Thursday, June 25, 2009

Milton Keynes is a pleasant surprise…

I’ve not been looking forward to today. It’s a long 11½ miles on the map from the start of the built up area of Milton Keynes to the other end. But actually we were very surprised. There’s very little to intrude on the green corridor of the canal, just spots where the original villages, now absorbed into the whole, used the canal. The sections in between, although appearing urban on the map, are almost rural. The only indication that you’re running through the town is the occasional factory noise on the other side of the high hedgerow, and the new concrete bridges thrown across the navigation.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Off at 10:00 this fine bright morning, and we arrived at Stoke Hammond Lock about 15 minutes later. Another very picture postcard setting, with manicured lawns and colourful planting.

I keep a record of hours run on the engine and the heating boiler, and reckon that we use about 1 litre an hour on each. My totals since the last fill, way back in Abingdon on the Thames, showed 155 hours, and the tank is, I believe, about 180 litres. Time for some of the red stuff! Sue on No Problem keeps a list of suppliers that allow self declaration of usage splits, and Willowbridge Marina, on the outskirts of Bletchley, is on it. So that was our priority.

Arriving at the marina, we pulled onto the towpath on the opposite side, to watch something you don’t see every day.

Narrowboat being craned out for hull blacking. Up she goes….
And safely on the bank.
The operation and subsequent tank fill took around an hour, so it was getting on for lunchtime by the time we arrived at Fenny Stratford.

Fenny Stratford
The lock is a short distance on, and only drops the level by 13”. It’s also got a swing bridge across the chamber that has to be moved before using the lock.

Fenny Stratford Lock
This is the last lock on the down slope from the Chilterns, and indeed the last for 11 miles. The next is at Cosgrove, and we’ll reverse the operation, going back uphill to Blisworth Hill before diving through the hill in Blisworth Tunnel.

I was saying about cruising through Milton Keynes, and here is why.

Wooded sections between the old villages.
New concrete road bridges remind you of where you are.

Even the ubiquitous housing developments are mainly set back from the canal, maintaining the green corridor.
The new Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterway is planned to join the Grand Union just north of bridge 82A.
Maybe somewhere around here?
This will enable broad beam boats to navigate to the Fens from the main network. The only access at the moment is the Northampton Arm to the River Nene from Gayton, and the 17 locks here were built to narrow beam standard.

We pulled over at the BW services at Giffard Park, so we’re in good shape now, everything filled and emptied as required.

We pulled over about 1½ miles further on, near the Wildfowl Centre at Linford Lakes. It’s not as far as we’d liked, but it seems to have been a long day. It’s a nice spot anyway, looking down towards the lakes and the ruined church at Little Stanton.

From the mooring.
Another thing you don’t see every day…. Mags on the tiller, taken by me in the bows! She’d sent me below to make a brew.
And a heron trying to cool down….
We were just coming in to moor when I saw a commotion in the water ahead. A spaniel was in the canal, chasing a mallard and her young family. She was clever enough to make enough noise to keep the dog’s interest, so the brood made good their escape. Then she took off, quaking loudly and returned to her offspring. It sounded an awful lot like she was laughing… but ducks don’t have a sense of humour, do they?

There would only be one winner, the one that can fly!

The owner of the dog was screaming at it from the bank, but it was having far too much fun to take any notice.

Locks 2, miles 10½


Anonymous said...

Milton Keynes is a pleasant surprise isn't it - many bits of the 'industrial' Grand Union that we've done so far have been a revelation.
ps. I'm sure that ducks have a sense of humour - they laugh at our two wussie dogs all the time; they must also be laughing at how easy it is to manipulate humans into feeding them!

Geoff and Mags said...

Hi Sue
i guess you can tell from the tone of the posts we're enjoying this canal. I was in 2 minds to be frank, but am glad we've come this far down. We'll be back again!
On ducks, you're right about their manipulative streak. How many times do you see them fetching a row of ducklings out to beg for tit bits.
Keep well

Ade said...

Hi Geoff,
Still enjoying the read very good it is to.
Just a note to say thanks for the link about the Bedford MK link, I follow a lot of canal websites including CWF and not heard of it until now! They need to raise their profile I think.