Trying To Share. 7th September

Flecknoe Field Farm to Bascote Aqueduct, Grand Union

Bunches of big juicy ones

The blackberries round here are numerous. In fact in places they almost resemble bunches of grapes. Many sadly just that bit too high to reach. We filled a container enough for another two crumbles, so they can go in the freezer with the apple, all ready for a day mid winter when only one pudding will do.

Plenty of boats passed before we were ready to push off, including the big wide beam from yesterday. We hoped it wouldn’t hold us up down through the locks today, after it passed we fortunately didn’t see it again.

Reversing out of the junction

Soon we reached the junction of the Oxford and Grand Union at Napton Junction. I stood at the bow to get an earlier view through the bridge, just as well as I could hear voices which were soon followed by a boat reversing. They came out and as they turned towards Braunston we turned down towards Calcutt Locks. As we approached there was a boat that had just gone into the top lock, they opened up the gate for us only to have us point towards the water point, we were stopping to top up.

Calcutt Top Lock

One boat came up and by that time our tank was full and another boat appeared ready to go down. We shared the first lock, but lost our companion as he headed to the boat yard, he had a leak of some sort. Meanwhile another boat had arrived, so whilst Mick went and set the lock below I went back up to help. NB Peaky Blinders a new boat this year, the couple bought it at Crick show. The lady seemed  to still be finding her feet after they’d sold their business, not yet able to relax fully at the slower pace of life owning a boat brings. We chatted away down the next two locks after which we went our separate ways, us straight on , them into Ventnor Marina.

Lock paddle or bomb?NB Peaky BlindersA stop for lunch before we tackled Stockton Locks, a flight of ten with paddles that you get bored of winding. This stretch of the Grand Union was rebuilt as a wide canal in the 1930’s and all the paddle gear is the same. The mechanisms remind me of sea mines.

As we approached the locks we could see all this weeks hire boaters getting ready for the off at Kate’s Boats. It looked like at least five boats were going to be heading out. Last time we came down the flight on Lillian we shared with a hire boat. They were shown how to work the first lock, were watched at the second and then left to get on with it with our help, they did look like rabbits in the headlights.

Mob handed at the first lock of the flight

The lock was being made ready by a group on one boat with two members of staff. So I checked that it was fine for us to share with them and was warned that they would be going slowly. I was then told to put my feet up and let the hirers do all the work. Instead I walked down to the next lock and started to fill it. The hire boat came down then winded and went back up the lock, a handy place to be shown what to do.

Nearing the bottom

So we were on our own for the rest of the flight, every lock set against us. I walked down lifted a paddle then returned to wind the paddle up on the lock above. Mick had worked the second lock, but they empty quite quickly and he felt too rushed to get back onboard safely. I had to walk back to let him out anyway. 21 turns  is what most of them take to open fully, which gets repetitive very quickly, especially when there are ten locks ahead of you. At least you know when they are nearly empty as they make quite a noise as the culvert for the paddles surfaces above the water. This noise is quite unnerving if you are sat inside with a broken ankle, well until you’ve heard it ten or fifteen times.

The Blue Lias

After the eighth lock there is a slight gap, passing the Blue Lias Pub which was festooned with flowers. Leaving the next lock we heard a boat horn as a boat came round the bend meaning I could leave the gate for them. By the time we got to the last lock another boat was just finishing coming up. These last two locks have very stiff paddles, just what you need when your arms are out of practice!

Itchington Bottom Lock

We pulled up a short distance on where there are rings. It’s a shame we weren’t here a couple of days ago as the Tour of Britain passed over the canal just behind us. Sadly our shopping held us up too long to get here. Tomorrow it is meant to rain for much of the day. We are near the village to get our Saturday newspaper, Tilly will be allowed to roam whilst I continue on with my working drawings for Panto and Mick listens to the cricket.

13 locks, 6.67 miles, 1 right, 1 fat boat, 1 reversing boat, 3 boats shared with, 9 locks done alone, 1 big container of blackberries, 1 hedge full for the morning.