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The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Archive for April, 2010

Boat Blog: planning for the Fens

Posted by indigodream on 30 April, 2010

Friday 30th April

As we’ve gradually worked our way along the Grand Union we’ve been looking at the logistics of the trip up the Nene and the wealth of cruising opportunities offered by the river Great Ouse, the Cam and, of course, the various navigable ‘drains’ of the middle levels.

Well, Nicholsons might as well have written “here be dragons” on their map as their guides stop abruptly at Northampton!

The Environment Agency have a load of useful information on their site in the boating section. Anglian Waterways information starts here and there are a series of navigation guides available here. There is a brochure request form which looked very handy as some of the guides have A1 sized maps, we duly filled it in but they have yet to appear.

Luckily another publisher, Imray, has published three guides to the area:

both by Andrew Hunter Blair

The links are all to the IWA bookshop. It is worth having a browse there, particularly in their bargain basement where for example they have Edward Paget-Tomlinson’s book “The Illustrated History of Canal and River Navigations” for a knock down £11.95. Get it while it’s still available!

The Imray guides sit somewhere between Nicholson’s and Pearsons – they have detailed maps and useful summary navigation notes at the start, though subsequent navigation notes are somewhat buried in the text. The text descriptions of the waterways and their surroundings are as detailed as you’d expect from a Pearson’s but lack the eccentric flair of the latter. The guides are particularly good on the history of the waterways and the surrounding villages.

It will be interesting to see how we get on with the guides – there seems to be sparse information about moorings and water points, but that may be because such facilities are relatively sparse in the area :-). We are chatting to the Environment Agency to check on moorings to suit our needs, it is useful to be able to say that we have a permanent mooring so that they know that we are not taking the p$^^.

As we browsed our new books this week we were dismayed to find that we needed special keys for the locks and stuff along this stretch – the guide advised allowing 2 weeks for delivery – aargh! As it happens, we rang the Environment Agency and our keys arrived the next day so our bank holiday cruise is assured…. If you do get caught, it looks like keys can be bought in quite a few marinas eg allegedly at Gayton but we wanted keys in advance in case we go past at inhospitable times.

So we’re all set for a foray onto new waters – if only we could set the weather to ‘fair’ as well……

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Dog blog: Dear Baxter and Muttley

Posted by indigodream on 29 April, 2010

nb Matilda Rose

The Canal


Thursday April 29th

Dear Baxter and Muttley

It was so good to see you in dogson a few weeks ago – mum keeps sayin’ she was amazed that no-one bit anyone else’s bum but we were too busy chillin’….

Proud mum and our smart rosettes....

Anyhoo, we is now officially good citizens – mum’s been doin’ that human thing that looks like snarlin’, you know, when they show all their teef but it means their happy – weird! She says we’s the cleverest greyhounds ever, ‘specially me coz I was very brave and passed the test even tho’ the room was full of scary little dogs and a BIG wasp on the floor.

Dad says we’re always good anyway; mum’s giving us an odd look – she says we now have pawsible deni-ability or summat. So, yer honour, them cats/excitable spaniels/postmen (delete as appropriate) – it was never us coz we’s good citizens!

Lou’s fast asleep – bein’ good is hard work – I need a nap meself so ’til next time….

Yours woofingly


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Technical Stuff: Locking Fuel Caps

Posted by indigodream on 25 April, 2010

An interim update:

We wrote about locking fuel caps before and how pleased we were with our fuelock. It worked well, a slight fiddle but did what we wanted.

Well …..when we filled up a few weeks ago, I tried to open the fuelock, turned the key in both directions but could not get it unlocked. Now I am not sure what went wrong, was it simply not unlocking or was it sticking? It could just be sticking as I managed to open it by resorting to a bit of brute force.

I filled the fuelock up with WD40 and have yet to see if that makes a difference – we have been too busy off cruising!

From a quick google I note that they are not made any more and that a small number of people have had problems. I must admit that I am bit concerned so even if the wd40 makes a difference and it seems to work fine, I am not sure if I will put it back. Hmm better start looking at alternatives (again)……

Another Update:  WD40 did not work well, tried a few things, settled on engine oil which has worked a treat. Lock seems to be working well now and is back on.

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Getting Ready for a Party

Posted by indigodream on 24 April, 2010

Continuing the series of occasional photographs of what is happening in East London, here is the stadium from a couple of weeks ago:

That is the non-tidal Bow Back on the right, hardly recognisable now

Now that looks like a good place to moor ….

One of the trees towards the end was planted by the Queen assisted by Boris – well I suspect they just threw a shovel full of hygenically prepared topsoil onto the top of the planted tree, I don’t think they got their wellies on! There is a video of the ceremony on the official site but remember that the video is 5 months, progress right across the park has continued since at a stunning pace. I am sad that there are confidentiality agreements which mean that people cannot triumph their success or explain some of the nitty gritty detail that has been involved. Yes as with any major project, there are things I try not to think about look but there is a remarkable story here of what has actually been achieved in such a short time for about the same as a year’s bonus payment in the City or the cost of a failed IT project…

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The Odyssey 2010: Day 7

Posted by indigodream on 22 April, 2010

Sunday 18th April

Cosgrove to Stoke Bruerne

This attractive bridge enhances the delightful waterscape in Cosgrove....

We had the laziest start to the day, luxuriating in a very long lie-in – we got up late enough to miss breakfast and pass straight to lunch. The dogs seemed happy to relax with us – Lou’s been a bit miserable over the weekend – she’s in pain somewhere, we’re just not sure where. I can feel a vet visit coming on.

The Cosgrove mooring is lovely – the water had a lazy sheen in the midday sunshine; the daisy-dotted meadow opposite was fringed with greening trees and all around were the mixed sounds of wild birds and the doleful clanging of the church bell – it’s quite idyllic here. We didn’t have any guests due today and much as we enjoy company on board, it was nice to have a day to ourselves.

We eventually got moving – Richard helped me to cast off before going off to do the car shuffle. I’m perfectly capable of casting off myself but I think he was wise to see me off – I might just have sat there all afternoon otherwise!

There were a several fishermen on the canal – apparently they’d taken part in a little competition in the morning but were now packing up. According to most, the fish just weren’t biting in Cosgrove. But one wag bragged that “you’ll need a lot of chips to go with the fish in my keep net” – dream on!!

There was a little flurry of boating activity just past Cosgrove – first a widebeam then five or so narrowboats – they said I was first boat they’d seen going the other way. I felt a bit sorry for them, there were a lot of locks ahead and they’d make quite a queue. After that I had the canal to myself, apart from the domesticated moorers going about their chores or simply sipping wine. The canal’s on quite a high embankment and the view over the surrounding farmland is great. It’s not just a landscape, there’s a rich soundscape as well – goldfinches twittering in the bushes, a cockerel crowing and the dull concussion of a bird scarer protecting the freshly flowering oilseed rape.

Looking back towards the 'Old Brewery' development in Cosgrove

As I came through Bridge 62 (in the middle of nowhere) I was hailed by three ladies on the bank wanting to know how far it was to the next bridge. I pulled over and showed them the map. They had a caravan in Cosgrove and had set out for a day’s wander while their menfolk were fishing. They wondered whether there was a pub nearby – they’d almost reached their point of no return as they’d have to walk back to Cosgrove later. The map showed a pub in Yardley Gobion, not far ‘inland’ from Yardley Wharf, so I offered them a lift. They were thrilled, even though they were only on board for 15 minutes or so.

Richard was busy cycling back from Stoke Bruerne and fortuitously rang just before I got to Bridge 60 to ask if I would pass anywhere for a pump-out. Perfect timing – Yardley Wharf was nearby. I dropped off my delighted hitch-hikers and sorted out a pump-out and a top-up of diesel with the genial owner (I think he was the owner) – it was 75p base price and a 60/40 split. Richard joined me in time to pay the bill! He’d done well – I reckon it’s a 4-mile cycle ride from Stoke Bruerne along some pretty bumpy towpaths.

Indigo Dream’s trim looked so much better as we set out from the wharf – with a full water tank at the front and an empty toilet tank at the back!

The landscape here is dominated by the ‘two towers’ – the tall spire of Hanslope church to the right and the uncompromising block of Grafton Regis church to the left.

The stretch up to Stoke Bruerne was characterised by another fishing competition. They were a genial lot – they thanked us for going past slowly  and we asked them where we should be cruising (straight down the middle where the water’s at its deepest) – it was all pleasantly co-operative. I was amused by one fisherman wearing a T-shirt bearing the unlikely legend “the party people” while he contemplatively prepared a roll-up and stared at the end of his fishing rod without interest or anticipation.

Such a fresh view from the embankment beyond Cosgrove....

We had thought to press on to Gayton but we decided to stop at Stoke Bruerne. The moorings in the long pound are more restrictive than we remember – they’re only 24-hour now – is that new? Anyway, we decided to stop between the  second weir and the bottom lock. There are about five boatlengths of 14-day mooring rings then another five or six boatlengths of 48-hour moorings. We took one of the two remaining 14-day spaces and slowly packed up the boat. As usual, it took ages, then another age to get home. We’ve been very impressed by the A-roads around here – first the A41 and today the A43; but the motorways are a trial – we avoided the queues on the M25 only to get snarled up on M40. Still, getting home later than anticipated meant that we had a plausible excuse for not getting on with our extensive house to-do list – there’s always a silver lining 🙂

Today’s Trivia…

I mentioned the ‘two towers’ at either side of the valley. Let’s start with the tall spire of Hanslope church, which is visible for miles to the right of the canal; by footpath from Thrupp Wharf it’s just over 2 miles from the canal. Of course, we rarely venture more than 100 yards from the canal on foot so for boaters like us here’s a useful virtual tour of the church. The gothic buttresses on the spire made me think that it was an ancient church , and so it is – parts of the building date back to 1160. But the buttressed spire is relatively modern – it was rebuilt in the early 1800s after a storm destroyed the previous tower. It seems unlikely that the church resembles its 12th century original – there seems to have been a lot of tinkering right up to the 15th century. It would be easy to assume that the church is the sum of the interest in Hanslope, but it sounds like quite a large village with a long history. On a more practical note, if you decided to make the effort to walk the 5-mile round trip then you’d be rewarded by several pubs and an all-important chinese restaurant – why not check out the village website before you set out!

On the other side of the valley, to the left of the canal is the village of Grafton Regis with its plain square tower – a complete contrast to Hanslope’s fanciful spire. I estimate that Grafton Regis is around a quarter of a mile’s walk from Bridge 57 and again, the effort will be rewarded with a pub!  The people of Grafton Regis are a canny lot – the only information available on their website is how to buy a CD of the village’s long history, including a virtual tour of the church. There’s plenty of information here, but I soon got lost in the detail as the church has been extensively altered over the centuries. I found a hint that the church tower is Norman (1066 and all that!), but then again I’ve also found hints that it was rebuilt in the early 1800’s. That’s enough of that – if we happen to visit Grafton Regis then I’ll see what information is available in the village itself 🙂


Thrupp Marina has filled up nicely....

Roses are red, violets are blue, oilseed rape? a'choo, a'choo' a'choo 🙂

I wonder what these structures are? They are between bridges 63 and 64 - maybe part of an old estate - I can't find any clues as to what they are/were.

Is this a bird scarer? There were lots of these cylinders dotted around the fields hereabouts...

Beautiful catkins (atishoo!!)


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The Odyssey 2010: Day 6

Posted by indigodream on 21 April, 2010

Saturday 17th April

Globe Inn (Grand Union Br 110) to Cosgrove

Nice view.....

Richard picked me up from Leighton Buzzard train station just after 9am, so you’d think we’d make an early start to the cruising. Ha Ha! We got on board, Richard made me a coffee and we had a slump – sitting there blankly staring at the wall, aided and abetted by the dogs, who were struggling to keep their own eyes open. We had a quiet hour while the caffeine gradually worked its magic. We were uncharacteristically tempted  just to slob out at the Globe Inn for the rest of the day, but we had guests joining us later and it would be better for everyone if we met them a little further along the canal.

We eventually set off late morning, having missed the early rush of canoeists – phew! There were a lot of them – there must be a club nearby.

Our spirits soon lifted as we cruised along the canal, though the trip to Soulbury Three Locks seemed much longer without the noisy mob of boaters and dogs that joined us for this stretch last week! It is another lovely part of the Grand Union – there are great moorings below the Soulbury Locks – peaceful where the road peels away from the canal but only a short walk from the restored lockside pub (which we’ve heard is still dog-friendly). The weather was hot hot hot – fantastic! Too hot for the hounds – they had a desultory wander around the top lock before coming back on board unbidden.

The sun drew out the butterflies today – I spotted a tortoise-shell and a sulphur yellow one which I guess must be a ‘brimstone’ butterfly.  Like the bats the other day, the butterflies are supremely unhelpful and will not stop their flitting about so that I can identify them  properly 🙂

Not your usual heron photo!

It wasn’t particularly busy on the water today, but the camper vans, fishermen and other towpath denizens were out in force – there’s a canalside car park by Bridge 102, now colonised by camper vans and deck chairs. So, next time Greygal comes on board maybe she could do a 2-centre holiday – cruise by day and sleep in the van by night, then we could really see how many greyhounds we can fit on board!

We reached Stoke Hammond lock and Blue got out for a bobble, no doubt recognising it from all the spots that he wee’d on last week! Lou maintained her dignity on board – she may have been more successful if she hadn’t been lying upside down with her legs in the air. She’s really enjoying the weather, in fact, she may be a tanning addict, she’ll toast her belly until she’s roasting. She’d never move out of the sun of her own accord – it’s up to us to draw curtains and provide shade! When she eventually got off the sofa for a drink (she was way too hot), Richard had to physically block her from lying on the sunny side again. She may end up in a T-shirt later on in the summer – don’t want her getting skin cancer.

Once we got past Stoke Hammond I felt we were back on the odyssey and moving into new pastures (for 2010!). WillowBridge Marina was packed, as were the towpath moorings surrounding it. It was a scene of unrelenting domesticity, with the boaters out in force washing their boats, doing a bit of painting, a bit of rubbing down, maybe a quick polish. I couldn’t scoff, Richard was sitting on deck doing the boating equivalent of darning socks – whipping up a tidy ‘eye’ to fix rope to our new fender clips.

Note: There’s a handy winding hole just before Bridge 98 – there aren’t that many along here.

The herons are very tame around here....

We met up with old friends Liz and Pal, with kids Nathan and Sasha, at Bridge 96, just outside Fenny Stratford. While I remember, a local walker told us that the Bridge Inn on Bridge 96 does good food – there was certainly an appetising smell wafting from their kitchen. Liz and Pal have had many trips on Indigo Dream and hired their own boat a few weekends ago – they had a busy weekend up and down the Lapworth flight (from Alvechurch). Nathan is an enthusiast – he may be Canalboat magazine’s youngest fan (I think he’s 11); he’s already saving up for his own narrowboat and has a propeller shaped keyring; he doesn’t want a widebeam because he’d prefer the traditional lines of a narrowboat – what a splendid child!

We had another lovely cruise in good company. This time I sat in the bow, gossiping with Liz, while the menfolk did manly things at the tiller end. Sasha is 7 and is not a canal enthusiast, nonetheless she already knows that her boat will be called “glamour queen” and will be pink and turquoise – look out for it!

We had a very vague plans for the afternoon, the most ambitious of which involved getting to the long pound at Stoke Bruerne. But we had a slow meander along the canal – lots of moored boats, shallow offside and generally too hot to hurry. We came to Cosgrove at a convenient time to stop and moored up above the lock beyond the service point. Note: the service point has water and elsan disposal but no pump-out. We moored at around 6pm; by 8am the following morning we’d had a letter from the moorings officer welcoming us to the moorings, hoping that we had a nice time and reminding us that they were 48-hour only. The mooring officer hereabout is Janet Ling – 01908 302581 – I’ll put it here because we’re bound to lose the letter!

We were joined by Liz’s brother Paul, wife Julie and son Connor. The menfolk went off to do the car shuffle and we mooched around the boat and the lock for a while before heading off for the pub. The Barley Mow is on the offside – accessible via a strange tunnel under the canal which apparently used to be a horse tunnel. You’d struggle to get much more than a shetland pony through there now (ok ok, so I exaggerate now and then!) – our resident engineer’s view was that the tunnel had been relined over the years, gradually reducing its height and width.

What a great camping spot - this is one of many vans parked along here....

The men soon joined us at the Barley Mow, we ordered our food and waited, and waited, then we waited some more. An hour and a half later our meals finally turned up – it was gone 9pm by the time we ate. The food was ok, but not really not good enough to justify the wait so we were a bit grumpy. Richard was particularly indignant that the promised hand-carved ham definitely wasn’t, and it was a child-sized portion. We didn’t dare order dessert – we’d still be waiting! It’s a shame because I met some walkers the day after who’d had very good food here, though even they commented about poor service at the bar and the under-staffed restaurant.

We said goodbye to almost everyone at the car park but Liz and Nathan came back to collect their possessions from the boat. I might worry about Nathan stealing the boat, but I think he’d prefer something bespoke as he has very clear ideas about the design of his boat!

With everyone gone we collapsed into bed – we’d both had busy and complicated weeks and were completely knackered….

Today’s Trivia…

There’s a very attractive  development on the offside in Cosgrove (opposite the moorings above the lock); it’s called the ‘Old Brewery’ and we’ve admired it every time we’ve passed. So, that’s today’s trivia.

Like many settlements along the canal, Cosgrove is ancient – it’s listed in the Domesday book and the parish itself may be much older. If you want to know more, there’s quite a detailed history of Cosgrove on this website. But back to the ‘old brewery’ – it sounds as if it was established as a malthouse in the late 1700’s and had a succession of owners (and uses) over the next 100 years; From the late 1800’s onwards, it was run by a sole owner who was a maltster and brewer; in a harbinger of modern business practice, he sold out to a Northampton Brewing company, Phipps and Co. in 1888, but stayed on as an employee. The brewery was closed 4 years later and for the next century the buildings were used for storage and a mix of light industries. The buildings were largely demolished in 2000. Now a couple of things stuck me as I looked up today’s trivia – isn’t it amazing how the title ‘old brewery’ has stuck – the buildings were only a brewery for a very small proportion of their life. The other thing is how sympathetic the new development is – I could have sworn that they were converted building but from the sounds of things they’re all post-2000.


This is for my cousin - Mrs Jones! Go on Denise - you know you want a boat!

The Globe Inn at sunrise.....

The Bedford/Milton Keynes canal - will we see this built in our boating lifetime?

Now what's the story behind that name.....

So civilised.....

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Odds Blog: Boats, planes, trains and automobiles…..

Posted by indigodream on 18 April, 2010

Friday 16th April

Starting with boats………

Richard went up to the boat on Friday afternoon with a little list of chores to do before I joined him on Saturday. Unfortunately he just had one of those evenings, with the usual trial of the M25 which meant that despite leaving work early, he didn’t get to Indigo Dream ’til after 5pm. He was surprised to find that the Globe Inn moorings were nigh on empty – just as well, that meant he’d be able to get a space here later on, though he was concerned that they may have run out of beer!

His first very urgent job was to get Indigo Dream back up to Leighton Buzzard to fill the water tank. He’s really got the hang of this single-handed locking lark – up and down Leighton lock without a drama, though he says he could have done a lot lot better on the way up. Once in Leighton Buzzard it took him 3 attempts to find the waterpoint, coming from the north the pillar you first see is not a water point, nor is the waterpoint like box, the waterpoint is immediately south of the bridge.

The water tank took ages to fill – so long, in fact, that he was tempted to leave her filling and do a quick run to Tesco. He resisted the temptation, but did drop into the store afterwards to stock us up for the weekend (and to get the whinging dogs a hot chicken). But it was almost 9pm by the time he got back to the Globe Inn and by the time he got to the bar, via getting the dogs settled and a lengthy conversation with some people who were contemplating adopting a greyhound, they’d stopped serving food so he just had to have an extra half pint. Just as well he had provisions on board then!

After a wearying evening he went off to bed. In the meantime…….

Planes, trains and automobiles…

I’d flown up to Edinburgh on Wednesday evening, blissfully unaware of the cloud of volcanic ash drifting this way. I picked up a hire car and headed off to Auchterarder where I was to deliver the first of two 1-day training courses. I’ve done a fair bit of driving in Scotland over the last couple of months, and I have to say that the roads are great – partly because of good maintenance and partly because there’s just no traffic up here compared to the Southeast. The following morning, the sunlight woke me at 6am and I groggily turned on the TV in my hotel bedroom and heard the words “Iceland, volcano, Scotland….” I came to quickly – had the recent volcanic activity in Iceland set off a volcano in Scotland? No, it was ash, and that was dramatic enough! Neven mind, I thought, I’m not due to fly home until Friday night……

I had a good day with my group and then had to drive up to Banff, well North of Aberdeen. The trip started well, fine dual carriageways then a motorway, then increasingly small roads until I realised, with some horror, that I’d blindly followed the satnav into the middle of the Grampian mountains and was soon lost in the Cairngorms National Park. Well, not that  lost – there’s really only one road (the A93) – I followed it in the hope that I would eventually arrive at some destination, preferably the one I was aiming for! I will take the opprtunity to thank Braemar town council for their excellent public loos, without which the trip would have seemed even longer!  In all fairness to the satnav, it was a straight line route from Auchterarder to Banff, but the road was soon so high that there wasn’t even a crow flying 🙂

I’m not at all religious, but I can understand why people might be – the landscape was divinely beautiful considering the spare colour palette – the chilly blue of the sky, the stark grey and black of the rocks, the loamy brown of last year’s heather and the startling white of the snow, reflected in the fast moving puffs of cloud above. The landscape was so spare that you could imagine a mere mortal’s need to fill it with some supreme being – it’s too much for a small brain to take in. The satnav took me on a merry shortcut along a single-track road which took me to the most remote place I’ve ever visited in Britain. Don’t ask me where it is – I could point to it on a map but there were no other roads, houses, people or other landmark – just sweeping valleys surrounded by layers of mountains – like some great….artichoke – all spiky on the outside and sweet inside! I stopped the car and stepped out – I couldn’t help myself. I was astounded by the silence – my head had been loud with the noise of the engine and my own thoughts; when I got out of the car it was so quiet I thought I’d gone deaf. The only place I can compare it to is the Australian outback – no sound at all, not even birds……

I’d been on the road for almost 4 hours by the time I arrived in Banff. By now I’d worked out that the volcanic ash wasn’t going to go away anytime soon and that I’d have to spend a large part of the evening sorting out my travel arrangements. Ah well, could have been worse, I might have had to watch to BIG political debate otherwise (ok ok I’m not a complete heathen, I did watch a bit of it – don’t ask!).

Needless to say, my dongle didn’t have a decent signal out in the wilds so there followed some frantic phonecalls to Richard. By 10pm my flight was cancelled; fortunately Richard found me a cabin on the sleeper train from Aberdeen to Euston so I was no longer trapped in the north. I got through Friday’s training before driving down to Aberdeen Airport to drop off the hire car. The airport was eerily deserted apart from one hopeful family sitting in departures with their suitcases – I hope they left soon afterwards – none of the shops and restaurants had bothered to open, though fortunately the loos were still accessible. I headed off to Aberdeen train station, with the prospect of a four hour wait for my train. Luckily there’s a huge new shopping centre next to the trains station, well supplied with a Costa and a Handmade Burger Co (as per our favourite restaurant in Brindley Place in Birmingham). Fortunately I quite like my own company so the time soon went; I had a truly terrible novel on the go so although I hated the read I did enjoy mentally abusing the author for the waste of ink and paper!

I was pleasantly surprised with the sleeper – I had a cosy cabin with a comfy bed, fluffy duvet and, my personal ‘thing’, very good pillows; there was also a washbasin and a solicitous attendant who took my order for breakfast and then delivered it many hours later just south of Rugby. It had all the ingredients of a good night’s sleep apart from the fact that it was on a moving train which ground and lurched its way over joints and points in the rails. Every now and then the train had long stops at anonymous stations – the perfect opportunity to sink into a proper sleep before the tilting started again – it’s a strange feeling to be compressed by the tilt one way, then equally stretched when it tilted the other way. Nonetheless, I arrived at Euston at 7.40am on Saturday, strangely (and unusually) refreshed. Armed with a large latte, I changed platform for a train to Leighton Buzzard to join Richard for a weekend’s boating.

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Boat Blog: the morning after…..

Posted by indigodream on 15 April, 2010

Sunday 11th April

We had a huge debate on whether to stay or move today. We’re not in any hurry so we don’t need to move to get to the fens and there was a large to-do list waiting at home; going home would also give the dogs, especially Lou, a chance to rest and recover after a busy few days. On  the other hand, it was another lovely spring day – just made for cruising.

Note: there’s good but very muddy dog-walking in the water meadow adjacent to the Globe pub – walk up towards the bridge and there’s a gate on the right.

We eventually decided to go home but it took ages for us to leave the boat – we’re always reluctant to do so. There were important things to be done – Caxton and Matilda Rose were moving past us towards Marsworth so we took the chance to have a nose round Caxton’s new nose. She’s a fine boat – so light and airy – I can see the crew really enjoying the extra space in the bow. It was very interesting to compare and contrast Caxton, which is designed to be a home, and Indigo Dream, which is very much a pleasure boat (as we proved yesterday!). It just goes to show how valuable it is to look around other boats for ideas.

The six dogs got on famously again today – I’ve been a bit gobsmacked by Lou, who hasn’t made any fuss about having four new dogs on her boat, eating her food, but wisely not vying for her sofa!

We chatted for ages before we waved them off – we’re already looking forward to seeing them again in a couple of months’ time though we do need to work out how we are going to do our weekend travels on the fens, finding 7 day moorings may be interesting.

There’s a useful shop boat moored at the Globe at the moment – they had a range of bits ‘n pieces – I got a couple of …. uhm, not sure what to call them, ‘clips’ that you can use to hang fenders from the side of the roof – I’ll take a photo next time! They are not so good for cruising but very handy when we need extra fenders on hard edged moorings.

We did eventually stop chatting and got back to the boat! I packed up while Richard washed the boat. The side of the boat was plastered with grass cuttings from some over-enthusiastic strimming at the Marsworth mooring so a wash made a big difference. We stopped short of the polishing – the afternoon was wearing away, as it always does when we’re pottering around. We might never have left but our decision was abruptly made for us when we ran out of water – we decided that was a sign that we should scarper. Filling the water tank will be THE urgent job when we get back on board next Friday/Saturday.

Note: There are mooring rings in the vicinity of the pub and good towpath moorings further along (though the ground’s quite soft at the moment) – we assume that the rings are 14-day as we didn’t see any signs to the contrary and neither had any of the other boaters that we asked.

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Diamond Day….by our guest blogger!

Posted by indigodream on 13 April, 2010

Saturday 10th April

Grove Lock to Abbotts Langley then back to the Globe Inn…….

The start of a jolly outing......

Hello, Greygal here, doing another blog guest spot. You know when I pop up that I’ve rudely invited myself and Andy along for a trip out on our southern narrowboat. But who wouldn’t want to spend time in such wonderful company? I mean, Lou and Blue are just lovely and we could spend all day fussing them. Oh, and Sue and Richard aren’t bad either….

Anyway, Saturday was the best type of day – you know, the ones that are not planned but just sort of happen. Well, I say not planned….we did have a plan but it was a bit loose, and it was completely derailed by about 11.30. We kept our end of the bargain though, pitching up at 10.30 at the most exquisite mooring spot just above Grove Lock – we’d hardly finished cuddling the dogs when the first lattes of the day were thrust into our hands, along with the exciting news that Caxton and Matilda Rose were just round the corner below the lock and were expected imminently. Now we haven’t seen Lesley and Joe and Graham and Jill in yonks so this was a fab bonus, so there we were, craning our necks, looking for them to crest the lockside…and we waited, and waited…and then we got the mobiles out….and then we had the inevitable conflab…we’ve walked up twice but couldn’t see you….no, we’re here, above the lock, come and find us…you are at the Globe, aren’t you?…yes, we’re at the Grove….no, not the Grove, the Globe…you’re at the Globe, not the Grove…yes, not the Grove, the Globe…it was like something from a bad sit com, readers.

Cue a hasty rejig of the plan, with Richard and I departed to do the car shuffle while Andy and Sue took the boat from the Grove to the Globe. While sad to be missing out on some GU cruising, there was ample compensation in arriving at the Globe ahead of the boat and being reunited with everyone, including the gorgeous mutts Muttley, Baxter, Floyd and Fletcher (the latter two helpfully wearing different colour collars for the hard of memory). It was fantastic to see them all – dogs and humans – looking so fit and well and all still totally head over heels in love with their way of life on the cut. Sue and Andy duly arrived and a very convivial couple of hours ensued, the party only breaking up when we realized that we needed to get a bit of a shift on if we were to complete a mini out and back cruise to the Soulbury Three.

The back deck's perfect for entertaining - you'll see that the people are arranged around the edge - that's because the dogs are in the middle!

The Caxton and MR crew decided to hitch a lift back to their boats around the corner but the prospect of Sue and Richard’s generous hospitality, a gentle pootle in the sunshine doing things they don’t normally do (you should have seen the boys – locking virgins or what!) and continuing the party vibe was too great and so they stayed on board for the duration. As it turned out, the duration was a bit longer than initially anticipated as we missed the first winding hole and had to go onto Stoke Hammond. But no-one cared as we were all having too much fun. And apologies to anyone in the area if we spoiled the peace and quiet of your afternoon – tsk, tsk, such raucous behaviour is so unbecoming….Sadly, all good things have to come to an end and we reluctantly took our leave, but not before lots of promises to come and see everyone again as they head Fens-wards. So by my reckoning that’s three southern narrowboats we’ve got now…

Oh, and if anyone’s ever had a burning desire to know just how many bodies you can get on a cruiser deck…eight humans and six dogs was our best effort on Saturday. And you wonder why I left my five hounds at home?


Oh no, I've got confused with my hounds - it's Baxter, or Muttley....

Indigo Dream and Barnacle Bill in a tandem movement at Soulbury three locks....


Four happy hounds.....

F or F? So endearing....


Even the ducks were cute...

The approach to Leighton Lock - Leighton Buzzard has a lot of canalside parkland (as well as a canalside Tesco and other useful services)


Happy days....



Labs are so cuddly!

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The Odyssey 2010: Day 5

Posted by indigodream on 12 April, 2010

Friday April 9th

Marsworth to Grove Lock

The BW facilities at Marsworth - take a good look - it might be housing soon......

We took the afternoon off to move the boat up to a momentous meeting of the waters on Saturday – Greygal was coming to join us and we hoped to catch up with Matilda Rose and Caxton. We’d arranged to meet Greygal at Grove Lock before moving up to meet the others for lunch at a convenient pub. As it happened our plans went a little awry and what eventually transpired exceeded our greatest expectations and Saturday became a sparkling diamond day – but that’s for other keyboards to describe…..

So, Marsworth to Grove Lock – piece of cake! Well, it would have been if we hadn’t got stuck in an interminable queue on the M25; we turned off onto the M4 for a Tesco detour in the hope that the traffic would clear while we were shopping – no such luck! It did help that after my last ‘trivia’ entry we knew exactly why we were stuck and did catch a glimpse of the Gade Valley aqueduct as we turned off at Junction 20! We didn’t get to the boat until 4.20pm, though nowadays that still leaves over 3 hours of light for cruising. Marsworth was buzzing – boats, walkers and fishermen – the fine day had drawn everyone out – it’s a great spot to spend a sunset.

At it happens, our timing wasn’t so bad as we were able to team up with nb Barnacle Bill at Marsworth. It took us a while to cast off (our chains had been pulled tight into the sheet piling) and we apologised profusely for making them wait for us, but as it happens they’d used the time to get ice-creams from the nearby cafe so everyone was happy! We tried some tandem manoeuvering between the closer locks – it was the first time for their helmsman and it went very smoothly, despite the fact that Barnacle Bill was a lot shorter than Indigo Dream. Barnacle Bill’s crew were pleasant and efficient locking partners and we were a bit sad to say goodbye to them at the Seabrook locks.

Lou having a little lie down!

This section of canal is so scenic – the views over the far chilterns, the Whipsnade Lion glowing in chalk hills, nicely manicured towpaths and acres of green pastures. The canals have been called green corridors – how can you tell when they’re passing through a green land! The countryside seems unsullied even by the train line which weaves along the canal and the landscape. We saw a few VERY long freight trains today – unusual during the daytime.

Our decision to meet at Grove Lock was partly driven by emptiness of this green land – past Slapton there are relatively few places where civilisation touches the canal for car shuffles and whatnot. Between Slapton and Church locks the countryside is empty apart from the almost industrial scale Bury Farm.

But I’m ahead of myself – we passed by Pitstone Wharf where we moored last year. There’s such a contrast in the view now – the fields that looked so brown and fecund after ploughing in the autumn were now vivid with the fresh green of a new crop. Also new on the landscape was a sunken cruiser – the owner was on the towpath – he reckons it was frost damage – just a little leak that gradually took the boat under over the winter. He’s apparently sorting out its removal with BW.

Blue and Lou had their customary lockside rummages but Lou’s back with the walking wounded – she’s cut her leg badly on Eater Monday and had to have 7 stitches so she’s not as mobile as usual. She got off at Ivinghoe top lock and Richard had to go back and fetch her – instead of following the boat as she normally would she’d stopped to have a little lie-down!

The owner said I could have this boat for nothing!

I’ve noticed that there’s a different range of vegetation on the canal – we’re haven’t started our odyssey that early so I can only guess that everything’s had a check with the hard winter. But I can report that the daffodils are back in a ‘host’ – I heard so many radio and TV reports in March with people fretting that we’d lost the daffodil crop this year! I’ve also noticed a lot of violets, white and violet! They’re one of my favourite flowers and it’s lovely to see the abundant clumps growing along the towpath. My idle brain did wonder about the rhyme – “roses are red, violets are blue” – where did that come from? After all, it will be several weeks before the wild roses flower and the violets will be long gone by then! The trees are not as green as in our previous spring odyssey’s, though this have given us a much better view over the surrounding landscape. We did see 2 swallows today so that’s it – it’s officially summer (though I haven’t heard a cuckoo yet!).

As the evening drew in the swallows were replaced by bats – rather large ones – I wondered whether I could work out which species it was but they didn’t stay still long enough for me to pick up on the essential characteristics needed for a proper identification!

Many of the hedges along this stretch have been nicely laid – the work of a craftsman. The bare branches show the neat structures but the real beauty will come later when they’ll form a tidy stock-proof hedge – useful for keeping sheep separated from canal and greyhounds separated from the sheep!

I quite like these canalside memorials - they make the place seem more human. Mind you, this one was accompanied by a thriving sapling which looked like a horse chestnut - give that 20 years and the roots may be pushing the sides of the lock in....

I noticed that there were more anglers around today – now is that the time of day, the fine weather or the start of the fishing season?

I’m happy to report that the church wall at Church Lock is now clean and free from clinging ivy. There was a man doing battle with it when we passed through here last year – he’s definitely won the battle, whether he’s won the war against the pervasive stuff is yet to be seen!

We arrived at Grove Lock as the last of the light was draining from the sky. The new marina has opened – it looks good and would be a pleasant place to moor. I was a bit dismayed that the length of the marina cuts down the towpath mooring opposite but we still managed to find a spot on the mooring rings above the lock.

We popped into the Grove pub for supper, hoping to catch Caxton and crew, who we believed were moored below the lock. We were too late and arranged for them to come up for lattes and pastries the following morning – it never happened, but that story’s for the next episode!

The Grove pub itself does good food and the service at the bar was very friendly, though one of the waitresses was surly to the point of rudeness and that spoiled things a bit. The pub was packed, though I was surprised at how its turned its face from the canal. There’s no footbridge over the canal and the towpath is on the opposite side – you have to cross the precarious lock beams, looking down at the unguarded drop onto the concrete cill below. The canalside pub gates and doors are all locked – you have to walk round to the front roadside entrance – not a big effort, just a little strange for a canalside business. We left the dogs on board – they were knackered and no way would I let them cross the lock-gates – they’re accident prone enough on land!

Blue having a little rummage....

Today’s Trivia

There’s always a lot to choose from when it comes to deciding on ‘today’s trivia’. This stretch of canal has miles of uninterrupted countryside which made the sight of a complex of large sheds in the distance all the more startling. We’ve worked out that it was probably Bury Farm – it looked quite ‘industrial’ with it sheds and a few tall chimneys and I wondered what went on there. I’d been listening to an article on Radio 4 about the anaerobic digesters that some farms are getting into for turning food waste into energy – there’s a big site in Bedfordshire which made me wonder whether there was a link. Well, there isn’t, as far as I can make out. But Bury Farm is not your usual mixed arable farm – for one thing, it has its own, quite sophisticated, website! As an ardent follower of “The Archers” (and a country upbringing in Wales), I understand that farms have to be innovative to survive. Apparently Bury Farm was a buffalo farm – no why didn’t we ever spot buffalo from the canal! Nowadays it’s an equestrian centre and the website suggests that it also has conference facilities and can host weddings. I have to say that in the dusk light, from a distance, it doesn’t look posh enough for purpose but the website photos show the interiors so appearances may be deceptive.

So, if you’re coming down Slapton lock, look over to your right and you’ll spot a complex of buildings in the distance – now you know what they are!


Lou blending in with the background...

The daffs aren't dead, just delayed!

Wonder what's on their bonfire......?

That's a BIG nest - glad it's on the offside...

This cottage will look spectacular when that creeper's in flower - for now it looks as if its been taken over by some relative of the triffids!

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