Sunday, 31 July 2011

Linslade Canal Festival

(Boat Sickle - posted by Cath - about time too!.....)

Friday 29th July 2011

We had never been to the Linslade Canal Festival, although we had passed through on a couple of occasions, heading north on our summer trip.  We knew that we'd be around for this weekend, so, although it was fairly short notice I persuaded Alan to ring up and book us in.

No problem, they would arrange for a place for us, all the forms would be sent off, then as a closing remark the woman on the other end of the phone said, "are you the Alan with the vintage tractors?"  Alan was a bit surprised, as Alan isn't an unusual name. "No," she said, "the Alan Fincher with the vintage tractors."

OK, it looked like Alan might finally get to meet another Alan Fincher, who, despite there being only a handful of them in the country, actually shares the same dentist.

We set off from our borrowed mooring at Cow Roast at about 11 am, across Tring summit, and down the Marsworth flight. After a few locks we spotted a single hander ahead of us, working with two boats breasted up. One of the boats was quite short, so I asked him if we could fit into the locks with him.  He agreed, and we worked down several locks with him, fitting the boats into the locks - us in first, then him bringing his two in behind. He was efficient, working quickly so that we made good progress.

Passing through the swing bridge at Cheddington

 Playing narrow boat Tetris
- getting three boats into a lock

At one lock we were warned by boaters coming the other way of a distinctive boat that had just been sold. The new owners were taking it to London, but had no experience of boating, and had no idea what they were doing - they had already rammed one boat broadsides. Even hire boaters get instruction, these people had nothing - but we later found, when we did come across them, that another group of boaters had taken them under their wing(s?), and were travelling down with them, giving them instruction as they went.

Sickle passes Mimas opposite Grove Marina
The single hander stopped above Slapton, so we carried on alone, passing the beautiful Mimas - a former 'Ovaltine' boat just above Grove Lock.


We arrived at Linslade soon after 6 o'clock. We could see that there were boat names labelling the moorings, so we headed on slowly, until we saw ours, between Trevor Magg's 'Corona' and the 'Cheese Boat'.  However, despite the fact that Trevor had moored close in to the side, there was no way that we were going to be able to get Sickle into the edge.

We had a bit of a wander around the festival site, then walked up to the town to see if we could get a meal. We managed to get a table in 'Ask', which is in the old fire station - seated next to an old hand pump. A nice touch as it was an original from that fire station.  We walked back up the tow-path after dark, trying hard to keep or voices quiet as we passed the boats already moored for the festival.  Once again I slept really well, although I was woken by Alan enthusing about the mist on the canal at 5 am. I have to admit that I didn't get up to view this, but went straight back to sleep again - however, this is a photo of Corona and Hood soon after dawn.

Saturday 30th July 2011

We didn't rush to get up, a fairly slow breakfast, coffee, fruit, and the only cereal that I could find on the boat - Weetabix.  Then we set up our 'information board', which gives some of the history of Sickle for the passing crowds.  At soon after 11 we went off ourselves to view the festival site.

Fire pump from Apsley Mills - where Alan and I used to work in the late 1970's

It is a big festival, vibrant and active, with many crafts and skills being demonstrated. There were llamas, fire pumps, birds of prey, basket makers, wood turners, many, many stalls and a large display of vintage tractors.  Alan decided that one of the men sitting near the tractors had to be another Alan Fincher, but was surprisingly nervous about introducing himself. I threatened to introduce him myself, so he strode up and asked if anyone there was 'Alan Fincher'. There was a lot of coughing and muttering - "I might know who Alan Fincher is..... could be me...depends on who wants to know...." said the man standing behind all the others.

Alan Fincher (twice!) plus Jean Fincher
"Ah," said Alan, "if you are Alan Fincher, I am Alan Fincher".

"Oh, bloody hell," came the chorus from the tractor owners, "one of 'em is enough!"

"Ah," said the other Alan Fincher, "we share the same dentist!".

Alan meets Alan Fincher - the other Alan Fincher is secretary of Old FARTS (Friends and Relatives Tractor Society) - why does this seem so apposite?

We met Alan's wife Jean, and several other Finchers, before we had to go back to Sickle.

We sat for a while next to Sickle, answering questions about the boat when people wanted to know things. A lot of people read our information board, and then want to know more. Because we couldn't get Sickle close into the side we left a plank across to the tug deck - a staggering number of passing children wanted to 'walk the plank' - although no parents would let them, explaining that you wouldn't walk into someone's house. I was making a rug, which elicited almost as much interest as the boat, with several older women saying that they remember their mothers making rugs - does that make me feel old?

It's an interesting experience listening to the comments of the people passing.  "People used to have to cook on those old ranges", yes, well, we still do. "Somebody owns that boat," yes, turn around and you'll see them. "That boat isn't as long as a lock - it is obviously something peculiar", well yes, try reading the information about it. Someone told their kids that in the old days people used to pile the coal for delivery on TOP of the deck boards. Interestingly, nobody asked what we were carrying this time - I'm developing a range of answers to this one - "rum and chocolate", but I'm considering "no, that's where we keep the jacuzzi". I have to admit that I haven't yet been bold enough to give one of these answers. 

Sickle at the water point in Leighton Buzzard
We had a great time, Alan met up with a couple of brothers who had known both of his brothers more than 30 years ago, when all four were operating pairs of narrow boats in connection with the retail coal trade, and spent ages talking over old times. I bought far too many things. However, eventually, the festival closed, and we decided, not having a ticket for the barbecue (no veggie options), that we'd start our journey back to Cow Roast.  We headed down to Tesco, for me to buy dinner, and Sunday's lunch, then turned back south again.  

Mimas looking beautiful in the evening sunshine
We moored just above Slapton Lock - once again some distance from the bank. At 8:50 the boat behind us started up it's engine, which ran until just before 11 pm.  Good thing we weren't tired......

Sunday 31st July 2011

I took a long time to surface, and once again Alan had made coffee for me. We got going at some time after 9 am, it was hot, and most of the time the locks were against us.

Sickle revisits its former life, and hangs out with the BW work-boats below Seabrooke middle lock

Marsworth flight was busy with 'gongoozlers' out for a Sunday stroll, once again Sickle eliciting far more interest than Chalice ever does. Lots of people stop to talk, and ask questions, so you find everything takes just a little bit longer - not that I mind, I love the opportunity to explain our unusual boat.

However, we made fair time, and arrive back at the 'borrowed' mooring at soon after 3 pm. Then we had all the things that needed to be done, emptying the toilet, getting rid of the rubbish - finishing the washing up, so we didn't get home until after 5 pm.

We both had a great time - we'll certainly put next year's Linslade Canal Festival our diary, if we are not making a bigger trip when it is actually on.

Cow Roast to Linslade and Return
Miles: 24.2, Locks: 36

1 comment:

  1. Heck Alan! - there I was having a good chuckle about the FARTS, then enlarged the piccy to see a SAINTS shirt!
    Hurt is all I can say! Sarries I could just about understand!
    All I can suggest is a trip, at my invitation, to see Bedford at some point in the forthcoming season?
    Sue (tongue so far in cheek it hurts!!)


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