Wednesday, 22 May 2019

To Crick: Day 1

We drove up to the boat first thing this morning, with the journey seeming to take quite a long time.  Briar Rose was back in the water at Heyford Fields, and moored on the far side of the marina.  As well as blacking, we’ve had a full engine service (I do the oil changes myself but it’s good to have a proper once-over every now and again) and we’ve had a new prop to replace one that was full of dings.  It was about 10.15 when we left the marina, and turned left for Crick.  Of course the good thing about starting from Heyford Fields is that it’s two thirds of a day closer to Crick than our home base.

By Flore Lane Bridge is a funny little house, which I’ve always thought of as being 1970s, but it could be earlier.  Over the past couple of years it has been completely gutted, but now it’s finished, and looks fantastic, with modern floor to ceiling windows, glass balustrades, and stylish furniture. It’s an upside down house, with the living accommodation upstairs and the bedrooms below.

We soon got to Buckby Locks, having had lunch on the move.  Bizarrely, we ended up sharing with three different boats.  Boats were coming out of the bottom lock as we arrived so we went in and waited for a boat we could see in the distance.  It turned out to be Snoozy Bee, with a chap on board who was also going to the show to help Gary and Dave from Boating Leisure Services.  The next couple of locks also had boats coming down, but then we needing to turn a couple.  We’d also caught up with a single handler, so we did a couple of locks with him.  At the top lock there was already a boat waiting to go up, so we went with them as the single handler said he was planning to moor at the junction.  We turned right onto the Leicester Line, and continued to Watford Locks where there was no queue and the lock keeper said we could go straight up.

It had been nice and sunny all day but by now was also warm.  We carried on to through Bridge 9 and moored up in a nice sunny spot.  The M1 isn’t too close, there are sheep on the other side of the canal, and Home Farm is through the towpath hedge.

11 miles, 14 locks.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

To blacking

Adrian came up to the boat yesterday afternoon and did things like get shopping and top up the water tank.  I came up after work, arriving just after 11.30pm.  This morning we began with a car shuffle, both of us driving up to Heyford Fields, where we left Adrian’s car.  Once back at our own marina, we set off; it was just after 8.30 and it was a beautiful morning.

There was a decent sized flock of swans munching their way through a farmer’s field.  A bit further on were some goslings of varying age in a big group; and a pheasant, undoubtedly the world’s stupidest bird, was looking bemused on the towpath.

A boat moored below Stoke Bruerne Locks had a very impressive bow fender, a mermaid figurehead made from rope.

At the locks, the bottom lock was set for a boat coming down but they were still some way off, so we waited for about 15 minutes.  We were joined for the journey up the first five locks by a boat which had been on the water point, with a very pleasant couple on board.  They moored in the long pound while we carried on to the top.  In Stoke Bruerne we saw Mike on the trip boat, Charlie, and Kathryn who was giving a guided walk.  The tunnel was wet as usual, and we had lunch on the move once we were through.

It was at about this time that Adrian realised he didn’t know where his car key was.  We both looked for it to no avail, so the theory that he’d left it in the door pocket of my car, back at our marina, was looking increasingly likely.  I suggested he got a taxi from where we were, just through Blisworth, rather than waiting until we got to Heyford Fields.  So while I continued on the boat, he was picked up at the Walnut Tree and was soon back at the marina, where his key was indeed in my car.  He then drove up to Heyford Fields and swapped cars.  We met up briefly at Bugbrooke so he could collect a few things and leave my car key behind, and then he headed off to London.  While the taxi was expensive, the episode saved us quite a lot of time.

I continued a bit further and have moored up in a nice sunny spot opposite Heyford Fields Marina.  Being here means I don’t need to be quizzed by the marina wardens who swoop as soon as anyone sets foot on their frontage.  I’ll take the boat in in the morning, and watch it being taken out of the water.

14 miles, 7 locks.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Jolly Good on test

The June edition of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on Jolly Good, which will be Braidbar’s boat at the Crick Show.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Annual Report

Today completes our eighth year of ownership of Briar Rose, so I've calculated the figures for the year.  Miles, locks, and nights are all on the lower side, mostly because our September trip was only two weeks this year.

And the waterways travelled on is also quite a short list, due to the September trip being down the Nene rather than over lots of different canals.

  • Grand Union Leicester Line
  • Grand Union Mainline
  • Grand Union Market Harborough Arm
  • Grand Union Northampton Arm
  • River Nene

Monday, 22 April 2019

Easter Cruise: Day 5

Today is the thirteenth anniversary of our civil partnership, so we started the day with cards.  With not far to move, we went out for a walk around the Ouse Valley Park, down below the Wolverton Aqueduct.  It’s a big area which we didn’t really realise was there.  There are bird hides, and areas with wild ponies.

We set off at around 9; I walked up to the lock while Adrian brought the boat.

Within an hour we were back in the marina and secure in our berth.  We tidied up and got ready to head to London; I’m at work this afternoon, while Adrian is staying in town before work tomorrow.

1 mile, 1 lock.  (48 miles, 20 locks)

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Easter Cruise: Day 4

It was pretty chilly this morning, but once it warmed up it’s been really hot.  We set off a little after 8.30, and were soon at Stoke Hammond Lock which was in our favour.  At Fenny Stratford Lock a boat was just going in, so we slotted in alongside.  It was a recently retired Wyvern Shipping boat, which now lives just below the lock; they’d come up, turned around, and were going back down again.

After the lock we caught up with a widebeam going very slowly, so I had to keep dropping out of gear just to stay a reasonable distance behind.  Fortunately they stopped near MK marina.  A bit further along, we passed the new marina which is not far off finished.  Part of the scheme is the entrance to the planned Bedford and Milton Keynes waterway, but there’s less of it than I had been expecting — just a few yards which will apparently have pontoons in it.  You can see where the next few hundred yards will go, though.

We’ve seen a lot more ducklings on the way back.  This wasn’t all of this brood — they were too busy and fast to get them all in the shot.

We continued the long plod through Milton Keynes, seeming rather fewer boat’s than we’d expected. Fortunately, those we did meet were mostly in reasonable places rather than awkward bends or bridge holes.  The towpath was very busy with walkers and cyclists.  As we approached the Wolverton Aqueduct, we started seeing people including boaters, with ice creams; when we got to the aqueduct we found a man with a mobile ice cream stall.

We found a mooring long enough a little way along, and got moored up.  We then walked back to get an ice cream, which was surprisingly frozen.  We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting out reading, until a colleague of Adrian’s and her partner who live nearby and walked along on the off chance we might be here.  We had a nice chat over a glass of wine.  Now there’s a turkey drumstick and roast potatoes in the oven, for our Easter Sunday dinner.

15 miles, 2 locks.  (47 miles, 19 locks)

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Easter Cruise: Day 3

Another warm sunny day; we really have hit the jackpot this weekend.  We had a pretty lazy start to the day, and didn’t set off until 9am.  We went down Slapton Lock, and then started passing lots of canoeists.  There were even more at Church Lock, which is alongside what used to be the smallest chapel in Buckinghamshire, but it now a private house.

At Grove Lock, we were the fourth boat waiting to go down.  The first two said it was taking ages to fill the lock, which perhaps wasn’t surprising as they hadn’t opened the ground paddles.  One of the boat’s was turning below and coming back up.  When we were eventually down we continued through Leighton Buzzard, down Leighton Lock, and past the floating market by the Globe pub.  Past Old Linslade is another very attractive section of canal.

When we got to the top of the Soulbury Locks we moored up.  It was almost 1pm so we had lunch, then sat in the cratch reading in the sunshine.

At about 3 our visitors arrived.  My second cousin Catherine, husband Nigel, and kids Grace and Matthew, who live reasonably nearby.  Catherine had brought one of her legendary cakes, decorated for Easter by Grace, so we had tea and cake sitting on the towpath.

When a boat came up the locks we got ready to go down.  A widebeam which was coming up the middle lock decided to come out and wait in the short pound in between, and the current caused by the lock emptying send him into quite a spin.  A boat was also coming up the bottom lock, so we could do a swap with him.  All in all it meant we sped down the three locks.

We moored up at the bottom of the locks, and continued chatting and catching up.  We were booked for an early dinner at the Three Locks.  The bar was heaving thanks to the number of people sitting outside in the sunshine so we were glad we were in the restaurant part.  The food was ok without being spectacular.  We retired back to Briar Rose for drinks and more cake in lieu of dessert.

8 miles, 7 locks.  (32 miles, 17 locks)