I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Monday, 12 September 2022

Bridge 100 (Grand Union/Oxford Canal) to Hayling Island - September 2022

Thursday 8th September – Bridge 100 (Grand Union/Oxford Canal)

One tunnel and six locks plus one bad back – not a great thing to look forward to.

We had a slow journey through the tunnel following another boat and moored up at the top of the Braunston flight.  We were joined in the lock by Miss Garnett and her crew who I just can’t remember the names of!  We had a good trip down the locks with one or two out and us in.  However, lock 3, was different.  It was turned against us by a lady who, when Richard approached her, asked us to leave it like that as they were coming up.  We waited and waited.  It must have been a good 5 minutes, so Richard walked down to the next lock and couldn’t see another one coming but could see that a hire boat had just moored up.  They had obviously completely forgotten about the lock they had turned when they must have been able to see us at lock 4.  There was a lockie at the bottom lock who told me that the same hire boat and had said that they were fine and knew what they were doing, except that they opened all four paddles straight up which caused the boat to crash around in the lock as it wasn’t tied up.  I felt sorry for the lockie as what could she do, she had been told that they knew what they were doing, but obviously didn’t.

(The photos on this post are all ones I had taken during our trip.) 

We had hoped to be able to stop at the Gongoozlers Rest for lunch but there was no mooring, so we continued through Braunston and along to Bridge 100 on the Grand Union/Oxford Canal.  When we started using this part of the canal which must have been six years or so ago, we always stopped at Bridge 100 as there was such a lovely view, but now the hedge is really high, and you can’t see a thing.

Richard picked some blackberries in the afternoon as I had bought a cooking apple, so I stewed them for pudding. 

Before Braunston Tunnel is the proposed entrance to a 1.6 mile canal arm from Daventry to the Grand Union Canal  It was given approval by the Daventry planning department in January 2017, However, building of the new canal arm is still in doubt due to lack of funding. If funding is found the new arm could see Daventry linked up to the Grand Union Canal. It would include six locks and is hoped that it would terminate in a new waterfront development in the centre of Daventry. The proposal has been on the table for more than ten years and has been open to public consultation twice over the years.  This is relatively old news, but it certainly hasn’t been started. 

I wrote the above before hearing that the Queen was gravely ill.  We put the TV on and followed the proceedings.  It was the lovely Hugh Edwards along with Royal correspondent, Nick Whitchell, who were trying to hold it together while there was really nothing to report.  They kept going to old videos and photos when suddenly there on the screen was the flag on top of Buckingham Palace at half-mast.  Hugh Edwards came back on and told us the sad news that the Queen had passed away.  I shocked myself by bursting into tears.  I’m not usually one to show my emotions like that, but the Queen had been my monarch all my life.  My mother always told me that at six weeks old I was propped up in my carry cot and put on the table so I could watch the Coronation on TV.  We didn’t have a TV in those days, but some friends who had a TV, opened their house to anyone who wanted to watch it. 

We watched the many tributes to a wonderful woman during the evening

5.98 miles
6 locks


Friday 9th September – Dunchurch Pools Marina

What a sad day.  I said yesterday how I had burst into tears when I heard about the Queen’s passing, but today it turns out that many, many people have been quite shocked at how her death has affected them. 

We moved on down the Grand Union/Oxford Canal to the next winding hole where we turned round and headed back to the marina.  My back was bad after the locks yesterday, so I took the opportunity to sit in my captain’s chair, which I find really supportive and comfortable, and watch BBC1 on my phone. 

Back in the marina Richard did all the usual docking procedures!  We then just sat and watched the TV.

9.55 miles
0 locks


Saturday 10th September – Hayling Island

It didn’t matter how bad my back was we had to pack up and set off for home.  I found the journey painful but knew that I had to brave it!

It was strange when we got home as it was just as we had left it, well except that Yoyo, Victoria’s cat, had gone to her new home.  Victoria has lived with us for quite a few years, so things were always different when we got back from a trip.  Richard and I both commented that from now on nothing will be the same at home or in the UK. 

Total of the 3 weeks we were out

122.67 miles
54 locks

Friday, 9 September 2022

Watling Street Bridge to Norton Junction - September 2022

Tuesday 6th September – Near Watling Street Bridge no. 22

A quiet night even though we were moored close to the railway.  The trains go by so quickly, unlike the ones in Canada which were 1 mile long goods trains and crawled along at some silly miles per hour and seemed to blow their hooters willy nilly!

We have passed a couple of Canaltime Club la Costa boats in the last couple of days.  The person who named them must have a good sense of humour.  They are Canaloni and Goldielocks!  I can just imagine the laughter that could have gone on in the office as they made the names up!

This passed us last night being towed and we found it again this morning.  I think its really sweet. 


We moored up for lunch and didn’t move again.  We had good phone and internet signal, so I managed to catch up on all sorts of things. 

We passed the entrance to the old Ordnance Canal which is long gone.  An act of Parliament was passed in 1803 for the purchase of 53 acres in Weedon, ‘for erecting buildings thereon for the service of His Majesty’s Ordnance’; subsequent purchases later increased the estate to about 150 acres. The Royal Military Depot as it became known, stretched out along the Nene valley above the village of Lower Weedon, with a barracks for 500 men overlooking the depot to the north, close to the Coventry Road.  Initially the depot had eight storehouses and four magazines.

In order to move goods quickly into the depot, a canal cut from the Grand Junction Canal was constructed between two rows of storehouses. At each end of the main enclosure, two lodges were built over the canal, each equipped with a moveable portcullis. The canal cut continued into the magazine passing through a further smaller building and portcullis.  At the western end of the there was a fourth portcullis leading to a barge turning area outside the perimeter wall. Barges were also able to turn in a canal basin within the magazine enclosure, but this was infilled in 1915.

The magazines which were built at the same time as the depot consisting of brick buildings with very thick walls and a small high window at each end. Each block of buildings that was used to store gunpowder was separated from the next by a wide earth bank. Over 1000 tons of gunpowder was stored in the magazine at any one time.  Gunpowder was delivered to Weedon by barge, where it was packed into barrels and boxes and re-issued. The coming of the railway brought a standard gauge rail connection into the depot, but it also posed a problem as the new main line ran between the depot and the Grand Junction Canal, severing the branch canal into the depot. To overcome this, a portion of the line had to be bodily removed, fish plates, rails and chains; to allow the barges to pass into the depot. This was made more dangerous by the fact that this was one of the busiest stretches of line in England with hundreds of trains passing through at speed during the day and sharp curves leading away from it in both directions.

7.99 miles
0 locks

  

Wednesday 7th September – Just passed Norton Junction

The seven locks of the Buckby flight awaited us this morning. My back is not getting any better and the thought of the locks was not nice. 

We got to the bottom of the flight and found a single hander to go up with.  He was a man of advancing years, and I thought that Richard would end up doing all the work.  But no, the chap was up the ladders in the lock like a rat up a drainpipe and pulled his full share of the work.  He told me that he had done the 17 locks on the Northampton Arm yesterday, all singlehanded though they are narrow locks.  I have heard real scare stories about how hard those locks are and I was in total admiration of the man.  The flight was busy with two boats ahead of us and two behind, but there were also boats coming down and each lock which made the whole thing much easier though not for my back  

I had asked our single hander early on in the flight where he was going, and he said that he couldn’t decide.  He might continue up the GU to go to the Shroppie for the winter or maybe up the Leicester Line to spend the time in York and Ripon.  Before we parted I asked him if he had made his mind up yet and he said no, but he might go down to Braunston and then back up to the Leicester Line.  A glutton for punishment if you ask me!!

The Buckby or Whilton flight took us up 63 feet to 377 feet about sea level, now I bet you didn’t know that! 

We emptied and filled at the services at Buckby Wharf.  We hadn’t had our lunch and the smell of chips coming from the New Inn beside the top lock was almost impossible to resist, but resist we did!  We moved on to just passed Norton Junction where we pulled over for the day.

We moored in a lovely place with a great view and at long last I got to see a sunset!  Because of our position at home, we don’t see sunsets so I always love seeing them. 

The old Roman road, Watling Street, now the A5, crosses the canal just below Buckby top lock.  Watling Street linked Dover and London, and continued northwest via St Albans to Wroxeter, a village 5 miles south-east of Shrewsbury. Viroconium Cornoviorum was the fourth largest city in Roman Britain.  There is a longstanding theory that a natural ford once crossed the Thames between Thorney Island, (present-day Westminster) and the Lambeth/Wandsworth boundary. Its location means that it is possible that Watling Street crossed it.  For those of you who have done the tidal Thames it is almost unbelievable to think that a ford could have been there!

3.78 miles
7 locks

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Sunday 4th September – Below Stoke Bruerne Lock no. 15

I've missed another day out!  I have always blogged every day but thought I would try every second day, I don't think it works for me!


Sunday 4th September – Below Stoke Bruerne Lock no. 15

My back was a lot better this morning though I must take it easy.  I don’t know what started it off yesterday, but it could have been walking and then pushing the trolley round Tesco.

We went up Cosgrove Lock and under the Ornamental Bridge, number 65, which was built around 1790.  There are various local theories about why Cosgrove has one of the only two stone ornamental bridges on the Grand Union Canal. None of these is supported by documentary evidence. However, the Bridge is now a Grade II Listed Monument.  

We pulled over at the services at the Stoke Bruerne bottom lock where there were two singlehanded boats already.  Another one came up behind us, also singlehanded.  Richard went to see if they were going up the flight only to find yes, they were and they had a shore crew of four people – result!!  We were first to go into the first lock and the second lock was ready for us too.  After that it was a little slower, but still extremely quick!  All four boats were stopping in the long pound between locks 15 and 16. 

I rested my back during the afternoon and then went to the Navigation for dinner which wasn’t as good as last time.  We had garlic mushrooms to start with and the coating was so crispy it was very difficult to get a fork in – one of mine shot across the table!  However, they were very nice.  I then had a buttermilk chicken burger.  Sadly, the burger was overcooked, on the verge of being burnt and the fries were cold.  I didn’t mention the burger but told the waitress that the fries were cold.  She took them away and brought them back in a red hot dish, yes, she had put them in the microwave, and they were soggy.  The burger had two hash browns in, so I ate those and left the fries.

I just love this!

Back at the boat we watched Capture.  I think I understand what is going on, but Richard is really struggling with it!!

6.89 miles
6 locks


Stoke Bruerne to Watling Street Bridge - September 2022

Monday 5th September – Near Nightingales Bridge no. 46   

We had a big thunderstorm during the night and Muffin hates loud noises, and was terrified, so he ended up on the bed with us.  A 4 foot 6 inch bed with two people is bad enough but a dog as well?  If he is at home and there is a loud noise, which includes Richard sneezing (!), he goes and hides under Richard’s desk. On the boat he disappears down to the bedroom and crouches behind the bed but when he was already behind the boat there was nowhere to go


Just two locks today.  We were on our own in the first one.  At the top lock there were two lockies who wanted us to wait as there was another boat coming, but coming from where??  He eventually arrived and up we went.  

On through Blisworth Tunnel.   Here are a few facts about the tunnel.

  • 3,075 yards long
  • the longest wide, freely navigable tunnel in Europe (it’s wide enough for two narrowboats to pass in opposite directions)
  • the third-longest navigable canal tunnel in the UK, after Standedge and Dudley Tunnels
  • the ninth-longest canal tunnel in the world
  • about 143 feet below ground level
  • it was built between May 1793 and March 1805
  • from October 1800, before the tunnel was built, goods were transported on a double-track tramway which linked the two parts of the Grand Junction Canal. The tramway was some 3.7 miles long and was worked by horses pulling wagons carrying about 2 tonnes.
  • e have made the big decision to go home.  My back is really bad, and I need to see the chiropractor.  I have made an appointment for Tuesday 13th so we will drive home on the Sunday.  We are going to take it easy though the thought of 13 more locks does not fill me with joy

We moored up for the day with a nice view though we are close to the railway, but the trains go by so fast you hardly hear them.

As Richard went to let Muffin out for his last wee he saw, what he thought was blood on the kitchen floor.  I had a look and it certainly looked like blood, but it was soy sauce!!  Something had knocked it over in the cupboard and it was trickling out! 

4.79 miles
2 locks


Tuesday 6th September – Near Watling Street Bridge no. 22

A quiet night even though we were moored close to the railway.  The trains go by so quickly, unlike the ones in Canada which were 1 mile long goods trains and crawled along at some silly miles per hour and seemed to blow their hooters willy nilly!

We have passed a couple of Canaltime Club la Costa boats in the last couple of days.  The person who named them must have a good sense of humour.  They are Canaloni and Goldielocks!  I can just imagine the laughter that could have gone on in the office as they made the names up!

This passed us last night being towed and we found it again this morning.  I think its really sweet. 

We moored up for lunch and didn’t move again.  We had good phone and internet signal, so I managed to catch up on all sorts of things. 

We passed the entrance to the old Ordnance Canal which is long gone.  An act of Parliament was passed in 1803 for the purchase of 53 acres in Weedon, ‘for erecting buildings thereon for the service of His Majesty’s Ordnance’; subsequent purchases later increased the estate to about 150 acres. The Royal Military Depot as it became known, stretched out along the Nene valley above the village of Lower Weedon, with a barracks for 500 men overlooking the depot to the north, close to the Coventry Road.  Initially the depot had eight storehouses and four magazines.

In order to move goods quickly into the depot, a canal cut from the Grand Junction Canal was constructed between two rows of storehouses. At each end of the main enclosure, two lodges were built over the canal, each equipped with a moveable portcullis. The canal cut continued into the magazine passing through a further smaller building and portcullis.  At the western end of the there was a fourth portcullis leading to a barge turning area outside the perimeter wall. Barges were also able to turn in a canal basin within the magazine enclosure, but this was infilled in 1915.

The magazines which were built at the same time as the depot consisting of brick buildings with very thick walls and a small high window at each end. Each block of buildings that was used to store gunpowder was separated from the next by a wide earth bank. Over 1000 tons of gunpowder was stored in the magazine at any one time.  Gunpowder was delivered to Weedon by barge, where it was packed into barrels and boxes and re-issued. The coming of the railway brought a standard gauge rail connection into the depot, but it also posed a problem as the new main line ran between the depot and the Grand Junction Canal, severing the branch canal into the depot. To overcome this, a portion of the line had to be bodily removed, fish plates, rails and chains; to allow the barges to pass into the depot. This was made more dangerous by the fact that this was one of the busiest stretches of line in England with hundreds of trains passing through at speed during the day and sharp curves leading away from it in both directions.

7.99 miles
0 locks

Sunday, 4 September 2022

Great Linford Manor Park to Cosgrove - September 2022

Friday 2nd September – Great Linford Manor Park

We made a Plan A and a Plan B for today.  Plan A was to see if we could get on the moorings at Great Linford Manor Park and if we couldn’t then Plan B was to go on to Cosgrove. 

A few photos from where we were moored. 




We set off nervously hoping that Plan A would happen.  As we approached the moorings, we could see that the whole stretch (well two narrowboats worth) was free.  We moored up and could see these lovely almshouses, built about 1688-90, from the boat.  The larger central building was a school between 1702 until at least 1874 when the school in the village was built.

After lunch we went for a walk round the park.  There are a number of art installations around the park which reflect its previous life.  We didn’t find them all today but will look again tomorrow morning.  We did however see this which I can’t find any information on. 

Great Linford Manor Park is a unique site in Milton Keynes with a history stretching back to at least the Saxon times. Many features of the park, for example the Water Gardens and nearby Wilderness Garden date from the 17th and 18th centuries when the park was laid out to provide the setting to the impressive Manor House.  The house that today dominates the grounds of Great Linford Manor Park was built at the same time as the school and almshouses by Sir William Prichard.

There was originally another manor house which was built in the 11th century though excavations in 1980 revealed evidence that it was extended and rebuilt substantially several times.

St. Andrew’s Church stands next to the almshouses.  The 12th century tower is the oldest part of the existing church, and every century since it has seen alterations and additions.  Considerable refurbishment works took place in the early 18th century including rebuilding of the chancel, south aisle and porch, the existing pulpit also dates from 1707.  A charter of 1151-54 mentions a chapel at Great Linford and excavations beneath the present nave suggest a late Saxon or very early Norman church with a simple nave and small chancel was once there.  The church has a full set of six bells which were installed in 1756.  I heard them ringing on Sunday. Sadly, the door was locked so I couldn’t go in.

The first written reference to Great Linford is to be found in the Domesday Book of 1086, compiled on the orders of William the Conqueror; an earlier reported reference has since been found to be a mistake. The name was then spelt Linforde and may have been coined from the combination of a causeway or ford over the river Ouse near to some Lime (or Linden) trees.

We sat out during the afternoon overlooking the park and the almshouses.  We reckon that this is one of the most perfect, if not the most perfect, mooring we have ever used.

A few more photos from today.




Can you see Mary H in the distance?

2.54 miles
0 locks

 
Saturday 3rd September – below Cosgrove Lock

We walked round the park looking for the art installations.  There are six of them but we could only find five.

These are “The Sheep”.  These were created by artist Luke Chapman.  The sheep are situated where they would have grazed historically, alongside cattle, in Great Linford Manor's wider estate parkland.

“The Horseshoes”. The early heritage of the canal, the Grand Union  was cut through Great Linford Manor estate in 1800, has been interpreted through 5 metal horseshoe sculptures, created by Arcangel.  

“The Snake” was created by Stony Stratford-based woodworker Ian Freemantle.

“The Fossils”.  Great Linford Manor Park is a local geological site, noted for its Blisworth limestone bedrock and the remains of a quarry that was used for stone to make the buildings in the park. Boulders that were removed from the quarry were arranged into the stone circle area that has been loved by Linford children for generations. The stones are also home to fossils from the Jurassic era, when Great Linford was a shallow tropical sea.

 

“The Seed Pods”  Nestled in the park's wildflower meadow, The Seed Pods were created by Stony Stratford-based woodworker Ian Freemantle. 

This is my favourite photo though.  Its face is amazing.

We left the lovely park and headed to Wolverton where we topped up the store cupboard at Tesco.  There are no shops handy for the canal for a while.  We moved onto to Cosgrove and moored below the lock.

You may remember me saying at the beginning of our trip that I was suffering with my back, well today it was very bad, and I couldn’t do much at all.  Fortunately, there were no locks to do so I sat in my captain’s chair as it seems to keep me upright.  I hope it will feel better tomorrow.

4.54 miles
0 locks

Saturday, 3 September 2022

Tuesday 30th August - Broad Oak Bridge 109

It was pointed out to me yesterday, thank you Adam, that I had missed out the post for Tuesday.  Not sure how it happened, but here it is


Tuesday 30th August – Moorings at Broad Oak Bridge 109

We set off for Stoke Hammond lock and were just about to go in when another boat came round the corner to join us.  It was a hire boat with a good crew, and we were soon up and out the other side.

Passed the moored boats (I know I am getting boring now about the moored boats, but they are really very frustrating).  There was a boat moored on the lock landing at the Soulbury locks, but then the water tap is on the lock landing!  We pulled in front of him and a chap jumped out and asked if we could buddy up.  He was a single hander and to buddy up with him would mean we would lose the good crew from the hire boat, but of course we did the right thing!  Up through the first lock and we came to a halt as two lockies were helping an old working boat and butty down the locks.  The single hander and I had to move out of the lock and over to the side to let the working boat through.  After that one of the lockies helped us which meant we got up a bit quicker. 

The Soulbury locks were known to working boatmen as the “Stoke Hammond Three” and became Grade II listed in 1984.

I found this titbit whilst researching the locks.  Not the most eerie of settings you might think, but boatmen of old insisted the locks were haunted by the ghost of a woman and her baby, and claimed that on still nights, you could hear the squeak of the pram wheels before she and her child disappeared into the murky waters of the canal!

We pulled over after bridge 109 for lunch, but it was a nice spot so that was as far as we got!

2.72 miles
4 locks


Friday, 2 September 2022

Broad Oak Bridge (109) to Campbell Park - August/September 2022

Wednesday 31st August – Moorings at Broad Oak Bridge 109

We decided this morning that it was time to turn round and give up on the Grand Union.  It is overgrown and the moored boats have really depressed and irritated us. We do not speed, we usually average about 2½ to 3 miles per hour.  Our average speed has been 1¼ to 1½ miles per hour.

We carried on through Leighton Lock which we shared with a single hander and moored up outside Tesco in Leighton Buzzard.  Tesco at Reading is good as you can moor up outside, but it is a struggle to get the trolley to the boat but here it is easy, especially when you are moored directly outside the gate! 

We moved up to the winding hole, filled up with water, emptied the elsan and winded.

We set off north and Richard pulled in just before Leighton Lock.  My phone rang and a lady said that she had found a dog with my number on his collar!!!  We hadn't even noticed Muffin was missing!  Richard had to go back to get him, it was about 3/4 mile!  The lady said that he was walking up and down where we had been moored and whining.  A little later as we were eating lunch, we realised that there was an unpleasant smell!  It was Muffin.  We then realised what must have happened.  The elsan point was behind a wall and Muffin must have been in there rooting around in there when we left.  A shower was the order of the day!

We passed The Globe pub.  The hanging baskets are amazing. 

Our space from last night was still empty so we pulled over and moored up.  It is a nice spot, the best we have found so far.

I have often wondered about the name Leighton Buzzard so found this in Wikipedia. 

It is unclear when the town was initially founded, although some historians believe that there may have been settlement in the area from as early as 571. There are a number of theories concerning the derivation of the town's name; ‘Leighton’ came from Old English Lēah-tūn, meaning 'farm in a clearing in the woods', and ‘Buzzard’ was added by the Dean of Lincoln, in whose diocese the town lay in the 12th century, from Beau-desert. Another version is that having two communities called ‘Leighton’ and seeking some means of differentiating them the Dean added the name of his local Prebendary or representative to that of the town. At that time, it was Theobald de Busar and so over the years the town became known as Leighton Buzzard. The other Leighton became Leighton Bromswold. In the Domesday Book, Leighton Buzzard and Linslade were both called Leestone. 

The market, at the centre of Leighton Buzzard, is both an historic and modern feature of our town.  Named in the Domesday Book of 1086, Leighton Buzzard had the biggest market in Bedfordshire and was owned by the King.

Just before Leighton Lock is this dilapidated pontoon.  The sign says, “this is an occupied private mooring”.  I’m not sure I would like to tie my boat up to it! 

5.05 miles
2 locks (same one twice!)

 

Thursday 1st September – Campbell Park, Milton Keynes

A bit of a cloudy day with a good breeze/wind!

At Soulbury Three locks we found 4 lockies, though one said he was only a trainee!  As you can imagine we sped down them!  

Richard had forgotten about Stoke Hammond lock and was surprised as it hove into view!  I haven’t checked with the winter stoppages, but I rather hope this one is on the list for new gates.

Fenny Stratford lock was with us, and we were soon through leaving the gates open for a pair of narrowboats tied together. 

A narrow lock was added to the double locks of the Grand Union in around 1835.  This was done to speed up single boats and save water.  However, they were not in use for long, I can find two dates for their demise, 1855 and 1865. 

Our hoped for destination was the new moorings in Campbell Park, but I doubted we would get one.  However, all the 48 hours moorings were free 😊

We passed the “entrance” of the Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway.  This proposed new waterway will run from the Grand Union Canal at Campbell Park, cross the M1 between junctions 13 and 14, run near Brogborough Hill, through Marston Vale and connect with the river Great Ouse at Kempston, a suburb of Bedford.  The Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Trust was established in 1995. 

9.48 miles
5 locks