GUC Leighton Buzzard

Monday 10th September 2007: Day three of my trip down the Grand Union, this time setting off just before Cosgrove to round below Milton Keynes. The camera was set up, and the diary in video is on youtube.


It was an overcast and windy morning, so we set off at 10am for Cosgrove, the village announces itself with the ornate Cosgrove Hall Bridge, with seems over the top as the village doesn’t impinge on the canal much. After quickly dropping of the boat rubbish we were down through the lock and heading along Wolverton embankment. The aqueduct has no railings on the offside so don’t stare down as you cross if you are scared of heights. I tried, like many before, to see if you could see where the path of the original 13 locks that took the canal down to a level crossing on the Great Ouse below were, but it wasn’t obvious. Still on we plod – time for Milton Keynes.

The wind had blown much of the cloud away so it was turning out to be a nice day for cruising. It is strange to think that as you are traversing this lock-less section of canal that winds it way round MK that this was originally open fields when the canal was commercially used. There are plenty of bridges and whilst you can see housing on either side most of its shielded by trees along long stretches, and the canal feels quite rural in parts. Having parkland adjacent is something I do like, obviously incorporating the canal into a nice escape from city life, and you don’t feel the need to rush past you can get when going through many big towns sited on the canal network. So we moored at the visitor moorings at Campbell Park for lunch on board before once again setting off.

There’s a small sign on a bridge telling you its the site of the proposed Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway so I made a mental note to see about it when I got home, there really wasn’t much to see from the canal. The canal pound continues to wind its way south, making for a nice cruise in the afternoon sun. That is, until you reach Fenny Stratford lock, though at only 1’1″ depth its not much of a lock, but it does have a swing bridge across the middle. The bridge is normally open, so not really of a bother, but I read in Waterways World recently that the local council want the bridge to be used more and be kept in the closed position. If this happens it will mean opening the bridge before going through the lock, which might not please motorists (they often have a grumpy face on if delayed by a swing bridge being opened, but adding time to go through the lock just exasperates this). We shared the lock with the Australian couple we’d met before.

The time was now 3.30pm, time to start thinking about where to stop for the night, but whilst the weather is like this we may as well continue. Onwards we went eventually leaving Milton Keynes and out into open country. After a short while you reach Stoke Hammond Lock, the first of five locks in five miles, which by now we’d decided was the place to aim for. The wide beam lock has bridge with two bridge holes – done in anticipation of the never undertaken expansion plans (of doubling up the locks). Onwards to Soulbury Three Locks, with its canalside pub with benches for a few gongoozlers to sit and watch the boats go by. They were in for a treat, paired boats coming out of each lock passing in a short pound. Obviously too much for one or two of the hire boats as instructions and “suggestions” were banded about, and as I looked behind I could see that one hire boat had gone abreast of the lock – maybe barricading the lock over some international dispute or other?

The GUC then winds it way onwards towards Leighton Buzzard. The sun still shining, but getting lower, and we reached Leighton lock approaching 6.30pm. There was one boat at the lock waiting to go through, so we let our recently acquired lock partners go up, since we would be stopping soon. We went through the lock singly and then on to the moorings canalside at the Tesco store in Leighton Buzzard. Time for a supply stock-up before going out for the evening.

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