Saturday 17th April
Globe Inn (Grand Union Br 110) to Cosgrove
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….
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.....