Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Another day, another junction, another tunnel.

Periods of cloud and sun today, threatening a drop of of rain but never actually delivering. A breeze had sprung up first thing though, keeping it cooler than it looked.

It was around 09:30 when we pulled pins and headed off to Norton Junction. On the way we passed that much mentioned odd-looking craft that’s knocking about the area.IMG_0203
I had a chat with the couple who own it; they don’t know it’s original function, but it’s certainly not canal cruising! They believe it’s supposed to ballasted deeper and the “side pods” would then give it stability in a seaway. The hull is between 25 and 30 years old.

Norton JunctionIMG_0202


The cottage on the corner has a well maintained garden

Heading towards Braunston Tunnel there’s a marked contrast between this section and the Leicester Line. Being the main route from London to Birmingham this was subject to expensive improvements in the 1930s, so it’s wide and deep.IMG_0207


On the English Waterways Boskyness Scale (EWBS) this length rates a mere 1, some vegetation hanging over the water but plenty of room for boats to pass. The Leicester Line, on the other hand, rated an average 3, rising to a maximum 5 in places, greenery encroaching from both banks and above, forward vision severely restricted.

Although nearer the tunnel the EWBS rose to a 3½… 

Into Braunston Tunnel at 10:07…IMG_0213

…and out the other end 17 minutes later.IMG_0221

We timed it well. A couple of boats had appeared from the tunnel just a few minutes before we entered. Based on the principal that any subsequent boats would have had to follow them up the locks we should have 20 to 25 minutes before another boat came along. Strangely enough it worked, we transited the tunnel without meeting anyone, but there were two boats approaching as we came out.

Steam Tug Hasty moored above the locksIMG_0222

Being a bit clever, Seyella and Pearl crossing the pounds together.IMG_0225
Doing it this way is much faster than single file. They’re not strapped together, by the way. It takes two experienced steerers to get it right, though. And it doesn’t work if there’s oncoming traffic…IMG_0226

Braunston Bottom LockIMG_0228

The crew of NB Pearl, a pleasure to share the locks with.IMG_0229
It took just an hour to descend the six locks.

We slotted in to the first space we saw, you have to be quick or lucky (or both!) to get moored in Braunston these days. Although it was only midday, a lot earlier than expected due to our good run through the tunnel and down the locks.IMG_0232

We’re in good company; the two boats ahead are the ex GUCC NB Purton, and another steam tug, AdamantIMG_0233
Purton was built in Northwich by Yarwood’s in 1936, shortened to 56’ in 1960 and sold by BW by 1990.
Adamant, although appearing authentic, is in fact a 1980s replica of a Bridgewater tug that would have seen service around 1900. Having said that, she’s as close to being vintage as makes no difference; the hull is two halves of 19c iron Birmingham joey boats joined together, and the power plant is a compound engine built in Birkenhead, probably in the 1890s.

We’ll probably stay here tomorrow, moving on on Friday. Our mail is due at the Post Office tomorrow, and we’re on a pleasant spot. The mooring warden clocked us this afternoon, so we might as well make use of the full 48 hours, eh.

Locks 6, miles 4½

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