Through the Buckby locks and a few miles down the canal is Weedon Bec. A quirky little place that seems to specialise in antique shops, I lost count as they merged into one another but more useful for boaters is the tesco express that is 5 minutes walk from the canal.
But I couldn’t resist exploring the place having seen a curious structure on the map. A very formal 100m of canal on the map, although not connected now, presumably it was a branch off the main line at some stage in its past.
The Depot turned out to be a Napoleonic Ordnance depot built in the early 1800’s. I was intregued and pleased that I could wander around this piece of history. Not that I am overly familiar with what a gunpowder storage facility looks like but there were 8 magnificent brick warehouses either side of the canal and more buildings beyond. The sort of place I wished I would take atmospheric black and white photos. Nowadays there is a variety of commercial outlets, more antiques and brickabrack, classic cars and artist studios. I spent an hour wandering around.
And right at the end was a bramley apple tree. Well it would have been rude not to tidy up the windfalls a bit don’t you think?
Where do we go from here, we asked ourselves. Our journey to Braunston had been largely dictated by us inviting friends to visit Firecrest. Its location provided easy access by car and a choice of routes by boat. We could could go north towards Rugby or south along the Oxford canal, or we could continue along the Grand Union north towards Leicestershire or south, ultimately towards London. Our decision was swayed by the fact that we still need to have some work done to the boat. Braidbar weren’t able to fix the leaking radiator joints before we left. Wharf House have a plumber who is willing to look at the problem for us so we need to be here later this month. In the mean time we still have friends wanting to see us (or the boat, both I hope) so we got the big map out and it said Grand Union, southwards.
What the big map also showed us was how closely the canal ran parallel with both the intercity train line and the M1 motorway. This was not going to be a peaceful stretch of our journey, but oh boy did our hearts go out when we saw the queue of stationary traffic on the motorway. We hope this won’t put any more of our friends getting in touch and arranging to visiting us.
Pin the mean time Weedon Bec here we come.
After posting this on Sunday I got to study the map a bit more and realised that although I was feeling a bit smug that the canal predates the M1 and the railway, it doesn’t predate the Roman Road that traverses the country from Dover to Wroxeter (Shrewsbury) which is the current A5 also known in parts as Watling Street. If only the canals had been built as straight as the Roman roads…. But what would be the fun of that….
I sent Jo the photos I’d taken of her marina on Sunday and before I knew it she’d hopped in her car and driven up to join us for the day. The excitement of cruising your own boat for the first time is pretty hard to beat, but seeing someone else’s joy and excitement of being on the water comes pretty close.
We started our day with breakfast at Gongoozlers Rest, and a visit to the small museum in the Braunston Stop house. Setting off up the North Oxford Canal, we cruised for 2 hours upto Dunchurch Pools marina. It already holds 30 or so boats even though it’s still clearly being built with metal work sticking out of the water. I guess it’ll be home to 100-150 boats eventually and fellow bloggers may recognise one of the new residents.
Sadly we only got to know Tom or Jan through their blog, and the new owners of Waiouru weren’t aboard to say hello to.
If I wanted to live in a marina it’s certainly got a lovely feel to it, with stunning rural views, though not having a car, I’d prefer to be within walking distance of somewhere to by the essential daily pint.
Jo took her turn at the helm and luckily she didn’t fall in or bump our prescious boat.
I’m not sure the neighbours were all that bothered by all our excitement
It was gone 5 pm by the time we got back to Braunston so we waved goodbye to Jo and we continued on our way towards the locks as we’d already used up our 48 hour permitted mooring.
Turned into an 8 mile hike, but we were well rewarded with stunning views over the Northamptonshire hills. And a chance to see Braunston church spire from a new angle.
I used my OS map to check out the footpaths and found one that lead us to the village of Barby. Although I think the farmer was taking the route a little too seriously when he placed this style
Perhaps it would be a useful deterrent if we were confronted by the bull in the field
Once we arrived in Barby we found the local pub was having a beer and sausage fesival. We were too early for the live entertainment but we enjoyed a pint and a 12 inch wild boar sausage bap. Sorry forgot to take a photo.
Having reached the high point of the area we turned westwards and headed down the lane that lead us onto the Oxford canal. And our first glimpse of the Oxford was of the new Dunchurch Pools Marina complex that our Braidbar friend Jo’s boat is going to be moored in once.
Then down the towpath back to Braunston to soothe our tired feet.
A circuit? A spark? Whatever, we arrived back at Braunston where last week we had the pleasure of seeing Ian and Joy take ownership of Tenacity, their brand new electric boat, built by Wharf house here in Braunston. At the same time, Ampère was in the yard having work done. We first saw Ampère, Barbara and Malcom’s electric boat at Crick 3 years ago. They were very encouraging while Eric was contemplating our system.
Ian and Joy decided we should drink the champagne rather than smash the bottle against the side of Tenacity so we all gathered aboard Ampère for the evening, sharing, amongst other things, the secrets of our battery life and prop speeds. (Photos to follow once the camera owner has sobered up enough to forward them to me….)
Its been good to have the companionship of other electric boaters. Eric and Ian have spent many an hour chatting about configuration as our boats were in build at roughly the same time.
Both Braidbar and Wharf House have other electric boats in build or planned. Lawrence’s boat, Elizabeth Ann, is a hybrid combining a diesel beta marine 43 engine and an electric motor. It seems more and more people are realising the advantages of electric boats. And whilst we’ll openly accept its not the best way for everyone. It did give us a buzz seeing 3 pioneers together.
Although we have seen Elizabeth Ann livery, as she hasn’t been released onto the network yet this is her being craned into the water in the spring.
This weekend we met another electric hybrid boater also at Braunston. Paul and his wife, who have created the Waterway Route Maps.
We’ve been looking into this system having first seen them at Crick but having the opportunity to chat with Paul in a less busy environment helped us iron out the download confusion we had. We bought the the full package showing the whole canal network and our first impressions are extremely favourable, having a GPS highlighter showing our exact position whilst cruising proved very useful as we almost missed the winding hole hidden behind the trees. I can see my paper notes of our overnight moorings will soon be redundant. I haven added the maps to my tablet yet but as soon as I do, I’ll be able to add screen shots of where we’ve been. Paul has a very good website showing his map system. Waterwayroutes.co.uk
Paul had his boat built 11 years ago and is friends with Charlie, whose boat Felonious Mongoose was Braidbar’s first adventure into the electric hybrid boating world.
Malcom is involved with the Electric Boat association which he will promoting at Crick next year. I don’t know just how many electric narrowboats there are but I do know they will all be unique.
We eventually persuaded Amy’s mum to take her away so we could get back to our slow sedate pace of life.. Although what was the first thing I did? Go out blackberrying and made about 4 lbs of jam. I couldnt make more because my trusty preserving pan is aluminium and incompatible with our induction hob so it’s been rehomed with our daughter. Plus I don’t have a cupboard full of jam jars like my mother and grandmother. But at the rate Eric is eating it, I’ll soon have 4 empty jars and a clean mug.
After our adventures at Warwick Castle, we needed a quiet day to recover. Not being one to sit idle, while Amy was dusting under the bed she discovered my spinning wheel and that was the last of the housework I got from her.
It didn’t take long for Amy to pick up the necessary skills to make a nice even yarn on the wheel. And if I’m honest I was very impressed. Spinning well, is as much about gauging how the process feels as it is about following a set of instructions. Amy watched how I spun then intuitively copied. It didn’t take long before she was confident to spin unsupervised.
I had seen a craft fair advertised in Royal Leamington Spa so whilst Eric got on with doing some real work, Amy and I went exploring. Jephson gardens was awash with stalls selling all sorts of arts and crafts but the only one that caught our eye was the one selling fibre. Amy’s icecream money got spent on a gorgeous batt of sparkly merino and silk fibre-she’s got good taste because it’s the one I’d have bought if I had room for any more stash on the boat.
Of course that meant we didn’t want to explore any more but straight back to the boat to spin.
Knowing that Amy wasn’t going to be able spin on a wheel at home, I taught her how to use a drop spindle as well and gave her one to take home with her.
Warwick castle was supposed to have been a highlight of our trip but poor Amy had eaten too many blackberries and drunk too much elderberry potion, the birds of prey at the castle soon picked her bones clean.
We were a bit worried about what mum would say when she saw Amy in this state so we just had to ply her with icecream and hope that she hadn’t lost her giggles in the dungeon.
we made Amy climb the 500 steps that took us up and down the ramparts, the view was amazing but try as we might we couldn’t see the canal.
We also tried to loose Amy in the maze but I think it was Amy that led us to safety.
Overall we were impressed by the castle, yes it is run very commercially with princess costumes and foam armoury being touted at every corner, but the history of the castle hasn’t been neglected. Lots of side shows telling the tales of Warwick in snappy sound bites.
They put on a spectacular birds of prey show, where they were swooping low over the crowds, flying for bits of chopped up child, or so the demonstrator told us. I’m not sure if I was most impressed by the awsome size of the condor or the the WWI style dog fight with 8 red kites all diving for the same bit of meat thrown in the air.
And an acrobatic re enactment of the war of the roses with horses and knights jousting. The giant trebuchet was spectacular. Another feat of engineering that seems unbelievable without the aid of our modern computing power.
A full and busy day as we were there from when the castle opened until it pulled up the draw bridge.
Our galley slave Amy has been hard at work but to stop her going hungry during the week she needed to get out on the towpath and forage for her supper. Thankfully it’s berry season and it didn’t take long before Amy was starting to look like a blackberry she’d eaten so many.
Our most prolific haul came when an oncoming boater called out that he’d just passed a bush laden with ripe berries at the next bridge. As this was off towpath side they could only be reached by Eric hovering the boat and us leaning out of the bow.
Between us we made Blackberry and apple pie,
coconut and blackberry traybake and Blackberry jam for the croissants.
Then we started on the elderberries and and made Elderberry cordial.
When we researched our recipes online we discovered that elderberries their leaves and stems are toxic when raw and can cause sickness. So we simmered and stirred
then strained and cooled and diluted with sparkling water. It frothed up into a real potion, but tasted delicious.
The tow path was scattered with squashed black stuff where we moored and as we looked up into the tree we realised it was a plum tree but they were just out of reach to pick. Amy had the bright idea of using the pole and hook to shake the branches whilst I grovelled around picking up any that looked like they’d survived gravity.
The mild concussion I suffered from the raining plums didn’t last long and We were all enjoying a ‘plum bakewell tart’
Eric thinks we should keep a galley slave permenantly cause he certainly doesn’t get cakes like this when I’m in charge….
Oh ho, so I’ve come to realise that visitors and blogging don’t make good partners, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything.
Over the last week we have been joined by Amy. Her mum and I used to be work colleagues and to ease my conscience for swanning it around when the rest of my friends are still slogging it out doing silly nurses shifts, we offered to have 11 year old Amy for the week. Of course it wasn’t simply an act of generosity, we wanted someone younger and fitter to work the locks for us .
Amy, who’s never been on a narrow boat before proved her worth and became a full member of our crew. It puts me to shame how quickly and well she steered the boat.
Our cruising plan for the week was to pick up Amy at Norton junction, cruise back to Warwick, visit the castle and return as far as we could back towards Braunston.