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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Claydon Locks to Stoke Bruerne

Monday 31st March.

The last day of March and yet another beautiful morning, we awoke to the birds singing. On mornings like this you realise that this is why you live the life you do, it was absolute bliss. Having done the usual Paddy walk, breakfast and a cup of tea we set off from our mooring at the top of Claydon Locks at 9.05am hoping to make the bottom of the Napton flight of locks by the end of the day. The sun was out and it was actually pleasantly warm. We made our way past the Wormleighton Reservoir and towards the Fenny Compton Tunnel which is no more, it now just a cutting, but there is only room for one boat through at a time. As there was a boat already coming through the cutting with another following on we held back and allowed them through, before we made our way through the thickly wooded cutting. Just as we came out of the cutting, we saw a boat in the distance, moving towards Tunnel Bridge (137), it was then things took a turn for the worst, we were already negotiating the bridge when the Napton hire boat, kept coming and showed no sign of slowing or reversing to allow us room to come through. Now you can guess what happened next, Yep we collided and became wedged together, us out of the bridge hole and them trying to get into it. It was like fitting a pint of milk into a half pint glass it was never going to happen. So with us now both stuck Keith tried everything possible to reverse us out of this tight squeeze, but Hadar was stuck fast where the hire boat had ridden up over our bow. Keith took the decision to call out British Waterways, as we were not going to get out ourselves and the hire boat was not powerful enough to try and move.
This happened at 10.20am, so kettle went on and whilst we waited for BW to turn up, other boats joined us and qued, 4 boats behind the hire boat and one hire boat behind us. Whilst we waited the other boaters all came to see what the fuss was about and took photos. We enjoyed a lovely conversation with a gentleman from Canada, who is over for 10 weeks on a boat, so we wish him a wonderful holiday, we also got to meet a couple off of a shared ownership boat, it was all very friendly, despite the inconvience to them all. At 12.25pm two BW guys arrived to see the situation, it was first thought that they would need a winch to get us apart, but that would take hours to arrive and with the traffic backing up something else had to be done, so the BW guys gathered some of the other willing boaters to stand on the gunwale of the hire boat and rock it, whilst Keith threw Hadar into full reverse, with much rocking we were free from the jaws of Monaco the hire boat and able to go on our way. I over heard a conversation between the hirer and another boater, with him saying. “I have still not got the hang of the speed of this boat, or it’s slowing down and stopping distance”. That kind of told me all I needed to know. Even one of the BW guys said “It is seriously dangerous, what they did”. There was no damage to Hadar, but I reckon we lift Monaco with something to remind her of us. We were on our way, but as we arrived at Fenny Compton Wharf we allowed the hire boat that had been behind us to pass, so they could continue with there holiday. Having let them go we then past them again as they moored up for water at The Wharf Inn. Whilst it was still dry, it had turned a little chilly, we new that we would not make Napton now in a reasonable time so decided to stop just before Br 129 after Wormleighton Hill, the time was 1.50pm.
Paddy and Marmite were allowed off of the boat for a play.
Marmite found this great fun, she and Paddy enjoyed running up and down the towpath together, usually Paddy playing chase, it certainly kept them amused for a couple of hours.
Marmite is a very confident cat, but is sometimes a little to brave for her own good, which I feel could get her into a lot of trouble if she is not careful. Still it is good for her to be able to enjoy the outdoors, we would like to feel that soon we can let her off on her own, and we will not have to supervise her all the time. Gosh I sound like a parent hahaha.
From the mooring we have a distant view of the Napton Windmill, it makes you realise just how far away it is and that we would of needed another 4 hours at least to make it. Later in the afternoon I heard a toot, toot from a boat horn so stuck my head out of the galley window to see Maffi pulling up alongside, he is on his way back to Banbury, having pulled in behind us we stood on the towpath as you do and had a nice natter, catching up on our adventures etc, before he headed off to Fenny Compton. See you in the summer no doubt Maffi.
So a fun day, well it was definitely different.

Tuesday 1st April.

At 7am it was blowing a gale and we could hear the rain splashing on the boats roof, so it did not bode well for an early start, so I got up and made a cup of tea which we sat in bed and drank as we discussed what we would do. Come 7.45am the sun was shining and the rain had gone, but there was still a breeze. We made the decision to go after breakfast and Paddy’s walk. So he being Paddy got a run out in the field, which Keith made preparations for our leaving? We set off from out picturesque mooring at 8.25am to a moderate breeze and headed for Napton. I had around four miles of scenery before I had the hard work of working the locks; the views are really beautiful and along with them come the farm animals, sheep and cows. We saw a sheep farmer carrying two newly born lambs into a barn and the mother toddling on behind him; no doubt he was taking them into the warm and out of the wind, which was now beginning to get up. The first lock of the day was at Marston Doles and with a further 8 to do it was going to be hard work as the wind was now getting strong. After I worked the locks I walked onto the next one and set that ready for Keith and the boat. We past by the Old engine house arm before reaching Napton Adkin’s Lock, where Blue Boar are doing some dredging work, and who should be driving one of the tugs, but our good friend Roy, so we gave him a wave as we entered the lock. We were now lucky enough to have boats coming up the flight so it made it easier for me as there would be no need for me to go ahead and set the locks. In the strong wind Keith had to hold Hadar in the locks until the other boats coming up were ready to enter the lock, as our sheeting was proving to be a sail, meaning Hadar was off on her own merry way. We progressed down to the bottom of the Napton flight and found a mooring near friends Sue and Vic on NB No Problem. Vick very kindly took the centre rope to help pull us in as the wind was doing its best to keep us out in the middle of the cut. Having moored up we went and enjoyed a coffee with Sue and Vic, catching up on boating news, before we returned to Hadar for lunch.
The afternoon was spent touching up paintwork; we also took a walk to The Folly Canal Shop, which is at the bottom of the Napton flight next door to The Folly Pub. The little shop has all provisions, newspapers, coal etc, if you do not fancy the walk into the village. It is a really useful shop if you run out of something, you can even order a newspaper if you ring 01926 812400, so it will be there when you arrive for the morning paper; now that is what I call service. It is so important to help canal side and canal based businesses I think. We always try to show our support by using them when we can. Sue and I took Paddy, Lucy and Meg for a run across the fields and back along the towpath, which they really enjoyed. Meg had a fantastic time pushing whimpy dog Paddy around; he is such a push over hahaha. It was wonderful catching up with Sue and Vic again and we look forward to seeing them again later in the year.

Wednesday 2nd April.

We were awake at 6.30am so a cup of tea was called for in bed of course, whilst we discussed what to do for the day. It was decided that we would head for the Norton Junction on the Grand Union, so at 8.55 we headed off towards Braunston Turn. We said our goodbyes to Sue and Vic, cruising around the base of Napton on the hill.
We had not gone far when we were asked for a bag of coal, which we happily unloaded from the hold and handed over; this gave a following boat the chance to pass us. Once we were underway again we past Napton Junction and the new Marina at Wigrams Turn. The scenery in this part of the country is truly stunning and for anyone in the local marina’s we can see why they have their moorings there, because to cruise out for the weekend you get to see such beauty. We pasted by Lower Shuckburgh a tiny village, the church was built in a Victorian way in1864, the village does not have any shops etc
Having reached the Braunston Turn we headed right and into Braunston. We were now back into the realms of the big locks and double gates.
So it was onward and upward through the Bottom Lock, but before negotiating the lock we saw Moore2Life out of the water at Braunston Boats having their bottom Blacked, well not Chas and Ann’s but the boats hahaha. Ann spotted us as she was walking along the towpath and we said our hello’s before heading up through lock 1, which has a lovely little shop next to it, where you can buy provisions and gifts. Heading towards the 2nd lock a boat was coming out of the lock allowing us to go in, that saved me some hard work yayyyyyy. We were all set to do lock 3, but as I walked up the towpath towards the lock, I spotted a familiar boat. NB Zoria, Ann and Doug’s boat. We have known Ann and Doug since meeting them in 2005 at the Preston Brook IWA National festival, and have kept in touch ever since. At this point we decided to pull in and moor up.
Having done so we sat and had lunch and a coffee with Ann and Doug, giving us the chance to catch up on all the news. It has been so wonderful to catch up with good friends. We spent the afternoon looking around before heading back to the boat. Keith took Paddy for his evening walk before we walked up to The Old Plough Inn for a meal with Ann, Doug, Paul and Merleen. We also met Paul and Merleen at Preston Brook, so this was the first time we had all been together since 05. Although we had kept in touch in the meantime. We all enjoyed Ham, Egg and Chips with a couple of drinks and an evening of catching up chatter. If you want a good meal in Braunston then go to The Old Plough, it is well worth the visit. It was late by the time we got back to the boat, so it was a quick coffee then bed.

Thursday 3rd April.

The weather forecasters had got it wrong again, they said it would be cloudy to begin with, with the sun coming out during the morning. We woke up to drizzly rain, overcast but it was mild. Anyway it mattered not as we set off at 9.15am leaving Ann and Doug at the mooring, although Doug did help us up through our first lock of the day, which was lock 3 in the Braunston flight. At lock 4 we were joined by hire boat Whooper Swan from Gayton Marina, they had ten onboard, and so lots of helpers to do the lock work yayyyyyy. It made life so much easier with me walking on ahead to set the next lock, leaving the youngsters from the hire boat to do the lock the boats were in. Two of the pounds were very low on water, but Keith made it through with Hadar ok. The drizzle was unrelenting; it did not dampen the spirits of any of us though.
We arrived at Braunston Tunnel (2042 yds) to see where there had been a landslide over winter, it is actually quite serious and will need a lot of work to sort it out, and Keith only just managed to get Hadar past the slide and into the tunnel. I took myself into the boat to make a coffee on the back stove whilst he enjoyed chugging along through the darkness.

We arrived at the other end and past Welton Wharf; where we began to slow down to allow the hire boat to catch us up. We made our way past Norton Junction and onto the next lock of the day, as we opened the lock gates, the hire boat joined us. It is always advisable to share double locks where ever possible to conserve on water. I realise it is not always possible, no one can wait around all day hoping a boat will join them, but in our case it was worth us waiting for the hire boat. As we reached the Buckby Flight we had a fly past by an Air Force refuelling plane flying low along the railways line that got the younger children on the hire boat very excited.
You really notice the contrasts in three totally different means of transport, what with the canal, railway and the roar of the M1. I know which mode of transport I prefer.
The weather was now improving with the sun trying its hardest to put in an appearance. Having left the hire boat behind as they moored up for a pub, we stopped at Nether Heyford to see the coal merchant Fred Tarry, his yard is on the side of the canal and we wanted to see if he would be our coal supplier. We enjoyed a nice chat with Richard in the yard and I bought 3 bags of coal to try on our back cabin stove as we are still trying to find a coal which suits it. We said our goodbye’s and made our way to Bugbrooke and a mooring for the night the sun was now well and truly out, giving us a lovely end to a pleasant day. After dinner we took a walk into the village of Bugbrooke, where they have a telephone box, hairdressers, and florists and more importantly to a boater a Londis for Provisions. It is a lovely little village with two pubs The Wharf Inn, and the Bakers Arms.

Friday 4th April.

We had a short day arranged, with a short cruise to Stoke Bruerne, but firstly Paddy needed his morning run and we did the usual breakfast and cup of tea thing, I also made up the boatman’s cabin fire with the house coal we bought yesterday to try, it is not smokeless, so gives off a yellow smoke. We shall see how it burns; the proof is in the testing. But at 9.15 am we were ready to set off on what was a beautiful morning, no wind, dull but very mild, so much so that I was in my shirt and waistcoat, my donkey jacket was left hanging in the engine room for a change.
There are some lovely views across Bugbrooke Downs. What we did notice where the amount of place to moor, which we have marked down in our book for future reference. At Gayton Junction we took on some water, and took the chance to clear the brass whilst the water tank filled up, before we headed off again, heading for Blisworth and the tunnel.
Blisworth is built around the old A43 and is built mainly of brown stone; it also has a 14the-C church. The Approach to Blisworth tunnel is through a heavily wooded cutting, it has a beauty all of its own.
We turned on the headlamp and set off into an already smokie tunnel which is 3057 yds long. It is the third longest canal tunnel open to navigation in Britain. As we passed through the tunnel and I sat in the engine room on the step, it made me think about how they used to leg their way through the tunnel and what it must have been like. At the South end of the tunnel there is still a legger’s hut, which must have been very welcome having legged the 3057yds in the damp and dark. It would be no good for me; my legs are not long enough hahaha. We arrived at the other end of the tunnel coming out into sunlight, as we crept into Stoke Bruerne we found ourselves a mooring opposite working boat Jubilee, who was laden down with her cargo of diesel, coal etc.

Moored behind us was the hotel boat Tranquil Rose http://www.tranquilrose.co.uk/ . It was now 12.10pm so time for lunch, but before I could enter the boat, we got chatting to Alan who runs the trip boat at the museum; he was a mind of information. We also got chatting to Stephen from the hotel boat and Mike from Jubilee. They take up to 9 passengers at a time and cruise the Thames and other wide rivers and canals. We finished cleaning all the brass on the boat and engine and I did a general cleaning of the engine room, before putting dinner in the boatman’s cabin stove. It has been a beautiful day with the sun out and lots of people passing the boat, having a natter as they pass. We will be staying here for the weekend, as the weather is forecast to be a bit rotten.

3 comments:

Ditaur said...

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Maffi said...

You may be surprised t hear I saw Monaco on Tuesday. he didnt really own up to his little brush with you. However there is an awfully big dent in the side just behid the bow curve. Ha ha!

Keith & Jo said...

Hi Maffi.
Hahaha well it will be something he will remember for a long time, as will the boat. Maybe it is time that hirers get lessons hahahaha.