Athina Beckett

Pennyland Boat Basin

I grew up in London and had no interest in canals or their history until I answered an ‘ad’ in a London magazine. Having gone through a divorce for the first time in many years I needed to find new friends and holiday on my own. The advertisement was in ‘Time Out’ and was from someone who was hiring a large narrow boat for family and friends and needed a couple of people to make up the numbers. Myself and another lady joined him and eight of his relatives and spent a wonderful week on the boat travelling around the Stoke on Trent area.

When I returned to London after the holiday I looked for opportunities to continue boating but had to wait until my firm moved to Milton Keynes . I then discovered a way of continuing my boating interest by volunteering myself a ‘crew’ for various friends. I joined local groups like the IWA (Inland Waterways Associations) and WRG (Waterway Recovery Group) and took part in practical work on canal. WRG is made up of a group of people who spend a weekend a month working with various canal societies help the local group to restore disused canals. During this time I learnt about a new group that had recently formed called the ‘Buckingham Canal Society’ whose main aim was to restore the disused canal that use to run from the village of Cosgrove to the town of Buckingham. At that time they used to meet once a month on the second Sunday and I joined them for a Sunday work party liked the group and that, as they say is ‘history’ as I’m now Chairman of the Society. Going back again in my history after living in Milton Keynes for a while the next big move for me was to find a house in Pennyland with a mooring a with the house came a boat, a vey old Norman Cruiser called Silver Bell. She became my first boat.

Pennyland Boat Basin was designed as a prestigious and exclusive canal side housing development and in 1982 the architect Wayland Tunley won a award for the project and it received international recognition.

The development subsequently became a showcase estate and is often featured in brochures and leaflets attracting visitors to Milton Keynes because of the unique appearance of the houses with their coloured canal paintings and painted woodwork on the houses. If you live in Pennyland you get use to seeing tourist-taking photographs of the area and I’ve also seen local schoolteachers bring their students for outdoor classes to Pennyland to show them the boats and houses.

Pennyland Residents Association was founded in 1983 for the boat basin and surrounding area and everyone who moves into the boat basin has to become part of the association and contributes to the upkeep and repair of the boat basin and a AGM is held once a year

Researching the history of Pennyland I also discovered that Two Iron Age and Saxon found in Pennyland. (RJ Williams 1993) States The most important early middle Saxon site to be investigated in the north of the county is Pennyland in Milton Keynes. The settlement spanned the early and middle Saxon periods. The site was at first a typical dispersed 6th century unenclosed settlement but in the 7th and 8th centuries a series of enclosures and a timbered hall was constructed. This site was not in the immediate vicinity of a village but a kilometre distant from the nearest Great Linford. It was sited on and around the enclosures of a levelled Iron Age site. Pennyland produced thirteen grubenhaus and two halls. The grubenhaus were fairly randomly distributed, as is not uncommon for this period, with little evidence of patterning. The halls were probably within enclosures. An unusual find here was of a wattle-revetted well/waterhole with parts of a ladder, a second ladder was found at Hartigans with a single grubenhaus in the vicinity.

Pennyland streets are named after various currencies and States Pound where I live which at first I thought referred to the pound part of the name but I later found out that a Stater was in fact a gold Roman coin.

Back to boating again after practising with Silver Bell for a year and even taking her down the Thames with a friend I was able to purchase my first narrowboat Bonnie Lassie. When I bought her she was painted cream, but with the help of a few friends we transformed her using the traditional green and red canal colours. Then a very talented friend of mine painted canal drawings of roses and castle on the sides and back and front making her paintwork look very original.

My present boat Brown Trout is a semi trad tug style boat and is painted brown and grey again very different from Bonnie Lassie, more my partner’s choice. He use to find it very embarrassing standing on the back of Bonnie Lassie and having ‘wags’ from pubs call out ‘whose the bonnie lassie then’ so he is much happier on a more masculine boat like Brown Trout.

I’m still very happy living in the boat basin with a mooring at the bottom of the garden and can look out of my bedroom window and see Brown Trout moored there in the basin waiting for the summer months when we can go off on our travels again.

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