Lived onboard Hadar

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Monday 17th November.

Cosgrove to Giffard Park. 4.8 miles.

A grey old morning greeted us, with spits and spots of rain falling on the waters surface. This was as good as it was going to get. The usual morning procedures took place, most important of all was Paddy’s walk, which this time took us up towards Cosgrove Lock. Cosgrove moorings warden is Hazel, and she keeps a close eye on anything that goes on during a boaters stay between bridge 65 and north of the aqueduct. If you have any problems with the moorings you can go and chat to her, she also makes an effort to drop off a letter to any new boat mooring up, letting them know which boat she lives on in case you should need her. Hazel also keeps an eye on the boats that use the winter moorings, which are reserved from the 1st October. Before we got ready to slip from the mooring, I had to brush of the mountain of leaves which had settled on the boat's roof over the weekend. They made for good camouflage. Having uncovered Hadar from her leafy blanket we set off at 9.20am, destination Tesco at Wolverton. We crossed the Great Ouse Aqueduct and passed the site of Wolverton’s medieval village, before mooring up to walk to Tesco which is only a short walk from the canal. The moorings are over shadowed by new apartments being built. Having done the shopping, I put the food supplies away whilst Keith moved the boat through Milton Keynes. Sadly the weather did not brighten up at all, although the rain did lie off for a short period. If it were not for the golden leaves still left on the trees, it would have been a drab old journey. Just after Stonebridge to our left is a disused Windmill that can be clearly seen from the canal. Through the trees we could now see the many lakes which hug the canal on our way to Giffard Park. These lakes are also home to a wildfowl centre. Before reaching Giffard Park we past Stantonbury and Linford Wharfs, murky weather closed right in and heavy drizzle started coming down. We decided that we would stop at Giffard Park, after a boater flagged us down for three bags of coal. It seemed as good a time as any to stop with the time now being 12.50pm. We unloaded three bags of coal for our customer and I then made us some soup with crusty bread for lunch. Having eaten lunch, I went on the hunt for a post box. It did not take me long as I asked a young woman walking her dog if there was a post box anywhere near, and she pointed me in the direction of bridge 78, where the Giffard park pub is situated. I walked to the bridge and there I found not just the pub, I also found a post box, post office and a One Stop shop for any provisions needed. You can see the pub from the canal but there is no signage to say that there is a post office etc hidden behind the hedge. There is also a BW sanitary station to hand, which is always useful. The rest of our day was taken up with doing the boat chores, or brushing mats and washing floors. At this time of the year the wooden floors get dirty very quickly, especially with Paddy running in and out with wet feet. People seem to think that because you are on a boat, there is nothing to do, as far as housework (boat) is concerned. It is just the same as living in a house. You still need to do washing up, tidying up, dusting etc. The dusting tends to be more with two fires going. So with all the chores done and Paddy walked, we could settle down to our evening meal. I made a homemade Steak and Ale Pie using Puff Pastry. I was never sure which ale to use so went for a Newcastle Brown and it worked really well. The meat, onions and mushrooms were left cooking all day in the back cabin stove. So when cooked the meat just fell apart mmmm. The good test of a nice meal is that Keith clears his plate. It was very nice although I say it myself. After that I made up the back stove fire, before damping it down for the night. We then sat and watched K19 The Widowmaker, with Liam Neeson and Harrison Ford on Film 4 and I’m a celebrity get me out of here on ITV1 before heading off to bed.

Tuesday 18th November.

Giffard Park to Fenny Stratford. 5.4 miles.

What greeted me as I got off the boat to walk Paddy, did not bode well as far as the weather was concerned. It was drizzling heavily, which I find is the worst kind of rain, as it tends to totally soak you. But never the less Paddy needed his walk, so we headed off along the towpath, meeting up with a couple of Greyhounds and their owner. Once he had done his business, we were back onboard Hadar and drying out, whilst eating breakfast and enjoying a cuppa. We were in no hurry to leave, so were prepared to see what the weather did. As it turned out the drizzle soon stopped and the sun came out, so we set off at 10.05am. What strikes you is the amount of countryside there is, despite the fact that it is all part of Milton Keynes. There is a lot of parkland along with the many new houses that have gone up over the years, merging Fenny Stratford and Bletchley with Milton Keynes. There seems to be some confusion as to what season we are in at the moment, because we saw a number of trees with blossom on them.We were fortunate as always to see plenty of wildlife about. These included a Kestrel looking for breakfast, rabbits, sea gulls, cormorants, and this young heron, who was in two minds as to whether he should fly off or not.We arrived at Fenny Stratford at 12.10pm and moored up before Fenny Stratford Lock on the 14 day moorings. Having eaten sandwiches for lunch, we took a stroll up to Fenny Stratford Lock, which has a swing bridge across the middle of it. The walk into Fenny Stratford is about ¼ of a mile. When we got there we immediately walked into Pollards, a really old fashioned Ironmongers shop. It was absolutely fabulous, and we came away with a few bits and bobs for the boat. There is also a Londis, chemist, pharmacy and many other little shops. We carried on walking and found ourselves in Bletchley, which I guess is a round a mile’s walk. It was quite a surprise as to the amount of shops it has, which included the good old charity shops. In one of the charity shops we managed to find a shower head to replace our one which we found out last night was leaking, all for £2.50, what a bargain. We had a lovely time wandering around the shops. We even wandered into one of the butchers there, to look at what meat they had on offer. It included, pigs trotters, cows feet, oxtail, ox tongue and all the usual joints, but all at great prices. We must have been out for a good couple of hours. We want to go and visit Bletchley Park on our next visit, as the war years do interest us both a lot.

Wednesday 19th November.

Fenny Stratford to Leighton Buzzard.

A beautiful morning with plenty of sunshine to begin with, no wind and really quite mild for the time of year. When it was time to take Paddy for his morning stroll, I opened the side doors to the engine room to allow him to get off the boat, and was over powered by the scent of fermenting apples. We had moored underneath a crab apple tree, and where they had dropped onto the towpath and been trodden into the ground by walkers, the apples were fermenting giving off a pungent smell. Now I know what it must smell like when making cider. At 9.25am we slipped our mooring and headed for Fenny Lock and swing bridge. One of the lock gates was already open for us, so I set about working out the locking device for the swing bridge. You are supposed to use your BW key to unlock the device, pull up the handle and push the bridge. That is easier said than done when you’re a shorty like me. The unlocking was no problem, it was the pulling up of the hand and pushing that was more difficult. I did not have the height needed to pull the handle all the way up. The gentleman who lives in the cottage by the lock came out and gave me a hand. He told me that I have not been the only one struggling with the new device. BW needs to come out and revise the situation.I did get it sorted in the end and Keith manoeuvred Hadar into the lock. Having wound the paddles up and opened the gate, Keith then moved Hadar out of the lock and on to the sanitary station moorings, whilst I shut the swing bridge and lock gate.At the sanitary station, we did the full works, emptied both loo cassettes, got rid of rubbish and filled up with water. We were then on our way leaving Fenny Stratford and meandering through picturesque countryside, being accompanied by the railway and the River Ouzel. It was not long before we reached Stoke Hammond Lock, where we picked up some rubbish on the propeller whilst waiting for another boat to exit the lock chamber. Having got Hadar in to Stoke Hammond Lock, I filled the lock chamber with water. Keith then checked down the weed hatch to see what was caught up. He decided it would take too long to clear in the lock, so we bow hauled her out of the lock and on to moorings, where he then delved in to the icy cold water, to take off 3 pieces of green hose pipe, rope, plastic bags, and a piece of matting.Not long after Stoke Hammond we were at the Soulbury Three Locks and the Three Locks Inn, which is looking a little sad these days.It could do with a paint job outside and the broken seating replaced, not to mention all the odd curtains up at the windows. It is a shame to see it looking so forlorn, even since earlier in the year it has gotten in a visibly worse condition.
After leaving the Soulbury locks, we continued through beautiful open countryside alongside the canal and the River Ouzel. Out in one of the fields sheep were grazing happily, but they were not alone, this was a field where rabbits thought they were sheep.We saw dozens of rabbits along this stretch of the canal and they were clearly not bothered by our noisy engine or the sheep. As we approached Leighton Lock, small groups of school children were walking a long the towpath with teachers filling in paperwork on clipboards, so we gave them a wave and they waved back with great enthusiasum. By the time we reached Leighton Lock one of the groups had caught us up and the teacher was explaining to the group how we would negotiate the lock. It was not long before we had the whole group watching us. This was not the time to make a cock up of the procedure. The children asked me “Do you know the number of the lock”. I explained it was number 27 Leighton Lock, it is written on the board behind you, which got them all laughing. We then left the lock and waved goodbye to the school party.They were doing an environmental study on water, and had already been to the sewage centre, lucky them I thought. It is nice to see children learning about the canals, maybe their generation will treat the canals with more respect than some of todays generation do. We passed by the Wyvern Shipping Company hire boats, before entering Linslade and Leighton Buzzard. Most of the moorings by Tesco are permit holders only, they only offer two spaces for visiting boats, so we carried on under the road bridge and found a spot on the 14 day moorings, there are no rings or piling so we had to put in a mooring pin for me, Keith found a piece of rope which had been left around the concrete piling to tie on to. So we stopped at 2.15pm after a really enjoyable run.

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