Saturday, 29 October 2016

Leighton Buzzard to Cowroast

Mon 24th Oct  Leighton Buzzard to Horton Lock

In the morning there were fork lift trucks operating in the depot the other side of the fence and they had reversing warnings blaring out across the area.

James trundled a cassette back to the facilities before we both went to visit Aldi and Tesco to stock up. There will be several days before we find the next decent shop.

From our mooring in Leighton Buzzard

Leaving Leighton Buzzard

As we left Leighton Buzzard we passed the wharf with the narrow gauge railway lines, which apparently used to be connected to Grovebury quarries.

The railway lines on the wharf

As we approached Grove Lock a kingfisher flew past and landed on a bush next to the canal.  Sadly the phone needed booting up so the fantastic picture we could have had as we passed so close will have to be left to the imagination!

At Grove Lock we met Malcolm, the Aylesbury Salvation Army man who started the Waterways Chaplaincy. He was on duty, going to offer help to a boater who was in difficulties.

Malcolm at Grove Lock

Grove Lock

We noticed that the house that used to be a Church at Church Lock had been sold. Above this lock we noticed that the pound was very shallow, with rocks showing at the edges.  We were hoping to moor below Slapton Lock but it was too shallow. We discovered some engineers who had a water pump extracting water from the canal.  When we arrived at Slapton Lock we found a notice about a new marina proposed

Shallow pound

Water extraction

Slapton Marina proposal

We moved on through Slapton and Horton Locks, where we found a mooring, although it was opposite a farmyard, and was accompanied by some country aromas. At least we could get into the side.

Horton Lock

4 locks, 4 miles

Tue 25th Oct  Horton Lock to Tring reservoirs

The boat behind us was just setting off as we emerged to get the boat ready. It was Intrepid and we shared the locks with them as far as Pitstone Wharf, which is where they stopped for a pumpout.

Sharing with Intrepid

Swingbridge near Pitstone

On our own in Marsworth Locks

We continued to Marsworth where we filled up with water and emptied a cassette.  There is a new sanitary station here, opened earlier this year. Sadly the elsan facility is tucked away in a corner where it is difficult to use. The hose has therefore already got a kink because it has to be bent to get it to the right place.

New houses have been built along the facilities moorings but there is now a notice saying “private property” there!

While were there, Intrepid turned up, because they had not been allowed to use the advertised pumpout at Pitstone Wharf. It was just for their moorers!  Fortunately the new sanitary station at Marsworth includes a pumpout facility.  Intrepid was then going to head down to Aylesbury so we said farewell.

Intrepid investigating the pumpout at Marsworth by the new houses

We passed the turning to Aylesbury and went through the first of the Tring locks to moor one lock up opposite the reservoirs.

Marsworth Junction

Intrepid went past: Pumpout not working at Marsworth, so they were heading for Cowroast. We have since found out that the residents in the new houses objected to the pumpout being too close!!!!! That is one of the reasons why we have a cassette.

James went for a walk by the reservoirs and saw lots of shovelers, and a flock of starlings having a murmuration.  There was also a pleasant sunset over the reservoir.

Sunset over Tring reservoirs

Moored near Marsworth

8 locks, 4 miles, 1 swing bridge

Wed 26th Oct  Tring reservoirs

We stayed put today and had a song practise, preparing for the BCF AGM and the following day in Aylesbury.

We both went for a walk and saw another murmuration. It is extraordinary how the birds not only turn together, but they all flap their wings at the same time, and then suddenly glide in unison. Remarkable.

We went for a meal at the Angler’s Reach.  They are a very friendly bunch in there.

No boating today

Thu 27th Oct  Tring reservoirs to Cowroast

The first job was to retrieve James’ hat from the pub, where he had left it last night.  Well it was dark when we left – who needs a sunhat in the dark? Thankfully they were open early for breakfast.

We then went across the road to Bluebells cafe for breakfast.  Eggs Royale and Eggs Benedict.

We had noticed a BCF boat called Interlock moored almost opposite to us, but we hadn’t seen anyone aboard.  As we were preparing for departure, we spotted some people there, and they were also getting ready to go, so we were able to share the locks together.

Sharing with Interlock

 Synchronised boating

Half way up


We saw some filming going on, with a kayak as the subject matter. We never found out what was happening.

Kayaks being filmed

Interlock paused at Bulbourne while we carried on through the cutting on the summit pound to Cowroast. There were beautiful autumn colours as well as squirrels and pheasants on the towpath.


Autumn leaves

When we arrived at Cowroast we turned in the winding hole and reversed to the facilities by the lock. There was another boat called Nomad on the lock bollards, which also serve as the bollards for the facilities, so we marked time mid stream until he had finished. He was having problems with the notice which asked him to leave the lock empty, as he thought he should drop all the paddles and wasn’t happy with leaving one up.  Another boater was patiently explaining that if the lock filled up for any length of time the adjacent cottage got flooded. It took a long time for this conversation to take its course, before he finally took his boat into the lock and we were able to use the facilities.

We emptied two cassettes, dumped the rubbish and filled the water tank, and then went to visit Darren to discuss some engineering work needed next April as we head down towards London. He seems to know what he needs to, and others have recommended him, so we will get him to do the work, which includes fitting an Axiom propeller, making ventilation holes in the front locker, and blocking up some drain holes either side of the engine bilge compartment.

At Cowroast

We left to find a mooring, passing a boat with messages about witches, with a pentagram on the front.


We moored a little north of Bridge 136. The boat in front had a black cat which chased Hugo twice, and tried to come in even after we had locked the cat flap.

6 locks, 5 miles

Next: back to Bulbourne for a meal with Aylesbury Boaters on Saturday, then down 21 locks to Aylesbury for the winter.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Milton Keynes to Leighton Buzzard

Thu 20th Oct  Giffard Park to Water Eaton

We started with a full English breakfast at the Giffard Park, before continuing our journey through Milton Keynes.

There was beautiful blue sky in between the light clouds, and the sunshine picked out the autumn colours.

Milton Keynes Marina

Autumn Colours

 Virginia creeper

Sadly, Hazel was unwell and wasted her breakfast. She has made an appointment to see the doctor when we return to Aylesbury.

We said farewell to Tudor as we passed him painting his boat under a main road bridge.

We negotiated Fenny Stratford lock and swingbridge. It would be interesting to know how many times a vehicle crosses over each day, as I maintain that it should be kept open for boats unless needed for vehicles.

That swing bridge over the lock

Clouds started to gather, making spectacular sights in the sunshine.

Where are the cherubim?

We moored on piling at Water Eaton by a row of poplar trees, and had a rain shower later.

1 lock, 6 miles

Fri 21st Oct  Water Eaton to Leighton Buzzard

It was cloudy to start with as we left our mooring, and then sunny later.

Leaving Water Eaton

We had the locks to ourselves today – firstly Stoke Hammond Lock, and then Soulbury Three Locks.  There was a volunteer at the Three Locks, which sped up our progress as the locks were all ready for us.

Under the bridge by Stoke Hammond Lock

Stoke Hammond Lock

Three Locks at Soulbury

 The Globe Inn at Linslade

We moored above Leighton Lock by the park, where there is a hedge for Hugo. It is a pleasant walk from here via a riverside walk into the town.

We visited WH Smith to change our diary pages. No problem. However, they were a small store and had no printer ink.

We then looked at several of the many hairdressers and barbers in the town, and decided on Clippers, where we both had haircuts.  Then to a coffee shop called Ollie Vee’s.

We tried a different route back, via the Stag, where we had sung in March, and across the meadows.

5 locks, 6 miles

Sat 22nd Oct 

Lots of canoes came past early. Some went on below the lock, and others returned to their base.   Blue Iris (BCF) came past and tooted and waved before going down through the lock.  

Early canoes

Fuel barge Ascot came up through, and we hailed him to buy three bags of Homefire Ovals. That should be enough coal to see us through to Aylesbury.

Fuel Barge Ascot

We had a good music practice on board. Later we moved down to the shopping bollards to visit Aldi and Tesco for the heavier items like wine and cat food.

It is always amazing to see the vast number of ducks outside Tesco in Leighton Buzzard. They are fed by lots of people so they never go hungry.  We haven’t worked out where they all make their nests.

Leighton ducks

Then to the water point, the rubbish point and the “Visitor Moorings”.  There are no rings or bollards here, and the bank is a stone wall with a thin layer of grass covering it, so it is hard to get the mooring pins in.

There were fireworks going off somewhere, and in the flats opposite, a late party was taking place, with people chatting on the balcony until after midnight.

0 locks, 1 mile

Sun 23rd Oct  Leighton Buzzard

We found our way to New Life Church, which started at 0930 in a school. There was a worship band playing some very dated worship music, and an excellent speaker, on the subject of healing.  The proceedings started to wind down at around 1130, at which point we needed to depart.

 In search of New Life

We set off at a fast walk towards the light railway, which was running today. We had gone most of the way there when James discovered he had left behind his shoulder bag. Hazel carried on, and James returned. Thankfully it was still there.  That was an extra mile of unplanned exercise.

We had a bacon roll, a coffee and a piece of cake before going on the train. The line dates back to 1919, when it was built with war surplus equipment from WW1. It was originally used for moving sand from the quarries.

Going round the bend

Old stables and quarry trucks

 Engine sheds


 Elf, built in 1936

Pedemoura, built in 1924

Carriage shed

We walked back towards Leighton Buzzard and stopped for a late lunch / early supper at Mevan, a Turkish restaurant. The food was excellent.

Back to the boat almost at dusk – days are getting shorter, and the clocks change next week.

No boating today.

Next: Continuing south to Marsworth, a diversion to Cowroast, the Wendover Arm and Bulbourne before our final return to Aylesbury.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Stoke Bruerne to Milton Keynes

Sun 16th Oct  Stoke Bruerne

The rain came early as promised by the weather forecasters. Fortunately by the time we wanted to walk along to Kathryn’s place it had mostly eased off.

A wet day in Stoke Bruerne

Drying out a bit

We had a pleasant time with Kathryn over coffee in her cottage, and thankfully we by the time we left the rain had stopped.

Mike had started on his trip boat, going up to the tunnel mouth and back time after time.

There was no service today in the local church, so we listened to a CD on Revelation by Paul Standley, which had been lent to us when we were in Barnoldswick earlier in the year.

We walked down past two locks to the long pound to see is there was anyone there that we knew. There were surprisingly few boats there, considering that every mooring was taken on the top pound.

Back to the boat for a music practice.

No boating today

Mon 17th Oct  Stoke Bruerne to Grafton Regis

We waited for the rain to pass before we set off.  We had to cruise up towards the tunnel and turn in the winding hole before heading for the locks.

Turning before Blisworth Tunnel

Assorted hardware

We knocked on Kathryn’s door but she was not in. We sent her a farewell text.

Outside Kathryn’s house

We shared locks with a young couple who had borrowed our hose connector at Yelvertoft. There was no name on their boat. It was evident that they were new to boating because they asked if two boats could fit in the lock.

Sharing with the hosepipe boat

We were following a single boater on a very slow boat called Sloth who wouldn’t accept any help.  He was sharing with a boat with three crew members, but he insisted on bow hauling his boat in and out of the locks, and doing the gates himself.

At lock 17, our two boats were ready to leave, but the next lock was not ready. As there was some breeze, the two boats stayed in the lock mouth, and the crews shut the gates behind them, and walked on down to the next lock, by the ugly road bridge. The two boats there were still in the lock, and when they left we had to wait for a single boat that was coming up.  We operated the lock for them, and they left the lock as our boats finally were able to leave their lock entrance.  As the guy went past Hazel he said “What’s that for?” “What do mean?” she said.  “Why did you shut the gate?” he said.   His boat had been two locks down and out of sight when we closed the gates.  His crew had not gone up to open the gates when she could have.  People need to be a little more relaxed and have patience when they are boating.

Synchronised boating with the ugly bridge in the background

We stopped to use the facilities at the foot of the locks, and we stopped for the day soon after bridge 57, near Grafton Regis. There were lots of tiny apples in the trees and on the ground, and we couldn’t walk without crunching them. 

Apples in profusion

James pit the crayfish traps out

7 locks, 2 miles

Tue 18th Oct  Grafton Regis to Giffard Park

There were 8 crayfish in the traps this morning.

Bright morning sunshine

We cruised on past Yardley Gobion.  Boats were moored just south of there, opposite a boat club, moored on a very narrow towpath with mooring pins.  Just the other side of the bridge there is piling and we wondered why they didn’t moor there instead?

Despite the sunshine, there were black clouds around and a strong breeze.

A weather front

We met Brighton and Nuneaton coming towards us. We always tuck into the side out of the way when we meet them as they look rather threatening! 

Brighton and Nuneaton

A new paint job?

Cosgrove looks interesting. One day we will stop there and explore.


Converted industrial buildings in Cosgrove

Cosgrove Lock was being used by Sloth.  “You can get back on the boat now if you like, I’ll do the gate.”  “No, it’s alright, I’ll do it,” as he hauls the boat slowly out of the lock on a rope.  It would be much quicker and easier for everyone if single boaters would accept the help they are offered.

We crossed the iron trunk aqueduct at Cosgrove, and continued through Wolverton, where it was sad to see Brunel’s original railway bridge covered in graffiti.

Cosgrove Aqueduct

Brunel’s bridge in need of some TLC

As we started the long cruise around Milton Keynes, we saw lots of little apples on the ground, perhaps due to the wind, and some beautiful autumn colours.

Pommes de Terre

Autumn colours

 Is this really Milton Keynes?

We stopped at Giffard Park, and as we arrived we met Tudor on Out and About. He was just leaving. This is the fourth time we have met in the last three years, at Hillmorton, Ellesmere and Milton Keynes.

Dusk at Giffard Park

A bird had sat in the trees above the boat last night and left a deposit.  Probably a flock of pigeons, or several owls, or maybe a King Condor from the Andes judging by the pile!  James had to wash the roof, the plank, the boat hooks and the chairs.

We went for a meal at the Giffard Park sizzling pub and were pleasantly surprised. Good food for a very reasonable price.  We noticed that a pint bottle of Bulmer’s cider is no longer a pint but half a litre.

No longer a pint

Half a litre

1 lock, 9 miles

Wed 19th Oct  Giffard Park and CMK

Early morning at Giffard Park

Today was a shopping day. We caught the number 2 bus into central Milton Keynes, and went first to Music Kavern, a guitar shop in Xscape, for a new capo for James plus some guitar strings.  Then to WH Smith for next year’s diary pages (we later realised that we came away with the wrong ones!) and a till roll.  They don’t stock till rolls!

Then to Hotter shoes – they didn’t fit James and had the wrong colour for Hazel.

Then we went to Giraffe for lunch, followed by a visit to Krispy Creme Doughnuts for dessert and a coffee.

Then we went back on the bus to the boat at Giffard Park.  The bus stops here are very easy and we have found this to be the most convenient place for shopping in Central Milton Keynes.

No boating today

Next: to Leighton Buzzard for church and the light railway