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Saturday 18 May 2024

A Damascene Conversion, maybe.

 We didn't have too far to go today again, so we had an extra 15 minutes in bed. There were several boats passing in both directions before we left. We went to see if the injured from yesterday was feeling better. It seems that they hadn't returned, or they were having an even longer lay-in. I do hope everything went okay.

When we did leave we were lucky as there was nothing moving for us.

That is until the toll house when this day boat pulled out in front of us. They were weaving about and going slowly so we just pottered along well astern.

Just before the junction is this notice reminding boaters that the Oxford canal to the north is for narrow boats. I hadn't realised that Wide beams were able to go to Dunchurch Pools and Barby Moorings though.

Again we were lucky as there was no traffic as we approached the junction and we turned left towards Napton. The day boat had done so too but I think they realised that they wouldn't get to the Folly at Napton and back if they didn't crack on and we didn't see them again.

The junction house is a large building but hardly looks lived in, but I'm sure it is. It would make a gongoozlers paradise, or a holiday cottage with plenty of opportunity to watch the fun at the junction.

We saw that a wide beam was making his way to Braunston so we pulled over and let him past. I'm not sure what fun you have moving these wide beams on these canals. I'm sure they are great to live aboard or on rivers perhaps, but it must be a little nerve wracking moving about. Not for me anyway.

This looks like it should be a canal warehouse and wharf but I think it is a private spot as the wharf at Lower Shuckburgh is further along.

St John the Baptist Church in the village looks interesting but is new having being built in 1864. However it does look  worth a visit one day.

Just by the main road bridge 107 was the site of the old Shuckburgh Wharf and these old buildings are
part of the wharf buildings.

In this old map extract of 1885 you can see that there were lime kilns at one time. The brick building in the forefront of the photo above is the pink one on the left of the three in this extract. WM stands for weighing machine. It seems that in 1827 there was coal and lime wharf, coal yard, store house, a granary and stables on the site. Timber form the surrounding land was offered for sale here too.

The site has developed somewhat in this 1923 map extract. It is now being run as a timber merchants. In 1894 it was up for auction, with all equipment as a timber merchant and wheelwrights. Then in 1917 it was auctioned once again again as a timber merchant, but this time it was mainly the equipment. It was Travis And Arnold who were selling up. I wouldn't be surprised if that was the last time it was used commercially. 

We were soon at the junction and turned under to head towards Calcutt Locks.

The stone crop, I think, gives a lovely splash of colour to this dull coloured bridge.

We saw another boat follow us to the locks so we had a buddy for the last three. They had been to the Thames and were just getting back to Calcutt Marina. We were heading back a day early as there would be no fuel etc at Ventnor this Sunday, and I like to leave the boat topped up. It also gave me time to do some jobs as the weather was so nice.

These are the Ventnor swans and cygnets.

I did some sanding of the 'tunnel rash' we received in Bosworth tunnel and painted up other bits that we had already done. Then as I was waiting for stuff to dry I dug out a present I had given my self over winter, a polishing machine. Well, I may be converted! What would have taken me hours and leave me shattered only took an hour or so. It may mean that I might get round to polishing the boat twice this year, and will mean that I will have to buy more polish! It looks better though.

Friday 17 May 2024

Tunnel, Funnel and Finger.

 The day dawned back to an equitable nature this morning. It was nice to get up, feel the heat, and see the sun. There were the usual few who set of early munching their flakes as they passed. We set off a little later than normal as we weren't heading far.

This is the innocuous feed from the Daventry Reservoir. It was actually running a little as we passed. It is just on the edge of another huge housing estate called, I think, Monksmoor, that brings Daventry to the canal.

This was Welton Wharf and in the past Braunston tunnel was known as Welton Tunnel. In 1892 George Henry Tilley was the wharf manager and he ran a coal merchants from there.  However he was declared bankrupt owing about £25! He said that he had been a manager for another coal merchant for 2 years and before that had been a lock keeper on the Grand Union Canal for eight years

The wharf was part of the Norton Estates that were owned by the Marquess of Bath. the whole lot, 2,240 acres, 48 cottages and villages pubs and wharf were put up for auction in 1947.

The northern entrance to Welton or Braunston Tunnel looks positively bucolic as we approach it. We passed a couple of boats that seemed to be preparing to leave so we thought we would have company when we fetched up at the locks.

We were right, we did have company at the locks, not with either of the two boats we had thought it may have been. As we were waiting for a boat coming up there was the noise of bow trusters thrashing and it became obvious that the two were travelling together. However a moored boat behind them was ready to move and down we went with them. It turns out they were 'vlogers' and everything was filmed. I never knew whether they were talking to me, the dog or the camera! 

They stopped in the pound after the Admiral Nelson so we were on our own for the last 3 locks. We found a spot to moor alongside the marina, before Bridge 1. After a bite of lunch I set too cleaning the stove. It needs a bit of a refurb. especially as this year we need a BSS and I'm pretty sure it won't pass with this! Mind you it has been like this for a while and does not leak at all. We have two CO meters and they have never gone off.

We went for a walk and called in at the marina to see if they knew anybody who could refurbish an Arada Hamlet Hardy stove. They said they could do it, so I will have to have a look around and see what is what. We are back aboard middle of next month, which would be before the Historic Narrowboat Festival that would be chaos here.

We walked up to the church and into the village to buy some bits and some smoked bacon and then off to the Admiral Nelson for a pint in the sun. It was fun watching the newly boarded boaters from the hire basin coming up the locks. It seems obvious they they haven't watched the video of 'how to work a lock' that the hire company's send out. It was fun seeing if couples or groups will still be talking at the end of a weeks hire based on the first lock. I'm sure they get better as they go on.

From the field above the first lock we walked down to the art suppliers that is now in the old chandlers. Helen managed to find a bargain too.

Later Helen was sitting out reading when she was asked to help as a boat a little way up had managed to put a drill through his finger. Helen was very professional and the bleeding stemmed and the wound cleaned up, and assisted to contact 111 etc etc. It didn't look too bad but with possible need of antibiotics and tetanus etc they got booked in at Coventry Hospital! It seems that we are in the middle of several hospitals. We went to the Boathouse for tea and back to the boat nice and repleat .

Thursday 16 May 2024

Wending our way to Watford.

 It was quite misty this morning. I had slept like a log after laying down the new runner in the galley and dinette last night. It looks okay.

This field of wheat looks pretty good. The farmer must be relieved.

This summit pound looks like a river in places with the trees growing over the canal and reeds becoming well established. I have seen the towpath mowers out and about but not so much as previously. I have no objection to this as they seemed to want to make the banks like lawns. If you want it like that where you moor take some clippers and do the bit where you are. They do need to keep an eye on saplings growing though.

I have just noticed the blue engineering bricks on the edge of the bridge hole. I have just registered in my brain that they are obviously to same the brickwork from the old tow lines as they are harder than the red brick!!!

It was dry when we set off, but within ten minutes it started to drizzle and slowly picked up to light rain that stayed with us for the rest of the trip. It would have been miserable if there had been any more than the breath of wind that was with us. Some obviously felt it was cold, dank and miserable enough to light the boat stove. In fact through the day we spotted about 10 of them. It was 15 degs. outside.

There a few of these glamping pods in the field just after Yelvertoft. I did notice outside of the village, south of bridge 19 near the water point, there were some brick work remains on the off side. It seems there were at least 3 lime kilns here at the turn of the 1900's but they had gone off the map by 1950.

Not the best of hurriedly snatched photographs but this is one of the Old Union Canal Society milestone trees. The metal ones you see give the distance from Leicester. The original Grand Union used trees as mile markers and the Canal Society reinstated these in 1980. I'm not sure if they are all there still. I have seen a few but the plates aren't painted and looked after. These milepost mark the distance from Foxton, rather than Leicester.

There are several of these 'minimalist' bridges on the summit.

These bits of narrow boats are merging into the field over the years, with Crack's Hill in the background.

They have the footbridge almost up at Crick and the work boat was just passing the bits for the other stairs and only delayed us a few minutes.

You couldn't see the other end of the tunnel until well inside as it was so dull at the south end. We didn't meet anybody and as you may expect it was drier inside than out!

We were straight in at the top lock at Watford and it didn't take long to get to the bottom. As we were wet anyway we decided to stop for a quick top up of water before continuing on our way.

Helen gives the all clear at Hatton Junction and we make the st'bd turn towards Braunston.

A hurriedly taken picture of the weeping willow and the corner cottage before having to get us through the bridge hole.

No room on the moorings at the first bit, as you can see from the photo, but we carried on to past Bridge 7 and pulled in roughly where we had been on the way up. Of course as soon as the pins were in it stopped raining and the sun came out. I have actually really enjoyed today despite the wet. As I said if it had been windy it would have been a very cold difference.

Wednesday 15 May 2024

Moving Onwards and Upwards.

It seemed to start spitting with rain as we were getting up but nothing much. Several boats passed us leaving the basin before we got underway. One thing I meant to tell yesterday that the River Welland that runs through Market Harborough was once the boundary marking the land of Danelaw to the North. The area of Danelaw was where the Danes laws held sway, to the south it was the West Saxon and Mercian laws of the Anglo Saxons. This boundary was set by treaty in 876 AD but the term was first seen in 11th century. I suppose in once sense anything north and east of this line could be construed as 'The North.' No way.

In the news recently, and for years to be honest, was been the need for more homes to be built. They said that only 200,000 have been built in the previous year. I think all of them must be by the canals as on our travels we see thousands of new estate, large and small. Admittedly I have no idea what 200,000 homes looks like but the new estate west of Market Harborough seems to be huge spreading from Bridge 14 almost to the centre. Then there are the new homes near Hillmorton, Fazeley Junction Middlewich etc etc. The C&RT slogan is 'making things better by water' isn't it

The next bridge, 13, is a turnover bridge as the towpath swaps sides. However they have prevented its proper use as a house has been built, or purloined the land, where the access to the deck of the bridge was on the port side, through the bridge. It is now just a normal bridge! Good job there are no boat horse trips from the Union Basin. The name Union Basin comes from the original name of the canal, The Leicestershire and Northamptonshire Union Canal Co. Once the River Soar Navigation was developed to Leicester local businessmen thought it would be a good idea to connect them with the Grand Union at Northampton. The Act was passed in 1797 and was for a tunnel at Foxton and then passing through Market Harborough and onward to Northampton. By 1797 they had difficulties with Saddington tunnel and the money ran out. The canal was terminated at Debdale and this became a busy spot. In 1805 they rethought the plan after various advice and obtained a new Act of Parliament to continue through to MK as a contour canal. It was completed in 1809.

Great Bowden Hall was originally built as the Britannia Inn  built to serve the navvies etc when the canal was being pushed through to Market Harborough, so between 1805 and 1809. By 1857 the inn had been developed into Great Bowden Hall. These buildings may well have been part of the stables of the original inn . The new Hall is in side a quad behind them. Beyond the bridge was a farm and those buildings have recently being converted to residential. There was a boathouse on the map beyond the bridge but I could see no evidence of it today.

I got off and did the first bridge as it was so stiff on the way up. Approaching the locks we saw this chap, who looked a bit fed up and resigned to his lot in life.

As I came through the swing footbridge I could see a boat leaving the mooring outside the Bridge 61 pub and heading up the locks. Another was also heading up and so I had high hopes that we would be able to follow them. Helen confirmed this after checking in and we started the climb.

As we started the sun came out periodically. There had been slight rain on the way today, but I only had to have my coat on for a short period. Here we are at the halfway stop.

At the top and ready for another ice cream. I had Black cherry flavour this time. We stopped for a top up of water which was just long enough for Helen to purchase the ice creams and then to eat them.

This pen is still waiting for her happy event as I couldn't see any signs of hatching. Dad to be was paddling up and down, waiting. I didn't see a cigar in his top pocket though.

There was a field of still young lambs. Many seem to have been a fair time ago, but these weren't very old.

There were a few pheasants looking as though they were out in their Sunday best. I imagine a fob watch and chain in a waistcoat pocket.

Helen and I both commented on the way up that there are relatively few mallards, coats and moorhens on this stretch. I have seen no Canada geese but there are a few pink footed geese around, with goslings. As it is not very populated on this part of the canal you would have thought that the ducks etc would prosper. I wonder why not?

There are very few signs left over from the British Waterways days, but here is one, and in yards too. I wonder why the port and starb'd was never adopted on the canals as they are linked with rivers and docks? We met one boat in the tunnel and we didn't come out unscathed!! For some reason he was stopped and as we passed he gave a burst on his thruster that pushed me into the wall at the stern. The angle of the tunnel wall was such that my cabin side rubbed on it. I was going to patch it up once we stopped but I think I will wait until we have finished the tunnels for this trip now.

We passed the Welford Junction and there were only a couple of boats moored.

The River Avon that flows under the aqueduct at the moorings is the boundary of Leicestershire and Northamptonhsire. We didn't go on too much longer, mooring where we had a view for the panels and for us a cross fields.