Thursday, 30 May 2013

Dead Slow and now Stop

The Skipper and I are on our own again as Janis has gone off to Newark for a few days.

Of course chivalrous, big hearted Arthur, when asked by her whether he would look after ‘Roots and Wings’ while she was away, said “Yes of course I will.”

Yuk! It makes you sick, doesn’t it?

“You go and have a lovely time.” he added, with the usual silly grin on his silly face.

So there you are. I’m stuck in Uxbridge, waiting for them to get themselves organised again.

I know, I quite enjoy the slow, peaceful mode of travel that he’s been doing this year but now he’s taking the mickey I’m sure!   Having a big laugh!

What is to become of the man?

It’s not as if he’s done anything since we arrived here on Monday. He’s been blaming the wet weather for it, but I’ve never known him to be so far behind with his jobs by this time of the year before. My red raddle roof needs repainting, it’s been like it all winter, and he’s not even begun to prepare it yet, so it isn’t that he’s had nothing to do.

It’s disgusting! In fact it's a disgrace I think. I must look terrible!

He spent all day yesterday going around the town looking to buy a new camera. I don’t know what for, ‘cos the one he’s got now is perfectly okay I think.

But there we are! The things a girl has to put up with eh?

And I’d begun to think we were doing so well till we arrived here. Okay, we were dawdling but that’s alright. The countryside was wonderful whilst coming past the lakes just south of Rickmansworth. Its been lovely in fact ever since we left Cassiobury Park at Watford and I was beginning to enjoy it. The weather was fine, not like it is now, and the evenings were still and quiet.

In fact I heard and saw the Cuckoo last Sunday evening just before sunset. It’s the first I’ve come across for some years now. He flew up and settled in the ash tree by my mooring at Widewater Lock. I thought he was a pigeon at first but then heard his distinctive call. There was no mistaking him.

It was super!

Of course Janis and the Skipper missed it. By that time they were inside, and on their gin and tonic I expect, probably their second. They may have heard him, being so close like, but you don’t very often see a Cuckoo and they missed that.

I think the weather is due to brighten up a bit tomorrow and for the rest of the week too, so hopefully the Old Man will get on with some of the jobs that need doing.

There’ll be no excuse not to anyway.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Widewater Lock

We are working our way slowly southwards towards Uxbridge. But though we are in the Greater London Area, it is surprising how much quiet rural countryside there is to be enjoyed, even though busy roads and railway lines are only a stone’s throw away.


017  Huddled together to keep out the cold

Huddled together to keep out the cold


We are currently moored just below Widewater Lock, which as the name implies, is situated on a wider part of the Grand Union Canal. With the River Colne often running into it and with extensive Lakes on either side, it is difficult at times to distinguish the proper course of the waterway.


013  Greater Stitchwort

A carpet of Greater Stitchwort


But this countryside is beautiful, even on the wet days in the cold north breeze that has been consistently harassing us recently.



There we were, deep in the jungle of deepest Hertfordshire


But there have been sunny intervals and today especially, though the wind is still from the same primary point, it is not as vigorous and the Sun is shining brightly, showering its welcome warmth upon us. For the first time in many days I have not had to light my fire at all.


010-1  Pochard with disabled wing because of being fed to much white beread

A Pochard with disabled wing unfortunately. Due to there being too much white bread in its diet apparently


The lakes, old quarries apparently, make ideal wildlife habitats which encourage walkers and anglers alike to use them and the woodland that surrounds the waterways has been so well managed as to inspire a myriad of flora as well as fauna to live there. It’s a naturalist’s wonderland.


026  Comma Butterfly

The Comma Butterfly


Janis and I have made full use of the facilities and have walked around the boundaries of all the lakes on our way southwards. We have seen Woodpeckers and Red Kites in abundance as well as Pochards, Great Crested Grebes, Tufted Ducks, Common Terns and Mallard of course, as well as many families of all the common geese species. It‘s been a wonderful experience for me.


006-1  Travelling in Mother's slipstream

Travelling in mother’s slipstream


We have also seen a fine specimen of a Carp that an angler landed. It was certainly the largest fresh water fish I’ve seen I think and after all the  photographs had been recorded, I’m happy to say that it was restored into the lake. It swam off contentedly and didn’t seem to have suffered from its brief moments of celebrity status in the alien world.


010  A lucky young angler with his Carp catch

A young angler with contented look on his face



032-1  Foraging Fox

Picture of a Fox in the distance foraging in a ploughed field

Tomorrow we journey the two miles down to Uxbridge where I shall look after the fleet of little ships while Janis returns to Newark on business and to see old friends.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Photos at Cassiobury Park

The day has been overcast and rather sad looking and while earlier this afternoon I biked into Watford across the park, later this evening the Sun briefly came out and I went out again for a walk in the park with my camera.


001  Moored below Iron Bridge Lock

Moored just below Iron Bridge Lock


003-1  Song Thrush

A rarer sight these days. A Song Thrush in full Summer throat



The Park is thick with trees and shrubs



Nature’s Arch



Wetland habitat

Monday, 20 May 2013

Cassiobury Park

We are still relentlessly heading south, slowly maybe but well contented, and are now well into Hertfordshire. One hundred and forty two miles we have covered since leaving Warwick at the beginning of March.

Though we are within the M25 circuit and getting ever closer to busy London, the wide Grand Union Canal, at one time known as the Grand Junction Canal, carries us quietly through such rural beauty both natural and historic that haven’t changed since the canal was built.



Plan of Berkhamsted Castle


014  Looking along Curtain Wall from Keep. Note the Well

The view from the Keep along the Curtain Wall and Moat


011-1  Canada Goose and healthy Goslings at Berkhamsted Castle

A local family at the Castle


002  Unique house at the Port of Berkhamsted

The unique house in the Port of Berkhamsted


022  Iron Bridge Lock, Cassiobury Park through the after door

Through the after door at Iron Bridge Lock, Cassiobury Park


Janis and I have visited and marvelled at the flint built ruins of the Black Prince’s Castle in a lush green meadow at Berkhamsted as well as passing woods of tall green beeches on our way south. We have passed overhanging willows that stroke us gently as we pass beneath their long caressing fronds, through the small ancient but happy villages. Though clouds overhead are grey at the moment the fragrance, overwhelmingly pungent almost, of freshly mowed grass as we passed Grove Mill earlier was one of my many reminders that Summer was here.

We are now moored serenely just below Iron Bridge Lock, protected from the urban mass of Watford by an extensive area of trees, shrubs and parkland. It is known as Cassiobury Park.

Thursday, 16 May 2013


I’ve been a bit poorly again you know and of course it’s taken him sometime to discover what’s wrong with me. Nothing is ever quick these days!

For some rime I’d been leaking water into my bilge. It’s been clean fresh water and the Skipper’s been pumping out the bilge beneath the Shower room every few days. Having had a new calorifier fitted only two winters ago, he thought it must have been leaking from there. Somebody had given me a loose fitting or something. But nothing seemed to be wet in that area so he was stumped.

He had no idea bless him!

Well, as you know, he’s none too bright really. He thought he’d just carry on pumping out the bilge until something else happened that would give him new ideas.

So just as we were approaching Cowroast that happened.

When he turned off a tap after use, the freshwater pump in the forepeak didn’t. ….

switch off I mean, at all, and from then on he had to remove the pump fuse after every time he used water to get it to stop.

Well what an inconvenient way of living. And it wasn’t very pleasant for me either not knowing what was wrong.

In the end his tiny brain ticked over and he got Janis to have a look in the water tank locker behind the forepeak. …….. She’s a lot smaller than him you see and guess what she found ….. wetness all around the fresh water pump. Goodness knows how long it’d been like that, but obviously the pump had been leaking for sometime and the water draining back into the Shower Room Bilge.

Well he took me into Cowroast Marina then and a lovely young man called Darren came aboard to confirm that, yes the Old Chap would have to fork out some cash to have the job done.

Unfortunately the chandlery at the Marina didn’t have a replacement in stock so we had to wait a day for the new pump to be delivered and fitted. The Skipper had decided to have installed a larger size pump with an accumulator and now they’ve been fitted, everything is absolutely wonderful. The shower has more force to keep him clean and the whole of the toilet pan is washed due to the extra pressure, which is wonderful.

We’re tied up in Berkhamsted at the moment. My bottom’s on the mud but I don’t mind. That’s okay. It’ll give him plenty to do to get me off when we leave.

Keep the old boy busy is what I say.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Two Treats from the Trust

The miles continue to drift lazily by as we pursue our persistent journey southward; Milton Keynes has passed us by as has Leighton Buzzard.



Entering Stoke Hammond Lock


The days however rush past quickly as we move into early Summer. It becomes a pleasure to notice that the Sun doesn’t set until a quarter to nine in the evening now and after their late start, the Spring flowers are still hanging on to their luxuriant blossoms most triumphantly.

After the long lock free pound that took us across the flat Northamptonshire Plain we have now climbed the southern slope of the Chilterns with Ivinghoe Beacon on our left and are well into Red Kite country. These birds of prey that look just as their name suggests and could be easily mistaken for a large red Chinese kite, are now very well established in the area and swoop and hover very low overhead.

We are currently moored just to the north of Cowroast Lock, about three miles south of Marsworth Junction from where a narrow arm takes the canal down to Aylesbury. As the mobile internet connection here is not too bad I am taking the opportunity of updating our position.

‘Roots and Wings’ currently has a few guests aboard. While you will remember that Janis’ sister Sharon joined us in Banbury to crew for her at the beginning of our voyage and still remains with us, on Friday last her eldest sister, Raeleen, whom I met last year, arrived for a few days on board as well. This morning, together with Pip, a gentleman friend from Newark, who’s been down here for the week,  she has taken them all for a short cruise back up to Bulbourne Junction and then down the short Wendover Arm. Originally we were hoping to venture down the Aylesbury Arm but one of the locks has collapsed and the canal in that direction is closed now indefinitely.

So that leaves me able, quietly to get on with my writing for a while.

On our way here, we were moored for a couple of glorious days right outside ‘The Globe Inn’ at Leighton Buzzard and from there the three of us set off one sunny morning on two bikes and by walking, to visit the gardens of Ascott House, owned by the Rothschild Family and managed by the National Trust, about three miles away. The experience was wonderful and when we arrived we were assailed continuously and conclusively by both the fragrance of Spring and the beauty of the gardens.



The soft light fragrance of the Magnolia was heady



Multi-coloured Tulips and white Narcissi at Ascott House



‘Futurest’ outside ‘The Globe Inn’, Leighton Buzzard


Then on Saturday we caught a bus from our mooring here into Aylesbury and then a second one out to Waddesdon Manor, the palatial mansion, again owned by the Rothschild Family but managed most admirably by the National Trust for all the visitors that go there to see it’s both rare and priceless treasures. We arrived at the time it opened and stayed until it closed at around six o’clock in the evening and then only managed to see a very small portion of the house and its glorious gardens. I reckon a whole week is needed to see everything on offer.



The Ascent of Venus at Ascott House


2013-05-11 11.54.06-1  Waddesdon Manor

Waddesdon Manor


The only thing that tried very hard to dampen our spirits was the weather for in between warm sunny spots we were assailed continuously by heavy showers, which quickly brought the umbrellas out and made everybody run for the slightest piece of cover available. We returned to the ships at about eight very happy though somewhat damp.

It had been a lovely day.

Monday, 6 May 2013

My Turn at last

The Skipper's gone off today …. again!

He’s tootled off with his two ladies. I think they’ve gone to somewhere called Ascott House for the day. But they’re always going off for walks somewhere after we’ve tied up.

He’s never on board these days except when we’re cruising and it’s such a shame as I am feeling quite neglected. Normally by this time of the year with the fire out and not making any dust, he’s had a good clean through on the inside. When that’s done and the chimney’s put away and the flue swept he gives me a good shampoo before touching up and redoing the outside paintwork where necessary. Usually by this time It’s all done and dusted.

But this year nothing’s been done at all yet and I think it’s a disgrace. You must have noticed too his photos of the roof paintwork and how it’s peeling so badly. Well it doesn’t seem to be worrying him too much this time.

It’s those two ladies on ‘Roots and Wings’ of course. They’re distracting him.

But it’s not they’re fault really. They’re just minding they’re own business on they’re own boat. It’s him doing about and showing off when they’re around and trying to be like a half sharp teenager that makes him look so silly. That’s what I object to. He does let himself down so and at his age I do wish he’d learn. You’d think he would by now wouldn’t you?

But there we are. That’s what I have to put up with.

It’s nice to be cruising again though as I don’t like those cold winters very much frozen in one place, though it wasn’t quite so bad this year.

I don’t like not doing anything. I like to be on the move.

I have to confess that the ‘Old Man’ knows how to handle me now though and he does it very well generally except sometimes when he doesn’t concentrate. He’s too busy looking at some bird through the binoculars when all of a sudden he realises I’m about to run into the bank and just manages to get back in control before anything serious happens. It’s a bit nerve racking at times, I can tell you.

But generally he’s pretty good now as he knows exactly how I handle in different conditions. We both know each other very well after four years, though I have to make more allowances for him than he has to for me. I do exactly as he tells me through the controls every time. Why can’t he be like that too and react to what I want.

But I like his relaxed style of boating. It suits me just right. He’s never in any hurry, never gets flustered and never panics, even when manoeuvring. He rarely asks Russell Newberry for much above a tick over speed when travelling along so it’s no wonder he does such short daily mileages.

But it’s good and it suits me just right. The Sun is shining, my solar panel is alive and life is beautiful, especially with the water quietly pushing around and caressing my sides.

It’s very sensuous. Ooh err!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Leighton Buzzard

Now deep in the heart of Buckinghamshire we continue to weave our slow and languid journey south along the Grand Union Canal, beside low wooded hills, green with the abundance of Spring. The occasional lock with jaws wide to welcome us, is the only interruption to our reverie as we steer mostly through the endless miles of sunshine that has bathed us in this early May. Even passing close to Milton Keynes, so well designed as such and laid out, has not spoilt the image of this near pastoral bliss.



Artistic Graffiti at Wolverton



St Mary’s Church at Woughton-on-the-Green



Poplars blown sideways by prevailing wind at Little Woolstone


This afternoon we have moored right outside the Globe Inn, just to the north of the twin towns of Leighton Buzzard and Linslade and the Sun is still shining with its continued golden munificence. On this bank holiday weekend the pub is doing well and the clientele are spilling out alongside the towpath. Sunday lunches are being served beneath well weathered umbrellas by harassed bar staff and as I write now the excited chatter and laughter wafts in through my open forward doors. Life is good and we have done well.

We plan to stay here another night so that we can visit tomorrow Ascott House the National Trust property about four miles from here. Hopefully the weather will remain in a generous mood for yet another day.

From Wolverton we travelled down to a suburb of Milton Keynes called Little Woolstone, near to the site of the proposed new canal between Milton Keynes and Bedford and in the glorious evening we walked across to the medieval village site of Woughton. All that remains of the western end, except for earthworks veiled by grass, is the church, still the parish centre point of the surviving village of Woughton-on-the-Green.



St Luke’s  cruciform church at Stoke Hammond


Yesterday we journeyed a little further south to Stoke Hammond, the small village that is rather strung out along the busy A4146. But still it did its best to look pretty for us in the Sun and appeared well looked after with grass road verges well cut and manicured with Spring flowers. The small ancient church of St Luke looked mainly of the Thirteenth Century but we were unable to see inside unfortunately as it was locked. It was unusual in being built in the cruciform plan, reserved normally for large abbeys and cathedrals only. Stoke Hammond is one of only a handful of villages that was spared any casualties during the First World War and there is an unusual memorial in the centre of the village to commemorate the fact.





Stoke Hammond’s Unusual War Memorial



Sunset at Stoke Hammond


In the last couple of days birds have been more plentiful. As well as hearing the Cuckoo, for the first time for many years in fact, just a few days ago, on two separate occasions since then I have seen Mandarin ducks in the water as well as a Kingfisher sitting very close to me on a low branch. I reached for my camera quickly of course but none of them were prepared to wait until I was switched on and focussed up so I have no pictures to show unfortunately. Surprisingly today was the first time I spotted a Heron since leaving Banbury but he was much tamer and actually posed for his picture. Also there was a pair of Arctic Terns with their twin Swallow-like pointy tails overhead at Soulbury Locks earlier today, hoping no doubt that we would churn up some delicacy with our propellers for them to swoop for.

Therefore all seems well with everything and everybody on this sunny evening in Buckinghamshire and I am content.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

A Day out at Stowe Gardens

After a couple of very pleasant nights spent tied up at Stoke Bruerne, where we visited the Museum, did the audio tour and spent an evening in the Navigation Inn, so we could use their free Wi-Fi, on Monday morning we set off bright and early, well for us anyway, at 10 am and made our way down through the Stoke Bruerne Locks.


001-1  Looking down from the tramway

Looking down from the tramway at Stoke Bruerne


Four hours later, having been charmed by the close proximity of the small Northamptonshire villages of Grafton Regis, Yardley Gobion and Castlethorpe, whose names just on their own conjure up such enchantment, we moored up in close company at the pretty little village of Cosgrove right by the ornate (though for no known obvious reason) Soloman’s Bridge.


015  The Cosgrove Mooring

The mooring at Soloman’s Bridge, Cosgrove


The weather was beautiful and it was here that we enjoyed another good walk during which we explored the old Buckingham Canal, which begins at Cosgrove Junction. The first hundred yards only is in water and is used for moorings but it was gratifying to know that the course of the rest for some considerable way is very obvious and evident. This is due only I think to the efforts of the local canal restoration group, who have plainly been very busy in clearing the way and keeping the course well strimmed.


009  The Buckingham Canal Arm (under restoration)

The Buckingham Arm


008  One of the unique Cosgrove cottages

A Cosgrove cottage


016  At the water point

Taking on fresh water at Cosgrove


On Tuesday morning we passed down through the single lock and having crossed the River Great Ouse, seventy feet below us, via the iron trunk aqueduct built in 1811 and having been enchanted in rural surroundings since leaving Banbury a fortnight ago, we soon entered the urban area that announced itself plainly as the coming of Milton Keynes.


014  The aqueduct over the River Great Ouse at Cosgrove

The aqueduct over the River Great Ouse




At Wolverton


Nevertheless our mooring at Wolverton on Tuesday evening was very quiet and peaceful. The tall surrounding flats though overbearing on first impression, insulated us beautifully from the noise of trains passing through the railway station nearby. We slept well and soundly at the end of the day. The blue cloudless sky and still conditions at sunset promised such gorgeous weather to follow on the morrow.

This was fulfilled as we set out for the bus stop yesterday morning. We’d decided to visit the Landscape Gardens at Stowe near Buckingham, about eight miles away. It was quite a journey for us and we got there by means of two buses and a short taxi ride from Buckingham.


033  Wood Anemone at Stowe

Wood Anemones at Stowe Gardens


034  The Gothic Temple

Janis near the Gothic Temple


042  Looking out from the cave entrance

Looking out from the mouth of The Grotto


The weather was perfect and we seemed to walk for miles around the grounds amazingly though beautifully designed by Lancelot Capability Brown. We had a couple of tea breaks however which certainly fortified me.

At the end of the afternoon, we ordered a taxi in time to get us back to Buckingham to catch our bus connections and we were delivered back to the ships at sunset, well satisfied with our days outing.


055-1  A peaceful evening back at the moorings

A peaceful evening, near sunset back at the ships