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 out 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.