Friday, 29 June 2012

Laid-back in Leighton Buzzard

For the past 10 days we stayed in Leighton Buzzard because I had a good broadband signal and needed to do some work. We stayed about 1 mile outside the town itself, next to a nice park with lots of wild flowers, rabbits and a lake. It was a peaceful place to stay, nestling at the end of a row of narrowboats. The town itself has a man who carries a guitar and plays maraccas, seemingly for no reward. The people are friendly and the town is pleasantly old fashioned, with a market every Saturday. The high street is suffering a little from a glut of charity and pound shops, but has everything you need. Two interesting things happened while we were there – a cow in the field next to us hurt its leg and had to be confined in a field on its own for several days and on our last day we watched a police search in said field (nothing to do with the cow). They said they were looking for a person, a helicopter came over and firemen were thrashing about by the canal with sticks. Also whilst here, I bought Dale a fishing rod for his last year's birthday present and he was thrilled with it, but there was a canoe race along the canal on Sunday, and he thinks they frightened all the fish away. On Wednesday I finished my June magazine so we set off to Tescos to get water, empty toilets, and throw rubbish away. We went into Tescos to get some shopping. When we came out the maraccas man was there shaking his maraccas, singing, poking the trees and saying good morning to everyone. It was very jolly. Then we continued our journey through pretty countryside and a very pretty lock - Leighton Lock, to reach the Globe where we were going to meet my friends Helli and Chris. The Globe is a very old and pretty canalside pub and it's very popular, was packed. We went in and asked if dogs were allowed - yes they were - so I went and got Molly. On the way back to the boat a man who was sitting on a boat watching said "I remember you, I gave you a lift the other day". It was the man who gave us a lift to the shops in Pitstone! He was working on his boat, ferrying people to the pub and back. I went back into the pub and Chris and Helli arrived. Chris was the drummer with Lonnie Donegan for 23 years and Helli was a "Hill's Angel" with Benny Hill in the 70s and later did a lot of work with Harvey Goldsmith putting on events. They brought their little dog Kiki, a rescue dog with them. Molly growled at Kiki when Kiki tried to jump up on her seat, which resulted in Kiki shaking with fear. Kiki was so sweet! Helli and Chris have recently moved to Leighton Buzzard and they like it there. It's like countryside to them because they used to live in Lambeth. They know the maraccas man. We mentioned the missing person drama and they said lots of things seem to go on in Leighton Buzzard. There's supposed to be a big cat on the loose as well. Eventually we went back to the boat and had a pleasant cruise to our home for the night, which was in Old Linslade, surrounded by stunning countryside.
On Thursday I did some painting, then we set off towards Fenny Stratford. We drove through some absolutely stunning countryside in Old Linslade and Soulbury. I noticed there are lots of wild roses everywhere this year. When we got to Soulbury three locks a man joined us on a small cruiser. He had to walk with a stick but had got through 400 locks on his boat - he had been everywhere. We went through the 3 locks and then stopped at the pub there called the Grand Union. It was a beautiful day and we sat outside and had a couple of drinks. Carried on after that through some amazing countryside. The lock at Stoke Hammond was heartbreakingly beautiful. We went on and arrived at Water Eaton on the outskirts of Fenny Stratford. Decided to stay there for the night.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Startops End to Leighton Buzzard

Thursday evening at the Anglers Retreat was eventful. Rosie the parrot cottoned on to Dale's laugh and performed it whenever she felt he wasn't paying her enough attention. A man came in and on tasting his beer, started wretching and ran outside to be sick. (This is no reflection on the quality of beer, ours was fine). When we got back to the boat, it was leaning heavily to one side and all night long Dale was trying to stop himself from falling out of bed. On Friday we took Molly for a last walk around Tring reservoir. I did some work then at about 12.45 we set off. It was blowing a gale and raining intermittently. We met an older couple and went through 2 locks with them. They were hoping to get to Crick and were in quite a hurry. They moor at Cowroast but want to move to Crick as they can't travel anywhere from Cowroast because of the water levels. The lady was nice but the husband was grumpy. Got to Pitstone about 3pm. There was supposed to be a pub there called The Duke of Wellington according to our map but a man told us it had just closed down. The nearest pub was the Old Swan at Cheddington, a mile in the other direction. We asked him where the nearest shop was and he said he was going that way to pick up his daughter so he gave us a lift! We stayed in tonight because Cheddington is too far. Had scrambled egg on toast, Dale watched football and I read my book. On Saturday we got up about 8.45 am. Windy again. We walked to Cheddington to get some provisions because there is no shop in Slapton where we are heading. On the way to the shop which was miles from anywhere as usual, we passed the Old Swan. It looked nice and we wished we had visited it the night before. Got back to the boat, had a cup of tea and set off about 11am. The wind was horrendous. We did a swing bridge then met up with a couple and went through the 6 locks with them. It was a pleasant journey, they were very efficient and nice people. They had been boating for 28 years, their name was Wood and they moored at Yardley Gobion. That's where they were going. Got to Slapton about 2pm, had a little rest then walked to the village to do a recce on the pub which had been highly praised in our map book. Unfortunately the Carpenters Arms was a disappointment. It was empty and forlorn except for 2 young men sitting next to each other staring at what I thought must be a TV but turned out to be a wall, a barmaid, and a man trying to chat her up. The furniture was modern and out of place in the very old building. Although the village was pretty and surrounded by gorgeous countryside, it all seemed a bit lifeless. We got back to the boat in the afternoon and had a little sleep. Got up about 7pm, had cheese omelette and beans and watched Poirot on TV. On Sunday (today) we took Molly for a walk to the lock. Then got going – it's still a bit windy today but brighter. Had to go through 3 locks to get to Leighton Buzzard. I tried to drive into one of them - total disaster! Met a man travelling single handed – he told us the best place to stop in Leighton Buzzard. Met another man who came from Slapton and had had a heart attack. We told him we were disappointed with the Carpenters Arms and he said it had just been taken over by someone from London who had modernised it. He said he'd tell him we were disappointed. Got to Leighton Buzzard and stopped where the man had told us and walked into the town – a pleasant and quiet market town. Went to Waitrose to get food then went to the Golden Bell for a couple of drinks – a bit rough and full of locals but lots of people laughing and we quite liked it.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Northchurch to Marsworth

On Tuesday the weather was cloudy but the rain held off. I was busy with work. Dale discovered the reason for the lack of reverse gear – a big tarpaulin had got tangled up with the propellor! Somebody's nicked our broom! It's still cold so we've got the fire on now. We bought 2 bags of coal from a passing coal boat. We went to Northchurch village at lunchtime to get some food - Northchurch is a pleasant little village with lovely allotments, a pub and a Tesco metro, a fish and chip shop and a café. That's all you need really isn't it? Wednesday (yesterday) was a day that reminded us why we are on this journey. The Chilterns are awesome! It was a beautiful morning and Dale heard a cuckoo while I was still asleep. Because I haven't got much work today we set off towards Marsworth. Met a couple at Cowroast who wanted to come through the lock with us on their boat. Because they were facing the wrong way they had to reverse in. They were very nice, they've lived on their boat since last November and they wouldn't want to go back to a house. They just travel up and down from Tring to Cowroast. We went through the Tring summit a bit gingerly because it can get very shallow. It took us about an hour. At the summit the banks rise to about 30 feet above the canal. We saw a kingfisher! Got to Bulbourne Workshop where they design metal sculptures. Dale had seen it on TV. Got to Bulbourne - a very pretty place. I drove the narrowboat into the first of a flight of 6 locks. We waited for another boat to join us. I can't remember the name of the boat but the couple on it were lovely. They have a mooring in Harefield and were on a short holiday. He was retired and she worked part time. They were jealous of us and were looking forward to when she retired and they could do the same thing. While we were doing the locks we saw a tiny adorable puppy. It was her first walk. She was a bichon frise/yorkie cross. The 6 locks went quite quickly because it was sunny and we were chatting to the couple. A lady came by and said she could tell Molly was loved because she walked very confidently. How sweet! We moored at Startops End by the Marsworth nature reserve. It is so beautiful here! We arrived at about 1.30pm and just had to see the local pub. The White Lion was sadly closed down so we walked down to the Anglers Retreat. What a great pub! Small and friendly locals pub just like the Tide End used to be before they did all the modernising. There was an African Grey parrot there called Rosie and she chatted away to us, but a bit quietly, so we couldn't hear what she was saying.

Monday, 11 June 2012


Sunday morning was beautiful, and we got on board to go through the 3 locks into Berkhamsted. Berkhamsted is a very pretty town with lots of dogs, lots of nice people and nice shops. The only trouble is I could get no 3G broadband signal there which meant I couldn't work and even though we had found a lovely spot to moor we knew we couldn't stay for the week as we had intended. We went for a walk into the town and got food from Waitrose then came back and spent the rest of the day visiting canalside hostelries. The Rising Sun is a scruffy and very dog friendly pub with a great atmosphere. By contrast, The Boat, about 100 yards away is smart, modern and just a bit soulless. We had some food at The Boat then made our way back to our little boat. Had a short sleep (it's a hard life) then Dale cooked a lovely meal of roast aubergines and potatoes. We couldn't get a telly signal so watched one of our DVDs - Pulp Fiction. Today we had decided to get up at 6am to get the boat to Northchurch by 9am so I could start work. Strangely, although Northchurch is a small village, there is a good 3G signal there. It was a struggle getting through the 5 locks because it was raining and cold and Molly was getting soaking wet and very miserable. Even though it has rained all night the canal is still low in places and Dale had to do some jiggery pokery with lock paddles so we could get the boat through. Now we are in Northchurch I have been working and everything is ok. We are beginning to realise that work and broadband signals are going to dominate our choice of route and we may have to change our plans. Work always gets in the way of everything! Also we now have a problem with reverse gear! Things always go wrong when you go boating in the rain! The pic above is an ipad sketch of Molly using Brushes.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Boxmoor and Winkwell

Yesterday (Friday) was mostly uneventful. We stayed put in Boxmoor as I had work to do. It rained all day and was very windy and cold. Much as I love the sound of rain pattering on the roof you can have too much of a good thing. I got so cold I resorted to hugging a hot water bottle as we don't want to sully the freshly cleaned stove. Later that day we got ready for the highlight of the week – a visit to The Fishery Inn. It was nice inside, very busy, and the same decor as The Rose and Crown in Kings Langley, we noticed. It must be under the same management. Mostly a restaurant rather than a pub, but it has comfy chairs and we ended up staying rather longer than we intended. And spending too much money.. And drinking too much. Got home by 10pm though, in time for Eastenders. Today (Saturday) we took Molly for a walk in the meadows beside us. Then we set off at about 11am to get to Winkwell. Only 3 locks to Winkwell, and it's not raining today. We stopped at the boatyard there to empty the loo and also had a dink at the canalside pub, The Three Horseshoes, which is very old and is reputed to have 2 ghosts. It is a lovely old pub inside. There was a big party of people outside on the swing bridge and they all let off balloons with things tied to them. Nobody looked happy, so we concluded it must be a sad occasion. After that we intended to go through 2 more locks and stop but everywhere seemed too shallow so we had to keep going through locks until we found somewhere. Met a man with a lovely puppy which was a cross between a brindle staffy and a siberian husky – an unusual combination. We eventually stopped on the edge of Berkhamsted - only 3 locks to do tomorrow to get where we want to be in the centre of Berkhamsted.

Friday, 8 June 2012


We really pushed ourselves this morning - negotiating one lock and settling down in the rain in the Boxmoor area of Hemel Hempstead. We like it here because there are lots of other boats, a nice meadow with horses and foals next to us, and a nice pub called the Fisheries Inn. I did some 'proper work' then Dale and I walked a couple of miles to the town centre in the rain and bought some food. Dale prepared a splendid meal this evening of pasta with new potatoes, green beans and pesto. (We are eating a lot of vegetables as they are cheap and we have a great cookbook called River Cottage Veg). Tomorrow we plan to sample the hospitality of the Fisheries Inn, seeing as it's Friday night and all.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

New Adventure

We have just embarked on a year-long journey on our narrowboat 'Perros', around the canals of the UK. We started on Friday 1st of June. From Saturday 2nd to Tuesday 5th was a national holiday in the UK to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee and sadly most of the holiday was wet and cold so a lot of people had to put up with it raining on their street parties and festivities. We had a lovely send off from our marina on Friday mooring. We had made some lovely new friends there and they threw a little party for us. We got to Harefield near the marina and stayed there for the first night. There was a pub there but it looked a bit dubious so we had a drink on board. On Saturday we travelled a short distance to Croxley Green passing through some very pretty countryside. We left there on Sunday morning and cruised through drizzle to Hunton Bridge, a pleasant little village with 2 pubs and a shop. In the Kings Head we encountered a jubilee party that had been rained off and lots of excited little children were running around inside the pub. The Dog and Partridge did not live up to it's advertisements and was quite empty and forlorn. Walked quite a long way, getting lost in the process, to get a chinese takeaway for that evening. The next morning went for a walk in some nice woods near Hunton Bridge then left in the rain to get to Kings Langley. Kings Langley is a small and pretty country town on the edge of the Chilterns. It has 2 nice pubs, the Rose and Crown (a bit posh) and the Saracens Head (unpretentious locals' boozer - more our kind of place!). The sun came out briefly while we were in Kings Langley and we went for an Indian meal in the evening. We left Kings Langley on Tuesday morning and cruised a short way to the edge of Hemel Hempstead. Went for a lunchtime drink in the Red Lion. Advertised wi-fi but I couldnt get it on my ipad and the pub was empty and quite desolate. We walked back to the boat as people from a block of flats opposite were trying to be jolly at a communal jubilee party in the rain. On Wednesday the holidays were over. I did 2 hours painting then we pulled the boat back to the lock to get water. Then we travelled through 3 locks through Apsley, which seemed a very nice place. Apsley marina is managed by BW and surrounded by cafés and restaurants - looks very nice but is very pricey. Now we are in the Frogmore End of Hemel Hempstead.