Saturday, 30 September 2017

The Tradition Continues....

Friday 29th September 2017
Below Stoke Bruerne Locks to Above SB Locks
1 mile, 7 locks

First thing this morning when Chris was out with Monty and I was in the shower we got 'strimmed'.

A leisurely start for us today as we were expecting guests.  First an unexpected visitor wandered past - Luna aged just 10 weeks

Monty was not sure what to make of her,

but he was very gentle

So who were these visitors?  This is Tentatrice's fifth sailing season and in each one Sue and Ken from nb Cleddau have either spent time on board with us (2013) or cruised with us (2014, 2015 and 2016), so it would have been sad to break with tradition and I am delighted to say that a last minute plan was hatched.  They would meet us below the locks, help us up and stay overnight.

Extra lock hands are always welcome

Their car was parked by the second lock, so a brief stop was made to load up our Tesco shop (many thanks for that) and their overnight bags before we went on our way.

Some of the old side ponds on this flight have been turned into dipping ponds

Progress was swift - actually I have no idea how long it took us as time always flies past when you are in good company.

After the fifth lock we came across this family - there are actually eight cygnets, but one was camera shy

A lady with food was spotted - I was a little late with the camera, but the noise as they took off and then landed was quite impressive.

As we approached the last lock a boat emerged

and in no time at all we were in the last lock of the day 

and we had arrived in Stoke Bruerne - an attractive village that owes its existence to the canal.

We secured a good mooring and settled down to have a late lunch - courtesy of Mr Tesco

We had met Kathryn, who some of you boaters may know, at the last lock and she popped along after our lunch to join us for a cup of tea and slice of cake - the first I have made on this trip!  I had conversed on line with Kathryn as she recovered from breaking her hip, so it was good to meet her in the flesh, so to speak.  I am delighted to say the hip is fine, even to the extent of being able to hop.

Sue, Monty and I walked back down the locks to collect their car. The four of us spent the evening enjoying a very good meal in Woodwards across the canal.  Coffee and nightcap back on board and a lot more chat, before preparing the boat for overnight visitors.  

Friday, 29 September 2017

Many Parks But No Concrete Cows!!

Wednesday 27th September 2017
Soulbury Three Locks to Giffard Park
9.75 miles, 2 locks

Monty and I set off ahead of Chris to walk to the first lock of the day at Stoke Hammond - someone has done a great job of making it look very attractive.

Just past this lock there is a stretch of permanently moored boats each with a piece of land that most have turned into very attractive gardens

This one is seriously big and very attractive  to go with the rather large and, I am sure, luxurious boat.

We stopped briefly at Willowbridge Marina where nb Cleddau resided for a few years.  The purpose of our stop was to purchase a new long handled windlass - I am afraid I left ours near the Bluebell Tearooms at the Tring Reservoirs.  By the time we realised and went to look for it - well let's say someone had a lucky day as it was nowhere to be seen. 

 What a lovely sight Jules Fuels barges make - we were not in need of their services, so just kept as far over as we could to give them space.

 The only other lock was at Fenny Stratford - the rise is only about a foot, but there is a swing bridge across the lock to complicate the issue.

There is an instruction board

however the 'white handle' is no longer white and as soon as I got there I remembered how heavy it is to lift.  It is a lot easier with two (I was with Sue from nb Cleddau last time we came this way), but I managed to lift it to release the bridge and then slowly move it round out of the way.

I ended up there whilst another boat went up and then yet another down - Monty and I were stuck on the offside with no way back until the bridge was back in place as Monty will not cross lock gates.  Now if you check the instructions again it seems like a simple process to move the bridge back - what it does not tell you is that you have to return to the other end of the bridge to release this white lever with your foot before you can start to swing the bridge back across the canal. Then you need considerable strength to get the original 'white handle' back into place!  For such a small drop of water it took a lot of effort and time.

From there it was a straight run through to Giffard Park - we were able to enjoy some wonderful autumn colours en route

We both liked the decoration at the front of this boat

 Not a very common sight on the towpath

At one point, thankfully not too far from our destination, we passed two boats about to pull pins and depart. One was having trouble trying to release his 'paper clip' (used to secure boats to armco), but the other pulled out ahead of us only to travel oh so slowly.  His friend behind us was even slower!  In the end we pulled over to have a cuppa and a break to let them get well ahead as the slow crawl was somewhat frustrating.

What's the chance of this boat moving on after the supposed maximum 14 days mooring is up?!

We came across three boats all moored under different very noisy road bridges.  Neither of us remember seeing quite so many moored boats on this canal two years ago and so many that are in a dire state of repair.

On a brighter note there are some much more attractive things to delight the eye en route

I do love this bench

And so to Giffard Park which is a great mooring for Monty as across the bridge is

Monty Heaven - wide open spaces

with lots of room for some fun and games

Someone round here has blue spray paint - at least you know where not to put your feet!

Thursday 28th September 2017
Giffard Park to Below Stoke Bruerne Locks
11 miles, 1  lock

We had a domestic morning just doing jobs that needed to be done as well as taking Monty across the other side of the canal to enjoy the open spaces again.  All the way along this stretch of canal through Milton Keynes there are many lovely moorings with park land opposite.  One thing MK is not short of is attractive parks.

We had a couple of aqueducts to cross today - the first 

over a main road and even though it was not busy I know where I would rather be.

We have passed this several times over the years and taken pictures before, but it just cries out to have a few more taken.  I am not sure how long it is, but it is great way to liven up a long and boring wall.


This sculpture is by some apartments on the outskirts of MK (probably Stonebridge) with good moorings for shopping, plus a train station just behind the apartments.

What an imaginative use of bottles - I was a little slow getting the camera out, but hopefully I caught enough of the fence to give an idea how attractive it is.

Just before our only lock of the day at Cosgrove, the canal goes over another aqueduct - this time passing over The River Great Ouse.   It is worth stopping to admire this structure with the information boards giving details of its history.  In the early 1800's when the canal was being constructed there was a series of locks taking boats down to the River Great Ouse and back up again whilst the original aqueduct was being constructed.  Sadly the original aqueduct did not last long - it collapsed in 1808.  It took three years for this iron aqueduct to be constructed during which time the 'temporary locks' were put to use again.

This bit of information made me smile

The river below looks quite benign today, but I am sure there were times when the amount of water and speed of the current made joining it quite hair raising.

 So to the lock which we shared with nb African Queen, who we discovered, will be moored in Droitwich Spa Marina for the winter.  We watched this young lad with awe as he effortlessly got himself and his bike across the lock gates.  The agility of youth!!

A different use of a shipping container!

It does have large glass doors at the front, but it must surely be mostly dark inside?

 We were aiming for Yardley Gobian tonight, but the weather was so wonderful we just kept going and moored up  just below the seven locks up to Stoke Bruerne, ready and waiting for extra crew to arrive to spend the day night with us.  We were awarded with a wonderful sunset, but we are fairly certain we are to have rain before any good weather today.