Sunday, June 03, 2007

Here we are again

Thanks for coming back, dear reader. Herbie now rests again at Iver after our latest trip which took us as far as Stoke Bruerne (just south of Northampton) with detours up the narrow arm to Aylesbury and up the Wendover arm for the Tring canal festival.

It has to be said that the weather was less than kind to us, and we have now tested our new waterproof clothing to the limit! Now where can I buy some good waterproof trainers?

Cruising statistics:
  • 145 miles and 184 locks, 25 days (of which 6 were stationary).
  • Fine days - 6; wet days - the rest!
  • Guest crew (in order of length of service) Jacob Corbett-MacLeod (7 days) Rick Bunnage ( 5 days), Marilyn and Tim Bunnage (1 day), Andrew, Kirsty and Stephen Taylor (Kaths great nephews/ neice) (half a day).
  • Wildlife spotted: Herons - about 10 a day, ducklings, goslings, cygnets, moorhen and coot chicks - hundreds, woodpeckers - 1, Kingfishers - 3.


Bumping into (not literally) Leon and Ray on the Old Bovine, now looking fabulous since Leon has repainted her. R&L were kind to us and Richard when his boat wouldn't start on the first day of our trip to deliver it to Huntingdon two years ago.

Hacking up the Aylesbury arm in the pouring rain with the Bunnages.
This is a relatively remote stretch and despite the weather we could see and hear lots of skylarks and near our arrival at Aylesbury we were welcomed by a brilliant flying display from dozens of swifts and swallows zooming around the boat. The canal basin in Aylesbury is run by a society who encourage visitors and have a welcome boat where they will see you have a safe place to moor.

Finding somewhere to eat in Aylesbury on a Sunday night is not easy, but we eventually found a very good friendly Indian restaurant where Rick and Marilyn treated us (thanks R&M). Next day we returned down the arm past Jem Bates Boatyard where he restores old wooden canal boats, where they have these wonderful mooring bollards in the shape of heads.

Breaking new ground for Herbie by getting north of Milton Keynes. The passage through MK is green and tranquil, you have no idea you are passing through a city. Just north of the city you pass over the Ouse valley aqueduct, which is short but scarily high,

and shortly after that pass under this nice old bridge before breaking out into the open Northamptonshire countryside.

Reaching Stoke Bruerne the famous canal village at the southern end of the Blisworth tunnel. This was on Kath's 60th birthday and Rick and Marilyn's wedding anniversary so we all went out for a meal.

Mooring at Great Linford in MK where we had our first fine day and did some rubbing down and painting on Herbie. This is a great place to stop. Peaceful and green with a pub with good food a short walk through the park. Here is the view from our side hatch. In the distance is the Nag's Head where we ate.

Taking the Taylor kids for the return trip through MK to Fenny Stratford. They had a great time and didn't want to get off when we stopped.

Spending two rest days at Fenny - a walk into IKEA for a few domestic bits for Herbie, and a good bit of rubbing down and painting. The port side gunwhale is now de-rusted, primed and undercoated and looks good - now I need to moor on the opposite side on a fine day to do the rest!

A fine day cruising from Fenny to Slapton near Ivinghoe where the countryside is lush and pretty as the canal follows alongside a winding stream. That night we explored the local pub (not as good as the guide book suggested) and then sat in the front well deck and enjoyed the warm evening. I got the fishing road out and caught some largeish bream and lost a big carp which gave me a few minutes run around.

A couple of splendid home cooked (real food) meals at our favourite Angler's Retreat at Marsworth, seen here from the bank of the adjacent reservoir which feeds the canal.

And finally, some nice weather for the last three days of the trip, when we were accompanied by a friendly couple on their boat Shallmar (their names were Graham and Sandra Marshall)

Interesting , but not exactly enjoyable highlights:

Tring canal festival in appalling weather. So bad that on Bank Holiday Monday the final day of the festival was abandoned. Such a great shame, as the festival's aim is to raise funds for the restoration of the remainder of the link to Wendover, but in the event it lost money instead.

Lastly, Jacob falling in the canal off the side of the boat as we were ploughing along. The water was deeper than him and he can swim, but was having difficulty as he was clothed and shocked. I had thrown him the life belt but he couldn't reach it. The boat has very poor brakes so he was some way behind when we stopped, so I had to dive in head first off the stern (remembering to take off my shoes and glasses first) and swim to him to help him into the side where it was shallow. We were both pretty shaken. Luckily it was a hot day and I was wearing only jeans and T-shirt. Had it been a few days earlier when I was wearing waterproofs and several layers of clothing I dread to think what would have happened. We will be reviewing safety procedures, and Jacob has readily agreed to return to wearing a lifejacket.

On the positive side, my watch is still ticking!

No comments: