Last night we had more visitors to Briar Rose: Russell, whom I've known for more than ten years, since we were both in local commercial radio together, and who's recently moved to the area because he's working for Anglia tv, came to see us with his partner, James. It's ages since we've seen each other, so there was plenty to catch up on.
Today was much calmer than the forecast suggested, although the wind has increased during the day. It was lovely and sunny but rather chilly as we made our way through Milton Keynes. Everyone seemed relieved that the wind had dropped, as we saw more moving boats in the first hour than we had the whole of yesterday. Soon we arrived at Fenny Stratford Lock, our first uphill lock since Saturday. A boat was coming the other way and had already swung the bridge, and opened the gate for us.
Many of the locks on this stretch once had narrow locks alongside, in order to save water -- it's a pity they're no longer there. Stoke Hammond is one such lock, and the position of the narrow lock can clearly been seen. At the lock, there were bags of tomatoes for 50p, which turned out to be very juicy and tasty.
We'd passed plenty of boats going the other way, so the Soulbury three locks were in our favour. It was too early for the pub to be busy, but with tables right up to the lock side I can imagine that there'd be dozens of gongoozlers on a weekend afternoon. A pair of boats were coming down the top lock, so we all had to pass in the top pound.
This is a lovely canal, much prettier than we'd been expecting, and it still looked good when the sun suddenly disappeared and was replaced by rain. It was quite heavy at times; but as one passing boater said, it was better than yesterday's wind. Leighton Lock was done in the rain, then we arrived at Leighton Buzzard. We moored beyond the bridge and had lunch, by which time the sun had returned, so we walked into the town which is very attractive with lots of interesting-looking buildings. We found a decent hardware shop, where we bought a new cable for the satellite dish, in case it was the old cable rather than incompetence responsible for our failure to get a signal so far. (We have got a signal tonight, but whether it's down to the cable is anyone's guess.)
We set off again intending to do just a couple of locks, then moor somewhere. Church Lock gets its name from the little chapel alongside (according to the Pearson guide, once the smallest chapel in Buckinghamshire). It's now a house, so I hope the owners didn't mind me taking a photo over the wall.
We ended up going much further than anticipated, more by accident than design. All the decent bits of towpath edge had boats on them, then above Horton Lock we couldn't get near the side because it was too shallow. However, it hardly mattered because it was a beautiful sunny afternoon, and the views across towards the Chilterns are stunning. The Whipsnade chalk lion was clearly visible.
We ended up coming up the two Ivinghoe Locks, and mooring just beyond Bridge 123, below the Seabrook Locks. It's quite breezy again, but it's a pleasant spot with a nice view of Ivinghoe Church in the distance.
17 miles, 12 locks. (63 miles, 36 locks)