Moving down to Leighton Buzzard

Looking at the forecast last week we settled on the sunniest of days to make our move south to Leighton Buzzard. And it was a wise move. Our cruise took us back out into the countryside with gorgeous scenery in near perfect conditions. Bright sunshine lighting up the trees and fields vividly.

And highlighting the beautiful bridges

We got to cruise through locks again, though we made the mistake of not leaving enough time to enjoy the Three Locks Inn before working the Soulbury flight of 3. (Where were you John when we needed a lockie. Oh yes enjoying living on your own boat now. )

And then we got to Leighton Buzzard and it got cold, very cold. The canal froze and it snowed and snowed and snowed.

I’m so glad we insisted on extra insulation under the floor when we had Firecrest built. Tonight the forecast says it will reach -12 – if I don’t blog again you’ll know we didn’t survive…..


The fuel boat

Now that we’re getting frosty mornings there’s always the risk that we’ll wake up to a frozen canal, so we’re being prudent and keeping our diesel tank topped up.  I asked a fellow boater where the best place to buy fuel was and they recommend Jules Fuels, one of  the fuel boats that works the grand union . It’ the first time we’e used a fuel boat but it gave us a great sense of satisfaction to be supporting true working boats. But nothing antiquated, text message two days before giving their schedule, and payment online. And at 75p/l a reasonable price as well. We’ll see you again in 10 days Jules. Thanks.


The Tree Catherdral

I don’t think I’ve ever visited a town with so many trees as MK. Admittedly now we’re into December, they aren’t all looking their best. But as we’ve come to expect MK has embraced this natural wonder by creating a tree cathedral.  It’s an awesome sight, and I’m sure it inspires moments of spiritual contemplation in most of its visitors. I’d love to see it in spring when the crocus bulbs flower and give an impression of stained glass reflecting on the ground. 

If we walked away from the centre of MK we came to Willen Park, the home of the Peace pagoda, Buddhist temple and prayer tree.

It stands proud overlooking the north lake and just beyond that is the M1 motorway.

And inbetween north and south lakes, is the Medicine circle.

The north lake is really a wildlife haven, but the South lake is a recreational area with sailing and skiing and surfing. At this time of year I prefer waterproof to wet suit so you’ll have to wait until the summer before I consider  posing in a bikini.

or just sitting in the boat watching the sunset


A week at Cambell Park

Cambell Park is the large park adjacent to central Milton Keynes and conveniently, the canal runs right along side it. This makes for a very pleasant country mooring spot, with a brisk 30 walk  through the trees into the ratzamataz of the huge shopping centre.

Probably a good thing it’s not any closer, cause I find those palaces of commercialism infuriatingly both enticing and overpowering at the same time. Luckily I’m good at window shopping. I didn’t think this beautiful carousel would fit on the boat.

We are so content with our lot living on Firecrest that we have little need or desire to aquire bigger better sparklier even if it does come with a massive black Friday sales ticket. I will admit to enjoying the food hall in M&S. We had ‘lunch’ there thanks to all the free samples they kept tempting us with.

We were very tempted with the fold up Brompton Bikes and even took them for a spin around the park but as I like walking and Eric likes cycling fast we’re not sure that they’re the right bikes for us.

The park really is lovely and well used. It reminded me a bit of New York’s central park. With both natural and formal areas  and with dedicated recreational and enterainment arenas. All enhanced by Milton Keynes love of sculpture and art. We walked with both purpose and for pleasure, exploring cause we weren’t sure what we’d see around the next corner.

This is the light pyramid. We don’t think it does anything technical to light up except glow in the natural sunset and sunrise. It seems to be at the highest point of MK. And we could certainly see for miles.

This area is know as the MK Rose Each pillar is marked with a date that celebrates or remembers an event. There’s a mix of nostalgic, historical, serious and light hearted pillars. My favourite being international knit in public day!

I forgot to look at the name of this totem pole

but this one is known as chain reaction.

And for some reason this is the Head.

There were several other sculptures, not all to my liking so they didn’t get a photo.

We were listening to a discussion on radio 4 this week, the panel was debating how towns could encourage their residents to be fitter. We were amazed to hear one comment that as an experiment MK new town had failed miserably because you were stumped if you didn’t have a car. They proposed incorporating obstical courses on pavements so when people went to do their shopping they they’d be more challenged…. Well that certainly increased my heart rate. I doubt they’d ever carried the weekly shop with a toddler and a pushchair. And as for MK ignoring pedestrians, how wrong they are, it has been an absolute joy being able to walk for miles without having to cross a major road. If town planners followed MK’s example and built houses around parkland and included dedicated footpaths and cycle ways, the thought of leaving the car behind would be far more appealing.





My, that was windy…

My goodness that was windy. No not the weather, but you know what they say. When in Rome do as the Romans do. Well here in MK they have an iFly venue. An indoor sky diving experience.

On Wednesday our friend Jo (NB Blue Pearl) joined us for a cruise, but with 40mph winds forecast we weren’t prepared to pull the pins for anyone. So as we sat chatting, she asked if we knew MK had an Ifly.  Before I had time to blink I’d agreed to have a go. Eric equally quickly offered to be our photographer.

Well what can I say but oh boy that was fun. I’m told I did really well. But as each flight only lasts a minute I wasn’t really aware how I was doing. We got two flights and we opted to do a high spin which was scary but exhilarating. I don’ think I’ve properly come back down to earth yet.

Jo is now busy planning our next adrenaline rush. Apparently there’s a high speed mile long zip wire in Wales. Thank goodness it’s not near any canal.

PS Eric admitted that he thinks he should have joined in as well.


The Gyosei Art Trail

Last year Gt Linford commissioned a sculpture trail celebrating the Japanese boarding school that used to be here, before the site was redeveloped for housing. The Gyosei Art Trail   We stumbled upon this while cruising yesterday so of course I had to look up what why and where before I could go off searching for all 8 of the installations.

The first is a beautiful glass mosaic picture of a barn owl in Autumn,

So much detail and sparkle, I’d give this picture a place in my home if the people of MK ever got bored with it.

Next we saw a shire horse plodding along the bank.

And an elegant bench to sit and watch the world go by.

I’d love to know what the Japanese writing says. I didn’t think it would be comfortable but it was.

The next bench didn’t appeal to me quite so much, I hope he isnt one of the locals.

but then I was worried about being attacked by the giant dragonfly hovering above.

Its made out of an old shopping trolley.

I took shelter under the bridge and found a gallery of 7 murals, each with a classical reference. They reminded me of the monthly calendars my mum used to get every year.

The final two installations were harder to spot, perhaps this one was was intended to catch the giant dragonfly.

Although being 2-3 m wide, I was very very glad not to have seen its local resident.

And number 8 was an intricately sculptured map depicting the positions of the art alongside the canal. It was built around the foundation stone of the school the trail was commemorating. And was actually set within the gardens of the new housing estate built on the land.



Massive Milton Keynes

I keep saying we’re in Milton Keynes, but I think the locals might take exception to that. We are currently skirting the outlying villages that Milton Keynes is gobbling up. On the map it looks like one massive built up area but actually the places that we are passing through like Wolverton and Great Linford, are significant places in their own rights. And I am sure that all the other names on the map will also have their own identity.

Continue reading Massive Milton Keynes

Friendly moorhen

We’re used to the ducks and swans loitering outside the galley hatch in the hope of being fed. But the moorhens are notoriously skittish and usually stay on the opposite side of the canal. So it was a nice surprise when this one was quite onviously waiting for his breakfast. (For some reason I have assumed he’s a he….)

And he was considerably larger than his companions. But give him his due, we couldn’t resist and shared our porridge with him.

Helping hands

We had a lovely day this weekend. We were in the top lock at Stoke Bruerne, chatting to the friendly gongoozlers, Lily and Brian. Never one to miss an opportunity, knowing we had 5 more locks over the next mile I asked if they’d like a little trip on Firecrest. They were thrilled and thought we were offering them a treat, of course we all know the bigger your crew the easier the locks are. Win win all round. And if you’re reading this , Lily and Brian thanks for your help it was a pleasure having you on board, we really enjoyed your company.

After a short pit stop we made quick progress down to Milton Keynes where we located an excellent micropub and a huge free fireworks display.

Back in Braunston

We’re back in Braunston for a day or so before the planned winter maintenance closes our navigation. All 6 of the locks are repaired this November. The hubub and variety of boats is a nice contrast to our previous isolated location but with so many boats on the move, we were lucky to find a mooring.

But the weather is bland and grey. The cloud cover providing a welcome duvet to keep us warm. Even the sheep are well wrapped up.

We consider the most essential thing to do in Braunston is to stock up on Braunston bangers, the home made sausages from the excellent local butchers.