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Archive for May 3rd, 2013

Boat Blog: Mooching along the Grand Union (8…..part one)

Posted by indigodream on 3 May, 2013

Sunday 29th April – a day of two halves….

Fenny Stratford to Stoke Bruerne (Bottom Lock)

A solitary cruise…..

The Milton Keynes area is so neat..

The Milton Keynes area is so neat..

It’s fair to say that I hadn’t really thought through the weekend’s car shuffle! If trains ran to Fenny Stratford on Sunday, then Richard could have cycled back from Cosgrove to Wolverton then got a train back to Fenny Stratford; but the nearest he could get was Bletchley, which is a bit of a hike from the canal. So this morning I decided to move the car to Wolverton and catch a bus back to the boat – meeting up somewhere in the vicinity of Great Linford. This meant that Richard could enjoy a rare cruise by himself, along a stretch that he doesn’t usually get to see because he’s doing the car shuffle.

In the meantime, I set off for Wolverton – I know I should avoid sterotypes but really, every quarter of a mile the satnav instructed me to “enter the roundabout and take the second exit” – I though that the data disk was stuck, but no, I’m in Milton Keynes! For reference, on a Sunday you need a number 7 bus from Wolverton Agora – which is a bit of a hike from the train station (where I parked). Note: you have to pay for parking at Wolverton train station but there is free parking on the road outside the station – do check the signs as it seems to be a bit of an experiment.

There was a bit of a wait for the bus and the bus driver was a taciturn sort, which made it very difficult for me to work out where to get off the bus. I hopped off in desperation at “Pennyland Local Centre” stop, got directions from a local and got onto the canal by bridge 79D. Unfortunately Richard was ahead of me but stopped by bridge 79A, which was only a short walk away. Although I was a bit tense by this point (bus travel is not my favourite), things had actually worked out very well πŸ™‚

The lock approach above Cosgrove - I'm dreading coming back this way because the moorings above the lock are now occupied by a trip boat and then a line of now permanent moorings crudely signed as "Cosgrove Marina". I anticipate a lot of chaos here over the Summer...

The lock approach above Cosgrove – I’m dreading coming back this way because the moorings above the lock are now occupied by a trip boat and then a line of now permanent moorings crudely signed as “Cosgrove Marina”. I anticipate a lot of chaos here over the Summer…

I left Richard at the helm while I went inside and pondered on a dilemma that will be unknown to more fastidious boaters. For our guests, narrowboating for the first time, should I leave Indigo Dream at her most typical i.e. covered in towpath dust and dog hair; or should I present her at her best i.e.Β  sparkling clean! We plumped for the latter, so I spend the trip up to Cosgrove with broom and mop in hand. I have to say that she looked pretty spectacular when I’d finished – I must have a spring clean more often πŸ™‚

Cosgrove is not my favourite lock – there is a waterpoint on the lock landing below the lock, if that’s occupied then you have to wait up quite a way back, because there are narrows immediately before the lock landings and the towpath moorings are generally full – getting crew off can be a performance! It can also be tricky to work out who’s who when there’s a queue, but luckily we were the only boat waiting today. There were two boats coming down and a boat moored at the water point, I hung back, poked the nose into a small gap in the towpath and brested the stern up to a moored boat. With everything nice and stable, Richard could go up and help at the lock. We were soon on the rise and chatting with the friendly locals that needed to cross the lock gates to get from the island moorings to the shore. Now that wouldn’t work for me, I’d want a bridge, even if it was only a plank. There might be greyhounds who cross lock gates like gazelles, but I panic whenever I see our clumsy pair thinking about tottering over a beam!

Richard got on his bike at Cosgrove lock to do the car shuffle while I cruised on – sadly this next stretch is one that Richard hardly ever gets to cruise!

Adrian, Adam and nb Briar Rose - great to see you , hope our paths cross soon :-)

Adrian, Adam and nb Briar Rose – great to see you , hope our paths cross soon πŸ™‚

The Grand Union has some tremendous contrasts – after nigh on non-stop locking from Uxbridge to Fenny Stratford, the canal suddenly hugs the contours, with Cosgrove lock incongruous among the miles of winding canal perched on the hillside. The section from Cosgrove to Stoke Bruerne is perfect for lovers of solitude – it’s just miles of nothing, well, if you count a few lines of moored boats, one pub and lots of pastoral countryside as nothing πŸ™‚

It had been windy all day, but above Cosgrove lock, the canal seemed particularly exposed on its embankment and the boat was blown around a bit, especially when slowing down past moored boats. It was a bit better when there weren’t any moorings, but there’s no going fast here – anything above 1200 revs (on our engine) generated a breaking wash, which wasn’t on. There was a boat behind me – I thought they might be cross at having to follow me (they were quite close at times) – I wondered whether to speed up in order to make life easy for them, but they might report me to CRT, so I stayed slow and assumed that they would overtake – there were plenty of spots where they could have.

Now, although the sun was warm, the wind was chilly, and I was wearing my furry hat with thick fluffy ear muffs that tie under my chin – so it was hardly surprising that I failed to hear my phone ringing! But luckily I heard my messages just in time to pick Richard up from the towpath and for him to make us some bacon sandwiches before we met up with Adam and Adrian on nb Briar Rose. When they heard I was coming they moored up (safest option!) and we pulled in behind them for a chat. We also got to inspect Briar Rose for the first time – when we last met her, she was red and was still in the hands of her previous owner! Wow, her new paintwork is fantastic – we could only look on enviously at the quality of the finish – putting on more than a molecule thickness of paint really makes a difference. We then had a tour inside – what a quality boat – and she had enough headroom for Richard!

Sadly, we only had time for a fleeting visit – but enough time for the boat that had followed me from Cosgrove to overtake our moored boats at speed – he didn’t look like the sort who knew CRT’s phone number so I needn’t have worried!

As we were happily admiring Briar Rose’s woodwork I got a text – our guests were waiting for us at Stoke Bruerne bottom lock – time to move for the second half of the day….

I wonder what engineering interest prompted this photo?

I wonder what engineering interest prompted this photo?

Each bridge is fit for purpose but does the modern bridge need to be so ugly??

Each bridge is fit for purpose but does the modern bridge need to be so ugly??

Peace 'n quiet...

Peace ‘n quiet…

This building burnt down years ago - so sad to see that it hasn't been re-developed...

This building burnt down years ago – so sad to see that it hasn’t been re-developed…

They've really made the best of their canal frontage here - there are acres of parkland hereabouts...

They’ve really made the best of their canal frontage here – there are acres of parkland hereabouts…

Why is it fun to push trolleys into the canal?

Why is it fun to push trolleys into the canal?

The recent closures of the Aylesbury and Slough Arms is highlighting the importance of maintaining these old structures (rather than just monitoring them until they collapse!)...

The recent closures of the Aylesbury and Slough Arms is highlighting the importance of maintaining these old structures (rather than just monitoring them until they collapse!)…

These guys were really going for it - not surprising really - I'd worry that those welded cans would fall apart any second!

These guys were really going for it – not surprising really – I’d worry that those welded cans would fall apart any second!

That's quite an amazing construction....

That’s quite an amazing construction….

The great mural at Wolverton...

The great mural at Wolverton…

There are miles of empty countryside between Cosgrove and Stoke Bruerne - the odd footbridge is a tremendous aid to navigation :-)

There are miles of empty countryside between Cosgrove and Stoke Bruerne – the odd footbridge is a tremendous aid to navigation πŸ™‚

The blocky tower of Grafton Regis - the nearest village to the canal for many miles...

The blocky tower of Grafton Regis – the nearest village to the canal for many miles…

Β 

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