The Grove (and a most unusual boat)

Again the weather was disappointing today but, looking on the bright side, it didn't rain and it was a bank holiday Monday! We got to the first lock today to discover the blue boat from yesterday leaving their mooring below the lock with another crew. The often tricky swing bridge by the Three Horseshoes Inn was easy today because last night a water leak had closed the road. In some respects I was a little disappointed not to cause minor traffic delays by operating the bridge - it is usually a "rat run".

We also met Mike Askin with his Royalty Class working boat Victoria. Mike was going north to Etruria; a long journey single handed. We passed Mike a few years ago just along this stretch but that time we were each going the other direction. I just had to compliment Mike on his You Tube channel which is full of great canal-related videos.

NB Victoria near Winkwell

We followed other boats going south and met other boats going north all day. It was quite busy. This included NB Morpheus which our friends Bob and Helen Westlake have a part share in - it's a small world. 

Eventually we joined up with the blue boat again for the locks near Apsley where they stopped. It turns out the boat is called Otter and it will be moored in Apsley Marina for a year. We stopped near Nash Mills for lunch and then continued south passing under the M25. At this point you feel that London is approaching.

Passing under the M25 near Kings Langley

Near Hunton Bridge Locks we passed what must rate as perhaps the most unusual boat modification. A VW Touran welded to the stern of a boat. Maggie fantasized that perhaps the boat is steered from the car driving seat, but maybe she's right I suppose it makes a change from the stern canopies that in recent years have become common on narrow-boats. Could the crew perhaps use the windscreen wipers and indicators?

VW Touran - narrow-boat version

Through the last three locks of the day we followed a broken-down boat being breasted-up backwards. They made slow going. We might meet them again tomorrow because we didn't pass them.

Breasted-up pair entering lock

We moored up for the night near The Grove luxury golf and country club. It appears that this year the British Masters tournament is being played here. In the past The Grove has often hosted the England Football Team ahead of important tournaments.


On Bank Holiday Sunday the morning was cloudy and cooler than of late. We worked our way up the Marsworth flight meeting more boats than of yesterday. We were also passed by runners on the Birmingham to London Canal Race. Starting at 6:00 AM on Saturday they were by then (9:00 AM) walking rather than running. Most were looking forward to breakfast at the Grand Junction Arms and some were confused by the towpath route. One poor guy was about to give up with sore feet.

Tring Summit 

We thought the long distance runners were quite an unusual sight until we discovered hords of school girls on a 20k sponsored walk. All from Golders Green, they told us that over 900 were taking part. They formed a never ending trail snaking up the hill. There was lots of gaiety and interest in the boats. We were told the boys would be along later and true enough some were.

Another Albert moored at Cowroast

After we crossed the summit the weather slowly improved. By the time we reached Berkhamsted the crowds we out enjoying the sun.

Taking on water at Berkhamsted

Berkhamsted totem pole

Berkhamsted port

The popular Rising Sun Inn

Most of the afternoon we went down the locks with a 31 ft boat with a crew of two young men. We ended up making a good locking team - practice makes perfect.

Eventually we called it a day just above Winkwell. Unfortunately a dead swan was floating nearby. I thought deaths of swans were notifiable but a call to DEFRA put me right - "Only interested, sir, if there are a number dead". Some advice on the web says other than this but they are the authority. A little girl who saw it floating with its head tucked under its wing said "Daddy that swans been asleep all day". Maybe we should have told the Queen that one of her royal birds was dead.

Going South

Departure Selfie

After several years of going north for our summer cruising, this year we are off south. We left Kingfisher Marina on Friday morning and headed through Milton Keynes. Our aim is to visit London and travel on the Lea and Stort Navigations. We planned a similar trip some years ago but got sidetracked into travelling up the Tideway - more exciting! As usual with our longer trips we intend to return home; this time to go to a local classic car event.

The first thing we noticed going through Milton Keynes was the large number of wide beam boats close to the city. With lots of good moorings and handy road connections (bridges) MK is popular for residential boaters. Between Cosgrove Lock and Stoke Hammond we passed 36 wide beam boats. At one time there would have been none. I remember when a few years ago the wide beam Moose Drool arrived at The Campbell Park residential moorings near MK city centre and being amazed by its size. Now there are similar boats all though the city.

The weather was warm and sunny and we made good progress. We got to Soulbury Locks around 6:00 pm and found the local IWA out in force having a fund raising event providing assistance up the flight. A number of Wyvern Shipping hire boats were coming down the flight on their first day out over the bank holiday weekend. Some clearly hadn't paid attention to their pre-cruise briefing with crew standing on the roof and also forgetting to drop top gate paddles. We moored up above the top lock and found a Wyvern boat across the cut. It appeared another Wyvern boat had gone past too quickly and pulled out its pins. We managed to find the crew of the boat across the cut in the pub.

We spent a lovely evening enjoying the sun and a meal at the Three Locks. We returned to Albert to find another pair of boats across the cut - again caused by a Wyvern boat going too fast (according to a witness). This time we pulled the boats on an reinstated the mooring  pins ourselves. You might think that was enough "excitment" but about 9:45 another Wyvern boat past in the dark with its tunnel light on! There was no mooring space left above the locks so I suppose they went down the flight in the dark!

IWA Display at Soulbury

Slapton Trip and a Sad Time

We had planned for some time to take Albert on a round trip to Aylesbury. Our friends Anne & Edward Winter were to join us for the return journey. The plan was to leave on the afternoon of Tuesday April 19th get to Aylesbury by the Friday and then take a more leisurely journey back. The journey started inauspiciously with us leaving an important bag at home. This required a turn around at Cosgrove and added an extra one hour and three quarters to our journey. However, we soon made good progress - it was great to be on the move again and the weather was very kind.

Cosgrove Lock in spring sunshine
A short boat with a great name

Crossing the  River Ouse on the Iron Trunk at Cosgrove

Spring Chicks
 Passing through Wolverton we glimpsed the Secret Garden and then met working boat Cyprus crossing the new aqueduct near New Bradwell. The steerer lost his hat in the wind.

Wolverton's Secret Garden

Passing NB Cyprus
 We moored up for the night by The Plough in Simpson and we went out to Pizza Express near the MK Dons stadium with our Emily, Andy and our grandson Hugh. They had had a day out in Cambridgeshire to celebrate Andy's birthday.

The following day we left relatively earlier with the plan to put in some miles. We shared the very shallow lock at Fenny Stratford with another boat but they we travelling so slowly. At Stoke Hammond a wide beam managed to leave the lock with a paddle up making life difficult for a following hire boat who strictly speaking "took our water". The difficulty at this point is seeing boats coming around the corner. Going up Soulbury Three Locks we had help from CRT volunteer lock keepers but the pounds were low and entering the last lock was "interesting". A stop at Leighton Buzzard Tesco followed although the 2 hour visitor moorings were full making mooring difficult. We then met up with another boat for Grove and Church Locks.

It was along this stretch that we heard that Maggie's mum who was in a care home in Northampton was unwell. This was worrying but she was being monitored carefully and at that time she was not causing concern. Unfortunately she took a turn for the worst during the afternoon and by the time we reached Slapton in the evening we were advised to come to see her. We left the boat and travelled to Northampton arriving to find her very poorly. She passed away peacefully early the next morning with her family at her bedside. At 96 years old she had a long and happy life but we shall miss her dearly.
Maggie and Mollie aboard Albert in 2005 

In memory of happy times with Mollie I have posted above a photo taken near Great Linford eleven years ago when we took Mollie out for a trip along the Grand Union. She enjoyed coming on Albert and always took an interest in our journeys and follow us on a Inland Waterways Map until dementia cruelly reduced her capabilities.

After Mollie's passing on theThursday morning we took the boat back home to Yardley Gobion with the assistance of Anne & Edward Winter. They raised our spirits ahead of the difficult times we will undoubtedly have when the funeral takes place.

Anne helping Maggie with a lock gate

Descending Soulbury Three Locks