Sunday, 29 October 2017

Milton Keynes to Aylesbury

Tue 24th Oct  Water Eaton to Leighton Buzzard

After a dark night with no power, we had a short distance to travel to get to Willowbridge Marina, where we hoped we might find someone to help us. We had been told on the phone that their electrician would not touch 240v electrics, but we had come to the conclusion the fault was somewhere on the battery side of the inverter, and not on the 240v system.

The chap behind the chandlery counter did not know what to suggest, but a man called Steve was there who suggested Graham, and electrician who used to have his own boat, but was now working on car maintenance, just behind the marina.  We went to seek him out, and he was reluctant at first, as he had a lot of work on, but he agreed to have a look.

He quickly confirmed the problem as being the domestic battery isolator switch, originally suggested by John Froggatt.   He said he would have to order one, and came back to tell us that it would be delivered later that morning, and he would fit it soon after that.

We moved across to the other side on the canal, to free up their fuel pontoon, where we had taken the opportunity to fill our water tank.  We spent several hours there, watching many blue Wyvern Shipping hire boats going past in the direction of Milton Keynes.

Soon after lunch we had a phone call from Graham, and we moved back across to the fuel pontoon for him to fit the new switch. The job was soon done, and we left, £80 poorer.

Leaving Willowbridge Marina

All the phones were put on charge, so there are no photos of Stoke Hammond Lock, or Soulbury Three Locks, where a volunteer helped us through.  The Wyvern hire boats were still coming, as it was the start of half term week.

Wyvern hire boats

A tug with a barge full of dredging came the other way, so we knew there was dredging going on somewhere ahead.

Laden dredging barge

Globe Inn


At Leighton Lock, there was a man in an orange boiler suit, looking as though he had just escaped from Guantanamo Bay. He was operating the lock for the dredging team.  We noticed lots of conkers floating in the water.

Leighton Lock


We passed through the lock, and found a mooring just above, before we reached Wyvern Shipping.  The batteries were now charged, so we had power in all the right places!

5 locks, 6 miles.

Wed 25th Oct  Leighton Buzzard to Ivinghoe

This morning there was beautiful sunshine as we moved the short distance up to the Tesco moorings, where there are abundant ducks all over the canal.

Moored in Leighton Buzzard

Ducks near Tesco

Another empty barge was moored in front of us, and a full one came through with a tug pushing it.

Dredger barges

After visiting Tesco (twice) and Aldi and Homebase, we continued on our journey south.  We noticed a new building just past the bridge. This was under construction when we were last here a year ago.

New building in Leighton Buzzard

Beverley and Ascot coal and fuel barges

We passed the wharf where there are still some narrow gauge railway lines, which apparently date back to WWI. They were used for loading barges from the nearby cement factories.

Old Wharf with narrow gauge railway lines

Hugo looking at boats

Dredging below Grove Lock

Church Lock

We came across yet another lifeboat moored up, and then we passed Fulbourne, which is usually moored in Aylesbury during the winter.

Another lifeboat


We pressed on as the weather was good, and we finally moored between the two locks at Ivinghoe.  We could see the Whipsnade Lion carved into the chalk hillside.  Last time it was very green, and we could hardly see it. This time the front half was white, but the back half was still green. A work in progress.

Moored at Ivinghoe

5 locks, 5 miles.

Thu 26th Oct  Ivinghoe to Black Jack’s Lock

Following a lovely sunny day, with clear skies, we were greeted by a very damp day today. A Mist hung over everything, making the boat thoroughly wet.  The short pound between the two locks had lowered due to leakage in the lock below, and the boat was tilting at an angle.

Early morning in Ivinghoe

Tilting boat

Misty morning

James went to let some water into the pound so that we could move off. We then cruised slowly through the mist, passing ghostly moored boats near the Seabrook locks.

Ivinghoe Top Lock

Moorings in the mist

The swing bridge just before Pitstone needs neither a windlass nor a key. All you need is strength to push it.  This is where we saw a mink on one occasion. This time a squirrel ran across and back as we approached.

Swingbridge at Pitstone

Marsworth Top Lock was our final double lock for this year, and we were pleased about that, as they are very heavy.

Leaving Marsworth Top Lock

Then we were in Marsworth, with a brief stop under bridge 130 to dispose of rubbish, followed by another pause at Bridge 131 to empty two cassettes.

Thatched building at Marsworth

Marsworth Wharf Crane

At Marsworth Junction we turned into the Aylesbury Arm for the final part of our journey.  Everything was still very wet, and to make it worse, the strimming team had been along, so that cut grass was sticking to our feet.

Into the Aylesbury Arm

Staircase Locks 1 and 2

Lock 3

Approaching Black Jacks Lock

Autumn Colours

Red leaf in the dew

Variegated fronds

We moored where we had intended, just below Black Jacks Lock. There were four other boats moored up just beyond. 

Moored below Black Jacks

10 locks, 3 miles.

Fri 27th Oct  Black Jack’s Lock to Circus Field Basin

The mist was still around early in the morning, but then the sun broke through and we had a good day.

Early morning at Black Jacks

Misty fields

Sunshine arrives at Black Jacks

Dew on the roof

A work boat came past, complete with JCB, so we knew there was some work going on ahead somewhere.  We set off, and found that the first four locks, were all against us, with the bottom gates open, and one paddle up.  If the gales had been closed, and the paddles down, the locks would have full, as there is so much water flowing down and over the top gates of the locks.

Lock 5

We kept the hood up to start with, with the intention of drying off the dew, but when we came to the first bridge we had to put it down.

Cruising in the sun

Magpie enjoying the sun

At Puttenham Bottom Lock, where there is a bridge immediately after, there were some brambles hanging over the channel, and one took James’s hat off!  We keep a pair of secateurs at the helm, and we nip off any brambles that intrude into the cut.

Hat on a bramble

Bates Yard comes next and there are always some wooden boats in various stages of disrepair, or refurbishment.

Bates Yard

Suit DIY enthusiast

After Red House Lock 13, there is a length of nearly two miles without a lock, and it was here that we came upon the work team, who were upgrading the towpath.

Works vessels

Towpath works

As we approached Aylesbury we could see some of the new houses that had been built, and a large estate just by the ponds where James had seen snipe on two occasions. The field’s boundary hedge had been completely removed.

House building by the snipe ponds

New canalside buildings

Our apartment

When we arrived at the basin, we found Bryan ready and waiting to let us in. We had sent him a text ten minutes earlier.

Bryan on lift bridge duty

We went first to the fuel pontoon to fill up the tank to avoid condensation. We needed to offload the coal bags from the roof, as it is difficult to reach them when we are moored. We then moved across to our “usual” berth and tied up. Bryan had left our access ramp nearby, which we set up to make it easier getting on and off the boat.

Hugo realising that we have arrived

Our winter resting place

Night scene in Circus Field Basin

We went to the bar for the usual Friday evening social gathering and met some familiar faces.

10 locks, 5 miles. 1 lift bridge

Totals for the year 2017: 572 locks, 721 miles, 61 lift or swing bridges, 385 boating hours, and 16 mice.

No more blogs this year unless something unexpected happens.  Back into the life of the church, taking our turn to lead the worship, running a life group after Christmas, taking part in various folk clubs and music sessions in the area.  The next task is to go by train to Saxmundham next week, visit James’s sister Maggie and her husband Clive, and return with our car.

Next year: probably the Llangollen, as a mission seems to be gathering momentum in Ellesmere. If not, maybe the Fens, Peterborough, Cambridge and Bedford.

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