Wind up Time

We had a good day on Thursday, sunny and fine and we were able to do most of the outside jobs on CK.  We had an engine and gearbox service, cleaned the complete outside ready for the next Owners to board, did a lot of our packing and did do some inside cleaning.  We also swapped over our car for a bigger one, and started packing our gear into it.

Jo and Stuart were back in the marina aboard Norma Jean, so they came over to dinner again.  It was good to see them again before we left.

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On Friday it was raining again but we cleaned our waste tank out and filled with diesel fuel, finished our cleaning and packing up, by which time, the next Owners Karoline and John arrived.  We had a good chat with them and then we were off back to Springhill near Evesham in Worcestershire and our good friends the Bomfords.  We are staying with them for a few days before we head off back home.

The woodpecker is still hanging around, he’s very well fed.

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On Saturday it was fine again.  Marion and Jonathon were hosting a wedding reception in their barn, so it started out a good day for it and although rain was forecast, it did stay clear for the celebration.

Hector the lawnmower was already on his rounds when we arose.

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The barn was laid out, decorated and ready for the 112 people attending.

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The wedding cake was on show.

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The wedding went very well and the people attending were well behaved, causing no trouble and they seemed to have a terrific time.

We managed to get over to Strensham Lock to see Holly and Rob who had helped Heather when she had the accident with her thumb 2 years ago.  They are planning to move to Australia and are going through the applications at the moment.  Good luck guys, it was good to see you again, and we look forward to seeing you next in Oz.

We found this little bat which was in a bit of bother.

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It was a lot smaller than the bats that we are used to.  We checked back a bit later and it had gone, hopefully flown away to somewhere more comfortable.

On Sunday we helped clean out the barn and set it up for the next wedding next week.

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The tables have gone and it’s nice and clean here, now a different set of tables are in place ready for fine tuning by the next wedding party.

Working clothes today.

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Later we caught up with Sally and Tom whose house we sat with their cats at the start of our trip this year, while they were away on holidays.

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They and their cats are well and it was good to see them again.

Everything is calm for the moment at Springhill.  Thanks again Marion and Jonathon for having us back, we look forward to seeing you again next year.

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Tomorrow, we are driving down to London and flying home again.  We’ve had another good trip and enjoyed our time over here again, but it will be good to get back home.

Cheers for now, Heather & Roger

Rain, Rain go Away

Wigrams Turn Marina, Oxford Canal, 5 Miles, 0 Locks

Total for this trip – 333 Miles, 196 Locks

Total for all our Canal Trips – 4,270 Miles, 2,879 Locks

We have been really lucky with the weather this year, it hasn’t been warm but we haven’t been cold.  It has been windy at times, but nothing that we couldn’t handle or that put us into trouble.  We have had some showers of rain but very little when we were actually driving the boat.

Today made up for that, we had steady rain, all day.  Luckily we didn’t have far to go to return to our home marina mooring, it only took about 1½ hours.

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We couldn’t see much of it today but this is normally a pretty stretch between Braunston and Napton, with historic farmlands, sheep and cattle to watch as we glide by.

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Roger drove CK and as you can see, he was very wet.

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His Wild Country coat from Rays Outdoors is very effective as a waterproof coat.  He was layered up so warm and completely dry inside.   It’s a shame that Rays don’t sell coats like that anymore.

We thought about our friends Marilyn & John and how sad it is for them as John has never been out on the canals before and to get such a horrible day.  They are only out for five days.

We usually take a photo of our last bridge of a cruise but today we took it from under the bridge.  Much dryer.

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Once we had moored and Roger had stripped off his wet coat and hat, we set about starting the inevitable cleaning and packing that comes at the end of a cruise.

Our hire car was delivered to us so we took our washing to the Laundrette and did a bit of shopping in nearby Daventry.

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The scene on the road was the same as the canal, except that Roger didn’t get wet while driving.

In the evening the rain eased then stopped and all was peaceful again.

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Welcome home CK, we are looking forward to seeing you all painted up in your new finery next year.

You’ve given us another fun and problem free cruise.

We Can Run but we Can’t Hide

Grand Union Canal, 6 Miles, 13 Locks

A few showers early on and through the day but light from what we here from friends in other parts of England.

We set off in fine weather up the Buckby Locks, in flood because of the leaking gates on Lock 9, scheduled to be replaced next week.  That sounds familiar.

This goose came up to us looking for a handout, must be the ugliest goose we have ever seen.

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He wasn’t sure if he is a cross between a duck, a goose or a swan.

The locks and pounds are surrounded by houses in this flight, some have done some nice landscaping to make the most of their canal setting.

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We had all these locks to ourselves, although we did change over with a few boats coming the other way.  We were soon to the top of the first 7 locks.

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We could almost reach out and buy a beer at this pub by the top lock, except that it wasn’t open yet.

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We passed through Norton Junction.  It always looks pretty with its well-kept cottages and gardens.

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The canal to the left goes to Braunston, Birmingham and beyond, between the houses goes to Leicester, Nottingham and beyond.  The cottage between the two arms was originally the old Toll Cottage where boaters moving freight would have paid their tolls for using the canals.

We moved back out into nice farming country again.

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In last week the winds have turned the canals into a carpet made up of Pussy willow seeds and pollen and this week the wind has used the little white Hawthorn flower petals.

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Very pretty but not good for hay fever sufferers.

Then we were into another tunnel, this time Braunston tunnel.  Nearly 2 km long, crooked and shorter than Blisworth but it wasn’t leaking any water on us unlike Blisworth in which we really got drenched.

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After the tunnel, we went through the 6 locks into Braunston, sharing the last 5 with another boat to make life easier. They are a share boat based at Wigrams Turns Marina also.

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We moored outside Braunston Marina to do some external cleaning of CK, and this swan got a bit too close for comfort.

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We went for a walk along the towpath to check out the moorings near the pub and there were plenty.  So we moved up and moored here, opposite the pub and continued our cleaning.

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Having decided later that we would go to the pub for dinner, we moved across the canal to moor right outside as it was looking like the rain was coming back and we would have a short walk to duck inside.

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Imagine our surprise when 2 members of Heather’s Warrandyte Trippers group arrived on a hire boat and moored right in front of us on the same mooring. Neither of us knew we were in the UK.

Marilyn and John came aboard CK for a drink.

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Later we all went into the pub for dinner.

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It’s a small world.

Wet, Windy and Some Welcome News

Grand Union Canal, 19 Miles, 7 Locks

We had a wet start, showers on and off all day really with some very nasty winds, just where we didn’t want them of course.

Gill and Paul set off with us in ‘CJ’ as far as the bottom of the Stoke Breune Locks, offering to help us through the locks, very welcome assistance considering they were all done in rain.

We teamed up with another boat for the ascent and with six of us working them we made short work of them.

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The first five of these locks are close together.

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We passed some boats on the way down to share some water with and made it safely to the top just as the rain stopped for lunch.

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We had a nice lunch with Gill and Paul before we then went in our separate ways.  Thanks a lot for coming over to see us for a couple of days and for helping us through the locks.  It was good to catch up, we’re already looking forward to next time.

Our next challenge was the Blisworth Tunnel.

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Over 2.8km long, very dark, very spooky.  We met 2 oncoming boats and passed them both without difficulty.  It is said to be haunted but we saw no evidence of that.

Out of the tunnel, we passed through the old canal community of Blisworth, with its large old mill / warehouse building, now flats.

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Then we were out in open country to do the miles in the showers and wind that we needed to do.   Pretty farmland with a couple of villages.

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We passed several old working boats, some towing butties (unpowered barges).

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Although we held back to let this pair pass us, they still ran aground in the shallows as they went too wide in the canal.

Tomorrow will be another big day and rain is forecast, so we went as far as we could to the bottom of the Buckby Flight of locks.

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Looks like a peaceful mooring, but we have the M1 Motorway 100 metres away on the starboard side, and a busy train line 100 metres away on the port side.  We also have the generator for a neighbouring boat running as he does a load in his washing machine.  Not to worry, the genny stopped, the trains did too and the traffic on the M1 became just a faint background noise, a bit like tinnitus.

Now, the news we have been waiting for.  We are pleased to welcome Ashton James Carle, our latest grandson who was born during our night 3.01pm Oz time.  Ashton and Annette are doing well, congratulations to them and dad Glen on his arrival.  Can’t wait to meet him and see you all again.

Mothers’ Day Lunch

Grand Union Canal, 3 Miles, 1 Lock

We didn’t realise but today is Mothers’ Day in Oz, so Happy Mothers’ Day to Aussie Mothers today.

We had a lunch planned at the Navigation Inn a little way along the canal above Cosgrove Lock.  We went up through the lock, filled CK’s water tank and moved on through Cosgrove, a tidy little village.

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Then back out into farming country.

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We were able to moor right outside the pub, handy for lunch with a few other CK owners Tracey, Paul and Duncan.

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Joining us were Ceridwen Joan owner friends, Gill & Paul who came on their boat.

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The sun was shining so we had a drink in the garden, doesn’t Heather look lovely for Mothers’ Day?

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We were soon assembled and enjoyed a good Sunday lunch, with good company.

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Left to right, Paul, Roger, Tracey, Heather, Gill, Paul and Duncan.  Thanks to you all for coming so far, it was good to see you all again and we had a great time.

After lunch, we moved CK and ‘CJ’ along to a quieter mooring along the canal in brilliant sunshine .

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We had a good evening with Gill & Paul, catching up on everything that had happened since we last met.

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All in all, a happy Mothers’ Day.


Onwards To and Through Milton Keynes

Grand Union Canal, 23 Miles, 10 Locks

The forecast was for a fine day.  It was drizzling when we started but that soon cleared and we had fine and sometimes sunny weather again for our cruise.

We passed through more nice farmland.

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We paid more attention to our locks as we went through them and we noticed that the top of the top gates is higher than the top of the bottom gates on all of the locks.  So it isn’t a design flaw as we suggested yesterday, it’s deliberate.  Don’t know why but there must be a reason.

An unusual lock today at Fenny Stratford, it has a swing bridge across it, for the locals to get to and from the pub which is lockside.

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It’s not a very deep lock, and is the last of the locks along this stretch going down.  From here on we are going up again till we reach the Braunston Tunnel level.

NB Tea Junction is a café and it was doing some good trade with customers aboard having a cup of tea and cake.

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We reached Milton Keynes  in the early afternoon, many miles of lock free cruising.

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MK is a largish, fairly new town and to us it seems to be the town that has made the most of its canal frontage.  There are miles of parks with walking and cycling tracks, all set back from the canal.

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The parks contain theme parks and sporting fields and there were a lot of people out enjoying them as we went through.  On a previous visit we walked up to a large mall where they even have indoor snow skiing.

There is a lot to do in MK if you are active, with miles of good moorings along the way.

We passed this sunken barge along the way.

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We have received an email from C&RT advising that they will be retrieving this boat soon, so we are glad to be past it to avoid further delays.

MK also has a lot of art dotted about, murals under their bridges and sculptures in the parks.

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We haven’t noticed this horse before though it’s obviously not new.

We saw this strange boat moored further on.

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It’s possibly made of fibreglass but is clad with thin timber strips beautifully matched for colour and grain each piece cut to its exact shape and size.  The interior was a large kitchen so perhaps they were selling food and drinks but without any signage we couldn’t tell.

This mural along a low, long brick wall seems to have pre-empted graffiti.

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Another sculpture of a running man among the urban renewal.

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We crossed over the River Great Ouse on an iron trough aqueduct, doesn’t look too great here but it is navigable further down.

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We tried mooring at a few places without success as we were coming out of MK.  It was either too shallow or whatever, but we finally moored on a good mooring amongst other boats below the lock at Cosgrove.

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This barge opposite has large dagger boards for its sea voyages, and a huge mast for its sails.

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It’s a long way and a lot of locks to the sea, but we know that this boat has been here for years and isn’t moving any time soon.

We’ve had another long day of cruising with no shared locks which we don’t really mind as it seems to be quicker on our own.

Setbacks on our way to Cheddington

Grand Union Canal, 10 Miles, 21 Locks

Rain was forecast all day and it was raining when we awoke but by the time we set off just after 8am, it had stopped.  Apart from a couple of showers through the day, it remained mostly fine, even sunny at times.

Berko was peaceful when we left.

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We moved through our first 2 locks then a significant setback to our plans for the day.  The water level in the fairly long section between locks 50 and 51 (called a pound) was missing 2 to 3 feet of water, and we could go no further.

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We could see a strip of water in the middle of the canal and tried to make our way through it but were soon aground.

We rang C&RT the managing body for the canals and reported the problem and we were rung back to advise that it was being escalated.  After a while we noticed that the water level was slowly rising and we were afloat again.

Steve, the C&RT man whose patch this was arrived by car and told us that he had received no phone call, but this was a chronic problem in this place.

It happened every night because of the leaky gates on lock 51.  He routinely rewaters the pound every morning.  The leaky gates are due to be replaced next week.

After a 1½ hour delay we were able to make our way slowly through the pound but the level was still well below normal.

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We arrived at the next lock and Steve helped us through it.

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The pounds above Lock 50 were all ok so we were on our way again, but so much for our early start.

We moved up towards the Tring Summit of the GUC, passing through the Dudswell Locks where Heather had saved a deer’s life a few years ago by pulling it out of the Canal.

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As we crossed Tring Summit we had our lunch on the move to make up a bit of time, and then we were into the Marsworth Locks, coming back down again.

Now we were besieged with too much water.

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It seems to us that the lock gates in this flight have a design problem – the top of the top gates are higher than the top of the bottom gates.

If there is too much water in the flight, it will come from the pound over the top of the top gates into the lock which is 1 to 2 inches lower than the pound, because it is also going over the top of the bottom gates which are that much lower than the top gates.

Because the level of the water in the lock is that 1 to 2 inches lower than the pound, we could not open the top gates to bring CK into the lock until we drained enough water from the pound to equalise with the level in the lock.  This wasted time and water.

This occurred with 5 of the 8 locks in this flight.  If the ambient level of the water in the flight had been a little lower this would not have happened and we would not have been delayed again.

We made our way past these locks and were out in beautiful open farming country again.  Our surroundings are changing constantly.

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Our locks now were strictly routine thank heavens.

At Ivinghoe a tree had come down near the lock and some C&RT Contractors were removing it as we passed.

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Mind the gap Heather.

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We found a nice mooring near Horton Wharf in a sunny spot and sheltered from the wind that by now was blowing.

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The surrounding countryside is very nice, peaceful with lowing cattle calling to be milked.

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We are also near Cheddington, where the Great Train Robbery took place in 1963.

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Ronald Biggs and gang stole £2.6M now worth over £50M, but they didn’t live happily ever after.

We went Berko

Grand Union Canal, 12 Miles, 27 Locks

We started off at 6.30am, a bright cool morning, still and misty.

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It was like we had the whole morning to ourselves.

Actually we did have the morning to ourselves.  The only moving boat that we saw was this cruiser being poled down the canal because the engine didn’t work.  Shame that we met him under a bridge.

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He was going down to Rickmansworth, 2 Miles and 4 Locks downstream.  It would have been a long hard trip for him except that the lady on the boat with all the smoke offered to tow him there a bit later.

We’ve seen this ‘boat’ before on other trips through here.

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The area in the car’s wheel arches and the underneath of the car have been extensively filled in with bog, and it isn’t a pretty job.

Heather calls these Garden Gates. They need a lot of attention.  The gates are being ripped apart by the foliage growing on them, there was water leaking through the gates all over them.

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The plants didn’t cause the gush in the middle, boats caused that.

We passed under the M25, we consider ourselves out of London again from here on.

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The things that you see on the Canals.  Yesterday a crocodile, today a dinosaur.

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Our progress through the first half of our locks was quick but heavy.

Six of our first 8 locks were set our way, with 1 gate left open by a couple of men who had gone through before we set off.  Very quick for us.

We caught up with another boat in Hemel Hempstead and started sharing locks with them.  This did reduce our load but did slow us down.

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We stopped for a quick lunch break at Winkwell, just past the electric swing bridge.

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The countryside became more open and attractive, back amongst farms again.

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We moored at a more reasonable time of around 4pm in Berkhamsted, in a nice town setting.

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It’s affectionately known as ‘Berko’.

We are moored behind a beer and cider boat, and we were ready for one by now. We both tried something different. Roger wasn’t keen on his and Heather was quite nice. They were both refreshing after a hard day’s work.

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Later, some swans brought their cygnets to our side hatch to show them off.

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We don’t normally feed or encourage swans because they can be a real nuisance, but made an exception here and fed them some oats which they all seemed to enjoy. Very cute.

On the Move Again

Grand Union Canal, 28 Miles, 11 Locks

After nearly a week of being sightseers in London, it’s time to start the journey to take CK home again.  Weather wise, we could not have had a better day for it.

Warm, sunny with no wind that bothered us, nearly perfect.

We were joined for a boat ride by Eric, the brother of a friend in Warrandyte for part of the day, from Paddington to Uxbridge which is close to where he lives.

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We had met Eric in Oz when he was visiting and arranged for him to come for a boat ride with us when we were in his area and today was the day.  He was really happy as he had never been on a narrow boat before. He had turns at driving CK, worked on some locks and saw parts of London in ways that he had never seen before.

We saw our first cygnets of the year along the way.

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We cruised along the Paddington Arm of the GUC passing all the moored boats and found the moorings at Bulls Bridge Jct nearly empty so we moored up at the water point, filled our water tank and had lunch.

Then we proceeded up the GUC for a bit before we came to our first lock of the day, a learning experience for Eric.  He closed the gate, wound some paddles then he and Roger had a rest while the lock filled.

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Then we saw our second flock of cygnets.

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Looks like there’s going to be lots of new swans about from now on.

It’s not just the swans that are spawning, this old narrowboat seems to have had a baby too.

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Next we were at Uxbridge Lock and Eric was back in home territory again.  So after we had moved CK through the lock, he made his way home and we continued on our way.

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It was good to catch up again, Eric. See you in OZ next year.

We are still within the London area.   We passed through some industrial, commercial and dense residential areas today, but a lot of the canal was quiet and serene and we could have been anywhere.

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That’s what we love about boating on the UK canals.

Later we passed a crocodile.  Fortunately it wasn’t on the tow path side.

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We did some more locks.  We occasionally passed somebody going the other way, changing over the locks but we met no-one going our way so we did all our work by ourselves.  It was still faster and better than if you get stuck with somebody like the chap we had on the Hanwell flight.

This heron was very brave standing so still for us.

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Usually herons fly away as you approach them but this one took advantage of the boat movement exposing any fish in the water to catch and eat. The water was muddy so he had to wait for us to bring the fish to the surface.

We did move further than we had intended, a lack of moorings meant that we just had to keep going until we found one that we could use, at Croxley Green, near Watford.  So it was an extremely late finish for us. A very long 12 hour day.


Our Last Day in London

For our last day in London, we were planning to meet up with Marion and Jonathon for dinner and a show – Kinky Boots.

As we weren’t due to meet them until 5.30 pm, we thought we would walk to the theatre and take in some of the sights that we have missed so far this visit, a total of about 6.5km.

First we went around to Little Venice, looking very calm in the morning.

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We had some lunch aboard CK and set off, firstly down Edgeware Rd to Marble Arch, and Hyde Park.

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Near Marble Arch is another sculpture, called Still Water.

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Now, you might wonder why a sculpture of a 10 metre bronze horse’s head would be called Still Water.  It’s because it has replaced a smaller earlier sculpture called Horse at Water.  Of course.

Still, it’s very impressive.

We walked out into Hyde Park, we forget just how large it is.  The squirrels are very tame here.

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We arrived at the Serpentine, a popular boating lake within Hyde Park.  It was not very busy today, but it is a Tuesday, so just us tourists around.

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Roger did two of his favourite things simultaneously, walking a pigeon while eating an ice cream.

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We moved on to Hyde Park corner.  Lots of traffic out here but we found a break between the change of traffic lights to take a picture.

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We went through Wellington Arch.

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We walked on through Green Park, which is very green at the moment.

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Green Park seems to have become a wilderness park.  It doesn’t look too bad in this photo but other parts of it are like natural parkland, not the manicured gardens we would expect in a large city.

Next we arrived at Buckingham Palace.

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The flag flying is the Union Jack, not the Royal Standard so the Queen was not at home.  We wanted to thank Prince Philip for all his good work, but it wasn’t to be.

This palace Guard decided to break his monotony by marching up and down the square.

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We can remember when we could walk right up to these guards and they had ordinary rifles.  Not so now, they are behind locked and guarded gates and armed with serious automatic weapons.

We walked alongside St James’ Park down the Mall to Admiralty Arch, and through into Trafalgar Square.

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We have noticed a huge police presence on this visit to London.  There are sirens going all the time, with small cars, large cars, limos and vans screaming around.  We have seen some on foot, and some on horses.

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They are nearly always at least 2 of them together.

We did meet up with Marion and Jonathon in an American styled BBQ & Lobster style restaurant and had a good catch up on what we’ve all been doing since we last saw each other.

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The food was good and a very good price for London. We had some drinks and chatted for quite a while.  Actually we yelled at each other, it was quite noisy.

Then on to the Adelphi Theatre for the show – Kinky Boots.

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We enjoyed the show very much and we had a great night.  It was lovely, thanks M & J for coming down to London to spend this time with us.

We parted after the show and we made our way safely back to CK on a train.

The big trip back to Napton starts tomorrow.