Back to Braunston

Goodbye summer, hello Jumpers and Raincoats. Actually it wasn’t as bad as the forecast predicted but on Tuesday we decided that we’d put the hours in to avoid the expected rain.

We had a good day sharing the Buckby flight with an Australian couple, Sandy and Steve who had only picked up their hire boat the day before and had not experienced a lock before. Having benefited from the helpful advice given so freely to us over the past 3 months it didn’t half feel strange to realise we were now the ‘experienced’ ones. I hope the advice we gave them was helpful, they didn’t disagree when we said it was crucial to include stopping to refuel at the pub at the top.

After fish chips and a pint, we waved them off in the direction of Foxton and we continued towards the Braunston tunnel.

We don’t particularly enjoy doing tunnels, especially the two way ones. It’s hard to judge the distances of  boats coming towards you and the longer you spend creeping close to the edge the more bumps and scrapes the boat suffers. This time we were lucky and didn’t meet a single oncoming boat.

There’s minimal mooring after the tunnel so it’s straight on down the Braunston flight. This time we hooked up with a guy on his own which kept me running back and forth dutifully opening both gates the whole way. Thankfully all the locks were set in our favour for a change.

The rain arrived on Wednesday as expected but not before I managed to see the sun rise through the bridge.

We’ve been able to say hello and tick off a few more Braidbar Boats from the list.

145 -Simply Messing, 19- Mnoysen (apologies if I’ve got this spelt wrong) 90 -Mary A

Making the most of the sunshine

Having found some trees to keep us cool as the temperatures reached the high 20’s, it was time to fill the water bottles and walk.

I felt very smug as we sauntered across the M1

I hope they had air con and were returning home after a grand day out, but thank goodness there isn’t that much traffic on the canal. I wondered if they were able to appreciate the beautiful countryside around them as they whizzed along.

I’m glad the weather had been so good for the farmers were busy making hay and cutting crops. But these chickens had the right idea. They were all sitting underneath the car.

But they came out to say hello,

This old geezer also new what was good for him. Down tools and open a bottle or two. He was sitting at the entrance to a super little canal side art studio, by bridge 21, Brockhall Rd Bridge, Landing Spinney Farm.

 

Boy what a scorcher

What was the weather playing at? Usually Bank holidays are wet and miserable. Not this one.

This is our first bank holiday weekend as full time boaters, and funnily enough it didn’t t seem all that different to most of our days, dreamy and self indulgent.

We knew we had to be back in Braunston later in the week so we set off on our journey back up the Grand Union knowing there were some shady places just beyond Weedon Bec. Er sorry rephrase that, there were some mature trees providing shelter that we’d take advantage of.

 

Riotous friends and glorious tranquility

You can’t have too much of a good thing and this week has been the best of both. Claire and Matthew visiting on Thursday

and Heather for part of the weekend.

Enough food to make us pop and sunshine all day to bake us to a crisp.

We found bushes laden with blackberries and plums that were crying out for us to climb onto the roof to collect the juiciest.

And I’ve made more jam for the store cupboard.

The sunsets have been mesmerising all week, this is bridge 45 on the GU.

This weeks cruising has been mainly back and forth just enjoying our environment. What could be better. Another week the same, with more friends and a few miles further on.

A few days of just doing nothing

We’re moored at Nether Heyford waiting for friends to visit. For me an ideal opportunity just to chill out and do very little.

I’ve been on duck watch as we saw a brood of 7 brand new fluffy duckies being paraded across the meadow by mum. As they were so tiny and they grass was taller than they were it did resemble that scene in Jurassic park where the dinosaurs were running through the grass and all you could see were their heads.

The following day the ducklings were allowed in the water, sadly I could only spot 6 and after 2 days there were only 2 left. I don’t know what happens to them overnight but during one day we could see two were struggling to keep up and I can only assume they got lost and left to fend for themselves.

We’ve seen some beautiful sunsets

and sunrises.

And it seems this stretch of the canal is home to several Braidbar Boats.

66 Loie Fuller,- Destiny, -155 Albert, -164 Mei Long and I saw porthole Lace on a boat made by Sheila on Sanity Again, does that make it an honorary Braidbar?

Nether Heyford is about 10 minutes walk from the canal depending upon which footpath you choose. It’s got a convenience store a bitcher and a hairdresser. The pub looks OK as well. We’re wondering if it will be as attractive in the winter as it is in the summer.

Weedon Bec

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?

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….

 

 

A journey for Jo

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.

 

Sunday afternoon stroll

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.

 

What do you call a group of electric boaters?

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.