Friday, 31 July 2009

Braunston to Cape of Good Hope, Warwick

Friday 31st July 2009
Another lovely day, lots of sunshine, fabulously beautiful countryside with goldfinches and yellowhammers singing from the tree tops. Between Braunston and Napton we passed David and Jan on Helvetia - waving and shouting out comments to each other. They seem to be going to Birmingham too, but by a different route. Alan is looking for an old Bowler Hat to wear when we next meet.

Alan and David watch two boats passing from the lower chamber to the upper chamber in Bascote staircase lock - this type does seem to be a bit too much for some people!

Lots of locks and hard work, but we went through most of the locks with a very hard working single hander. We are working hard at sharing the hard work of the locks and the steering - this way we are BOTH tired at the end of the day, and I get to practice my steering more, which is a good thing (if I don't practice then I can handle harder situations). Most of the time the one working the locks also had our ricketty old bike (Margaret) off the front of the boat.

We passed the steam boat Emily Anne tied up in the middle of Fosse Locks. It is owned by the grandfather of someone from the Internet canal forum.

We stopped briefly for supplies in Warwick, then moored above Cape locks, by the Cape of Good Hope pub.

Miles: 19.8, Locks: 25
Total Miles: 78.2, Total Locks: 70

Blisworth to Braunston

Thursday 30th July 2009
A cloudy day to start, with moments of bright sunshine breaking through. The countryside beautiful, very green and English.

There were a lot of boats travelling up the Whilton flight with us, so we had to wait for almost every lock. I was trying to make bread dough, which kept rising, and as I didn't have time to shape it or put it into pans I just kept knocking it back every few locks.

David volunteered to steer, and decided to wear Alan's Panama hat while he did. It looks much better on him than it does on Alan, so I suspect that it may have a new owner. It rained the whole way up, then the sun came out again at the top. I put the bread in the oven quickly, so that it would be ready before Braunston tunnel when we would need to turn the oven off.

The Toll House, Norton Junction

Braunston locks were completed in the bright sunshine, we worked very quickly down. Every boat we met was crewed with experienced boaters, paddles were opened sensibly, gates were opened on time, boats were in the right place. In Braunston we moored up, and headed up to 'the Old Plough' in Braunston itself. We ordered three vegetarian lasagnas, and drinks, then settled down in a corner. After a while a very apologetic young man came and said that there were no vegetarian lasagnas left. A discussion showed that there was only one vegetarian meal of any type left - which wasn't much use for three vegetarians. So we finished our drinks.

I went to the bar to pay the tab that had been started when I ordered food, and the lady there said, "you were the people we couldn't feed - you should have been told when you ordered, before you took your drinks - no charge". All credit to them, I do think that what they did was right, but how many pubs would actually do this?

We found somewhere else to eat, looking out across the Northamptonshire countryside in the fading light of evening.
Miles:17.5 , Locks: 13
Total miles: 58.4, Total Locks: 45

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Stoke Hammond to Blisworth

Wednesday 29th July 2009
An overcast day, which eventually turned to heavy rain, with few let ups.

Today was a day marked by many lockless miles. We took it in turns to steer, travelling around the twisting bends of the canal as it skirts Milton Keynes. We've seen several more 'community boats' today - there are a lot of them in this part of the canal at the moment.

The first lock of the day was Fenny Stratford, which needs the swing bridge left across it at all times when the lock is being used. So a BW key is needed to unlock it.

At Wolverton we spotted this interesting craft.

Our next lock was at the other end of Milton Keynes - Cosgrove, where we spent some time trying to rescue a very young duckling which had become separated from its mother and siblings by the lock. David spent some time with a boathook, 'steering' it towards a bucket wielded by Alan - the whole process attracting some interest from onlookers. Having finally caught it we reunited it with its family.

When buying diesel the salesperson pointed out that we were paying £34 pounds more in tax than we would have done last year, and then told us that only very small numbers of people are declaring as much as 60% for propulsion (as we do). She viewed the tax as unenforceable.

Stoke Bruerne flight in the rain, and then through the tunnel - following an extremely slow boat. There was a terrible stench at one point in the tunnel, surely no-one would have done a 'self-pump out'? I do hope not. Then we moored in Blisworth. We walked up to the village to see if the shop was open, but being quite late it wasn't. Alan and I walked around the churchyard in the hope of seeing some 'canal names', but what struck me most was the war grave of the gunner who died on the 4th November 1918 - 7 days before the Armistice.

The churchyard is filled with Rowan trees heavy with berries.

Blisworth Churchyard.

Alan looking dodgy amongst the gravestones - actually trying to hide the shopping bags he was carrying while I took a photo.

Miles: 23.1, Locks: 9
Total Miles: 40.9 , Total Locks: 32.

Marsworth to Stoke Hammond

Tuesday 28th July 2009
The day started overcast, but eventually turned quite bright, with scudding white clouds.

The first part of the day we travelled very slowly, there seem to be far more boats around than are normal so far down the Grand Union. We worked through several locks with a young couple who are taking their boat up to Whilton to have a skin tank added to their boat - they had an interesting cooling arrangement going, utilising a section of garden hose. Just above Horton they headed off to the bank to rescue a crow that was flapping in the canal - it's legs were tangled in something. I was surprised that the bird was still alive when they pulled it out.

Travellers Joy beside a lock.

The banks of the canal are covered with wild flowers and the bushes are showing signs of the fruits of the harvest later this year. Some blackberries are ready, but most are still green, and the sloes and damsons are starting to turn darker. Just north of Church lock goldfinches were darting between the trees as we passed, and a large crowd of long tailed tits swooped along the opposite bank.

I try to show some muscle at Leighton Lock.

Steering down through the Soulbury 3 - David in conversation from the roof.

We eventually passed through Stoke Hammond, went a little further, to ensure that we were not too near the road, and moored up.

Miles: 15 , Locks: 23
Total Miles: 18 , Total Locks: 23

Summer 2009

Monday 27th July

Lots of thing delayed us, but I was determined that we would actually spend a night on the boat, even if it meant being in the marina. Alan, David and I packed everything in the car, issued last minute instructions to Michael, and set off. As it was we managed to leave the marina sometime after 8:00 pm, and set off across the summit, finally arriving in the dusk about an hour later. For Alan it was the first time travelling after dark, and was made particularly difficult by crossing the deep cutting of the summit, with large overhanging trees.

As we crossed the summit I packed things into cupboards, and began to get a meal ready. We finally managed to eat a curry at about 10 pm, then off to bed.

Miles: 3, Locks: 0