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Thursday, 31 July 2014

Ever upwards.

After a quiet night, as neither of us heard any thrains on the London Midland line, if there were any, we set off on the way up the locks to Marsworth Junction. After the first lock we stopped for water hoping that another boat heading south would catch us up whilst we did. No such luck though so we pottered off from Slapton Lock.

This looks ideal in this weather. In an orchard by a canal would lead to a stress free life at Horton.

Several of the locks had the pumping engines and the signs of the extra narrow lock. I wonder if it made much difference to the water usage as it would only work if there were lots of single boats to use the narrow locks.

Ivinghoe Lock showing the site of the narrow lock.

It looks like the narrow locks persist after Marsworth Junction.

Pumping engine to return water to the lock above. They are known as 'Northern Engines'. I assume that this is because the steam engines they used were not the early Cornish beam engines but the more hi-tec engines made in the industrial north.

Here is clear indication of the entrance to the narrow lock.

It is amazing how few boats we have passed on this length of canal. I think it has been about four moving boats and obviously none met up going our way. It has been quite frustrating too as there has been bushes of nearly ripe blackberries and around the Seabrook locks there are loads of dansoms that will be ready soon.

This was a sorry sight near Pitstone Wharf. It is a wooden hull, but it has been stripped bare. I don't know if it will be possible to salvage the hull. Being immersed may have helped preserve what is left. With luck it will be removed from the cut though.

As the afternoon wore on the cloud increased and by 1900 we had had a shower of rain. I hope it will be okay tomorrow as we have a lot to do.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Out into the country.

We went into Leighton again this morning to do a few chores and find a pork pie. Where the Tesco's Supermarket is now was the old Vickers Company that made the Vickers Vimy biplane heavy bomber that was introduced right at the end of the war. After the war it was used commercially and is famous as the type of plane that Alcock and Brown made the first crossing of the Atlantic in 1919. Bae is still in the area where the interiors of planes are made. 

Vikers Vimy introduced to the RAF 1919 and retired 1933

Another famous company that set up in the town in 1926 was Gossard. They were able to help the war effort by producing parachutes etc as well as their corsets to give the country a lift. (get it?). Mary Norton who wrote the Borrowers was also brought up in the town. We just went under the bridge and took on water before slowly heading down the cut.

Miles stone by Grove Lock to the Thames.

There were plenty of people sitting outside the Grove Lock pub as we went up the lock. The hanging baskets were lovely with little narrow boat brackets.

Grove Lock.

Grove Lock Hanging baskets and brackets.

The weather was again very warm and this means Macy the cat is not really feeling like moving about. She likes to sleep on her 'throne' at the window so she can ,look out occasionally but she looked so cute all fast asleep in the heat.

Macy the cat resting her eyes.

We were soon at Church Lock. The wind had blown the gate open so we went straight in. Here is an example of a double arched bridge. The Grand Junction Canal had water shortages and to save water and speed things up for single boats the company built a narrow lock next to the wide lock. This entrance survives but the lock has gone. There are also pumping stations placed to back pump water up the locks and there is one here too.

Church Lock with the narrow second arch of the bridge to enter the narrow lock adjacent. The pumping station was on the left side of the locks. The towpath changes over here.

Church Lock is named after the Chapel next to the lock. It was thought to be the smallest in Buckinghamshire and is of 14th century with a later bell tower. It is now a private home.

We moved on looking for a spot to moor. The bank is over grown and seems very shallow. It looks like the bank has been built up with stone and in places this has collapsed and made it difficult to get to the side. We found a spot and sat out on the bank doing various little jobs. After tea we went for a walk to Slapton where we had a pint at the thatched Carpenters Arms. I had a Sundail by Berkhampsted brewery Haresfoot.

The Carpenters Arms, Slapton.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

From Buckingham to Beds.

Another sunny start to the day. I must say that this is getting a bit monotonous as the start of a blog! We were off and soon at the Fenny Stratford Lock. It has a swing bridge in the middle but as there was a boat in the lock when we arrived and one waiting as we left we didn't have to deal with it. Mind you the lock is quite quick as it there is only a foot difference in levels. I read that it was supposed to help relieve some of the water pressure on the long pound to Cosgrove. It seems the working boatmen were known for just barging through it, literally. I don't that would be tolerated these days.

Fenny Stratford Lock with the swing bridge in the middle and the very nice canal cottages to the left.

There is a nice pound to Stoke Hammond lock. We came across a very slow boat here. My tick over was much faster than his and he waved me through. There was a queue at the locks to come down. six boats waiting so there was no point in waiting for him there and we were soon on our way. We were soon on the three Soulbury locks. We stopped to take on water and allow the slow boat to catch up to go up with us. Despite this the lock keepers had swung the lock and had it waiting for us and they still hadn't showed up. We were just about to leave the second lock when they arrived at the bottom. We certainly weren't rushing either.

The pub, now called the 'Three Locks' (used to be the 'Grand Union') from the middle of three locks.

Helen enjoying the sunshine.

A boat arrived at the top lock as we were leaving so that saved the gate being closed. The next pound is called Jackdaw Pound for some reason at 264ft. It winds about with good views across the valley of the River Ouzel. There aren't any real villages to go by the canal but just as the accompanying railway enters a tunnel there is the Globe Inn that looks very nice and it is noted for our return. There seemed to be plenty of mooring spots on this stretch for the trip north too.

Nice views with an undulating countryside from the canal.

The Globe Inn near Old Linslade.

Before arriving at Leighton Buzzard we had Leighton Lock to pass. I was surprised to see that there were three hire boats tied up at Wyvern Shipping as there seemed to be hundreds of them on the move! We stopped at the 'Shopping Moorings' that are right outside Tesco and Aldi and did a big shop to stock up on everything. We were then going to move off a bridge or two, but after letting go and heading ever south we saw that visitor moorings started not much further down. We quickly pulled in and tied up for the day. We sat and read etc and waited for the cool of evening before going off to explore the town. We have now spotted all the shops we want and will make a second sortie in the morning to get the last bits. There was a call at 'The Swan', a Weatherspoons for a cooling drink. I had a Tring Brewery 'Colley Dog' and Adnams 'Broadside' and Helen had a rhubarb flavour cider from there cider festival. By then it was too late for us to bother to cook so stopped at a kebab shop that had been recommended to us and availed ourselves. We got one between us and there is some left over. Neither of us can remember the last time we had a kebab but we did enjoy it.

Leighton Lock House.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Codes, computers, chums and collars.

We had about a 35 minute walk from the boat to Bletchley Park, Home of the Codebreakers. It was easy to find and we were there at 1015. It is a bit steep to get in £15 each but it is a season ticket so you can come back anytime in the year. There is a general introduction film show and then you pick up your audio visual guide and you are off into the grounds. The mansion was built in 1870 and was enlarged by stockbroker Herbert Leon  who bought it in 1883. In 1938 it was bought by the Government to house the Government and Cypher school.

The Bletchley Park Mansion viewed from over the lake.

Over the course of the War the place expanded from about 150 staff to over 9000 at it's peak. From the Mansion it expanded in to an ever increasing number of huts housing the various sections. Radio intercepts were not made here, but they were brought here for them to be cracked and the intelligence disseminated to the right Armed Forces section. The huts have been reproduced to give a feel of the times.

We were lucky that we were on the first free guided tour of the day and our guide painted a very good picture of the place and the people that worked there with plenty of anecdotes to add colour.

One of the huts with audio visual area.

The ball room of the Mansion was used as a film area and other recreational exploits.

The museum was very good at filling out the characters that worked there and the nature of their work. It was amazing that using maths, logic, language and chess they were able to crack what the Germans and Japanese thought were unbreakable code. The fact that there was a great assemblage of people with the best brains for this and the mix was run with a very easy hand meant that the effort bore fruit. Many thought that their efforts shortened the War by about two years, so saving many thousands of lives. Some Germans also thought that by shortening the War meant that the atom bomb was dropped on Japan and not Germany!

Alan Turing, 2007 statue.
There were many characters that worked at BP and made a massive contribution to the war effort. Alan Turing was one of the most important as not only did he have a great skill in cracking the codes of the Enigma and Lorenzo machines he was important in developin the 'Bombes' that helped decypher the Enigma codes but also develop the Colossus that was the start of computing and speeded up the rate of the work. He has also become a cause celebre for gay rights.

We arrived at 1015 and left at 1710 after a very full day, and actually we didn't see three or four things. We may well go back on the way back north in September. On our way out this morning we noticed 'Gulliver' just up from us. We had met them several times last year. As we came back we bumped into them and that was enough for us to end up in the Red Lion just by the lock. I had a Keltek Brewery from Redruth Cornwall, Magic that went down well. It was great to catch up with them and swap our news over the last few months and we will see them again on our way north.

Macy the cats collar was showing signs of wear and we didn't want her collar coming off. We bought her a new one and have put it on her for the first time today. The diamontes stand out well on her grey fur so that she cuts a dash. She has three bells, her name and contact tag and her electronic tag. No she hasn't been ASBO'd but it means that we can find here if we can't see her. So far we haven't needed it as she doesn't go far away at all.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Where is Milton Keynes?

We had a little lie in and whilst Helen was making the porridge, yes porridge as we had missed it last week (even in this heat) I went to find the paper shop and post some mail. I found both only about 100mts north of Bridge 78. For some reason the Wyvern Shipping hire boats seem to stop when ever they pass a water point even when they have obviously just picked them up, or are just dropping them off later in the day. One the one had cleared we moved up and topped up as we had run a load of washing so we could have it dry when we stopped for the day. The Canal Boat Hire that I helped out in Market Harborough had a sign on the tap saying that the water shouldn't be drunk. I had never heard of this before but they must be just insuring against claims of upset tums or something.

We were soon on our way, and I was soon making a mental note to increase passage times by at least an hour as there are so many boats moored that you could never get up to speed for very long. There were plenty of gaps but they all seem to be 'house boats' where folk use them as a residence and not for boating. If they have to move them, which they clearly do, it is not because they enjoy it. This being Sunday you would have thought you would have seen folk around their boats in the sunshine. It seems to me that many go 'home' for the weekend use the boats as work pied a terres.

From the canal Milton Keynes is very green with plenty of room to move about off road etc. You would hardly know you were in a town, even houses hardly backed up to the canal, with green on both sides. There were plenty of parks too. In the sun it looked lovely, but there weren't that many people around.

A heron in a tree, enjoying the sunshine.

A piece of sculpture in Campbell Park.

Not only cyclist and walker on the tow path. I reckon some boaters would want these banned from the tow path as well as cyclist even though they are authentic.

Just as the ice cream boat was approaching and gesticulating wildly for me to keep coming round a 'moored' boat I was busy trying to push it back to the bank as it was no longer moored at all. At least six boats had passed it and they had either pulled its pins out or ignored it's plight. You just have to hope that if it happened to you somebody would be bothered to help out. With this weather the ground is very hard! Just past the bridge in the picture above is planned a new broad beam link that will join up with the Middle Levels at Bedford. That would be a welcome link if it ever gets sorted. 

I tried to spy my Alma Mater through the trees but couldn't quite make out the Open University buildings. Just after Milton Keynes Marina we came across Blue Line butty 'Raymond' and narrow boat 'Ian'. At least I think it was Ian as I was too busy avoiding it and the trees to look. Raymond was built in 1958 and ten years earlier in 1948. I expect they are heading north for the Blisworth Festival in a couple of weeks.

NB 'Ian'? and butty 'Raymond' in original Blue Line colours.

We finally pulled round the blind bend under Bridge 94 to see only two spaces left. We choose the first and we were soon tied up and hanging the washing up that was soon dried. We may go in search of a pint later in Fenny Stratford.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

History lesson and farewells.

There was a slight hiatus this morning when we found we had forgotten something at the Barley Mow where we had had a lovely meal last night. Fortunately we realised before we left the area.

The view back to Cosgrove from the water point.

We moved up to take water, having to wait mid cut whilst another boat finished off. Just a little further comes the lock. Above the lock is the old junction with the Buckingham Canal  that went there via Old Stratford. Boats and sea going vessels were built nearby at Stoney Stratford. The firm of Edward Hayes developed a great reputation for marine engines and boat building and built tugs, sea going vessels and river launches for places as far away as Russia and Egypt. They were built and then towed by traction engine down Watling Street to the wharf at Old Stratford and then launched sideways into the canal. They were then stripped in order to make the trip to London down the London. There they were deconstructed and sent onwards.

Hayes boat being launched on slipway
A launch of a vessel for Edward Hayes.

Also at the top of the lock are a few rail lines that apparently are from a line that used to be hauled from the sand pits near the junction of the Rivers Great Ouse and Tove.

The remains of the narrow gauge railway bringing sand to Cosgrove Wharf.

Chris brings the boat into the lock at the Buckingham Canal Junction.

A little further on there is the the aqueduct across the Great Ouse River that ends up at the wash. In the past there were locks to bring the canal down to the river and back up  in two different versions. In the end they decided to build the aqueduct in 1811 to save water and speed things up. It is not the highest or longest aqueduct but after painting it certainly looks smart. There is a horse/cattle tunnel underneath to access the river below.

The cast iron trough has no handrails on the off side as 'Holderness' crosses. The trough is on stone pillars.

 A sculpture by Martin Heron that is called 'Looking Forward' I think. On it's arm is a scene of cyclist that apparently reference a velodrome that used to be in the area. there are other similar sculptures on other scenes by the same artist in the area.

A long mural near Wolverton that depicts scenes from the well known railway engine building yard. It seems that Royal Trains have regularly been built here. Those for Queen Victoria, Edward Vii and Queen Elizabeth in 1961. The latest was built in 1977.

We were soon in Giffard Park, Milton Keynes and this was our meeting place with our guests lift for home. I hope now he has gone he hasn't taken all the good weather with him. but it seems that it is going to continue for a while yet.

Friday, 25 July 2014

War stories from Cosgrove.

We set off in the cool of 0930 and headed for the water point outside the boat pub. The plan was to be filling up with water as the museum shop opened at 1000 and we could buy some postcards etc. The plane worked well, and even better another boat arrived ready to start locking down so we had a lock buddy to share the load.

Stoke Bruerne Museum and cottages just by the top lock.

There was a shuffling about between those on the bank and those on the boat. We made fair progress meeting several boats coming up but in the heat it was nice to get to the bottom.

Chris putting his back into the windlass on the Stoke Locks.

Piper's Fancy, our lock buddies with a well rounded pair of sterns!

After the locks the canal wanders around the countryside with extensive views. We passed 'Valerie' and despite hollering as we drifted past Jaq and Les were staying put in the heat. Less looked well though. There didn't seem to be very much moving but there were quite a few moored on the side. Maybe just too hot. We got to Cosgrove and called it a day.

The very ornate bridge at Cosgrove. Nobody knows why it is so ornate.

We went for a walk round the village and passed under the canal via the horse tunnel. There are no shops or a post office here so we sought the cool of  St Peter and St Paul Church. The original patrons of the church were the Priors of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem! They can trace their Rectors from 1219.

Horse tunnel as Cosgrove.

St Peter and St Paul Church in Cosgrove.

In side there were a couple of interesting memorials. The first that caught my eye was that of Sir Robert Moorsom, June 1760 to November 1835. He was an Admiral of the Blue. It turns out he was born in Whitby and joined the RN at 17. He served in the American War of Independence, the French Revolution War and the Napoleonic Wars. He was the Captain of HMS Revenge at the Battle of Trafalgar in Admiral Collingwoods fleet. He was near the back of the line but being newly bottomed was faster than many. He has heading for the Spanish Flag Ship and on the way managed to cripple three vessels before coming up on the flagship that greatly outgunned him. Their broadside caused sevre damage and 70 crew dead and he was badly wounded too. They were in a sinking condition when saved by another couple of British vessels engaging. By good seamanship the Revenge made Gibraltar. Moorsom was set home and never went to sea again. He carried the Great Banner at Nelson's funeral and was promoted eventually to Admiral of the Blue and then became an MP and was the Surveyor General of Ordnance.

The other memorial was to Major General John Mansel,  whose family lived at the Hall from 1742. He was Lt. Colonel of the 3rd Dragoon Guards. He was in charge of a group of cavalry during the French Revolutionary Wars and failed to engage the enemy. He was almost disgraced but after an enquiry it was found the message never got to him. Three days later at the siege of Landrecies in Flanders, where the British and Austrians were besieging the French, a relieving force of French attacked. The Commander, the Duke of York, had a word with Monsel to remind him of the previous event before sending him and his large force of cavalry on an outflanking charge. Apparently Mansel swore he would not come back alive. He sped off and was found after the battle well ahead of the main force with a musket shot in the head and his throat cut! One of his son's was also there and was also thought to be lost whilst trying to save his Father but was later found to be injured and captured. John Mansel died in 1794 at the Battle of Coteau ensuring his family name, and his blooded tunic and diary were kept at the Hall for many years but are now at Peterborough Museum.

One of his sons went to sea and became a Rear Admiral. Another of his sons joined the 25th Light Dragoon Guards and went on over seas service to India but unfortunately died at sea on the way back.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Slight shower today, but only in the tunnel.

We were off at about 0930 and never really got going as there were lines of moored boats. I'm beginning to think it is better 'up north'. The canal meanders around the contour and there is hardly a building that encroaches on the cut. We got yo Bridge 32 and there was nobody on the fuel moorings at Fred Tarry and at 79p it seemed to good to miss. We soon had 97 ltrs aboard and on our way. We had a deadline to make as our guest was having guests and we had to make Stoke Bruerne.

Bugbrooke Wharf and pub

Helen appearing almost naked (by her standards) whilst getting a bit of steering in.

There was plenty of moored vessels but not that many coming past us. It seemed to take ages to reach Gayton Junction but in reality it wasn't that long. We aren't heading up the locks to Northampton, River Nene and Peterbrough and the hence to the Middle Levels this time but we definitely sometime in the future.

Gayton Junction.

We were soon approaching Blisworth Tunnel which is the third longest on the system at 3076 yds but first there was the wharf at Blisworth Tunnel Boats and then the Mill. Blisworth Mill was built as a corn mill in 1879 after the original mill and bake house had been destroyed by a fire. The Northampton Co-op Society bought it in 1920 but couldn't make a go of it and sold it to Grand Union Canal Company in 1930 and they used it as a warehouse. In 1934 the chimney was pulled down. It stored tinned food in WWII and then became a bondeed store, food factory and spice warehouse until 2000 when it was converted to apartments.

Blisworth Mill today.

Blisworth Mill 1895

When we entered the tunnel we could see a light near the other end and we didn't meet them until we were more than half way. The northern half is the original brick lining but to the south the lining had failed and in 1980 the canal was closed for four years to make the tunnel safe, reopening in 1984.

The new linings of the tunnel.

The old lining of brick.

At the southern portal is this lining ring that shows the diameter of the bore. The internal 'bumps' mark the water level and I am not tired, but there for scale, honestly.

We didn't venture too far from the mouth of the tunnel before taking a mooring as it looked full further on. We were in good time for our visitors and not long after tying up they were walking down the tow path. After a guided tour, which didn't take too long for obvious reasons, we were off to the Boat for a libation or two. It was nice to put a face to names we had heard from Chris so often. Back at the boat we had another bottle of wine and hand fed the moorhens. I had had ducks, swans, pigeons eating out of my hand but there the moorhens have it sussed. The Mum and Dad had a couple of teenagers still with them from this year and a couple of tots. One of the parents jumped up on the bow, walked down the mooring rope and took bread from the hand. The other parent didn't dare though. They didn't eat it though, but took it over to the littlest ones and fed them, then later they fed the older ones before having some themselves. I had always thought moorhens pretty rubbish parents as they seem to let there little ones get separated easily, but they do seem to look after there young on today's evidence.

Moorhen at hand.