Day 13: more work, less cruising

June 24th, 2010

This morning I got rather carried away – I wrote over a thousand words, drew some pretty diagrams and received some Helpful and Interesting Data from a friendly Australian researcher. Suddenly it was 1pm and time to have lunch and go cruising!

I motored round the corner into the centre of Stoke Bruerne, which was full of boats and tourists as ever. I lined up on the lock-mooring and then a man sitting on the balance beam shouted to me that he was lining up the lock for two hireboats that were just about to depart from outside the pub opposite. I sat there and waited for them, fuming slightly that they had a profusion of people and that had they split up and shared with me it would have been less work for me… but hey. I did the seven locks down to the bottom and then cruised along through lots of bucolic countryside to Cosgrove, a suitably quirky canal village outside Milton Keynes. I’ve finally realised why canal cruising feels different to river cruising: rivers made the landscape around them, so they lie at the bottom of valleys and you look up at things. They also flood, so villages and towns keep back from the water’s edge. Only large industrial towns, where industry wanted water, approach the riverbank closely. By contrast, a canal is built into a pre-existing landscape. You get views from embankments and aqueducts, and countless bridges cross, reconnecting farms and rights of way cut in two by the navigation. You also get villages, pubs, warehouses and wharves to look at. British Waterways’ influence gives the canal system a vaguely consistent feel, too.

Cosgrove is less touristy than Stoke Bruerne, and yet just as pretty. It has a pretty ornamented bridge next to where I’m moored, a cluster of old warehouses turned into flats and offices, and a rather quaint little tunnel that connects the two halves of the village’s original main street which was cut in half by the canal embankment. The tunnel is keyhole-shaped, so that a horse can walk through it!

A little way outside the village is a junction with the Buckingham Arm of the canal, which once connected that town with the main line, and also was used to tranship goods onto waggons on the Roman road of Watling Street, which is now the A5. The Arm is derelict now apart from the first half-mile or so which is used for moorings. There is inevitably a Canal Society dedicated to restoring it.
By the junction is a short lock – all of three feet of rise – and beyond it a mighty iron aqueduct over the Great Ouse.

Tomorrow I shall meander round the outskirts of Milton Keynes to Fenny Stratford, and then spend a weekend locking over the Chilterns with friends…

Day 13: Stoke Bruerne to Cosgrove, 6 miles and 7 locks.
Total so far 136 miles and 68 locks. Thesis 8183 words and 40 pages.

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