Saturday, 31 May 2014

A very busy day on the Stoke Bruerne Flight

(Boat Chalice - posted by Cath)

A very sluggish start this morning. We went for a wander through the woodland with Odin, then had a leisurely breakfast. By the time that we finally got going, there had been several boats moving through in both directions.

We got to the top lock to find that we were third in the queue, and there were no volunteer lock keepers around - they were further down the flight checking the pound levels.

The first boat in the queue was Tuptonia - the Northamptonshire and Birmingham Girl Guide boat. We met up with the previous Tuptonia on a trip into London several years back - when a party of guide leaders were making a farewell visit with the aging boat. A very jolly lot they seemed to be, and we were very impressed by the idea of using a boat with Guides.

I wasn't quite so impressed this morning. That doesn't mean that I don't still support the idea - I do, wholeheartedly, I just felt that the way that the instruction of Brownies was done could have been done better on what seemed to be a very busy morning.

The steerer got all of the Brownies, and their leaders, off the boat, then began to explain how the lock worked, including all the important safety features. While this was happening a queue was beginning to build up. I know that the whole idea of canal boating is to take it easy, but some boats do have places to get to by a certain time.

What I've seen people do in the past, is to stop short of the lock, then take everyone up to it, and watch a couple of boats through - then go through themselves. This would have been a much better strategy in this case - the girls could have seen what needs to be done, rather than having it explained.

Finally progressing down Stoke Flight, but delays could have been much less.
As it was, I went below the lock, and saw a boat just preparing to come up from the lock below - not something that is visible from the top gates of Top Lock.  As I walked back up the steerer of Tuptonia began to start to wind the paddles. I suggested that he wait for the boat coming up, and that in that case the Brownies would have a chance to see the lock working before they tried to do it.

As more boats were beginning to arrive at the top, and the other boat going down with Tuptonia was a hire crew that seemed completely overwhelmed by the idea of using locks, I walked down and got the second lock ready, then went to find the volunteer lock keeper, and let him know that he was getting a long queue at the top.

Our boat eventually appeared, with an experienced and jolly hire boat crew, and we worked down the rest of the flight with them.

I don't think I've seen the flight this busy in a very long time, boats going in both directions - the two volunteer lock keepers were kept very busy.

Crossing Wolverton Trunk Aqueduct.
It was a dry day, mostly white cloud, with some sunshine, and no rain. We headed south through the Northamptonshire fields, the route we do more than any other. As Sickle needs to be back at Stoke Bruerne in two weeks time for the Boat Festival we began to wonder about whether we wanted Chalice to be taken all the way back to her home mooring. We think that we will still need her as a support boat - as Odin really shouldn't be making the big leap into Sickle's cabin yet. We started to plan whether it might be possible to stop short, so that we haven't got quite so much boat moving to do - we do have other things to think about in our lives.

 Ruins of St Peter's Church, Stantonbury
I've often wanted to go out to look at the 12th century ruined chapel of St Peters Church at Stantonbury,  and we were feeling very tired, so we moored up, deciding to call it a very short day.

There is no evidence of this church ever being other than in the middle of fields.
We walked Odin down to the chapel, which is fenced off, but the gate is broken, and that it is obvious that many people have gone into the chapel. It's an interesting ruin, made somewhat more evocative, by a huge, dead oak tree nearby - with large black crows hunched on the bleached branches. Although the chapel is ruined, with no roof, and much of the walls tumbled, it was still in use in 1927. By the 1950s the roof was falling in and some of the best Norman architecture was removed to elsewhere.

A beautiful place, but we wouldn't want to share it with the off roaders!

He is not supposed to be going to wild, (but so good that he is now able!).
However, it became obvious that the field next to the canal was occasionally used for illicit 4 x 4 off-roading. We decided that we didn't want to be woken early tomorrow morning by noisy landrovers - so we set off again, finally stopping at the very attractive mooring at Great Linford. Still a very short day for us, but Odin got the advantage of another walk in the excellent parkland here.

In the evening sunshine the trees were beginning to release their seeds. White down floating over the canal like snowflakes, settling into any corners in the boat, and making a white fluff over the surface of the water. Many years ago I read that there are great drifts of this downy fluff in Moscow - where it is called 'pookh'. It settles into the roadside gutters and kerbs, where it is sometimes set on fire by local children. I love this time of year, when downy snowflakes drift past the boat on the canals.

Stoke Bruerne to Great Linford - (Milton Keynes)
Miles: 12.1, Locks:7

Total Miles: 268.3, Locks: 209

No comments:

Post a Comment

We have (finally!) been alerted to the fact that many people have been unable to post comments on this blog. (It seemed a bit odd, as people used to, but it has stopped occurring). We have changed some settings, so hopefully now possible again. Comments will be moderated, and you will need to enter word verification.