Braunston Stop House to Weedon Bec Wharf
Five years ago today we pushed Lillian (NB Lillyanne) out from Crick Marina to start a year afloat. This was never going to be just one year as when we bought Lillian one of the caveats was that our year would only start when we moved onto Oleanna our bespoke built boat. This of course took longer than originally planned, three years in the end.
So how come we’re now up to five? Well there are still places to explore, plans for this summer, plans that may be changing for next which means that they will be differed to the following year. The lifestyle suits us, so for now you are stuck with us!
To mark our fifth anniversary the sun came out and we were going to make the most of it, along with every other boat in the area!
A lady from the stern of a passing Braidbar boat shouted out GOOD MORNING! as she passed. The sun had given everybody a smile this morning. Our tight mooring became a touch awkward as soon as our spring line was undone. Boats passing, at maybe a touch too fast, pulled us back and forth on our almost straight lines, we nudged the boat ahead who were having their breakfast. From then on until we managed to push off I clung onto the bow rope.
We tagged on the end of a few boats. A lady popped her head out from NB Many Meetings to say she’d just read the article in Canal Boat as we passed. Approaching the bottom of Braunston Locks we could see that we were fifth in line, hopefully someone would join us so we could share the locks. Two boats set off, then the bottom lock was reset for the next two. I walked up to help as it looked like there was only going to be one person working the lock. A chap appeared and helped out on my side. He requested a rope be thrown up, so that he could pull them into the side as the other boat came into the lock. This was taken very literally, he was thrown a rope, both ends of it!
We were joined by NB Kingfisher a Carefree Cruising shareboat. Plenty to chat about at the stern, a little bit harder at the noisy end of the lock. At just about every lock boats were coming down so we could leave gates for them, if not then the pair following us were eager to close up behind us and empty the lock for themselves.
Between locks 4 and 5 is where things got a touch awkward. Someone must have waited for boats to come down 5 meaning they sat in the short pound between. By the time the boats coming down were leaving the lock another two boats had come up 4. The four boats in the locks had to vacate them before others could take their spaces, this meant six boats do-si-doing in the short pound. Those following up the locks just kept on using the empty lock, so there were always six boats manoeuvring around to get to the next hole in the puzzle.
At the top lock there was a queue waiting to come down. This meant there was plenty of crew on hand, one of which was Della from NB Muleless. Only time for a short chat as other boats were hot on our tail. Good to meet you properly Della, I didn’t chance to ask where you were heading.
Into tunnel mode, lights, torch, head light, life jackets and a caring head nudge for Tilly before someone turned the outside lights off. Mick hates Braunston tunnel, two way traffic and the kink, but Tilly hates it more! We were fortunate with our timing as most people must have stopped for lunch. Only one boat which we passed in the last 100 ft of the tunnel. NB Kingfisher took another ten fifteen minutes to appear from the southern portal, they’d have met two boats which would have slowed their progress somewhat.
We paused for lunch. Braunston had taken far longer than before, would we be in time to get down Long Buckby before the gates got padlocked, we also wanted water. We decided that if someone came along and joined us then we’d do the locks, if not we’d fill with water and drop down the top lock and wait for morning.
Two boats ahead pulled in at the new length of armco, the first one plonking themselves right in the middle of the view. A chap from the following boat told them to move up to allow them to moor behind, instantly eliminating two git gaps. At Norton Junction we could see NB Triskaideka swinging round onto the Leicester Section but we were to carry straight on.
As we were still deciding what to do a head popped out from a boat and asked if we were going down the locks. ‘Yes, would you like to join us?’. We had a partner. A boat was just coming up and the crew from a following boat appeared soon afterwards wanting to come up. We dropped down Lock 7 at 14:32, the gates on lock 8 would be locked at 16:00 but last boat in is at 15:00. Plenty of time.
The walk to the next lock was so pretty and fragrant, the gardens of cottages that line the canal were full to overflowing with blooms. Only time for a short pause to take a photo. Lock 8 ahead had been turned and a small tug came up. We were still within the time frame, entering the lock at 14:50 and exiting it 7 minutes later. We were in the flight now, no one could stop us.
I’d chatted with the chap from our accompanying boat, suggesting he stay on board and I’d open one gate, in front of him then Mick would bring Oleanna out through the same gate, this saves a lot of walking round and climbing ladders and means I do no more work than if we were on our own. Having arranged this off course at every lock there were boats wanting to come up so plenty of crew to open and close gates.
At Lock 10 two ladies waited to help us down, they’d left the gates at 11 open for us as they could tell someone was on their way. Apparently there was a rather officious lady there telling them to close the gates and that her husband had headed up the flight to lock the gates at the top. They were concerned that they’d be locked in the flight. I reassured them that I was sure that even if the gates had been locked then they would be allowed out as C&RT don’t want anyone mooring in the pounds over night, I hope I was right.
Arriving at the next lock two chaps were waiting to come up, it was now 15:30, half an hour after the last boat was meant to come through. We were soaring down the flight. The officious lady said she’d not said anything to us as she continued to have a point argued with her. Have to say I’d have argued my point, we’d entered the flight within time and were leaving with twenty minutes before the gates were due to be locked. On reaching the bottom lock of the flight there was a notice informing you that the last boat in would be at 16:00, not the new amended times!
Here I opened the one gate and our locking companion pootled off into the distance to find a mooring, with all the boats coming up we’d done the full flight in an hour and ten minutes.
Not wanting to be too close to either the West Coast Main Line or the M1 we carried on towards Weedon. The Bedazzled chap now has a lady friend and dog and seems to have curtailed his drinking from when we last came through.
The Weedon-Flore bypass bridge is now complete spanning the canal and railway. It is huge and currently the embankments are covered in poppies. In the dry under the road way sits a bench and a plaque commemorating Matthew James Elson a civil engineer who died at the age of 26.
We moved along to just past the wharf onto the embankment to moor, finding a length of towpath not too overhung by trees. Tilly headed off into the trees, we could tell where abouts she was due to the crows and magpies as ever. She popped back out from behind a vocal dog just as it’s back had turned.
A good days boating in the sun to mark our fifth anniversary.
5 years, 13 locks, 9.25 miles, 1 tunnel with 2 mysterons passing 1 just, 1 straight on, 2 boats to share with, 6 in a pound, 1 ex blogger, 1 new bridge, 4478825433638 poppies, 1 lovely neighbour for cutting our grass, 1 year of being Mrs Tilly