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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Monday 8th December.

Stoke Bruerne to Blisworth. 2.3 miles.

I woke up early with the sound of owls hooting close to our boat. This time there seemed to be only two of them. One with a very loud perfect Hoot, the other was clearly struggling with the complexities of getting the technique of hooting correct, it sounded like it was being strangled, but it made me smile to myself as I lay there listening to its poor attempts. I dozed off back to sleep only to be woken by Keith climbing over me to get to the toilet. Marmite let out a meowing yawn, announcing the fact that she was also now awake. Yesterday Keith and I had covered the inside of the pigeon box with plastic to keep out the cold and cut down the condensation, it had worked on both counts, so climbing out of a nice warm bed did not seem so bad this morning. We had been hit by another hard frost. Before we got up though we heard Mike go past on Working Boat Jubilee, he was off to deliver to his customers. Having got dressed and fed, Paddy got his walk up through the wood. I took a carrier bag with me, as I wanted to collect twigs for the back stove. Although they would be wet due to the frost, it did not matter as they would dry out under the back cabin stove and then make fantastic kindling for the fire in the mornings. I am always a little aware of the fact that some dog may have cocked its leg over the wood though so tend to be selective on the ones I pick up LOL. Back onboard Keith was preparing Hadar for the jaunt through Blisworth Tunnel; we would be mooring at Blisworth. As I donned my donkey jacket and hat Keith asked “Do you want to take Hadar through the tunnel”. After a second of thought my reply was an excited “Yes”. I had only done one other tunnel and with Blisworth Tunnel being the third longest tunnel open to navigation at 3057 yds long, this would be quite a test of my concentration and handling of the boat. So Keith fired Hadar up, she stuttered into life and we slipped our mooring. I took over the steering, hoping beyond all hope that I did not cock this up. We entered into the darkness of Blisworth Tunnel having forgotten to put in my earplugs, but it did not seem to matter. I kept to the centre of the tunnel, watching the headlamps glow on the arch of the tunnels ceiling, I knew that if I kept in the centre of the arch I could not go wrong. It was pretty wet in the tunnel with water pouring down from the ventilation shafts. I made sure that the collar of my donkey jacket was pulled up tight to stop any water going down my neck brrrrr. Keith stood on the gunwale, just in case I should need any assistance. We came out of the other end of the tunnel completely in tact; I had not touched the sides once and felt really proud of myself. I felt as if I had just done a tunnel cruising test and passed with flying colours.
I know there are many women out there who hate going though tunnels and would never think of steering through one. I say to them go for it ladies, it is fantastic and nothing to be scared of whatsoever. I am now looking forward to do the other tunnels on the navigation. My philosophy is if you do not try, you will never know whether you can do something. I am lucky however because Keith is an excellent teacher and very patient. He said nothing throughout the tunnel trip; he just let me get on with the job in hand. I know that some husbands would probably have been a total nightmare throughout the whole thing, what with shouting instructions etc, which would make some a nervous wreck. So having done the tunnel we needed to find some where to moor up just past Blisworth Mill. We passed N.B Inchy who is clearly in the festive spirit, with a beautifully decorated boat. We reckon they are heading for the Stoke Bruerne Illuminated Boat Parade and Carols on the 13th December. It’s a shame we could not be there for that; it would be a fantastic event.
Once we had tied up and had lunch we walked up into Blisworth, which is a picturesque village made up of a variety of houses dating back to the 17th and 18th Century, the majority of them built out of ironstone and freestone stone with thatched or slated roofs, like something off of a chocolate box or jigsaw puzzle.
Blisworth Mill dominates the side of the canal. It was originally built as a Corn Mill in 1879 by Joseph Westley (Jnr). The mill was bought by the Grand Union Canal Company around 1930 it wanted to use it as a warehouse, to generate more jobs for the villagers. In the years of WWII the warehouse was put into good use storing many tons of tinned food rations. It was later used as a bonded store, where dry foods were processed by a company known as The Pepper & Spice Company, and then in 2000 it was converted to residential accommodation as 21 flats. But they kept its traditional look.The village has a real homely feel about it, even on an overcast, cold day. There is a small post office and store, which was closed today. It is a very pretty place and well worth stopping. If your in need of a drink of an evening there is the Royal Oak pub, which was once used as a jail and dates back some 400 years. I bet if that place could talk it would be able to tell some tales. Apparently there is still one of the original jail doors still used in the pub.
Our day finished off with a quiet dinner, shower and a DVD in front of a nice cozy fire. Paddy hogged the whole of the saloon floor as he crashed out in front of the fire for the evening, whilst Marmite was undecided where she was going to curl up for the evening, so she kept walking to and fro from the back cabin. Every evening around 9.30pm Marmite thinks it is playtime and will always bring me a feather to throw for her, which of course I do for a short time. She then gets fed up and goes to bed, which by this time is our bedtime as well.

Tuesday 9th December.

We were awake with the Sparrows this morning, so I got out of bed and stoked the stove and made us a cup of tea in bed. There was no rush to be up and yet our body clocks seem to assume we should be awake every morning. Come 8.45am we did crawl out from under the duvet and that was only because Paddy needed his morning constitutional. We are not like some boaters who open the cabin door and chuck the dog out on to the towpath to do its own thing. We like to make sure we know where he is going and we also like to make sure we pick up after him. So it means we have to get out of bed and get on the move with him. I always walk Paddy in the morning and Keith walks him at night, mainly because I don’t like walking in a strange place in the dark. So with Paddy walked, breakfast done, it was 9.50am before we slipped our overnight mooring and cruised 20 minutes to our next mooring at Station Road Bridge Blisworth. The reason for this mooring was because we were meeting friends in The Walnut Tree. But before reaching the overnight mooring, we spotted The Maisibert moored up at the same place. Hilary was waving out of the window, so we signaled to her that we were pulling in. Having moored up, Andy walked down and invited us onboard The Maisibert for a coffee and there we sat drinking coffee and chatting for almost 1½ hours. Oh how the time flies when you are having fun. We met their beautiful little dog Cassie and Andy’s son Craig, who would be steerer for the cruise back to their base.
Andy and Hilary if you are reading this, thank you for such a warm welcome on your lovely boat, we really enjoyed our time with you all and look forward to seeing you again, when you are Continuous Cruisers like ourselves. We will keep in touch via Boats and Canals Forum.
Back onboard Hadar I made us Bacon sandwiches for lunch, I then needed to shift coal in the hold and fill up our log box, whilst Keith did his boating log on the computer. With lunch and jobs done we took a stroll across the canal to find The Walnut Inn, so we would know where to go for the evening’s entertainment with our friends Elaine and David off of N.B Patience. It was not difficult to find around 150 metres up the hill. Our only worry was going to be the walk up in the dark, as there was no pavement and if it was a frosty evening the road would be slippery, which proved to be so when after having had dinner and walked Paddy, we set off to The Walnut Tree for a quiz night, held by the Northampton branch of the IWA. No sooner had we left the safety of the towpath, we realized that the road was very slippery under foot. It was a beautifully clear, frosty evening, with the stars shining bright. As I looked up into the nights sky, a shooting star flashed across the horizon in front of us. I haven’t seen one of those for many years. We arrived at The Walnut Inn, not long afterwards Elaine and David joined us, we would be part of a team of 5 member team, a friend of Elaine and David’s joined us. After four rounds of questions, movie pictures to identify and more, we were amazed when we went on to win the overall quiz. The prize for winning was one bottle of wine, which was supposed to be shared between the five of us, but Elaine suggested that we should take the bottle as we were there as guests, which was so sweet of her. We were happy to accept the prize and will think of them on Christmas day when we have it with our duck. We had a fantastic evening, whilst stretching the brain cells. Having said goodnight to everyone, we had to take the slippery walk back to the boat, before enjoying a nice hot mug of Jasmin Tea and then bed.

Wednesday 10th December.

Blisworth to Bugbrooke, 4 miles.


We were in no hurry to get up as it was another bitterly cold morning. Once more there was ice on the surface of the canal. We left our mooring and headed for Gayton Junction, where we emptied the toilet cassettes, took on water and put rubbish in the skip. Whilst the water tank was filling, we both changed out of our corduroy trousers and into our winter bags (quilted trousers, duvets for legs). The wind was bitter, chilling anyone out in it to the bone, if they did not wear the appropriate clothing. With the tank filled we set off for Bugbrooke with me at the tiller, the canal is dominated by agricultural land on both sides, with the railway keeping it for company. We were able to moor on the south side of Bugbrooke Wharf Bridge. After a soup for lunch, we walked into Bugbrooke to the Londis store for potatoes and bread. Bugbrooke is named in the Domesday Book (1086) as Buchebroch, it’s a pretty village with houses built of honey coloured stone and a beautiful church which dates back to 1220. On the way back to Hadar, I did some twig collecting for the back stove. I think I am becoming obsessed with sticks for the fire. We will stay here overnight and see what tomorrow brings.

3 comments:

Adam said...

The old mill at Blisworth is a great building, isn't it? The size of it shows just how much busier that sleepy village must have been years ago. Blisworth Tunnel is a good choice to start your tunnel steering career on, as it's so straight. Let us know how you get on through the kinks of Braunston Tunnel!!

Adam said...

The old mill at Blisworth is a great building, isn't it? The size of it shows just how much busier that sleepy village must have been years ago. Blisworth Tunnel is a good choice to start your tunnel steering career on, as it's so straight. Let us know how you get on through the kinks of Braunston Tunnel!!

Keith and Jo said...

Hi Adam. When I look at old building like the mill, I cannot help but wonder what it would have been like when it was a working mill. It evokes the thought of the sights, smells etc doesn't it.
I have done the Maida Hill Tunnel although it is not that long. I am sure Braunston Tunnel will not bother me. it is all a learning curve ha ha.