Monday, May 09, 2016

Slow going down the Grand Union

On Saturday morning we pulled pins and headed down the rest of the Buckby Locks, although the bottom 2 or 3 or often known as the Wilton Locks.
Whatever they’re called, there’s seven in all and we had the remaining five to descend.We were lucky to meet two boats just leaving our first lock, and this set the pattern for the rest.

There were boats coming up all but the last, making it an easy run.

Yours truly taking it easy while holding Seyella over as No Problem comes into the lock.IMG_9651

Heading down the flight

Sue using two wheels to set the locks ahead

Leaving the bottom lock, Wilton Marina on the left

The canal is wide and fairly straight below the locks, but it’s bounded on the east by the M1…

…and on the west by the railway!

We moored in a pleasant spot just before Bridge 21, with woods full of birdsong opposite.IMG_9667

A short hop into Weedon on Sunday left us ready for an early vet appointment for Meg this morning.

This old chap was dozing alongside Bridge 21…

Fields of rape are coming into flower, the slightly sickly-sweet perfume wafting across the canal.IMG_9673

This morning’s vet visit was for a six-monthly check-up and a new prescription. She’s on Metacam, an anti-inflammatory for her arthritic hip, and was running low.The vet also picked up a slight gum infection right at the back of her mouth, so she’s got a short course of antibiotics to clear that up as well. Apart from that she’s OK. Our early walk, before the vet visit, took us a little way up the canal then off the line, to see what is left of the short Ordnance Arm.

The Grand Junction Canal, started in 1793 and built from both Braunston in the north and Brentford in the south, reached Weedon in 1796, connecting the village to Braunston. By 1799 the shadow of war in Europe loomed large as Napoleon Bonaparte flexed his muscles. At this time the route from the Thames was almost complete, only the section from the Tring summit and the tunnel at Blisworth to be finished.
Four years on and with England heavily involved in campaigns in mainland Europe, and with threats of invasion from the “Little Corporal”, it was decided that a secure Ordnance Depot, as far as possible from the sea and therefore distant from any invading forces, should be established.

The canal was finished now, apart from the tunnel, which was bypassed by a tramway over Blisworth Hill. With this modern and fast transport route in place Weedon was a logical site for the building of the depot.  One hundred and thirty miles to the sea to the west, 115 to the east and 110 to the south, it could hardly have been more central.
Work started in 1803, and a short canal arm was constructed to connect it with the main line. The complex, bounded by a brick wall, was eventually to house a horse artillery division, and had storehouses for gunpowder and armaments.
I’ve read somewhere, although  can’t recall the reference that within the perimeter walls were also apartments to be occupied by the Royal Family in the event of invasion of the capital.

Ordnance Depot perimeter wall

The Royal Army Ordnance Corps finally quit the depot in 1965, and the buildings were used for a short time by the Ministry of Supply. Now they are occupied by various businesses still grouped around the original central wharves.

The security guy at the gatehouse wouldn’t allow me to get any closer!20160509_083701

The access arm is long gone, now under a small housing estate, but the gatehouse with a portcullised entrance still remains. This is the East Lodge, at the far end of the site was a similar building, the West Lodge, giving access to a now filled in canal servicing the powder magazines.

East Lodge and canal entrance
The junction with the main line is still there, a square basin used for moorings.

The day started a bit overcast but cleared to blue skies and warm sun by the time we got underway.

We’re on the long pound between Wilton and Stoke Bruerne, so there were no locks to worry about.
The canal winds it’s way through the pleasant Northamptonshire countryside, the dips and folds forcing the navigation into curves to the left and right. IMG_9680

It passes the villages of Nether Heyford and Bugbrooke, before reaching the Gayton Junction and the route down the Rothersthorpe Flight to Northampton.

Town Class pair Edgeware and Balham near Bridge 28

Blair and Bush’s “Special Relationship”?

Gayton Junction
From this point on we’ll be cruising water we’ve not been on since the summer of 2009.

We called it a day just before Bridge 50, near Blisworth.

Tomorrow we’ve got the 3057-yard Blisworth Tunnel, then depending on the weather, some or all of the Stoke Bruerne Locks. The weather, after several fine days, is on the turn…

Sue on No Problem has got some news...

Locks 5, miles 12

Oh, and apologies for the variable quality of the pics. I got the settings all mixed up. Sorted now.

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