Merry Christmas Everyone


from Yardley Gobion

Christmas Tree on Microsoft Windows 10 October 2018 Update

No not this year - a few years back!

Red Diesel Theft Gayton Marina

Living close to Gayton Marina and Blisworth Arm, I received the following message through our local Neighbourhood Watch and thought it might help to post it.

Message Type Icon

Northamptonshire Police are appealing for information.
There has been a Theft of Red Diesel which occurred Gayton Marina, Blisworth Arm, taken from boats and a crane used on site.
This happened between 01:00-02:00 Friday 21st December 2018

Did you witness anything?
Did you see any person(s) in the area that looked suspicious?
Did you see any vehicle(s) that you were suspicious of?
If so, then please contact Northamptonshire Police on 101
REF 18000619966
You can also provide confidential information should you wish to remain anonymous. These calls can be made to the Independent Charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
101 is the number to use to report incidents and for general enquiries. In an emergency dial 999.
In an emergency, when there is a crime in progress or a life at risk, always call 999.

To report a crime or incident, provide information or for advice, call 101 or visit
To contact your Neighbourhood Team covering Towcester and surrounding villages they can be contacted on the following email:
You can also provide confidential information should you wish to remain anonymous.  These calls can be made to the Independent Charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or visit

Progress on the New Milton Keynes Marina

Since we've been back home the new Campbell Wharf Marina near the city centre in Milton Keynes has been coming on a pace.  Our monthly walking group held its annual Christmas Dinner at The Barge Woolstone in Milton Keynes on Tuesday. As is customary for our group we had a walk in the morning and it included a section in Campbell Park.

New marina with jetties being installed

From the park it was possible to see the progress being made with jetties being installed. I see from their web site video that yesterday they installed the footbridge across the Grand Union.

The walk around Campbell Park and beyond (about 7 miles) was very pleasant with the recent rains abating and very little wind.

A couple of obligatory group photos in Campbell Park

Bed Storage Project

Storage on narrowboats, irrespective of their length, is always valuable. Our double bed, which is 4 ft wide and therefore technically a "small double", sat on a fixed base. Originally the storage under the bed consisted of a box stretching across half the bed and accessible via two drop down flaps, and two modest drawers strategically positioned  at the end of the bed (where there is a small alcove adjacent to the Alde heating and one of our two wardrobes).

The bed base on Albert was originally constructed from wooden slats. Soon after purchasing Albert I discovered that half the area under the bed base was unused and the space wasted. Getting access to this area was simple - I just cut the slats in half and lifted them out position whenever I needed access. Thus was born Albert's deep storage.

However, the physical effort to gain access was considerable because it required lifting and removing the heavy mattress. Over the years this deep storage has become invaluable, particularly for bedding and duvets, but the effort involved became a chore. Recently, with the change from summer to autumn boating, and the need to accommodate some extra bedding for our grandchildren, we accessed the deep storage on several occasions and it became irksome, so I began to contemplate improving access to the whole of the under bed area.

My concept was for a lifting solid base using gas struts that would allow for easy access to both sides of the bed. I chose 18 mm thick plywood sheeting for the base and used the cutting service at B & Q to get it accurately cut to the bed aperture. The next stage was to provide suitable ventilation via a series 48 x 70 mm holes cut by hole-saw. It took most of an afternoon to carry this out tedious task but I was pleased with the result.

Ventilated Bed Base

To provide lift (and support) I chose two locking gas struts hinges from SGS. The weight to be lifted is required for specifying the struts. In this case the mattress weight was not easy to obtain. We purchased our mattress in 2016 from John Lewis but strangely the don't regularly provide mattress weights. It took some phone calls and a couple of days before I eventually got hold of a furniture specialist who provided the data. Our mattress weighs in at 24 kg and the base 18 kg.

Fitting the hinges required some physical effort because of the size and weight of the board and aligning the hinges was not simple but I achieved it using the instructions from SGS. Once in place the hinges worked well, so now we can get to deep storage without great effort.

("normal" left & what was "deep" to the right)

SGS Locking Gas Strut Hinge

Back to Yardley Gobion

Frosty Morning in Berkhamsted

We travelled back to Albert on the evening of Thursday 1st November so we could get an early start on the Friday. The aim was to return Albert to Kingfisher Marina over the weekend. It was interesting negotiating the towpath in the dark but it was clear that in the intervening four nights the empty moorings had filled up a bit. We immediately set the stove and turned on the Alde and tried to get the boat warm. The morning was clear and very crisp with a good layer of frost on the roof.


As I opened up the hatches on Friday to sort our the exhaust stack, chimney etc. I was greeted by an unusual sight. A professional photographer was taking advantage of the light to photograph a young ballet dancer in a variety of poses around Ravens Lane Lock. Wearing her leotard she was obviously having to brave the cold. Her mother was carrying a blanket that she used between shots and she had a trolley bag with her clothes in! I presume that the shots were to be used for her portfolio - quite a bizarre moment.

Moved off after an early breakfast and picked up water in the town. Maggie visited Waitrose for supplies as I waited for the tank to fill. By mid morning we were working our way out of Berkamsted into Northchurch where were at one of the locks we met another boat going in our our direction. We were able to share the locks for the first time since Brentford. The other boat was going to Cowroast for a few days before taking part in the floating Christmas Markets later in the month.

Cowroast Lock

Tring summit

Bulborne Dry Dock

The trip across the Tring summit was quiet with no other boats moving and just a couple of walkers. At Bulborne we started to see some boat movement and going down the Marsworth flight we passed boats going in the other direction.

Marsworth Flight

The clocks had changed to GMT so dusk came very early but we managed to reach the last two locks on the flight just before dark. Unfortunately, the pound between the two last locks was well down. I was on the boat and Maggie was on the bank operating the locks. She warned me of the levels so to try I crept into the pound slowly but ran aground about half-way between the locks. We let some water down and after about 10 minutes we had enough to get afloat again and gingerly enter the lock.

We moored up just below the flight. It is a quiet location away from the train-line.

The next day, Saturday 3rd November, we were again up early and took Albert back across "The Fields" to Leighton Buzzard. A series of Wyvern Shipping hire boats were out for some late autumn cruising and passed us going South. There were also a number of live-aboards moving their boats.

Mike Askin's motor Victoria and butty Mercury at Leighton Buzzard

Bloggers Derwent 6 moored up at The Globe at Leighton Buzzard

We reached the Three Locks at Soulbury and moored up just below the lower lock. We hadn't managed to moor there for some time, because this is usually a popular mooring. That night had an early meal at the Three Locks Inn. It was delicious. The inn is part of the small chain that include 185 Watling Street in Towcester which we can also recommend.

On the Sunday morning, 4th November we dropped down our last significant lock at Stoke Hammond where we met a crew coming up (very handy) and then cruised through Milton Keynes to home.

Since we passed through MK a month ago the contractors working on the new marina and other developments at Campbell Park had made significant progress.

New marina in Milton Keynes

So in our month away from Yardley Gobion it appears we have travelled about 170 miles and passed through 176 locks.

Berkhamsted Again

We woke at Hunton Bridge on Saturday October 28th to some cold clear weather. Today our aim was to reach Berkhamsted where we we planned to leave Albert for a few days so we could return home by train for some childcare duties in Northants.

Setting off to operate the first lock of the day

North Grove Lock

We left just after eight and made great progress up through Kings Langley, Apsley and Hemel Hempstead. At Fisheries Lock where we had lunch on the way south, Maggie popped in to the excellent cafe and bought us a take-away lunch. It would have been great to linger and have a meal in the cafe but tempus fugit and we wanted to get to Berko before dark.

On some stretches, notably just north of Winkwell, some pounds were quite low and we were pleased not to be stopping overnight around there.

Also there are many locks where you have to raise a bottom paddle and leave the lock empty. At Bottom Side Lock (57) there were the usual signs requesting this and then at Lock 58 Sewer Lock the signs took a humorous turn, perhaps with a nod to the name of the lock!



Maggie, who took these images decided not to reveal the modification to the CRT name but it is obvious. 

The leakage referred to in these notices is not the usual leakage due to badly fitted gates, faulty paddle mechanisms and worn mitres but leakage into the lock walls due to poor brickwork and a lack of mortar (pointing). At Lock 57 this is very obvious when you look at the dreadful condition of the brickwork. Large sections of the lock chamber walls are missing bricks. Eventually this can lead to the sort of lock chamber failure that occurred a few years ago on the Aylesbury Arm.

Poor lock brickwork

It is obvious that leaving locks empty helps eke out the life of brickwork but it only puts off the day when proper remedial action is required.

We made Berkhamsted just before dark and moored up immediately above Ravens Lane Lock. As we got to the mooring, opposite Castle Wharf which was the same as we had used going south, we wondered quite why the moorings ahead were so quiet. Between the Crystal Palace and The Boat pubs there was only one boat other than Albert - a small fibre-glass cruiser. Only a month ago we had claimed the last overnight mooring on this section. I can only assume that CRT had ushered the boats we saw earlier  onto winter moorings elsewhere in the town.

Quiet moorings in Berkhamsted

That night we tried cooking some chestnuts we had picked from a tree in our village on our stove. They cooked well and tasted fine - free food often tastes excellent!

Chestnut roasting

On the Sunday morning we scrubbed up Albert, packed a couple of bags and after an excellent Sunday Lunch at The Boat we head home on the train. It took just over 30 mins to get to Milton Keynes.

Good stuff and the brand has a rowing connection
(see the double sculler)

Hunton Bridge

The next day, Friday 26th October started as a wet a quite miserable day with some miles and locks to be "put on the clock". The run through places such as Harefield were quiet with only a few other hardened travellers on the move. In fact it wasn't until Springwell Lock that we met another boat at a lock going the other. Strangely they appeared to be complete novices at boat handling.  

Working Pair near Denham

A morning rainbow near Springwell

As we got near Rickmansworth the weather began to improve and later in the day going through Watford it was really a quite pleasant autumn afternoon.

Wonderful selection of canal ephemera at Stockers Lock Cottage

We stopped off for supplies at Tesco in Rickmansworth and then pressed on through Batchworth Lock. We found it hard to resist (but did) the smell off bacon butties emanating from the cafe @ lock 81. Instead we decided we just had to have lunch on the move again and eat our customary fare of soup and sandwiches as we approached Common Moor Lock.

The trip through Cassiobury Park was as delightful as ever with walkers out in force. We pressed on with light fading and moored up just passed Hunton Bridge Locks. Givwen out troubles here on the way south we didn't want to risk mooring up below the "leaky locks". 

Denham (just above The Deep)

We left Brentford basin early on Thursday October 25th because we didn't want to impede our neighbours on the inside (we were breasted-up) and we were keen to make good progress north because we were due back home the weekend. Now we new we were going to make Northamptonshire but we did was to be somewhere convenient to leave Albert for a few days.

Approaching GSK Headquarters at Brentford

The weather was cold an bright and a lot better for locking than on our way down when we had driving rain. A CRT maintenance boat left Brentford just ahead of us and we met it in the first lock (Clitheroe) and we faced the prospect of following it up the Hanwell flight filling each lock. However, just as we reached Hanwell Bottom Lock we found the CRT boat stopped with rubbish around their prop so they followed us up the flight. Volunteers from CRT we supposed to be on duty to help with the locks but they weren't answering their phone; so we went up alone. It was a decent run and the pounds were well filled so we had no problems. Eventually a single volunteer did appear just as we crossed Three Bridges (I usually point out at this point that there are actually only two bridges despite its name - one road and one canal and the railway at the "bottom" doesn't have a bridge). The volunteer set the Norwood Locks, which are the top two in the flight for us.

Entering a lock on the Hanwell Flight next to the "asylum wall"

Once clear of the Hanwell flight it was a clear run with good weather through to Cowley Peachey. Lunch was on the move again (sandwiches and soup). We stopped at High Line Yachting mid-afternoon for a gas bottle since one ran out in Brentford.

Looking down the Slough Arm

Does everybody promise that one day they might go down the Slough Arm just for the hell of it? We have passed it on many occasions and that thought always crosses my mind. 

There were very few boats moving but as we got near Uxbridge a few were involved in visiting water  points and sanitary stations. The day light soon started fading fast so we finally called it a day just above Denham Deep lock where there was an excellent quiet mooring with rings. 

Tideway to Brentford

On October 24th, the Wednesday day of the half-term week, we left the non-tidal Thames and went back to the Grand Union at Brentford. Passage was booked for 3 o'clock at high tide so we had a leisurely cruise down to Teddington Lock where we had lunch.

Enjoying lunch in the sun

Moored up at the lock

Once again the weather was kind with clear blue skies and lots of sun. Unlike the passage upriver this was at a full-moon with spring tide. The difference was marked with the tide taking the water level over the banks near Richmond.

As we left the lock with another narrow boat that was going down to their moorings at Chelsea Harbour, a gaggle of boats coming up on the tide from Brentford arrived. This included the former GUCC working-boat Dover that was featured some time back in a TV series.

Passing NB Dover at Teddington

Just a little downstream is the obelisk marking the border between the Port of London Authority and the old Thames Conservancy.  I've reported about the monument before (2008) - but from the bank.

Thames Conservancy/ Port of London marker near Teddington

Thames full to the brim at Richmond Hill

Passed by a PLA Cutter near Richmond

Richmond Bridge



It was another delightful passage but as we got closer to Brentford the tide began to kick-in. It was first noticeable as we passed some buoys but then we definitely began moving more quickly.  As always the turn into Brentford created interest. The entrance to the Grand Union is not very noticeable and you have to watch closely to spot it. Also the maneuver turning across the stream usually requires some power and this time was no exception; but we also had to cope with some racing eights and their coaching launches. 

Passing some large vessels at Brentford

We had a warm welcome from the CRT lock keeper at the Thames Lock but by then the light was beginning to fade. We made it up through the automated Gauging Lock which had its own clean air initiative.
CRT's clean air initiative at Brentford

The mooring situation in Brentford basin was dire. No free spaces because nearly all berths are either 14 days or winter moorings. A developer wanting to sell posh flats has also taken out some spaces to install a pontoon with no rings and a sign saying No Mooring. The idea appears to be to make those visiting the show flat (basically a temporary box) avoid looking out over unsightly boats. Shades of what happened to the visitor moorings in Paddington Basin, Mind you some of the boats moored up on the 14 day moorings by our reckoning had been there over a month. After some persistence we finally double-berthed (breasted-up) against the inspection launch Peggy May who had come up the Tideway to Teddington with us earlier in the month.

Our overnight mooring at Brentford

In the evening we visited the excellent The Weir which is nearby and had a farewell early dinner with the family. A very enjoyable meal to end the day and our Thames Cruise. It was back to Grand Union locking in the morning.