Travels With Cumberland
Saturday 25th May
Last night the beer was back on tap at The Grand Junction and just as I was leaving Hazel and James walked in and we discussed possibly going down Maffers in the morning.
I turned out that they rose late and sent me a text that they would be pulling the pins later that morning. In the intervening time, no one else passed by, so I waited for them. Fortunately there were two volunteers who helped us down the flight. nb Gabriel moored up by the reservoir and I carried on as far as Bridge 130, close to The Red Lion, where they had Harvey’s ale on tap. Harvey’s is my local brewery in Lewes and one of my favourite beers, so of course I had to have a pint mid-afternoon.
I was woken from a doze later, by a Lister plodding by and reversing and sure enough it was nb Cumberland looking for a mooring. Jack apologised for waking me and reversed back to a convenient spot, before agreeing to go for a pint or two later. After which we had a very well cooked meal over more Harvey’s “Knots of May”, which is a mild at 3%, but is a golden colour, whereas most mild ales are much darker.
Sunday 26th May
We let go at Maffers at 8am for what I expected to be a long day of boating. I is always good to travel with a companion and make the journey more interesting to see how they tackle the locks and there were a fair number across “the fields” as the ancient boaters called them, but for us they were all downhill. We took turns at setting the locks and closing the gates behind us.
Surprisingly, we met very few boats coming south, as it was not only a bank holiday, but also half term for schools. When we eventually passed Wyvern Shipping at Leighton Buzzard, there were only six hire boats left on their moorings. I heard later that they were slowly selling their boats and there was one for sale there at the time. Although customers are enjoying the boating and the scenery, they are having increasing difficulty mooring up, which is probably due to all the live aboard permanent moorers.
Some of the locks and paddle gear was in dire need of maintenance, as this one at Ivinghoe No.32 and an unwary boater could possibly sink the boat or take on a great deal of water.
At Grove lock, not only were the gates shut against us by one steerer, but the lock was turned against us to bring another boat up, despite all the horn blowing from Jack, who was ahead at the time.
I had passed several boats with one mooring line detached in the last few days and wondered why they had not tied up properly and I think the answer is that they don’t know how to. One cannot always blame speeding boats for the problem. It is the constant forward and backward motion on just two mooring lines, which eventually pull out the pins. All it needs is a spring line in the right place.
After topping up in Tesco at Leighton B, we found very convenient moorings outside The Globe Inn at Linslade, which had just been refurbished and was very smart indeed. The service was also of a high standard.
Monday 27th May
We let go at 8am with only four locks down to the Milton Keynes long pound. I find this stretch very boring with very little of interest and of course no locks, which takes approximately four hours. There were a few Wyvern Shipping boats returning, presumably just out for a long weekend.
New marina in Milton Keynes, but no sign of the New MK Waterway yet.
Jack had considerable difficulty with dragging the bottom, but Cumberland is 2’6” draft, whereas Stronghold draws only 1’9”. Occasionally I picked up weed or plastic, but threw it off easily by chucking back, until we reached Cosgrove Lock. We were helped through by descending boaters and as I came out past the waiting boat, a hire boat appeared to try and jump the queue. Agreed that a trip boat was moored behind the locking boat, but then he saw the problem and tried to reverse, but got the boat across the cut. I waited for him to sort it out and managed to squeeze through the gap, which was when I got a blade full. It took a lot of reversing to shake it off and I did not need to lift the weed hatch. Shortly after that we moored up by the horse tunnel and walked through to The Barley Mow, which was a very busy pub full of diners at that time.
Tuesday 28th May
We were away at 8am again and it was chilly, so we were well wrapped up. There were no locks until the Stoke Bruerne flight of seven, so it was easy going. My engine overheated part way, which was down to an alteration I had made to the cooling tank stop cock control. This may sound technical, but it was only that I had to shorten the piece of string that pulled the stop cock open from the deck and it jammed when the engine got hot.
We reached the bottom lock of the flight, just as two Noddy boats were about to leave their moorings. Even so the locks were all against us, with water pouring over the gates, because there are no by weirs here.
We moored up in the long pound two locks from the top, along with many other boats who wished to stay longer than 24 hours. There is no phone or internet signal here, although I did get good TV. I had to contact Cathryn Dodington by text asking her to reserve a table at The Spice of Bruerne before we walked up to The Boat to choose from a very extensive beer menu. We sat in the boaters bar, which revived many memories of occasions there in the past. One of which was David Blagrove’s tales of boating with Willow Wren. I frequently used to ask him for yarns to be printed in The Steerer magazine, which is the official publication of the Narrow Boat Trust when I was editor and he always obliged. A very amusing and educated man with a vivid memory that inspired seven books in his life time.
Jack had moved Cumberland into the top pound by now and I assisted with the two locks, but a Wyvern Shipping boat had moored in his chosen space with 20’ fore and aft, as usual. I walked up to the ladies in the bow and taking a leaf out of a Thames lock keepers spiel, I asked to speak to the “master of this vessel”, meaning the skipper of course. They were rather taken aback and the little girl thought this was so funny. I did explain later that I was winding them up. The outcome was that they willingly pulled up to the next ring, so that Cumberland could then moor in the adequate space.
We had an excellent meal in the Indian restaurant and the conversation as always, was about boating and boat people, which we all had in common. I bade farewell to Jack, who had been a pleasure to boat with over the past few days, because he wished to go through the Blisworth Tunnel before a 07.30 slot for a wide beam the following morning. As Cathryn is in control of this wide beam operation, she assured him that he would go first. I will see him at Braunston Hysterics at the end of June, but in the meantime he is going to Manchester and back.
In the afternoon, I had tackled the water pressure problem once more by back pumping water from a large saucepan back into the tank, which it did with ease. On replacing all the pipes and pump the water pressure improved just enough to give me a reasonable shower afterwards.