Friday, 24 May 2019

Puncture count: five so far

We spent much of the day helping to set up the BCF stand in the marquee at the Crick Boat Show, ready for the main influx of visitors tomorrow, Sunday and Monday. Robert helped me put up the banners and bunting, while Elaine, Sandra, Margaret and Jan sorted out the table and other stuff.

One of the show staff came up with a step ladder - it would have been almost impossible without it.

The people who are usually opposite us, Caldwell Windows, were miffed that they have been moved to the next position.

Somehow the BCF leaflets small display stand was missing, so I went back to the boat and spent 2.5 hours making one.

Not terribly elegant, but it will have to do.

I bumped into Andrew Denny and chatted to him briefly; later, Indigo Dream came past with Richard steering. He stopped for a quick chat; we invited him to join us for tea but he couldn't get close enough to the bank near where we were so he went on. After tea Catherine and Mark joined us for drinks. They run the Stained Glass Gallery stand in the craft marquee.

Oh - there's something else to report. I mended four punctures today. All in the rear wheel. One was from last night, but I picked up the other three from the towpath today. I hope all the other towpath cyclists appreciate my clearing all the thorns for them.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Crick's Indian restaurant: excellent

We did no boating today, but I retightened the mooring ropes every now and again. We are now as close to the bank as I think we'll get. Photo tomorrow if I remember.

I cleaned the top of the boat with a microfibre cloth and propped up the solar panels with soup tins to face approximately south as we'll be here for a few days. The boat is now covered in hawthorn blossom again - it's that time of year.

Boats are continuing to arrive for the boat show; May Contain Nuts came in in front of us. Nigel has an interesting boat, with the engine not at the back, or even amidships, but at the bow, powering a hydraulic pump. Everything is hydraulic drive: main propulsion plus both bow and stern thrusters. It doesn't seem to be very efficient. I said we use about 1.25 litres per hour of engine running; Nigel said his consumption is about three times as much. Oo-er.

Walking to the marina for a cup of tea with Robert and Margaret on Blue Iris took an age as we stopped and chatted to loads of people on the towpath.

I put down my mug to take this photo of a yellow biplane overflying the marina and show site.

In the evening, as promised, we went to the Indian Lodge restaurant in Crick. We were joined by Margaret and Robert and had a very good meal. We ate quite early at 6pm, and found we were the only diners. Perhaps it gets busier later in the evening - I hope so, as it would be a real shame if it doesn't last. The restaurant is attached to the Royal Oak pub, which means that you can have a proper ale with your food. The menu was refreshingly short; I had lamb chilli garlic for the main course. The meat was tender and tasty. Before that I had a spicy chilli chicken starter which I won't have again. The menu described it as Indo-Chinese, which should have been sufficient warning. It was more Chinese than Indian - very nice if you like Chinese food, I'm sure. Overall, though, it was a good experience; I can see us going back there before too long.

When we left I found my bike had another puncture, in the back wheel this time, so I had to push it back to the boat. A job for the morning.

As we walked back the sun was setting over the canal.

Tomorrow we'll be helping to set up the BCF stand in what used to be called the Kingfisher Marquee (Boating Marquee?), so there'll be quite a buzz around the place as the other exhibitors set up their stalls.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Discovering something new and potentially hot in Crick

We made a reasonably early start from Weedon today, being under way by 0830. I have to confess it was a bit of a relief to get away from the Virgin trains thundering by on the West Coast Main Line. Don't get me wrong, I like trains as much as the next man, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. We had tied up on the piling just south of Weedon Bridge 24 with the railway just a matter of yards the other side of the canal.

At Buckby Top we briefly saw Jan and Bob in their Waterways Chaplains uniforms while we topped up with water. Then we pushed on up the Leicester Section to the bottom of Watford Locks.

Just before reaching the locks, as expected, we passed Dodona on its usual mooring. Now it sports a For Sale sign.

£35,000 "job lot", whatever that means.

We were the fourth boat in the queue at the bottom, so we thought we'd be allowed up behind the first three, but were told we'd have to wait as there were two boats at the top waiting to come down. So we had lunch.

The two boats turned into four. Hmm.

Jubilee at the top of Watford Staircase
After a passage through an increasingly drippy Crick Tunnel we ticked over past all the boats which have already arrived for the Crick Boat Show and tied up in the shallows south of Bridge 15. The bow is close enough to solid ground, but the stern is sticking out a bit. The price we pay for not paying the price, if you see what I mean.

We walked in to the village after tea and discovered ... an Indian restaurant! It's attached to the Royal Oak pub. We got a menu and will probably eat there - for research purposes, of course - tomorrow.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Crocodile spotted in Grand Union Canal

Jan was steering the boat along the short pound leading to Stoke Bruerne Top Lock. She looked round to see me closing the top gate of the previous lock ... and saw that she was being chased by a creature in the water.

As I came up I saw it swim away. I thought it might have been a dog, but then it came towards me.

Yup. A crocodile. But who was that sitting on the opposite bank? And what was he holding?

Could he be connected in some way to the scaly swimmer?

Ah yes. By remote control. The radio controlled reptile was causing heads to turn, but the only snapping was from cameras by amused onlookers.

Back in the real world ... we navigated from Old Wolverton to Weedon Bec via Gayton Marina for a top-up of diesel. At Cosgrove we passed under the ornate Solomon's Bridge.

Tomorrow we should make it to Crick, where we shall be for the boat show this weekend.

Monday, 20 May 2019

Standing on one leg on the edge of an aqueduct

No, not me. I'll come to that in a bit.

First, the three-legged footbridge at the new Campbell Wharf Marina in Milton Keynes will make for some good photos. Here's my attempt, as we passed on our way from Peartree Bridge to Galleon Wharf today.

Shame it's not level.

A couple of days ago, while we were moored at Peartree Bridge, the resident heron was nonchalantly dealing with a fish it had just caught. I got my camera out as quickly as I could and fired off a safety shot before attempting to zoom. This is the result. The camera had switched on at its widest angle, hence the poor quality after my cropping.

By the time I'd sorted out the zoom it had swallowed the fish.

Another example of 'getting one in the can' before fiddling around, and hence possibly missing the shot altogether, was this photo of a duck standing on one foot on the offside of the Iron Trunk Aqueduct at Cosgrove.

And after cropping:

Again, by the time I'd zoomed in, the moment had gone. The bird had flown.

Today we had the pleasure of Ally and Ben and our two grandsons on board; tomorrow we will continue our journey to Crick for the boat show.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

An army of robots to deliver your shopping

We walked from the boat to Ally and Ben's church this morning. Our very pleasant route took us through Woughton on the Green, the Ouzel Valley Park and Monkston Park, largely across open fields (but on proper metalled MK-style paths throughout).

In Monkston we were astonished to see a robotic vehicle trundling along the footpath.

Looking round, we saw a group of the lawnmower-sized machines gathered outside the Co-op, some of which were beginning to move.

We followed one as it drove along our path; this gives you an idea of its size.

Where it wanted to cross the road it waited while a car passed, then crossed ...

... following two others up the redway.

We could scarcely believe what we had seen. Looking up the website revealed the information that the Starship robots can deliver groceries or packages within a four mile radius, requested and monitored via a mobile app. According to the MK Citizen the robot delivery service was launched about six months ago. Each robot can carry 10kg and deliveries cost the standard fee of £1.

Ally and Ben were not at all surprised when we told them that we'd seen the robots. They have become quite used to them, as must have all the locals. One has to wonder how kidnap-proof they are.

At church we witnessed our second grandson's dedication (like a Christening but with no baptism).

At Ally and Ben's house in Cranfield we enjoyed a splendid lunch party in excellent sunny weather.

Micah, Josiah and our great-nephew Angus

Saturday, 18 May 2019

An extra (small) temporary crew member

We had the pleasure of our grandson, Josiah, staying with us last night. This morning he enjoyed the cruise from Old Wolverton to Peartree Bridge, some of the time sitting on the slide ...

... and some of the time on the Morse control.

Progress through Milton Keynes was slow on account of the many moored boats. We passed the new Campbell Wharf Marina ...

with an interesting, although rust-coloured, three-legged footbridge connecting the opposite bank to both sides of the marina entrance.

Ally and Micah met us at Peartree Bridge and we all we went to the pub for a carvery lunch. After A, J and M had gone we relaxed on the boat, going for a towpath walk to Simpson after tea.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Up the cut without a windlass

This morning a couple of boats came past us before we were ready to go; they duly disappeared down the locks. At about 0830 we moved onto the lock landing and waited to see if another boat would come along to join us down the flight. We'd been there no more than a minute when Jan noticed a man with a windlass outside. I asked him if he was with a boat coming up or going down; he explained that he was coming to the aid of a new widebeam, launched yesterday, whose crew had seemingly forgotten to equip themselves with the means to operate locks. I invited Brian (for that was his name) on board for a cup of tea while he waited for the widebeam to come through the tunnel. He had barely had a chance to sit down when the widebeam arrived, so he went off to see his crew and we started down the lock. We lent the widebeam a spare windlass; this was returned to us when they discovered windlasses under some blankets(!)

Here they are, emerging from Stoke Bruerne Bottom Lock.

The boat is called Every Cloud; the owners, Ivan and Sarah are the managers of the new Campbell Wharf Marina, built at the putative start of the Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterway. Despite having been open for only a month, Sarah says that they are already more than a third full.

Rewinding to the start of the day ... this house opposite last night's mooring in Stoke Bruerne is having some serious landscaping done.

And a photo which didn't make it into yesterday's post: two swans and their cygnets swimming in the sunshine.

Sunshine was in rather short supply today - I lit the fire as we were going along.

We stopped at Galleon Wharf, Old Wolverton, and went to the new Lidl in Stratford Road (next door to Tesco) for supplies. Later, Ally brought our three-year-old grandson, Josiah, to us for a sleepover. He will stay with us as we cruise to Peartree Bridge tomorrow morning. We think it's the first time he will have slept away from home without his mum and dad - he's been absolutely fine so far!