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The Waterways Wanderings of Narrowboat “Just Heaven”

Cropredy marina

After 290 miles, 192 locks, 4 canals (Oxford, Regents, Grand Union, Hertford Union) and 3 rivers (Cherwell,   Thames,  Brent) we arrived back where we started at about one o’clock.

The last 8 locks down from the summit pound were very busy. There were several other boats going our way and we met an upcoming boat at almost every lock.

The whole trip has been really great, very enjoyable and a bit different, particularly the London section.

Unpacking and cleaning the boat took us nearly two hours. Then we left for home.

Priors Hardwick Bridge

After two excellent days chugging with Uncle Mort they turned right at Napton junction to head off towards Warwick and we continued along the Oxford.

byeunclemortAfter the first three locks of the Napton flight we were in trouble – the throttle cable had broke. This is a problem with our boat. It seems to be a design fault of the ‘Morse’ control. The cable is continually being bend one way and then the other as you go from forward to reverse, so it eventually snaps. This is the fourth time in eight years. I always carry a spare.

As I went to fit the new cable it was apparent there was a problem. It didn’t seem to be long enough. The cable should be 2 metres. When I bought the last one, after the cable broke on the K&A, the guy in the chandlery said “we do a six foot one, but it’s really the same length”. It isn’t!. I had to re-route it over the exhaust pipe and across the top of the engine to get it to fit. It’s not ideal, but we’re going again. I’ll replace it as soon as I can get another 2m one.

There's not much room to work down there

There’s not much room to work down there

The wind has been a problem all day. Down at the Bruanston level it was nor too bad, but as we climbed up to to the summit it became worse, making naviagtion in a straight line very difficult.

The Napton flight was busy, we met another boat at almost every lock. But since we moored up near bridge 123 we have only had three boats go past.




Quite possibly the shortest narrowboat I have ever seen!

Quite possibly the shortest narrowboat I have ever seen!





A  nine o’clock start (late for us, early for the Beekies!) saw the two boats heading in convoy for the Buckby flight. The weather was excellent and we ascended the flight together fairly quickly. Across the summit and into Braunston tunnel. It was like Piccadilly Circus in there! I have never seen so many boats in a tunnel before. We met five coming towards us and there were two others infront going  our way. So there must have been 9 boats in the tunnel at one time.


Going up the Buckby flight

Going down the Braunston flight

Going down the Braunston flight


Descending the 6 locks on the other side was not so swift. We had to wait for the two boats ahead. The crew of one of them seemed half asleep, so progress was slow. Also we met quite a few boats coming up so there was quite a bit of waiting about. We expected Braunston to be busy and thought that finding two moorings might be difficult, but space was found just outside the marina and we moored up around three o’clock. The afternoon was spent strolling up to the shop in the village and walking up the hill to get a phone signal. Another very pleasant evening was spent on Uncle Mort

Weedon Bec

A day of two halves, the morning drizzly and wet, the afternoon and evening fine and warm.

We arrived at the bottom of the Stoke Bourne flight just before 9 o’clock. Chatting to some boaters coming down we ascertained that Uncle Mort was still up the top when they came down. In fact we caught up we Andrew & Sheila as they were going into the sixth lock. So we shared the next two. After a water top up it was into the 3057 yard long Blisworth tunnel. Heddi took a shower during the subterranean transit as she doesn’t like tunnels!

By the time we were passing Bugbrooke the sun was out and the sky clear.

Mooring for the night was on the offside at Weedon breasted up with Uncle Mort.

A pleasant evening was spent eating, drinking and nattering. For exercise and historical interest we walked to the former Royal Ordinance Depot, which was once served by it’s own canal.



(C) A. Goodland


This little chap hitched a ride for several minutes.


Above Cosgrove lock

The usual early start, then a call in to Tesco (general stuff), Aldi (cereals, chocolate & biscuits) and Wyvern shipping (pumpout). When we arrived at the three  Soulbury locks there was a boat waiting to go down. They had been there about 30mins. One of the intermediate pounds was completely empty when they arrived. A CRT volunteer lock keeper was sorting it out, though he was repeatedly filling and emptying a lock rather than opening a top and bottom paddle and letting the water flow through. We shared the three locks with NB Teasel and also Stoke Hammond lock. This one like several others on the GU has a double arched bridge below the lock. Was there once a pair of locks here?

Two locks?

Two locks?

Fenny Stratford lock only has a rise of 13 inches. It’s said, though I don’t know how true it is, that a mistake when building the canal meant that they had to make this small adjustment to the levels.

Fenny Stratford lock, with swing bridge over

Fenny Stratford lock, with swing bridge over

Sign near the lock

Sign near the lock

The canal now runs level for over ten miles as it loops round Milton Keynes. We were surprised, Milton Keynes wasn’t quite what we expected. I’m not sure what I did expect, but probably lots of roads and housing. But in fact the canal is surrounded by lots of trees and green spaces, unexpectedly pleasant.

Near the railway station was an interesting mural.

We came across quite a few herons who weren’t shy at all.


The level pound finished at Cosgrove lock. In order to cross the river Ouse the canal used to have a flight of locks down and back up again, but this was replaced with an embankment and an acqueduct.



Bridge 115c (South of Linslade)

11 miles and 18 locks.

The weather didn’t look too promising, so we thought that we would get going before it got worse. It wasn’t too bad, mostly just drizzle, until about 1 o’clock then it gradually detiorated.

As yesterday, the first part of the journey was dominated by lack of water. Some of the pounds on the Marsworth flight were very low indeed. We were lucky as we were going down, so took a lockful of water with us each time.



The character of the canal changes completely as you cross the summit. Coming up the other side it’s basically urban sprawl. But on the northern side it’s very rural with most of the locks in secluded isolation.

As we came through Grove lock the  rain started to get heavier so we decided to moor up. Our first choice of site was too noisy with both a road and railway competing to assault our ears. A few hundred yards round the corner we found a nice peaceful spot between the River Ouzel and Tiddenfoot Water Park. After supper we took a stroll around the lake in the park.

The delights of Milton Keynes await us tomorrow!

Today's route

Today’s route

Above Cowroast lock

24 locks and 9 miles today. The day was dominated by the lack of water in the canal. The weather forecast was not very good, so we made our usual early start to get going before the expected rain. The problem wasn’t too much water on our heads, it was not enough under the boat. As we came up to the middle Aspley lock there was a boat on the water point above the lock. They had already prepared the lock for them, though they weren’t yet ready. We waited. When they were ready the water level was so low that they were stuck on the bottom. They eventually got free. We entered the lock and filled it, which of course lowered the level in the pound above even more. We got through, but later at Bottom side lock we met two more boats who were stuck on the due to low levels. Someone went up ahead to let some more water down. This situation continued for the next six locks. It wasn’t helped by a rather opinionated woman on a boat behind us who wasn’t prepared to cooperate regarding the lack of water problem. As we were ascending Boxmoor top lock she insisted on opening a bottom paddle to “let some water down so they can get through”. I pointed out that if she waited until we exited the lock then she could have a whole lock full, but no she had to have the water NOW. We had met her earlier on the Thames where she was telling the lock keepers which order they should let the boats out of the lock. The expected bad weather didn’t materialise, so we pressed on to moor up at about 4 o’clock above Cowroast lock on the summit level. In fact the water improved enough for us to have a barbecue.

The level was lower than it looks here

The level was lower than it looks


Today's route

Today’s route


swan1 swan2
Heddi feeding a swan with last night’s left over rice



Above King’s Langley lock

A good day today, good progress (12 miles & 18 locks) and warm, but no too hot weather.

As usual we made an early start at just after eight o’clock. There have been very few boats about. We expected to share some of the locks, but we didnt meet another boat going our way so did them all on our own. We did meet a few boats coming the other way but not many.

Soon after setting off there were signs like these.

No HS2

No HS2

HS2 is not popular here abouts. It will cut right through the water park shattering the peace and tranquility. It seems to me the only people to benefit will be the construction companies, their toady politician friends and londoners. The rest of us will pay the price, both in money and loss of amenity. (sorry – rant over!)

North of Batchworth the canal goes through the very pleasant Cassiobury Park, a large area that was once part of the estate of the Earls of Essex.


car2 car1
Some people do really strange things to their boats
Today's route

Today’s route

Denham Bridge

Sorry for late update – no 3G last night, also no pics today, nothing worth taking!

After topping up with water we left Little Venice just after 8:00 and retraced our steps along the Paddington arm back to Bull’s Bridge Junction. We then headed north on the Grand Union proper. This area of north London is dominated by light industry and high rise housing.

Through Cowley lock & Uxbridge lock to Denham Deep lock. It’s not especially deep at 11′ 1”, but it is the deepest on the Grand Union. In the evening we went for a long walk around some lakes as part of Denham Country park.


Rembrandt Gardens

Day 1

Raining this morning. We have had over a fortnight of almost unbroken good weather, but it seems to be on the change. We needed to be around at 12:00 as Grace, the boat on ‘our’ mooring would be leaving then and we had to move into that spot. The rain stopped around 10:30 so we went for a stroll down the Paddington arm. Surprisingly there were quite a few good moorings available down there. We did a bit of shopping in the Tesco Express and went out onto Edgeware Rd to the Maplins to buy a charger lead for the camera (we had left it at home). As they were leaving we chatted to the people on Grace about their trip out from Limehouse up the Thames. They weren’t daunted as they had exerience of the tidal Trent.

After lunch we walked to Kensington Gardens and spent a very pleasant afternoon just wandering about. After a cup of tea in the Lido Cafe Heddi paddled in the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain.

fountain paddle

Our evening meal was taken at the Warwick Castle, a real pub with real beer and real music (Eric Clapton, 10cc, Van Morrison, Stones, Bob Dylan…….).

Day 2.

We had decided to spend the morning at the Natural History museum, followed by some window shopping in Knightsbridge. Just as we were leaving we were told of the forthcoming Tube strike tomorrow. This came as a bit of a blow as we have pre-booked the London Eye for 10:00 in the morning. How are we going to get there?

We haven’t travelled on the Tube for over 10 years, so all this Oyster card stuff was new to us. But we are quick learners, by the end of the day we were helping another lady who was having problems topping up her card!

The trip to the Natural History museum was slightly spoilt by all the school parties there. After about an hour we had had enough of running, shouting, jumping children. The Science Museum was, to start with, much quieter, but eventually this also got too much so we left. We grabbed a sandwich for lunch and ate them under a tree sheltering from a quick storm. Then it was off into Harrods to be amazed at what some people will pay for things! I spent quite a bit of the time just looking at the building. We liked the Egyptian staircase.

harrodsOur evening meal was taken at the Lebanese Restaurant nearby. We had their ‘Gourmet Massis’ to share.  It was an excellent assortment of dishes with bread, pickles etc.

massis1 massis2

Day 3

After studying the route we decided that it would be reasonably easy to cycle to the Eye, so we set off at 8:30 to give ourselves plenty of time. There were lots of other cyclists about, I dont know if this was more that usual due to the strike or not. Our route took us through Hyde Park to Hyde park corner roundabout, then down Constitution Hill to outside Buckingham Palace. From here we took Birdcage walk to Parliament Sq, then over Westminster bridge and we were there!

After a short while in the queue we were up and away.

Getting on

Getting on

The river

The river

The seat of government!

The seat of government!

City skyline

City skyline

After our trip we crossed the Jubilee footbridge and found somewhere to secure the bikes. A wander around Trafalgar Sq, the Strand and the Embankment with lunch in Victoria gardens followed.

We decided to cycle back a different route via Trafalgar Sq and the Mall back to Buck House. I did my good deed for the day by warning some tourist ladies that they were trying to enter the Gents toilets. I tried my best French, but they turned out to be Italian (I think). They got the message anyway!

The taxis going up the Mall weren’t very bike friendly, so to recover from the ordeal we chilled out for a while on the grass in Hyde Park.

Since we have been here I have been trying to contact the fuel boat ‘Ash’ which is mooreed nearby. He hadn’t responded to my text messages. Yesterday we saw another fuel boat ‘Baron’. He said that he would top us up with diesel today. As we came back on our bikes I saw him again and he said he would be along in 30mins. He duly arrived and we had 91 litres for £80 cash, no mention of tax or % declarations!

Our view for the last few days

Our view for the last few days

Our evening meal was Southern fried chicken and a pint of Doom Bar at The Bridge House.



We have really enjoyed our time in London, but after nearly a week of not really boating we are keen to get going. We leave on the next phase of the journey in the morning.









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