No cruising for us today, we said goodbye to our visitor, lock-crew, & galley-slave Allison today as she was rescued by two of her children, Jason & Naomi, who drove up to take her back home. We were sad to see her go, but suspect she will be glad of the rest as we had promised her a relaxing cruise down the Thames; instead she found herself on a canal trip comprising of 94 miles, 61 locks and 2 tunnels!
The rest of the day was declared a rest day, although I did adjust the Teleflex/Morse control to make the engaging of reverse a little easier.
The summer definitely went out of our summer cruise today as we set off in drizzle which stayed with us most of the day.
Fortunately our target was not far away. Our first lock at Fenny Stratford has just a 1’ 1” rise so hardly worth counting, but interesting with its hand operated swing bridge over it.
This was followed by Stoke Hammond Lock, then the Soulbury Three (where the lockkeeper helped us through) and finally Leighton Lock; we shared all but the last with a guy single handing on Samantha, a 70 footer, having left him at the well recommended (by him) Globe Inn, while we took our brunch on board.
We arrived at at Tesco, Leighton Linslade by 4pm, where I promptly pulled a muscle in my shoulder while mooring up on the Stop & Shop 2 hour moorings, so the girls went shopping while I rested up then moved a couple of hundred yards onto the 14 day Visitor Moorings.
A somewhat longer day today, our friends from nb Empress knocked just before 9, as arranged, to say that they were headed up to the water point so we joined them there to top up too. As soon as that was done we set off down the Stoke Bruerne flight with Joy feeling able to to steer into the locks today with me on standby. She found it difficult to get into reverse so a special adaptation (using a piece of wood, duct tape & string) was devised “on-the-fly” to extend the control lever”
The locks were soon completed and we were off on a 5 mile pound down to Cosgrave, stopping for lunch en-route. Cosgrave is an attractive village, where, at the Junction with the Buckingham Canal (under restoration) we veered left through Cosgrave Lock and continued, lock free, through Milton Keynes and took some photos of the modern sculpture and murals.
Whatever you may think of Milton Keynes town, I must say that I was impressed with their treatment of the canal, with miles of “linear park” and little vandalism or graffiti that I could see.
We spotted a guy along here who we met at Fenny Compton during the winter living in a tiny 16 foot fibreglass cruiser! How he didn’t freeze to death we can’t imagine, but there he was, large as life, lighting a fire in a brazier on the towpath and we exchanged greetings as we passed by.
Thanks to the excellent ‘First Mate’ guide, we stopped by Linford Bridge and picked up some groceries and fish & chips for tea. We pressed on and reached our moorings for the night at Fenny Stratford, just one visitor mooring left, and just our size!
Today was an easy day with no locks, just a very wet tunnel!
My first job of the day was to walk down the road to the garage to get some petrol for our generator (only used on washdays!) and what a treat I found at Clarke Bros, Stowe Hill Garage, it was like stepping back 50 years, petrol pumps with no electronic console in the shop, they just asked “How much did you have?” but the real treat was the old motorbikes and cars, a Sunbeam S8, a Norman Autocycle similar to my first bike and a Scott Squirrel in the shop and various old breakdown trucks, vans and cars around and about. Not only that but a barbers shop on site too but I didn’t have time to use that service, but I did find this video on YouTube!
We left just after 9 and went round the corner to Rugby Boats to top up with diesel, but Steve, an old colleague from days at Heyford, told us they were waiting for a fuel delivery so on we went.
It was a pretty straight run down to Gayton Junction and on to Blisworth with plenty of photo opportunities, we passed quite a few boats going the other way, including a pair of coal boats, so we expected to meet a few in the tunnel, but to our surprise we had it to ourselves.
The tunnel had lots of drips and showers of water so I was glad of a hat and coat but apart from that it was quite uneventful and we made it through in just about half an hour.
We arrived at Stoke Bruerne about 1pm where my brother and sister were waiting for us and we had lunch and a drink at the Boat Inn and spent the afternoon drinking tea and chatting on the boat, while Catty was allowed to explore the hedgerow, not to mention a few other boats!
We caught up with our friends on nb Empress too and made arrangements to leave with them tomorrow morning.
Our day started with a short trip from our overnight mooring to Braunston Chandlers to buy some paint & varnish ready for a little project to renovate the rear doors and side hatch. The area at the bottom of the locks was congested and we had to ask if we could ‘breast up’ to a boat being worked on at Wharf House Narrowboats “As long as you don’t wobble it about” I was told by their engineer, “I’ve just lined up the new engine room cover plate”. I acquitted myself to his satisfaction with narry a bump; they had just stretched the boat by 8 foot and were getting ready to drop the engine back in through the roof.
By this time the lock mooring was free and we moved across and was asked by the crew of nb Empress, one of The Wyvern Shipping Co’s fleet, if they could share the lock with us, we gladly agreed and accompanied them up the entire flight. They were an experienced and laid back crew whose company we enjoyed.
The experience of Braunston Tunnel was next, a first for us, a long tunnel with two way traffic! We met three boats, one of which gave us a glancing blow, for which they apologised, it wasn’t too scary or too wet and we were soon out in the sunshine again.
Onwards to Norton Junction where we took a right, signposted Brentford! We stopped here for lunch and made arrangements to meet my brother and sister tomorrow.
We joined up with nb Empress again who had had a pub lunch at the New Inn and went down Buckby Locks together.
Buckby was always known to canal people as Bugby, and I saw it written that way in permanent marker on a replaced balance arm.
We enjoyed the lock free run down to Stowe Hill, the Grand Union seeming wonderfully wide after our familiar Oxford Canal. On reaching Stowe Hill we found a space waiting for us on the visitor moorings.
We I set off at 8:30 leaving the girls to get dressed and breakfasted. Onwards and upwards, actually downwards eventually, as there we were now on the summit level and no locks for 3 hours or so. I had my toast and marmalade brought to me on the move as we meandered our way along the contour, nearly having a close encounter with another boat at Griffin Bridge which is on a totally blind corner, they tooted, I hooted in return and when they saw our nose in the bridge ‘ole they reversed so hard the prop-walk slewed them across the cut, they didn’t look very amused.
We were now in less familiar territory, although by no means unexplored, it fact this was part of the route we followed 30 odd years ago which I mentioned in our Reminiscences post a few weeks ago. Wormleighton radio mast played it’s usual trick of appearing to move from one side of the canal several times before deciding it wanted to be on our left.
We reached Marston Doles and took Elevenses, a little late at half eleven, and started the descent at noon. There was a volunteer lock-keeper at the top lock, who departed after seeing us into the lock saying he was going down the bottom but when we got there there was no sign of him. We had a good trip down meeting a few boats which we were able to exchange locks with. When we arrived athe bottom, we treated ourselves to and ice cream from the Folly Inn.
With no more locks to Braunston the crew left me to it whilst they worked on preparing for the On Your Marks Holiday Club which Allison is involved in.
We were soon at Napton Junction and heading for Braunston, the canal becomes wider here as although still the Oxford Canal, it shares the route of the Grand Union along this section.
As we approached Braunston I was taken by a Savonius Turbine made from two 40 gallon oil drums. We found ourselves at the iconic Braunston Junction and moored up almost opposite the Boathouse Pub.
Having spent a quite night in Banbury we set off on familiar territory up through Cropredy and Claydon Locks, now free of time restrictions, to Fenny Compton.
The hedgerows were full of elderflower and dog rose blossom, water irises decorated the edges of the canal and the baby ducklings were as cute as ever.
We arrived at Fenny around 3pm to find there were no spaces at the visitor moorings, so we stopped at the water point and I despatched the crew to see if there were spaces the other side of the bridge. While they were gone a couple of boats moved off, obviously having enjoyed Sunday Roast at The Wharf Inn, so I backed up sharpish, much to the puzzlement of the returning crew.
Catty was delighted to be back on home ground obviously remembering it from our winter mooring. Allison kindly treated us to dinner at the pub where we sampled their Kashmiri Lamb and Chicken and Bacon Salad.