Sunday 20 March 2022

March week: Day 8

After quite a late night, I had breakfast in my hotel in Manchester, and managed to fit in some canal spotting on the way back to Piccadilly station: a couple locks on the Rochdale Canal alongside Canal Street.

The train journey home was an hour longer than the way up, because engineering works meant a couple of diversions were necessary.  There are plenty of canals to spot along the way.  I got back to the boat early afternoon, and as it was a lovely sunny day I walked down to the Wolverton Aqueduct and back, helping a boat up Cosgrove Lock on the way — the same boat which was coming out of the River Tove and had to wait while I turned round the other day.

Back at the marina, one of the female ducks is trying to fend off the attentions of one of the males.  This involves a great deal of loud quacking, and thundering up and down on the roof, before moving on to next door.

Back to work tomorrow.

Saturday 19 March 2022

March week: Day 7

My cousin Catherine and I had a great evening last night, watching live music.  The Stables in MK is a cute little theatre, and Sam Outlaw and Ruthie Collins were both excellent.  We even had a chat with Sam afterwards.

This morning was another very sunny day.  The main task was the re-do the sealant around the shower tray, which has turned a bit black over the winter.  It’s a job I’ve done several times over the years, and it never gets better.  Getting the old stuff off takes about an hour, and putting the new on takes about 30 seconds.  This year’s effort is a lot neater than last time, so maybe I am learning.

I set off at 11, and while the sun was out and there was some warmth in it, it was also very windy and a bit chilly.

It was so windy that I was concerned about getting back into the marina, but decided to go for it.  I left the turn into the entrance very late because I knew the wind would blow the bow round, and that worked well.  But the wind was straight up the marina, so I knew there was no way I’d be able to get in backwards; so for the first time ever here, I’ve come in forwards, and even that was a struggle.

This afternoon I drove down to MK and caught a train, and I’m now in Manchester for a friend’s birthday party.

2 miles, 0 locks.  (39 miles, 4 locks)

Friday 18 March 2022

March week: Day 6


It was a very misty start this morning, but with the promise of sunshine to come.  The level of the canal had also dropped a bit overnight, and the boat was on a slightly jaunty angle which required a loosening of the ropes.  Later, I walked along to the spill weir, and found it had much less water going over it than yesterday.

I spent the morning writing up yesterday’s boat test, during which time the mist was burnt off by the sun.  Before lunchtime, the solar panel had topped the batteries right up again.  After lunch, I set off to turn around.  There are signs of spring everywhere, and I particularly liked seeing that the blackthorn blossom is out.

It was a bit chaotic at the bottom of Stoke Bruerne locks, where I wanted to turn around.  The Jules Fuels boats were on the water point, two boats were coming out of the bottom lock, and a boat ahead of me was going in.  I initially held back for the exiting boats, because I didn’t want to turn right in front of them — but they indicated that they both wanted to go onto the water point.  So I started my turn in the mouth of the arm, only to find there was a boat coming out; fortunately he waited, while behind me, the Jules boats pushed across to their moorings the other side, and the two boats eventually got near the taps.

I retraced my steps, but continued past last night’s mooring and pulled in opposite Kingfisher Marina.  I’ve never stopped here before, preferring to go on a few more bridges where the A508 is a bit further away.  But I’m off out with my cousin Catherine this evening, and this is a more convenient place to be picked up.  We’re going to see Sam Outlaw at The Stables in Milton Keynes.

This afternoon I went for a walk up to Yardley Gobion, which I’ve only previously driven through before. It’s a rather pretty village.

I followed another foot bath across a field back down to the canal a few bridges along.  On getting back to the boat, I chatted to Leon on The Old Bovine which is moored behind me, partly because I remembered that he knew Lesley and Joe from Steadfast.  I texted Lesley, who accidentally phoned me back — so it was was nice to have an unexpected catch up!

5 miles, 0 locks.  (37 miles, 4 locks)

Thursday 17 March 2022

March week: Day 5

It was a beautiful sunny morning today.  I walked up the towpath, which while still quite muddy wasn’t as bad as I’d feared it would be, to the marina and my car — and drove to Gayton for a boat test.  The owners of the boat were heading out for a couple of days, so we boated down to Gayton Junction and turned right.  Ryan on the fuel boat, Southern Cross, was there serving customers, and came past us a bit later when we’d stopped.

Andy the photographer and I walked back to the marina and headed off.  I came back via Towcester, where I did some store cupboard shopping for things we’ve noticed we needed over the past few days.  I dropped the shopping off at the boat in Cosgrove, then returned the car to the security of the marina.  Once I’d walked back to the boat I had some lunch and set off.

While the sky behind me was still blue, up ahead was much cloudier, and there was a cold bite to the wind.  The canal is very full; the spill weir near Cosgrove has lots of water going over it, and as I approached my intended mooring at Grafton Regis, the weir their was also flowing well.  As I came in to moor I found that the flow on the canal was quite significant — when normally there’s hardly any.  Once tied up, I walked back to the weir to have a proper look at it.

My mooring has a view of the Manor House at Grafton Regis from the galley window, and the Tove valley on the towpath side.  The River Tove is well up, flooding the fields, and the extra water from the canal is only adding to it.

I suspect the river has put a lot of water into the canal at the bottom of the Stoke Bruerne locks, so turning there tomorrow could be either really easy or really difficult.

4 miles, 0 locks.  (32 miles, 4 locks)

Wednesday 16 March 2022

March week: Day 4

Rain was forecast for this afternoon, so we wanted to try to get where we were going before it started.  So we set off from Campbell Park at about 8.30, under grey skies.  All the moored boats mean a lot of the journey has to be done on tickover.  But even on a dull day, I thought the houses at the old wharf at Great Linford looked nice.

The park beyond the bridge has had a lot of work done on it, in addition to the improved lake.  There are new benches, info boards, and sculptures.  A bit further on, past the Black Horse pub, a place on the offside where there used to be caravans is having houses built on it.  As we came along there was the odd spot of drizzle, then approaching the Wolverton Aqueduct it rained a bit more.  As we got to the aqueduct we caught up with the Jules Fuels pair, who were quite slow through the narrow trough.

The fuel boats had more customers between the aqueduct and the lock, so as I went past I asked if they could stop and top up our diesel tank when they came through the village.  When we got to the lock two boats had just come down, including the trip boat, and they helpfully left a gate open for us.  Once up the lock we were a bit dismayed to see a line of anglers all along the moorings.  We stopped on the water point as yesterday’s tap had been so hopeless, and while the tank filled I walked along to see how far the fishermen went.  Fortunately, they had left a gap round the corner, so we were able to tie up near the horse tunnel.  We had lunch, then the bows of the fuel boats appeared at the window.  We didn’t need much diesel, only 41 litres, but the price was £1.34 a litre — which is apparently slightly less than last week.

Adrian then headed off back to work, his car having been parked in the village.  Since he’s been gone, the rain has got heavier and heavier, so I’ve hidden indoors doing a few odd jobs and keeping the fire going.  This evening, I’m going to try cooking a baked potato in the stove, so we’ll see how that works out.

7 miles, 1 lock.  (28 miles, 4 locks)

Tuesday 15 March 2022

March week: Day 3

Today we have spent all day moving, and ended up where we started.  We set off at about 8.30, in bright sunshine.  First stop was at the water point by the Peartree Bridge pub, as we needed another load of washing done.  We were there a bit longer than expected, because on checking the machine to see whether the wash part of the cycle was done, it was showing an error code indicating it couldn’t lock the door.  We sorted that and got it going again.  The tap was extraordinarily slow, so the extra time there was probably a good thing.

We shared Fenny Stratford lock with a hire boat in search of a pump out, with MK marina having sent them on to Willowbridge, as their machine wasn’t working.  The crew was relieved to hear that Willowbridge was canalside, and they wouldn’t have to do a difficult turn in!  We carried on to the winding hole below Stoke Hammond Lock, where we turned around, and reversed onto a bit of piling to moor up.  We then walked up to the Soulbury Three Locks, which are currently closed for work.  There’s a big coffer dam and a pontoon bridge across the canal.

The actual work is to rebuild the wall just below the top lock, and there was a work boat beached across the drained pound, and lots of people laying bricks.

The pound below the middle lock also has a very bad wall, with the gabions having disintegrated.  I suspect that’s a job for another time though, otherwise the locks won’t be re-opening on Friday afternoon as scheduled.

We had lunch at the Three Locks pub.  They don’t really have a sensible lunch menu, so we selected items from the nibbles and starter menus.  Everything was very tasty, but a bit pricy.  We walked back and retraced our steps.  Somewhere along the canal was a scene which reminded me of the concrete sculpture of a sofa that’s on the Coventry Arm — except this isn’t a sculpture.

We’ve moored in the same spot as last night, just facing the other way.  Adrian has been making a chilli as we’ve travelled along.

13 miles, 2 locks.  (21 miles, 3 locks)

Monday 14 March 2022

March week: Day 2

I needed to be up in good time this morning, as I’d been booked to have an on-air chat with Zoe Ball on the Radio 2 Breakfast Show, about the Country2Country Festival.  It was at 7.40, and I did it from the cratch where the signal was a bit stronger.

Once that was done we had breakfast, then about 9am Adrian started a wash load on work shirts.  Once the washing part of the cycle was over we set off, with Adrian working us through the lock.  Going anywhere round here takes ages because of all the moored boats, but it was a nice sunny day so crawling along on tickover for most of the way didn’t seem like much of a hardship.  With this being close to base, I hardly took any photos.  But I did spot that the works at Great Linford are now all but finished, with the huge holes in the ground now rather attractive lakes.

We had hoped to moor on the park moorings in Milton Keynes, but these are currently still winter moorings, so we tied up on the rings opposite.  As it was lunchtime we walked back to the Camphill Cafe by Bridge 81.  This is in a residential place for adults with learning disabilities, and the cafe offers them work experience.  They also grow their own produce, and have an artisan bakery.  We’ve tried to go here a few times before, but have never managed to be here on a day when it was open.  But it was today, and we can thoroughly recommend it.

We walked back on the opposite side of the canal, and on through Campbell Park with its many sculptures to Campbell Wharf.  A pub has been built by the marina since we were last this way, and is due to open next month.

We wandered back to the boat and have both been doing odd bits of work in the sunshine.  In fact it’s been so warm in the boat with the fire going and the sun shining that Adrian’s shirts have all dried, and we’ve had to open a window.

7 miles, 1 lock.  (8 miles, 1 lock)

Sunday 13 March 2022

March week: Day 1

I’ve had a couple of days at the Country2Country festival at the O2 in London, and came up to the boat from there this afternoon (lots of photos of C2C on Instagram — @adamporternews if you’re interested).  I did food shopping on the way.  Once on the boat, I got a bit of a shock when I rolled up the blind on the front doors to find a duck in the cratch!  She was trying to get out, so I went back out lift the cover from the outside.  This video isn’t great, because it’s difficult to hold a phone and lift a cratch cover, but it gives you an indication of how keen she was to escape.

I don’t  think she’d been there long, because the well deck wasn’t the mess it could have been, but I’m glad I was here today to let her out.

I topped up the water tank and generally got ready to leave the marina.  I only did a mile down to Cosgrove.  Adrian is on his way, so this is a reasonable place to come to.

1 miles, 0 locks.