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The Odyssey – Summer 2008 Day 9

Posted by indigodream on 13 June, 2008

Soulbury Three Locks – Stoke Bruerne below Lock 15

There was torrential rain overnight – just enough for the furious drumming of raindrops on the roof to wake us before we went back to sleep in the comfortable knowledge that we were snug and warm inside! The rain carried on into the morning so we just sat and watched telly until the sun came out – sheer luxury. We were very lucky with the weather – once we started cruising we only had one torrential shower and that was when we had moored up for water so we were able to shelter! It’s been a bit chilly but we’re well stocked with clothes for all weathers.

What struck me today was the sheer number of Welsh boats on this stretch of canal – we passed Ysbryd Rhydd (free spirit), Taid (grandad in gog – that’s north welsh to the uninitiated!), and Bendigedig (hard to translate – the nearest I can think of is Glorious – maybe my relatives can help me out!), as well as at least three boats flying the welsh flag.

We shared a couple of locks with nb Kairos today (piloted vary ably by Jan and Jonathan) – we’ve been playing hopscotch with them up the canal but this was the first time we’d shared locks. They were very good company and I’ll look forward to seeing them again.

Whispering birches in Milton KeynesToday’s stretch of canal skirted around Milton Keynes – it’s much more pleasant that you’d imagine given how Milton Keynes is so lambasted in the media. All the way up from Fenny Stratford the canal was flanked by neat and beautiful gardens obviously lovingly tended by their owners. Totally different character to the countryside but still a very pleasant cruise. Fenny Stratford (just south of Milton Keynes) has the silliest lock ever at just 1′ 1″ – hardly worth the bother but apparently it’s there to ease pressure on the embankment at Cosgrove.

While I remember, there won’t be so many photos today as the camera ran out of power! We’ll be back in action tomorrow!

Note: Decent looking mooring by some parkland by Bridge 90B

Note: Useful water and rubbish point by Bridge 78 but don’t bother with the ‘supermarket’ marked on the canal maps – it’s a one-stop with a poor range of stock. The pub nearby smelled appetising though!

Part of a mural at Wolverton - restored in 2005 - tremendous!We stopped at Wolverton (Bridge 71A) to visit yet another Tesco close to the canal – we didn’t need much but we stopped anyway – we were fascinated by the change to the area. Last time we came through the place was quite run down but in the last 2 years the developers have been busy – the towpath has been improved and new mooring rings put in; the old warehouses are being converted to housing and there’s a brand new housing development going in opposite – it will be very smart when it’s done. The main development to Tesco is that it now has a Starbucks coffee bar – we set off with two lush caramel latte’s and all was well with the world. Richard had a slice of blueberry cheesecake – a proper creamy baked cheesecake so he had a bigger smile than normal on the boat!

We passed over two aqueducts today – one over a dual carriageway and the other over the Great Ouse River. We waved at the cars whizzing by below – one actually waved back but the others seemed oblivious to the fact that there was a great narrowboat suspended above them! The latter aqueduct was a typical iron trough (reminiscent of the famous Pontcysyllte aqueduct in North Wales) so on one side there’s just a 4″ bar between the boat and the drop – dogs very firmly locked inside!

Aqueduct over the roadTrough aqueduct over the river

Of note in Cosgrove was a sympathetic and lovely office/housing development called ‘The Old Brewery’ – a hint at its previous use presumably. Just after this was bridge 65 – an oustanding stone bridge made of beautifully warm textured sandstone and carved with gothic/romantic decorations.

Past Cosgrove and we were back in the countryside – a different character again – fewer flowers – more wild and overgrown. Everywhere we looked in the distance there were church towers and spires though there was little sign of the villages attached to them! One distant spire, with ornate flying buttresses, particularly caught our eye – it was visible for miles and seemed to glow when the sunshine broke through – it was a picture postcard scene. We must have seen it from every angle as the canal meandered around. We found out later that is was Hamslope Church. Soon after we noticed the imposing crenellated tower of Grafton Regis Church which was apparently built in the 13th century. I’ve never been a great student of history but it’s hard not to be interested when the landscape provides it in such attractive packages.

We’ve done comparatively few locks today – we reached the low point of the canal and meandered round the valleys until we reached Cosgrove – there the canal starts to climb again towards the second of its three summits.

Blue was grounded for the afternoon for being naughty – he got thoroughly overexcited at one lock when a cat strolled past him on the towpath (luckily we’d seen the cat first and had him firmly by the collar!). The cat must have had a deathwish – it strolled very close to Blue, unaware that Richard was putting all his weight into keeping Blue back. We bundled Blue onto the boat but he was like a coiled spring for the next two hours – up on deck, alert and watching out for new prey. When we let him out at Cosgrove Lock he just ran straight off the towpath and up the road at top speed (a very quiet track down to the canal cottages mercifully). He was just too hightly strung to be let out so he was confined to the boat until we moored an hour or so later – there was much whining and complaining!

Less than ladylike LouIt all came right though as our mooring (which we’ve visited before) is near to a very good dog walk with lots of rabbits so he and Lou had a long and exciting run to get rid of their pent-up energy (well, Blue’s energy to be precise – Lou was showing no signs of having excess energy – see photo!). Last time we were here we ate at the Boat which was a bit rough and ready but does allow dogs in the bar and did plain solid pub food. This time we decided to try the Navigation Inn – this was a much posher pub with better menu though dogs were only allowed in the garden which was fine (just warm enough for us to eat outside but we missed a trick in not sitting at a table with a heater!). We met another greyhound lover (she’d left hers at home) who gave Blue and Lou a generous fuss – they were in heaven! Add to that the four sausages they ate between them and you have the perfect recipe for doggie contentment.

All in all we had a great evening BUT to top it all we saw a barn owl hunting in the field by the canal. I saw a very distinctive bird with pale fawn plumage and oddly blunt head – it took me a minute to work our what it was. What an amazing thing – I was surprised by its wingspan – it was much bigger than I thought.


Arch failure

Richard the engineer was fascinated by the arch failure on this bridge. Maybe the large crack explains why we drove under it so fast!!!!

Different types of canal bridge

Meanwhile, Sue was struck by the juxtaposition of the blocky modern road bridge, the traditional red brick canal bridge and the pipe bridge.

Note on pipe bridges: They could contain anything from sewage to fresh drinking water to chemicals from a processing plant – pass under them quickly and if you have to look up then keep your mouth closed (in case of drips)!

The last photo is of the ‘drains’ off the canal coming up to Stoke Bruerne – most were built in the 1930s and we were really impressed that they took so much care to make them so attractive.

Brick arches at Stoke Bruerne

One Response to “The Odyssey – Summer 2008 Day 9”

  1. Denise Jones said

    Hi there

    Just for the record, the Welsh boat named ‘Bendigedig’ means Blessed.

    Sounds like a blissful cruise and am only sorry that I have not logged in for a few days so have had to read several days worth of bloggs in one go. Just as an aside, didn’t realise you were heading towards Wendover as this is where Liz and Tony now live – they probably would have come down to say hello! May be worth noting for the return journey. Liz having much enjoyed our cruise on the Indigo Dream for her daughter Catherine’s Hen weekend around this time last year (Catherine is my bestest friend and I am more or less adopted into their family), would have been thrilled to have seen you once more – and you then could have met Tony – loves real ale so enough said there!!

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