Thursday, July 23, 2015

Old wharfs, old boats and old (and newer) routes.

The importance of this waterway as a transport route is demonstrated by the profusion of old wharfs. Some are now merely widenings of the canal, with wharf buildings converted to private dwellings, some are still used, although more for mooring or boat-building than transhipment of goods.

High House Wharf through Bridge 27IMG_6517

Stowe Hill Wharf, busy, this one.

And Weedon Wharf, peaceful now.

Also scattered up and down the cut are several ex-working boats, they seem to gravitate to the Grand Union.

Edgware and Balham, local boats built for the grand Union Carrying Company in 1937 and 1936 respectively.IMG_6515

Not sure about these two

FMC Kestrel at Weedon Bec

We were off today at soon after 9:00, with a busy day ahead. The first two and a half hours were spent negotiating the twists and turns of the canal between Nether Heyford and Brockhall, then the straighter but noisier section as the canal shares it’s route with the A5, West Coast Main Line and M1 up to Buckby. Then we had another couple of hours up the Buckby Locks and around the corner onto the Leicester Line.
Completed in the last decade of the 18th century, the Grand Junction Canal as it was then known is essentially a contour canal, only using locks where absolutely necessary. It swings around Stowe Hill in an extended U shape, while the later railway, built with more modern techniques, goes straight through.

One of Mr Branson’s trains emerges from Stowe Hill TunnelIMG_6521

Had the Grand Junction been built at the latter end of the Canal Age, like the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal (Shropshire Union) it would probably have gone through the hill too!

A very peaceful scene approaching Bridge 18 at Muscott Mill…IMG_6538
…until you take the earplugs out!
In just 700 yards the railway, A5, canal and motorway squeeze through the gap between Dodford and Whilton Hills.
The ancient Britons were the first, establishing Watling Street (the current A5) from the channel port of Richborough to Wroxeter in the Welsh Marches. The Romans adopted much of the route before James Barnes and William Jessop undertook surveys for the canal and chose the same gap. Within 50 years the permanent way of the London to Birmingham railway was laid alongside the earlier routes, and finally the M1 motorway, linking London with Leeds, was opened in 1959.

Reflecting on life as a duck…

A boat was just going into the bottom lock of the seven at Buckby, but they chose not to wait for us.IMG_6542

By the time we’d emptied the lock again another boat had hove into view, so we waited a few minutes for them to join us. I’d much rather share broad locks than do them solo. Far too much walking about if you’re on your own.

Mags waiting for the bottom lock (Lock 13, they’re numbered from Braunston) to emptyIMG_6543

There was a note on the gate advising that Lock 12’s offside gate was inoperable.

Yep, pretty much!

We were making steady progress up, sharing the work with boats coming down when Lock 10 was turned in front of us. It was the volunteer crew manning Raymond and Nutfield, the heritage working pair based at Braunston. I guess they’re on the way to Blisworth Canal Festival and didn’t have time to waste spare…IMG_6547


Unusual cargo for Nick Wolfe’s Aldgate…IMG_6549
…an artificial horse!

We said our farewells to the two couples with whom we’d travelled for the last two hours at the top lock; they were stopping for lunch, we were pressing on around the corner to find a mooring on the Leicester Line.

Buckby Top LockIMG_6550

Turn right onto the Leicester Line

We moored a little way along, just clear of the overhanging trees. The weather forecast looks a bit grim for tomorrow, if it’s right we’ll be staying here, moving up to Crick on Saturday.

Locks 7, miles 6½

1 comment:

Michael Winstock said...

I think you'll find the railway alongside the canal is the West Coast main line built by the London & Birmingham Railway (not the East Coast main line or LNER).
Otherwise much enjoy reading the blog.

Michael Winstock
nb "Samuel Pepys"