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  • clivenmel

Dec 17th

Normal 0 false false false st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} We didn�t reverse back into the Heyford Fields marina on Tuesday morning because I phoned them first and discovered that they don�t cater for general boaters, only the boats moored in the marina can use the facilities, including purchasing diesel!  That�s not very sociable is it!!    So we continued on the way we were going then took a little detour up the Northampton arm of the Grand Union to Gayton Marina to fill up with diesel and get the pump out.  Now we actually know Gayton quite well � we set off on our second narrowboat holiday from here in June 2007!  At first we thought we had gone out of our way for nothing � the shop at the marina had the CLOSED sign up and there wasn�t a soul about.  Then a red van drew up and a man got out and I went and asked him if he worked at the marina � he did, he was the owner!  As it turned out the girls who man the shop don�t work on Tuesdays and Wednesdays because they have to work at the weekends when the hire boats are changing over.  So the owner himself served us with diesel and did the pump out but when it came to making the payment that was a bit tricky � he�d only done a card transaction once before!  It took ages.  I was waiting by the boat and was beginning to wonder if Clive had been abducted or something!  Finally he emerged from the shop and we set off again.  We had to go up to the next winding hole and turn around to go back the way we had come.  It gave me chance to nip inside and make a couple of mugs of cuppa soup for lunch!  We hadn�t been travelling long when we arrived at the Blisworth Tunnel.  This is the third longest navigable tunnel in Britain at 3076 yards long but there is a world of difference between this tunnel and the Standedge Tunnel.  For a start it is wide enough for two boats to pass each other and is also of reasonable height but best of all it is fully lined, unlike Standedge which is just bare, hewn rock.  So it wasn�t unpleasant going through it, apart from the fact that it was very cold!  I had to put the umbrella up on a few occasions to protect us both from water pouring down the air shafts!  It is actually a very straight tunnel and even though it is very long you can see the tunnel entrance at the other end.    Soon after we emerged from the tunnel we arrived at Stoke Bruerne.  This is another place which is synonymous with narrowboats, there is even a canal museum here.  We went through the two locks in the middle of the village and then moored up on the towpath and with no more ado went to check out the lovely old pub � The Boat Inn.   It was absolutely gorgeous inside, really olde worldy, with small rooms and roaring fires and a skittles alley in one of the rooms.  It turns out that this inn has been run by the same family for generations, in fact the last landlord had worked there from being 15 until he died aged 83, not long ago.  By the time he died he had a heart problem, had had both legs amputated and lost one of his eyes!  He lived in the pub until three weeks before he died.  His son is the landlord now.    Now it was just 3pm when we went in and we were informed that they didn�t start serving food until 6pm � oh dear!  What to do, we couldn�t just sit there drinking for three hours on empty stomachs����..so we had a couple of drinks each then went across the bridge to another pub at the other side of the canal called The Navigation.  This one wasn�t as pretty but it did serve food all day long � problem solved!   Just before we went to bed we were both aware of quite a loud noise and had to look out the windows to identify it � it turned out that the lock we had come down through earlier in the afternoon had filled up all by itself as there was so much water in the canal due to the run-off. It was now completely full and the water was pouring over the front gates like Niagara Falls � hence the noise!  By the time we woke up this morning it had all settled down.   Well all I can say about today (apart from one little hiccup, which I will get to in a moment) is �what a perfect day�!  It dawned absolutely beautiful with bright sunshine, blue sky, birds singing � lovely.  After breakfast we walked back up to Stoke Bruerne and took a few photographs, including one of an absolute picture box of a thatched cottage. Last night it looked really pretty as it had lovely Christmas lights all round the eaves.  We noticed this morning that it is actually a B&B establishment.  Anyway, photos taken, it was back to the boat and on to the first of the five remaining locks in the flight.  These locks, although huge double locks, are actually quite easy to operate and they fill and empty very quickly.  They are also quite close together so it was easy for me to trot down to the next lock and open the paddles so that it was set by the time the boat was emerging from the previous lock. Everything was going along beautifully until I got back to the lock only to find Clive down in the engine compartment and no engine noise!  He was down the weed hatch again, though admittedly he hasn�t had to go down there for quite a long time as the canals we have been on recently have been pretty clean.  This time it was fishing line and a fender rope well and truly wrapped round the prop shaft!  Now the problem with the weed hatch is that you can put one arm down and see what you are doing but you can�t put both arms down and still see what you are doing!  So if you require both hands you have to do everything by feel, Clive was trying to hold the shaft still with one hand and cut through the tangled mess with the other � needless to say he ended up cutting himself and was bleeding like a stuck pig from his thumb!  By this time I had set off back down to the next lock with the intention of opening the gates as the lock would now be full but when I got there I found another boat coming up and the solo boater had already emptied the lock again and was in the process of refilling it!  I explained what had happened and that he couldn�t get into the lock as our boat was still in it!  He said he would moor up in the pound and see if he could help Clive � that was kind of him.  However by the time he was emerging from the lock Clive had got things sorted out and the engine was running again so we were OK � it was touch and go there for a bit though! We see all types of craft on the canal - but here is a question for you - when is a narrowboat not a narrowboat?  The answer - when it is a broad beam!  Here is an example for you........   IT'S   HUGE! The rest of the day was uneventful and continued to be absolutely glorious but by 2pm it was starting to get chilly again and we needed to find an overnight mooring.  We went through a little place called Cosgrove, through one more lock which was all by itself at a junction where the Buckingham branch of the Grand Union used to turn off.  That is just used for moorings now and peters out after a short distance.  We finally moored up on the outskirts of Wolverton at around 3ish.  It is not the prettiest of moorings, in fact there is a big builder�s merchants opposite!  However, once the curtains are closed we could be anywhere so it doesn�t really matter.   We are now in the outer limits of Milton Keynes!

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