Thursday, 30 October 2014

To London town!

Yesterday, Wednesday, we had our last day on the Grand Union.


With London only a few hours cruising away there was still an air of peace and tranquillity about.  Black Jack’s Lock was very pretty with the old mill house beside it and a beautiful old thatched cottage above the lock (couldn’t get a pic.)


With just one more to go after Denham Deep Lock.  As it’s name suggests, the deepest on the GU at just over 11 feet.


There are always interesting and novel things to see – some more so than others.  This is a genuinely paddle powered boat as the chain drive take off from the gearbox is clearly visible.


Our last lock of the season – Cowley Lock, and just a little wet at this moment. After this it was another five hours cruising before arriving, and finding a space, in Paddington Basin.  James has a hospital appointment at St Mary’s Hospital next week so, apart from it seeming to be our second home, the basin will be extremely convenient.

P1070718This morning we were able to view the recently redeveloped (and almost complete) end of the canal basin.  Back in the spring, when we were here last, this was just a building site.  Now it has fountains, grass, seating and a very swish bridge.  The bronze statue sitting on the seat beyond the fountain depicts Sir Simon Milton, (1961 – 2011) Deputy Lord Mayor of London (2008 – 2011) and a major driving force in the regeneration of Paddington.


Although we met up with several friends last night (and hence a late night!) we were still out in force today.  While shopping in and around Tottenham Court Road, we found the best view of the Telecom Tower we’ve come across.


Oh the joy of a London bus ride!  This is the view from the front seat on a new “Boris Bus” (with yet another in front).  They are very quiet and comfortable and ideal to hop on and off – just like the old days.  Well done Boris!


The weather today has been superbly warm and we took advantage of it by lunching al fresco at “L’ ulivo” near Leicester Square ……..


……. where they laid on a Scottish pipe band for us right outside the restaurant. 


After lunch we popped into the Whitewall Gallery just off Bond Street.  We’ve been invited next week when the Argentinian artist Fabian Perez unveils his new collection in the UK.  Olivia and gallery manager Anna were in the middle of unpacking and hanging all the new paintings for next week but they still had time to welcome us and offer us a glass or two of champagne!  Thanks girls for the warm welcome and we’ll see you next week.

Tonight we are off out in town again, to bolster the capitals economy!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Double Family Fun.


On Sunday, to conclude our joyful family occasion this weekend, we took “the kids” for lunch to the ‘King and Queen’ in the village of Longcot, Oxfordshire where we enjoyed good food and especially good company. Vicki, James, Frances, Kel, Doug and Ian (all sitting opposite our partners) about to sample the finest of roast potatoes in all the land.


A very proud dad between his two roses!


Due to numbers one of the ‘roses’ (Vicki) had to be consigned to the boot for the journey back home. Well someone had to hold on to the pumpkins!


The pumpkins safely made the journey back to boat when we returned to Cowroast marina late on Sunday evening - and the big one now looks like this on the roof.


On Monday Doug’s parents, Derek and Vilma, ………


……. and sister Dawn, came to visit us on “Chance” and spent a gloriously sunny day with us. We had a marvellous cruise together from Cowroast marina to Berkhamsted. 


This morning, Tuesday, we left the “Port of Berkhamsted” at 7:30 for the longest day’s canal cruising we’ve done.  15 miles and 31 locks in 10 hours ……….


….. and the weather again was absolutely splendid.  We couldn’t match the collection of pumpkins which this lock cottage had to offer!


Way down the canal, through Hemel Hempstead, Apsley, King’s Langley and Hunton Bridge, we arrived at the stretch of canal through Cassiobury Park, just outside Watford.  It’s a lovely area now somewhat plagued by large numbers of unkempt canal craft.  This one was one of the more amusing ones – let’s hope the wind doesn’t get up! 


However, there are still stretches where the glories of nature can still be enjoyed untouched.


There are some architectural highlights to be had – like Lady Capel’s bridge ……..


…….and just beyond that is the glorious former mill building looking very nice amid it’s autumn framing.


Most of today’s locks we tackled on our own with just a few being shared with other boats.  Five locks were made easier sharing with Aileen and ‘Shady’ on nb “The Sharp End” (bizarrely we’ll be meeting them again in the New Year during another adventure!) …….


……. and just one lock sharing with trading boat “Hyperion” which we took further advantage of and bought an extra bag of coal (much easier when you’re in a lock together).

After Cassiobury Park darkness quickly set in and we found a very pleasant mooring on the edge of the nature reserve below Springwell Lock.  Another first for us  - we’ve never knocked in mooring pins in the dark before! 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Family Celebrations


On Saturday, after shoe-horning “Chance” into a temporary berth in Cowroast marina near Tring the day before, we set off in the car for Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire for a bit of visiting of friends ……….


………and to attend an evening gathering of family and friends, to celebrate with James’ brother Martin and partner Sue, their 10 years of being together.


As a number of us had guessed they announced that earlier in the day they had secretly got married! – and the ‘10 year’ decoration on the cake top had been swapped for one showing a Bride and Groom without anyone noticing.


Brother Martin and daughter Sophie (sorry to son Robert and both their partners for not getting photos of you all!)

P1070625 James was up dancing instead of taking enough photos but here’s a chance one of daughters Frances (and partner Kel on the right) and Vicki and partner Ian in the middle. (they’re too busy chatting and enjoying themselves to pose for pics!)


In the taxi going home to Frances and Kel’s house (where we were staying for the night) a perfect shot to some up joy of the evening!  Vicki, Doug (what more can one say!) and Ian (who came amiss a week ago while enjoying his passion of cycling) who’s nursing a broken collar bone!

A great day was had by all.  Earlier in the day we’d managed to get to Bristol to visit our dear friend Becky in Frenchay Hospital who making the most wonderful progress after a very serious illness.  We were thrilled to see her.   

Thursday, 23 October 2014

A Great Autumn Day.

Warm but overcast, today’s journey was excellent and we made very good progress.


Our first delight was this beautiful lock keepers cottage at Leighton Lock with, what looks like, all original features.


Wonderful wide open spaces  between Grove and Church Locks as we head away from Leighton Buzzard.


At Slapton Lock there’s a “boater’s herb garden” behind the seat if you need the odd sprig of something – kindly kept by the people in the lock cottage we presume.


Further on and we saw the flattest fields you could imagine.  Fields of turf as far as we could see, all mown to perfection.


We’ve used this picture before but it’s just a perfect ‘chocolate box’ canal picture (airbrush out the nasty blue boat though!)


For fourteen of today’s nineteen locks we teamed up with a lovely couple, Miriam and Eddie on nb “My Precious”.  A good contender in the competition for the shiniest boat!


Here’s Miriam and Eddie with two of their friends who arrived to help us up the Marsworth flight of 7 locks.


After scaling the Marsworth flight, and arriving on the Tring Summit a lot earlier than expected (thanks to Miriam, Eddie and friends), we had the wonderful surprise of meeting friends and fellow bloggers Jaq and Les on nb “Valerie”.  It was great to see them both looking so good and after a quick catch-up chat we were back on our way ……..  


…….. through the the lovely autumn coloured Tring Cutting.

P1070605We’ve moored at bridge 29 next to Tring railway station for the night as Doug needs to catch a train in the morning to collect the car.  With a lot of leaves now off the trees the cutting isn’t as dark as it could be.  With the thick carpet of leaves on the ground it’s even more important to use the day-glo pin covers to stop anybody going “A over T”!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Hurricane!–what hurricane?

It was difficult to believe that only yesterday we were being buffeted by the remains of a hurricane – today it was bright sunshine, warm and not even a breeze.


Within five hundreds yards from last night’s mooring we passed over the Ouse Aqueduct with only the low, narrow edge of the iron trough to stop us joining the River Ouse 30 feet below.  The aqueduct was constructed in 1881 and was the forth attempt at bridging the river. 


From aqueduct to viaduct, on the outskirts of Milton Keynes we crossed over Grafton Street, now a  busy dual carriageway. It must be very strange for drivers to see a narrow boat in the air. 


It’s difficult to portray Milton Keynes in a few photos – from the canal it’s green and pleasant, especially on such a lovely autumn day.


An unsuspecting James in a ‘trance’, just managing to keep the sun from his eyes, is about to enjoy a custard tart and a mug of coffee.


James was rudely awakened from his trance by the approach of  “Valhalla”, an awesome looking wide beam, very stealth-like and cleverly designed, the front is low and crouching ……


…… and the rear is huge and threatening and the engine sounds like it should be powering a Sherman tank!  We last saw this boat earlier this year in Abingdon on the River Thames.


Milton Keynes is peppered with lovely old buildings sitting a little uncomfortably next to modern constructions. Next to this  idyllic setting is the massive bridge taking the A5 over the canal.


Out of a very pleasant Milton Keynes (which seems to go on forever!) we were soon going up in the world in Fenny Stratford Lock (by all of 18 inches!).  It has a swing bridge over the middle of it  just to add a touch of interest.


The only thing between us now and our desired moorings for the night near Old Linslade was the Soulbury Three Locks.  The lower pound is known to overflow and flood the pub if we boaters don’t fill and empty the locks correctly. Needless to say the pub stayed dry on this occasion!

We’ve now safely moored up, as desired, on the wonderfully named  three mile long Jackdaw Pound near Old Linslade, the sunshine we’ve had for most of the day has now changed to a light drizzle so it’s another cosy night by the fire.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

We meet “our” hurricane again!


On Monday morning we left our blissful mooring on the Buckby lock flight and continued to the bottom of the flight in lovely bright sunshine.


The M1 follows the canal for a good mile and a half around the Buckby locks and beyond but it was a hollow pleasure to look across and know that we were travelling infinitely faster than the stand still traffic.


After passing through Weedon Bec and the pretty little hamlet of Flore Lane we got to Bugbrooke where fellow bloggers Yvonne and Roger on nb “Fizzical Attraction” were moored.  We’re sorry it was only a quick ‘hello’ as we had another boat on our heals. (we also forgot to mention previously that we had another quick ‘hello’ with a fellow bloggers nb Ewn ha Cul at Braunston the other day).


Junctions on canals don’t come along that often and, even though deserted, Gayton Junction added a little extra ‘something’ to the journey.


Another highlight along this stretch of canal is the handsome Blisworth Mill. Some very nice cottages have been built on the opposite side and are well in keeping with the area.


The blue brick entrance to Blisworth’s 3076 yard tunnel heralds another bit of excitement on our journey.  Having seen just a handful of boats all day we met three of them inside the tunnel!  


On the other side of a very wet Blisworth tunnel we arrived in Stoke Bruerne where we made the rapid decision to do the Stoke flight of 7 locks before mooring up at the bottom.  After a nice walk back up the flight in the evening we had a pint in The Boat Inn (very unwelcoming barman!) and then a superb meal in the “Spice of Bruerne” Indian restaurant opposite. (20 year old Kaiser, one of the waiters, is a real hoot!)


Today our old hurricane friend from the Atlantic last week caught up with us again.  We stayed on our moorings until 12:30 as the winds were too strong for comfort but then decided to try our luck along the lockless 6 1/2 miles to Cosgrove.  Doug did a bit of walking while James “crabbed” his way along the less protected stretches of water.


Captions welcome!


The view across the fields at Cosgrove belies the windy conditions.  Getting through the lock was a matter of precise timing – Doug jumped off and ran ahead to set the lock while James took it as gently as the wind would allow, only to arrive at the precise moment Doug opened the gate. Lucky!  Being pinned against the lock landing by the wind wasn’t a pleasant thought. 

We’re now moored between the lock and the River Ouse Aqueduct with the wind still blowing hard.  We’ve walked into Wolverton and back for some supplies and are now back on “Chance” cosy and warm for the night.  A very good day all told.