Stoke Bruerne Village at War 2018

The Village at War this weekend appears to get bigger each year with more and more re-enactors tacking part. The whole village now gets swamped with people dressed in 1940s clothing - some dressed in military uniform, some impersonating characters such as Churchill and Montgomery and some simply enjoying dressing-up. There are even a few German Forces re-enactors involved.

Montgomery has a chat

German Forces occupy a lock

The event now has less direct emphasis on the canal and wartime boating but this is largely because more and more it has become a re-enactment event. To me that is fine because its success brings a wider range of members of the public to the canal and it financially helps support the Friends of the Canal Museum. However, don't let me give the impression that the canal is overlooked, they was a fine selection of working boats and canal traders.

NB Eclipse with its Lister (Video)

The wonderful coffee boat with its bespoke coffee machine in the bows

Now that's how to get chocolate on a crepe!

In the past I have reported the weather at this event being an Indian summer, but not this year. Despite this year's gloriously sunny and dry summer, that led to navigation restrictions, the recent weather has become mixed. Weather play an important part in the success of outdoor events such as Village at War and on Saturday with cloudy skies and early rain I did wonder about the event's successes. However, on the Sunday the crowds came out in force and Stoke B was just full of people.

We don't boat to this event because pride of place is given over to the historic boats and traders, but we bring along Harvey our 1932 Austin Seven RN box saloon. Not many non-military historic vehicles come to this event but those that do are nearly always pre-war. This year around a dozen turned up over the weekend. Being keen we brought Harvey on both days. There was in fact a lot of interest in our car, largely because it fitted in well with the theme of the event. I suspect that like many other private vehicles Harvey would have been laid up "for the duration" because the lack of petrol coupons.
Harvey and its much bigger cousin at the start of the show

In the past there have been well publicised fly-pasts of WWII aircraft. This year there was no real publicity but a RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfire did a couple of low passes much to the crowd's delight.

Spitfire Fly-past

Every year a George Formby impersonator Paul Casper entertains. But this year we watched the singer Lola Lamour delight the crowds on the Sunday. One of our favourite moments was when she did a duet in French with 92 year-old WII veteran Arthur. He had been in Normandy and sheltered from the Germans by a Belgium family.

Lola Lamour with Arthur under the bridge 

The picture of Lola doesn't appear to show much of an audience. That's because most of the audience were above the "stage" and the area in front was set up to allow dancing - we saw a young couple demonstrate some great jiving.

Model RC working boat (Video)

James Griffen (from Wyvern Shipping) was there with his model working boat. The boat carried munitions (full-size bullets). Watching it manoeuvre, I realised that it was producing an authentic sounding engine note. James informed me that it comes from a Lister HA2 but he would have preferred to have had the sound of a JP2! Unfortunately that but that wasn't available on the internet. The model has a steerer who moves the tiller (or perhaps it is actually the other way round!).

The event gave us the chance to meet up with some old friends, chat about boating and cars, enjoy a couple of drinks and food (hog roast), and marvel at the lengths some people go to recreate the past.

Water Ways by Jasper Winn

Back in June we noticed that the nearby Buckingham Literary Festival was featuring a talk about the canals by Jasper Winn who CRT had appointed a "writer in residence". A residency on over 2,000 miles of waterways is perhaps an interesting concept, hence my use of quotation marks. Whilst on the subject on syntax, the use of  two words for the title of his book is interesting - perhaps helpful for internet searches. Maybe it also gives more of a sense of routes and roaming. Jasper did a lot of wandering during the year by foot, kayak, bike and boat - the book's subtitle claims a thousand miles.

The book festival event was early on a sunny Sunday morning and it consisted of an illustrated talk  that was essentially a snapshot of the book's contents. We found the talk Jasper fascinating and enjoyably familiar; he covered a lot of ground. It was also obvious from the questions posed from the non-boating audience that they were also enthused by the presentation. I just had to purchase a copy of the book and have it signed.

During the talk I wondered if, being a canoeist, if Jasper was aware of the books William Bliss. After the talk and the signing, I chatted to him about this. He appeared to recall the name but there is no reference to Bliss in the book.

Unlike, for example, Terry Darlington's books that consist of a story of a voyage, Jasper's book not only reports on a series of journeys along canals, but it weaves into the chapters all the history of canal construction, the story of canal people through the centuries, the remarkable story of how our canals were saved, and the modern canal scene. Jasper previously wrote about his journey by kayak around Ireland and he uses this mode of transport on several journeys, but notably along the Kennet & Avon. As an example of how the book is constructed, he describes a walk along the Huddersfield Canal but combines it with a discussion on the lives and roles of navvies and the history of Standedge Tunnel.
The book is clearly very well researched and illustrated with a good selection of historic illustrations and contemporary images. It is not a stuffy text and is amusing throughout. I presume CRT must have made resources available but there certainly no evidence of them being involved editorially in the book; the  chapter on live-aboards is evidence. The book covers all you could expect to read about today's canals putting into context how and why they survived and their impact on modern society. It even has a useful glossary of terms, a bibliography and lists of relevant music, film and websites. A great read.

I did note one small editing problem on page 214. The text states "I cycled through Bruce Tunnel".  Jasper clearly kayaked through the tunnel, after all there is no towpath. Mind you, in a book of this type with over 300 pages production slips like this are inevitable.

The see that Water Ways is available from the usual on-line outlets and also available as a download.

Milton Keynes Sojourn

With the glorious weather, and a gap in our busy schedule as grandparents, we took a short trip through Milton Keynes over the weekend returning to Yardley Gobion on Monday.

The weather was a little overcast on Saturday but the cloud soon burnt off and by Sunday the heatwave had really set in. The trip south on Saturday was characterised by hire boats coming north and day boats behaving erratically. At one point, near Gifford Park, it got interesting at a bridge hole. We went through the bridge with no sign of a boat coming north but were soon greeted by a hire boat rapidly coming north. The over confident steerer promptly lost control as he put the boat into reverse. Maggie who was steering indicated to a day boat closely following us that there was a problem ahead but her advice went totally unheeded and the two boats then came together right under the bridge. They took some time to sort themselves out - after that the day boat decided to proceed with more caution. 

Day boats at New Bradwell

Several sections in Milton Keynes are being dredged (hooray) but the disposal of material is interesting. Land & Water, who are the contractors have constructed containment areas to take the sludge. In some cases this just replaces banks that have washed away, but in some places, notably near Wolverton where there is a defined edge to the canal it appears the original channel width has been reduced.


Membrane and supports

With several wide beams mooring nearby for long periods that can make navigation a bit difficult.

Tight squeeze near Wolverton

Having negotiate Fenny Stratford Lock and Swing Bridge we finally stopped for the night just above Stoke Hammond Lock - one of our favourite moorings.

The next day saw us go south and turn around to head back north for Yardley. There are few convenient winding holes along this section of the Grand Union so we went up the Three Locks at Solebury. We accompanied a hire boat from Weedon who was out for a week. Discussing their plans, as you do, we discovered that the hirer had advised not mooring in Milton Keynes on the grounds of safety!!! I couldn't believe this advice. We have boated through Milton Keynes for many years and moored up in a variety of locations and never had any problems. Indeed we don't recall anyone ever reporting problems. It could be that there may have been some isolated incident that we are unaware of that prompted this advice, but a quick search of Canal World Discussion Forum will show that the consensus among boaters is that Milton Keynes is a safe area for boating and mooring.
"Jackdaw" pound

Above the Three Locks is "jackdaw pound". We have moored up in the pound but when travelling through last time we found it very shallow. There were carrying out dredging at the time and suspected that they had dropped the water levels. Certainly this time the level was good and were were able to wind Albert in the wide near the Old Linslade bridge without any difficulty.   

The trip to and from Old Linslade was made interesting by the large angling match going on. It was a case of "dead slow and go down the centre". We had a chat to some of the competitors and one caught a sizable fish just as we passed.  He was quite pleased because he hadn't had much luck until then. 

Fishing competition

The journey back north was punctuated by a stop at Stoke Hammond for lunch - we just had to listen to England beat Panama to reach the last sixteen of the World Cup.

Quiet bridges in Milton Keynes

That evening we moored up at Great Linford, which is in the north of Milton Keynes and managed to find a spot on the Parks Trust visitor moorings. They are usually busy but being Sunday evening the area was quiet. We had a delightful evening visiting the newly refurbished Nags Head for a drink and then enjoying the evening sun on board.  

Nags Head, Great Linford

Moonlight over the park, Great Linford

The next morning, Monday, we strolled around the parkland at Great Linford enjoying the morning sunshine.

Pond Great Linford

Manor House, Great Linford

Visitor Moorings Great Linford

We made our way back through Wolverton and Cosgrove to Yardley Gobion where we took on fuel and had a pump-out - we know how to have fun! Baxter's Boatyard had just fitted a new cover to their poly-tunnel that covers the dry dock. It looked smart. A great short trip.

Wharf, Yardley Gobion

Mysterious Sunbathing Herons

I have noted herons quite a few times in my posts. In particular, in 2009 I reported how I thought they were getting more bold and less afraid of boats passing. However, on Sunday when returning from a short trip through Milton Keynes and travelling north, I noticed behaviour by a couple of herons that was simply mystifying.

It has been pretty warm recently with official temperatures in the high twenties and temperatures measured on the boat in the low thirties. Passing through the area just north of Campbell Park, Milton Keynes, Maggie pointed out a cormorant drying its wings. Shortly afterwards, I looked over towards the towpath ahead and saw a heron with its wings in a very strange pose. I have seen herons using their wings to avoid the reflections when fishing but this bird was on the bank looking south towards the late afternoon sun with its wings extended forming a parabolic shape. It was as if it was trying to collect solar energy and warm its wings. The only problem is the weather was hot!

First "Sunbathing" Heron

Just to confirm the behaviour, just around the corner I passed another heron that was adopting the same unusual pose.

Second "Sunbathing" Heron 

It appears, from a web-search, that others have seen this behaviour in herons all over the world (Brazil, Africa and USA). It appears it may not be associated not with "sunbathing" or "wing drying", although these terms are used, but possibly cooling or thermo-regulation with some birds also seen to be gulping air.  (Not in this case). A similar image featuring a blue heron in Texas was published on a science blog a few years back and it provoked some interesting discussion about the reasons for the odd pose. Some have even termed it "bird yoga"

I suppose the pose could be for a mix of reasons, but whatever the reasons it is unusual and interesting to see with two birds relatively close to each other and on the same day. 

Flying Scotsman

Black Five 45212 and Flying Scotsman

No the title is not an error - Flying Scotsman is tucked in behind the Black Five.

Flying Scotsman was being double-headed on a special on its way north today from London Victoria to Carnforth. The Black Five made spotting her a little difficult but the event was improved by the the sound of a two-cylinder and a three-cylinder working together - they made an interesting rhythm. In the photo the train is passing Ashton in Northants which is not far from Stoke Bruerne. As all Scotsman events the crowds were out even at this rural location.

Waiting for the train