Saturday, 16 October 2010


It was a cold morning but with bright blue skies - still well above the freezing which the forecast had threatened for some places around here!

This was quite a familiar route now - we set off and soon arrived at Elkington's Lock, quickly followed by Varney's and Broadmoor Locks. the latter is the spot at which we first saw Take Five.

On then to Cropredy. As we crawled very slowly through the narrow section below the lock we could see a boat winding at the wharf just the other side of the bridge. We waited only to watch as a hire boat coming the other way pushed its way into the water point just as we were trying to tie up! Still, as we did not intend to fill up with water anyway, we managed to moor sufficiently to access the sani station and rubbish bins. As Mike completed the servicing, Christine popped to the bridge store for a paper and some milk.

Just after leaving Cropredy we entoured a large number of canoers - they seemed to be unaware that there was a narrow boat on the move. They turned behind us and at one point there were canoes going both directiopns with moored boats narrowing the channel. They did not seem to have any race marshals nor any awareness of safety considerations. To make it worse, just as we approached the bridge above Slat Mill Lock, we heard aa shout of 'Go!' and they all set off again at speed with little consideration for each other let alone where we were heading!

It became quite cold for a while but then the sun shone brightly and through the next locks it was definitely warm.

We moored opposite Castle Quay in Banbury - firstly to have lunch and then to visit the shopping mall. Christine persuaded Mike to look at shirts in Debenhams (we do not otherwise often visit one of their stores from Cornwall). He came away with three smart specimens! Christine also suggested that we call at Julian Graves to top up supplies and then she spotted an outdoor shop where she looked for - and found - new gloves and 'fleece' scarf.

As we came down through Banbury Lock and were just emerging a boat that had been tied up at the water point suddenly, without warning, pushed off right in front of us! A few bridges later we moored again at the best place to access Morrisons where we acquired enough provisions for the rest of the weekend and a bit beyond at home.

In the stretch above Grant's Lock we suddenly spotted nb Epiphany and paused alongside long enough to catch up with their latest news - we had expected to see them a little further south but they were returning to Banbury in time for some work and a re-paint that they had commissioned from Tooley's Boatyard.

With another boat suddenly arriving, we had hastily to bid farewell. At the next lock we offered to let them overtake as we planned to moor before the next one. The happily accepted. As Mike walked to the lock (just a few metres from the landing) he was amazed to see the crew from an all-female boat coming up empty the lock right in front of us! They claimed, when the man from the other boat went and complained to them, that they were only novices and did not understand what they had done . . .

Hence it was rather longer after we arrived at that lock that we eventually were able to work through - at which point Christine pointed out to Mike that the boat we had let through was the one which had pulled out in front of us at Banbury! We moored just before Twyford Bridge and, despite oddities with the compass, managed to obtain a good satellite. We shall have to watch Strictly after all!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Fenny Compton

Yesterday we ordered a paper by phone from the Folly Shop, as we did on the way out. The shop notice said that it opened from 'about' 9 am - Mike walked down to be there on time (to give us a reasonable chance of making our goal for the day) only to find no-one around. after waiting a while he walked back to the boat and later returned (via the rubbish bins!) just as a loud toot on a pick-up could be heard as it came over the hump back bridge.

Once the man from the shop had opened up - apparently he makes the loud sound to let locals (mainly on boats we guess) to know that papers are in! Also in the queue was a man from the last boat we saw coming down the locks last night. We had told them about ordering a paper and they had done the same - also for a Guardian.

The slight delay meant that we were ready to cast off just as another boat came past, meaning that locks for the rest of the flight would be against us. As it happened, two or three were helped by boats coming down so not too bad.

Along the way we took more photos of the buffalo - a photo is included here for the reason that we have almost no others for today: the camera battery ran flat and then the camera would not start up again.

By this time we knew that to make it through Claydon locks (there is a possibility that one or more of the girls will join us tomorrow so we need to be in an accessible location) we would need to have 'have lunch on the run'. In any case, the summit pound is largely uneventful although there was often a steady stream of boats coming the other way - usually in threes on tight bends or at blind bridge holes!

We stopped briefly at Fenny Compton water point to fill the tanks and Christine popped to the shop in the pub where she bought milk and cheese.

Most of the day was quite chilly but still not uncomfortable. Only briefly when we were cruising was there a slight drizzle for a short while but once we had moored it did become a little wetter. All day was very overcast.

We arrived at Claydon Top lock (they were set against us) just after 4 o'clock and, with no other boats around, it was just after 5 when we left the bottom of the flight of five locks. Again we found them relatively easy to operate, very different from a year ago. Mike demonstrated he single hand operation (at least of exiting the locks) whilst Christine went ahead to set the next one.

Nowhere along the next pound has a line of sight for the satellite except one small place - needless to say another boat was already moored there with its dish pointing through the gap in the hedge! We will just have to do without it tonight and catch up on the latest anguish from Albert Square another time.

Thursday, 14 October 2010


It was rather colder today and the early afternoon turned slightly damp, although no real rain. Shortly after setting off we arrived at Braunston Tunnel, just as one boat was emerging into the daylight. We were following about five minutes behind another boat but passed nothing coming the other way in the tunnel itself.

Immediately after the tunnel is the Braunston flight of six wide locks. We were accompanied by another boat that had moored where we stopped on the way out. This was a sponsored Kate Boat with its owners out for their first trip since it was completed in June - since when it has had good usage as part of the Kate hire fleet.

We planned to walk up to the village and opted to moor in the longer pound above the last two locks, so bade farewell to our lock companions. Braunston has a mixture of old thatched - or once thatched - houses and cottages, interspersed with modern buildings. According to an information board, the thatched roofs had, or have, a much steeper pitch than slated ones.

The village has a couple of shops: a comprehensive butcher and a good-sized Londi village store. We did not want very much but milk, paper and yoghurts were the main needs which we found readily - although we had to settle for green rather than red top milk.

On the way back to the boat we took a look in the chandlery shop alongside the bottom lock. We found a tarpaulin to cover the stern over the winter but needed to check if it was a suitable size. Back to the boat for lunch. Spotted the following old poster beside the lock shop:

The afternoon began by completing the last two Braunston locks - as Mike worked through the last one, Christine went back to the shop for the tarpaulin and some Elsan Blue, returning just as the boat was ready to leave.

There was nothing much to report about the cruise for next three hours - although the sharp bends needed care as there was a steady flow of boats coming the other way, most of which seemed to arrive at a bend or bridge!

We made the briefest of stops at the bottom of Napton flight to use the sani station, because a boat was ready to come down and keen not to waste a lock full of water. We were able to find room at the short term mooring between the next two locks - we had already reserved a paper from the Folly shop by phone.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Watford Locks

Since we were moored just metres from the entrance, our first task was to fill up with diesel at Yelvertoft Marina, a new development opened this last April. It is a pleasant, isolated marina built by a farmer as a diversification business.

Unlike the nearby Crick Marina, Yelvertoft is spacious and well-laid out. It can hold 150 boats and already has bookings for almost 120. If they have space they will always consider short term moorings - worth bearing in mind for the future.

Shortly before reaching Crick Marina, we passed Cracks Hill. This time, with some effort, we managed to capture the signal brazier on the top - it is necessary to find just the right moment between trees on the hill and those on the canal bank!

Crick Tunnel beckoned and we passed though without incident or having to meet a boat coming the other way - although just after we emerged back into daylight a boat arrived and asked if there was anything behind. The problem is that with the bend in the tunnel, from this end it is not possible to see very far back.

Next came the Watford Locks and yet again we met up with the relief lock keepers whom we have met both times here and at Foxton! We planned to use the services above the lock and Mike was well into filling the water tank when Christine returned from checking in with the keeper to say that we were asked to follow behind the boat which was just making the top lock ready.

Rather than risk a long delay, Mike quickly wound up the hosepipe whilst Christine set the lock and we set off down the flight. Shortly after we entered the lock another boat arrived - he was most disappointed to be told by the keeper to wait as it was the 'up' turn after us.

As soon as we completed the flight we moored up for lunch - despite the constant roar of the motorway just a few metres away from the canal at Watford Gap service station.

Several ducks came in search of food but they turn their beaks up at the scraps of lettuce which was all that Christine had to offer them!

After lunch, Mike decided it was well past time to fix the panel by the front door which had been cut out right at the start of the season to replace the broken vent pipe to the water tank. Because we had had several subsequent problems - now gladly all fixed, except that we still have not found a marker bead for the level indicator (By the way, Mike was most envious of the various indicators and gadgets we were shown on the boat at Market Harborough including water and fuel levels!) - we were not in hurry to fix the panel permanently. In fact , Mike managed to find a way of allowing the panel to be removed much as the one in front of the water stop valve.

At Napton Junction we had a brief stop to complete the water fill. By now it was heading towards sunset - the latter part of the afternoon had turned very pleasant after the overcast sky earlier in the day - we opted to moor before Braunston Tunnel. There is a faint hope of TV reception here - absolutely none at the spot the other side where we moored on the way up!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Welford to Yelvertoft

We were only a couple of hundred metres from Welford Junction so our first cruise was up this sleepy backwater, just over a mile and a half with a single lock.

There is a small marina at the end together with the original wharf area. In its heyday, there were five large lime kilns working full tilt converting the chalk, coal wood brought here by narrow boat. The product was probably sold to surrounding farmers and others who made good use of its various chemical properties.

After using the usual facilities we went for a short walk up to the reservoir - there are two end to end and it was for this resource that the original Grand Union canal Company (operating the section from Foxton to Norton) was bought up by the much larger Grand Junction Canal Company so that it could help feed water down to its demanding section to Braunston and Buckby.

Then we walked up to the small village of Welford - passing an amusing wooden sculpture (Postman Pat?) - and bought milk, paper and rolls from the small shop. At one time this was an important stopping point on the busy Turnpike road.

Back at the boat we set off once more, turning southwards at the junction but before long it was time to look for a suitable lunchtime mooring spot. Not so easy along here as the bank edges, although firm with modern piling are frequently, deceptively, very shallow.

The day so far had been overcast and cool but sunshine returned mid afternoon as we made our way gently towards Yelvertoft. We planned to fill up with diesel but Tuesday is their closed day and, in any case, we were pushing close to the five 0'clock deadline for other days in the week.

Rather than try any further - the next place is Crick not too far ahead, we came out of the marina and backed up a few metres to moor for the night so that the first thing tomorrow is re-fuelling.

Before many moments were were besieged by a begging family of swans with several 'teenage' cygnets desperate for an easy addition to their normal diet. No luck here, however, despite the interest of our photographer! They left empty billed . . .

Monday, 11 October 2010

Welford Junction

Before we set off we completed a number of services - firstly buying a newspaper from the local store and finding a post box and then the usual elsan, water and rubbish, all of which were conveniently to hand from our over-night mooring. Finally we made sure that we were disconnected from the electricity supply and so almost ready to set off.

At this point Mike decided on one last operation, greasing the rudder, a new item on our weekly list. Alas, a problem developed with the new grease gun (it has to be admitted that we are not exactly experienced or expert at this piece of equipment!) and so our departure was set back another ten minutes whilst Mike failed to re-assemble the device. However, for the record, this was achieved later in the day!

It was a straightforward run back to Foxton, although there were a couple of stops to allow Christine to harvest some bullrushes. Sadly they did not turn out to be as good for decoration as she had imagined! Foxton Swing - reputedly very hard to operate - is under repair so no problem today! This time Christine operated the bridge at the junction - once she worked out how to lift the locking handle.

This time there was no delay at the locks, save only for Christine to walk up the hill to check in with the lock keeper. By the time we were working the last couple of locks a party of school children out on a trip from Leicester arrived - they were delighted to be given the opportunity for some to open gates and to wind the paddles - as well as ask quite a few questions!

At the top we pulled into the moorings for lunch. Afterwards we walked back to the site of the former inclined plane. Although there is supposed to be a restoration project there was little sign of this other than to keep down the undergrowth so that it is possible to see clearly where the lift once ran up the hill. New stop gates have been installed on the arm to the lift to protect the long summit pound in the event of a serious leakage from the old workings.

By now the promised clear skies had arrived (or should we say, that the clouds had departed!) and it was generally pleasantly warm until the sun began to set. We passed three boats coming the other way in Husbands Bosworth Tunnel. We had planned to over-night at Welford but we were a little behind schedule and also needed to replenish our fuel tank. At North Kilworth they were just about to shut up for the night but were happy to sell us whatever we could pay for in cash! At least that will keep us going for another few days.

Rather than risk not finding a good mooring and satellite line of view, we moored at the junction of the Welford Arm where there was a good edge to the towpath and no trees in the way!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Market Harborough

A day at Union Wharf:

We had already checked out the time of the main service at the parish church - 10:45 - so we were able to have a gentle start to the day. (we looked up St Dionysius before we went!) We walked down and were in good time. There are many interesting buildings along the main street which is quite wide - no doubt a legacy of the time when this was a busy market and through route.

It was a reasonably conventional communion service that made good use of many different people resources. The sermon was preached by a recently retired priest from Hinkley.

Afterwards we were introduced to a couple who have retired to a boat which they keep in the marina over winter - actually Mike had been told about them by another contact at a meeting a couple of weeks ago but had forgotten this morning until we started chatting over coffee.

We next went to the shops for a few items which we could not get last night although the antique an craft fair in the market hall turned out to be only antiques so Mike again failed to find small beads for the water level indicator. By now we had decided to stay here another night - it is pleasant enough and at least we were able to receive TV last night!

Back at the basin we were invited for pre-lunch drinks on First Fruits - which went on til almost mid afternoon! We were given a good guided tour of all the feature which they had designed into their boat - Christine was certainly envious of almost all of them!

By now it was a brilliantly sunny afternoon and we opted to sit, read, 'fiddle' with computer things - that is, not do very much and the time fled rapidly away! At least Mike found out why his attempt to play a video using the USB interface on the TV set did not work last time - a simple matter of file formats and he had happened to pick one that was not supported (properly). The next attempt was confounded by picking 2001 - Space Odyssey which happens to start with several minutes of blank screen, just music!

We also found out a bit more about the CanalTime/CanalBoatClub saga from chatting to the lady in the site office who was waiting for a day boat to check back in. Time then to think about the Sunday evening roast.

Saturday, 9 October 2010


We planned to go shopping in Market Harborough today as it is Saturday - supermarkets may be open tomorrow but we hoped for some small, local shops such butcher, baker and greengrocer. Alas, our CanalMap program estimated rather longer than we had thought and even leaving at 7:30 it estimated 4 o'clock arrival!

Mike, helped by the alarm clock, was up at 7 and managed to set off by quarter to eight! Despite a warm forecast on the late night news yesterday, it was overcast and chilly - it remained this way all day and the promised sunshine never materialised. It did, however, warm a little later on.

It was a straight forward plain cruise to Foxton Top Lock - along the way we passed the junction for Welford which we plan to explore on the return trip - some stretches are quite narrow.

As expected, we arrived just three hours into the day but then things went awry: Christine went down to find the lock keeper and we soon discovered that he had just allowed four boats into the flight of ten locks and we would have to wait until they cleared (it seems that they no longer use the short middle pound for passing) So it was just a matter of waiting - we passed the time by having lunch, another delicious autumn soup!

Eventually, by 1:15 we were allowed into the locks - by now the number of bystanders was much reduced and, at first, we had no help! By the time we reached the bottom just under 40 minutes later they returned and several youngster - and some not-so-youngsters - enjoyed being able to open and shut the gates. The flight is actually very easy to operate.

At the bottom Christine had a small problem missing a trip boat that was moored outside the pub with very little room for boats to manoeuvre out of the lock. Of course she managed it! Another boater offered to open the swing bridge for us as we turned down the market Harborough arm.

It is just over five miles into the town centre - the first part is rural but as the town approaches it becomes more park-like with a tree-lined row of gardens running down to the canal bank from the houses.

In the basin Mike began the process of using the services, including filling the water tank whilst Christine investigated mooring options - the top path mooring just outside the basis was very overgrown and probably masking both satellite and mobile communications. She discovered that it was £6 a night but the Site manager was not returning until tomorrow afternoon. So, we tied up for the night at the most convenient mooring and shut up the boat ready to walk into town. Just as we were leaving the Manager returned and we sorted out our mooring fee for the night, leaving us to decide later whether we stay one or two nights. At least we knew that we were moored in an appropriate place and that we would not be rudely awoken to be told to move on!

It is about 15 minutes walk down to the shops - the town centre is very pleasant and has a wide range of both local, independent shops as well as many national names. The smaller food shops were either closing or about to do so but a good Sainsburys supplied most of what we needed. The only problem then was to haul it all back up the hill to the marina!