Monty’s face never looked stressed – he’s a lovely old boy 🙂
Friday 26th April
We had great plans for cruising today but our morning chores took a long time, then we dithered, so we didn’t actually leave Surrey until around 4pm. In theory, we’d get to the boat by 5pm and have a dusk cruise – our favourite. But the M25 scuppered our plans. We got stuck in an interminable queue and didn’t get to the boat until 6.30pm.
It meant a change in plan (again!) – rather than moving the boat tonight and stopping to shop tomorrow, I’d do the shopping tonight. There’s a handy Tesco a couple of miles away, and we had the car, so it was an easy job. In the meantime, Richard got the dogs settled and started on the big job of touching up Indigo Dream’s paintwork. She is looking a bit travel weary at the moment – a good polish would liven her up considerably, but we are wondering whether it’s time to replace her molecule-thick, 7 year old paintwork…
Note: this is a great mooring, and the car parking is a reasonable £3 for 24 hours (and can be paid/renewed by phone), which makes it ideal for our style of cruising.
Sad to see the White Lion boarded up – I never rated it under its old management but it would be good to see it reopened….
Saturday 27th April
Marsworth (Startops End) to Fenny Stratford
We needed to get to Stoke Bruerne by Sunday afternoon – this would have been easy if we’d cruised yesterday, as planned, but now we needed to shift! We got away at 8am – that’s dawn by Indigo Dream standards!
But we didn’t actually move very far – we went through the bottom lock (ok, for the purists there are another two Marsworth locks, but they’re a distance away from the main flight) and stopped almost immediately at the service point. I thought that the services had been closed as part of the BW site’s redevelopment, but there is still a waterpoint, rubbish disposal and Elsan point just before the bridge. While Richard sorted the water, I took the dogs for a little bobble – although most of the development site has been fenced off, you can still walk to the top lock of the Aylesbury Arm. It was so sad to see the locks padlocked shut and a notice confirming that the arm is closed to navigation. We walked down the staircase locks and had a look at the enticingly lovely arm – ah well, that’ll have to wait for another year…
The stop at the service point was an unwelcome delay, but it’s always good to have a full water tank and fresh drinking water in our bottles – we had guests coming on Sunday and it wouldn’t do to run out of water!
looking toward the Aylesbury Arm – sadly shut until the collapsed lock can be rebuilt 😦
We set off down the rest of the Marsworth locks but then stopped again within just a few lock miles! Sadly, guest hound Monty hasn’t been very well during his stay, though he was getting substantially better, having started on some antibiotics a few days ago. It was time for him to go home and not have to endure the rigours of travelling to/from the boat – he gets so stressed in the car. So, after some complicated logistics, Sarah, Andy and Herbie hound came to pick Monty and Miffy up from the boat. Pitstone Wharf was a convenient pick-up point, and very familiar ground because this is where they bought their little runaround narrowboat, Henry H!
It was lovely to see them, especially Herbie hound, whose leg has completely and miraculously recovered – it was so good to see him, for the first time minus bandages. He came onto the boat, gave us the most perfunctory greeting and settled onto the sofa – he’s completely at home! But it was a fleeting visit – just time for coffee, danish pastries and a medicines handover for Monty (that took some time!) then they were away – up to Birmingham to make arrangements for Henry H’s repaint. I’ll post more on that another time…
I was so sad to see Monty and Miffy going home – I think that they’ve enjoyed their holiday, well, the bits at home anyway, and I’ve certainly enjoyed their company. It seems to me that looking after the oldies is a privilege not a chore – despite the quite monumental amounts of poo that I’ve cleared up during the last fortnight! 🙂 Having said that, I have now improved my status and am now Monty’s Co-mummy and Miffy’s Step-mummy – hurrah!
Ooh the boat did seem deserted with only Ty and Ollie on board…
View from the final Marsworth locks – we’re passing through the Chilterns now and the scenery is lovely….when you face is not full of hailstones 🙂
Just as we were about to get going again, we had the first apocalyptic hailstorm of the day – I persuaded Richard to sit it out, assuming that it would pass in 5 minutes. The hail did, but was replaced by a cold drizzle which was about as good as it got for the next few hours!
We passed through the swingbridge and were heading for enticingly open Seabrook top lock when I noticed that the boat on the lock moorings was moving. It was an Aqua hireboat that had passed us earlier – they’d got caught by the hail and, like us, had decided to sit out the worst of it with a coffee. However, they soon got moving when they saw us approaching and we ended up sharing locks with them down to Leighton Buzzard. They were efficient locking companions – they hire at least once a year, sometimes more, and were very experienced.
I love the Seabrook and Ivinghoe lock flights – they’re isolated and beautiful; in fact, there are few man-made intrusions to disturb the peace between Marsworth and the conurbation of Leighton Buzzard…..unless you count the canals themselves of course, the noise of diesel boat engines doesn’t count 🙂
There was plenty of natural noise, mainly in the form of torrential hailstorms. I know the old saying about “there’s no such thing as bad weather just inappropriate clothing” but despite being well wrapped in warm waterproofs, conditions were downright unpleasant. The temperature dropped dramatically with each passing tempest – I dashed inside to turn the heating on – Ty and Ollie, stretched out warm and dry on their luxury beds, sniggered as I ran back onto the freezing helm 😀
Blue skies ahead – by this time we were desperate for the hail to stop…
Luckily, there were blue skies ahead of us, and by the time we got to Leighton Buzzard the weather was looking up. Our locking partners stopped off at the convenient canalside Tesco here, but we weren’t alone for long. By the time we reached Leighton Lock, nb North Star had caught up with us. Now they were splendid locking partners – experienced and cheerful boaters from “oop north”. They were going as far Stoke Hammond, so we enjoyed their company through Soulbury three locks.
There were CRT volunteers at the Soulbury three, so we locked down at supersonic pace – especially as we moved smoothly in tandem through the flight, despite the lively wind. It was very gratifying to be greeted with admiration by the canalside drinkers at the pub – they’d laid wagers that we wouldn’t get the two boats into the lock at the same time – Ha!
The crew of North Star had a good chat with the volunteers – they’ll be volunteer lockies themselves at the Wigan flight over the Summer – give them a wave and be nice to them if you’re up that way 🙂
Now time is a strange thing – a few years ago, we had a splendid trip along this stretch with the Matilda Rose’s, Yarwood’s (then Caxton’s), Sarah and Andy and a multitude of hounds. I remember that the trip from the Globe to Stoke Hammond and back only seemed to take five minutes! Today, in the absence of company, and the associated beer, the cruise seemed to take an age, though the landscape was as enticing as ever.
There are picture postcard views everywhere you look..
Mind you, I think I was mentally dragging my heels – the July photo in the 2013 calendar is of Lou lying luxurious at Stoke Hammond lock. It’s one of our favourite locks – so picturesque and we have happy memories here, all captured on camera, and, to top it all, the locals often have very fine fresh eggs for sale lockside. I was surprised by the shock of pain I felt as I pulled up to the lock. Ty and Ollie got off for a bimble and I was assailed by pangs of regret that Lou (and Lynx and Blue) weren’t there – it was quite awful – not least because grief is so futile – I can’t change the past, only look to the future – which is bright with potential when it comes to hounds 🙂
But there was no time to linger, our target for the day was Fenny Stratford and we were determined to get there. We had guests coming to join us on Sunday, but we weren’t sure whether they’d join us at Fenny Stratford for a day’s cruise or meet up for tea at Stoke Bruerne later in the day. It wasn’t entirely our guests’ fault that the plan was a little fluid – we couldn’t confirm our position until we’d actually moored up for the night!
Nonetheless it seemed sensible to do a car shuffle tonight, so I left Richard at Fenny Stratford lock to catch one of the infrequent trains from the station, which is only a short distance from the canal. On Saturdays. the train run every hour or so – they don’t run at all on Sundays! I caught the 6.15pm to Bletchley, which fails to connect with the Tring train by 2 minutes; but I used the 30 minute waiting time quite productively to set up Sunday’s cruising plans. It was decided that everyone would met us at Stoke Bruerne bottom lock and have an afternoon trip up the flight. By the time I’d finished texting and tweeting the arrangements, I was at Tring, where a short taxi ride got me back to the car. It had been fine at the reservoir car park. The car shuffle was very smooth, until my satnav gave me a ridiculously cross-country route back to the boat – bah! Ok, it wasn’t the satnav’s fault that there are new-ish roads here that aren’t in it’s memory! Note: there is convenient roadside parking in Fenny Stratford on the lane that runs down to the swingbridge.
When I got back to the boat I was beyond of tired; I’d anticipated eating at the canalside pub, the Red Lion, but it’s a proper pub i.e. it only serves drink and no food! Richard didn’t fancy the scrapings from the boat fridge so he went off in search of a chinese takeaway – he found “Aromas” which I’ll only mention as a reminder not to go there again – it took almost an hour for them to produce a meal and it wasn’t the best – though I enjoyed it – “hunger’s the best sauce” as they say :-).
With only two tired but continent dogs on board, we slept the sleep of the exhausted – I got up once to cover the dogs with blankets – the temperature plunged overnight. Ollie is getting the hang of sleeping on the boat sofa rather than on our bed but I did feel a bit sorry for him – he doesn’t get cold when he’s snuggled down between me and Richard 🙂
Note: was passed steam tunnel tug Hasty today, there’s a photo below but I just wanted to put a better link to Hasty’s website here.
Miffy enjoyed a fortnight of being top girl – the boys certainly deferred to her if she wanted their food or beds 🙂
Demolition site- I wonder what’s will replace the old buildings – it’s a substantial site; Luckily the service point (adjacent to the wood panel fence) is still available.
This was on top of a long pole at the old BW site in Marsworth – is it a bat roost?
The veteran’s olympic looking team…
Miffy enjoyed a bit of looking – it might have worked better if she’d kept her eyes open!
All these photos were taken before the hail started – they’re fair weather lookers :-)..
This field full of white sheep had a substantial number of jet black lambs…
A day of great contrasts…
There are some lovely old structures along the Grand Union- there double arched bridges are a real feature along this section..
The power of trees 🙂
The canal meanders around the contours beyond Leighton Buzzard – this opens some lovely vistas…
Indigo Dream and nb North Start approaching Soulbury bottom lock – it’s rare for a move to go so perfectly when there’s an audience!