Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Leighton Buzzard to Aylesbury

Mon 22nd Oct  Leighton Buzzard to Little Seabrook

Lots of sunshine today, and no mist for a change.

We spotted Brighton Belle going past. This boat used to belong to someone in Byfleet Boat Club when we were members there.  We were almost ready to go, so we decided to get organised and catch them up to share the locks. 

Brighton Belle going past

When we pulled out past the widebeam in front of us, we met Brighton Belle coming back. They asked where the water point was, so we told them. So we lost our lock sharing opportunity.

Just around the corner we spotted a boat called Out and About, which belongs to Tudor. We had expected to see him in Milton Keynes as we usually do. There was no sign of him on board.

Out and About

At Grove Lock we were ascending in the lock, when we saw a boat coming out of the marina in front of us and disappear in the direction of Church Lock.  Perhaps we could catch them up and share locks.

Grove Lock

When we arrived at Church Lock we found that there were two boats in the lock going up, so we couldn’t share. A CRT work boat was inconsiderately moored on the lock bollards so it was difficult to get into the side.

CRT boat on the lock landing

Church Lock

Between Horton and Ivinghoe Locks, the level was very low, and we just stopped on the bottom at one point. We managed to get going again, but we couldn’t get into the side for James to get off, so we went into the entrance to the lock where he could use the steps.  The other two boats were still in the lock, and one of their crew had gone forward to let more water down from the lock above.  It was still low when it was our turn, but we managed OK.

Low pound

Sunny cruising.

Autumn berries

We decided we wouldn’t go all the way to Marsworth with all the locks against us, so we stopped after the first of the three Seagrove Locks.

Moored at Seagrove

We had a visit from Stewart and Jenny, BCF members on Shadowfax. We had met them before in 2013, when they had a boat called Unruffled.

Stewart and his dogs

Jenny on Shadowfax

It was a clear night with a full moon.  The mooring was quiet, except for occasional trains in the night.

7 locks, 6 miles

Tue 23rd Oct   Little Seabrook to Marsworth

A pair of historic boats went past early.  We saw a flock of redwings feeding on the autumn berries opposite.

We didn’t have far to go today. The first lock (the middle Seabrook Lock) was almost empty, as was the top lock.  Then came the swing bridge which seemed heavier, taking a long time to gain momentum.

Seabrook middle lock

Swing bridge

Red Kite

The two Marsworth Locks were both against us, the top one with one top gate open. Having closed the gates ourselves, we looked back after we had left, and one gate had swung open again.

Marsworth Top Lock

We stopped on rings just as we arrived in Marsworth, as it is quieter here, with better views.

The rings at Marsworth

4 locks, 3 miles, 1 swing bridge.

Wed 24th Oct  Marsworth to Puttenham

Last night we had the offer of help from Simon and Pat, who would walk up to find us and help us through the locks on the Aylesbury Arm.  This morning we found a message to say they couldn’t after all because they had landlord duties to perform (a leak to fix).

We had cassettes to empty and a water tank to fill, plus breakfast to eat at Bluebells Cafe. As we arrived at the water point we realised that our hose would not reach unless we turned round, so we decided to go to the cafe first.

We turned at the junction and moored up almost opposite. As James was opening the locker to retrieve a mooring pin, his back went into spasm. Hazel took over the mooring of the boat, and we hobbled slowly towards the cafe for breakfast.

We now had 14 locks to do over the next two days, and we could have done with the help from Simon and Pat.  While we were in the cafe, three CRT volunteers walked in for their breakfast. Before we left, Hazel asked them if they could help us on the Aylesbury Arm instead of their usual domain of the seven locks by the reservoirs. Confusingly, they are all called the Marsworth Locks.  They said they were only meant to do the ones by the reservoirs.

Walking back from the cafe

Old wharf building and crane at Marsworth

We returned to the boat, and moved across to the facilities. While we were there, the volunteers turned up and said they had decided they could help us.

Marsworth Junction

So we set off down the arm with James steering, and Hazel and three volunteers pushing lock gates and winding handles.

Help on the staircase

Angels disguised as CRT volunteers

We had the volunteers as far as lock 7, and then we had two more locks on our own.  James managed to close two gates to save Hazel walking round.

On our own again

Hazels Turn to steer

Gudgeon Stream Lock no 9

We moored on piling just before Puttenham Top Lock no 10. We found some late damsons on a tree and with cunning use of our landing net plus a boat pole we gathered enough for some jam.

Our damson haul

Moored near Puttenham

Hopefully tomorrow we will be able to deal with the five remaining locks into our winter mooring.

James found that he seized up when sitting for any length of time, so he decided to go for a walk along a footpath that left from the lock. It took him about a mile to Wilstone Reservoir.

In the first field there were eight partridges, and in the second there were two pheasants. In another field there was a hare. When he arrived at the reservoir there was a bird hide, and he saw herons, egrets, gadwall, cormorants, shovelers, tufted ducks, pochard, plus all the usual coots, moorhens, mallard, etc. It was a lovely peaceful moment. On the way back he saw more hares and some rabbits.

Country footpath

The view from the hide to the left

The view from the hide to the right

There was a beautiful sunset later

Sunset over Puttenham

9 locks, 2 miles

Thu 25th Oct  Puttenham to Circus Field Basin

Everything was soaked in dew this morning, and there was a pheasant on the towpath outside our window.  The hedge on the towpath side blocked the sunlight from reaching the boat. 

We negotiated the two Puttenham Locks, then passed Bates boatyard, which specialises in wooden boats. Many of them appear to need a lot of effort to get them into good condition.

Puttenham Top Lock

Wooden boats - suit DIY enthusiast

When we reached Buckland Lock, we paused in the lock to clean the boat, as it will be difficult to this when we are moored stern on for the winter.  This lock has an old stone rim on the right, but on the left it has all been renewed following the collapse of the lock wall a few years ago.

Buckland Lock

At Red House Lock we discovered that the safety ratchet on the off side bottom gate was badly worn and would not hold the paddle in place.  Email to C&RT.

Faulty safety ratchet

Soon we started to see the new development that is taking place. We saw four kingfishers today, and at Broughton Locks, our final one, there was a red kite circling overhead to welcome us back.

New housing

Red Kite at Broughton Lock

We tried to phone Geoff to warn of our arrival, but got a recorded message. Later we found that Bryan was temporary harbourmaster, while Geoff was recovering from an operation on his shoulder..

We passed our apartment but there was no sign of John and Ruzenka or our tenant. Hazel got off at the bows to lift the lift bridge as we entered Circus Field Basin.  We saw that the welcome boat sign was on Bryans boat, so we rang him to find that we had our usual mooring space. We tied alongside him while he finished his lunch, and then filled our diesel tank.

Our apartment

Into the basin

We found a place to off load our coal from the roof, and Tim appeared, and offered to take down the heavy sacks for us, to save James’ back. We have also had a delivery of coal which Hazel managed to hide behind the sheds.

We moored the boat stern on and connected the electric cable, and installed our ramp for access.

What a great year it has been!

5 locks, 3 miles, 1 lift bridge

Totals for the year: 466 locks, 596 miles, 35 lift or swing bridges.

So here we are for the winter. There won’t be a regular blog – just occasional noteworthy entries – until the end of March when we will be off again.

Our winter resting place

On Friday we hope to see friends in the bar, and on Saturday we borrow a car from Tim and Hilary (Thank you!) and go to the BCF AGM in Rugby, followed by a family meal in a pub nearby with Cousin Anabel, Liz Zinn (cousin-in-law) Clare and Craig. On Sunday we go to our church for the first time since April. We have already been invited out to lunch after the service.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Milton Keynes to Leighton Buzzard

Thu 18th Oct  Stanton Low Park (MK) to Water Eaton (MK)

Misty morning at Stanton Low Park

Mist on the water

There was dew and a mist this morning as we made an early start, aiming to reach Giffard Park, just over a mile away, for breakfast.

We passed the boat we had shared Cosgrove Lock with, Bishy Barney Bee, which apparently is a Norfolk term for a ladybird.

Bishy Barney Bee

At Giffard Park there are 7 day moorings with concrete edges and no rings. Boats tie to any bit of sticking out reinforcement rods, or wedged in length of rope. The sanitary station has bollards, and we pulled in there to dispose of rubbish, before moving through the bridge where we could moor the bows on piling, the stern on a bit of string left there by a previous boater.

Tied on to bits of string

Then we went for breakfast at the Giffard Park sizzling pub.  Hazel went by bus from there into Milton Keynes Centre while James caught up on a few things on the boat.

Short term mooring for breakfast and shopping

A very wide boat went past. What happens when two of these meet?

Back end of a widebeam

When Hazel returned, we thought we would go for an extra hour or so, and we set off at around 2.30pm, intending to moor just before Fenny Stratford Lock. This would enable us to use the facilities the next morning.

We passed some sculptures, and one of those lifeboats which seem to have no windows.



Then we passed the sign announcing the site of the proposed Milton Keynes to Bedford link, but just after that we saw a lot of development going on, and it seems that there is to be a new marina, with an unusual three-way footbridge. It will be interesting to see how this will impact the new canal link.  For an image of the bridge see here

New marina under construction

Poplar trees are numerous around here

Under the A5

When we reached the Fenny Stratford visitor moorings, we found there were no spaces, so we had to go through the lock and associated swing bridge. As there were no more facilities before Leighton, we stopped just after the lock to fill the water tank, empty cassettes and dispose of rubbish.  

Fenny Stratford Lock and swingbridge

We moved on to search for a mooring, and ended up soon after bridge 97 where there was some piling. We couldn’t get fully into the side as it was silted up, but at least we had stopped, as by then it was cold and late.

1 lock, 7 miles, 1 swing bridge

Fri 19th Oct  Water Eaton (MK) to Stoke Hammond

Dense fog greeted us this morning, and it gradually thinned out and cleared as the sun began to shine.

Fog in Water Eaton

Foggy cruise

Swans in the fog

We didn’t have far to go. We passed Willowbridge “Marina” and went up through Stoke Hammond Lock, finding a pleasant mooring in countryside before bridge 106.

Stoke Hammond Lock

We found we couldn’t open the side doors as the boat was too low down. Later we found that the levels had risen, and we could.  Once before on this pound we had found ourselves stuck on the bottom in the morning as the levels had dropped.

Stoke Hammond mooring

We had a music practice, and then sorted out our clothes, getting our winter clothes out from under the bed, and stowing in vacuum packs some of the summer clothes we won’t need until next year. We also ended up with a sackful for the charity shops.

Sunset in Stoke Hammond

1 lock, 3 miles

Sat 20th Oct  Stoke Hammond to Leighton Buzzard

Dawn at Stoke Hammond

We had a leisurely start today. One hire boat came past from Three Locks before we set off, and there were two boats descending in the bottom lock when we arrived, so the lock was set for us.

Crossing over at the foot of Soulbury Three Locks

James found that the handle was loose on one of the lock beams. Surely the volunteers must know about this?

Loose handle

As we were reaching the top of the middle lock, someone started filling the top lock, which had been in our favour. We therefore had to wait in the middle lock, with the top gates open, while the lock above filled, and then a widebeam boat entered from above. The lady said she hadn’t realised how far up we were.

Soulbury Three Locks

We had a lovely sunny cruise from there, following the winding course of the canal and never far from the busy railway line.

Autumn sunshine

Beverley and Ascot, fuel boats.

Globe Inn

Leighton Lock was in our favour, but leakage had quarter filled it. We passed the blue and red hire fleet, and thankfully they were moored well with no slack in the lines. In other places, the boats can be moored three abreast with slack lines, and they all move across as you pass.

Leighton Lock

Hire fleet

We passed the Tesco moorings, with the usual flotilla of ducks waiting for bread, and we moored a little way further on, past the apartments, where there was a decent hedge for Hugo instead of vandal proof fencing.

Hugo on lookout duty

Hazel went shopping in the town, and James went to help her for the Aldi and Tesco part.

Back to the boat, and looking forward to the Baptist Church in the morning.

Leighton Buzzard mooring

Sunset in Leighton Buzzard

4 locks, 4 miles

Sun 21st Oct  Leighton Buzzard

We walked up through the town, passing our usual New Life Church, who have their meeting in a school.  We went to Hockliffe Street Baptist Church, where we understood from their website that our friend David Allsop had preached last Sunday. David is now part of Broughton Church, but is a retired Baptist minister.  We had a warm welcome, and mentioned our connection with David to several people.  It was not until talking to the pastor over coffee that we discovered that it is a different David Allsop, and today he was the guy on the keyboard! We must have confused several people today.

Inside the church

The worship band played from the first floor balcony where the organ is situated. Apart from the keyboard player, there was a guitarist, a lady singer, a trombone player, a drummer, and a cellist.  The talk was from Paul’s letter to Timothy, and was a call to declare our faith to others.

After coffee there, we went to Mevan Turkish restaurant, where we had booked a table for 1pm.  The menu was not the same as the lunchtime one we had seen online, and it turned out that the lunch one was only available Monday to Friday. Checking the website later, it does say that in small print at the bottom. However, we did not want the menu on offer, so we apologised and left. 

We went to the pub next door called the Picture House (an old cinema) which was serving Sunday Roasts. They advertised themselves as a traditional free house. Hoping for a decent cider, we discovered that they had a cider festival going on, with a range of cardboard box ciders behind the bar.  Brilliant, we thought, but on closer inspection, not one of them was made from just apples. They all had other pollutants like raspberry, rhubarb or mango. The only apple ciders were Strongbow or Magners.

We ordered our roast beef lunches, and James had half a Strongbow, while Hazel had a very sweet Mango “cider”.  When the food arrived, it was the worst roast beef we had ever experienced. It was actually inedible.  The first forkful took several minutes to chew, and was tasteless. We don’t often leave food on the plate, but we could not eat any more. We spoke to the manager to point it out, and he agreed with us and gave us a full refund (which we hadn’t asked for). The desserts were very good.

We walked back to the boat via Aldi and Tesco

No boating today

Next: A four day cruise back to Aylesbury, with probable good weather forecast. We are looking forward to catching up with boating friends and people from Broughton Church, plus the Boaters Christian Fellowship AGM in Rugby on Saturday.