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Monday, April 13, 2015

Forth and Back: What We've Been Up To Here and There

"Life is a series of pulls back and forth. You want to so one thing, but you are bound to do something else. Something hurts you, yet you know it shouldn't. You take certain things for granted even when you know you should never take anything for granted.  A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band; and most of us live somewhere in the middle. " ~Mitch Albom, Author of Tuesdays with Morrie

   This is a mostly pictorial blog. I hope to do a more in-depth post about Old Linford Manor another time. We've spent a shade over three weeks waiting to hear about Les' upcoming RFA procedure. Knowing we couldn't just take off and cruise northward as we wanted--as we had planned--we've been staying 6-8 days at a stretch, turning for services, and cruising back to moor somewhere for another 6 day stretch. Les and I both get itchy feet after four days somewhere, so this has been an interesting change for us.
   We've been back and forth from Fenny Stratford to Stantonbury and points in between, passing through Milton Keynes, stopping for a couple of days at Linford Manor Park, turning to get water and dump our rubbish, pick up groceries, turning again to moor somewhere with bus service allowing Les to travel to Luton to pick up our mail, purchase decking boards and other bits and bobs for projects, hunkering down for days at a time waiting out rains squalls and high winds; all the while keeping busy while waiting to hear from the Royal Free Hospital. 
NBV moored up at Great Linford Manor Park on a warm spring afternoon.
The view of the Manor Park from our windows. To the left is part of the old stone wall surrounding the large Manor house. Off in the middle distance is the village of Great Linford. To the right are the old Almshouses.
Another view from the front of our boat, across one of two ponds, to the old church tower. The almshouses can just be seen on the left through the trees.
Approaching the church walk on a sunny Sunday morning. The bells ring out a repeating peal to call worshippers to service; they come on foot and also by horse through the park. This church dates to 1250 ACE. Parts of it have been rebuilt and other bits have been added.
Les and I wander amongst the headstones reading what epitaphs have not been erased by time and weather while the living gather inside.
Standing in the church yard looking over its old stone wall, one gets a good view of the old Almshouses up close. In 1702 manor owner Sir William Pritchard provided £24 per annum for the support of six poor people of the village living in them, and £10 for the school teacher who had the larger section in which to live and teach school.
I decided to have a closer look...
and peek through the back gate. These are now used as artists studios and nearby stable buildings are occupied as an Arts Centre.
England at its finest! A rare sunny day lights up spring blossoms by an ancient dry stacked stone wall.
My Best Beloved looking on through the trees towards NB Valerie. 
A view of the Almshouses from the central path. Once could easily believe it was still the 17th century.
These two lovely buildings were once the stables--designed to appear as posh gate houses. The Almshouses are directly off to the right, the church is off the to the right behind the Almshouses and the manor house is directly behind me.
This manor house was built in 1678 by Sir William Pritchard although a manor of some sort has been recorded as standing here since 944 ACE. In 1984 its new owner converted the two story ballroom in the right wing, into a recording studio.
Standing at the cross road with the manor house off to my left and the Gatehouses, Almshouses and church off to my right, up ahead is village of Great Linford. It is a fine 15 minute walk from our boat, across the park, through the village, and down a foot path to the NO. 7 bus stop which takes one to Milton Keynes Central where there is a HUGE shopping mall, theater complex, indoor ski slope, dozens of restaurants and an outdoor market.
As we stand at the Manor Park gate, ahead is the thatched roof Nag's Head pub dating back to the 15th century.

    I love the composition of this picture which includes the old stone wall, the ancient pub's sign, and a bright red phone box in the distance. 
  Many layers of history are in evidence and it is easy to lose one's self in it--like diving into a layer cake!

Looking back through the gate and down the long pathway across the park, to NB Valerie moored in the distance.
This is the view from a low stone wall which once surrounded a woodland. The Manor house is out of site on the left; the village is off in the distance and the gatehouses, almshouses, ponds and church are out of site far off on my right. The canal lies behind me.
There are permanent mooring at Great Linford Manor Park with access to a water point. There are three visitor mooring spaces available for no charge for 48 hours. Our time is up so Les reversed NBV backwards down the cut to the winding hole just before the bridge (marked by the arrow).
Here is a view of boating backwards for those readers who have never been on a boat!
 As we made our way back from Old Lindford Park to Fenny Stratford, we stopped at Gifford Park to fill up with H2O, dump our rubbish and pick up a Saturday paper.  This AMAZING wide beam was on the 14 day moorings...
Latin for vanity, Vanitas implies a sense of emptiness or worthless action, coming from the Christian Bible, Ecclesiastes 12:8. It is also an artistic term for a period in 17th century Dutch art wherein painting included various objects designed to remind viewers of their mortality and the worthlessness of worldly goods and pleasures. Skulls figure prominently of course!
"Every Castle Has Its Keeper Behind Locked Doors, Waiting Silently in the Dark Shadows Lies The Grim Reaper." Cheery, no??
The Paint job on this boat is phenomenal as are the frosted windows with their business phone number etched on the glass in one window and other interesting things on the other porthole windows. This boat is the owner's advertisement for their work and I think it's fabulous.
Moving on again we pass through a bridge with a sign stating the Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterways will start just North of here on the right....
and someday a new canal will branch off here, following the route the path currently takes. This badly needed new canal will allow wide beams as well as narrow boats to access the middle levels via Bedford. Currently wide beams can only travel north on the Grand Union Canal to just outside of Birmingham or south to the Thames. Narrow boats can leave the GU and travel up the Northampton Arm to access rivers on the Middle Levels which lead to cities such as Peterborough, Cambridge, and lovely places farther East.
One never knows what one will spy along the cut! A bride and groom begin their new life with wedding photos taken at Campbell Park in Milton Keynes.
Here is NBV moored up at one of our favorite places: Stantonbury as it is known today, or Stanton Low as it was once called. The housing estate on the off side is called Oakridge and is, I think, the loveliest example of a very finely planned community. Trees have been planted in the field between the houses and the cut, a pea gravel path has been laid down and benches are staggered across the top of the gentle slope allowing people living here to access the field, the canal, and the delightful views. Not so long ago, it was all an old farm!
We braved several days of high winds and the absolute mania of boaters on the Easter four day weekend while moored here.
On the towpath side, just beyond the hedge lies private farm land with the ruins of St. Peter's 12th century chapel which was in use until 1956. If you would like to read more of its truly fascinating history, including how this parcel of land came to be owned currently by Earl Spencer, Viscount Althorp (Princess Diana's brother), click on this link to my earlier post dated February 08, 2013. The church is now in the process of being rebuilt and its historical society contacted me for permission to use my post in their records and blog site.
    Above Les stands looking out across the field in which the ruins sit, off to his right. Previously we have only stayed three or four days here and we didn't do much investigating of the local area beyond our boat. With time on our hands we walked much farther afield and discovered the path past the church ruins continues forward with the River Great Ouse on the left and Linford Great Lakes off to the right. 
   The lakes were created after gravel pits were dug out in past decades. There are a string of almost a dozen lakes--two of which are held in a 91 acre parcel just adjacent to Viscount Althorp's field and belonging to Hanson Environmental Study Centre. One can enjoy the views of the lakes and the wildlife from the footpath we followed, or one can join the HESC and gain access to its grounds which include paths through woodland around the lakes and several bird hides from which splendid views may be had. As we walked along the path a green woodpecker landed on a nearby stump with an insect in its mouth. It rested there for several minutes while we stared in awe and misery as we hadn't brought our cameras with us.
Photographs © Tony Bedford 2011
    We were absolutely gobsmacked to turn around on the path and see with our very own eyes--a small island just off from shore, carpeted by trees and in those trees were no less than twenty pairs of nesting Herons accompanied by a nesting pair of white Egrets!! I tell you now that if either Irene Jamieson or Jo Lodge had been there with their mighty cameras and spectacular abilities to frame a shot, they would easily have taken a £1000.00 picture.
   As we continued around the lake we spotted over fifteen Cormorants, countless different kinds of ducks, geese, Terns and off in the distance on the brow of a farmer's field we spotted a dozen or so pairs of nesting swans. We also saw three barn owl nesting boxes. 
   We hiked in between the two lakes, climbed a fence and found ourselves at the doorstep of the HESC. It was locked up tight so we walked up the road to the Black Horse Pub and back down the towpath to NBV for a 3 mile hike.
   As Easter weekend bore down upon us, our quiet stretch of countryside quickly filled to the brim with boaters and soon we were nut to butt with other folks seeking to enjoy a slice of nature on their four day weekend.
   We were also entertained by hundreds--and I do mean hundreds--of boats coming and going in a frenzy all four days. From the way boats were piloted and the livery on them I spotted: small day boats loaded with family and friends whizzing by at top speed, hire boaters--mostly from Canal Boat Club and Wyvern Shipping Co. Ltd.
   Many of these folks wore the broad smiles and  "fake-it-till-you-make-it" glazed eyes of boating newbies as they plowed around the bend in the canal beyond us without slowing down-only to meet a wide beam creeping out of the curve aimed directly at them. Hire boats turned up in a row, stacking up behind one another like five o'clock traffic, not slowing down until they were right on top of the boat in front of the boat in front of the boat in front who was dueling for right of way with another wide beam!
   We also witnessed a few shiny boats out with their no nonsense attitude of "It's my holiday and I've paid to use this slice of canal so get out of my bloody way!"  We saw beautiful Share ownership boats thoughtfully and carefully piloted, tatty live aboard vessels looking like floating rubbish bins, and everything in between. We smiled and waved to many folks who slowed down, passed politely and were obviously thrilled down to their socks to be out on a boat pootling up a canal on a four day weekend.
   Of course the towpath was not devoid of action either. Swarms of joggers, dog walkers in the several dozens, bicyclists--oh everyone and their mother's brother's sister's cousin's kids were out and about. Thank the Goddess for the end of the holiday and for our lives aboard every day. We are so incredibly lucky we don't have to turn in the keys at the weekend, trudge back to the car, battle traffic and head to a house for another week in the rat race.
    While pandelerium reigned on the water, Les and I enjoyed evening walks up to the old farm bridge over the canal and waited for the gloaming to fall and bring with it barn owls quartering across the fields, hunting for dinner. Watching these beautiful birds fly on silent wings, dip, dive and come up again with a mouse is magical. 
   Too keep ourselves busy we worked on our new large wood box. Les picked up the deck boards in Fenny Stratford, I chose the stain color, and Les took my inquiry as to whether we could move or small wood box to the back of the roof and reinterpreted it into a brilliant large box upon which both of our solar panels will be mounted sometime soon. My baby does beautiful work!!!
Les staining the pieces for the new wood box.
A view of the top as it currently sits unfinished. Plenty of time to complete this project and we are in no hurry.
This kept Les busy and his mind off of the hospital. It turned out fabulous and the roof already looks better; all part of our plan to paint the boat later in the summer, have the sign writing repainted, and spruce her up nicely. Keep an eye on this space!!
   The phone rang suddenly on Thursday, April 9th. It was someone from the RFH to say Les' procedure is scheduled for Tuesday April 14th, with pre-op check in and overnight stay on Monday the 13th. We packed up, cleaned up, and headed back to Fenny Stratford where access to a train is easy. I will keep everyone posted as the week unfolds.


Unknown said...

Perhaps one of your better postings. And spring has arrived. Although as with all things weather, that too shall change. April 11 & 12 the thermometer rose to plus double digits for the first time in over five months.
The angels are on your side, both of you for the April 14th procedure.

Ian and Karen said...

Love the mooring at Linford, beautiful in the spring sunshine. Blessings to you both.x

antinady said...

Thinking of you. Hope all goes well tomorrow. Catch up soon. Love n hugs.
Andy & Tina

Marilyn, nb Waka Huia said...

As I write this (early Tues am in NZ) you'll be in London. We are thinking of you both and sending virtual uploads of strength for the days ahead. Feel it coming in to your brains?
Loved the post, Jaq - your photos of the mooring at Gt Linford were a bit of a contrast to ours taken in summer, and you had, naturally, given your researcher bent;-), got much more info about the place than we did! Very interesting.
We couldn't wind at the hole before the bridge as there was a boat moored too close to allow our 62' to get around - had to go through the bridge and wind there.
Love the woodbox, by the way, and make sure you leave room for planter boxes for lettuces, herbs and tomatoes!

Herbie Neil said...

Gt Linford, one of my all time favourite moorings we love it. We even liked it before we were boat owners, spent a weekend camping there on a bagpipe weekend. Listening to full highland bagpipes in that church were quite an experience I can tell you!
Every good luck for tomorrow, we will be thinking of you both tomorrow.
Kath (nb Herbie)

Sue said...

Really lovely blog Jaq.. You are both in the right frame of mind for this week.. Whoooo Hooooo and Dear Sir in shorts! WOW! xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Thank you for all your lovely comments!
Jaq and LesXX

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs