Braunston in bloom

You know how sometimes things just go well, Monday was one of those days. We woke refreshed and eager to get on. We got to the tunnel just before 9 and came through in 22 minutes without meeting any other boat. We dont like Braunston tunnel cause of its kinks. It makes it so much easier when you don’ have to tuck in close to the wall. Then we had the locks to do.  No other boat to share the workload with but again we struck lucky.  We kept meeting boats coming up, which not only meant all the locks were all set for us we were able to go through open gates and didn’  have to close them.  No wonder I was still smiling at the bottom of the flight.

Beautiful daffodils by the admiral Nelson pub bridge.

And the cherry trees were in their full glory in the marina. Spring has sprung and we are very relieved.

While we were in Braunston had a visit from Jo-NB BluePearl, chatted so long a quick cuppa ended up in sending Eric up the hill for fish and chips from the Braunston Fryer.

Norton Junction and the Leicester line

With Amy’s help we did the Buckby locks easily. I then hitched a lift back to Suffolk leaving Eric to polish the floors while I attended to some essential maintenance back home. The trouble with the visitor moorings at the Norton junction is that they are restricted 48 hour stay. They’re fine for an overnight stay but otherwise mundane and functional.  Not knowing how long I needed to be off the boat, Eric decided to cruise around the corner onto the Leicester line. Oh what a treat. Plenty of good 14 day official mooring and even more unrestricted mooring with pilings all within 5 minutes walk of the New Inn pub (that does good fish and chips) it’s even got a water point.

Once I was back on board we cruised up to the Watford Locks.  I still find it amusing to find us travelling at 2 or 3 miles an hour right alongside a motorway. This time the M1 and the Watford gap service station. 

I know which side of the fence I prefer to be on. But this wasn’t the time for us to venture back into the ‘north’ so we winded Firecrest and returned to moor near the juntion ready to head to Braunston.

One of the downsides of this mooring is that it’s quite a hike to the convenience store at Long Buckby, so on Monday we pulled pins and turned right under the bridge at the toll house, in search of a pint of milk.I believe this gorgeous cottage is now a holiday let But it was once the home of Major Feilding and his wife Ivy, who were canal minister with the Salvation Army.

We stopped at the East end of the Braunston Tunnel to walk into Daventry to restock the larder. Lots of boats coming through the tunnel and we got a lovely surprise when we saw Mike off NB Mister E. Mike’s boat was just being completed at Braidbar when we were planning Firecrest. He’d made us very welcome so it was an ideal opportunity to repay the hospitality and show him around our boat.


Building bridges

Last November we cruised south on the Grand Union past a major construction project. The A45 Daventry link road. This has meant a new bridge over the canal and railway. It meant night time closures over the winter to allow the work to progress.

This is what we saw as we approached in November

But when we returned this month, traveling north, they were still at work.

But as we rounded the corner we found a bridge

which was looking quite impressive

Plenty of clearance for the narrowboats

Of coure what we were really looking at was the glorious blue sky.  Not sure what the timescale is for completion of the new road, but I’m sure the locals will be glad when it’s done. And I’ll be sure to post a follow up photo next time we cruise this way.

And after so much rain and miserable non cruising days we had the pleasure of being accompanied by Amy, our crew to see us through the Buckby flight of locks.

Raindrops keep falling on my head

And if you moor underneath a tree, the dripping onto the roof will keep you awake in your bed. Which in turn leads to a certain degree of insanity. Hence today’s photos will be celebrating sheep. (Loosely connected to our current mooring at Nether Heyford, which has a particularly good independent butchers selling spring lamb.)

I can’t help but get excited when I see sheep. Because without them what would I knit and spin with. So many different breeds across the UK. The first three photos were of sheep I’ve seen in the last few days here in Northamptonshire.

I’m not 100% sure but I think these are Blue Faced Leicester cross.

These look like Romney.

The next three photos were taken a few weeks ago around mum’s village in the Lake District

This one is a Cheviot

A Jacob

And my favourite the Herdwick.

With any luck the rain will ease off and we can get back to cruising again. At least the snow we were forecast today hasn’t happened, yet.

Happy Easter everyone and if you are a first time holiday boater, please believe me when I say usually it’s a lot lot lot more fun than this.

Bank Holiday Blues

Bank holiday weekend, and guess what…..its raining

But there’s still a phenomenal number of boats passing us. I feel so sorry for the holiday boaters.

However today is Good Friday and I have made hot cross buns

I though we needed some sunny photos taken over the last week just to remind us how lovely it can be living on a narrow boat.

This is the Northampton Arm at Gayton Junction

We stayed on the main Grand Union canal and we moored just beyond bridge 45

That’s us, a lovely peaceful mooring opposite a riding stable. I went off for a walk and when I got back found Eric hard at work spring cleaning.

Our reward was the first magnificent sunset of the year.


Blissworth Tunnel

Just beyond Stoke Bruerne is the Blissworth tunnel the third longest canal tunnel in the UK. It’s 3,076 yards (2,813 m) that’s about 13/4 miles long.

Before the tunnel was built, a horse drawn tram was used to connect the two sections of the canal and today there are some attractive sculptures commemorating this route, the track is a popular footpath now.

The tunnel was completed in 1805, joining the north and southern section’s of the Grand Junction canal. It’s construction was beset by problems including wiggles that made it difficult to navigate and a collapse due to quicksand which cost the lives of 14 workers. We are constantly amazed by the engineering skills and sheer physical commitment used to build the canal system. The museum at Stoke Bruerne has lots of information and displays about those ‘good old days’ .

In the 1980’s the tunnel was restored using preformed concrete rings. One was laid out on the embankment so we could see the dimensions. It barely seems plausible that 2 narrowboats can pass by safely. But we can testify that yes it is possible. And what’s even better they have straightened out the kinks making it a relatively easy tunnel to traverse.

The average time it takes is supposed to be 45 minutes. However when we the the Harecastle, our first long tunnel, the C&RT tunnel keeper advised us to go quickly to help prevent us bashing the sides. We’ve stuck with this advise and it took us 26 minutes. Although I am always very glad to see the light at the end


Sharing the load

Last week we shared a coffee with John and Martina from Burnt Oak. 
I forgot to record our meeting with a photo. This week I forgot that not only does my new camera have an auto focus, it also has several buttons that need pressing to return it to its autofocus mode after I’ve been playing with it. Or perhaps it was just the pints in the pub that blurred my image of the past few days. However I did manage to capture one or two moments as we picked the best days weather to work up the 7 locks at Stoke Bruerne.

John and Eric taking the boats through.

Burnt Oak and Firecrest chillin’ out in the Jacuzzi together.

Its a lively busy spot at Stoke Bruerne, lots of boat candy and gongoozelers. We were lucky to get in, that’s Burnt Oak, second the right.

Martina and I getting down to the serious business of spinning a yarn together on Burnt Oak after the hard work. We met through an online knitting forum called Ravelry about 5 or 6 years ago, then met up at a fibre festival. It didn’t taken us long to discover we had other mutual interests, and were both planning to have a liveaboard boat built. Not only that but we both have a daughter called Heather and we are both nurses, albeit at differing ends of the lifecycle, Martina helping with the hatching whilst I was making the dispatching a little easier. As for John and Eric, besides both having perfect wives in common, they also know how to share a pint or two.

Burnt Oak had to move on the next morning but we made the most of our 48 hour mooring and visited the canal museum, which we thoroughly recommend.

We want to Break Free

It’s time to say goodbye to our Bedfordshire winter sanctuary and break free from the security of easy access to civilisation.

Sadly this rather odd boat also wanted to break free.

We’d seen it, afloat, when we cruised south in November and both commented that it looked rather unstable with all that metal welded to the top.

I guess Heath Robinson was having an off day and this project has been abandoned. CRT, aka us licence paying boaters, will have to pay to have it removed and properly disposed of.

EDIT since we posted this, someone has suggested to us that as it is/was a plastic boat, it might actually have sunk because it was damaged by ice or a boat moving past it in the ice. If that was the case then then us narrowboaters with our steel hulls ought to be made aware so we can take this scenario more seriously. When it comes to ice, just because we can doesn’t mean we should. It might have appeared a piece of scruffy junk to us but it might have been it’s owners home and pride and joy.

But as for us it’s farewell Bedfordshire hello Northamptonshire.

Wolverton Park

Either side of the redeveloped area of Wolverton, which thoughtfully has the canal running through, (town planners take note, canals are a benefit not an eyesore) there are two magnificent sculptures called Reaching Forward commemorating Wolverton’s industrial heritage.

This one is holding a row of progressive cyclists, the first being a penny farthing, the last a modern racing bike. And the sculptures body is made of polished steel.

And this one is holding a train and the figures structure represents railway track.

The buildings behind this one are the old railway buildings used when steam trains needed to be refueled with coal and water, so the victorian gentry would alight and retire to the reading rooms to partake of refreshments and attend to their toilette! Apparently when the railway was originally built Northampton declined to have a station in as it attracted the “London riff raff” So the tiny rural village of Wolverton was chosen and consequently became a thriving centre. The Reading Room is now an office overlooking the canal.

This mural must be about 100m and depicts many of the industries that took advantage of the railway.

industry has long since gone and Wolverton itself has been swallowed up by the new town of Milton Keynes. In our opinion it remains a fascinating place worth exploring, with a diverse culture of old and modern, run down and trendy.


Let’s remember Friday

Whilst it was still spring, and the sun was warming our souls. We saw our first butterfly of the year, a bumble bee and a tree in full blossom. We were moored in Wolverton Park by the rather smart flats and rings to make tying up so easy.

John and Martina from NB Burnt Oak stopped for coffee as they went past. I foolishly forgot to take a photo of the two Braidbar buddies moored next to each other, but I’ll sort that out next week as we have plans to do some cruising together. They want to ‘hear’ Firecrest on the move, Ha, they’ll be disappointed cause we really do cruise silently with our electric motor.

I took advantage of being so close to civilisation and used the laundrette to give the bedding an extra good wash. And to refill the cupboards with staples from Tesco.

I also came across the Milton Keynes community Fridge. I’ve heard about these but not seen them in practice before. Surplus food is donated and made available to anyone in the community. I did my usual and struck up a conversation with a lovely lady called Lois. The first thing she said to me was “don’t tell me you don’t need handouts, the community Fridge is all about keeping usable food out of landfill, please help us by taking whatever you can use.” So I accepted and helped myself to a slightly stale but  very edible baguette, 2 pears, 2 oranges, 2 tomatoes, a cabbage, courgette, and a bag of new potatoes, plus a packet of hot cross buns. There was plenty left for the next person. If you’re passing through Wolverton go along and help them out. It’s open over Thursday and Friday lunchtime and every evening from 7 until 9pm. I’m used to giving generously so it was quite a humbling experience to be given something for nothing. And I must admit it did make me think about how it must feel if you need to be on the receiving end of charitable acts.

We moved the boat in the afternoon cause we needed to run our not so silent generator and didn’t want to disturb our neighbours in the flats. Only 5 minutes away but it was out in the open. I got some more washing done, went for a walk and cooked a mash up tea that felt like I was taking part in the Masterchef store cupboard challenge. We both agreed it was a good day.

6Today we woke up to sleet and snow and howling gales. The temperature as forecast had plummeted and nothing could persuade either of us to even open the hatches let alone leave the boat. Saturday was designated a Duvet day. Lets hope Sunday is a bit more promising.