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The Boat Shed

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

It's a definite fashion for liveaboards on the Grand Union Canal to construct sheds on their boats, although calling it a shed in some cases belittles what's been constructed and in other cases suggests an organised architectural structure that is clearly not the case. I'm still researching the subject, there's more on this later in the blog.

We left Three Locks yesterday and because of a weather forecast of possible thunderstorms decided to press on through Stoke Hamond lock, Fenny Stratford lock finishing at Woolstone in Milton Keynes. This places us well for a completely lazy day yesterday, Friday and ideally placed for friends to meet us for a day trip today. No drama on the way, both locks were no bother even the swing bridge at Fenny Stratford (which is there just for the lock keepers cottage on the canal's far bank). Fenny Stratford lock is quite a lot of phaff for a 1 foot drop in water level, but is quite an attractive spot as you can see from the piccie below.

Having lived in Milton Keynes for a while I've known that the villages which the city was built around are still part of the fabric of the city today. We are parked in Woolstone, which is less than a mile from the shopping centre, and has an interesting history. Woolstone goes back a long way, there are still remains of a medieval church and fish ponds in the village. In fact Woolstone is mentioned in the doomsday book of 1086, then called 'Wulfsige's farm' which is a loose translation of Woolstone in old English. The village of course pre-dates the canal, but undoubtedly the steady stream of coal barges would have made a significant difference. Indeed the Barge Inn was built in the very early 19th century to slake the thirst of the navvys building the canal and bargees once the canal was completed. The pub also now boasts a ghost, Samuel Savage a past landlord who died in the pub in 1933. It was also frequented by Alf West, regularly demonstrated an unusual talent – strong teeth, he could lift the train wheel by the hearth with his teeth.

The canal is a different world, since we've been moored up we've seen hardly anyone apart from passing boats, you could be in the middle of nowhere, other than the distant rumble of traffic. However we walked to the nearest supermarket for supplies, just a mile away, and literally once you've walked through Woolstone you're instantly back into the urban sprawl. All a bit surreal.

Back to boat sheds. These vary from magnificent to completely bonkers, but they're all wonderful. They're built on the back of any vessel from a traditional narrowboat to a fibre glass 'cruiser'. I suspect they've all been constructed with a specific purpose, a porch for muddy footwear, a workshop, extra accommodation or just a simple sun shade. There are loads but here's a sample, including one which appears to be a greenhouse but has an ingenious slot in the back that the tiller goes through thus providing an inside steering position! But the ultimate prize goes to the shed which is actually an old car. It couldn't possibly be used to steer the boat, could it?!!!

Hats off to people's ingenuity, they absolutely add to the rich tapestry of canal life.

We've had a great day today with chums, cruising through Milton Keynes to Cosgrove, what's more they've both been awarded their narrowboat steering badges. And just to finish, it being the season for lots of babies on the canal, here's a cute piccie (taken by Ellison) of 6 baby geese with parents that we passed.

We're now in Cosgrove again, awaiting the onslaught of marauding Grandchildren tomorrow, wish us luck!

More soon.

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