Thursday, 2 October 2008

Return to Clifton

We spent two nights in our last mooring just outside Braunston and managed to do some sorting out.

Wednesday morning we had our last trip of the year down through the 3 Hillmorton Locks. Back to narrow locks again. The forecast was not brilliant but apart from a strong wind we were very lucky and had a large amount of sunshine. However autumn is definitely here as there is quite a nip in the air and big coats, hats and gloves were called for. The strong NE wind did not help.
We reached Clifton just before lunch and the big pack up began.

Back at Clifton

Monday, 29 September 2008

Norton to Braunston

We had moored below the top lock at Norton so only had the one lock to do before we could water etc. All domestic things completed we set off for the run down to Braunston. Just as we were pulling away from the quay another boat began to pull out just ahead of us. Since we always say we should not be in a rush we hung back and let them go ahead...what a mistake!! They turned left at the junction as we were doing and proceeded to go at less than snails pace. It wasn't too bad in the open but Geoff was very frustrated in Braunston tunnel. We passed no less than 6 boats going the other way and the boat in front was almost going in reverse each time he passed one. A tunnel trip that should have taken 20 mins took over 1/2 hour. Since I always go below on these occasions and pretend I am somewhere else I was not impressed.
We then shared the four locks down as far as the Admiral Nelson which was at least company in the locks.....they were a hire boat so felt we had to forgive!

We moored up in our favourite spot for the weekend. The weather still being reasonably good to us.

We went to Braunston Church for their 11 o'clock communion. There were a couple of people who lived locally who had narrow boats. They both kept them at Ventnor Farm marina which is where we had originally been going to house Petroc for the winter. They both said how the charges had gone up since the marina had changed hands and now belonged to a consortium.

We had hoped to have friends Fran & Keith with us for Sunday lunch in the Admiral Nelson but Keith was unfortunately taken into hospital on Saturday. We therefore dined alone. We managed to find a table outside right by the lock and enjoyed an excellent lunch in sunshine.

Today, Monday, we went down the last two locks and went into Darren's new workshop adjacent to Braunston Marina. We were able to go right into his covered dock to have one or two little things sorted out for us. Whilst they were being done we walked up to the village for a final shop. We had to have a last visit to the excellent butcher there. We had two of his pork chops on Saturday and had to treat ourselves again.

All was finished late morning and we edged our way out again and then seemed to meet every boat on the waterway as we tried to get to the watering point. Braunston has been very busy over the weekend, obviously the better weather has attracted people out. In fact in the last couple of weeks we have seen much busier canals than all summer.

Once watered we left Braunston behind and looked for the first decent mooring place in the open. We did not have to go far and the picture below shows the view from Petroc on what will be our last mooring before going back into Clifton on Wednesday. Very sad that this years cruising has come to an end and hard to believe that nearly 6 months has gone by since we set out.

There will one more post on this blog before we wrap up for the winter.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Cosgrove to Norton Junction

Monday we reluctantly left our rather nice mooring at Cosgrove. We had had 3 days of lovely weather with much sitting out in my chair on the towpath.

Parga had made friends with a passing dog and had a wonderful romp with him and an hour later on his return journey they had another play. They were very evenly matched weight wise and whilst chatting to his owner I asked what breed of dog he was.......Rottweiler....she said. I was amazed as they get such a bad press but George was a lovely dog and as soft as a brush. When they came past for their walk on Sunday he came rushing up to the boat to find Parga who had sadly departed by then.

We only had one lock to do and the first bridge afterwards is a rather pretty example of a Gothic style and built in 1800

We decided to moor before the Stoke Bruerne locks and walk in to revisit. It was quite full on the mooring but a boat on the end was just leaving so we snuck into his space.

We decided on an early start the following day.....however the best laid plans etc......

There were already two boats ahead of us waiting at the lock so we knew we would have a wait but we didn't bargain for 2 hours!!!

For unexplained reasons the pound about was almost dry, we subsequently discovered that it happens often..........

We were told BW were on their way to sort it out but it took some time. However by about 10 we were on our way again. By then there were several other boats waiting so did at least have company in the lock. However he was a single hander..........Geoff said next time we shared a lock could I please find a boat who had a big buxom blonde as crew to keep him company at the locks!!!

By the time we reached the top it was raining but we then had 1/2 an hour in Blisworth Tunnel. However when we emerged it was still raining and pretty dank so we decided to quit for the day.

Wednesday we carried on to Weedon Bec. There are no locks on this stretch so I am able to get some time in my favourite place in the cratch watching the world go by. Geoff is quite happy on the tiller for these stretches....I just have to replenish his coffee every so often.

We moored just short of Weedon Bec and walked up to explore. We discovered that one of the pubs offered 2 for 1 on all main courses so decided to treat ourselves in the evening...Geoff was especially keen as there was steak & kidney pudding on the menu! However the meal was somewhat disappointing, I guess you get what you pay for, it certainly was one of the poorer meals we have had this season. However I didn't have to cook so that was a bonus.

Thursday we set off a little later than normal as we wanted to stop by bridge 18 and go to the heart of the Shires Craft Centre and it didn't open until 10. After a visit there we carried on up 6 of the 7 Bucky Locks and are now moored just short of Norton Junction. I cannot remember the bridge we passed with this attempt at topiary...I guess it is supposed to be a rabbit of some sort...

These last few days we have been seeing the mile posts all along which are giving us the miles to go to Braunston. They have been declining at a rather fast rate as there are not so many locks now. It just seems to signify that the end of our 6 months is almost up which is quite sad. The plan is to go down to Braunston tomorrow for the weekend and call in to see Darren our boatbuilder on Monday. He has moved from Rugby to Braunston so we shall go right past his new workshop.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Fenny Stratford to Cosgrove

Just after leaving Fenny Stratford on Thursday we passed this boat moored at the end of someones garden!!

We moored by bridge 82 so that Geoff could go and explore Milton Keynes as he had never been there. The canal manages to go through Milton Keynes without you being aware of the town apart from a dull roar of traffic in many places. We passed through some lovely park areas which were well kept. However Geoff found the town rather spooky, clear wide roads and everything clean and tidy but very few people and car parks looking surprisingly empty. A huge shopping mall had almost every store you could want and all on one level. The picture below shows an INDOOR dry ski slope and apparently there was also an indoor hang-gliding centre.

Mooring place Milton Keynes by park

After his return from the town we continued and stopped about 1.30 in an open mooring by bridge 75

When Parga is not walking the towpath with either one of us he is not too impressed but makes himself comfortable in the most awkward places!
We set off about 8.30 on Friday with no clear plan, we were conscious that we still had over two weeks and Braunston was creeping ever closer. This is the plan for our last weekend as it is only a short hop from there to Rugby and Petroc's winter home. Consequently we decided not to rush on to Stoke Bruerne for the weekend but stop at Cosgrove. The mooring looked good with a nice wide tow-path so I can have my chair and table out. What is more WE HAVE GOOD WEATHER......
As I write this on Saturday evening we have had several good days and the last two days definitely could be called and Indian Summer......the sky tonight has wispy clouds tinged with red so we are hopeful for tomorrow.

The only sad thing tonight was saying goodbye to Parga. Giles came to collect him to see how they cope with him and the two cats in their new house. It is deemed that that cats have now settled in and should not run away.....however I will have to collect our other car from them when we have put Petroc to bed so if it doesn't work out he can always come back to Cornwall!!

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Marsworth to Fenny Stratford.

One of the reasons for mooring at Marsworth was that there was a Church there and several pubs for us to choose from for our Sunday lunch. We walked up to the church on Sat evening to discover that there was not a service there this week. Nothing daunted we consulted the book and the web and discovered that there was a service in Tring some 3 miles away at 10am....we needed the exercise!!! So we set off early on Sunday for the walk in. We discovered that Tring was a rather nice small town. The service was their family service which was very well done and very full. It turned out that the departing Rector had a narrowboat and so did another of the regular congregation. We were kindly offered a lift back to Marsworth but declined as we had the papers to buy. Wendover Arm head of Navigation just past the last turning point

We walked back a slightly different way. The walk there had taken us down part of the Wendover arm and then the road. This time we went down a different road to the current head of navigation of the arm. This way we completed the journey to yet another head of navigation, albeit on foot this time. Other ones this year are Lechlade (Thames), Godalming (Wey),Hertford(Lea), Bishops Stortford (Stort), Aylesbury(Aylesbury Arm) and maybe we could count Bristol .... not everybody would consider the Severn!
We were successful in find an excellent Sunday Roast in the Anglers Retreat. £6.95 for a good roast with 9 different vegetables! We actually sat in the garden in the sunshine too.
Monday we moved on and moored just above Church Lock south of Leighton Buzzard. We had intended to reach Leighton Buzzard but time was getting on and my back was playing up so Geoffrey took pity and said we could stop!!!

Above Marsworth Lock by the reservoir after our long walk to church

Tuesday we were off early for the short trip to Leighton Buzzard as it was market day. We were in town by 10am but the market was nothing startling. We moored just before the town because of the two dogs but you can moor a little further up right outside Tesco's
Wednesday we had a leisurely start as we wanted to call into Wyvern Shipping boatyard. We have developed a small leak under the front step from what we assume to be the water gauge meter. For the last few days we have been emptying a plastic container. However when they looked at it the man said he had never seen anything like it so no hope of any spares there!! So we plod on with our container. They were however helpful in another way. Geoff discovered earlier in the day that we had lost a set of keys...or to be more precise HE had lost a set of keys!! He thinks he left them at the last place we watered which was Slapton Wharf some 5 miles before Leighton. They were able to sell us an engine key and a BW key as we did not want to continue with only one set. When we reached Fenny Stratford Geoff walked to town where there was a hardware store who did key cutting so managed to get a couple of spares cut for our padlock.
Parga is still with us and gets lots of towpath walking, which also means we do as well! Occasionally he has to stay on the boat when we are locking as in the picture below. He is not impressed to be left out of the action as you can see. But as you can see all this locki work is very tiring!

Two friends together

Please let me out

Saturday, 13 September 2008


Wednesday we continued our journey to Aylesbury. Just below Red House Lock we encountered what you see below. We had been warned by a passing boat but also told that it was possible to get through. In fact we were following another boat so we knew that if he did not reappear all must be well!

Looks like we are in a field!

Entrance to Aylesbury Basin
As soon as we were through the last bridge we saw there were BW moorings along the towpath but we were hailed by someone from the Aylesbury Canal Society and asked how long we wanted to stay and if we had dogs on board. he then directed us to a mooring in the small marina there right in the corner. We were made very welcome and given a list of facilities and a copy of the latest Aylesbury canal Society's Newsletter.
Aylesbury Basin with with Petroc rear centre
The only downside to the mooring was the construction going on just over the fence, apparently a new theatre. The pub just outside the gate which was shown in our guide book was no longer there. However when Giles & family visited us on Thursday evening there were no shortage of places to eat. We had planned to leave on Friday but on Thursday we heard that a lorry had collided with the bridge at lock 14 and the arm was shut whilst it was repaired.
So Friday was a domestic type day. Since we had a water point adjacent Geoff gave Petroc a much needed good wash contribution was the windows!
When the workmen packed up on Friday evening we were not overly impressed to see the article they had left attached to one of the cranes as it was hovering very close overhead. The arm had opened about 1pm but we don't set off at that time of day!
Very adjacent!!
Partially repaired bridge
All was well Saturday morning and we made an early start as we wanted to do all 16 of the locks today. After the first lock there is a Tesco conveniently situated alongside the canal so we stocked up. Not only are they narrow locks on this stretch but also narrow bridges. Geoff walked the majority of them with Parga. Some of them are locked and need the BW key and he managed to leave the keys behind at one lock and whilst he was returning I carried on and managed to misjudge one of the narrow bridges. To avoid hitting it I had to do some nimble reversing in the course of which I felt I had picked something up on the prop. Sod's Law.

Geoff was not impressed

The offending article - part of a red track suit!

The trip did improve and it did not rain on us. Parga is getting very used to locking now but follows Geoff like glue. Pats of the run are very pretty and extremely peaceful.

He has learnt to cross the gates!

I'll just supervise from here!

He is so keen not to let Geoff out of range that he followed too closely over one of the gates and managed to slip in, luckily not into the lock. Geoff hauled him out, and Parga thanked him by shaking all over him!

Ellie prefers to travel in more comfort

Have we worn him out at last?
I'll just help him steer as well!

Looking back down the locks in the direction of Aylsbury
We reached Marsworth junction just after 1pm and by 1.30 were moored up having a well earned beer and lunch.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Half way to Aylesbury !

No the rain did not hold off......we awoke to pouring rain this morning so I just turned over and went back to sleep, after I had let the dogs out! We decided to stay for the day and later in the morning I walked to the small village of Wilstone about 1/4 of a mile away. I was pleasantly surprised to find a small but delightful village shop and post office selling all sorts of wonderful homemade delicacies. They even had my Daily Telegraph and accepted my tokens. I was about to leave when I spied Geoff's favourite coffee & walnut cake!
On the return journey I saw lights on in the small local church so decided to call in. I had hit upon the one day of the week when they served free coffee and home made seemed churlish to refuse so spent a pleasant 1/2 hour talking to a couple of local ladies. From them I learned that sadly the village shop was closing this month as the post office is one that is being axed.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Wet in Berkhamstead!

Early start at 7.15 on Wednesday morning, we stopped at Apsley by Sainsburys for a small shop and then moored just short of Berkhamstead. Pleasant enough but nothing startling.
Thursday was not a good day or a good forecast so we completed the 3 locks to Berkhamstead and called it quits! Hopes of reaching Aylesbury for the weekend were abandoned as the forecast for Friday was dire.
En route to Berkhamsted we passed this rather nice warehouse conversion.

Locking in the rain

Canadian Totem Pole - approaches to Berkhamsted

When we last came through Berkhamstead we had been impressed by the big sign on one of the bridges saying "Welcome to the Port of Berkhamsted". Sadly it is no longer there.

It was incredibly wet weekend with muddy towpaths all around us which is not good news when there are two dogs on board. Geoff gallantly walked Parga nearly 5 miles each day to get rid of his surplus energy, all I had to do was clean up a filthy dog on return!

We went to the Parish Church of St Peter on Sunday morning which had a large congregation and huge choir of all ages. We were also impressed by the size of the Sunday School.

Later in the morning we had a visit from friends Brian & Patricia with daughter Anna. After coffee and a tour of Petroc we all enjoyed a good Sunday Roast in the Boat Inn. Really a highlight of an otherwise dank weekend.

Monday morning as forecast dawned dry!!! Unbelievable.................

To make up for lost time we did a longish day whilst the rain held off (More forecast for Tuesday!) For the first 7 locks we had company which made life easier. At Cowroast we stopped to water etc and also went into the marina for diesel...85p.......The following locks were completed on our own until Marsworth junction. here we turned off onto the Aylesbury Arm and back to narrow locks. How strange they look after all this time, last seen when we came off the Oxford.
We did the first 8 locks to where our guide book told us there was a suitable mooring place.....however there was work in progress on the bank at the obvious mooring place so we had to go a little further up. This was close to a sign we haven't seen before saying the space was reserved for disabled anglers, however no anglers in sight and we shall move if one comes along.

9 locks to go to Aylesbury....will the rain hold off???

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Up to Kings Langley

The two pictures below were taken on our way to Rickmansworth. The dredger had got himself stuck and in trying to extricate himself went very firmly aground. This held us up for a short while.

It is nice to see that there are still a few working barges left.

How did I do this?

Working Barges

Sunday morning we awoke to pouring rain and we did wonder why we were venturing outside.

However we went to St Mary's Parish Church in Rickmansworth. Once again a warm welcome. It is a large church with excellent facilities.......I was impressed that they had 3 loos!!!!

Maggie made it out on the tube and we had a pleasant few hours in the White bear pub where Geoff and I enjoyed an excellent Sunday Roast......the cheapest so far this year at £6.95.

Monday morning dawned with a much colder temperature than of we detect the first signs of autumn.....must have missed summer somewhere!

Parga is getting used to this boating scene. As soon as we near the shore for me to put Geoff off at a lock he is first off. After one episode of almost falling in a lock he now sits waiting for Geoff when he crosses over to do the offside paddles. I wouldn't say he waits patiently but at least he sits, although he has the odd whimper.

We passed under the M25 again which is the best way to see it!

When we were within 3 locks of Kings Langley we made contact with Rosemary & Gordon Dolman. They were friends whom we hadn't seen for years and through other friends they discovered we were going to pass past their back garden! They came to join us for the last stretch to Kings Langley and we moored just opposite their house. The kindly had us round to supper in the evening and we had a good catch up. Gordon is a guide at St Albans Cathedral so on Tuesday morning he took us in and we had a conducted tour. It is so much better going round a church with someone who knows the history. The part of the Cathedral below was built from recovered (recycling even then!)) Roman brick and flint.

Their house has a wonderful garden backing onto the canal.

We shall continue early tomorrow as the forecast is for yet more rain in the afternoon. We intend to explore the Aylesbury Arm and would like to be there for the weekend, however there are a lot of locks to negotiate. Yesterday we came through 13 to Kings Langley and did not meet any other boat to share with. I find these double locks on our own a bit tedious..........

Sunday, 31 August 2008


Gently going up the Grand Union now. We moored Friday just above Uxbridge in a much pleasanter spot than we had anticipated. We have done done this bottom end of the GU before and Geoff's memory of it is as a walker. He remembers lines of permanently moored boats and nowhere for visitors. However so far although there certainly are lots of permanently moored boats it has been much better than we thought.
Yesterday, Sat, was the hottest day we have had for a while. It was our second day of cruising and locking with two dogs on board. So far Parga is behaving himself but he finds the mechanics of locking difficult to grasp. he likes his family to be altogether and cannot understand one of us on the boat and one on the shore. When Geoff climbs over the lock gates to do the paddles he is not impressed. However, apart from one incident when he tried to jump on someone else's boat in the lock and then had difficulty getting off as she moved away from the shore, we have all survived.
Last night we were collected (all four of us!) and had a lovely supper with Cherry & Mike at Northwood. I also had the treat of a bath!!! We learned from them that I had been remiss when writing some weeks ago about our trip to Henley that I failed to mention that we had had a visit from friend Greenfly...what an omission......a mental aberration on my part! We have enjoyed all our visits from friends who have made the effort to visit us this year.
On our return from supper we found we had a large widebeam moored directly behind us with sounds of a good party going both on the boat and in the nearby woods. However once we were below we were not disturbed. I do have a vague memory of people coming back to the boat but I am not sure whether I dreamt it or not!!!
Church is planned in Rickmansworth today and a visit from Maggie who plans to come out on the tube from London...thunderstorms are also forecast so we shall see what the day brings.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Up the Tidal Thames

We were booked to lock out of Limehouse at 0715 on Tuesday morning. The plan was to have an early night so that we would be bright and breezy for the trip down the Thames. However we had Giles and Emma joining us for the run down and in typical offspring fashion they decided to attend a concert on the Monday evening......but they wouldn't be late in!!!!! I think it was 0130 when they rolled in, consequently none of us had a lot of sleep....the best laid plans etc.....

We had had a briefing the day before which did include asking if we had a VHF radio. We were able to reply in the affirmative but the other boat at the briefing said no and the lock keeper was not really fussed. So much for saying that all boats over 45ft must carry VHF. We also discovered that although you can call London VTS on leaving limehouse it is not mandatory. In fact if you do call you then have to call in at Brentford or Teddington when you probably would not get contact and would have to use your mobile anyway. We therefore did not bother and although we kept a listening watch on Ch 14 we heard very little and what we did hear was difficult to decipher. Any traffic that was around we could see anyway so I think we had an unnecessary expense. In the event of an emergency when you are recommended to call London VTS immediately they tell you to call on Ch 14 or their landline, so your mobile is still a better (and cheaper) bet.

Off we go

We duly locked out about 7.20, and were pleased to see that a large towing vessel had passed the entrance just before we left.

The river was certainly a little choppy and there was more traffic at that time of the morning than we had anticipated, however Petroc seemed to take it all in her stride. With some of the passing vessels we did get a much larger amount of wash than we had experienced before.

Approaching Tower Bridge

Approaching the Houses of Parliament Thames Clipper docking on right.

Thames Clipper

There we quite a few of the Thames clippers around who seemed to be taking commuters to work. Since we had taken a trip on one on Monday we knew their procedure for docking which is very fast and slick. Inevitably as we came up to several of the piers there was one either docking or leaving. They took us in their stride however and if we were in the way they just reversed off and set off behind us.......very obliging.

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament

Big Ben was striking 8am just as we went past. There is an exclusion zone right in front to stop invaders!! It is well marked by yellow buoys so there was no danger of us straying.

Rubbish Collection

The river after Battersea Bridge became much smoother, and also the traffic was much lighter and it was more like the Thames we had experienced further upstream.
We reached Thames Lock at Brentford just before 0945, a run of 2 1/2 hours. We had been anticipating this part of the trip for so long and now it was somewhat of an anticlimax.
Although we had not been blessed with sunshine, it had not rained on us and the wind had not been too strong....what more can one ask for in an English summer??

Thames Lock, Brentford

So the London Ring had been completed. We had first locked through Brentford on 7th August, 19 days earlier. During that time we have explored the Lee and Stort Navigations and had extended stays in Paddington Basin and Limehouse. During both those stays London has been quite well explored especially by Geoff, although I participated in most of the exploring from Limehouse.
After watering etc at Brentford we continued up the 10 locks to Bulls Bridge Junction with our extra crew on board. After one lock Giles decided it was all too slow for him and he would miss a 1530 appointment, so having looked at the map decided to jump ship as he thought we were close to a station. (Later we found out that he became thoroughly lost!!) By then another boat had caught up with us so we had company and the extra crew of Emma. She was flagging by then after her late night, so when Giles jumped ship and she had to work she was somewhat dismayed!!!
We stopped to shop at Tesco's at Bulls Bridge before turning down the Paddington arm. The destination was the Black Horse at Greenford where we expected to be reunited with shipmate Ellie.
Emma and I spent Wednesday and Thursday at Giles and Susannah's new house doing some gardening. At 7 months pregnant Susannah cannot do much heavy work. We returned to Petroc on Thursday to find not only Ellie in residence but Parga also. The cats are not quite settled in at Giles and Susannah's so we have him for the next few was Geoff's idea!!
Today Thursday was our first day cruising with both dogs and so far he has been reasonably well behaved. He has accompanied Geoff at the locks and refrained from jumping in. However he likes to lie at Geoff's feet whilst he is steering which is not the ideal place.
We have moored just north of Uxbridge Lock in reasonably pleasant surroundings. The banks are lined with live aboards around here so we were not sure what we would find.