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London, spring 1990

milton keynes aqueduct site
Site of the future V6 road aqueduct in Milton Keynes

A 2-week trip from Wyvern Shipping Company at Linslade, via the Grand Union Canal and the Regents Canal into London, then up to Stoke Bruerne and back to Linslade. Total 166 miles and 148 locks.

Diary extracts:

Sat 1990-04-14
Crew meets at the Globe, Linslade. Lunch here. Sun still shining. To boatyard and load up, but they're not ready to show us off until well after 15h. Then they got a tyre round the prop while turning it for us and had to take it to the workshop to lift the back end. Underway going S by 1610, stopping at Slapton, S of bridge 120, at 1810. Rain most of the afternoon and a cold wind. 4.5mi, 3 locks, 2h. Eve walk to Carpenters in Slapton, pint glasses full of whole prawns, snails, whole duck.
Sun 1990-04-15
Start 0815 in sunshine. Day variable. Sunshine, showers (snow, hail and rain), wind, but on the whole not unpleasant. Lots of locks. Tried for water just S of Marsworth Junct, but tap had no half-inch adaptor - so took on only a little in 30 mins. Lunch Grand Junction Arms, near br 133, but too crowded to eat here. Stop 1225-1320. Then on to Three Horseshoes at Winkwell, arriving between lock 61 and the railway br at 1820. Kept up with fellow boat "Coral" most of the day. 8h40m cruising. 31 locks. 13mi. Eve in Three Horseshoes.
Mon 1990-04-16
Sunshine intermittently and quite warm. Start 0820, water at Nash Mills lock, ending at lunchtime at 1210 at Hunton Bridge (br 162). Lunch in Kings Head, by the canal. Resume at 1400, lots of gongoozlers at 2nd Cassiobury Park lock. Moor for eve just S of br 175, alongside a large lake, between Batchworth and Harefield. Lovely warm evening, but hail showers in the afternoon. To pub eve, more than 1km walk S to br 176 then along Springwell Lane and main road to Whip and Collar. A boat passed us going N at 2230. Eve stop at 1740. 7.2h cruising, 22 locks, 11.5mi.
Tue 1990-04-17
Away at 0830 in sunshine, going through the locks with Coral, until Cowley Lock, when we stopped 10 min for water (water point in lock - another boat came and disturbed us) then stop for lunch at br 190, for the "Paddington Packet Boat" in Cowley. Stop at 1240. Then buy bread and away again for a long lock-free stretch, still in sunshine, at 1345. Changed from part-used to full gas bottle. Stop, in a sudden downpour, at 1720 in Harlesdon, br 9. Total today 7.6h; 21mi; 7 locks. Eve to Grand Junction Arms, Acton Lane, public bar.
Wed 1990-04-18
A late start, after various forays into Harlesdon for papers, etc, at 0930. Water at Little Venice (just before entering basin) then moor just beyond Cumberland Basin at 1135. Quick lunch on board, then to London Zoo in Regents Park. Sunshine - an odd short shower. Found a pump out at Little Venice: moor by the water point, then find Dennis on board "Lady Venice", by appointment only. Told him Friday. Zoo full of children and difficult to spend any time at any of the exhibits. Most animals in very small cages. Seemed to be a very limited selection outside the usual zoo animals, the big ones and the cuddly ones. Today 1.7h cruising, 6mi and 0 locks.
Thu 1990-04-19
A pottering day. Rain at first, then sunshine, and a torrential hail-storm with thunder in the afternoon. Moved the boat a little down the Regents, turned and came back up to the same moorings. Dep 0900 and return 1200. Failed to get water. There was a point at St Pancras lock, but it was 10m from the canal and our hose would not reach. Turned at Battlebridge Basin. 3h, 3mi and 8 locks (4 locks twice). Wandering in Camden and book buying, some of the crew off shopping in Oxford St. Have to 'register' on these moorings, but free for up to 14 days, and free anyway for boats with a hire-boat licence. This stretch of canal busy with waterbuses between Camden lock and Little Venice, calling at London Zoo. Eve to Prince Albert.
Fri 1990-04-20
Another short day. To Little Venice for water and a sort of pump-out. Dennis (Moore) turns out to be a miserable bugger and upsets half the crew. 5L for 2 pump-outs, but he put no chemical in. Boatyard say put some in, even Elsan stuff will do, within 3 days or they'll start to stink. Start 0855, pump out and water 0945-1110. Moor for a while outside Sainsbury's at Kensall Green (just beyond Porta Bella Dock) for shopping and finally come to rest back at Harlesdon, by the Grand Junct Arms. Moor at 1350. This will be changeover point - Harlesdon being on the Watford DC line. Some of the crew by tube to Kew Gardens for the afternoon, the rest reading, walking the dog and looking for fish and chip shop. Total today 2.3h cruising, 6mi, no locks. To Grand Junction Arms (saloon bar this time).
Sat 1990-04-21
One of the crew off early by train, others sleeping in. Move boat up a few metres to made road access easier, at the end of Steele Lane. New crew arr by car at 1130, and all changed over and old crew away by 1150. Now on last gas bottle. Make good speed on warm, sunny afternoon. Fail to get gas at Cowley Peachey junction (closed, despite sign saying open to 18h), but get 2 13kg propanes at b'yard between brs 187 and 186, and also chemical for toilet. Gas 18L for the 2, chemical 2.95L. Difficult to moor at yard, had to lug cylinders over 2 other boats. Moor at br 185 at 1720. Eve to Crown and Sceptre in Uxbridge. Today 5.1h, 14.5mi, 1 lock.
Sun 1990-04-22
Start at 0830, in heavy rain. Day gradually improved, afternoon actually hot. Water 45 mins at lock 84, getting soaked having to hold the hose up to the tap, 5 min each. Lunch 1300-1500 at Feathers in Batchworth (moored by bridge 173) after a long walk, failing to find a pub serving food on Sun. Smoked salmon on the boat instead. Ended up at 1900h at bridge 162, and to King's Head in Hunton Bridge again, only eve this time. Today 7.75h, 12.5mi, 17 locks.
Mon 1990-04-23
Away at 0840, dull but with signs of improvement. Later, by lunchtime, warm sunshine. Under the Gade viaduct again and on up the heavily-locked section towards Tring. Water at lock 68, while waiting in the lock (10 mins, the adaptor fitted). Then on to moor for lunch at the Three Horseshoes, Winkwell, at 13h. Bought some hose adaptors at B&Q by br 151 to forestall having to hold onto any more water points where the half-inch hose adaptors have been nicked. Off at 1430, moor for shopping by "Crystal Palace" in Berkhamsted (1630-1715) (br 141). Fun and games at locks 55 and 54, with the boat in front of us almost draining the intervening pound by leaving the bottom paddles half-open while going up, then the one coming down so irate he only just got his boat off the sill in time. Afternoon hot. Saw only one other boat moving before lunch. End up on summit, just N of Cowroast pub, almost deserted. Today 27 locks, 11mi, 8.6h.
Tue 1990-04-24
Leaving at 0815, me taking it over the Tring summit while the rest had breakfast. Hot and sunny all day, except for a bit of wind now and again. Stopped for lunch at Slapton (br 120), Carpenters Arms for lunch. Moor at 1330. Off again at 1515, stopping for water at Leighton Buzzard for 20m. Ended up at top of Three Locks at 1905, and to that pub in the evening. Today 15mi, 19 locks, 8.75h. Third gas bottle expired by 17h, now onto the 2 we bought on Sat. Most boats in dock this week, at Bridgewater in Berko and Wyvern. Canal very much quieter than last week.
Wed 1990-04-25
Off at about 0740. 1st level down at 3 locks, almost drained, BWB men opening paddles to get their maintenance craft off the bottom. Day partly upset by "Cottonweed" (Concoform Marine) who set off alongside us as we left the bottom lock and then moaned that we had not done our share of the work in the locks yesterday. Man with moustache and huge beer gut - but we couldn't get rid of him - whichever of us stopped, we seemed to meet again. Fortunately there are not too many like him. Glorious sunny day, very hot. Water 10 min at Fenny lock, then moor for Giffard Park at 12h. Friends out from Milton Keynes for lunch. Start again at 1330, mooring by the Navigation at Castlethorpe wharf at 1615. Still barely a cloud in the sky. Today 6.95h, 6l, 16.5mi. Eve to Navigation, Old Hooky and Museum Ale. Amusement earlier in the day, with 2 policemen rescuing a boat adrift across the canal.
Thu 1990-04-26
Complete change of weather, cold, windy and wet. Start at 0845 and pootle up to bottom of Stoke flight. Turn here and moor at 1020. Then walk up to the flight (busy) and look at museum and shop, then lunch at the Boat Inn. Very old pub, still looking much as it must always have looked. Even in April, signs on the locks announce a water shortage and single boats must wait half hour before going through alone. Back underway S at 1350, stopping for water at Cosgrove for 15 mins and mooring at the Giffard Park at 1745. Single-line working through the works for the new aqueduct, controlled by traffic lights. Eve to Giffard Park. We'd just got back onto the boat when more friends arrived (late as usual), and we went back in for another round. Today 5.25h, 15.5mi, 1 lock.
Fri 1990-04-27
Sunshine nearly all day, but a slightly chill wind at times. Start 0905 and a continuous run to the Three Locks, mooring above at 1300. Lunch here, off again at 1420, turning at Leighton Buzzard basin and mooring in LB at 1600. Moorings here guarded by a friendly mooring warden, who helped us get in close. He's observant. He told us which day we went through (Tue). Eve spent cleaning boat. Have seen only 2 other Wyvern boats out this week, Daffodil to the N and Willow to the S. Much slacker that last week. Eve to Leighton Buzzard Chinese for excellent 9-course banquet at 20L/person inc booze. Today 5.6h, 13.5mi, 6l.
Sat 1990-04-28
The end. Potter back to the boatyard, arr at 0820.

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