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Lily Rose

Down the southern Grand Union (a new route for us)

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The rain stopped just after my last post so we set off just after the boat mentioned earlier (more of which later) had gone up in the next !ock. I gave him a hand and then re-set the lock for us and then when we got to the next lock he was waiting for us so we paired up for the remaining locks to Marsworth.

 

We got there about 8pm, having still seen nothing of the views due to the murky weather but at least it stayed dry. At Marsworth we found nowhere to moor so stopped for the elsan and water, and a quick cuppa, and then headed back through the first bridge where I couldn't even get the pins in more than an inch or so. Gave up on that and went through the next bridge and found some mooring rings and eventually got tied up about 8.40pm. So, to summarise, today's trip from Slapton to Marsworth has been a complete waste of time and effort. We can't afford to wait beyond lunchtime tomorrow for better weather before starting the return leg so I'm hoping conditions clear up enough tomorrow so we can see further than one field from the canal as we head back to Slapton.

 

Back to the boat we shared the locks with...

 

He was a new boater experiencing something of a baptism of fire. No experience prior to the 6 days he has been on the boat since he bought it 2 weeks ago. A 110 year old 70 footer called Violet. Picked it up at Napton and headed down the Oxford to take it, single-handing, down to the Thames and then the K&A heading for Bristol.  Got through Napton bottom lock ok then got to the next lock (his 2nd ever!) where Violet got stuck. Despite assistance by CRT, 8 people were unable to get it through and could only pull him out backwards so he could reverse back until he could turn, presumably back past the Folly. After that he has been single-handing through two long tunnels (one of which is a bit kinky) and countless wide locks. and through a couple of hours of thunderstorms today. Still to come... countless more big locks to London, a bit of tidal Thames, then upstream to Reading (presumably against a fairly fast flow given all the recent rain), then a similar story for the river bits of the K&A as well as all the other challenges that canal throws up, from what I've read. And then, I assume, it's the Avon at the other end to get to Bristol. All with no previous boating experience  and on a 110 year old boat that is in dire need of a re-fit, has no fridge and, until we gave him some, not even a drop of milk so he could have a cup of tea. We wished him luck, thinking he's going to need it, as he went past us at Marsworth at about 8pm heading for the next flight of locks.

 

It's going to take him a while as he will have to make several trips home to Bristol by public transport for work and family reasons before getting the boat to where he intends to re-fit it so he can live on it. Keep your eyes out for him if you are along his route, I'm sure he would appreciate any help and advice on offer.

 

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That'll be the notoriously tight Napton lock no. 9, which does tend to be a problem for older narrow boats, because they're often a bit wider than modern boats. It's due to have some major work done on it in Nov-Dec to solve the problem, but until then it's trouble. At least the 70 footer will have no trouble fitting in any of the locks down the GU or up the Thames. It's entirely possible to single hand a 70 footer, but it can be awkward on a windy day. He'll find it easier with crew, even if it's someone inexperienced.

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We're now back to Slapton, the point where we originally intended to turn.

 

I wouldn't say it was a complete waste of time but the reason we did the 8 extra locks each way to Marsworth was to enjoy Chiltern views from the boat. Unfortunately they were completely obscured by mist yesterday. Today was a little better, in that we were able to make out a few hills, particularly this afternoon, but they still looked rather hazy.

 

I expect the weather will improve now as we leave them behind us.

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16 minutes ago, Lily Rose said:

We're now back to Slapton, the point where we originally intended to turn.

 

I wouldn't say it was a complete waste of time but the reason we did the 8 extra locks each way to Marsworth was to enjoy Chiltern views from the boat. Unfortunately they were completely obscured by mist yesterday. Today was a little better, in that we were able to make out a few hills, particularly this afternoon, but they still looked rather hazy.

 

I expect the weather will improve now as we leave them behind us.

Wern't cruising anywhere Mrsmelly were you? :)

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2 minutes ago, Ray T said:

Wern't cruising anywhere Mrsmelly were you? :)

Well be did pass through here fairly recently.

 

Although he is well clear of the area now I suspect the serious thunderstorms of recent days/nights, including the flooding in nearby Northampton, may be related in some way to his recent presence in the area.

 

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He's somewhere on the Thames I think. It rained heavily down here in Croydon yesterday and more storms are forecast for tomorrow.

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1 minute ago, Nightwatch said:

Mrsmelly is nowhere near the GU or Thames. It's not up to me to say where he is.

He will be well on his way taking rain to the K&A summit by now I would think.

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It rained blooming hard in Bristol this morning so he must be getting close.

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A lovely day for cruising today, although we only did 3.3 hours, including 3 locks. The locks were easy due to help from the guys following just behind us, and our lock buddy, on a CRT workboat heading up to Stoke Hammond lock with stuff for next week's stoppage.

 

Somehow I knew the weather would be nice once we left Clapton behind and got away from  the misty/invisible Chiltern views of the last two days.

 

Things of note today...

 

1. We passed the gorgeous (not) wide orange lifeboat from a few days ago. It had been thoughtfully left parked immediately opposite the winding hole below Grove Lock.

 

2. We arrived at the Leighton Buzzard supermarket moorings at 12.30 and they were chocabloc! We ended up as one of 3 boats breasted up for a quick shop. In our case it was against the first of the long line of permit holder boats, rather than the 2 hour (?) "shopping" boats, whose owner kindly, if somewhat grudgingly, allowed me to tie alongside briefly for a trip to Tesco. Fortunately when I got back two boats were just setting off so I moved so we could have lunch and I could then nip to Aldi to stock up on Hobgoblin Gold for £1.25 a bottle.

 

3. We have ended up here for the night... https://canalplan.org.uk/place/xaid, just North of bridge 110. A lovely spot, super-unshady for the panels, views of sheep and occasional trains across the other side and an extremely low hedge beside the towpath allowing lovely countryside views from within the boat. No need to go outside to take in the view, just as well given the rain of the last hour, fortunately now stopped.

 

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According to my last post we've been to Clapton. Shurely shome mishtake, hic. 

 

Possibly it was Slap, not Clap.

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Yesterday (I forgot to mention) we shared the lock at Leighton Buzzard with a pair of swans and their six very cute/small cygnets. Passers-by thought they were trapped and confused but, to me, they seemed to know exactly what they were doing. Straight to the bottom gates and then through the gap as soon as I started opening.

 

After a night on a lovely spot with good country views and sheep and train noises we set off towards the Soulbury Three locks just before 11, but not before Sickle and Flamingo went past so I was able to have a brief chat with Alan as he headed towards Milton Keynes.

 

We stopped for lunch just before the 4 work boats moored above Stoke Hammond Lock awaiting next week's closure. After lunch I helped pull a boat with a broken control cable out of the lock before we set off. 

 

We moored for the night in Milton Keynes as at Campbell Park on the towpath side. Annoyingly, we just missed the last spot on the offside 48hr moorings as a boater heading south had just finished tying up as we got there.

 

We finished the day by feeding a small quantity of broken up pieces of "weetabix" (cheapo Aldi version bought to try on the ducks etc as, presumably, it's better than white bread) to 10 cute goslings. Speaking of white bread, the stretch of canal at the Leighton Buzzard supermarket moorings must surely need dredging every couple of years to remove tons of rotting white bread. Both times we moored there we watched families throwing in whole slices of white bread, and lots of them, even though there was already loads floating about and being completely ignored by the ducks.

 

Edited by Lily Rose

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5 minutes ago, Lily Rose said:

Yesterday (I forgot to mention) we shared the lock at Leighton Buzzard with a pair of swans and their very cute/small cygnets. Passers-,by thought they were trapped and confused but, to me, they seemed to know exactly what they were doing. Straight to the bottom  gates and then through the gap as soon as I started opening.

 

After a night on a lovely spot with good country views and sheep and train noises we set off towards the Soulbury Three locks just before 11, but not before Sickle and Flamingo went past so I was able to have a brief chat with Alan as he headed towards Milton Keynes.

 

We stopped for lunch just before the 4 work boats moored above Stoke Hammond Lock awaiting next week's closure. After lunch I helped pull a boat with a broken control cable out of the lock before we set off. 

 

We moored for the night in Milton Keynes as at Campbell Park on the towpath side. Annoyingly, we just missed the last spot on the offside 48hr moorings as a boater heading south had just finished tying up as we got there.

 

We finished the day by feeding a small broken up pieces "weetabix" (cheapo Aldi version bought to try on the ducks etc as, presumably, it's better than white bread) to 10 cute goslings. Speaking of white bread, the stretch of canal at the Leighton Buzzard supermarket moorings must surely need dredging every couple of years to remove tons of rotting white bread. Both times we moored there we watching families throwing in whole slices of white bread, and lots of them, even though there was already loads floating about and being completely ignored by the ducks.

 

Came through there last June on a boat and there was a Hindu lady throwing a whole loaf in, not just one slice at a time, but handfuls of slices as fast as possible then she walked off before seeing the ducks feeding.

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58 minutes ago, Lily Rose said:

Speaking of white bread, the stretch of canal at the Leighton Buzzard supermarket moorings must surely need dredging every couple of years to remove tons of rotting white bread. Both times we moored there we watched families throwing in whole slices of white bread, and lots of them, even though there was already loads floating about and being completely ignored by the ducks.

With a normal leisure boat you may not get to experience this, bit what needs dredging most out of the Leighton Buzzard shopping moorings is often Tesco shopping trolleys.

We regularly have to pull one or two out after we have modified them a bit with our ex-working boats 3 foot draughts.

Of course I make a point of always taking them back to Tesco, no matter how squashed, rusty or muddy......

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18 minutes ago, alan_fincher said:

With a normal leisure boat you may not get to experience this, bit what needs dredging most out of the Leighton Buzzard shopping moorings is often Tesco shopping trolleys.

We regularly have to pull one or two out after we have modified them a bit with our ex-working boats 3 foot draughts.

Of course I make a point of always taking them back to Tesco, no matter how squashed, rusty or muddy......

I'd love to see their reaction when you take them back!

 

It might help if they had £1 coin slots (Aldi's do). I can't understand why the Tesco ones don't. Tesco in Abingdon do and they're miles from the Thames with, I would have thought, far less temptation for people to take them off site. Despite this, when they stopped locking them temporarily during the time of switching to new £1 coins many were taken away and dumped so they had to go back to locking them even though they wouldn't work with new coins for a while.

 

Not having coin slot trolleys at a canal-side supermarket is surely asking for trouble.

 

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Friday night's mooring (Campbell Park, Milton Keynes, near bridge 81b) turned out to be an excellent one of you like to go for a walk away from the canal. Campbell Park itself (walk across the bridge, unless you were lucky enough to get one of the two 48 hour offside moorings) is very attractive and provides extensive walks whilst the towpath side, behind the screen of trees, provides lots of footpaths that appear to lead (I didn't have time to explore too far from the boat) to even more extensive walks through more parkland including huge lakes.

 

For lunch we were lucky enough to get one of the two 48 hour mooring spots at Great Linford, just west of bridge 77. A Saturday afternoon wedding was taking place in the very attractive (I later discovered) little church nearby that was just visible above the trees so we had the sound of church bells several times during lunch. Again, this spot appeared to offer the possibility of good walking so off I went for 40 minutes or so after lunch. Once again I barely scratched the surface of the walks available but I did discover, all within 5 to 10 minutes or so of the boat, an attractive lake, a lovely church and also a large attractive house (Lindford Manor I believe). The path straight from the boat towards the white gate/railings visible in the distance (5 minutes walk) led out of the park and into the old village of Great Linford, swallowed up by Milton Keynes years ago. You wouldn't know it though as it completely retains the look and feel of a village. I walked past a pub that was closed temporarily for refurbishment, but was told by a couple of locals that it was a lovely friendly village pub with very good value food.

 

After that we had a very pleasant cruise through the rest of Milton Keynes in glorious weather (where was that when I needed it for Chilton views between Slapton and Marsworth?) and ended the day moored up for the night on the VMs halfway between the aqueduct and the lock at Cosgrove.

 

I was far more impressed with Milton Keynes, at least what could be seen of it from the boat and my two walks, than I expected to be. It does appear to cater extremely well for both walkers and cyclists.

 

 

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On 01/06/2018 at 21:44, alan_fincher said:

With a normal leisure boat you may not get to experience this, bit what needs dredging most out of the Leighton Buzzard shopping moorings is often Tesco shopping trolleys.

We regularly have to pull one or two out after we have modified them a bit with our ex-working boats 3 foot draughts.

Of course I make a point of always taking them back to Tesco, no matter how squashed, rusty or muddy......

We've just had an altercation last week with a Tesco shopping trolley just north of Leighton Buzzard, between LB lock and the "Globe". It was upside down, and succeeded in wrapping one front leg between the rudder and the skeg and the other around the prop. Could not move, could not shift it through the weedhatch, couldn't pull it with a boathook, and the water was too muddy to see anything. Spent hours messing around, ultimately stripped off and into the freezing cold canal armed with a hacksaw (thank goodness I had one in the toolbox, with spare blades), and working entirely by feel, cut the front legs off the trolley to free the boat, which thankfully was undamaged. . The canal was chest deep at this point, with soft mud up to my knees on the bottom, and altogether a difficult and unpleasant experience. Although hollow, the steel legs of the trolley were surprisingly strong and took some cutting.

Not the happiest day's boating I've ever done, but John & Martina from NB Burnt Oak were a great encouragement, so thanks to both of you, I enjoyed the pint in the Globe with you that evening! 

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32 minutes ago, D. W. Walker said:

We've just had an altercation last week with a Tesco shopping trolley just north of Leighton Buzzard, between LB lock and the "Globe". It was upside down, and succeeded in wrapping one front leg between the rudder and the skeg and the other around the prop. Could not move, could not shift it through the weedhatch, couldn't pull it with a boathook, and the water was too muddy to see anything. Spent hours messing around, ultimately stripped off and into the freezing cold canal armed with a hacksaw (thank goodness I had one in the toolbox, with spare blades), and working entirely by feel, cut the front legs off the trolley to free the boat, which thankfully was undamaged. . The canal was chest deep at this point, with soft mud up to my knees on the bottom, and altogether a difficult and unpleasant experience. Although hollow, the steel legs of the trolley were surprisingly strong and took some cutting.

Not the happiest day's boating I've ever done, but John & Martina from NB Burnt Oak were a great encouragement, so thanks to both of you, I enjoyed the pint in the Globe with you that evening! 

Did you scrape any of the mud off your legs first?

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Another day of beautiful weather yesterday for our 4 hours of cruising and locking which took us from Cosgrove to Stoke Bruerne visitor moorings between the locks.

 

After passing through Cosgrove Lock at about 11.15 we did not see another boat moving (and not many moored boats either for that matter, other than by the marinas/boatyards) for one and a half hours on a gloriously sunny Sunday morning! By then we had almost reached bridge 57 at Grafton Regis. Then there seemed to be lots. Perhaps they had all been to church and then set off from Stoke Bruerne at about the same time.

 

We moored for lunch at a nice spot just north of bridge 57 then after lunch we cruised up to the water point below Stoke Bruerne bottom lock. Another boat arrived just as the tank was nearly full so I said we'd join them for the locks. I almost wished we hadn't bothered! I think of ourselves as fairly slow in locks but he showed me what slow really looks like. I wasn't the only one who thought so either. The 2nd lock was prepared for us by someone from a boat coming down the flight and, after watching our lock buddy (who barely spoke a word through 5 locks, so I soon gave up as well) come in at a speed of roughly 0.00001mph, he said "God, he's slow". 

 

Anyway, about 5 hours later (I may have exaggerated a little) we got to the long(ish) pound before the final two locks and left them to it. I was planning on a bite to eat at lunchtime in the Boat Inn today, after we do the remaining two locks, but after speaking to some walkers yesterday, who said the Navigation was better, I may go there instead. Also, our four overnight neighbours on a Wyvern hire boat went to the Boat Inn for a meal yesterday evening and all of them told me they were very disappointed with their meals. We all agreed the beer was jolly good though (we had popped in for a drink on the way down).

 

Mixed reviews on Trip Advisor for perhaps 90% of all pubs suggest that no matter where you go you need an element of good luck. Avoiding busy weekends and bank holidays probably helps too. We do tend to confine our (fairly occassional) pub dining to weekdays normally and are usually at least reasonably satisfied. It could just be that our standards and/or expectations are low. Anyway, hopefully our luck will hold today, whichever of the two pubs we finally decide on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Unfortunately "The Boat" doesn't seem to have to think it needs to try to hard these days, particularly on the bar food front.

I always feel slightly uneasy when we go to "The Navigation" instead, because I feel I should be supporting a canal pub that has been in the same family for years, rather than a Marstons chain pub, but frankly for us we get a better food choice at "The Navigation".  Still far from perfect, but last attempts at "The Boat" were very lack-lustre.

Because they still seem to get the passing trade, and are often well packed out, they don't seem to put that much effort into the meals - a great shame - it could be so much better, (and indeed used to be).

 

On the other hand some have said that the meals in "Woodwards", (the posh bit restaurant associated with The Boat), are very good, but as we usually have dogs with us we have never tried it.

Most people also consider "The Spice of Bruerne" Indian very good.  They do take-aways at a discount over their eat-in prices, and both ways through this time we elected to use them rather than either pub.  (We even managed to order a sensible amount on the return trip, having greatly over-ordered on the outward one!).

 

 

Edited by alan_fincher

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Since our last experiences of both pubs in SB has not been favourable we no longer stop there.

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I'd second the recommendation for the tandoori, excellent food, reasonable prices and a lot of food for your money. Beer in the Boat is excellent, with a great atmosphere in the public bar.

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On 01/06/2018 at 22:13, Lily Rose said:

I'd love to see their reaction when you take them back!

 

It might help if they had £1 coin slots (Aldi's do). I can't understand why the Tesco ones don't. Tesco in Abingdon do and they're miles from the Thames with, I would have thought, far less temptation for people to take them off site. Despite this, when they stopped locking them temporarily during the time of switching to new £1 coins many were taken away and dumped so they had to go back to locking them even though they wouldn't work with new coins for a while.

 

Not having coin slot trolleys at a canal-side supermarket is surely asking for trouble.

 

 

Some retailers seem to have coin slots on all their trolleys, whilst others seem to make a decision regarding theft risk before fitting them. Sainsburys in Trowbridge have had them fitted since they opened, but the same store in Bradford-on-Avon does not, and it is very close to the canal. Interstingly, one never sees loose trolleys at the Bradford site.

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