On the 11 of June British Waterways were running conducted tours of their lock gate making workshop at Bulbourne on the Grand Union canal. For the last visit of the day a friend had made a block booking for all the places on the trip and 15 of us were meeting at the yard for the tour and then retiring to the pub opposite for a curry meal and a drink. Diana and I were the only ones making the journey by boat.
Friday 6 June 2003
We drove across to Napton on Friday morning stopping at The Stags Head, Watford, for a very enjoyable lunch. After unloading the car at Napton we drove to the chandlery at Braunston Bottom lock to buy a new set of Domestic batteries. On our last visit to the boat I found that two had died. We fitted these and stayed on the moorings overnight.
Saturday 7 June
We set off just after 10 to meet a steady stream of boats coming up the locks; I just love it when itís like that. As we approached one of the locks a man in a 30ft boat entered from below single handing, Di was about to go and close the bottom gates for him when he called out to say there was a boat following and sure enough there was a lady, also single handing on a 35ft. Di made the comment that it was lucky they had both arrived at the bottom of the flight at the same time. She was told that it wasn't coincidence but was planned that way. They had been together for 9 years but they still travelled on their own boats. There were only two boats moored on the 14-day moorings at the bottom of the locks and one of those had sunk. It was an old wooden one with an anti oil slick sausage round it. The cabin was totally smashed and it looked like its back was broken. We arrived at Braunston bottom Lock in a complete melee and tried to work out how many boats were waiting to go up the locks. The answer turned out to be none. With the exception of the Lewis's on Remus they were all loading at GUCC. There were 56 kids from Southampton travelling in 6 boats to Fenny Stratford and back and Remus was going with them. We entered the bottom lock and Remus decided to join us, so we worked the flight together meeting boats in every lock except the top one where Madam L'eclusier emptied the lock for us. There were a surprisingly large number of moorings vacant just prior to Buckby Top Lock but we decided to carry on down with Remus and moor in the top pound. Just after the top lock there were two boats breasted and moored on the jetty on the offside. I shouted to the lady onboard to ask if the American Lady still lived there and received a positive reply. We moored along side her and went ashore to reintroduce ourselves to Priscilla. I had heard she had moved, the last time I had seen her I had fixed a Blue Cutweb Blacksheep notice to the end of her jetty. As we sat drinking wine and eating cheese and biscuits with her and Hazel, whose boat we had tied to, the six boats of kids arrived and moored breasted up opposite. As we were moored three deep on the off side we decided it was time to move on and moored just above the second lock for the night.
Sunday 8 June 2003
It rained heavily overnight and the morning was very overcast,, About 9 o'clock two GUCC boats and Remus slid round the bend taking me a bit by surprise. The first two boats set off down the locks and we followed up with Remus, but somehow the kids disappeared and we ended up working the locks ourselves. The third pound was a bit low but apart from that things went fine until I tried to leave a lock and had no forward drive. I moved the gear leaver back and forth but it was obviously not connected to any thing, by now the water flowing over the top gate was landing on the stern deck, so I closed the doors and headed into the engine room. The problem was obvious. The nut and bolt connecting the end of the linkage to the hydraulic valve had come adrift and we were in slight reverse. I stopped the engine and poled the boat out of the lock. Thank goodness the bilge pump works. Two minutes with a spanner and we were underway again. The kids all stopped at Weedon church for lunch but we carried on until it poured with rain and then we stopped for lunch as well. We waited until the weather cleared before setting off. Arun was moored but empty in Bugbrook but facing North? I noted some strange barges/work platforms at Gayton; I take it these will be used when they try to repair the leaky bank. I also noted that there has been little progress to the excavation of the new basin just south of the junction. As we approached the tunnel the skies opened again. The tunnel was very busy and the atmosphere quite thick, I nearly hit a day boat up the bum. I have never gone so slowly through a tunnel, at times I had to drift in neutral to avoid catching up with the day boat. I could hear his engine pick up and then a few minutes latter drop back to tick over. As we approached Stoke Bruerne top lock a young lad was closing the gate, after several blasts on the horn he kindly opened it again for us and ran round to open the second gate. No sooner was I in than he started to close it again, completely ignoring the boat following us. A quick shout and that stop as well. The strange thing was he wasn't even off a boat that we could see and there was nothing waiting to come up. We continued down the flight quite uneventfully but were unable to work out how the locks had ended up in various states of full and empty without craning the boats out. We moored for the night about a mile below the locks in sunshine.
Monday 9 June 2003
Woke to a sunny morning and set off about 10. The cut was very quiet and we only met a few boats. Just past Baxter's marina we came upon a wide beam narrowboat (10ft 6in) by Hartford Harnser and stopped for a chat, it seams they were built in Peterborough and fitted out on the Ouse at Hartford boats. Things got much more interesting at Soulbury Locks. We entered the first and while it was filling Di went on to the second, the lock was almost empty so she lifted a paddle and then opened the bottom gate before coming back to me. By the time we were out of the lock, some chap had come from the top, closed the gate but not the paddle and lifted the top paddles before returning back to the top lock. As there were two paddles open at the top and one at the bottom the middle lock was filling but the pound above it emptying, so Di considered the best action was to close the bottom paddle and we waited while they left the top lock, filled the second and locked down to the first before we continued. At the second lock, when it emptied a crow flew down to the sill, caught a Crayfish, nipped off its claws and carried it away. Speaking to the people who now live in the lock cottage this is a regular occurrence and they often find claws beside the lock gates. We stopped at the Globe Inn for a meal, which was quite acceptable and then, moved down the cut to spend the night slightly further from the railway in the rain.
Tuesday 10 June 2003
Woke to a drizzly morning, Just as we were about to set off "Hodmedod" came past we had worked the Stoke Bruerne locks with them the other day. As we entered Leighton Buzzard lock a boat called Frobisher came up behind us, they had been working up with Hodmedod the day before. Hodmedod stopped out side Tesco, so when we arrived at Grove Lock we waited for Frobisher to join us. The new pub at the lock looks most impressive; maybe we will give it a try on the way back. We spent the rest of the day working up with Frobisher, most of the locks were against us and most of the top gates were open. We passed Lady Elgar again so they must have come past us early in the morning (before 9). There was a boat pulled into the spot we vacated by the pub last night that may have been them. Anyway it was the RIGHT Lady Elgar and we exchanged greetings. We arrived at Bulbourne at about 5 o'clock. David Fletcher's boat is still moored there. We filled with water and decided to potter down to Cow Roast for the night where we met Frobisher as she moored up. By the No Mooring signs in the winding hole there was a boat moored, that's right, it wasn't a shared ownership but a BW boat. We winded and moored for the night just before the bend, ready to head back to Bulbourne in the morning and spend the day going down the Wendover Arm.
Wednesday 11 June 2003
Another nice day, we left Cowroast and headed back along the summit to Bulbourne, here we turned left down the Wendover arm and decided to carry all the way down to the stop lock. We had just passed the winding hole when a lady walking her dog checked with us that we knew we would have to back out. We moored for a while at the lock and walked along to inspect the work being carried out by The Wendover Trust. Itís a very popular area for walkers but apart from them there were no signs of life. I don't think the water was as clear as I remember from previous visits when we had been able to watch the fish. I backed the boat as far as the winding hole and turned round to continue the journey forwards. Towards the mouth there is a swans nest, she has 6 good-sized chicks but there is still one egg in the nest. We moored directly opposite the workshops and I spent the afternoon on a few outstanding jobs on the boat. Around 5 there was a knock on the boat and a shout, it was Allan from Bristol, he came onboard for a chat and look round leaving us just in time for Diana and me to get changed. A few minutes later there was another knock, this time it was Terry, I had to be a bit rude and tell him we would catch up with him shortly as we were both in a state of undress. Just before 7 we wondered up to the road and met up with Terry again, in the pub we spied the Jannock's with 2 friends, Debi and Simon, a few minutes later in came Neil, Wendy and Connie, they were closely followed by Julian and Caro, Allan reappeared and after a swift half we headed over to the BW yard to be greeted by a young lady from the Marsworth office and the site manager. A little later Graham arrived the last of our group to arrive. After a good look round we headed back to the pub for curry and more liquid refreshment, here we stayed until chucking out time when we all went our separate ways.
Thursday 12 June 2003
A good start to the day, I miscalculated the toilet tank pump out frequency badly and had to break out the Porta-potty. BW had the wood delivered for the lock on the Hanwell flight. We set off about 10 and went through the first lock by ourselves; we had just left it when the boat that was moored about 3 in front of us appeared. We offered to wait in the next lock but when I arrived there was a boat waiting to come up so I went down, we finally got together on the third and worked all the way to Pitstone together. After the swing bridge they stopped for lunch, but we carried on. The boat going down in front of us left the bottom gate open on every lock until we reached Leighton Buzzard. Why do I always follow boaters like that and never meet them coming towards me. When we did meet a boat they had always passed him in the pound below, so even when I expected one in our favour they still had a bottom gate open. I got to see a stoat running across one of the gates with dinner in its mouth and also witnessed another crow enjoying a Crayfish. We emptied Grove Lock and before I had the bottom gates open the crow had dropped onto the cill, caught the crayfish between the timber and the cill and was enjoying a late lunch. He was unable to remove the Crayfish from between the wood and the cill, so he was eating it in situ. We also saw a lot of dead large Carp below Marsworth, none above. By large I would guess at between 4 and 10 lbs. We stopped for a BBQ just past the Globe and moved down opposite the rather posh apartments to be a bit further from the railway.
Friday 13 June 2003
It was a peaceful mooring with very little noise from the trains. We woke to the weather that we have unfortunately come to expect, warm and sunny. One day it will end in tears. We worked all the locks single-handed, some were for us and some against, but all the gates were closed. We were still experiencing the sight of dead fish and I am wondering if they are hitting the new safety baffles in the top gate paddles of the locks and getting killed that way, the small ones going through. We passed the SH Harnser on her way home after a blacking job at Willowtree Marina. When we arrived at the marina we filled up with diesel at 28p / lt. a little further on at The Proud Perch pub a working boat was selling it at 26.5p / lt. We stopped at Fenny for a dunny dump, O the joy of Porta pottyís and to fill up with water. It was here that I discovered that I had left the plastic spout bit of the hose connector on the tap at Bulbourne. I blame it on BW, if their tap at Tesco Leighton Buzzard had been operational I would have tried to fill with water there, discovered the missing bit and gone into Homebase to buy a new one. We carried on to Cosgrove and had a mini gig on Jannock, As we arrived at the lock a nice man set it for us and opened the gate, they then indicated that I was expected to give a donation to the Buckingham Canal Society who were having an event there this weekend to raise funds. We moored at the bottom of The Barley Mow garden and arranged to meet my daughter and her husband with my granddaughter for a meal. We spent a quiet night on the pub moorings, but decided to move off to the towpath side before taking the dogs for a walk. This was easier said than done, the pound had dropped several inches over night and we were well in the mud. After walking the dogs we strolled back to Cosgrove Lock to see what the Buckingham Canal Society were up to. They had an information board set up in a BW tent and also a bric a brac stall, but as there was nothing that caught my eye we just gave a donation and said good-bye. There were the normal weekend hoards around the Stoke Bruerne locks and we had met quite a few single boats in the flight so things were going well. We passed Shepherds Moon but no sign of life even though all the doors were open. Today has been sweltering, it was quite a relief to enter Blisworth tunnel, the air was cool and clear, unlike our southern journey last week. Just beyond Bugbrook we met Jane on Willy Noname, I understand Dave was below. We moored for the night just short of Stow Hill opposite the campsite.
Saturday 14 June 2003
Not a great deal to report for today. The weather was very hot again and we motored alone to Wilton Lock, Just as we arrived a pair of boats were coming out. I looked back and saw two boats come through the bridge at the end of the Wilton straight. We entered the lock and discussed what to do. Were the other two boats together and would they want to lock up together? Would one come in with us and the other wait for another boat? Luckily we decided to wait and the first boat moored up and the second slid in beside us. Chatting to them as we locked up it turned out that the owners live near Norwich in extra sunny Norfolk. We left them in the top pound and stopped off at Priscilla's with a chilled bottle of wine. We didn't see another boat pass all the time we sat there, drinking wine and eating cake. Eventual another boat came along and we joined up with them to do the top lock, Priscilla walked up and set the lock for us and we bid her farewell. At the top of the flight we stopped for a dunny dump and filled with water. We headed off towards Braunston and entered the tunnel. There were no other boats in sight but the atmosphere was quite foggy. I went through the tunnel quite slowly so as not to blast soot off the tunnel roof and onto the boat. Diana had cleaned it after we passed through Blisworth going south and I had messed it up again coming through the other way. We didn't meet anything in the tunnel and we moored at the top lock with a clean roof for the night.
Sunday 15 June 2003
We set off from our mooring above the top lock when we saw a boat leave the locks. To save water we decided to wait in the top lock until another boat came along, about 10 minuets later we were joined by an Ownerships boat on their way back to Blue Lias to drop off family who had been with them for the weekend, we met one or two boats on the way down and at the bottom lock I suggested that they went first as I was going into the marina. As they left the bottom lock a 6 week old boat built by Kate narrow boats (it said so on the side) shot out from the GUCC quay and hit them in the side about a third of the way from the stern. We found out later that the Kate built boat was also heading for Blue Lias to have remedial jobs carried out. I just wish I had been following up Calcutt etc. We went in to Braunston Marine to deposit several gallons of you know what in Tim's amenities. We moored up, ran out the hose, fed the flush hose in through the vent, went to put my £5 token in the machine and there it was. The notice that said, " This pump out facility is out of order". So we still have about 60 gallons of you know what on board. We carried on to Napton but because it was so hot we moored by the Bridge pub for a pint and to do a few odd jobs until the temperature dropped, unfortunately the pub was closed but we did stay a couple of hours before continuing back to the Napton flight and our home moorings.