Sunday, June 28, 2009

A couple of epic trips, and a busy weekend.

On Friday we moved on, just 3½ miles to the embankment over the River Great Ouse. This is a good spot for the weekend, 14 day moorings, good towpath and lots of walks in the area.

Wolverton…. Railway Mural
New development

And derelict factories
The canal crosses the River Great Ouse as it leaves the built up area behind. A ¾ mile long embankment has an aqueduct in the middle, carying the canal over the river.

Cosgrove Embankment
Great Ouse Aqueduct
The span is a cast iron trough supported on stone pillars, and replaced the original brick structure.

We moored a little further past the aqueduct, just as the first of several heavy showers struck.

The first of the epic journeys…. I was out on my morning run on Friday, and overtook maybe half a dozen people, walking or slowly jogging. They were wearing running shoes and carrying light backpacks. It was on the way back, facing the oncoming walkers/joggers that I noticed they were wearing race numbers on their fronts. Curiosity thoroughly piqued, I stopped and walked alongside one chap, and asked him what was going on. They were on the Thames Ring Ultra-Marathon, non-stop from Goring on the river to Brentford, up the Grand Union to Braunston, back down to Oxford and onto the river again to Goring. 250 miles! They’re not allowed any support teams, and have checkpoints every marathon distance, 26 miles. Quite a few competitors had retired in the very warm weather, and some of the ones I saw looked pretty whacked. And they still had 100 miles to go. Made my run of 7 miles look a bit puny….
They started at 10 am on Wednesday the 24th, and the first guy home made it in just less than 60 hours.

The second of the epic journeys….. We had a couple of very heavy downpours on Friday afternoon, but then the sky cleared, the sun came out and so did I, ready to make a start on the paintwork on the right side of the hull.
The towpath was alive with tiny frogs. Everywhere you looked there were these little creatures, appearing out of the undergrowth, crossing the towpath and plopping into the canal.

One of hundreds, possibly thousands.
They must have hatched in Broadwater, the fishing lake at the foot of the embankment, then waited for conditions to be right for the great migration. The showers dampened everything down nicely, so off they went, 50’ up the slope, and over to the canal and “pastures” new.
At one point there was a row of froglets hanging on to the weed line of our hull.
By later in the evening the rush had died down, and by yesterday morning there were only a few stragglers knocking about.

I’ve not been anything like as energetic, but have done my fair share. With the weather being so kind, I’ve been able to prepare and repaint all the right hand hull side, as well as the counter cants and the stern bands.

New Paint

As well as slapping the paint on, Meg and I have been off exploring the area. There’re lots of walks about here, apart from the canal towpath.

The area alongside the aqueduct and embankment hides an abandoned canal line, with 4 locks down to the river, and another 5 to bring it back up. This was constructed as an interim measure while the embankment was under construction.

The old canal line
The lock in the picture isn’t one of the originals. All structures and masonry which could be reused elsewhere were removed when the new aqueduct opened.

Great Ouse Aqueduct from the river
The original aqueduct was built of brick, but was a source of endless problems, finally giving way in February 1808 after just 3 years. The locks had to be reinstated while the current structure was put in place, a task which took another 3 years.

There are “cattle creeps” running through the embankment for livestock.
The design of the “new” aqueduct is based on that at Pontcysyllte, but with additional bracing to support the extra weight of the wide canal. Unlike it’s Welsh big brother, two narrowboats can pass in the channel.
Another piece of local history is the village of Old Wolverton. This medieval village was abandoned when the local landowner switched from arable to grazing, a result of the 17c Enclosures.

Wall lines and field boundaries are just visible in the field below the church.
The Church of The Holy Trinity sits next to the remains of a Norman Motte and Bailey fortification.

We’ll probably move on a bit tomorrow, up to Blisworth Tunnel. I want to have a look around the Waterways museum at Stoke Bruerne.

Finally, why does a swan need a canoe, and more to the point, his own mooring?
Locks 0, miles 3½

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