A Long Farewell to Milton Keynes

The Globe Inn, Linslade to Cosgrove, 17.25 miles, 5 (wet) locks, 2 aqueducts, 1 (dry) lock

Strictly speaking Cleddau is not out of Milton Keynes yet, despite a long day’s cruising. About a hundred yards ahead of this evening’s mooring is the sign welcoming boats from the opposite direction into the Milton Keynes area.  It is positioned beside the Iron Trunk Aqueduct which crosses the River Great Ouse, traditionally the boundary between Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire… (For those interested in county boundaries some of our watery and pedestrian wanderings in the Marsworth area may well have been in Hertfordshire, according to the Geo map).

This morning’s departure was in drizzle, which soon cleared. Despite a couple of short showers the day was mostly cool and cloudy with glimpses of sun later. How familiar now was the first stretch between the Globe pub and the 3 locks since the Cleddau crew have both walked it and cruised it this year. Three spectators at the Soulbury Three offered some muscle for the middle gates. One had cruised the Birmingham Ring in the past, his strongest memory being the unravelling from the prop of “lots and lots of ladies underwear”. One wonders under what circumstances these items, along with our Aylesbury duvet, get consigned to a muddy canal…

There was little traffic going north today but a fair amount coming towards us. The Wyvern Shipping Company (light blue paintwork with red and dark blue flashes) has 33 boats in its fleet; 12 were still tied up when we passed their hire base on Wednesday – but the tally of those “homeward bound” today was 14.

We passed pretty Stoke Hammond Lock, (“Not bad for a midwinter day,” said a boater here), paused at Fenny Stratford for water, having time to observe the coal delivery boat from Stoke Bruerne skippered by a woman and also the tiny cheery residents of a lock side cottage garden.  On we went, and at 1350 precisely passed Milton Keynes Marina. Now we were properly bound for home moorings, exactly 6 days and 1.5 hours after leaving last Friday! We waved to friendly Ann, (who in her blue boat at the marina entrance observes all movement, human and boat) and plodded on through the city’s green corridor. Frequently crab apples littered the towpath and floated on the water. Occasionally someone would be picking blackberries; more often there were dog walkers (why are there so many small dogs in these parts?) The canal passes through so many areas named on the MK road signs: Campbell Park and Gifford Park, Willen Park and Great Linford. There are glimpses of play areas, well cut grass, stands of trees, sometimes unusual housing design. There are bridges, the old brick ones in places showing severe cracks. Under the large concrete bridges which convey MK’s many miles of dual carriageway daylight is lost and sound quality changes.

On Cleddau cruised, past Stantonbury Park, where hereabouts a robot was perched in the hedge. On we cruised, past the Wolverton mural, across the modern aqueduct above a dual carriageway road, and on towards Cosgrove. We moored, with difficulty, since the canal side is shallow here.

At last there was chance to look more closely at the Iron Trunk Aqueduct, recent Big Lottery Fund winner, both from upon it and below it. The River Great Ouse seems little more than a dribble now, water extracted from it for the canal and rain levels are low. Yet this river parades through Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire before entering the sea at King’s Lynn as a serious tidal waterway. A foot tunnel below the aqueduct, originally a cattle creep, allows access to walks below.  Now if Boatwif hadn’t wandered down that way she would never have discovered a dry lock! It is one of the nine constructed to take the canal down into the valley and up to Wolverton before the aqueduct was built.  A detailed sign regales how the first aqueduct failed and the locks were reinstated…

After struggling to decipher the text on various weather beaten information boards Boatwif clambered back up hill and retreated to the boat having, like the Heywood Fields boat spotted earlier, “Adenuf”…

Tomorrow’s plan: Cosgrove, Stoke Bruerne, Blisworth Tunnel, Gayton Junction.

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