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Archive for May 5th, 2011

Dog Blog: Lynx’s Photo Diary

Posted by indigodream on 5 May, 2011

Wednesday 4th May

I’s got a BIG dilemma – Mummy Sue sez that we’s goin’ to be cruisin’ every weekend forever! I duzn’t know how I’s goin’ to fit in all me hactivities – helping mummy Sue to steer the boat, olympic lookin’, soopervising locks, entertainin’ the lady hounds wot visit, then writin’ it all down in me diary. Where’s me sleepin’ time? Duzn’t mummy Sue know that I’s retired?!  She sez I’s gotta pace meself so I duzn’t get too hexhausted, but I’s wurried that she’ll never manage wifout me so I’s just gotta stay awake on the boat. Mummy Sue sez we can come home to rest while daddy Richard duz workin’ – phew, tha’s all right then!

So, cruisin’ is hexhausting – I’s havin’ to work me paws off – poor poor me! But there is one reely good fing about cruisin’ – yep’ comin’ home, well, gettin’ ready to come home. Mummy Sue wurries ’bout the ‘cold chain’ whatever that is – I’s helpin’ her not to wurry by eatin’ all the stuff in the fridge before it gets all warm – sumtimes there’s pate and cheese and ham. It woz ‘specially good this weekend – Ty had the dire rear so he wozn’t eatin’ and Lou had poorly kidneys so shewozn’t eatin’ – I’s had to help mummy Sue to empty the fridge all by meself – tragic!

I’s too tired to writes any more so here’s me holeeday snaps…..

Me an' Lou doin' looking - we've qwite comfy on the grass but we's had to get back on the boat....

Me new girlfriends Sharry and Bess.... didnt take long to teach em to do proper lookin'

Sharry doin' 'lympic class lookin'....

Henry doin' lookin' - he looks like Sharry - I wunder if they'se cousins or sumfink...

Mummy Sue despairs of getting all five faces in the same picture...

I luves Miffy - she's my Saturday girlfriend and she duzn't wear me out wif leanin'...

The trouble wif me new girlfriends is that they luves to lean on me - no wonder I's so hexhausted...

The boys' 'lympic lookin' team.....

Ranger, Miffy and me - oh, and a bit of Henry's bottom - mummy Sue sez d'oh, why is there always one dog bottom in the photos!

Lou getting a big fuss off mummy Sue....

Watch out Henry, Lou's comin' to get yeh....

Us havin' a rummage wif Auntie Sarah...

Lou havin' a little rest....

Six on deck (1)

Six on deck (2)

Six on deck (3)

Six on deck (4)

Six on deck (5)

Autie Sarah's dun the right fing to adopt Henry - he's a proper boaty hound and she called her boat after him ...

See Lynx, that's how you pace yourself....

Ty on his speshal boat bed - is hardly big enuff mummy Sue....

Ooooh - cows - good to look at, good to eat and they have the best poo....

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The Odyssey 2011: Day 8

Posted by indigodream on 5 May, 2011

Saturday April 30th

The Globe Inn (Bridge 111) to Stoke Bruerne (half mile below bottom lock)

Leaving the Globe Inn - fine moorings here....

On Saturday morning I was dozing contentedly at our otherwise silent moorings  when the sound of the wind roaring through the trees gradually penetrated my sleepy brain – the wind, in the trees, the wind……oh b”££$%. The sound of a strong wind must surely be in the top 10 most unwelcome sounds on a narrowboat – though somewhere below the indescribably sad sound of the prop being stopped by a tyre! Maybe over winter I’ll have to work on a Herbie-style list of these unwelcome sounds – I’m sure there will be many suggestions…..

In all fairness it’s been windy all weekend but today was very brisk indeed, making for some interesting manoeuvres! Otherwise it was a lovely day – sunny and bright with the promise of a long day’s daylight ahead.

We were quite efficient this morning and set off  at 10am. We weren’t expecting any guests so we took the opportunity to get some sorting out and cleaning done between locks – long overdue!

The canal changes its character quite dramatically here – having steadily locked our way out of London, today we meandered around the contours, which gave us some welcome breathing space. Rather than do the car shuffle early in the day, Richard stayed on board to enjoy the abundant scenery – I often cruise lock-free pounds by myself so it made a nice change for Richard to have some time on the helm and for me to lounge on a low deck chair out of the wind. We had a very domestic day – Richard got down on his hands and knees and scrubbed the boat floor (I’d cleared the debris off it earlier!) and I did some sewing. Well, not proper sewing, more boshing two bits of fabric together with thread – I’ve had an idea for a porthole cover which we can use to protect our modesty in the bedroom while allowing us to sleep with the porthole open. I’ll let you know if it works!

Meanderings....

Of course, the landscape isn’t devoid of locks – the first of the day were the Soulbury three. We kept the dogs on board here – a road crosses the canal above top lock and there’s a busy road on the towpath side behind the pub. For reference, there’s a useful rubbish point by the top lock.

Ty was more settled today again – we had had a big debate whether four days’ cruising would be too much for him, but it’s actually given him a good opportunity to get used to the boat. He’s still on his valium – that’s making a big difference, but we’re hopeful that we can start gradually reducing the dose over the next few weekends.

Here’s a question – does anyone know whether the Dolphin pub in Stoke Hammond is now open? We noticed that there were daubed signs for the pub on Bridge 106 but we know that it was shut when we last passed through.

The Grand Union’s reputation as a hidden gem is truly deserved along this stretch – it’s stunningly rural. In places, we were accompanied by flights of swallows – so it’s officially summer because there were many more than two! Stoke Hammond lock is as beautiful as any you’d care to name. It’s very quiet here, so the hounds got out for a bobble (including Ty – on lead) and we bought some fresh eggs from the lockside barn. We’ll look forward to eating them – you can’t beat fresh eggs from a small flock of chickens. There were two boats coming up the lock so I had to hold Indigo Dream on the lock moorings for a little while – easier said than done in the adverse wind. I’m so glad that I turned centre rope around a bollard or she’d have been blown across the canal in an instant – as it was, Richard had to come back to help me pull her back into the bank!

That looks like a swallow to me....

We stopped off at Willowbridge boatyard for a gas cylinder – we won’t need it for at least a year, but it’s nice to have a spare. We also bought some new mooring pins (the type with ‘eyes’) as 2 of ours have mysteriously dissapeared off the front deck – a cunning bit of ropework means that they can be used to moor onto armco – more secure than mooring clips and less noisy than clanking chains! The gas cylinder was £25 (same as last time funnily enough) and the pins were £7.99 each – we’re almost certain that we last paid £6 each for pins back in 2008  (admittedly they were plain pins bought in Wheaton Aston – famed for its cheap diesel!).

I’ve always enjoyed the stretch around Milton Keynes – it’s so green and welcoming. But there are still surprises – mainly because I just don’t remember details! The Plough pub, by Bridge 91, was obviously a popular spot for passing boaters though I don’t remember it at all! I did have a vague memory of the burnt-out modern building by Bridge 89 – it’s been like that for a while and with no restoration underway the building is deteriorating fast. Although there are few locks here, there are plenty of bridges, so Richard hopped off with the hounds – there’s good dog-walking as the canal is mainly flanked by parkland. All three hounds enjoyed a bobble – even Ty – though I had to pick Lou up before they walked under one of the big road bridges – confident Lou has only one hang-up – going under rail and busy road bridges! The boys walked on  and I cruised on past Bridge 84 at Great Woolstone – there are plenty of boats boats moored on the towpath here – curious, as there is a prominent red sign on the offside warning boaters that thieves operate in the area.

I picked the boys up at Little Woolstone (Bridge 83 – ish) and we enjoyed the sight of the lively canalside fete between Bridge 81b and 81a – it was ‘offside’ but there were moorings there and a few narrowboats had joined in the fun. The children’s laughter was punctuated by the loud clatter of the morris men stamping their feet on a wooden stage.

View down the Soulbury three....

Note: dog walkers – the towpath past the long term ‘Black Horse’ moorings (Bridge 76) also gives road access to the nearby farm so watch out for cars (or motorbikes in this case).

I’ll mention in passing that the Galleon Inn at Old Wolverton is open and thriving, judging by the number of people enjoying the afternoon in its canalside beer garden.

The canal was busier today, with many more boats on the move, thankfully going the other way! This gave us a largely smooth day’s cruising where we had the waterway to ourselves. However as we came through Milton Keynes we joined the back of a four-boat convoy with three hirers in front of us. Wyvern’s change-over day is Friday, so the boaters in front had only been on board for 24 hours or so and were still very obviously getting used to being on their helms! We bobbled along behind them, hoping that they would moor up soon so that we could press on to our target for the day – Stoke Bruerne. Alas, it was not to be – the whole convoy proceeded to Cosgrove and it’s congested lock.

I will mention here how much I hate ‘trough’ aqueducts – especially when the wind just bangs the boat straight into the narrow side of the trough giving me an unwelcome view of the drop down to the Great Ouse below. It was quite an effort to get off the side – bah!

We reached Cosgrove around 4.30pm and although it was very busy, there were still moorings available above and below the lock. The queue for the lock ended some way down from the lock moorings so there was a lot of inter-boat signalling to make sure that no-one jumped the queue! Richard walked ahead to the lock and I brested up to the hire boat that would be our locking partner. We had a bit of a wait – when Richard got to the lock he found the crews of the first two hire boats staring at the mechanisms in total bewilderment – the lock was set against them and they may have thought that they had to wait for someone else to come down before they went up! Richard drained the lock, opened both gates and worked the first 2 boats through the lock. It has to be said that many hirers are very expert but these were still learning and were probably a bit inhibited by Richard just appearing and opening the lock for them – perhaps they thought this was a new BW service? In the meantime I chatted to the hirers next to us – the helm asked questions about how to steer in reverse and general boat handling – I was impressed – they’d never hired before and were keen to learn.  I tried not to pass on too many bad habits……

Great views.....

We eventually locked up and I made a very hasty decision to press on along the lock-free pound to Stoke Bruerne while Richard cycled back to the car. We were a bit disorganised but he got his bike, cycled back to Wolverton station to get the train to Leighton Buzzard then cycled back to the Globe. In the meantime, I left the hirers behind at Cosgrove and had the canal to myself for an evening cruise in the freshening wind. I had completely forgotten just how empty the next stretch is – the canal is elevated in places, allowing the wind to blow unhindered across the deserted countryside. The local villages are small and distant – even the imposing tower at Grafton Regis couldn’t break the wind’s hold on the landscape.

The stretch up to Stoke Bruerne is surrounded by lovely rural views and I’ve enjoyed and admired them many times. But today it felt a little bit lonely – maybe because it was getting late and I was getting a bit weary with the wind. The situation wasn’t improved when I encountered a little plastic cruiser approaching in the middle of the canal – it was being towed on two long ropes from the towpath (to my right). There was no question of overtaking on the right (under the tow ropes) so I swung left in the expectation that they would pull their boat in slightly so that I’d have room to pass – hmmm, afraid not! I had to stop Indigo Dream on the far offside while they pulled their boat past – they made an uncomplimentary remark about my steering  – but I wasn’t the one blocking three-quarters of the canal! Of course, the cruiser was followed by a hire boat and I had to pass on the wrong side, because with the wind pushing me onto the offside I had no hope of getting back to the right side in time. The end of my tether was truly reached when, just after the hire boat had gone, Richard cycled down the towpath and greeted me with the words “what are you doing on the wrong side of the canal” – grrrrr!

He’d been past Stoke Bruerne bottom lock and there was only one potential mooring left next to a boat with a generator – we wondered whether to try for it, but as we looked around we realised that we were in an idyllic spot (half a mile down from bottom lock just before the weir). There were beautiful views, the countryside and towpath were deserted and we were within an easy cruise of the locks in  he morning. It was too perfect a spot – Ty could confidently run free here and was undisturbed by any noise or passersby. The towpath edge was a bit uneven and overgrown but we got the boat within stepping distance of the bank. I hacked some of the vegetation away so that we, and the dogs, could see the edge and we were all set. Richard cycled back to the car (parked just up from Stoke Bruerne bottom lock) and went off to get a chinese takeaway. That restored my equilibrium and we settled down to watch the next of our 99p movies – Valkyrie (with Tom Cruise) – we didn’t get to the end – the fresh air had finished us off again and we barely stayed awake long enough to walk from the sofa to the bed!

Photoblog:

Lou enjoying a rest at Stoke Hammond lock...

Lynx and Lou lying down by Stoke Hammond lock - they'd have stayed there all day if we'd let them - if took a while to get them back on board....

Attractive canalside garden....

informative chalk marks - the thickness of the hull presumably....

Interesting double rudder on this boat....

Sculpture on the run up to Fenny Stratford....

I like this artwork - unfortunately I couldn't see whether the design ribboned around the sides as well...

I liked this artwork too....

The lock cottage at Fenny Stratford is for sale - nice!

Big banner welcoming people to Milton Keynes marina - I wonder if they've changed management - we recall that they weren't quite so friendly to visiting boats in the past....

Interesting sign between bridges 83 and 84 - I wonder who put it up? Boaters are still mooring opposite!

Canalside fete...

We're in Milton Keynes!

This development was just starting when I passed by last year - it's neat enough but it looks like a toytown village from here (though I'm sure the residents are enjoying the views over the canal). I hope that they don't develop the land immediately adjacent to the canal.

The Wolverton mural has been cleaned and restored - no more graffiti - hurrah!

Wolverton has improved beyond recognition since we first passed this way - boats moor here now - it's very convenient for the station and for Tesco!

The aqueduct over the Great Ouse...

Charming artwork....

Lovely craft....

Fine views.....

Dodgy footbridge - wouldn't trust the greyhounds on that....

Sunset below Stoke Bruerne...

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