Sunday, 9 May 2021

Whitsuntide No2 on test

The May issue of Canal Boat is out and includes my boat test on Whitsuntide No2 by Trinity Boats.

Monday, 3 May 2021

Spring Cruise: Day 11

With bad weather forecast, especially strong winds this afternoon, we made another early start at 7.30 — or we would have if it hadn’t taken a few minutes battling to get away from the side.  All three of the Soulbury Locks needed filling, and I also had to run some water down to the first pound.  At the bottom lock, something happened which we’ve never seen before: a heron landed on the boat, and only took off as we were leaving.

At one bridge, the parapet which was complete a week ago was now demolished.  Some brick and some big red plastic barriers were in the bridge hole, as we discovered as we bounced over them.

At around 11, the rain started.  At times it was heavy, and occasionally horizontal.  It was also very cold in the strong wind. At one point, I could smell that someone was making grilled cheese sandwiches.  It turned out it was Adrian.

Getting into and out of Cosgrove lock was a battle with the wind.  When we got back to the marina, the wind was in its usual direction, straight down the pontoons, so I figured it would be just as easy to get in backwards as normal, as going in forwards.  The wind help me line up with the gap.  We were back at 2.45; Adrian had done the packing as we came along, so we quickly loaded the car and headed home.

This has not been quite the trip we imagined.  One night in Aylesbury turned into six, and our leisurely four day journey back to the marina became a two day dash.  But most of all, we’re thinking about the family of the man who lost his life; a man has been charged with his murder, and we’re waiting to see if the police need to see us again.

17 miles, 6 locks.  (73 miles, 76 locks)

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Spring Cruise: Day 10

Finally free to leave, we slipped away from Aylesbury Basin at 7.30 — making our way steadily up the Arm.

At the staircase locks at the top, there is still a problem with the paddle between the two locks.  When we arrived, there was almost no water at all in the top lock, and as I filled it, the bottom lock also began to fill.  We made it to the junction after four and a half hours.

Having climbed 16 locks, we then began to make our way down the other side of the hill.  At the two Marsworth locks, an uphill boat didn’t notice that I’d lifted some paddles to fill the bottom lock, so we had to wait while they pinched our lock and came up.

There were a few widebeams on the move, including one at the top Ivinghoe lock.

Here we had caught up with a single-hander called Bob the Welder.  He has a little welding workshop at the back of his boat, and has made his gear lever from chain.  We stayed with him until Grove Lock, with the locks all in our favour.

Through Leighton Buzzard there was a downpour which lasted all through the town.  A couple of boats were just going down the lock, but at least by then the rain had stopped.  We carried on to Bridge 109, a favourite spot.  There are a few boats here, but we have tucked onto the end of the piling.  It was 5.30 by the time we stopped, so a ten hour day — partly because the forecast for tomorrow is very poor.

17 miles, 28 locks.  (56 miles, 70 locks)

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Spring Cruise: Day 9

I had to go to work today, and fortunately Aylesbury Station is just a few minutes walk from the basin.  Adrian had a visit from a former colleague, and they went out for lunch in town.

0 miles, 0 locks.  (39 miles, 42 locks)

Friday, 30 April 2021

Spring Cruise: Day 8

Another police officer had arranged to come and see us today, so before that I took a walk up to see if the canal was open (no) and call into Tesco on the way back.  The DC arrived about 11, and wanted to speak to each of us individually, so I went to wait outside while she spoke to Adrian.  During the hour and a half that took, the fire brigade arrived to practise using a hose.

Then it was my turn to give another statement — which took another hour.  While he was banished from the boat, Adrian had been to Waitrose for some lunch.  After I’d had something to eat we moved the boat across the basin to the water point to fill the tank and run the washing machine.  We washed one side of the boat while it was on the towpath side.

Another email came through to say the canal was now open (incidentally, today’s police officer confirmed that the canal was opened briefly yesterday, until search officers found something and closed it again), so we walked up to visit the scene — really just to see if we’d remembered things correctly.  While we were there, a group of CRT people were also visiting, including the chief exec, Richard Parry, whom we had a chat with.

On the way back we routed via the big B&Q across the road to get some logs.  They didn’t have any real ones, so we got some coffee logs instead, which we’ve had before and quite liked.

Of course now we physically could leave Aylesbury, we can’t — because I have to go to work tomorrow for a day that I couldn’t get leave for.  There are no trains on the Euston line this weekend, which is why we’d planned to be back near the car — but here the station is close by and has trains.  We’ll escape on Sunday.

0 miles, 0 locks.  (39 miles, 42 locks)

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Spring Cruise: Day 7

First thing this morning, I walked up to see if there was any news on the canal re-opening.  There wasn’t.  After breakfast, we acted on a suggestion of Paul Balmer of Waterway Routes, and took a train two stops down to Wendover, where we found the end of the Wendover Arm.

We have boated the other end of the arm, which leaves the mainline at Bulbourne Junction and goes a couple of miles to a big winding hole.  The middle section is being restored and is not currently in water, while the Wendover end has water in it, but of course isn’t connected.  There will need to be some work raising bridges and moving pipes before any boats can use this end.  The first bridge is one of the narrowest we’ve seen.

At Halton, there’s another bridge that’s too low for a boat, which carries a road.

Just behind is Rothschild Bridge.  The Rothschilds were big landowners in the area.

The sunshine had given way to clouds and the odd spot of rain, so we returned to Wendover, which is an attractive town with a market in the High Street.  We had tea and cake at a cafe; a small-scale anti HS2 protest was going on.

As we waited for a train back to Aylesbury, a CRT stoppage update came through saying the Arm was now open again, although the towpath remained closed.  When we got back to the boat, we immediately made preparations and set off, up the two locks and onto the crime scene — where the police tape was still across the bridge.  I went to speak to the police on duty, who knew nothing about any opening; I then phoned CRT, who called me back a little while later to say that they’d been told by the police they could re-open the navigation, but that on double checking the police had now changed their minds.  It meant we had another reverse and turn to do, before returning to Aylesbury Basin.  Adrian was at the helm for the difficult bit this time.

During the day there have been a few updates.The man arrested is under guard in hospital, the woman arrested has been released on bail, and the victim’s name has been released.  His family has released a statement.

3 miles, 4 locks.  (39 miles, 42 locks)

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Spring Cruise: Day 6

Calling it a Spring Cruise seems like a misnomer at the moment, as we still can’t go anywhere.  This morning we walked up to the crime scene to see if anything had changed.  The police on the outside of the cordon can’t tell us anything about when the canal might be open again.  The towpath diversion goes up onto an embankment, which encloses a flood water storage area for Bear Brook, which runs through Aylesbury.  We followed the Brook back alongside the canal; at the top end of lock 15, it goes under the canal which is carried on a hefty brick aqueduct.

We called in at Tesco on the way back for some shopping, and this afternoon had another wader through Aylesbury town centre.  The more we see of the town, the less it has to offer!  It’s also turned colder and showery, so we lit the fire this afternoon.

0 miles, 0 locks.  (36 miles, 38 locks)