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 wander 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)

Tuesday 27 April 2021

Spring Cruise: Day 5

Yesterday evening, a couple of police officers came round to take our details and basic information about what we’d seen as we came through Broughton Lock.  They said they were investigating a homicide.  Later, there was a police news release about a murder inquiry having been started.  A bit later, all the police tape was removed from around the basin and the police who’d been stopping people using the towpath all disappeared.

This morning, I checked the CRT stoppage notices and rang the police to see if the canal was open.  They said they didn’t really know, but there was nothing on the log to say it was still shut.  So after breakfast we crossed the basin to the service point to fill up with water, and started a wash load.  We then set off, up the first two locks.  But at Bridge 16 we could see police in hi-viz, and some more tape.  The towpath was shut.  As officer came to tell us we wouldn’t be allowed through the lock as forensic work was going on.  We tied up as best we could; subsequently they put some police tape right across the bridge hole.

During the morning, CRT put out a statement saying one of their staff had died yesterday.  Then I had a call from a detective wanting to come and take formal statements from us.  We told her where we were, and she arrived a little while later.  Giving the statements took around two hours in all; at first it seems that you don’t really know much of use (after all, we hadn’t seen the actual incident) but after a while you realise that everyone knows different things, and together they all add up to something significant.  As the DC was leaving, we asked her to try to find out when the canal would be open again.

At around 3pm, we decided we’d rather not wait any longer, so would reverse to the winding hole at Circus Fields Basin, and return to Aylesbury Basin for the night.  The reverse was about a quarter of a mile, but happened relatively straightforwardly.  As we worked our way back, the DC phoned to say the canal would not be open today, and might not even be open tomorrow.

We slotted back into the same space in the basin, and then as I was seriously short on steps today, I went off for a walk.  Aylesbury has very little to recommend it.  The area around the church has some nice old buildings, but most of the town is of an unattractive vintage, and some of the buildings are spectacularly ugly.

Just outside the basin, by the theatre, is a statue of Ronnie Barker, who made one of his first performances here.

3 miles, 4 locks.  (36 miles, 38 locks)

Annual Report

It’s ten years since we took ownership of Briar Rose.  This year, we happen to be out on the boat on the anniversary!

This has been a funny year for boating because of the pandemic.  At the time of the last anniversary, BR was spending lockdown in Nantwich, after we had to abandon our long cruise.  It was June before we could go and get her back.  Even so, we managed quite a bit of boating, with the repatriation trip and three weeks in September.

This year’s figures are:

  • 44 nights on board
  • 491 miles
  • 310 locks
We travelled on the following waterways:
  • Coventry Canal
  • Grand Union Aylesbury Arm
  • Grand Union Mainline
  • Grand Union Wendover Arm
  • North Oxford Canal
  • River Thames
  • Shropshire Union Canal
  • South Oxford Canal
  • Staffs and Worcester
  • Trent and Mersey

Monday 26 April 2021

Spring Cruise: Day 4

We set off about 8.45, with me walking to the locks at the top of the Aylesbury Arm, and Adrian bringing the boat.  The top two locks are a staircase pair, and I started filling the top one.  It seemed to take an age, and opening the top gate was a real struggle.  Then it became clear why: the bottom lock had filled too.  Just then, the local CRT guy came along, because the pound below the locks had been reported as being very low.  He said the paddle between the two locks broke last week and has been replaced with a temporary one, which doesn’t seal properly.  Anyway, he ran some water down while we were in the top lock, and went to set the next lock for us.  Eventually we got on our way.

After the first few locks, there was no shortage of water, in fact at some of the locks there was a huge amount of water coming over the top gates.

It’s a very pretty, rural canal, with some lovely views.

It was 2014 when we last came down, and since then there has been a lot of building — including these very smart houses at Wilstone.

We eventually caught up with a boat ahead.  At Broughton Lock, we were surprised they hadn’t already started going down, but it seemed there had been some sort of incident involving a cyclist and someone else, which they had half seen, and a boat going the other way had completely seen.  Both were reporting it to the police.  They had been asked to wait, so once down the lock they tied up and we carried on down the last couple of locks into the basin.  We tied up on a pontoon mooring; the last time we were here, the big while Buckingham University building was just a hole in the ground.

Soon after tying up, we noticed police around, taping off the canal and the towpath.  We headed into town to look at the David Bowie sculpture.  It’s supposed to play a random Bowie song every hour on the hour, but it didn’t do it at 3pm.

The Old County Hall had some filming going on.  I asked what it was but the guy wouldn’t tell me — only that it was a feature film.  I guess they were using the court room in there, because people dressed as barristers were hanging around outside.

Back at the basin, there were even more police about.  We’ve had our details taken, along with all the other boaters here.  Hopefully the canal won’t be closed for too long...

7 miles, 16 locks.  (33 miles, 34 locks)

Sunday 25 April 2021

Spring Cruise: Day 3

We had a lovely evening last night with Catherine, Nigel, Grace and Matthew, sitting out on the towpath in the sunshine, with plenty of layers on as it got chilly.  We had barbecue food but not cooked on a barbecue as we don’t have one.  We haven’t seen them in person since September, so there was a lot to catch up on.

Another sunny morning today, but there was a tedious and very cold wind along with it.  We set off about 8.30 and soon reached Leighton Lock, which has had new bottom gates.

We were surprised to find that Wyvern Shipping had twenty boats in — we understood many hire fleets to be fully booked.  It will be interesting to see how many there are when we pass again later in the week.  At Grove Lock the wind was pretty strong, and at Church Lock we caught up with a little boat out of Cook’s Wharf, which we shared the next few locks with.

We stopped for lunch between the Ivinghoe and Seabrook Locks.

Setting off again, two boats were just coming down Seabrook Bottom Lock, but the next two were full.  I went and swung the bridge just beyond the top lock.  We shared the two bottom Marsworth Locks with a Wyvern boat, then tied up on the rings beyond Bridge 129.  We went for a walk up through the village of Marsworth, past the church, and had an ice cream from the tea shop.

We walked round the reservoirs, the Marsworth and Startops End ones looking pretty full, but the string Ford one pretty empty.  They do appear to be doing some work there though, so maybe that’s why.

We have no tv signal at all, but we do have internet, so Line of Duty tonight will be via the Firestick and iPlayer.

10 miles, 12 locks.  (26 miles, 18 locks)

Saturday 24 April 2021

Spring Cruise: Day 2

I was awake early, and we set of at 7.45 — it was sunny but still cold.  On our way into and through Milton Keynes we saw our first ducklings and goslings, and I also saw a crow grab a moorhen chick, much to the dismay of its parents.  I always think moorhens care far more about their young than ducks, who seem to take the loss of them very much in their stride.

It’s pretty slow going through Milton Keynes because of all the moored boats.  At the marina, a boat was coming out and we had to go into sharp reverse as he just kept coming.  Eventually we got to Fenny Lock, which Adrian worked us through.

We had lunch on the move between there and Stoke Hammond Lock.  At Willowbridge, a pipe over the canal has become bright green.

I walked from Stoke Hammond Lock to the Soulbury Three Locks, to get some steps in.

At the locks, it appeared that a boat was coming down the top one and was about to swap with a boat going up the middle one, but in the end the downhill boat turned below the lock.  We were well on our way up by then so they waited for us in the top lock.

We continued on to Old Linslade.  The Allcotts are coming to see us this evening, and there’s a handy car park by the bridge.  We took a walk up past the church through the very well kept cemetery, and took the path on the offside of the canal to the bridge by The Globe, before coming back along the towpath.

16 miles, 5 locks.  (17 miles, 6 locks)

Friday 23 April 2021

Spring Cruise: Day 1

We left home at lunchtime once I was back from work, and got to the marina at around 3.30.  We unloaded the car, topped up the boat’s water tank, and set off.  The pub by the marina has a number of semi-outdoor pods in the garden, as well as a big marquee.

The new houses in Cosgrove look just about finished.

We went down the lock and moored just before the aqueduct.  I needed to do a few more steps to get to my target, so went down under the aqueduct and walked round to Holy Trinity Church, which we’ve often seen from the canal but have never been to.

1 mile, 1 lock.

Monday 12 April 2021

Yelvertoft and a night on board

I came up to Northants after work for a boat test as Yelvertoft— from where the short test cruise takes in the familiar landmark of Cracks Hill. 

Then it was to Briar Rose for the first time since October. Fortunately the boat seems to have largely survived the enforced months of neglect pretty well.

I’ll have to be up early in the morning for work, but at least I’ll have had a night on board. 

Saturday 10 April 2021

Pick of Crick Winners


No proper boat test in Canal Boat this month — instead there’s a look back at some of the best winners from the Crick Boat Show over the past decade or so.