Tuesday, 25 September 2007

September Cruise: Part One

Day 1 - Friday 7 September

Arrived a Stockton Top at lunchtime, and the friends Brian and Mike who were joining us for the first part of the trip arrived about an hour later. We unpacked, took a delivery from Tesco, and set off at about 3.30. We were quickly up the Calcutt Locks as there was plenty of traffic coming down. Turned left at Napton Junction, and moored up just before bridge 101 to enjoy the evening sunshine in the Warwickshire countryside.

6 miles, 3 locks.

Day 2 - Saturday 8 September

A fry up for breakfast, then we set off heading for Braunston. We'd left at around 8, so the canal was quiet and still as we approached Braunston Turn.

We moored up in the first space we came to, and walked up into the village for papers etc. Returned via the church and a footpath and bridge over the north Oxford. It was about 10.15 when we set off again. This turned out to be peak time for the locks, as there was a long queue. The canal was pretty crowded, as the Union Canal Carrying hire fleet was moored up two abreast. I noticed that the boat behind us, another OwnerShips boat called Silhouette, had a camera mounted in the front window. I thought this could only mean that Nic was on board. He makes time lapse films of his trips, which are posted on his website. I went to speak to him, to confirm my suspicions. We ended up sharing the locks with Silhouette, and Nic has posted a film of us in the queue and ascending the locks.

We stopped for lunch shortly after Braunston Tunnel, then made the turn onto the Leicester Line. When we got to the bottom of Watford Locks, we found a long queue: we were about twelfth in line, and the feeling was that ww wouldn't get up the locks that evening. So we decided to abandon our plans to go to Market Harborough and instead go down the Grand Union, which would be virgin territory for us. We winded, stopped for water at Norton Junction, went down the top Buckby lock, and moored for the night. Went for a drink at the New Inn.

11 miles, 7 locks. (17, 10)

Day 3 - Sunday 9 September

A misty, atmospheric morning as we made our way down the Buckby flight. While we were preparing the first lock of the day another boat arrived, so we had company to help with the work and were at the bottom in about an hour and a half. Shortly afterwards, we spotted nb Sanity coming towards us. I waved and shouted - they must have thought we were mad!

Stopped in Weedon Bec for shopping, using the moorings on the offside. There are steps down into the church yard, giving access to the village which had a very well stocked shop. Next stop was Bugbrooke, where we had lunch at The Wharf.

The boatmanship of Alvechurch hire boaters left a lot to be desired as we approached Gayton Junction. One came flying through a bridge hole and hit us before crashing into the curved edge of the canal. There was a smashing sound from inside their boat, so I hope they had some crockery left. The second apparently hadn't been told to move to the right to pass other boats.

Blisworth tunnel didn't take as long as we'd expected, but was very wet inside. Although it's longer than Braunston, it seems easier because it's straight. Moored up just south of the tunnel and walked the few hundred yards into Stoke Bruerne. It was packed with gongoozlers enjoying the sunshine. I was glad we weren't doing the locks until the next morning, because we'd have had to have fought our way through to open the gates.

16 miles, 6 locks. (33, 16)

Day 4 - Monday 10 September

Stoke Bruerne was much quieter at 8.30 on a Monday morning. There wasn't a gongoozler in sight. By the third lock we caught up with a single-hander, Kevin on nb Limelight Crew. He was returning from the IWA National, where he'd been technical director. Stopped for water at the bottom of the locks, and the sun came out. Next stop was just after Cosgrove Lock, for lunch. In the afternoon, we went over two aqueducts, one over a river, the second over a dual carriageway on the outskirts of Milton Keynes.

Just the other side of the aqueduct, we winded and began to retrace our steps. This time we stopped in Cosgrove itself, to look at the horse tunnel under the canal, and the elaborate bridge across it.

We carried on for another hour, mooring up for the night in the middle of nowhere, just within sight of Grafton Regis church.

17 miles, 9 locks. (50, 25)

Day 5 - Tuesday 11 September

Woke to a beautiful morning, and set off about 8.45 towards Stoke Bruerne. Brian and Mike walked the two miles to the locks. Some of the pounds were very low, and we had to flush some water down from above.

Brian and Mike also walked over the top of the tunnel, while we got wet inside. At Gayton Junction, we stopped at the water point, and while Adrian filled the tank, the res of us walked down the Northampton Arm to have a look at the first few locks. Having been on the Grand Union, the narrow locks and reedy canal looked very small.

Our mooring for the night was Weedon Bec. We used the same offside moorings as earlier in the week, and walked down to the village for a meal at the Plume of Feathers.

14 miles, 7 locks. (64, 32)

Day 6 - Wednesday 12 September

Our ascent of the Buckby Locks was efficient, even though we had no-one to share with. I walked ahead and got each next lock ready. At one lock, two boats were coming out as I arrived, so they left one gate open and I sat on the balance beam waiting for Debdale to arrive. A boat called Catnap arrived at the top of the lock, and the lady came over to say hello. Shortly afterwards, her husband joined her, to remonstrate with me about setting the locks too far ahead. I told him I hadn't had to set the lock, two boats were just leaving as I arrived. I was flabbergasted when he told me I was lying! I had to smile when he had to rush back to the boat as he he hadn't tied it up properly and it was drifting out to the middle. As I walked past him a couple of minutes later to go to the next lock he had another go at me. his wife just looked embarassed.

We reached the top at about 11.30, and said goodbye to Brian and Mike. They were being picked up at the little BW car park by the top lock to begin their journey home. Adrian and I had lunch on board before setting off for Braunston Tunnel and the locks. Halfway down we caught up with a tiny Ashby hire boat called Badger, and shared the rest of the flight. All went well until the bottom lock, when the wife disappeared into the canal shop. The lock was emptied so I opened the gate and closed the paddle on my side, and Debdale slipped out. As his wife still hadn't reappeared, the man on Badger followed us out of the single open gate. The people waiting to go up must have wondered what on earth was going on.

We moored up in Braunston, a little further down than we would have liked, and went to the marina to do some washing. While waiting, we talked to a Canadian lady who with her husband spends each spring and autumn crusing the canals in the boat, nb Prairie Crocus, and to Julian the owner of nb Vulcan.

9 miles, 13 locks. (73, 44)


Bruce in Sanity said...

Hi Adam - I've just responded to your comment on my blog as follows:

No need to apologise - I was flattered. And I didn't think you were any more mad than the rest of us on the cut, not that that says a lot in our case - it's only the boat that's called Sanity



Nic said...

Hi, it was really great to meet you all at Braunston. I guess I was really taken aback by someone recognising my video-logs. I'm was never sure many (or any) people read my site and I really should have been more communicative.

I'm glad you like the short clip of our shared trip through Braunston Locks, it was the least I could do to make up. I'm thinking of geting a magnetic sign for the boat "you've just been filmed by narrowboat.org.uk" though is that asking for trouble the next time a boater doesn't think I've slowed enough or pulled over to the bank enough.