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Saturday, 3 September 2016

Trains and boats, but no planes.

I got the angles wrong last night and so despite it being a nice sunny morning I had moored the boat in the wrong spot so no sun on the panels. Never mind we were soon off and running.

Not far from our overnight spot we came across these buffalo laying in a field. There were even some calves too. I thought we had been transported to Napton where there are other buffaloes

As we came round the corner past Old Linslade and to the bridge we were actually on the site of a Holy well or spring that was roughly where the canal was dug. The Original Linslade was now where Old Linslade Manor is found. It was founded in 975 and was granted a fair in 1251 on account of the pilgrims that were arriving at the Holy Well. However in 1299 the Bishop of Lincoln was threatening excommunication to anybody that went there on pilgrimage as the well was not consecrated, or more likely the miracles ascribed to it were not real. The local vicar was later taken to the Bishops court as he was still encouraging the pilgrims as it would have meant a big loss of revenue to the parish.

The West Coast Main Line runs close to the canal for a while on this section. I was looking at some articles about railways and I was struck by a report from 2015. It seems that the passenger railway journeys had doubled since privatisation in 1997 to 1.6 billion. In 2015 the average number of train journeys taken had gone up to 24.7 a year a 60% increase over the same period. The next nearest increase was in France with 25%. The report also stated that the fares taken by the operators covered the running of the service and the Government subsidies pay for the infrastructure. The price per customer mile has increased 6.7% allowing for inflation but the operators profits have gone from 3.6% to 2.3%. Watching the number of trains using the line I can well believe the increase in traffic and generally I think the system it excellent. I am not a commuter though. However it may be getting more like getting a quart out of a pint pot as the number of trains and the length of trains must be finite. I wonder what folk would say today if they wanted to build new lines to increase the capacity and allow great numbers to travel in more comfort. There is enough noise about the HS2 never mind running new lines through cities. However there seems to be schemes like Cross Rail etc in the capital coming on stream. All in all I think that our railway system is something to admired and boasted about.

This is the top pound with the pumping station on the right. On the left there are some rubbish bins. Quite often there are voluntary lock keepers here, but not today. Last time we were here some boaters had just managed to flood the pub by over flowing the pound between the bottom two locks. We arrived just after a boat had left the top. We would have gone straight in but I had stopped to pick a few apples just round the bend.

From this angle it looks like a staircase but isn't. We had a little delay whlst we waited for a boat to come in the middle lock rather than turning it round. Soulbury Locks were known as the Stoke Hammond Three to working boaters. Stoke Hammond was one of only 51 villages in England that had all the men from WWI come back safely.

The Three Locks pub always seems to be busy, but there weren't too many in for coffee at 1030 this morning. It nused to be called the New InnAs we cleared the bottom lock the clouds were gathering and as nobody was on the water point we stopped to top up. We have a bit of a rule that we never pass a vacant water point if we haven't filled up already that day. It is usually a good time for a 'comfort' break or to put the kettle on!

Stoke Hammond Lock (the one) is a pretty one and I think this is an old pump house. The sign on the wall looks like a station sign too. Just as we arrived a cruiser was entering the lock from below. The father and son team had just bought it from near Cambridge but had had it delivered to Milton Keynes for the price. They were just on their second day and were getting used to the outboard engine. As we were penning down another cruiser arrived at the bottom of the lock with three young lads. They had bought it in Northampton and were taking it to Hemel Hempstead to live on. Their outboard had broken down the day they left the place of purchase and they didn't have much idea of how things work on the canals. they were very worried about mechanical bridges as they had been berated by somebody at an earlier one and were very nervous of another. I hope Winkwell behaves itself.

This is the bottom of Stoke Hammond and clearly shows the old single lock. I wonder if the lads are prepared to be cold and damp over the winter on their little cruiser. I hope that only one of them is to live there as more than one would not be pretty.

We decided to stop a bit before Fenny Stratford and by the time we had moored up it had started spitting with rain. By the time we had had lunch it was not very pleasant. I chopped and stewed up the apples. I will use it to make some apple jelly and that will be the last of my jam jars filled. I have quite a few elderberries so I think I will boil them up with the pulp of the apples and see if I can make a cordial. Maybe I will need a lemon too. I'll let you know what it tastes like.

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