Yardley Gobion

Sunday saw us return home to Kingfisher Marina. The weather was fine and sunny for the short journey. We met NB Billy Wizz at Cosgrove Lock - our first shared lock of the trip which indicates how quiet the Grand Union was. 

Crossing the Iron Trunk Aqueduct

Great Linford and more dragging along the bottom!

Saturday morning started bright but was windy. We had water under our hull, but only because we were at the lock moorings. We set the locks and descended the flight but met a couple who were trying to drop some water down to the Stoke Hammond pound because they were "on the bottom". When we got to the bottom of the flight we could plainly see the problem. The water level was around 18 inches down and it was going to be difficult getting to Stoke Hammond Lock.

Most permanent moorers in the Stoke Hammond pound were well aground with no prospect of moving. Many boats showed the bottom of their hulls (uxter plates). We crawled along at tickover and in a couple of places we went aground in the centre of the channel. A boat passing us caused us to heel over and we also found it difficult passing moored boats.

Stuck on the bottom!
We met a Wyvern Shipping manager who was investigating why he had received so many phone calls from disgruntled hirers. He was in touch with CRT. I looks like the dredging process was in some way responsible but I will not speculate how.

I measured this drop by Stoke Hammond Lock - 18 inches below the waterline

After Stoke Hammond the water depth was good and the weather fine so we had a good cruise through Milton Keynes. At Campbell Park we met up with our daughter Emily, and grandchildren Hugh and Matilda.
Matilda wearing her new strawberry hat knitted by Maggie

Steve steering with Hugh's help

They came on a trip with us to Great Linford where we spent the night. We decided to moor up near The Black Horse and take our family for an early dinner. This was also the idea of the members of the Taverners Boat Club who were out for an autumn cruise. Around ten boats turned up and moored nearby. We had good food and enjoyed being out with the family for an early dinner. Just before we left the pub the Taverners party arrived for their meal. The pub was quite busy.

Soulbury with low water

On Friday night we went to the Red Lion at Marsworth for a meal. They have a good selection of beers and the homely food goes down a treat. Maggie had a huge ham hock that defeated her! On the way back to Albert, in the dark, we passed some CRT waste bins. It was clear from the rustling inside that something was going on. We shone our torch towards the bin for a few moments and then saw a large rat pushing open the lid and escaping to the hedge. There were obviously a number inside!

The morning started fine and sunny and it continued so for the rest of the day.

Thatched cottage at Marsworth

We travelled north towards Leighton Buzzard passing only a few boats. It was great boating. We took lunch (soup) on the move and stopped outside Tesco's in Leighton for some late supplies. One key supply was gin - we had paused at Lock 33 to pick sloes from trees by the defunct side ponds and were on a mission to make sloe gin. Tonight, Monday, we are pricking the fruits before we add the sugar and the gin.
Operating a Grand Union lock

Dredging team at Slapton Lock

The end to what had been a perfect boating day came after we left Leighton Lock to look for our night's mooring. We didn't particularly want to moor near The Globe but there we no vacant berths. I noted that bloggers Derwent6 and Freespirit were moored up along with Parisien Star a boat that also used to be owned by active bloggers; the former owners now appear to post about their other interests.

After The Globe we tried mooring up. On our way south we had noted that CRT contractors were dredging the Jackdaw pound so we expected to find some moorings with good depth. How wrong could we be! After numerous, possibly more that six, attempts at getting Albert somewhere near the bank, and light fading, we gave up and decided our only recourse was to moor on the lock moorings at the Three Locks at Soulbury. The whole of the three-mile pound was at least one foot below its normal level and this was after dredging. I have no idea what was wrong but it appeared to be serious. Several moorers had called up CRT to complain.

A quiet Aylesbury Arm

We spent last night in the town basin at Aylesbury and were buffeted by winds. We had managed to get satellite TV reception but once the wind got up signal quality kept coming and going as the dish vibrated and the boat moved. Fortunately, it didn't manage to spoil our viewing.

Rural Aylesbury Arm

This morning the sun was shining and we had delightful journey back up the arm. It is one of the most rural of canals and in early autumn it can look its best with the hedgerows full of sloes, rose hip and crab apples. At Red House Lock the lock-sides were littered with fallen damsons - it made it difficult to avoid slipping.

Rural Aylesbury Arm

The journey from Aylesbury to Marsworth starts by a sludgy section that needs dredging and further up some other pounds are slow going, particularly if, like Albert, your boat has a deep draught. 

The town residents impression of the canal

We stopped at Wilstone for lunch and reached Marsworth around 4 o'clock.  When we went down the arm only three boats passed us, but coming back up the arm we didn't see another boat on the move -what a quiet waterway.


NB Chance has just passed us going south along the Grand Union Mainline with its new owners.

Aylesbury Arm

After our two nights at Marsworth we left for Aylesbury. We took on water at the junction and then started descending the first of sixteen locks. The first two locks are a staircase and require some thought. The ground paddle is situated a little distance away from the chambers.

Maggie closing a lock gate at Marsworth

Taking on water by the new development at Marsworth

Passing Bates Yard at Puttenham

The locks on the Aylesbury Arm are straightforward but being close together they can be good exercise - still that's the joy of boating.

Anaerobic Digestion Plant near Buckland Lock

We moored up for lunch just above Buckland Lock where there is the massive Arla Super-Dairy which is powered by a biodigester.  It appears the local Parish Council are not too keen on the odours from the plant.

Unusual style of parish council notice

Buckland Lock collapsed in 2013 and took some time to be rebuilt. 

Buckland Lock with rebuilt wall

Warning plate at Buckland Lock

It is interesting that Buckland Lock still appears to have some issues with water permeating the brickwork.

A maintenance gang at work near Bierton

Close to Aylesbury we found the new, at least to us, base of the Aylesbury Canal Society at Circus Fields. A bit different from the old facilities at the town basin when we came here a decade ago.

Aylesbury Canal Society Base

We moored up for the night at the new basin in the town which is now the home to a Travel Lodge, a Waitrose, a college and The Waterside Theatre. The moorings are functional and useful, particularly if you need supplies. Only a couple of boats were moored up and we chose a pontoon near the centre. To bad that our duck friends had left their marks - a lot them. The pontoons appear to be their overnight roosts. Our first job was to scrub the sh*t off - we didn't want to drag it in all over the boat!

Scrubbing the pontoons at Aylesbury Basin

We took on supplies at Waitrose and enjoyed coffee in their cafe. Amazingly we saw a kingfisher in the brook which runs between the store and the theatre. Not often you see a town centre kingfisher.

With Ronnie Barker looking towards The Waterside Theatre

Couldn't resist sitting next to the Ronnie Barker statue. Ronnie started his acting career in Aylesbury. We contemplated going to the theatre but we didn't fancy a tribute to Dirty Dancing!


We planned to travel the Wendover and Aylesbury Arms which we haven't done for some years. However, we were also committed to organising a walk for our Milton Keynes based walking group. The walks are on the first Tuesday of every month. With that in mind when we arrived at Marsworth on Sunday we decided not to go right up the flight to explore the Wendover Arm but moor up alongside Startops reservoir to make a convenient base to explore the Tring Reservoirs. We normally find these moorings busy but at this time of the year they were empty. We moored up in a prime position close to the Bluebells Cafe. Although very few boats were moving, being Sunday lots of families were walking and cycling. Anglers and birdwatchers were also out in force.

Marsworth Mooring near Startops

We stayed there for Monday, reconnoitering the route of our walk. The weather on Monday was fine and sunny and we manged to plan a great route, down the Marsworth flight, along the Aylesbury to Wilstone and then uphill past the Wilstone Reservoir and back down the Wendover Arm to the Grand Junction Arms at Bulbourne. We had great lunch which bode well as this was the lunch stop for the next days walking group. At six miles our route was a good morning's walk and the views from the Wendover Arm across the valley were great. We managed to see Red Kite, Little Egret and lots of wildfowl.
Delightful house near Lock 42

Maggie testing the Outdoor Gym at Wilstone

Golden Clematis at Wilstone

Last night there was a glorious sunset over the reservoirs which pointed to us having good weather today.

Sunset over Startops Reservoir

The weather turned out to be good although it was a little cloudy in the afternoon. So after our six-mile walk on Monday, essentially a rehearsal, today we had the walking group proper and we walked the route again this morning with lunch at the Grand Junction Arms. All worked out well with the day starting with the group having coffee and cakes on-board Albert and finishing at the pub.

This afternoon we had to turn Albert around in preparation for going down the Aylesbury Arm. We went up the six locks to Bulbourne Junction, turned in the Wendover Arm and then came back down the flight to moor up at exactly the same spot as earlier (just two and half hours later). It was still quiet with no boats on the move.

Quite an energetic two days with twelve miles of walks and twelve locks. Tomorrow narrow locks on the Aylesbury Arm.

Stoke Hammond and Seabrook

We are on a short autumn excursion south along the Grand Union. The plan is to visit the Wendover and Aylesbury Arms. We have done both arms before but not for sometime. Water levels are critical on the Wendover so we shall have to see how we get on.

We left Yardley Gobion mid morning on Friday and made good progress through Milton Keynes. The weather was not too good in the morning but it was sunny in the afternoon. Great to be on the move again.
Autumn in Milton Keynes

Cutting through a carpet of floating Crab Apples

Had a little fun with the lockside swingbridge at Fenny Stratford when I forgot how to use the release mechanism. Over a year since we have been down this way. We moored up just above Stoke Hammond Lock - the day's are getting shorter.

We started with good weather today and it lasted well into the evening until it became drizzly. It was a day of meeting boats we know, although not necessarily encountering their crews. The first was Calypso Rose which for many years resided in Braunston but has recently appeared at Kingfisher Marina. It passed us at Stoke Hammond and we met up with the new owners outside Tesco in Leighton Buzzard - a popular spot to take on provisions.

The second boat was Balhama who we knew as fellow bloggers until sadly Mo passed away in 2015. The present owner was going north and passed us on the Soulbury flight. I will always remember their comments about our meeting on the River Nene in 2006 when we moored up at the Rushden & Diamonds football ground:

"Again, we heard them before we saw them as NB Albert pulled up behind us and squeezed onto the last mooring bollard. With two families and a couple of comics onboard they were enjoying themselves and their chuckling kept us amused."

That's boating with our friends the Winters - always good fun.

We then passed Imagine and Soup Dragon moored up by The Globe at Leighton Buzzard. They were our partners when we went on the Tidal Thames in 2007. They appear to have moored together for some years.
NBs Imagine and Soup Dragon

An unusual feature of this trip has been the extensive dredging that CRT are carrying out on the Grand Union mainline. Over the years we have come across dredging operations on several canals but not as extensive as this. It is welcome. The first section we noted being dredged was Jackdaw Pound (Soulbury to Leighton) but a section around Grove Lock had already been done and there was a section north of Slapton Lock being treated. A spin-off from this was the Land & Water operator who was chatting to a local resident about the "old days" at Slapton Lock. It turned out that he worked for Willow Wren in 1969 and had many tales of how they operated working boats from London to locations in the Midlands and the River Nene. Regretfully, having not joined the conversation at its start, I wasn't able to pick up his name.

Explaining the Work and its cost

Dredging in full swing

Dredgings being processed

Disposal of dredgings as bank protection

Blustery rain clouds started moving in from the west. At the second of the Seabrook Locks we found a service boat reversing down the cut to enter the lock backwards. He was visiting clients just below the lock and this unusual manovere was to avoid a long trip down to Slapton for the next winding hole. 

We called it a day just above the last of the Seabrook Locks and it rained more heavily. 

The Lensbury, Teddington

Our daughter and her family have just joined The Lensbury, mostly to avail themselves of the gym, racquet sports and swimming facilities. However, it also has great watersports facilities including sailing, kayaking, and motor boating. By way of an introduction, on Saturday we hired one of their motor launches for an hour and went through Kingston-upon-Thames for a river trip. The weather was glorious and it was great fun for both adults and grandchildren.


Kingston Reach

Amelia at the Helm by Kingston Bridge

I particularly enjoyed the trip (down memory lane)because as a youth I spent may hours rowing the reach between Hampton Court and Teddington when I was at Tiffin School. I just had to point out the school's old boathouse (Albany Boathouse).

Albany Boathouse 
(Formerly Kingston Rowing Club, including Tiffin School, 1935-68)

And for those with an interest in history, The Lensbury Club was photographed from the air back in 1947 and images are available from the Britain from Above web site.

An Annoying Engine Fault

Intermittent engine problems are annoying. On our trip to the Thames the rack that alters fuel delivery from the two injection pumps to the injectors started sticking. One morning I found it stuck out after I had pulled the stop lever. A judicious application of WD40 to the rack appeared to fix the immediate problem but after that we had periods of occasional erratic running - but only on tick over. At higher speeds and under load the engine was always fine.

Diesel injector pumps
(Number 1 on right)

Now these symptoms are not normally a problem for most diesel applications, because a bit of throttle is all that is required, but navigating at low speed around a lock requires low throttle settings and the last thing you need is the engine stalling approaching a lock gate. As a result, for the rest of our trip I increased the slow running speed and for most of the time it was fine. However, we did have a patch of particularly erratic tick-over when we were in Braunston. It caused a bystander to comment that we were running on one cylinder -  he was almost right because number one cylinder was coming and going. Once on the move the engine sounded, and operated, normally.

Once back in Yardley Gobion I contacted Phil Lizius of Longboat Engineering for assistance. It was clear that this fault wasn't common although it had parallels to the injection pump failure we had in Braunston in 2011. That time both injection pump failed to operate and the rack was jammed. This time after laboriously checking all possibilities, including the governor, Phil finally became convinced that the number 1 injection pump was the cause of the tick-over problem. The pump was stripped down and a gummy deposit was found on some of the key components. After thorough cleaning and reassembly, the pump was reinstalled last week. The engine appeared to tick-over well. But as with all intermittent problems, you never know when they are fixed properly - you just hope you have rectified the fault.

A short trip to Stoke Bruerne bottom lock last weekend gave me the confidence to think that the problem had been resolved. Tick over on the 2YWM is factory set at 500 rpm, which is a bit higher than I wish. So today I reinstated the spring device that adjusts tick-over - it's now set at 450 rpm and appears from my tests tick over smoothly. Let's hope that we got to root of the problem.

Injector pumps with slow running adjustments
(Additional adjustment by small light spring)

So what caused the gummy deposit on the internal parts of the injector pump? The two fuel filters on the engine were the first area to be examined when the fault was investigated and they were fine. I also regularly use a well-known diesel additive. However, gummy deposits are not unknown in diesel systems. I don't suppose I will ever know precisely what the cause was.

Great Ouse Limit of Navigation

As with most river navigations, the limit of navigation on the Great Ouse depends on your vessel. Most Environment Agency advice and mapping runs out at the Embankment at Bedford with passage under the 2.1 m air draught under the footbridge at the town's lock.

I had always taken it for granted that the practical obstruction to navigation for most boats was the lack of headway under the railway bridges in Bedford. We have not navigated to Bedford but today I spent some time today walking along the river and by chance I was able to see for myself how one of the railway bridges impacts on navigation.

As I walked from the former Britannia Iron Works site, across the new footbridge, a small GRP cruiser approached the Bletchley to Bedford railway line bridge from downstream It decided that it couldn't go any further, turned and moored up by Borough Hall where there are good moorings. This bridge has a nominal air draught of 1.96 m, according to a Bedford Borough Council document. Although the cruiser could have dropped its windscreen, and possibly made it under the bridge, it did look very tight. With the proposed route of the Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway entering from just upstream of this area, a solution is required for this and the St Pancras line bridge which is only a few metres upstream and only a little higher.

Cruiser chooses not to risk it under a rail bridge at Bedford

Stoke Bruerne

Spent Tuesday afternoon in Stoke Bruerne at the Canal Museum with my grandson Hugh. He was particularly fascinated by the models on canal construction and the locks/incline plane at Foxton. We both enjoyed a boat trip on Charlie. Nice to be steered into the tunnel and Hugh was very brave when the lights were turned off - we could just see the pin prick of light at the other end.

Hugh on Trip Boat Charlie

I shall soon be going on Charlie again as part of the Over and Under the Hill event on Sunday 3rd September, although that will involve going right through.

Keep Left?

I had taken for granted that, except for special circumstances, boats PASS ON THE RIGHT (i.e. port-to-port).  This accords with the international rules of navigation and all current and recent guidance confirms this (e.g. from BW, CRT, IWA, EA) .

I had also assumed that this guidance was both universal and historic. However, I recently obtained a 1950 1st edition of the Inland Waterways of Great Britain & Northern Ireland by Lewis A Edwards and a section in the book led me to consider that some navigations required boats to PASS ON THE LEFT, perhaps as recently the nineteen-forties.

In the appendix to the book there is a note on Navigation Hints for Pleasure Craft. The note provides interesting insights into the days when our canals and rivers were first and foremost commercial highways. It provides lots of helpful advice on how to ensure working boats are not impeded; one can easily imagine the frustration of working boatmen with amateur crews, particularly at locks.  

Concerning boats passing, the advice is clear:

"On our rivers, and over most of the canal system, ... the passing rule is KEEP RIGHT; but there are exceptions to this such as the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, where the rule is KEEP LEFT"

The writer goes on to advise pleasure craft crews to ask boatmen. This came as a surprise to me since I had not read anything similar. 

The book is edited by Lewis Edwards who is credited as being Honorary Secretary of the Inland Waterways Association. It largely consists of factual material but the note about navigation was written by none other than Tom Rolt. The advice originally came from a leaflet originally published by the IWA. Tom Rolt was Honorary Secretary of the IWA until 1950, the year of the book's publication and Lewis Edwards was in the process of taking over his role. Later in the year considerable changes occurred in the IWA with "Civil War" breaking out. Rolt and others resigned.  

Some questions arise from the note:

Is there other evidence for this navigation advice?

Does the particular reference to the W & B come because Rolt was moored up for several years at Tardibigge? 

Did canal amalgamation, and ultimately nationalisation, bring uniformity or were there other reasons? 

When did uniformity occur?

I can recommend the book as offering insights into an interesting period of waterways history; on the cusp between commercial and leisure boating. It is easier to navigate (pun intentional) through its chapters to find a particular waterway than Bradshaw, which annoyingly groups navigations by their ownership (mostly railway companies) and not by geography or given name.  My copy was not expensive, obtained via eBay and is in good condition.

Journey Home from the Oxford Canal

Having been away in Cornwall for the last week, I feel obligated to round-off my belated posts of our late July cruise to and from the Upper Thames. After a night at Wormleighton, on July 23rd we worked our way north along the Oxford canal, descended Napton flight and mooring up in Braunston for the night. It was relatively quite in Braunston, probably because the fine weather had brought out the boats. The lovely moorings near Flecknoe were busy. We had a visit to Midland Chandlers and than eat at The Boathouse with our daughter, son-in-law and their two children. A pleasant night. 
Rowing Skiff passing through Braunston
(with appropriate dress)

As we walked around Braunston we noted that the Sea Otter which had caught fire, and was reported by Halfie, had sunk. As reported on Halfie's site aluminium does burn. The boat looked a macabre site. 

A sad site

Sunken Sea Otter at Braunston

By the next day the weather had turned and we had a damp journey up Braunston flight and through the tunnel. Met a boat coming the other way with two bright LED work lights that lit up far into the distance but made navigating past difficult. I still can't understand the need to long range illumination as I noted some years ago.

We went down Long Buckby flight as the weather cleared. It was good progress until the last two locks where a boat waited for another to join it in the lock only to split up a pair and cause another boat to operate as a single. Sometimes this sort of "politeness" actually causes more difficulties.  A late lunch was called for and we went into the Lockgate Cafe at Whilton Marina for an all-day breakfast.

Adding the ketchup

That night we moored at Flore opposite the small caravan site. Around five caravans were parked up and enjoying the view. In the morning, we visited Colin Dundas at High House to discuss a possible repaint of Albert. It looks like we shall "bite the bullet" and have a refurb next year.

The journey home via Blisworth tunnel and Stoke Bruerne was largely uneventful. It was good weather although the heavens opened for a short time as we arrived at Stoke for lunch. The morning trip was largely uneventful but I did witness ridiculous boating near Heyford. As we left Furnace Wharf, and turned the corner onto the long straight towards Bugbrooke, I saw a boat approaching with a wave behind it that looked just like the Severn Bore - a swan family behind the boat were struggling to cope! The boat was obviously going at some considerable speed, maybe flat out. I have never seen a canal boat cause such a large wake. The steerer quickly slowed down as we approached and I proffered my usual sarcastic comment "lost your water skier?". I then realised that my humour was not going to work and I am sorry to say I resorted to some plain speaking. Judging by the reaction of the other crew they thought I was being unreasonable mentioning their speed and bank erosion. 

After lunch we went down the Stoke flight on our own because, being quiet, I was able to set locks ahead. We arrived home at Yardley Gobion in the late afternoon to begin the process of unpacking.

Braunston sun set