Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Out of Braunston with the Hobos, then a damp morning up to Crick.

We were a bit later moving out from Braunston yesterday than I would have liked. The Post Office had misplaced our package of mail, so I had to go back up again in the morning. Not too much of a problem, though, It gave me a chance to get another cracking pork pie from the butchers. Yum.

Tom and Jan were away before us.
See you again soon, I hope.

We were away shortly after, passing the Stop House.IMG_0987
Before the canal was re-aligned, this was the junction between the Oxford and Grand Junction Canals. The GJ finished here, the Oxford continued under the bridge to the right. Tolls were collected here as boats moved between the two canal company’s waters.

The original route of the Oxford Canal goes through the dry dock in the marina. Then ends.

In the distance, as we came under butchers Bridge, we could see a boat just going into Braunston Bottom Lock, so were reconciled to having to go up alone. But they’d seen us too, and kindly waited for us.

In Braunston Bottom Lock with NB Hobo

We had a good trip up, several boats coming down meant that we could swap locks as we went.

One pair of downward-heading boats were the hotel boats Duke and Duchess, strapped up to come down the flight.IMG_0992

Out at the top lock.
The cottage is for sale…

I don’t like Braunston Tunnel, it’s where we acquired our very first battle scar, from a boat coming the other way. But today it wasn’t so bad, although we did meet three oncoming boats.

Looking up one of the airshafts.

Out of the tunnel and back in the daylight we had 40 minutes to go to Norton Junction. IMG_1006

Arthur and Ann, our erstwhile locking partners, headed straight on and moored above Buckby Locks, we turned sharp left and moored a hundred yards or so up on the Leicester Line. A little later they walked back with the dogs Bertie and Sheeba and had a brew with us.

Ann and Arthur, with Bertie the lurcher on the left, and Sheeba the retired racing greyhound on the right.
File 27-07-2016, 08 42 15
Sorry we missed you this morning, we grabbed a sunny spell! Have a good trip.

Rain overnight ran into this morning, Meg and I had a drizzly walk before we thought about getting away. The sky brightened so we set off, but had to put up with periods of misty rain on the way to Watford Locks.

The Leicester Line starts out very woody…

…but opens out after a bit.
That’s one chap who’s not pleased that the weather has turned!

Four transport routes converge as the canal approaches Watford Gap. The gap in the ridge was a natural passage for the Romans who built Watling Street…IMG_1013

…the canal builders came next, closely followed by the railway engineers.IMG_1014
And finally the M1 motorway runs unseen but not unheard off to the right.

Good timing as we arrived at the bottom of the locks, no-one waiting and a boat just coming out. It looked familiar too, the intertwined M and V on the fore-end identified it as NB Balmaha, Mo and Nessa’s old boat.IMG_1016

I went up to book in with the on-duty lock-keeper, and was told to come straight up, swapping with the next downhill boat.

Up we go, in Watford second lock

There are seven narrow locks here, three single chambers and a staircase of four. Side ponds are used to save water on the staircase.

The four-rise staircase


Going either up or down the red-painted paddle is lifted first, which starts to draw from the pond. Then the white is lifted, which drops water from the higher chamber into the pond.
Only when the adjacent pond and both lock chambers are level can the gates between be opened and the boat moved forward.

We were going to fill the water tank at the top, but an awkwardly moored CRT push tug prevented us getting close to the tap, so we pressed on.IMG_1027 
Mags on the tiller for a few minutes, I’d had to disappear inside for a comfort break. All that rushing water, you know…

We’re now on the summit level, just over 20 lock-free miles till we drop down again at Foxton. But it’s not without some drama, there are two tunnels to negotiate, the first not far away, at Crick.

Bridge 10 and Crick Tunnel

Although the lock flights at either end of the summit level are narrow, the bridges and the tunnels up here are built wide. This oddity is explained if you look at the history of this section of canal.
The Leicestershire and Northamptonshire Union Canal (a bit of a mouthful, that…) was promoted to link the end of the Leicester Canal in Leicester to Northampton, hence the name. But financial difficulties resulted in it running out of steam just outside of Market Harborough in 1805.
Meanwhile the Grand Junction Canal coming up from London to Braunston had opened, crucially at broad beam width. With the original line of the L&NU now in the doldrums, a new proposal to build a cut from east of Braunston (Norton Junction) up to join the L&NU to the west of Market Harborough was approved, and named the Grand Union Canal.
Predominantly funded by the Grand Junction Canal Company, it was built to broad beam standards to match the southbound route, but to keep initial costs down the locks were built to narrow gauge. The intention was, sometime in the future, to replace the narrow lock flights with wide, and hence have a barge canal running all the way to Nottingham and the Trent.
Of course, by this time railway competition was becoming intense, so the planned improvements never materialised. Apart from  the Foxton Inclined Plane, but that’s another story…

Crick Tunnel is notoriously wet, but the recent dry weather has reduced the deluges to no more than drips, so I didn’t even bother to put a jacket on.

Having been unable to get water at Watford I was pleased that the service wharf at Crick, south of the tunnel,  was vacant, so we topped up there.

We finally pulled in opposite the marina, with a moorhen nest in the reeds across the cut. The adults are on their second brood, two tiny balls of fluff following their parents about and also their older siblings. I was amazed to see the adolescents taking a hand in feeding the chicks, helping out mum and dad!



Sorry about the odd backgounds on some of the shots, I inadvertently switched the camera mode to intense colour!

It’s been a fine afternoon after a damp morning, but it looks like the rain will be back in the morning. Never mind.

One final thing. Can everyone keep an eye out for a boat stolen from Mercia in the last two or three weeks. I know it's probably repainted by now, and could be almost anywhere, but it does have a distinctive stern dodger.
Details here

Two days – Locks 13, miles 9¼

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