Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Onward and downward…

The weather seems to be settling into a pattern of bright starts and overcast afternoons, so it’s not a bad move to get going in the morning and tie up by early afternoon.
This morning was earlier than usual, even though I’d had a run, taken Meg for a walk and made a trip to the Co-op before we set off! Cream-crackered and the day hadn’t even started! It was Mags’ idea, she knows that although I don’t mind tunnels, I find it a bit stressful meeting oncoming boats in the gloom. So the plan was to get through Crick before anyone else was around.

We’re more used to the narrow bore northern tunnels, you see. The first time we went through Braunston Tunnel we were struck by a boat coming the other way, putting a small dent in the top bend on the right side of the bow, and forcing the handrail into the brickwork, scraping off several inches of paint. The steerer did say sorry…

First off though was water filling and loo emptying at Crick Wharf.

The wharf buildings look to be contemporaneous with the canal, around 100 years old.IMG_0160

Built into the corner of the smaller canalside structure there’s a vertical semi-circular channel, maybe once occupied by a post-crane?

Tramlines still run down to the water’s edge.IMG_0159

Tanks filled and emptied. it was round the corner and under the bridge to head for Crick Tunnel.

It looks like it’s empty…

Yes, it’s definitely empty! Good-oh!IMG_0164

I wonder what used to be in the niche above the entrance?IMG_0165

So long as there’s nothing coming I enjoy cruising through these wide, deep and high tunnels on the broad canals. You don’t need so much concentration to avoid the sides, and can focus on photographs.

Fine brick lining

A bit drippy in places, as the flowstone indicates…IMG_0168


What’s that in English? Oh yeah, 766 yards.

Light at the end of the tunnel.IMG_0173

It was still sunny as we left the darkness, but cloud was slowly filling in. Out of the tunnel the canal has another 1½ miles to go before dropping off the summit level through the seven Watford Locks.

There are some good stretches of piling for mooring, but the M1 is not far away…IMG_0178


Waiting at the top of Watford Locks.IMG_0183

These locks, arranged in a series of one single, a 4-rise staircase then another two singles (top to bottom), drop the canal 52 feet.
We were lucky, with our relatively early start there was no-one ahead of us, just two boats coming up so we could drop down the first single chamber almost immediately. There’s usually a lock-keeper on hand to organise things.

Looking up the staircase…IMG_0187

…and down.

The two lower individual locks come after a short poundIMG_0188

That’s it, out of the bottom lock and on our way to Norton Junction.IMG_0191

Another 2 miles will take us to the junction, but first the canal joins the A5, M1 and the West Coast Main Line, all squeezing through Watford Gap, a narrow slot between hills to the east and west.
Within 400 yards there are transport routes spanning more than 2000 years. The Romans built Watling Street (now the A5) on the line of a much earlier Briton grassy track, then the Old Grand Union Canal was finished in 1814, the London and Birmingham Railway found a way through in 1838, and finally the M1 brought petrol fumes and fast food to complete the set in 1959. Watford Gap Services is the earliest motorway service station in the UK, opened at the same time as the motorway itself.

The canal gets a bit bosky (I love that word, I’m going to use it more…) again in places.IMG_0196

We pulled in within sight of Bridge 1 which crosses the junction. I was going to get the vacuum cleaner out, but the grass cutters have been along here so there’s not a lot of point…

Moored near Norton Junction

I was just settling down to write after lunch when a passing boat hailed us. I recognised the couple on board, but not the boat. It was Rita and Scoobie, the boat Festina Lente has had a repaint and a rename, now called NB The Maple Knot, reflecting both of their backgrounds.
While Scoobie hovered in the channel we had a good chat through the side hatch. They’re heading up to Market Harborough at the moment. It was good to see them, it’s been some time. We first met while frozen in, in the November of 2010 in Penkridge.

Scoobie and Rita, NB Festina Lente The Maple Knot!IMG_0199
Have a good trip, you two. We’ll look for you later in the year.

We were moored up by 12:30, so are having a lazy afternoon. Tomorrow we’ve another wide tunnel and the last six broad locks for a while, as we drop down to Canal Central - Braunston.

Locks 7, miles 5

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