Left To London. 12th September

Gayton Junction to almost Adam’s favourite mooring Bridge 63

After spending months on the rivers and seeing on average a couple of boats move in a day (apart from at weekends and excluding the river festival) this morning was a reminder of how busy places can be. Before we were even outside rolling up the covers we’d been passed by several boats , one at 06:20. Then as we were ready to go for it we had to hold fast as two Union Canal boats came past heading southwards.

Quite a distance to go

With a suitable gap in traffic we reversed back to the junction, one small blast of the bow thruster and Oleanna herself turned back onto the Northampton arm and pulled into the service block with next to no effort what-so-ever. Water, yellow water, rubbish all were sorted. NB Ivy May pulled up they had a problem which they hoped the boat yard would be able to help with. Hopefully it’s nothing bad and they can be on their way soon.

With our chores complete, life jackets, torch, waterproofs out the back, a quick check of the direction the tunnel light was facing and that it worked, we were ready. Left to London!

Such a great building

Soon we were passing the lovely mill in Blisworth and approaching the tunnel portal. All tunnel preparations were done, tunnel mode engaged. We paused to let a Kate Boat exit before we plunged into the dark ourselves. I hoped Tilly would still be enjoying her morning snooze and not get worked up about the journey underground.

Coming into the light

We passed another boat part way to the middle and with 1600m to go we saw a tunnel light enter the far end. Thankfully we passed them after the big pissers coming in through the tunnel wall so I didn’t have to mop up inside.

Out the south portal. We passed only one boat moored towards the tunnel, a hire boat running their engine in reverse gear. Maybe they’d be heading for the locks soon? With water levels still low we decided that we’d wait half an hour for a locking partner or for anyone coming up the locks if they were set against us.

Stoke Bruern

As the top of the locks came into view we could see a boat just entering the top lock, Hooray!! We wouldn’t have to wait. Ooooo! Another boat pulled out to join them! We’d be waiting. We pulled in checked the time and waited.

This looks interesting

Mick walked down to see if anyone was coming up, no sign from the bridge. We waited. Still no-one after half an hour. I walked down to the second lock, no-one coming, Mick walked to look back towards the tunnel, no-one coming. We filled the lock.

Peeking out of the top lock

Just as Oleanna was entering the lock a boat appeared from behind, hooray! Soon followed by a second one. Did we have a situation where they were wanting to share? No, we had a locking partner! With both boats in the lock I walked down to set the next in the flight. This was repeated again. But as I walked to the third lock a Black Prince hire boat was just pulling out. I don’t know you wait half an hour for a lock partner, then all of a sudden three come along!

New partner

The lock was ready for when the hire boat arrived, and the same question was asked regarding sharing. I’d already called back to Mick, so we had no problem in swapping partners, we just wanted to get down the locks without wasting water. So we waved goodbye to one boat and joined the next.

Swapping with uphill boats

With four on board the crew were all experienced, so someone naturally walked down to the next lock to set ahead. Only one pair of boats were met heading up the flight, so a swap over in a pound was needed. The lady on one of the uphill boats asked about the tunnel, ‘Would it be worth one of us walking ahead to see if anyone is coming?’ I let her know that the tunnel was two way and that there was no towpath through it. I did suggest putting waterproofs on as even after the drought it was still very wet in there.

A volunteer greeted us at the second to last lock saying there was a problem gate and it had taken five of them to open it for the last boat. It turned out to be a case of a ground paddle still being open and water flowing over the top gates stopping the levels from equalising. The volunteer managed to open the gate on his own this time.

Bye bye

At the bottom we waved our partners goodbye and headed onwards, maybe we’d pull in once down Cosgrove Lock, this is where we should stop today.

But after an hour and twenty minutes we decided that we’d had enough for the day and Tilly would prefer it here.

Of she goes

We spotted Adam’s favourite mooring, a wide beam sadly taking up the view. A little bit further we pulled in, forced a nappy pin through the plants covering the gaps in the armco and let the cat out.


I spent some of the afternoon working. A few props need sketches doing and sign posts needed making for the model. Now I could have a good tidy up and put my model making things back under the dinette seating. The corner has been filled with my work since we left Bedford in July. After nearly eight weeks it’s nice to have all that room back again! Tilly made sure she reclaimed it by having a good old roll around.

7 locks, 8.43 miles, 1 perfect reverse, 1 full water tank, 1 left, 2 partners, 0.5 hours short, 1 favourite mooring taken, 3ft swords! 9 signs, 4 hours shore leave, 1 reclaimed dinette.

2 thoughts on “Left To London. 12th September

  1. Paul (from Waterway Routes)

    When considering waiting at locks I look at the bywash. If there’s lots of water flowing over the bywash then I don’t wait as it won’t save any water but if it’s just a trickle (or non at all) then I’ll wait if I can.

    1. Pip Post author

      Hi Paul. Back pumping was going on (in fact blasting water out sideways just where you want moor on the lock landing!) so we decided to be good and wait. One would hope that there is a system in place that stops the back pumping if the by wash is flowing!

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