Sunday, 13 September 2015

The Big Farewell

Tuesday 7th to Thursday 8th September 2015

Tuesday 7th September
Ivinghoe to The Globe Inn, Bletchley
6.5 miles, 7 locks

There was no cockerel, so no rude awakening for us.  It was, however a very grey day and those wonderful views from last night were badly obscured.  It was so grey the air was wet.  As you will see from the later photos it did cheer up as the day wore on.

A sad sight.

We met these two young ladies with their baby who seemed very happy in a back pack - they had been out on their boat for a few months and were returning south to go back to work.

This is something I have not seen before on the canals - at Slapton locks there are herbs with a sign inviting boaters to help themselves, but to try and leave some for other people.  Such a great idea and one we came across in Machynlleth, mid Wales last November.  There they have them outside some shops and at other points around the town.

The Church at Church lock has been converted into a house and is for sale.

Autumn must be on the way - these are the first horses in coats we have seen for quite sometime. Also look how low the water is.

A very cheerful and welcoming looking pub at Grove lock - the flowers are stunning and I do love the sign.  It is not a pub we have visited, so I have no idea what it is like inside.

Is the butty a bedroom, a study, library, a man shed or somewhere to escape to if you have fallen out with each other?

Going past Wyvern Shipping we noticed that the car park was full

and most boats are out, which is good to see.  Talking to one of our neighbours tonight whose daughter has a Saturday job cleaning Black Prince narrow boats, they have learnt that bookings went up in direct relationship to the airing of the television series starring Prunella Scales and Timothy West.

Once we were moored for the night Chris, Monty and I went off for a walk and found some much happier looking farm animals.

The target for today was The Globe Inn, Bletchley.  Now they do say you should never go back and maybe they are right.  Many years ago Cleddau was moored at Willowtree Marina, near here and we often wandered down the Grand Union with Sue and Ken in Cleddau.  If Chris was at the helm when we went past this pub - well we never did go past!  He reckoned there was an electro magnet on the bank that pulled the boat in and he was powerless to continue!  That said none of us ever complained as it was a very good pub.  Nice and cheerful outside, superb food and always busy.

The first two pictures were taken in 1998 when there was an abundance of flowers and nice bright parasols.  Yes it does look in need of a bit of tlc, but it was always worth visiting.
In this picture you can see a flower tub - there were at least two (you can still see the marks on the tow path) and there was very rarely anyone moored there, so we often got pole position.  Just don't look at how young we were or how much smaller!

Today all the flowers have gone and everything is grey and uniform.  We would not have minded that, but the food was very ordinary and nothing to write home about.  All in all a disappointment for all of us.

 This sign on the wall of the pub did intrigue me and I checked out the web site to try and find out more, but it really does not seem to say much at all.  I am hoping that as Sue and Ken are more local to this area they may know more about the 'Sands of Time Trail'.

Wednesday 9th September 
The Globe to Stoke Hammond
3.75 miles, 3 locks

A nice leisurely start for us all today as the Cleddau crew were expecting visitors, so the day started with coffee on board Cleddau before we set off for The Three Locks at Soulbury.  The plan being for the guests to walk back along the tow path.

The three locks were at the end of our trip and here you see Cleddau's visitors earning their keep!

At these locks there is another pub that has had a make over, but this one, I think, has benefited.  Mind we have never been in, so I have no idea if the inside and the food are in keeping with the outside.

These are a couple of pictures taken in 1998.  I certainly prefer the new cream paintwork and although I do love to see flowers outside a pub, the green plants above and all the new seating make it an inviting place to stop.

I do have to say that I preferred the old sign on the left to the new 'modern' one.  Many years ago (pre 1998) we were there with Sue and Ken when the artist who produced the sign on the left was taking photos in preparation.  He took pictures of Cleddau in the position of the boat on the sign, so maybe Cleddau was part of the inspiration behind his work?

We moored up below the locks for lunch, the Cleddau visitors set off mid afternoon and we moved on

to Stoke Hammond just above lock 23.  As you can see the canal is definitely suffering from a lack of water - something that has been evident for the last few days.

Not long after we moored Jules Fuels came up the lock, so we stopped them
and filled up with diesel at 69p a litre
and a couple of bags of coal.  This is the first year we have ever used fuel boats, but will definitely look out for them in the future.  Brilliant service and good prices.

Thursday 10th September
Stoke Hammond to Milton Keynes Marina
4.75 miles, 2 locks

This was to be our last day boating together and this our last 'proper' lock.  The weather, I am glad to say, was kind to us.

Just after Stoke Hammond Lock there are quite a few boats moored at the end of a piece of land - most have made them into gardens, but none as great as this boat

whose garden is magnificent.  The last time Cleddau went past here there was a garden party in full swing with the entertainment being provided by a brass band.

The canal is still low and it was sometimes hard to go slow enough not to create a wash.

This is Fenny Stratford, our very last lock together.  It is a drop of just 1' 1", but to add to the complications there is a swing bridge across the middle.

We could see a boat on the water point behind and fully expected them to wave for us to leave the swing bridge open, but they didn't.  We closed the bridge as we assumed they were going to be a while before they were ready to leave.  We were wrong - almost as Ken left the bridge they came to open it!

How is this for a fabulous house with an even better mooring?

As we were nearing Milton Keynes we came up behind very slow moving traffic, so slow that Monty and I jumped ship so he could have a run.

Sometime after Monty and I got to the bridge we were going to be picked up at, Cleddau came round the corner having managed to get past the other boats

Chris, however, was not so lucky!

A good bit of helmsman-ship - they just made it under this bridge

Just past the bridge they pulled over - we assumed it was to let us past, so moved out.  They were shouting what sounded like 'Reverse'.  We did assuming something was coming we could not see. What they were trying to tell us was they did not have reverse!  We made it past and continued on to the marina.  It is a sharp bend in and even trickier getting onto the pontoons.  We are at the far end, so had a lot of bends to negotiate. The hardest thing - we were told pontoon number 79, however, there are no numbers on the pontoons!!  There was only one space, so we took it and hoped for the best! We are on Jetty 2 and Cleddau on Jetty 1.  Both crews were issued with keys, but oh my goodness, they are very temperamental. We were told you have to wriggle, tickle and kiss them to get them to work!  Not something I would want to battle with on a daily basis.  Chris and I made a huge mistake and went to get a sandwich in the pub - don't.  It was dire beyond dire.

We were both heading home the next day - us for a week and the Cleddau crew for 2 weeks, so this was to be the end of phase 6 and the end of our adventure together.  A dinner party was called for - a bit of a scratch affair as a decision that we would have to part was made after our last visit to Tesco. We had a bottle of bubbly to toast the trip. we provided the starter (paté and toast) and dessert (baked nectarines with an amaretti biscuit crumble topping) and Cleddau gave us chicken kebabs, sausage, chips and leeks for the main course.  We did ourselves proud and had a wonderful evening together reliving some of the last three calender months.

The weather, of course, was discussed.  Rain at Burghfield, Henley, Hanwell locks the first time around and through Camden were vivid memories.  The better ones were of the trip down the tidal Severn to Portishead, along the Avon and under the Clifton Suspension Bridge to Bristol, the Thames and Wey and finally the tidal Thames from Limehouse to Brentford.  We will be back next Saturday (19 Sep) and the Cleddau crew a week after that.  We will be travelling back to Droitwich Spa along the Grand Union and down the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, so have the Hatton Flight and Tardebigge to look forward to.

On Friday Chris went off to get the hire car whilst Monty and I went out for a walk.  The area on the marina side of the canal is really run down, but go over Peartree Bridge and you come to The Green - dog heaven!

Complete with a field of cows

and if you turn right at the cow field and then follow a little path you come to an orchard and where you have trees you find squirrels!  The end of the orchard ends up back on the tow path.  It is hard to believe you are in such a built up area.

We had an uneventful journey home.  The washing machine has been working hard, we have caught up with our daughter and family and we are looking after our 3 year old grandson tomorrow, Tuesday and Wednesday and will be taking and collecting his big brother from school each day.  Back to the boat on Friday for a leisurely (we hope) trip home.

Total statistics of our summer trip so far:

405 miles, 199 locks with about 91 miles and 133 locks to go!


  1. Hi Jennie, Sounds like a mammoth trip and most enjoyable. Next time you are at Soulbury, take a walk into the village (about a mile) and have lunch or dinner at The Boot - fabulous! One of our two favourite pubs on our trip this year. The other was The Old Orchard at Harefield - a walk up the hill from Black Jack's Lock and well worth it!
    Cheers, Marilyn (nb Waka Huia)

  2. Good to hear from you Marilyn and yes it has been a big trip, but great fun. Thank you for the tips of good pubs - we will make notes for future reference. Jennie