Lack Of Tarragon 30th December

Norton Junction to Home Farm Footbridge 9, Leicester Section

How many work boats?

A few  boats were moving before us today, most seemed to be in quite a rush! We pushed off and turned left at the junction. Along the moorings towards the Buckby Flight I lost count of the number of C&RT work boats and skips, presumably all tied up for the festive period before they are sent back out for the next batch of winter stoppages.

There's Marion and John! Can you see them?

As you pootle along the pound from the junction the road noise gets louder as the M1 comes closer. Then Virgin trains zoom past and over the canal. We waved at one heading north, hoping to catch a glimpse of Marion and John heading up to Scotland for Hogmanay. I think I got them in this photo, just a shame it was a bit of a blur!

The towpath in AugustToday, much neaterIn the summer we’d noted how much the towpath was over grown in areas, small trees having taken hold on the banks. But C&RT have been busy, most of the towpath has been cut right back and a fair amount of the offside has had a prune too. Just a section where we of course met a hire boat, instead of slowing down they had to duck several times to get through.

No boats were waiting at the bottom of the Watford flight, I walked up to check in with one of the volunteers. Three chaps were on duty today, one of them learning the ropes. We would be the third boat through today, the second was part way down the staircase, the very bottom lock being empty, the next one full with it’s gates open awaiting it. Instructions were given to bring Oleanna up the first lock and wait, so I radioed down to Mick who was opening the bottom gates when I got back to him.

New gates

The bottom lock has been treated to a whole new set of gates. I seem to remember there being a metal beam, much nicer in oak. The new gates, that now seal very well, have highlighted that the lock leaks sideways. If left full the lock cottages’ garage now floods. So at the end of the day the bottom lock is being left empty and if they can keep it that way during the day, all the better until something can be done about it.

New pointing has happened all the way up the flight and lines of dead grass along the sides of the locks suggest there was quite a lot of scaffolding around the place before Christmas.

Mick brought Oleanna into the bottom lock and I wound the off side paddle up to start it filling, a volunteer then slowly followed with his paddle. I looked down as I often do into the well deck. Blimey! There was getting on for over an inch of water in there swirling around. Oleanna had been touching the gates as I wound the paddle up and this meant the our drainage holes had coincided with where the surging water comes out from the culverts. So glad we always travel with our front doors closed. I’ve not noticed this before here so wondered if the culverts had been cleared out, making the force of water greater. Oleanna was fine, just a wet well deck. I’m now glad that I always move things away from the drainage holes just in case it gets water in it.

Heading into the bottom of the staircase

We do-si-doed with the boat coming down in the next pound and then the way ahead was clear for us. Mick kept Oleanna away from the top gates in the next single lock, allowing the water to surge into the lock in front of her. With three volunteers on duty there was a bit more time to take photos and have a chat, whilst keeping an eye on what was happening. The Lockies had been trying to work out how much water it would take to raise the summit pound by 1mm all the way to Foxton, they must have been bored!

It's getting harder to ways of taking photos of the Watford flight

Before I hopped back on board Oleanna at the top lock I had a quick look at the herb garden. Only sage growing today, I’d hoped for some tarragon to go under our chicken skin this evening. But it being December I’d have to use dried instead.


Now on the familiar summit pound we were surprised at the number of moored boats. We hoped that our chosen spot would be free on the last piece of armco before the tunnel. Here we would get TV and internet along with phone signal. It seemed like everyone wanted to be nearer to the M1 and after bridge 9 there were no boats to be seen. We pulled in, let Tilly out and had lunch.

Leaving Watford behind

Tomorrow we’ll put our waterproofs on and head through the tunnel. We may get a bit of internet signal, but I’m not sure I can be bothered trying to upload a post, it really is so frustrating there. So  we shall wish you all a Happy New Year from here and see you on the other side in 2019.

7 locks, 4 of which a staircase, 19th time through Watford, 1 left, 40,000 litres, 3 new gates now water tight, 3 volunteers, 1mm = ? tonnes of water, 1 mooring on our own, 1 cheese lunch, 0 tarragon, 1 roast chicken, 12 roast potatoes cooked in duck fat, yummy!

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