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Archive for October 6th, 2009

Dog Blog: Cruises and Calendars for good causes…

Posted by indigodream on 6 October, 2009

Anyone who reads this blog will know that our two great obsessions are Indigo Dream and our rescue greyhounds, Blue and Lou.

There’s now a great opportunity for you to indulge our obsessions AND raise money for Greyhoundhomer, the shelter where we adopted Lou.

Cruise for Greyhounds

On Saturday 17th October, then again on Sunday 25th October we’re offering a return cruise from Paddington Basin to City Road Basin, taking in the sights of Little Venice basin, London Zoo, Camden Locks and much more. It’s a good 6-hour cruise so we’ll need to set out at 10am in order to make the best of the daylight. We’ll provide a simple lunch on board. There’s no ‘cost’ as such but we’re asking everyone to make a charitable contribution of £20 per head direct to Greyhoundhomer.

Places are limited to 8 people (and their dogs – Blue and Lou will be on board) and we still have a few places left.

If you’d like to join us then reply here or email us on richard at nosek.co.uk

Once your place is confirmed we can send you details of where to send your donation, as well as details of where we’ll be meeting.

Greyhound Calendars

Greyhoundhomer have produced a fantastic calendar for 2010 – it’s full of cute greyhound photos and at £6 it’s a bargain. Blue and Lou are on the front cover AND are Miss and Mr November. Why not buy a calendar and bring it with you for the London cruise where Blue and Lou will sign it with a muddy pawprint 🙂

Calendars can be ordered from the Greyhound Homer website: http://www.greyhoundhomer.org.uk/shop.htm

I know that you’ll be being pestered by a multitude of charities in the period running up to Christmas; if you can support one of our favourites then that would be great…..

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The Odyssey 2009: Day 56

Posted by indigodream on 6 October, 2009

Saturday 3rd & Sunday 4th October

Saturday….

Blue stretched out on the train - he was disgruntled when he had to make way for the crowds a few stops down the line....

Blue stretched out on the train - he was disgruntled when he had to make way for the crowds a few stops down the line....

Oh dear, here’s the final proof that I have indeed turned into a soft cissie southerner. I vetoed a cruise on Saturday on the basis of the rain and gales promised in the weather forecast. Richard didn’t protest too much – it meant that he could relieve a bit of work pressure by doing a few hours in the office and I did some much needed domestics around the house.

By 4pm, though, we realised that we’d have to go up to the boat on Saturday night in order to have any chance of having a full day’s cruise on Sunday. We were a bit weary and this may have led us to choose to travel up to Wolverton by train. Now, this didn’t prove to be a disastrous decision, but our trip wasn’t quite as we’d envisioned when we discussed it in the comfort of our armchairs.

There are direct trains to Milton Keynes from East Croydon; thinking that would be the least stressful option for the dogs (they have travelled on the London Underground but it’s probably their least favourite mode of transport and we could not remember if there were stairs, rather than escalators, up from the Northern Line to Euston). What we hadn’t realised that the train from Croydon would become jam-packed, mainly with football supporters who, fortunately were just a bit loud rather than troublesome. We were in the ‘disabled’ area of the train, which has enough floor space for the

Lou likes to hide her head under teh seat - if she can't see it then it can't upset her.....

Lou likes to hide her head under the seat - if she can't see it then it can't upset her.....

dogs to lie down on their little travelling sheepskins. Lou lay down and buried her head under my seat; this left Blue nearer to the aisle where he was disturbed by people shuffling on and off the train. The train was slow and we discovered more train stations than we believed possible – the train stopped at each and every one and also between a few of them. It took two hours to get to Milton Keynes, where we found that we had a 45 minute wait for a connecting train to Wolverton. We were hot and bothered – the dogs had been very well-behaved on the train but they were at the stage of needing to settle down. We wandered out of the station to look for some food and found, instead, a long queue of taxis, the first of which was a huge modern cab with enough floor space for the dogs and a driver willing to carry them – fantastic. The cab to the Canons Industrial Estate, just by our mooring, cost £10 – worth every penny.

The dogs were so pleased to be on the boat – Lou leapt onto the sofa and snuggled down with the clear intention of not moving until the following morning. Blue was restless until he’d eaten a big supper then he, too, retired for the night.

Fine moorings by Bridge 69 - secure and quiet

Fine moorings by Bridge 69 - secure and quiet

Unlike the dogs, we didn’t have a supply of tinned human food on board. We’d rung round the local pubs with little success (one number unavailable and no answer at the next). Fortunately it had stopped raining so we headed off to search for food in Old Wolverton, glad of the fresh air after the stuffy trains. We first walked to Bridge 68 to check out the only pub in Old Wolverton – the Galleon; the phone number’s unavailable because the pub is shut and boarded up though there’s a sign saying that it will be reopened – date unspecified.

Out next destination was the Crauford Arms on Stafford Road. We followed the road rather than the towpath and it’s quite a walk. We were really weary by this point but things started to look up when we found a garage shop which sold milk, so our morning lattes were guaranteed. The Crauford Arms looked like a music pub (there was a decent band on when we walked past later) and didn’t seem to be doing food (we may be wrong there) but we’d spotted a takeaway a little further on. We had a choice of an uninspiring chippie or a proper Chinese restaurant/takeaway. We decided on a sit-down meal at the Silver Sea (01908 313976 MK12 5LW) – it was lovely – it’s amazing how a good meal and a few beers can wash away the tension of a tedious journey.

We got back to the boat by 9.30pm and offered the dogs a walk – they weren’t the least bit interested; we were relieved as it meant that we could fall straight into bed. The mooring was very quiet and peaceful – just what we needed.

Sunday……

The new developments by Bridge 71 in Wolverton - there are good moorings here if you want a trip to Tesco...

The new developments by Bridge 71 in Wolverton - there are good moorings here if you want a trip to Tesco...

Richard was up and about early and I thought that he’d be chivvying us down the canal. But he decided to polish the boat as the side that we haven’t done all year was on the towpath side. I vacated the bed (so that Richard could fold it away) and joined Lou on the sofa for a nice pack lie-in. Blue briefly rummaged around with Richard – there was absolutely no chance of him fitting onto the sofa with us girls…..

I snoozed while Richard polished, though a couple of things kept tickling my senses (nothing to do with Richard’s polishing machine!) – the one was the rumble of a big engine; the other was the delicious smell of baking bread, presumably from the nearby industrial estate. I’d assumed that the engine noise was a boater charging the batteries, but it proved to be coming from the huge rail/train workshop opposite.

Much to Lou’s relief I eventually got up and left her the whole of the sofa. I’d been spurred into action by the tales being told by a man who’d stopped to chat to Richard on the towpath. The man (we didn’t get his name) admitted to being ‘over 80’ and had rich memories of the canal as it was when he was a child. Fascinating hearing stories of where all the boats made their deliveries; then there were the tales of the big freeze of 1947 – of the lads taking a car down the iced up canal; of the 47 boats frozen in at Bolbeck and, best of all, of the ice breaker boat coming through towed by 8 horses.

I love this mural in Wolverton - the detail is tremendous

I love this mural in Wolverton - the detail is tremendous

We set off with Indigo Dream gleaming in the weak sun that was pressing against the clouds. We winded just beyond Bridge 68 then headed back towards Milton Keynes. This is a great stretch of canal – even better than we remembered. There are miles of very good towpath and the ‘gentrification’ of the previously derelict warehouses in Wolverton (around Bridge 71) has enlivened the whole area. There are good mooring rings here – very handy for the train station and for the nearby Tesco; we’re not sure whether we’d moor there overnight – we certainly didn’t fancy leaving the boat unattended there for a few days.

A few things caught our eye when we moved on. The long mural celebrating transport in all it forms is still very eye-catching, though I was disappointed that some graffiti vandals have painted over part of the mural with their meaningless mess. The aqueduct gives a view over the ‘new’ town – the canal feels like such an integral part of the development here.

I hope that this awful graffiti isn't allowed to obscure any more of the mural though...

I hope that this awful graffiti isn't allowed to obscure any more of the mural though...

At Bridge 74, the town quite abruptly gives way to peaceful countryside and neat moorings, surrounded by wild meadows on the offside and patches of woodland flanking the towpath. This is where the canal loops away from the town to run past Stantonbury Park Farm and the Linford Lakes. The open countryside continues until Bridge 76, when the canal skirts around Great Linford. Nicholson’s uncharacteristically waxes lyrical about this village, and surprisingly I agree! The canal’s flanked by handsome public parkland with ancient standing stones and good access to the medieval village beyond. There are plenty of towpath moorings here, but there are also hidden gems of 48-hour moorings on the offside, giving good direct access to the village.

The stretch from Bridge 74 to 77 is a tremendous bit of canal, all the better for being so unexpected. Anywhere here would be a great place to moor for a few days to recharge our batteries and let the dogs take advantage of the ample rummaging opportunities.

Aqueduct overlooking the outskirts of Wolverton/Milton Keynes

Aqueduct overlooking the outskirts of Wolverton/Milton Keynes. Is that a roundabout in the distance?

It was such an impressive stretch that we wondered whether we could continuously cruise back up here if we failed to get our winter mooring. I can feel an intensive investigation of the stoppages list coming on……

We met up with fuel boat Ascot 104 at Great Linford and filled up with diesel (129l for £115 on a 60/40 split).  The man who served us was friendly and chatty – a real credit to the boating business community. I felt a bit better about wimping out of yesterday’s cruise after talking to the Ascot 104’s crew – apparently he’d had an awful day in the gale force winds.

There were a lot of Wyvern hire boats our and about today. But then again, it was perfect boating weather – by noon the sun had chased away the heavy overcast and it was as pleasant an October Sunday as we could have hoped for. In fact, it was more pleasant than most of the days during our so-called summer.

We were hoping to offload some rubbish at Gifford Park services (Bridge 78). But the rubbish disposal facility has been suspended because of illegal fly-tipping. I wonder what the story is – a pile of bin bags had been left there but I suspect that’s as a result of the suspension rather than the cause of it.

Unusual decoration in this length of long-term towpath moorings....

Unusual decoration in this length of long-term towpath moorings....

Past Great Linford, the canal continues to skirt the suburbs of Milton Keynes – it’s a surprisingly pleasant stretch of canal with good towpaths. The Pennyland Boat Basin looked like a very tidy long-term mooring spot.

There are ample towpath moorings along here, despite what seems to be an influx of winter moorers. However it’s worth keeping an eye out for the short stretches of 48-hour moorings on the offside. The offside moorings by Bridge 81A gave good access to some perfect rummaging parkland plus a pond for sploshing.

At bridge 82 it was good to see the signs advertising the Bedford – Milton Keynes link, that will be a smart link when built. It’s one thing to restore and old canal, but it’s excitingly ambitious to be thinking of building a brand new one.

We stopped for lunch a little further along where there is yet another stretch of parkland by the towpath. Blue and Lou had a good rummage here, while I did some rummaging of my own (in the food cupboard) and unearthed two jars of

Attractive canalscape...

Attractive canalscape...

Bigos, a polish cabbage stew. It sounds unlikely but it’s delicious (especially home-made), though the stuff in the jars wasn’t half bad. We lost Blue here for a little while – sometimes he just over-reaches himself and goes a little bit further away than he, and we,  intended. Richard and Lou formed a search party to look for him; in the meantime Blue had  found his way back to the boat and stood at the side-hatch whimpering with relief.

As we left Milton Keynes, the towpath gradually deteriorated. The edges are sheet-piled but the path behind it seems to have sunk, though I didn’t have this down as an area of mining subsidence.

As I mentioned, there are lots of moored boats in this area – possibly winter moorers. We were tickled by nb Fisher, which had a 2-seater leather sofa on the stern in just the right place for its steerers – now that is cruising in style. Further along, I really liked the artwork on nb Rameses II – simple but elegant.

There's plenty fo dog-rummaging spots along this stretch of canal....

There are plenty of dog-rummaging spots along this stretch of canal....

Derwent 6 recently commented that there are a few shopping trolleys in the water hereabouts, and so there are. For the most part, though, the water is remarkably clean for a suburban waterway. The only exception was Bridge 90B, which had a fair collection of garbage – maybe this would be a less desirable spot to moor.

There’s a picturesque group of houses by bride 92 – whoever developed them really understood the historical ambience of the canals.

We were having a fine days’ cruise but we decided to moor up early as we had to get the train home. We moored by Bridge 94, a short walk from Fenny Stratford Lock. There’s a convenient train station at Fenny Stratford but sadly there weren’t any trains today (there were on Monday). Never mind, we estimated that Bletchley train station was only a mile away. We settled down to some more polishing – giving the boat another coat of industrial polish plus a top coat. Indigo Dream is now so shiny that when Richard was standing looking at her I wondered whether he was admiring the boat or his own almost perfect reflection in the paintwork 🙂

Another cracked bridge on the Grand Union - just a bit of TLC now might save a lot of costly remedial (or demolition) work later

Another cracked bridge on the Grand Union - just a bit of TLC now might save a lot of costly remedial (or demolition) work later

This is a good mooring spot – there’s a little lane adjacent, which suited the dogs for a short rummage. We had no trouble with Blue going further away than we wanted – he’d spotted a cut-out model of a cat in one of the gardens opposite and was absolutely transfixed. Lou caught on to his excitement but she’s far too sensible to be dragged away from her sofa for just an immobile statue of a cat!

I must mention that there’s a factory near Bridge 94; there was a most amazing sherbet-sweet smell wafting across the canal, which I assume came from the factory. I wonder what they manufacture there.

We set off for Bletchley Station with 35 minutes to spare – the walk across Fenny Stratford lock with its swing bridge was charming. The rest of the village (which merges into Bletchley) wasn’t half bad either, with neat streets of terraced houses. We did have one surreal moment when we thought we might have skipped to the Louvre in Paris as a giant glass pyramid hove into view. But it’s Bletchley’s futuristic leisure centre – totally incongruous.

Bridge 83 - site of the ambitious new Bedford and Milton Keynes Canal - wouldn't that be a great achievement...

Bridge 83 - site of the ambitious new Bedford and Milton Keynes Canal - wouldn't that be a great achievement...

Unfortunately for us, I walk slowly and the station was a bit further away than we thought so we missed our train by a few minutes (it pulled out as we pulled in!). We had half an hour to wait for the next one but amused ourselves by eating chocolate fingers and giving the dogs a big drink. The walk from the boat to Bletchley station was around the same length as their day’s walk at home – they were knackered!

The journey home was a bit wearing, though thankfully the trains were empty so there was plenty of room for the dogs. It’s always a bit of a dilemma – is it better to have a quick continuous journey or have a longer journey with occasional breaks? There are pros and cons each way – today we broke the journey at Watford Junction and Clapham Junction. We didn’t get home until 9pm (via a handy takeaway).

When we got home, the dogs were desperate to get through the front door and onto their duvets. They didn’t get up until gone midday and have been fast asleep on their duvets for most of the day – I doubt if Lou has spent more than 15 minutes outside all day! It’s not just the exercise – it’s the stimulation of their different experiences. Don’t worry though, they’re not traumatised – just tired. They’ll be ready to go again by Friday, though we’ll travel by car this time……

Horrible blocky modern road bridge....

Horrible blocky modern road bridge....

But a boatlength later we came to this picturesque old bridge...

But a boatlength later we came to this picturesque old bridge...

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