Wednesday 31 July 2019

Canal books galore in Oxfam shop

We walked in to Berkhamsted this morning, accessing the high street via the Waitrose car park. One of the first things I saw was a display of waterways books in the window of the Oxfam charity shop.

Among the books were The Archaeology of Canals by P J G Ransome; Tales from the Old Inland Waterways by Euan Corrie; How they were Built - Canals; The Complete Book of Canal & River Navigations by Edward W Paget-Tomlinson; Hidden Nature - a Voyage of Discovery by Alys Fowler; Waterways of Northamptonshire; British Canals, Our Canal Population by George Smith; The Great Towpath Walk from London to York by Brian Bearshaw; A Tour of the Grand Junction Canal in 1819 by John Hassell; Water Byways; Priestley's Navigable Rivers and Canals and a selection of Pearson's Canal Companions.

I have two or three of these titles already but I didn't add to my collection.

We moved on down three locks and then stopped for lunch. Under way again we passed through many locks with instructions to leave them empty with the bottom paddles up. The reason given was that the lock chamber leaks. Is there really so much surplus water that CRT can afford whole lockfuls being run to waste behind ascending boats? We had to fill nearly every lock we encountered with these notices. Now, I don't know enough about such things, but can the locks not be sealed against leakage by repointing the brickwork? Presumably not, as these locks have been like it for years. It makes a mockery of CRT's "save water" campaign.

Rant over, every boater passing this boat's back end must photograph it.

Neither boat seems to have conventional tiller-and-rudder steering. Is the VW Touran's engine still in place, and does it power the boat? Does anyone know?

At Winkwell, before coming across the boats above, we saw fellow BCF-er Henry and his boat Trinity in the dry dock where he was blacking and painting. He came over to chat for a bit - it was good to see him.

The reason for this torrent of water from the bottom gates of this lock was clear when it emptied.

This looks like wear from boats nudging the gates open. Not good.

We tied up by Apsley Marina and had tea on board. Tomorrow morning we intend to have a look round Hemel Hempstead.

Tuesday 30 July 2019

Balancing on the back of a boat

What a change in the weather! The day started fine, if rather breezy, so we made a reasonably early start from our mooring at the end of the Wendover Arm. By the time we tied up in Berkhamsted we'd had quite a lot of rain. some of it pretty torrential.

A heron guarded one of the outfalls from the Tringford Pumping Station on the Wendover Arm.

At the junction with the GU main line stands Bulbourne Dry Dock, on the (not quite dry)floor of which I lay on my back in the early 1980s blacking myself and the baseplate of Savoy Hill. Now the dry dock seems to be operated by Bates's Boatyard of the Aylesbury Arm.

We watered up just past the Grand Junction Arms (good pressure) and continued along the Tring summit pound. This boat has found a use for a redundant balance beam.

At Dudswell Lock 48 we were helped through by a posse of CRT staff who were gathering in readiness for repairing a top gate tomorrow. The heel post had broken.

We were treated to a visit by Ally, Josiah and Micah this afternoon. Ally had heard good things about the Natural History Museum offshoot in Tring, so she drove us all there to see the amazing collection of stuffed animals. On her way home she dropped us off at our car in Bulbourne; we drove to Berkhamsted and the boat. This evening we went to the Verandah Indian Restaurant and enjoyed their "gourmet night" deal.

Monday 29 July 2019

The ends of two arms

A few days ago we reached the end of the Aylesbury Arm and explored this pleasant town.

I like to get to the very end of navigations; not many make such a good self-captioning photo.

Aylesbury claims at least two famous people. David Bowie's first gig was here ...

… and there's a similar story about Ronnie Barker.

There's lots of nice old stuff. This is the courtyard of the King's Head, an old coaching inn.

From Aylesbury we returned to the main line and climbed the Marsworth locks to Bulbourne, where we tied up by the Grand Junction Arms. I retrieved the car from Campbell Park by way of cycle and train, then we drove to Shenfield for a family gathering to celebrate my mother's 90th birthday. Here are my parents with their great grandchildren Micah, Josiah and Angus.

We got back to the boat this afternoon: we winded, returned to Bulbourne Junction and travelled along the Wendover Arm to the current end of navigation at Little Tring.

Phew! I'm up-to-date! Tomorrow the plan is go back to Bulbourne and continue to Berkhamsted.

Friday 26 July 2019

Self (ful)filling locks on the Aylesbury Arm

Aargh! I miss doing a blog post … and before I know it weeks have gone by without my "daily" updates. So - a bit of catching up to do. When I last wrote we had just arrived at Stoke Bruerne; now we are on our way up the Aylesbury Arm having winded at the end this morning. Alison picked us up and delivered us to Milton Keynes where we borrowed Ben's car. In this we drove to Enslow to retrieve our car, which we drove back to Stoke Bruerne, returning Ben's car to MK on the way. From Stoke Bruerne we then drove home to do gardening jobs etc. I watched the cracking British Grand Prix on the telly (and wished I'd been at Silverstone, as I was for last year's race. I haven't told you about that, have I? I will some time).

On Tuesday 16th July we drove back to the boat via Cranfield where we had tea with Ally, Ben, Josiah, Micah and Amelia, their lodger. The next day saw us move down Stoke Bruerne Locks as soon as they were open; we continued to Wolverton where we tied up by the flats. I cycled back to Stoke Bruerne to get the car. On the Thursday we took part in a tenth wedding anniversary celebration for Ally and Ben. They dropped Josiah off with us and drove to Kew Gardens while the three of us went there by train. Four trains, actually. This was a fun journey which Josiah loved. We just missed seeing a steam train at Willesden Junction - we got to the platform as the brown carriages were trundling through but didn't see the loco itself. (This is boring - sorry! There'll be canal stuff soon.) We spent the next few days driving to and from Cranfield to spend more time with the grandchildren, moving the boat to Great Linford at some point. On Sunday we walked along the former railway line to Newport Pagnell, where we went to the Baptist Church. Just as we were leaving the boat Waterway Routes came along.

On Monday 22nd July we moved on to Campbell Park - more bike and car shuffling. Now we were boating properly again: the next day, in hot weather, we continued to Leighton Buzzard where we had a towpath barbecue. Later on we noticed a group of hi-vis-wearing men on the bridge closing the road.

Jan went up to investigate. Uh-oh: they were going to resurface the road. All night. With much noise. We moved on to get away from it, actually stopping just below Church Lock. It was a relief to cruise in the relative cool of the evening.

The weather was continuing to heat up; in the morning we got up at 0610 and were joined in the lock by Christine and co. on Ketura.

Christine gave Jan a hat with a stiff brim and a neck flap which she was very pleased with.

At Marsworth Junction we turned right onto the Aylesbury Arm, new waters for us. At the bottom of the staircase pair we stopped for lunch, then decided to carry on so as not to have to do too much in the forecast heat of Thursday. It was a joy to be back to narrow locks, although they seem to be wider than most at about eight feet. Perhaps for this reason it seems impossible to step across an open bottom gate to a closed one - and vice versa - enforcing a walk round via the top gate. Another curiosity is the amount of water pouring over the top gate of most of the locks on the upper section of the arm.

This was handy for us going down the locks, as each was full, but surely a considerable drain on the main line.

Thursday 11 July 2019

Mountbatten and Jellicoe show how it's done

We travelled from Weedon to Stoke Bruerne today, stopping for lunch at Blisworth. This was probably a mistake as I hadn't allowed for the continuing restrictions at Stoke Bruerne Locks. At the time this wasn't an issue - we had originally intended to stop here. But we find we need to go home, and we have the offer of a lift to enable us to collect our car. This lift may appear around the time the locks open … and it all gets complicated. It would have been easier if we'd got at least to the 7-day moorings in the long pound. Never mind.

Several historic boats were passed today, including fuel boats Mountbatten and Jellicoe, which were tied up by the south portal of Blisworth Tunnel. After we had moored the pair came past to stop behind Sculptor.

At the right moment the steerer of the motor released one of the cross straps ...

… allowing the butty to slide gently past on the inside.

With Kathryn's assistance on the bank the pair slotted in in front of a Wyvern hire boat very efficiently.

Wednesday 10 July 2019

"New" canalside restaurant at Whilton Locks

Coming down the Buckby/Whilton locks today, sharing the entire flight with Lindy Lue, we saw a canalside restaurant I don't remember seeing two months ago.

It's on the offside between locks 11 and 12. The banner gives no contact information, but a quick internet search shows that it is part of the Whilton Locks Garden Village.

Perhaps it's been there for ages but without advertising its presence to passing boaters. There is no mooring outside.

At the bottom lock were more blue CRT banners spoiling the balance beams. This one was stapled on. Not the best idea: one day someone will pierce their hand on a loose staple.

Below the locks we passed the old and new pair of Bakewell and Poshratz.

We tied up at Weedon and went to the Brinjol Indian restaurant as it was their banquet night. Good food. And very good value.

Tuesday 9 July 2019

Widebeam meets widebeam Tranquil Rose and a Lancaster bomber flies over

We left the delightful South Oxford Canal today and are now tied up in our favourite Braunston spot below the Admiral Nelson. As we came along the combined section with the GU we caught up with the widest-looking of wide beams diagonally across the cut.

To be fair, he was merely getting out of the way of an oncoming widebeam. Hotel boat Tranquil Rose came past us this afternoon.

I remember talking to a couple on one of the Braunston Turn bridges a few years ago; they were talking about buying a hotel boat business. I thought I had blogged about it but I can't find the relevant post. Speaking to the man steering, while in the lock, it was immediately clear that he was the one on the bridge that time. I thought it was four years ago; he said it was 2010! It's good that the business is still going strong.

As we came past The Boathouse pub a Lancaster flew overhead.

Nice and low and slow, so I could get a half-decent photo. It's nice to be getting our own flypasts!

We walked to Daventry for supplies this afternoon. Well, I walked with the bike and cycled when we got to the A45. When both paniers were full I cycled back to unload into the fridge and cycled back. We ate in the Wetherpoon.

Monday 8 July 2019

HS2 construction begun on the Oxford Canal

As we rounded a bend on the South Oxford Canal this morning we got a shock. An army of diggers, scraping off the surface of what was farmland. And it was right next to the canal.

We were last here three weeks ago, on our way to Oxford. Now work has actually started on a project which I believe is a waste of money and a despoliation of the countryside. I am very aware that canals had their objectors and, no doubt, railways (ordinary ones) too. But in the internet age what is the point of shaving a few minutes off a very small number of routes?

The amount of land required here is vast. This was near Bridge 127 a mile north of Wormleighton village.

Near Napton Top Lock we passed a boat with a large Welsh flag on the tiller and a bridge-brushing array of flowers on the top. How can the steerer see where he's going?

We tied up at the bottom of Napton Locks. Two Napton Narrowboats hire boats came past heading for the locks. The first hit our boat and ground its way all along the side, going on to do the same to the boat behind us. The canal here was straight and wide, so there was no need to be bashing us. The chap in the second boat hit stuck his head out of the side hatch and remonstrated with the steerer, suggesting he might slow down. The steerer's response? If I slow down I won't be able to steer!

Sunday 7 July 2019

Grid ref posts on the South Oxford Canal, two flypasts and a butterfly

Every so often, on the South Oxford Canal, we came across white posts set in a short length of post-and-rail fence.

These white posts have an Ordnance Survey grid reference stencilled in red on them.

Some of the grid ref posts are obscured to a greater or lesser extent by foliage ...

... and one was covered by a hoodie.

Some of the fences have a two letter and two digit code. This one is OX55.

Here are two more I found, all snapped from the moving boat so not the best quality.

Does anyone know what they are for? I checked with a GPS once or twice and the grid references seem to be accurate.

We moved only three miles today, from Fenny Compton to the north side of Wormleighton Hill. We tied up with a great view over farmland to distant Warwickshire hills and had a barbecue. There was a sound of aeroplanes ... and it looked like it could have been a Battle of Britain Memorial Flight going over.

A few minutes later four more planes flew over in a diamond formation.

I don't know what these were - come to that, I don't know what the first flypast consisted of - so can anyone tell me please?

And a final identification of a flying thing if you could: this butterfly on brambles.

Actually, a look on the internet shows me that this could be a meadow brown.