lady asked James if he was a Church of England minister!
At the third Seabrook lock, some walkers gave us a helping hand with the gates. They were from Miss Matty, and they were there when we sang at Little Venice Cavalcade. Their names are Robin and Laura.
There were amazing buttercups everywhere.
The Whipsnade Lion was whiter than last time
We were on our own for Ivinghoe, Horton and Slapton locks, but we shared with some Germans on a hire boat in Church Lock. We had planned to moor up below the lock, but the spaces were all taken, so we continued on. The hire boat stopped above Grove Lock, and we shared the lock with Daydream.
Church Lock with a hire boat
Grove Lock with Daydream
We found a mooring on some piling by an old coal wharf, backing onto a small river – the Ouzel. How many rivers have that name? This one runs into the Great Ouse, and continues down through Bedford and Ely.
Hazel hung the washing out to dry. A lot of canoes came past later.
Moored at Leighton Buzzard
12 locks, 7 miles, 1 swing bridge
Fri 22nd May
Leighton Buzzard to Water Eaton, Milton Keynes
We decided that we could survive without going to Tesco, and without emptying cassettes or filling up with water.
As we headed past the long line of permanent moorings, we met Ivor and Steph on Moonshine coming the other way. We spent some time with them in 2013 on the Stourbridge and Dudley Canals. See http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/jamesandhazel/3/1378800776/tpod.html. It is a shame we are on a bit of a schedule, otherwise we could have stopped.
Leighton Lock was mostly in our favour except for some leakage, and then we had an hours lock free cruising past the Globe Inn and through the zigzag bends towards Soulbury Three Locks.
In the description of the Globe Inn, the Nicholson Guide describes this as the area of the Great Train Robbery of 1963. Having done some research, this is not correct. The train was stopped south of Linslade, at Sears Crossing, near Church Lock, and driven a mile further south to Bridego Bridge, near canal bridge 118.
When we arrived at Three Locks we discovered that the IWA were having a fund raising effort, helping boaters with the locks, and hoping for a donation. Two of their team boaters had arrived from below the locks, and were turning to reverse into the top lock. It was useful to have the locks set for us. We disposed of the rubbish halfway down.
IWA lock help weekend
Reversing into the lock
Stoke Hammond Lock was straightforward – we were still on our own.
We moored for the day at Water Eaton, in the outskirts of Milton Keynes, with a lovely view over meadows. The man on the next boat was a bit noisy. First he had a yapping dog, which chased Hugo back onto the boat. Then he started a generator, which kept dying and he kept starting it again. Then he had some kids on board who were shouting and playing with the yappy dog. At around 5pm it all went quiet.
Not a bad view at Milton Keynes
5 locks, 7 miles
Sat 23rd May
Water Eaton to Wolverton
Gospel Belle and Trinity went past early (8am). We set off a little later and the first stop was the facilities below Fenny Stratford Lock, where we empties a cassette and disposed of some rubbish. We did not take on water as the tap was as the wrong end of the boat.
We chatted to the lady who was doing some gardening in the end house, and it turned out it was the cottage that had belonged to Margaret and Rex Wright. We told her that Margaret was in hospital, and she hadn’t heard.
There were a number of blue hire boats from Leighton Buzzard around, and one shared the lock with us. I won’t go on again about the silly swing bridge that should be left open.
Above the lock we spotted Trinity and Gospel Belle moored up. Lin A was just returning from the shops with a paper. They said they were heading for Wolverton, which was also where we were going.
With no more locks today, we cruised through Milton Keynes. As we were going under bridge 85 the phone rang: it was Margaret Wright! She had received a text from the lady in her house to say, “James and Hazel send their love”. Apparently Margaret was now out of hospital and back on board Amy Em in Milton Keynes Marina, which we had passed a few minutes earlier. We were anxious to get a mooring for this evening so we may not have had time to stop if we had known.
We paused at Giffard Park to fill up with water, but another boat had only just started, so we decided to use the one marked on the map at Great Linford. When we got there, we saw it was padlocked. A man on one of the boats there said it was for permanent moorers only.
We continued on past Linford Lakes, over the Grafton Street Aqueduct and past the railway mural. We noticed there were mooring spaces by the new flats at Wolverton, but we pressed on and found a mooring just where we wanted, opposite the Galleon pub at Old Wolverton.
The new flats at Wolverton
The two fuel boats came past and we filled up the diesel tank. 73p per litre is quite a good price, and we like to keep these people in business.
We had a call from Henry to say they were moored by the new flats. He said they would move up to join us. We set off for Tesco and while we there we found all four of them having coffee in Costa. By the time we had walked back with the shopping, they had moved their boats to where ours was.
There was a marshalling point on the towpath near the boats for a run from Birmingham to London, which something like 130 miles. Each to their own.
We went to visit an antiques and curios place opposite. Fascinating.
Gospel Belle, Gabriel, Trinity
We took a bus to Stony Stratford for our ruby wedding meal at Cameron’s Kitchen. This came well recommended and it didn’t disappoint us. The service was good, and the food was excellent. They have only been open for a few months since refurbishment after a fire.
One of the starters
Celebrating our Ruby wedding anniversary
We noticed the very well populated Royal Thai Restaurant. All those people can’t be wrong! Next time maybe.
We took the bus back to Wolverton, and found Margaret Wright there visiting. It was good to see her.
There was a very noisy evening happening at the Galleon, with very loud music until 1130, and then chatting until at least an hour later. All quiet after that.
1 lock, 11 miles, 1 swing bridge