Sunday, 25 July 2021

Grafton Street, Milton Keynes

 Today's Canal - Grand Union

Today was very much cooler, grey, overcast and on a couple of occasions a hint of dampness. Quite a change after the very hot spell.

Shortly after casting off we passed Weedon Wharf - the property is now a private home. Originally this was only the connection between the canal and the village until the Ordnance Canal and stores were constructed. The latter connection has long since been closed off.

Stowe Hill, home to well-known boat builders as well Rugby Boat Sales is one place where, several years ago, we left Take Five whilst we returned home for other duties.

We passed a couple lof sizeable fishing matches. The first was due to start at 9 and the second at 10, In both cases we passed just before the off. It is simply amazing how much gear they all bring with them, on trolleys pulled along often difficult towpaths.

One the pitched had been located they gave themselves plenty of time to unpack, sort out all the gtcakle and deploy the various rods, some long enough to reach the other side of the canal.

At times it seemed as if the line of regularly spaced men and they were all male) would have no end. One or two even manged a cheery comment in reply to Christine!

Bridge 43A is only a few year old and replaced a former level crossing which must have been a real nuisance as the road has become quite busy and the railway is the main electrified East Coast Line.

At Gayton Junction we stooped for a 'full service' but left as soon as the water tank was full.

Just after the junction the remains of the abutments of a former railway bridge. This carried a line into Northampton and there was quite a substantial station at the junction. Of course, that station is no more and the space used for a slightly scruffy set of in line moorings and a few caravan hook-ups.

As we entered Blisworth Tunnel we could the light of an on-coming boat but is was several minutes before we actually passed each other.

Immediately after the tunnel comes the Stoke Bruerne flight of 7 locks. Suddenly the canal was busy - we have been so used to seeing just a few boats moving each day and rarely meet one at a lock. The tea room at the museum alongside the top lock appears to have had a good makeover as well as the surrounding space, with more opportunities to sit outside.

There was a small crowd of onlookers, especially at the top lock but skill not anything ,like pre-COVID times.

In the long pound below the locks we encountered a 'container ship' (!) - a wide beam boat built from a container on a flat hull. No doubt it maximizes the available room but, with no windows, one wonders just how comfortable it feels.

Just after Thrupp Marina is the Navigation Inn which appears to have significant upgrades as a recovery from COVID. In the garden a number of the conventional open picnic tables have been replaced by smart, up market pods.

The main room alongside the canal has a large open window and a smart lunch party seemed to be well underway! A lot of folk were delighted to be free to enjoy themselves once again.

The entry into Cosgrove is announced by the ornate Solomon's Bridge. (It also has had other names!) It originally connected the crossroads in the village to a new priory just to the north, crossing the equally new canal. There seems to be no documentary evidence for why it was ornate and is only one of just two on the whole of the Grand Union.

We had to wait for a boat to leave Cosgrove Lock - interesting as it turned out to be Poppy a boat we hired from Wyvern in Leighton Buzzard in 1997 for what we called our Canal 40 trip. It had had a few refurbishments in the meantime!

We had enough time to continue in onwards Milton Keynes - Christine reckoned that we could manage without re-stocking until Leighton Buzzard as kit was too late today to visit Tesco at Wolverton. Mike2 disappeared into the galley to start to prepare the Sunday roast for later in the evening - so no photos. Tough! We moored up on the approach to Grafton Street Aqueduct - a little shall but open (for sat tv) and convenient.

20.3 Miles - 9 Locks