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Fenny Stratford

Milton Keynes – Campbell Park

In contrast to Tuesday, Wednesday was very much cooler. Our mooring at Water Eaton had been a good one but we had wanted to move on to Milton Keynes. We were on our way just after half past eight and half an hour later we were approaching Fenny lock. With “Jules Fuels” working pair on the water point and a boat coming out of the lock, space was quite restricted but we quickly had Caxton in the lock and of course the swing bridge was already open. Despite the fact that this lock is shallow, it isn’t a quick operation to pass through it with the swing bridge sitting¬† across the chamber. Nevertheless, it didn’t take us too long to get our way through the lock, helped in part by a young boy who was part of the crew of a hire boat moored below the lock who closed one of the bottom gates for us.

With the windlasses stowed inside, we started the next part of our trip which we knew would be lock free for many miles. There were very few boats on the move but one that we encountered had a steerer who had disappeared below deck, handily enough on a bend. Luckily enough he resurfaced just in time to see us and take evasive action. We encountered a day hire boat from Milton Keynes Marina which not only appeared to be sitting low in the water but was also pumping lots of water from its bilge. After following them for a mile or so, they pulled over and then waved us past. I asked them if everything was alright but they assured us that their low water line was due to their overweight crew. We carried on and eventually were delighted to find that there was lots of space on the Campbell Park moorings. Every time that we have passed this way we have been disappointed that there have been no free moorings in this area but this time we could have moored six or seven boats either side of the cut.

We were tied up just after eleven o’clock and with heavy rain forecast for later in the afternoon, we decided to walk into town and take shelter in the vast malls there. In the event, the BBC got it wrong again and the rain didn’t materialise but we were still happy enough having had lunch and a wander around the shops. Campbell Park looked lovely even on a dull day so all in all we’d had a decent afternoon.

Fenny Stratford

Tuesday after the Bank Holiday, not that Bank holidays mean much to us now, dawned and we were ready to move on again. As usual, travelling day, as I like to think of it, means that we were up relatively early and eager to get going. I had the engine started at eight o’clock and five minutes later we were taking on water at the service point. With an empty tank and a slow tap it took forty five minutes to fill up although admittedly we did use the time to do some laundry while we were there.

We set off again just before nine and after passing by the huge fleet of hire boats belonging to Wyvern Shipping who always seem to have an abundance of craft which are “un-let” we reached Leighton Lock. There was a boat already coming up through the lock and while we waited we saw another Barnowl boat, “Googly”, moored on the offside of the canal. We made our way northwards and passed by the Globe Inn, a pub that we still haven’t visited and noted that there was a space outside long enough for us to have moored Caxton in. We didn’t stop on this occasion being too early in the day so we’ll have to leave this little gem of the waterways until another time.

Tickling along through empty countryside interspersed with odd enclaves of moored boats, we found nb Muleless. Gary was having a smoke while standing on the bank and as we passed, he and I had a brief conversation. Muleless had passed us twice while we were moored at Leighton Buzzard so it wasn’t too much of a surprise to see them so close to the town. Interestingly enough, we last saw Muleless at Thrupp about three months ago when we were both heading in opposite directions.

The sun accompanied us as we cruised on to the three locks at Soulbury and when we reached there our passage down was assisted by boats travelling upwards and a lock keeper. We were warned that the pound below the bottom lock was extremely low and that had resulted in the boats coming up being unable to move until that point in time. The information was correct and judging by the water marks on the canal side, the pound was down by about twelve inches or so. We stuck to the centre of the channel and kept our speed down to tickover and as a result had no problem in reaching the next lock. Along the way we passed nb Myra-D who we hadn’t seen since they had suffered a breakdown when we shared some locks with them earlier this month. It turned out that the problem with the water level had been due to a combination of a blocked top gate paddle and leaking bottom gates at the following Stoke Hammond lock so once we had descended through that, the water depth was more than adequate.

We carried on to Water Eaton which is just south of Fenny Stratford and moored up in a semi rural setting. After lunch we struck out and walked the mile or so to Fenny Stratford, visited the local shops and then made our way to Fenny lock where we had a drink at the Red Lion. We also took the time to check out the local services and familiarised ourselves with the workings of the swing bridge that sits across the shallow lock.

On our way back along the towpath, we spotted nb Sunflower, the boat that we had shared some locks with a week earlier. We stopped to have a chat with the young owner, a nice enough lad who had moved his boat here to be with his brother while he found a job in the area.

After that, all we had left to do was to walk the mile or so back to our mooring where we got back on board and settled in for the evening.