Teddington via the Tideway

We had booked our passage to Teddington on the single available tide just after midday, so we spent the morning preparing Albert - getting out our lifejackets, fitting the anchor and generally tidying up. As the song goes, what a difference a day makes! The sun was bright in a clear blue sky and the wind was calm. Just the day for trip along the Thames.
Message to dogs and their owners, Brentford Gauging Lock

We had the benefit of a volunteer keeper at the gauging lock and then met the only other boat going up to Teddington which turned out to be a Peter Nicholls Inspection Launch - Peggy May. It was their first time on the Tideway and they appeared happy they we could accompany them.

A narrowboat soon approached from Limehouse and went up the lock. We then dropped onto the river and proceeded upstream.

Brentford in the background


Richmond Half-Lock


Richmond Hill

Teddington Lock

It was a glorious cruise and we made Teddington Lock in just over an hour. The lock was set ready for us and we then sorted out our EA Licence. It was then time for us to travel across the river to the moorings at The Lensbury where we will keep Albert for a few days ahead of cruising with the family. They were there to greet us.


Last Saturday was meant to be a wet day and the forecast was right. The day started with fine mist as we made our way from Black Jacks Mill Lock towards Denham and Uxbridge, but it wasn't until we reached Cowley Peachey that the rain really started and then it just got heavier and heavier.

Denham Deep Lock
Another Albert at Uxbridge

Bull's Bridge and the Paddington Arm

We stopped off at High Line Yatching, close to the Slough Arm, for some fuel. Unfortunately the pump-out at the marina was not working. The long pound to the Norwood Top Lock (Hanwell Flight) was negotiated quite quickly and by 2:00 PM we had started to drop down the flight. The collection of safety locks on the top lock made filling the lock slow and then in a repeat of Friday a boater moored nearby pointed out the pound below the lock was low! 

The pound was down over a couple of feet but it was no where near as bad as at Hunton Bridge. We proceeded to fill the pound in the pouring rain and after about 15 minutes noticed a working boat coming out of Norwood Bottom Lock. It was a NB Ash a working boat delivering fuel and gas. Drawing a good 3 ft they quickly ran aground in the middle of the pound. They were therefore relieved to find we were filling the pound and after 10 minutes they were able to float back into the lock where they unfortunately discovered their prop was fouled by a large towelling robe. It was safe to say they were not in a good humour. Without a weed-hatch it took some time to remove but it did eventually come free with a lot of pulling with the boat-hook and they were eventually able to make the top lock.

NB Ash

Finally, after almost an hour, it was our turn to go down to the lower lock. As we approached  the bottom lock, which from the start had been set in our favour, we found the gates had been closed, the water dropped and a boat was blocking the entrance to the lock. The crew of the boat blocking the lock were in fact down the weed-hatch trying to free their prop! All we could do was wait but it was frustrating. I think in total it took us 90 mins to go through the two locks!

The Hanwell Flight of seven locks then followed. Not pleasant in the rain and passage was made more difficult by the crew of a  cruiser coming up the flight who proceeded to close a set of gates just as we reached a lock. They appeared to be group of students and were quite clearly complete novices. We also came across a single-handed boat whose crew had lost a windlass and was using an adjustable spanner. 

Brentford Mooring

Cold and wet we finally made Brentford Basin around 4:30 PM and claimed the last visitor mooring which was just under the remains of the warehouse canopy that extends over the cut. We both found out just how leaky our "waterproof" clothing was. 

Disappearing Cut

Today we had an early start (8:00) and left the mooring in Kings Langley with the aim of putting some miles and locks behind us so we could reach the Thames by the weekend. It was misty for the early part of the day and immediately we found one difference from yesterday - locks set in our favour. As we passed by The Grove golf course the sun was coming out and the players on the tee nearest the canal proffered a cheery wave. All was going well until just before the Hunton Bridge locks when a pedestrian warned us that "there was no water in the canal". As an optimist I am inclined to take this sort of statement with a pinch of salt, but in this case she was absolutely right. The pound between locks 72 and 73 was not just low but dry. It was clear that our morning's good  progress was at an end and we were were in for a serious delay.  It was also obvious that there was no point in just filling the pound using the usual method because we had no idea if their was underlying problem, of if raising paddles would cause more problems.

There was also no obvious cause for the water loss because all paddles and gates were in place. It was clear we were the first to arrive at the incident so I phoned up CRT for help. They sent Paul whose first reaction was a welcoming "oh no not again!". It appears the gates on Hunton Bridge Bottom lock are a known issue since both sets can sit awkwardly and there some underlying problems with the chamber of the bottom lock. Paul's best guess was one set of gates might have been left ajar.

The key to solving the problem was simply refilling it with water, but as Paul pointed out, it had to be done gently and slowly to avoid detritus flowing down the cut and jamming the gates and causing even more problems. The condition of the gates also had to be checked. All-in-all it took a couple of hours to get us back on track going south.

A full pound!
We finally go going around 11:00 and had a delightful cruise down through Cassiobury Park, Watford and Rickmansworth. The latter was very full of moored boats with no space for visitors from Batchworth to Stockers locks. We finally stopped for the night at Black Jack Mill Lock. Tomorrow we strike out for Brentford but it might rain in the afternoon. 

Kings Langley

A hard day locking today (Thursday) with most locks on the descent being empty. For most of the day we appeared to be the only boat on the move, despite the good weather.

Winkwell swing bridge and The Three Horseshoes

Just as we wondered what to do about lunch we reached Fishery Lock and discovered the Fishery Wharf Cafe. This former pop-up is based in a series of ramshackle buildings along the canal and is a quirky setting. We had a couple of delicious chicken wraps a soft drinks. They went down a treat as we sat out enjoying the sun. It appeared to be a popular lunch location for locals.

Fishery Wharf Cafe

Fishery Inn

 After lunch we continued working locks and finally decided, around 5 o'clock to call it a day at Kings Langley. We contemplated going on until six but were persuade to stop by the discovery of a good mooring and other boaters descriptions of mooring congestion around Watford.


Following Tuesday night at Pitstone we went up the Marsworth flight stopping for water at the junction the Aylesbury Arm. For the rest of the flight we were accompanied by another boat and then had the added help of the CRT volunteers. We made good time to the Tring summit and on to Cowroast.

Negotiating Marsworth Locks

Tring cutting

After Cowroast we started our descent to the Thames. We stopped off at the shopping/drop off moorings at Berkhamsted for provisions from Waitrose before moving down to a mooring near Raven's Lane Lock. The mooring was opposite the interesting property where the hire company Bridgewater Boats used to operate from.

Berkhamsted moorings

Also opposite, but a little harder to make out, was the Parish Church where Maggie's parents were married in 1945.
View of Berkhamsted Parish Church

We decided that our hard work locking needed rewarding so we went to the excellent Boat Inn for a drink - Oliver's Island bitter and Cornish Orchards cider - both went down a treat and the pub surroundings were very pleasant. Being a Fullers pub the menu was similar to that of the Grove Lock. It was well patronised.

Walking to Mentmore

We are part of a walking group of friends based around Milton Keynes that has a monthly walk. This month we arranged a walk based on the Grand Union to fit in with our travel plans. On Tuesday we moored Albert between Church Lock and Slapton but started (and finished) the walk at The Grove Lock inn. Albert served as a coffee stop for our friends.

Walking group and Albert

Lots of coffee mugs
(We used three cafetieres)

The route we planned walked along the towpath towards Slapton but left the canal near Bridgego Bridge otherwise known as the Great Train Robber bridge and climbed out of the valley to Mentmore before returning to Grove Lock via Ledburn.

The weather was kind, the company good and the food at the pub fine.

After the walk we moved on to Pitstone. The pound above Horton's Lock was shallow and we touched the bottom a couple of times but all-in-all it was a pleasant late afternoon trip.

Mooring up at Pitstone as the sun sets

Leighton Buzzard

We are on our way south for an autumn break on the Thames, or at least that's the plan. We left Yardley Gobion on Saturday morning in warm sunshine with the forecast of dropping temperatures but not much rain. Looking out over the valley of the River Tove near Castlethorpe reminded us how pleasant our home waters are. Within half a mile we were chasing a kingfisher down the cut.

Tove Valley looking towards Hanslope

Phillips bridge Cosgrove

We pushed on through Milton Keynes because our aim was to be in Leighton Buzzard for Sunday. As we passed through Wolverton a boat was going North with a small terrier trotting along the towpath happily wagging his tail. The small dog suddenly stopped, turned around and proceeded to follow our boat. The dog followed us for quite some distance and would not turn around and return to his owner's boat, which had stopped and was trying to encourage the dog to return. Luckily a walker arrived on the scene and managed to turn him around and he trotted back to the right boat.

As we passed through Campbell Park the first of a steady stream of Wyvern Shipping hire-boats came past going north. They had certainly chosen a good weekend for a break. We didn't find many boats going our direction until we met a broad-beam hire boat (yes there are such things) going south very slowly. The crew were under instruction and were not familiar with boat handling. Getting such a large craft through some of the narrow bridge holes near Simpson was tricky and not helped by overhanging trees restricting the navigation. Following behind we were reduced to going astern on a few occasions to slow down enough. The crew of the broad beam soon got the hang of it and after the instructor left them at Fenny Stratford they began to make good progress.

Trees, narrow bridges and wide boats

We stopped off at Stoke Hammond Lock for the night.

Today we moved on to Leighton Buzzard and by lunch we had found a mooring just above the Linslade/Leighton bridge. We took on water just before mooring up and met NB Morpheus.

Passing breasted up working boats above Leighton Lock

The afternoon was spent with our daughter Emily and grandchildren visiting the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway. Based on the sand extraction quarry area of the town this is a wonderful little railway that winds around the town with numerous level crossings. They were having a motor cycle event as well as running steam and diesel locos. We went on a train to the Stonehenge Quarry and back which was double-headed by two diesel locos each powered by 22 HP twin-cylinder diesels (not too dissimilar to the 2YWM in Albert). Matilda and Hugh really enjoyed the trip, particularly when the train stopped the traffic on the road.

Double-head diesels


However, the highlight of the afternoon (for me) was driving an 1877 loco called Chaloner with a vertical boiler. It was great fun. It's a wonderfully basic locomotive and doesn't even have a cab or spring suspension.




Driving Experience

The Leighton Buzzard Railway runs a whole series of events and I am sure we will be back. I would certainly recommend it if you are in Leighton Buzzard and want an afternoon off the boat.

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