Caxton's Travels

Just Bobbing Along….

Another short hop

We seem to have slipped into September and the beginning of Autumn without really noticing. The signs are all there, the days are getting shorter and the night time temperatures have been dipping ever lower but it has still been sunny during the day so it has been easy to feel that we have been hanging on to the summer season.

The sun was shining when we awoke on Saturday morning at Great Linford and after our normal morning drinks, we got up and prepared to move on. It was twenty past nine when we untied and set off and after a few minutes, a quick glance behind revealed a boat which had been moored on the opposite bank was moving over to the spot where we had been moored. They had attempted to moor behind us a day earlier but there hadn’t quite been enough room, clearly  they weren’t going to miss the opportunity this time around.

It was one of those deceptive sort of days where, when the sun shone it was absolutely lovely and warm but as soon as a cloud obscured it, the air felt very cool. It took us just over an hour to reach Wolverton where we stopped for a shopping trip to the local supermarkets. We wanted to stock up with enough food to see us through the coming days as we were about to venture into the wilderness!

On returning to the boat, Sue stashed the provisions while I started the engine and set sail. We didn’t travel far, another twenty minutes brought us to Galleon Wharf where we found a good mooring. After lunch on board we walked over to the other side of the canal and visited “G Dad’s Collectables” which is an antiques emporium. We had seen this place on previous occasions when we had passed by but had never had the time to visit it. As we expected, it is a delightful place full of all sorts of treasures and all of them reasonably priced. The difficult part of our visit was keeping our hands in our pockets and resisting the temptation to buy but resist we did so no purchases were made on this occasion.

We also resisted the adjacent pub, The Galleon and returned to Caxton where we spent the rest of the afternoon in the sunshine on the front deck. Cyclists and walkers passed by on the towpath and boats passed us on the canal, a perfect afternoon only spoiled by a number of screaming kids playing in the pub garden.

Hanging around MK

The Grand Union really hugs the perimeter of Milton Keynes and as a result it takes a long time to leave the town. We didn’t do much on our second day on Campbell Park, I washed the outside of the boat and Sue cleaned the inside. In the afternoon we went for a walk and at Sue’s suggestion found ourselves at a pub called the Barge. It is a part of the Vintage Inn chain and as such we can get a 25% discount on food and drink so we had our dinner there and very nice it was too. The nights are starting to draw in now but we were still back on board before the daylight had gone.

After a late night sitting up talking and having a laugh together, we had a good night’s sleep and woke up to yet another blue skied, sunny day. Neither of us had any idea what we wanted to do but after a bit of deliberation decided that we should move on with no particular destination in mind. Once we had set off we had intended to stop at Giffard Park and make use of the services but when we got there they were fully occupied so we carried on and stopped next to Great Linford Park.

This was Sue’s idea and although it took us a few minutes to find the right combination of mooring posts and the deployment of the fat fenders, it turned out to be a great decision. We had lunch in the nearby Nag’s Head and what a great pub this is.

The pub dates back to 1550 and claims to be the place where the drink, the Bloody Mary originated. Whether the claim is valid is debatable but it’s a good story nonetheless and it fits in with the local church and manor house. It is a lovely location with an arts and craft centre, beyond the pub there is a small shopping centre with a Co-op, chip shop, convenience store, Costa Coffee and barber shop.

We returned to our mooring and settled down for the afternoon on the front deck where Sue fed a family of swans and I just put my feet up and enjoyed yet another day of my retirement.

 

Milton Keynes – Campbell Park

In contrast to Tuesday, Wednesday was very much cooler. Our mooring at Water Eaton had been a good one but we had wanted to move on to Milton Keynes. We were on our way just after half past eight and half an hour later we were approaching Fenny lock. With “Jules Fuels” working pair on the water point and a boat coming out of the lock, space was quite restricted but we quickly had Caxton in the lock and of course the swing bridge was already open. Despite the fact that this lock is shallow, it isn’t a quick operation to pass through it with the swing bridge sitting  across the chamber. Nevertheless, it didn’t take us too long to get our way through the lock, helped in part by a young boy who was part of the crew of a hire boat moored below the lock who closed one of the bottom gates for us.

With the windlasses stowed inside, we started the next part of our trip which we knew would be lock free for many miles. There were very few boats on the move but one that we encountered had a steerer who had disappeared below deck, handily enough on a bend. Luckily enough he resurfaced just in time to see us and take evasive action. We encountered a day hire boat from Milton Keynes Marina which not only appeared to be sitting low in the water but was also pumping lots of water from its bilge. After following them for a mile or so, they pulled over and then waved us past. I asked them if everything was alright but they assured us that their low water line was due to their overweight crew. We carried on and eventually were delighted to find that there was lots of space on the Campbell Park moorings. Every time that we have passed this way we have been disappointed that there have been no free moorings in this area but this time we could have moored six or seven boats either side of the cut.

We were tied up just after eleven o’clock and with heavy rain forecast for later in the afternoon, we decided to walk into town and take shelter in the vast malls there. In the event, the BBC got it wrong again and the rain didn’t materialise but we were still happy enough having had lunch and a wander around the shops. Campbell Park looked lovely even on a dull day so all in all we’d had a decent afternoon.

Fenny Stratford

Tuesday after the Bank Holiday, not that Bank holidays mean much to us now, dawned and we were ready to move on again. As usual, travelling day, as I like to think of it, means that we were up relatively early and eager to get going. I had the engine started at eight o’clock and five minutes later we were taking on water at the service point. With an empty tank and a slow tap it took forty five minutes to fill up although admittedly we did use the time to do some laundry while we were there.

We set off again just before nine and after passing by the huge fleet of hire boats belonging to Wyvern Shipping who always seem to have an abundance of craft which are “un-let” we reached Leighton Lock. There was a boat already coming up through the lock and while we waited we saw another Barnowl boat, “Googly”, moored on the offside of the canal. We made our way northwards and passed by the Globe Inn, a pub that we still haven’t visited and noted that there was a space outside long enough for us to have moored Caxton in. We didn’t stop on this occasion being too early in the day so we’ll have to leave this little gem of the waterways until another time.

Tickling along through empty countryside interspersed with odd enclaves of moored boats, we found nb Muleless. Gary was having a smoke while standing on the bank and as we passed, he and I had a brief conversation. Muleless had passed us twice while we were moored at Leighton Buzzard so it wasn’t too much of a surprise to see them so close to the town. Interestingly enough, we last saw Muleless at Thrupp about three months ago when we were both heading in opposite directions.

The sun accompanied us as we cruised on to the three locks at Soulbury and when we reached there our passage down was assisted by boats travelling upwards and a lock keeper. We were warned that the pound below the bottom lock was extremely low and that had resulted in the boats coming up being unable to move until that point in time. The information was correct and judging by the water marks on the canal side, the pound was down by about twelve inches or so. We stuck to the centre of the channel and kept our speed down to tickover and as a result had no problem in reaching the next lock. Along the way we passed nb Myra-D who we hadn’t seen since they had suffered a breakdown when we shared some locks with them earlier this month. It turned out that the problem with the water level had been due to a combination of a blocked top gate paddle and leaking bottom gates at the following Stoke Hammond lock so once we had descended through that, the water depth was more than adequate.

We carried on to Water Eaton which is just south of Fenny Stratford and moored up in a semi rural setting. After lunch we struck out and walked the mile or so to Fenny Stratford, visited the local shops and then made our way to Fenny lock where we had a drink at the Red Lion. We also took the time to check out the local services and familiarised ourselves with the workings of the swing bridge that sits across the shallow lock.

On our way back along the towpath, we spotted nb Sunflower, the boat that we had shared some locks with a week earlier. We stopped to have a chat with the young owner, a nice enough lad who had moved his boat here to be with his brother while he found a job in the area.

After that, all we had left to do was to walk the mile or so back to our mooring where we got back on board and settled in for the evening.

Leighton Buzzard

We left Slapton on Thursday morning and had an almost uneventful trip to Leighton Buzzard, the only notable event was the five minute delay that we had when leaving Church Lock. CaRT contractors were dredging so we had to wait until they let us through. When we reached the visitor mooring at Linslade / Leighton Buzzard, there were only a couple of spaces left but one of them was more than big enough for Caxton so we tied up and that’s where we remained for the Bank Holiday weekend. The weather was glorious all the time we were in Leighton Buzzard, highly unusual for a Bank Holiday but very welcome for all.

On Friday, we caught the train and visited Milton Keynes, a trip of only twelve minutes. The town is laid out an almost American grid system so we enjoyed walking through this slightly unusual environment.

In addition to the usual shopping trips in Leighton Buzzard, we visited the market on Saturday morning and then went to the pub in the early evening to watch the Man Utd v Leicester match.

On Sunday, we walked to Page’s Park on the other side of town where the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway is headquartered. Ex industrial steam engines pull the carriages through housing estates for three miles before arriving at the terminus. Twenty minutes of looking at other pieces of rolling stock and reading a bit of history and the train heads back to the starting point. There are a number of unmanned level crossings for the train to negotiate on its journey. On approaching the road crossing, the train stops and two members of staff get off and stop the traffic. The train crosses the road and then stops to pick them up again. All in all we had a great time on the rails, there was even a handful of model railway layouts in the visitor centre and we had a look at them too.

Marsworth to Slapton

Our mooring at Marsworth had been a good one, quiet after the previous two nights when we had been within earshot of the West Coast mainline. Nevertheless, we had no reason to stay so we decided to move on and get part way to Leighton Buzzard, the next biggish place on our route. The first lock of the day was just around the corner from where had been tied and a few minutes later we were faced with a decision, turn left down the Aylesbury arm or bear right and stay on the mainline. In reality, we had already made that decision, Aylesbury had looked alright when we had visited but hadn’t appealed to us so much that we felt inclined to tackle the sixteen narrow locks down to the town. When we last passed this way, the wharf was, I think, a British Waterways service yard with boaters facilities. The facilities are still there but the site is now occupied by waterside homes, no doubt commanding a high price given their location. We stopped and topped the water tank before moving on to the next lock where we caught up with a single hander on nb Sunflower. We worked through the next five locks and the swing bridge at Pitstone with him before we tied up near Ivinghoe/Pitstone/Cheddington.

This seemed like a natural place to stop, being half way between Marsworth and Leighton Buzzard but after lunch and a short discussion, we decided to move on and do a bit more. We only travelled for just over an hour before mooring above Slapton lock but by working down another three locks, we had left ourselves with less than two hours cruising to Leighton Buzzard. In 2012 we were moored below this lock on our journey south and had, after a long day cruising,  gone to explore the nearby village. We failed on that occasion so there was nothing for it but to try again. The walk only took ten minutes so I have no idea why we didn’t find the village last time around – maybe we took a wrong turning or maybe it’s the Buckinghamshire equivalent of Brigadoon and today was our lucky day! We visited the village church and then popped into the local pub, the Carpenter’s Arms, before walking the half mile back to our mooring.

In August 1963, the Great Train Robbery took place about a mile away from where we were moored at Slapton Wharf. If you take a look at Google Maps, you will see that it is marked (click here), then look at the poor reviews it gets. One person complains that it is “just a bridge”, what were they expecting, a re-enactment?

Cow Roast to Marsworth with a detour

Another dull start awaited us on Tuesday morning but it was dry and mild so not too bad, although for August the weather continues to be pretty pathetic. Anyway, we were underway by ten and crossed the Tring summit in just under an hour. Most of the summit is tree lined and would make for a welcome respite from the summer sun for the boater if there had been any, which there wasn’t. When we reached the junction with the Wendover arm we decided to swing left and visit it again as we did five years ago. Little had changed except that this time around we had the only boat on the navigation. We turned at the end and stopped for lunch on the visitor moorings; had it not been for the fact that we had spent the previous day in Tring, this would have made the perfect base from which to explore the town which is just one mile away.

After lunch we returned to the junction and began the descent of the Marsworth flight with nb Que Sera Sera. It didn’t seem to take long and we were soon at the bottom, our lock buddies tied up almost immediately whereas we carried on around the bend and moored just above the next lock. The canal passes between Marsworth and the enigmatically named hamlet, “Startop’s End” so we decided to have a look around the immediate area. The first place that we found was Bluebell’s Tearoom which occupies the old lock cottage and is of course, next to the lock. We had tea and a scone each and by way of an apology for not having cream for the scones, we were given an extra piece of cake to take away with us which we thought was exceptionally generous. After that, we popped across the road to the local pub, the Angler’s Retreat and sat outside with a drink looking at the birds in the aviary there, I can’t remember ever visiting a pub with an aviary before.

We dropped the free piece of carrot cake off back at the boat and then went for a walk around the nearby Tring reservoirs. There were one or two fishermen, a few dog walkers and others, like ourselves, out for an early evening stroll. The sun had come out and the evening was very pleasant. It did strike me that a lot of fuss had been made about the eclipse of the sun observed in America the previous day, spectacular maybe but for those watching it only lasted a few minutes. Meanwhile here in Britain, the sun disappeared on Sunday afternoon and didn’t reappear until Tuesday evening, now that’s what I call a Solar Eclipse!

Tring & Aylesbury

In the last post, I mentioned that we had visited Aylesbury by bus. We did this to try and help us decide whether or not to travel down the Aylesbury arm and visit the town. The bus trip from Berkhamsted took about 45 minutes and the bus station in Aylesbury is built under a shopping area in the town centre. After we had eaten an early lunch, we walked to the canal terminus to check out the facilities there. Surrounded by modern buildings, the terminus basin is very clean and impressive with plenty of mooring available. We then walked along the towpath until we reached Circus Fields marina where the Aylesbury Canal Society offer free mooring for visitors. Unfortunately, the towpath is on the opposite side and although there is a bridge about half a mile further on, a thunderstorm was just beginning. We sought shelter under a wide road bridge until it had passed over and then returned to the terminus. We walked back into town and tried to work out whether we wanted to spend a few days in Aylesbury; the question being, would the transit through 32 locks (16 each way) be worthwhile?

On our wanderings, we found the local museum which was hosting a Lego exhibition so we went in and took a few pictures of the models.

The Flying Scotsman

Henry VIII’s Banquet

Magna Carta

High Street Scene

Did we reach a conclusion on whether to return to Aylesbury by boat? Not really, we didn’t see anything that made us keen to make the effort to go to Aylesbury but there was nothing that put us off either. At the time of writing, we are moored at Cow Roast so the final decision will be made later in the week.

The bus to Aylesbury passed through Tring and we saw enough from our seats at the front of the top deck to encourage us to spend a day there. The town itself sits on the junction of two ancient pathways, The Icknield Way and Akeman Street which was possibly the reason that it became a market town as early as 1315AD. Its prosperity improved with the 19th century arrival of the Grand Junction Canal and the London to Birmingham Railway.

There was still a bit of mizzly drizzle in the air when we got up on Monday but undeterred we got ready and set off for Tring, some two and a half miles away. Our original intention had been to walk there but the drizzle persisted so we walked no further than the bus stop by the Cow Roast Inn and waited for the next bus. The High Street in Tring has some lovely buildings dating from a number of centuries and with odd exceptions they house local, independent businesses. One of the exceptions is a Prezzo restaurant and since we are able to get 25% off all food and drink there now, we popped in and had lunch.

An unusual feature in Tring is that there is an annexe of the Natural History Museum in the town centre.

Lionel Walter Rothschild

Originally a private collection open to the public, it was gifted to the nation by its creator, Lionel Walter Rothschild upon his death. We visited the museum after lunch and although it was busy with parents and small children, we enjoyed viewing the impressive collection of exhibits there. It was half past two when we got back to the bus stop and after a few minutes, the bus arrived and carried us back to Cow Roast.

Breaking out of Berkhamsted

It was a bit of a struggle but we finally managed to break out of Berkhamsted. On Wednesday evening we had decided that we would leave on Thursday but after overnight rain and waking up to an overcast morning, we decided to stay another day. On Thursday night we agreed to leave the following morning but after a short conversation at 8am on Friday we decided to stay and catch the bus to Aylesbury for the day.

On our return we were finally agreed that we would leave Berkhamsted on Saturday morning. At ten o’clock on Friday night we had a random idea to walk to the local pub. This was a first for us, yes we like going to the pub but usually in the afternoon, sometimes in the early evening but never at night and certainly not at bedtime!

We walked the short distance to the Boat Inn and spent a couple of hours there. It was noisy but we soon got used to it and had a lovely time there.

When Saturday morning came around, staying in Berkhamsted for yet another day wasn’t a difficult decision to make so we had a lazy start before walking into town.

The Saturday market was in full swing when we reached the High Street and we bought some fruit and veg there before returning to our boat for lunch.

After lunch we walked to Waitrose and made a few more purchases for the next part of our voyage and then returned once again to our mooring.

The sun came out and I realised that we hadn’t visited the Rising Sun pub which sat a few hundred yards away. It seemed a little unfair to neglect the establishment having spent money in the other canalside pubs, The Crystal Palace and the Boat Inn. So we walked along the towpath and enjoyed a drink, sitting outside the pub, next to the lock on what was a sunny afternoon. We later agreed that we should end our stay in Berkhamsted and move on the following morning.

When Sunday morning came around we were resolute, despite the temptation of the monthly Farmers Market which we knew was taking place that morning in the town. We set off just after nine o’clock and started the climb out of town towards the summit at Cow Roast. It didn’t take us long considering we had eight locks to do and did all of them on our own. We saw a few boats coming down the hill so that, combined with the instruction on some locks to leave bottom paddles drawn meant that almost all locks were set in our favour. The only boat that we saw travelling in the same direction as we were was a widebeam that we caught up when we reached our seventh lock of the day. Caxton’s water tank was in desperate need of replenishment so our target had been the services above Cow Roast lock where we also took the opportunity to get rid of the “Get-riddables”. Once sorted, we moved on a few hundred yards and tied up just beyond the marina.

After lunch, showered and dressed in fresh clothes, we went for a walk. Along the towpath to Tring Station and then to the village of Aldbury. This place is very pretty with a duck pond in the middle of the village, a small shop and a fairly large church. After a walk around the church, we paid a brief visit to the nearby Greyhound pub for a much needed refreshment before we started the walk back to the canal. We were returning by a different route to give us a circular walk and that caused us to pass the second pub in the village, The Valliant Trooper. “Pass” as in “pass through” rather than “pass by”. We were soon on our way again and walking along the narrow lane that would eventually get us back to the boat. The sunshine was by now, giving way to dark clouds and by half past five it had started to rain, so that was us in for the rest of the evening.

Berkhamsted

Berkhamsted is old, very old according to Wikipedia with there being evidence of human settlement in the area dating back 5,000 years. The first written reference to the town was in 970AD and it gets a mention in the Domesday book. The town has clearly benefited from trade over the centuries and still has a very solid feel of prosperity to it, or so it seemed to us as we explored its streets.

We visited the ruins of the castle which is adjacent to the railway station and then spent the next few days exploring the long high street which runs through the middle of the town. There are many independent shops in Berkhamsted which makes a nice change from seeing town centres which have been cloned by the national retail chains. In an age when pubs are supposedly closing at an alarming rate, this town still manages to support what seems to be more than its fair share of them. The Rex is a fully restored Art Deco cinema which shows a different film every day although there was nothing that we fancied seeing when we were there. There are so many interesting looking buildings that it would take forever to describe them all so here are a few pictures taken around the town. And here is the town’s Blue Plaque Guide.

St Peter’s Church

Dean Incent’s House

The Old Town Hall

Ornate Clock Tower

Alms Houses 1684

Sayers Alms Houses

Solar Energy Generated

Today:
0.84 kWh

This Month:
3.18 kWh

This Year:
8.83 kWh

All Time:
236.48 kWh

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