Yesterday evening was very changeable, weatherwise. Just after I'd blogged saying the sun had come out, there was a very heavy hail shower. The hail stones bounce on the roof, and a few of them manage to come through the mushroom vents!
Later, we went across to The Grove Lock pub, where we had a very pleasant evening. First, a colleague from work who lives in Leighton Buzzard joined us with her husband for a drink; they went home, and we had an excellent meal. Afterwards, we walked along the canal, past the new Grove Lock Marina, up to the next lock. It was clear and calm as the sun disappeared over the hill.
This morning it was raining when we woke up, sometimes quite heavily, and we were up relatively early. By the time we set off at 8.15, it had stopped raining but was very cold. We stopped briefly after about half an hour at the Tesco moorings in Leighton Buzzard, so we could get some bread and other things.
Counting the hire boats at Wyvern Shipping, it seems that four boats went out yesterday. A boat was coming up the lock, so Adrian went to help them before we went down. The next stretch was cold and blustery at time, but chinks of blue sky were appearing. Soon we were at the top of the three Soulbury Locks.
I went to fill the top lock, then the lock keeper came to help. There was a Wyvern Shipping boat going down ahead, and the lock keeper had asked them to wait for us in the bottom lock. I assume the lock keeper and his assistant are volunteers; they're helpful, but don't seem entirely clued up on the most efficient way of doing gates and paddles. Anyway, soon enough we were at the bottom, and decided to stop for water. The Wyvern boat also wanted water, so a little boat which was on the water point having its engine worked on shuffled forward a bit. It turned out that the two women on board were moving the boat for a friend who's selling it; they'd discovered that little or no maintenance had been done for a couple of years, so there were engine problems and the water pump didn't work properly.
The tap at the bottom of the Soulbury Locks has very good pressure, so we weren't long filling up. Surprisingly, the sun had also come out. We carried on for less than a mile, before mooring up just before Stoke Hammond Lock. We had lunch (while a heavy shower passed through), then tackled an engine oil change, as it's just over 250 hours since we did the last one.
After another heavy shower, we set off to walk to Stoke Hammond. Hopes of doing a circular walk were scuppered by large "Private, Keep Out" signs on the track near the lock (which used to have a narrow lock alongside, hence the double arched bridge). Instead, we walked back to Bridge 106 and into the village, where there's a pub and a shop. The village sign on the green says it was one of the handful of places which lost no men in the Second World War -- hence the "Thankful Village" on the sign.
We got back to the boat in the dry, but there have been showers ever since, including some hailstones. We've been very lucky, because we've managed to dodge all the rain today. Tomorrow's forecast is much more promising.
6.5 miles, 4 locks. (28 miles, 11 locks)