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.