Since leaving Wigan on the Leeds and Liverpool we’ve only had narrow locks to deal with. Quicker to fill and empty I much prefer them to the broad and long chambers of the Grand Union Canal. But that’s all we have ahead of us now as we take the watery highway to Brentford and the River Thames. There’s quite a few of them, too. We’ve made a start…
We left our overnight mooring up near Willoughby Wharf on Tuesday, down the last bit of the North Oxford Canal to Braunston Turn.
The flat plain of the Northamptonshire/South Warwickshire area makes for fine grazing, but medieval ridge and furrow patterns in the fields indicate that agriculture has also been important here.
Ridge and furrow on the land, noughts and crosses in the sky!
Bank erosion has significantly widened the canal along here, but it’s very shallow on the offside. A trap that has caught many an unwary boater!
The corbelled spire of All Saints, Braunston has been a boaters landmark for as long as the canals have been around.
The village of Braunston sits on a ridge aligned roughly east/west, with the church and a sail-less windmill on the western end.
We stopped behind Chas and Anne on Moore to Life to fill with water near the junction, then chugged around the corner mooring up opposite the Boathouse pub.
Tanked up, heading for a mooring
The twin Horsley Iron Works bridges that span the arms of the triangular junction at Braunston Turn are a distinguishing feature of this section of the Grand Union Canal
This junction didn’t exist before the 1820s, the North Oxford swung to the east into here, then south through what is now part of Braunston Marina, before following a convoluted course and joining the current route south east of Bridge 98, a mile away.
Paul Balmer, Waterway Routes. The dotted red line is the approximate line of the old route.
The old route now terminates in a dry dock in Braunston Marina
When the Grand Junction Canal reached here on it’s way from London to Birmingham the old line was abandoned and the new junction and length of canal constructed. The remaining stretch of the Oxford to Napton Junction was also widened and deepened as part of what was to become the Grand Union Canal. South of Napton the South Oxford Canal remains much as it was laid out by James Brindley. So it winds and loops around, following a level course as much as possible. There was no reason to apply the improvements seen on the North Oxford to speed up traffic; the South Oxford was largely redundant as a major commercial artery with the completion of the through route using the Grand Junction , Warwick and Napton and Warwick and Birmingham Canals. These, and several arms and branch canals were amalgamated to form the Grand Union Canal in 1929.
We only stayed in Braunston the one night, time enough to top up the larders and get a few bits and pieces from the chandlerys.
Boatyards and a chandlery below Braunston Bottom Lock
On the right, just below the lock, is a pump house that used to house a Boulton and Watt steam engine, used to pump water back up the locks. The Grand Junction used this method of re-using canal water in several places along it’s length. The alternative was costly reservoirs.
Up Braunston Locks
Top Lock, Lock 6
Moore to Life had gone up ahead of us, sharing with another boat.
Braunston Tunnel is soon after the top lock, and turned out to be a repeat of my fraught trip through Harecastle a couple of weeks ago. I though I’d fixed the very dim tunnel light, but I was wrong! It was a struggle to see where the fore-end was, and a boat coming the other way made we swing too close to the right side wall. A bent chimney cowl and a scrape in the paint on the handrail was the result. The cowl was easy to sort, the paint damage will take a little longer…
The canal emerges from the tunnel in a gloomy cutting, but it soon gives way to open countryside.
Norton Junction is where the Grand Union turns to the south and the Leicester Line heads off to the right, north. It takes you up through Leicester and Loughborough, then joins the Trent near Nottingham, using the navigable River Soar.
The pretty Toll House at the junction
We were lucky enough to get moored all together above Buckby Locks. Just as well, Sue and Vic were expecting a couple of deliveries here, then we all gathered on No Problem to celebrate Sue’s birthday.
This morning it was time to part company with Chas and Anne. They’re turning around to head a ways up the Leicester Line, but not before they helped us down the first couple of locks of the Buckby Flight.
We had a going-away present from them. Our old England flag was looking a bit worse for wear. No, that’s not true. It was almost non-existent. So they’d kindly bought us a new one!
The old one is to the right, I think we had our money’s worth!
Buckby Top Lock
Another short day, we stopped below the second lock! We’ll be here for a day, moving on on Saturday.
Locks 8, miles 4½ since last post.