Friday, 31 May 2019


To Banbury today for a boat test, on a day which was rather more cloudy than we’d have hoped.  It did brighten up a bit during the morning, and the lift bridge and lock provided some scenery.  The drive home took three hours rather than two, though, which was frustrating.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Finesse Spec Boat on test

The July issue of Canal Boat is out and features my boat test of a new Finesse spec boat.

I’ve also written a review of Canal Pushers, a new crime thriller by former BBC exec Andy Griffee.  And can I also recommend a piece by Pip Leckenby of Oleanna, which has been abridged from her blogs about how their first commissioned boat went wrong.

I’m off to work again today, but will be coming back to the boat tonight.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Back to work

Back to work for both of us today.  I took Adrian to Wolverton station for an early train, and then went back to catch a later train myself.  I’ve come back to the boat, as I need to be here at the weekend.  This is really just to log another night on board.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Post Crick

A boat came past early, and at about 8am we also moved forward past a couple of moored boats to join it on the lock landing.  The lock keepers were running water down the flight to top up a low pound, and then at about 8.30 the lock was unchained and we were allowed in.  Our locking partner was a professional boat mover.  We had a good run down the flight, but only met boats coming up at the penultimate lock; at the bottom, there were a few queueing to come up.  It was chilly, but generally sunny, and I always like the wooded section below the locks, when the M1 starts to diverge from the canal.

We needed to collect my car which has been at Heyford Fields since we picked up the boat last week, so I dropped off Adrian at the marina, and carried on.  He collected the car, and our bill from Gary at BLS.  Adrian then drove to the little car park near the bottom of Stoke Bruerne Locks.  He’d made lunch for each of us before he left, so I had mine on the move while he had his at Stoke Bruerne.  The time difference between car and boat travel is such that he was also forced to adjourn to The Navigation!

At Stoke Bruerne Locks boats we’re coming up and one was waiting to go down, so we had a locking partner.  Pretty much all the locks were in our favour, and as the other boat had a couple of crew on the bank, I was able to go and open the lock ahead each time.  Mike and Stuart from the trip boat, Charlie, also came for a walk down a couple of locks, so it was good to chat to them.  As we went down the flight, the clouds built; at the second to last lock it chucked it down.

The flight took little more than an hour, thanks to locks in our favour, and the ability to work ahead.  We stopped at the bottom to put the kettle on, then I set off the for final leg on the boat while Adrian drove the car back to Thrupp Wharf — adjourning to a different Navigation pub.  We got back into our berth well before 6pm, so it had been a long day but not as long as we’d feared it might be.

21 miles, 13 locks.  (39 miles, 35 locks)

Monday, 27 May 2019

Crick Show: Monday

This morning at about 9 we set off to turn around.  As we needed to pass the water point we stopped the fill up, having to wait a few minutes for another boat to finish.  While we were there we put the washing machine on.  Before long, another boat came along and waited outside us.  As we filled up, Lesley and Joe came past on the newly acquired boat, Steadfast.

We went up to the winding hole, turned around, and retraced our steps.  The boat we’d had to wait for first thing had come from a space right opposite the water point, so as it was a bit nearer the show we pulled in there.  We walked up to the village, then had lunch on board, before going over to the show site.  In the CRT tent, one of their brickies had made a CRT logo in brick and stone.

I stayed over at the show to see the announcement of the winners.  Finesse won the widebeam class, with their Brigantine.  Boating Leisure Services won the Favourite Narrowboat with Two Hoots.

Braidbar were second (again) and Ortomarine third.  I then hotfooted it back to the boat and we set off.  By the time we got to Watford Locks, we were number ten in the group to go down, so we had over an hour to wait.  I managed to get three blogs done for the past three days, when we’ve been in Crick’s communications black hole.  The top and bottom locks have big water saving signs on the balance beams.

Once we were on our way down, the locks took no time at all, and we continued to Norton Junction.  We went down the top lock and were joined by a Wyvern hire boat.  The next lock is locked for water saving, so as we’re moored quite close we hope to be first down in the morning when it’s opened again.

5 miles, 8 locks.  (18 miles, 22 locks)

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Crick Show: Sunday

Dull and rainy on and off today.  We went over to the show and did some shopping, including buying a new chimney.  While there we bumped into Lesley and Joe, and Amanda and David, whom we’d made plans to meet.  They had brought a picnic lunch with them, so arrangements were made for them to come to Briar Rose and eat it with us.  A few hours were spent catching up on news of boat purchases, and of course talking toilets.

In the afternoon it brightened up considerably.  We met Debs and Mark, friends of Andy and Helen Tidy, as they are thinking of buying a boat share and wanted some advice.  We then stayed over at the show site and watched the exhibitors canoe race, which is always fun.

We had dinner on site chatting to Debs and Mark, and were also joined by my cousin Jon and Carolyn.  We went to the entertainment tent for the Dolly Parton tribute act, finding somewhere to sit by taking a picnic bench in from outside,

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Crick Show: Saturday

Saturday was another hot and sunny day.  Andy and I looked at more boats before he headed off at lunchtime.  The Canal Boat stand, which was a trailer and gazebo this year rather than the usual tent, looked rather good.

Chris, the editor of Canal Boat, came to Briar Rose for a cup of tea with his wife, Clare.  I wrote quite a lot of mini reviews in the afternoon.  In the evening we went over to the entertainment tent to see Paul Young and his band Los Pacaminos.  En route, we passed the Braidbar boat, Freedom, moored up by the bridge, and Jerry and Linda invited us for gin and tonics on the well deck.  Malcolm who owned Santiago, the show boat from a few years ago, was also visiting them for a boating fix.  We also met up with my cousin Jon who was there camping with his partner, Carolyn.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Crick Show: Preview Day

Friday at the Crick Show is a new thing this year.  It was a trade and preview show, with a limited number of tickets sold, so it made it easier for Andy the photographer and I to get lots of boats looked at.  It was also a lovely sunny and warm day.

In the evening, Adrian and I went into the village and ate at The Wheatsheaf.  We were the last people who hadn’t booked to get a table.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

To Crick: Day 2

With only a short distance to go this morning, we didn’t hurry to set off, finally letting go at about 9.  Crick Tunnel was as usual dry at the southern end and a bit drippy at the northern end.  We found our booked mooring, quite close to the first bridge; we were one of the first to arrive along this stretch.  Our neighbouring boat arrived an hour or so later, and moored on the inside of us as they have a dog.

In mid morning we walked up into the village so Adrian could get a bus into Rugby and then a train to London, as he’s going to a black tie awards dinner this evening.  I walked back along the towpath and bumped into some of the Braidbar bunch, and then went over to the show site.  This afternoon I’ve been helping Pete set up the Canal Boat stand.  This evening, I’m going to The Moorings for dinner with the Braidbar crew.

2 miles, 0 locks.  13 miles, 14 locks.

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)

Friday, 19 April 2019

Easter Cruise: Day 2

A really lovely warm and sunny day today.  We set off around 8.30 heading for the Soulbury Three Locks.  A widebeam was in the flight ahead, so we had to turn the bottom lock. At that time of day the pub alongside was deserted.

As we went into the middle lock, a boat moored at the bottom set off, so we waited for them.  I went and set the top lock while we waited.

Beyond Old Linslade, a very wide widebeam was coming towards us, just where another was moored.  He flashed his lights twice, but I had no idea what that meant.  Anyway, he waited as there was more room his side for us to pass each other.  There’s a floating market this weekend along fromThe Globe pub, which looked well attended.  We went up Leighton Lock with the same boat as before, then we both stopped on the Tesco mooring; we needed a trip to the supermarket to get things we hadn’t realised we needed yesterday, and because we have visitors this afternoon.

Setting off again, we reached Grove Lock to find a boat going up and a widebeam waiting.  I went to help with the lock to save the lady from the widebeam having to walk all the way round.  Before long it was our turn to come up.  I can’t remember operating a lock where so many people wanted to walk across the gates, with plenty of pub patrons opting for a walk along the canal.  The Grove pub has very attractive hanging baskets with narrowboat brackets.

There was a similar situation at Church lock but by the time we were in the lock we could see our companions from earlier heading our way, so we waited for them.  The widebeam moored up and our locking partners stopped for lunch before Slapton Lock meaning we were on our own again, but at least the lock was empty.  At the top, we turned in the winding hole beyond the bridge and I reversed along to moor up opposite the farm which has wooden holiday cabins, all of whose guests turned up during the afternoon.  We had a late lunch, then Adrian started making dinner while I washed the side of the boat.  At around 3.15 our visitors arrived: Adrian’s cousin, Fiona, husband, Mark, and children Caitlin and Findlay.  We spent the afternoon chatting, walking to Slapton Lock and Horton Lock and helping boats through at both, and generally trying to wear our the kids.  We had Adrian’s Good Friday macaroni cheese for dinner, before our guests left to continue their journey to Leicester, where they’ve visiting the National Space Centre tomorrow.

9 miles, 7 locks.  (24 miles, 10 locks)

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Easter Cruise: Days 0 and 1

Yesterday, Adrian spent the day working from the boat.  I’ve been on night shifts, so drove up after work this morning, arriving before 8.30.  We unpacked the stuff I’d brought up in the car, and within fifteen minutes or so we were pulling out of the marina and heading south, as it’s a while since we’ve been this way.  At Cosgrove Lock, an electro-fishing boat had just been launched and was taking up quite a bit of the lock landing.  There’s a Canada goose which has made its nest on the offside of the lock; some netting has been put up, either to protect it or lock users, I’m not sure.  As I went into the lock, the goose stood up to hiss at me, revealing a clutch of six eggs.

We stopped at Wolverton, just getting on the end of the moorings, and visited Tesco for food for the next few days.  Then we set off on the long slow plod through Milton Keynes. There are so many moored boats these days that it feels as though you’re hardly ever out of tickover.  Almost as if to demonstrate how long it is since we came this way, there’s a new marina which looks almost complete, and lots of new flats going up on the opposite side of the canal.  There’s also a new Y-shaped bridge across the canal, with the arms of the Y forming the towpath bridge over the marina entrance.

We had lunch on the move, and the sun had burnt off the early mist.  The temperature also started to rise.  At Fenny Lock we had help from a little boy and his grandmother; apparently he’d been waiting for a boat to come along.  We went up Stoke Hammond Lock, which now has a display of rubber ducks on the offside.

We moored a bit further along in a favourite spot.  One September we saw lapwings in the field opposite; no sign today, but maybe it’s an autumn thing.  As we’ve come along, Adrian has made a chilli for dinner tonight.

15 miles, 3 locks.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Adrian on board

Adrian came up to the boat this afternoon from work, catching a train to Wolverton, visiting Tesco for a couple of days food, and then getting a taxi to the marina.  This is really just a post to log the night on board.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Back home

It was raining when I woke up this morning, so I was in no hurry to get up.  It rained on and off while I had breakfast, and consulting the met office rainfall radar showed there was worse to come.  It was about 10 when I finally set off, and happened to have found a gap in the rain.  It was very chilly though (just 4.5 Celsius according to my car a bit later).  Back at the marina, I did one of my best ever spin turns to reverse into our berth, even if I do say so myself.  In short order I was packed up and heading home in the car.

1 mile, 0 locks.  (2 miles, 0 locks)

Monday, 1 April 2019

Long day

The alarm went off at 5.15 and by 6 I was walking through the horse tunnel to where I’d left my car.  I have to scrape the frost off it.  I met Andy the photographer at Towcester, and we travelled together up to Higher Poynton for a boat test.  The route took us through the Peak District, with glimpses of the Peak Forest Canal.  We arrived at 9 and were done by lunchtime, so we headed through the Peak District again heading for Sheffield.  The route included some spectacular scenery, including one very steep twisting road.

We’ve never arrived in Sheffield from this direction before, and we passed many University buildings, and then a tram line in the middle of the road.

We got away about 4.30, and the journey back was pretty quick.  I parked in the marina and walked down to the boat in Cosgrove.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Birthday Locks

I drove up to the boat after a night shift, dropped off my things, opened my birthday cards, got changed, and headed out again to Braunston.  My route took me along the new Flore Weedon bypass, which crosses the canal on a big new bridge that we’ve watched go up over the past couple of years.  I parked in the village and walked down to the locks.  I was meeting James and Amy from Willow who are heading to London with new Baby A.  We were pretty mob handed, as also helping out were Maffi from Milly M and Ann and Simon from Melaleuca.  We started off up the locks with one boat, but they soon decided to moor and were replaced by Water Jester who’d just set off.  We flew up the locks, and at the top we all went on board for tea (and to admire Baby A, who was very contented and cute).

We all agreed to go and help at Buckby too, so while Amy and James set off through the tunnel, the others drove to the top of Buckby Locks while I drove to the bottom.  I was starving so popped onto the marina cafe for a baguette to eat while walking up the locks.  As I got to the top lock Willow was just coming down.  With plenty of crew, we made rapid progress down the locks; the sun had also come out and it had warmed up considerably.

At the bottom, James and Amy set off to make some progress towards London.  Ann, Simon, and Maffi turned down the offer of a lift back to their car, so I headed off back to Briar Rose, via Tesco and Towcester for some food.  It was too nice an afternoon not to move, so I quickly prepared the boat and headed down to Cosgrove.  I turned around above the lock and moored in a nice open spot just by the horse tunnel under the canal.

I’ve lit the fire and will be having an early dinner and an early night — partly because I’ll soon have been up for 24 hours, and partly because of an early start tomorrow when we hope to get two boat tests done.

1 mile, 0 locks.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Vagabond on test

The May issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on the Aqualine boat, Vagabond.  The front cover is one of Andy’s drone shots.  If you’re wondering about the headlines, it’s because this is the first boat we’ve looked at with an incinerating toilet.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Goodbye Paul

This morning was very windy again, with the odd squally shower.  Adrian did work while I did not much, apart from a trip to get lunch and dinner.  This afternoon was the reason we were up here — to go to Paul Macey’s funeral.

It was a very nice service at the crematorium in Milton Keynes, and it was also good to chat to his family afterwards.  We’d followed the blog for a long time and met Paul and Elaine a few times, most notably at Paddington Basin on the day Prince George was born.  He also often used to message me when he was listening to the radio.

Back at the marina, just where we parked there were sparrows going in and out of a little hole in the wall.

On the boat, we spent a mucky half hour trying to stop the bilge pump running — not pumping, just running — something that will require more work on another occasion.  Tomorrow, we’ll go back to London as I have work, and Adrian will go home from there.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

New lock gates

As usual after night shifts, I went to bed early and got up quite late.  It was another blustery day with squally showers blowing through from time to time.  The boat has been bouncing about in the wind.  The forecast calming down sort of happened after lunch, but I still didn’t fancy heading out, partly because the forecast is pretty windy for tomorrow too.  However, in a sunny spell this afternoon I walked the mile or so down the towpath the Cosgrove to see the new gates which have been installed at the lock.  They have certainly stopped the continual flow through the previous leaky gates.

There were some daffodils by the bridge, which looked very nice in the sunshine.

Adrian is coming up on the train, so I’ll drive to Wolverton to pick him up.  A sausage casserole has been simmering away on top of the stove all afternoon.