The city of Milton Keynes provokes mixed reactions, but as far as we can see the people who actually live there seem to like it a lot. Swallowing up, or surrounding several old villages like Fenny Stratford and Bletchley, it covers a large area; the canal snakes around the Eastern and Northern boundaries with glimpses housing estates or even The Open University, but it’s pretty much all parks or woods or walking areas along the canal so you never feel you’re close to a big city.
Fenny Stratford provides the last lock on the descent into Milton Keynes and a long lock free pound. The drop is only thirteen inches, and there’s a swing bridge across the middle of the lock: a lot of effort for such a little descent.
You occasionally see people running businesses from boats: we’d already encountered fuel sellers and the honey-cart boat that services the area from Rickmansworth to Milton Keynes. You see boats advertising traditional fenders, a mobile bookshop seemed to make the news recently, tea shops, and all sorts of other types. Some friends of ours who liked making exotic bread had even explored the possibility of a narrowboat bakery, but the logistics proved a little fearsome. And that morning The Cheese Boat passed us en-route to Leighton Buzzard.
Even so, we were impressed by the striking looking Vanitas: a mobile tattoo parlour and signwriter no less. The Captain suggested we stop and I get some rabbits tattooed on my forehead, in the hope that people might mistake them for hares, but there didn’t appear to be anyone in. The Captain went without lunch.