Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Hard work with the locks on the way to Wadenhoe

Upper Ringstead lock

With Denise at the wheel

Red kite flies overhead
 Another wonderful day though its now getting very hot, perhaps too hot to be comfortable which is why we stopped early this afternoon.  We started at 8:15 and made good progress through the beautiful middle Nene area where the locks are more separated as the river meanders through the reedy flood plain.  On our way we went through 3 manually operated guillotine locks where you have to wind a large flywheel an enormous number of times to raise or lower the gate.  Again many birds including good sightings of Red Kites.

At one lock we were pleasantly surprised to meet up with Yarwood and What A Lark who we had last seen in Leicester 2 years ago. They were on their way to the Thames after taking their boats across the Wash from Boston!
Wadenhoe's partly Saxon church overlooks the iver

We arrived at the Kings Head in Wadenhoe at 14:15 after 12.5 miles and 7 locks.  We have booked in for an evening meal as the food was highly recommended by our friends.  Naturally we have had to try out their excellent local beer first.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Making up for lost time

Typical Nene guillotine lock gate - Weston Flavell

Its not a lake, its a solar farm

Beautiful Nene scenary

Wow! 7.5 hours wonderful cruising in perfect weather - sunny but not too hot and no wind.  We intended to make up for the past 3 days of lethargy and so set off at 8:15.  After going through the first lock at Weston Flavell we met up with "Padworth", a single handed boat, with whom we shared most of the subsequent locks.  On two separate occasions we saw grass snakes swimming across the river - in all our 9 years on Densie we had only ever previously seen one.   Throughout the whole journey we were surrounded by clouds of damsel flies and many of the larger dragon flies.  There were many terns flying up the river and overhead I saw a red kite
After making good progress we stopped for.an hour at Wellingborough for a quick shop and to fill up with water.  Then on the move again, this time on our own as Padworth had left earlier.  The river is low due to lack of rain and there is a lot of weed around despite the efforts of a weed cutting boat we passed.  At one lock I had to open up the weed hatch to clear a couple of handfuls of blanket weed from around the propshaft but apart from that we had no problems.

We finally moored up at Irthlingborough at 5pm after 14.5 miles and 13 locks.  The celebratory glass of cider tasted wonderful.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Yet another quiet day

Moored at the pontoon at Northampton Washlands
Today we didnt go from far again, in fact we didnt move at all.  We awoke to rain and gusty winds and even when the rain stopped around midday the winds continued.  Boating in strong wind is even less comfortable than boating in the rain, so we decided to stay put until tomorrow when the good forecast weather should gives us the opportunity for a long cruise.

Ferocious pony
In the afternoon I went for a walk to the nearby lock and then onto the point at which the river rejoined the lock cut.   There was a shetland pony grazing in the field who either wanted some attention or objected to my presence.  Either way it chased after me trying to bite my bottom!  Other walkers crossing the field made a quick run for the gate - perhaps they had met the pony before.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

We should have cruised further but....

Woke to a sunny morning and set off at 9:30 intending to travel for several hours.  It was certainly a very pleasant cruise downstream beyond the edge of Northampton.  At our first lock, another heavy manually operated one, we met a narrowboat coming up.  They reported that our planned mooring spot at Cogenhoe, pronounced Cookner, was no longer available as a boater had upset the farmer who owned the land.

Unlike on the canals where CRT own the towpath, the river banks are owned by the adjacent landowner and good moorings are difficult to find, particularly at this end of the river.  So we had the choice of a very long journey to the subsequent moorings at Earl Barton (possibly) or Wellingborough (definitely) or to cut today's journey short and make for those moorings tomorrow.  We decided on the latter to moor at the EA moorings at Weston Flavell after only 2.5 miles and 2 locks in 1.5 hours.
Northampton Washlands
During the afternoon we walked the 3 miles approx around the extensive Northampton Washlands lake which is used to store excess river water during flood conditions.  It also serves as a nature reserve and we were pleased to see a little egret, herons, terns, great crested grebe, tufted ducks, pink footed geese (I think) and the inevitable Canada Geese.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Leaving Northampton? Our shortest journey ever!

Moored at Northampton Town Quay
The weather forecast being none too good we had decided to stay in Northampton for the day as our moorings at Town Quay were conveniently close to the town centre but did not appear to present any security problems.  So first thing in the morning we shopped at the nearby Morrisons for most of the provisions we will be using for the next 7 days, and later in the town centre for the few things we hadnt found at the supermarket.   After lunch on the boat we decided to move on a short distance out into the countryside - the forecast rain hadnt appeared.
Moored at Midsummer Meadow, Northampton
Going through the Becketts Park Lock it is apparent we were no longer in CRT waters.  To operate the lock one had no unlock the padlock securing the gates using the EA (Environment Agency) key.  This took some time as the key had to be wiggled a bit to get it to undo the padlock.  Then raising the paddles and opening the gates was straightforward.  The EA rules are different to CRT ones in that there is no requirement to close the gates after use.  Then down the river for a short distance before the rain started.  Fortunately we had only just passed another set of moorings so we turned the boat around and tied up.  A total of 0.4 miles and 1 lock.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

17 locks to Northampton

Left before 9am as we had a long day ahead of us.  Stopped at Gayton Junction to fill up with water and then turned left towards Northampton.  First stop though was Gayton Marina where we had our first pump-out of the trip.  Facilities are somewhat sparse further on so we took the opportunity although it was rather early.

Canal passes under the M1

Typical Rothersthorpe Lock with restored lift bridge
Then down the 17 Rothersthorpe Locks where we were helped by an amiable guy called Leon who helps out boaters for tips..  With Leon's help the journey only took us about 4 hours, we were expecting about 5 hour.  The Northampton Branch is in a far better state than when we last came this way about 7 years ago.  Now the weeds are under control and the lock gates and paddles fairly easy to operate.

We arrived in Northampton soon after 2pm and have moored there for the night, and probably for the whole of tomorrow as well.  The journey to Peterborough, our next major stop, is some 60 miles and 37 locks with few facilities/shops available en route.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Down the Grand Union - no locks today!

On the GU between Buckby and Weedon
A very pleasant cruise today in breezy sunshine starting at 10:00.  Going south on the GU from Buckby takes one through some very attractive woodland, its wonderful peace and tranquility only interrupted by the M1 50 yards to the east and the West Coast Main Line 100 yards to the west.  Here a narrow gap in the hills has been used for over 2000 years since the Romans built Watling Street, now the A5, also nearby.  We stopped at Weedon to post some letters and then moved on to moor out in the countryside (except for the Pendolinos on the West Coast Main Line) not far from Gayton Junction at 2pm after a journey of 8.5 miles.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Buckby Locks

A quiet day today.  We began the journey by starting to water-up at the tap by the first of the 7 Buckby Locks.  Before we had filled out tank another boat came by to start their descent.  It is much easier to go through double locks as a pair so we quickly disconnected the hose and joined them.  Together we completed the flight in about 2 hours and then they went on as we moored at the bottom for lunch and to investigate nearby  farm shop advertised on the towpath.  It didnt take us much deliberation to decide to stay where we were for the rest of the day and to continue our journey in the morning.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Braunston Locks, Tunnel and the Grand Union Canal

Braunston church overlooks the canal
When we got up this morning the weather looked pretty wet but the rain had stopped by the time we set off at 9:45 and the weather turned pleasant though with a cool breeze.  Onwards south down the Oxford through the countryside until we passed the tall spire of Braunston church on the hill and reached the Grand UnionCanal at Braunston Junction.    Here we turned left through the busy canalside area of the village with its marina, boatyards, chandlery, hire base and narrowboat cafe to the bottom of the 6 Braunston Locks.

We are now on a broad canal with locks able to take two narrowboats side by side.  Compared with narrow locks these are heavier to operate, take longer to fill and the swirling waters as the lock fills necessitates the use of ropes to stop the boat being thrown around the lock.  Added to this it started to rain again.  Never mind, we were through the locks in just over an hour which seemed pretty good going to us.

Shortly afterwards we passed through the 1.2 mile long and somewhat crooked Braunston Tunnel squeezing by 2 boats going in the other direction with only only a glancing blow on one.  After leaving the tunnel we ate lunch on the move and reached Norton Junction at 2pm where we moored for the night.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Hilmorton Locks

Much better weather today after the thunderstorm yesterday evening.  We were at Tesco just 10 minutes walk from our mooring soon after it opened and bought the remaining groceries to last us until Northampton.  Then on the move again by 11:30am.
Densie approaching Hilmorton Top Lock
After cruising through the outskirts of Rugby we reached Hilmorton around 12:15.  Here 3 sets of paired locks take the canal up 19 foot.  And then out into rural tranquility only interrupted by the fairly quiet M45.  We are moored in the middle of nowhere, the nearest village being over a  mile away, though fortunately we are able to get a reasonable 3G internet connection.  During the afternoon I climbed the nearby  Barby Hill only to find the top was wired off with some heavy duty construction in place - it could have been a water storage tank.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

A day in Rugby

We had not planned to move today, which was lucky as the weather has been wet. In the morning we caught the bus into Rugby. It has one of the best town centres we know with a wide range of small shops,restaurants and bars.  We bought sufficient meat and fish at M&S to last us for 5 days together with some fruit and veg from the market. After lunch at a rather good lounge bar I caught the bus back to the boat whilst Denise visited a craft shop.

Friday, 19 June 2015


Another long day.  We started at 9am in rather cold and grey weather and cruised the 3 miles to Hawksbury Junction where we filled up with water from a slow tap and then turned left off the Coventry Canal onto the Oxford Canal passing through the few inches rise stop lock that prevented the Oxford Canal taking water from the Coventry.   The Oxford canal is deeper and straighter than the Coventry so we were able to get a bit more speed.
The old Oxford Canal crossed by an 1820's bridge

Both canals were designed as contour canals by James Brindley not long before his death.  However the Oxford Canal was outclassed by the later Grand Union for the London-Birmingham trade and so was modernised in the late 1820s removing the extravagantly meandering loops.  Some of these can still be seen as side arms to the main canal crossed by attractive iron bridges.

Underneath the M6

The journey is generally through isolated countryside with only the small village of Anstey visible from the canal and the peace is only disturbed by the M69 and M6 bridges and the noise from the occasional Virgin Pendolino running on the nearby West Coast main line.

We arrived at Rugby at 3pm after 16 miles of cruising and the 1 lock.   The weather is forecast to be very wet tomorrow so we plan to stay here until Sunday.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Our longest day - Atherstone and Nuneaton

We spent a bit of time planning the next few days.  The next vital stopping place is Rugby which provides the last serious opportunity for shopping for provisions before Northampton.  The journey is complicated by a gathering of historic boats in a week's time at Braunston which could delay us.  So our conclusion is that we need to get to Rugby asap.
On the Atherstone flight

We left our mooring at the bottom of the 11 Atherstone locks at 9:20, the second in a queue of boats travelling up.  The flight is well kept and the locks were easy to operate.  By lunchtime we had reached the top where we moored for lunch and a quick trip into town for provisions for the next couple of days.  By 2pm we were on the move again through the attractive countryside between Atherstone and Nuneaton and then through the latter town itself.  Less attractive, but admittedly much cleaner than when we first visited perhaps 7 years ago.  Then out of town to one of our standard moorings near the junction with the Ashby Canal.  In total 10 miles and 11 locks in 5.5 hours on the move.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Towards Atherstone

Murals at Fazeley Junction

Meeting another boat between the Glascote Locks

Cloudy, breezy and cooler weather today but we managed 8 miles and 2 locks to arrive just below the 11 lock Atherstone flight soon after lunch.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015


Hopwas Woods

After a late start we motored south on the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal for 7 miles to arrive at Fazeley on the outskirts of Tamworth at 1:30pm. We are in no hurry so we enjoyed a glorious 3 hours leisurely boating in sunny weather through attractive countryside with the highlight being the beautiful Hopwas woods..

Then an hour's rest before starting up the laptop to update our records and write the blog.  We have changed internet providers from 3-mobile to EE who are able to provide us with 4G and a much more responsive service.

Monday, 15 June 2015

The start of a long summer journey

Today we started our 3 month trip back to the Fens, which we last visited 7 years ago.  We had already taken our clothes to the boat a couple of days ago so all we had to do this morning was to pack all the food and turn off the water and all the non-vital switches in the house..
On the Coventry Canal
After lunch on the boat we set off eastwards down the Trent & Mersey, through Fradley Junction where we were helped through the two locks by CRT volunteers and onto the Coventry Canal, mooring near the new Kings Orchard Martina, a journey of 6 miles and 3 locks.  It was wonderful being back on the water again, the experience made even more enjoyable by the sunny weather and the flowers along the canalside.