The morning was bright and sunny with a clear blue sky, but it was not forecast to last all day. We set off at about 9.30 for Stoke Hammond Lock a mere 100 yards ahead of our mooring spot. Nb Panther was just entering the lock and so we joined them.
Stoke Hammond Lock with nb. Panther ahead.
Once through the lock we headed for Willowbridge Marina for fuel. We had been advised that their price for diesel is quite high, but having missed the diesel boat Towcester the other day we needed a top up. Nb. Panther continued passed us whilst we fuelled, and we thought that was the last we would see of them, but a couple of miles further on we met again at Fenny Stratford Lock. By now the cloud was starting to build, and when the sun was hidden from view it was cold. We continued rounding the outskirts of Milton Keynes and discussed the option of mooring directly outside the Black Horse Inn for lunch. As we round the final bend for the pub we saw the mooring was full, so as our intended spot was only a mile further, we carried on. Arriving at bridge 75 the wind was picking up. We quickly secured the boat and retreated inside to warm up. Not everyone was so lucky as this chap still had his lunch to catch.
Rather him than me standing in the cold water.
Our plan is to stay here one night and then move onto Cosgrove tomorrow. The crew informed me it is a bank holiday weekend, so we will aim to get there nice and early, to hopefully secure a spot before the weekend boaters turn out, especially as the forecast is for sunny weather.
Totals 10 Miles 2 Locks
Running total 72 Miles 46 Locks 3 Tunnels
Today was a logistics day. Ahead of our mooring spot were the three locks at Soulbury. Between lock two and three on the rise is a winding hole, and this would be the limit of our journey south this year. The morning was forecast to be bright and sunny so we set off after breakfast. At the foot of the lock flight is a water point so we filled up. Whilst waiting we also saw our first heron catching a fish. He was hovering over the pound, something must have caught his eye, then he swooped down, hopped out with wriggling fish in its beak, and then it was gone. It was also bigger than the ones I caught last year.
Taking on water and setting the lock.
The lock flight is manned by volunteers so we informed them of our intention to wind. The middle pound is adjacent to the Three Locks P.H. which we tried yesterday. It is dog friendly and serves good food, although did seem on the pricey side. Having winded it was back down the two locks, and back to our mooring spot above Stoke Hammond Lock. The weather is proving bizarre at the moment. One minute bright sunshine, the next wind and sleet. It is our intention, subject to the vagaries of the forecast weather, to set off for Milton Keynes and Great Linford tomorrow. This afternoon between wintery showers, the garden on the roof was tended to by the crew. Not wanting to be out done I thought I would tackle the stove. There was five months of baked on soot to clean, still now it’s done.
Totals 2 Miles 4 Locks
Running total 62 Miles 44 Locks 3 Tunnels
Today it was a flip of a coin as to whether to move or not. The forecast indicated we would encounter several showers, but that the wind would be light. Most of the journey would be spent circumnavigating Milton Keynes, however it was surprisingly rural. It seems the towns planners created plenty of parkland for the enjoyment of its residents. After a few miles we reached Fenny Stratford. The lock here has a change of level of one foot one inch. Whether this was a mistake by the canal builders, or planned is a mystery. The lock also features a swing bridge, which must be moved before entry to the lock chamber.
Fenny Stratford lock and swing bridge.
Our next planned stop was to be Willow Bridge Marina for fuel, water and a pump out. The diesel pump was being repaired, so that will have to wait until our return. On route we spotted numerous heron, but this chap seemed to have a good fishing perch.
From Willow Bridge it was only a mile or so to the lock at Stoke Hammond. We were joined by a singlehanded narrowboater for the ascent. Our chosen mooring spot was just above the lock with a nice wide grassy towpath.
Mooring at Stoke Hammond.
Not long after mooring up we were passed by nb Kantara, neighbours of ours at Yelvertoft. Kantara is on its way back from cruising London and their blog can be found in my blog list. We have good 3G and satellite signals here and are close to a couple of pubs so we are in no hurry to move on.
Totals 10 Miles 2 Locks
Running total 60 Miles 42 Locks 3 Tunnels
Just a short post today, to report that Sunday lunch at the Black Horse Inn was very enjoyable. The pub is very atmospheric with plenty of exposed beams and open fires. We also found out they are dog friendly so a visit on our return journey is very much a possibility.
This evening the rain has set in so it was with some surprise we heard boat movement outside. Peeping out of the porthole we saw our first fat boat, aka wide beam on the move. We have seen plenty of these moored up on the Grand Union but this was our first moving one, hence the quick photo.
The weather for tomorrow is not looking too clever at the moment, so a decision on moving will be made in the morning.
Not wishing to overstay our welcome at Cosgrove, on Thursday we set off, initially for Wolverton. We were now on the outskirts of the vast suburban mass that is Milton Keynes. At Wolverton located conveniently close to the canal, is both a Tesco and Asda superstore. Myself and Oscar remained with the boat whilst the crew took the shopping trolley on its first outing of 2016. A little over an hour later and we were on our way again. Our planned mooring spot was just two miles further on, by bridge 75. There were a few boats here already, but we found a boat sized gap to slip into.
Our mooring is in a short section of the canal that dog legs away from the built up areas, and is surrounded to the north by parkland walks and several large lakes. Today, St. George’s Day we wandered around these lakes, allowing Oscar to charge about in the park grassland, before returning to the boat for lunch. Our afternoon entertainment was going to involve returning to a pub we had found the previous day, on the edge of the medieval village of Great Linford.
Almshouses and the 13th century St. Andrews Church.
The Nags Head P.H. is a thatched roofed pub and today the building was adorned with flags and bunting. The entertainment taking place in the garden, was folk dancing by the Roses and Castles Morris dancing side.
Roses and Castles Morris Side.
During our excursions we have found another pub, the Black Horse, and this will be our venue for tomorrow’s Sunday lunch. Our plan is to then move again on Monday, heading towards our final destination of Stoke Hammond, where we will wind to begin our journey back towards Yelvertoft for the Crick Show at the end of May.
Totals 3 Miles
Running total 50 Miles 40 Locks 3 Tunnels
At 0930 this morning we set off for the top lock. A boat had just passed us and we would join them for the long journey that lay ahead, ( 2 locks and about 400 yards ).
Approaching the top lock.
Waiting in the pound with the Navigation Inn in the background.
Once through the second lock we said goodbye to our locking partners as they headed off towards the remainder of the flight, and their eventual destination in London. The mooring in this pound is restricted to 7 days and is fairly shallow in places, but we managed to find a spot where we could get in, and also line up the satellite dish. We plan to stay here now until after the weekend. For lunch we visited the Boat Inn above the top lock, and then after we walked back towards the Blisworth Tunnel. The huts by the entrance are now put to use by a blacksmith, and also an artist creating stained glass items. We also spotted a novel use for any old shipping containers lying around……turn them into boats.
It was then back to the boat before the forecast rain arrived, and to work out our itinerary for the next few days.
Our new mooring at Stoke Bruerne.
Totals 400 Yards 2 Locks
Running total 41 Miles 34 Locks 3 Tunnels
Yesterday’s trip to the New Inn for fish and chips ended with some amusement. During our time in the pub the level in the pound between the locks dropped over a foot. It had already been a bit on the low side, but this further drop had been too much for one of our mooring chains. It had snapped, and the base plate of the boat was 3 or 4 inches out of the water at the stern. So, I collected a windlass and returned to the top lock to run a little water down, whilst the crew retrieved the remainder of the snapped chain and our mooring rope. It was during my absence the crew took their first dip in the cut. Fortunately, it was not a full immersion as they somehow managed to throw themselves onto the bank. Sadly, a photo opportunity missed. Today we walked down the flight of locks to visit the chandlers at Whilton Marina, replacing the broken chain and obtaining a spare. We also found a farm shop a two minute walk from the canal. It was very well stocked with fresh meats, sweet and savoury pies and some home baked cakes and cookies. All the produce is direct from the farm. We like to support these small canal side businesses, and this is close enough for us to visit by car when we are back at our winter mooring in Yelvertoft.
On the walk back we spotted a duck with her newly hatched ducklings, eleven in total. She will have her work cut out keeping control of that lot.
Our route took us back passed the canalware shop and this time resistance was futile. I was relieved of my wallet and we now have a new flower box to adorn the roof of the boat. Finally, I thought we had moored in a 48 hr zone but it turns out we can stay put up to 14 days where we are. Not that we will stay that long but if the weather on Monday is unfavourable we don’t have to move.