Thursday, 14 August 2014

Black-bottomed girl goes to Calcutt

The blog for this short trip won’t be posted till we get home as the internet signal has been very slow.  Not to mention that I forgot to bring the cable to download the photos from my camera!

Sunday 10th August

Chuffed spent last week at Heyford Fields having her bottom blacked and a new rudder top bearing fitted.  Dave had to move her off the marina moorings once she was back in the water, but I had family commitments on Saturday so we had to come up to the boat separately this time.  

I came up by train on Sunday, having stayed overnight in London with daughter Liz and her gorgeous cat Miffy.


The tail end of Hurricane Bertha meant there were storms all day but I managed to be in a bus, train or station during most of it!  I did stand out in the rain outside Euston station though, to get a snap of Robert Stephenson, the celebrated railway engineer  It was also outside All Bar One – I don’t specially want to advertise it but check out the reflection in the standing water!

1 robert stephenson at euston station

I had to travel via Stanmore (the end of the Jubilee line) then bus to Hemel Hempstead because of works on the line at Watford.  There was a grand total of TWO passengers on the double-decker!  I wonder how much these buses cost ….. Once I got to Northampton, I caught the bus to Bugbrooke from Northampton and walked back to the boat easily enough – Dave had moved her up the towpath only a few hundred yards from the marina, so not too far to walk!

The weather dried up a bit during the afternoon but the wind kept rocking the boat till evening – when we realised Meg had slipped out of the back and disappeared.  She often tries to go back to retrieve sticks she’s played with during a walk, so we spent 15 minutes or so going in the wrong direction and looking through gaps in the hedge, then went off to hunt in the other direction.  Eventually she turned up halfway back to Bugbrooke – we think she must have enticed the walkers who went by a little earlier to throw sticks for her, and then gone with them. What a relief – we must take more care.

There had been quite a few boats passing once the rain had gone, and none of them had shifted our mooring pins in the slightest. Then Lydia something-or-other went tanking past so fast we had to go out and hammer them in again.  We hadn’t put a second pin through the D-rings, which we probably should have done, but even so Lydia thingy was way out of order.

Monday 11th August

Today dawned bright and sunny, though still with a stiff breeze.  We were away by 9, for the first time for ages with long trousers and jumpers on.  We called in at Stowe Hill Wharf (Rugby Boats) to replace a gas bottle, then at Weedon for a quick trip to the Tesco Express on the main road. We opted for an early lunch before we went up the Buckby flight.  At least, that’s the label on the Nicholson’s map – the text calls them Whilton locks.  Anyway, we were joined by a small privately owned narrowboat whose delightful crew were on their first day and first ever lock.  Dave gave Annie her first locking lesson, and we made good progress, with occasional boats coming down.  We got wet too, with three separate brief but heavy showers with thunder.

2 coming up buckby in the wet

At the top we stopped for water, wondering whether to moor near Norton junction or go on to Braunston and hope there was mooring above the locks.  But once more the heavens opened as we passed the junction and the decision was made for us!

3 norton jct mooring

We walked back to Long Buckby Wharf as the rain eased, with a lovely double rainbow, though the picture doesn’t show it well, and the wind turbine looks like nothing in particular

5 rainbow at norton jct

We sat in the window at the New Inn, watching several evening travellers coming up the lock and enjoyed a pleasant meal.

8 miles 7 locks

Tuesday 12th August

Another sunny, cloudy and breezy start.  We waved to Jaq and Les aboard NB Valerie as we passed them moored a little way further up, and soon caught up with the tail end of a series of boats making for Braunston.  Actually the tail end was rather behind the others, as the steerer was still getting to grips with not over-correcting his steering (I felt his pain).  Here they are entering Braunston tunnel.

6 approaching braunston tunnel

They had a hard time in the tunnel, as three boats came towards us in quick succession and there were several clonks and bangs echoing back towards us.  Thoroughly unsettled, they crept along, though they passed later boats with no trouble, till they could see the end of the tunnel and they gradually got straighter and made better progress.

As we approached the locks, we could see two boats emerging and the boat in front joined another to go on ahead of us.  We were quite pleased, as they had a demented dog yowling inside once they got out of the tunnel!

We were soon joined by a Kate boat with no name – Kate seem to be repainting their older boats, and we’ve also seen one with a completely different livery.  They were experienced hirers, having a great time, and with two boats coming up at every lock we had a swift and easy time of it.  At the bottom lock we had a short wait as we had caught up with the boats in front, and discovered that the poor souls waiting to come up had been queuing for an hour!  We knew Braunston could be busy ……

7 busy braunston

We counted ourselves lucky to get a prime mooring spot near the first marina entrance in time for lunch.  After we’d eaten, Dave went off to Midland Chandlers and I went up to the village for the obligatory Braunston Bangers and a paper (and some cake, as we are running out and I can’t be bothered to bake today). 

8 braunston mooring

When I got back there was no sign of Dave, so I went out with Meg to to see if Graham and Jill on NB Armadillo were in – we’d passed them just before we moored.  So I had a cup of tea and a lovely chat while poor Dave failed to get a new monobloc tap for the galley – Braunston is the only branch of Midland which does not have the one we need in stock! 

We moved on soon after Dave got back, stopping briefly to empty a cassette (in yet another shower) before swinging gently round the junction and heading towards Napton junction in a stiffening breeze and threatening clouds up ahead.  Those 3 arches make it so hard to keep the camera level ….. that’s my story anyway!

9 rounding braunston turn

I thought I’d better take the obligatory snap of the church and neighbouring windmill - a bit straighter, just a slight lean in the opposite direction!

10 leaving braunston

After a few passing showers we moored near Flecknoe, a favourite spot.  We moored there several times some years ago while on Padworth (our share boat) and had to juggle cruising and attending two weddings – in Berkshire and South Wales – as well as collecting our daughters from Leamington Spa station.  As we were based in Calcutt at the time, that was easily sorted as there is a handy layby at bridge 102 (spotted with Google Earth!).  So we shuttled back and forth on the canal (by boat) and the country (by car) and had a wonderful time.

The evening was beautiful as the clouds cleared.

6 locks 7 miles Braunston tunnel

Wednesday 13th August

It was so tempting so stay put on this lovely mooring and get on with some jobs in the sunshine, but we are booked in at Calcutt for a couple of weeks so got going in bright and blustery weather.  I forgot to take a photo last night, so here’s the empty mooring as we left!

11 flecknoe bridge

It’s only a short hop to Napton Junction but there were loads of boats coming towards us – easily in double figures in the hour or so it took. Once down the top lock, Dave reversed neatly alongside the two Calcutt Boats not out on hire, so we could pop into reception and find out where to moor. After going down the remaining two locks and into the marina, we had a bit of a game in the stiff breeze – two passes round the island to spot our mooring, then actually getting into it.  Definitely a day for bow first!  It’s a beautiful marina though, with lovely grounds.

13 meg at calcutt

Just time for an early lunch, then a route march for Dave up to Napton to get the bus to Daventry and a very quick dash to get the connection to Bugbrooke.  The lovely driver dropped him at the marina entrance, and he was back at Calcutt in time for the journey home – nicely timed to beat the rush-hour around Warwick and to allow the traffic around Bristol to dissipate.  Excellent.

Now we’ve really got to get our planning hats on as we haven’t booked anywhere for the winter yet, and want to get down to Stratford as well before the days get too short. 

12 calcutt marina

3 and a half miles, 3 locks.

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