Monday 24th April; Grove Lock to Stoke Hammond
Cold and grey today, rather a rude awakening after the last few days of sunshine. We topped up with fuel at the wharf opposite as it was so handy, then made our way down the lock towards Leighton Buzzard. We stopped on the visitor moorings near the bridge as we wanted to visit the town before going into Tesco. Quite attractive I suppose but it didn’t feel welcoming on a cold and windy Monday morning. They have an interesting market cross
and I liked the old Fire Station which now seems to be a Pizza Express. Oh well.
We found a nice butcher and then bought a few books in Oxfam before a quick visit to Tesco and away. I was disappointed to find that Tesco now only has recycling bins for glass and clothes, so I had to cart all the paper and plastic bottles back to the boat.
We ate lunch on the slow trickle along to Leighton Lock past the permanent moorings and the Wyvern hire base. A new hire pulled out as we approached so we were assured of company in the lock! It took a long time to get through, as the instructor spent a while talking to them about ropes before starting the lock. We didn’t mind – better that than skimp on the job. Once we started down it was ok; I had 2 crew my side and they did all the work – under my instruction! They had been to the boat share show at Braunston the other weekend and were very sensibly ‘having a go’ before they committed themselves. There were grey wagtails nesting nearby – there were some at Grove lock too but I had left my camera on board.
We shared the Soulbury locks with the Wyvern, and we had FOUR volunteers helping. But they weren’t there just for us – a small boat and crew were waiting to electro-fish the top pound.
For a complete novice the hire-boat steerer was doing very well.
As soon as the coast was clear the electro-fisher zoomed into the middle lock. They were catching zander which is an introduced species of fish also known as the pike-perch. It is a voracious feeder, eats all the small fry and out-competes the native pike and perch (thanks Dave for the info). The Japanese Knotweed of the water! They had already caught about 40, which were netted out and kept in a tank which had air bubbling through to keep them comfy till they were killed. We don’t know how that is done but I bet it’s a lot kinder than a netful of sea fish suffocating to death in a trawler hold.
Normally the zander catch goes to a fish market the next morning; it is supposed to be good eating. This lot though were for study purposes at Bournemouth University. You can see from everyone’s hoods that it was raining by now. It drizzled on and off till the evening, but we gave up well before then and moored at Stoke Hammond for the night.
6½ miles, 5 locks
Total this trip; 72½ miles, 62 broad locks, 2 tunnels, 1 large aqueduct, 4 swing bridges