Saturday, 28 July 2018

No roast lunch, just roasting weather

Sunday 22nd July; Crick to Braunston Top Lock

Well, half the country seems to have had thunderstorms by now and it’s a bit cooler at last – it’s Saturday 28th as I write – but last Sunday it was EXTREMELY warm although overcast for a while.

We wanted to get away early today as there was a chance we could make it for lunch at the Admiral Nelson in Braunston.  So before 7.30 I went up to the village shop for the paper, and was back at the boat as Dave was casting off at 7.45.  There was no-one about and we were at Watford Locks before 9.

First there was a cassette to be emptied and rubbish to be disposed of.  We were thinking about pushing over to the lock moorings when the lockie arrived.

1 pushing off from facilities

Howard had just been down to put out the notice requesting boaters to book in before they start up.  He put his coffee mug away while we did the top lock, then got straight to the business of helping us down. 

2 howard the lockie

We shared the work, as you do.  Once you enter the top of the staircase, you have to operate the paddles in the correct way – red before white.  I think this is the way it works – as Howard said, the staircase locks around the system all have different arrangements!  This is the edited version – Tom (ex Waiouru) raised a doubt in my mind so I looked it up.

The red paddle takes water from the side pond to the next chamber down.  When the white paddle is raised it releases water from the chamber you are in into the side pond as shown below.  This is the site I got the explanation from.  There is no direct connection between the locks.  I thought the side ponds were used for water saving, as at Hanbury locks on the Droitwich Junction canal, but I am not sure about here.  I tried looking it up and found a forum with a variety of views on staircases and why side ponds are there at all – or are they pounds? there was argument on that too.  I’m confused now so I will shut up!   If someone else would like to put us straight I would love to hear from them!

3 filling the side pond

I went for a few arty shots as I haven’t taken many photos this trip.  So here is a straight down one, taken from one of the footbridges over the staircase.  Meg is dozing on the starboard locker cushion.

4 bottom of the staircase

There were a couple of boats at the bottom.  The first was already in the bottom lock, and stopped there only because the one following them told them to.  He and his crew claimed not to have seen the large red A-frame notice telling you to book in before starting up the flight.  There is a good reason for this; there is room for two boats to pass in the bottom pound, but not the the one above, which is short and on a bend and then it’s the staircase where passing is impossible. So it needs to be under the lockie’s control or there could be chaos.  I gather a courteous but firm explanation was delivered.

As we cruised towards Norton Junction we passed a few boats we had seen recently.  This one has a tiller which moves back into a vertical position when the boat is moored – not unlike the old working boats where the wooden tiller was reversed (curves upwards rather than down) when not in use to allow more space at the stern.  When we saw it go by later, Dave noticed how low the tiller arm was set when in cruising mode – so low that the steerer’s arm was hanging almost straight down, so perhaps it was designed for someone with shoulder or elbow problems.  At the stern, the sides of the boat above the lockers are quite low, presumably so the tiller can be swung across them when necessary.

6 interesting design of tiller

We rounded Norton junction without meeting another boat.  The work on the new piling has proceeded apace and looks as though it is nearly finished.  It’s Sunday, so there is nothing going on today.

7 new piling nearly done

We cruised through hot sun and patches of welcome shade towards Braunston tunnel.  The lockie at Watford had wondered why everything seemed so quiet – the school holidays have started in the Midlands, where are all the boats?   Well, here they were, still on their way up the locks and through the tunnel.8 boats in braunston tunnel

We could see one boat in the tunnel, some way in, so we started our transit.  There were four in all, three with the tunnel light set correctly and one very much not! No matter, we made it through and tied up just before the start of the top lock moorings.  We had attempted to moor closer to the tunnel, but soon realised that although the towpath has been improved now, the work hadn’t actually done much for the moorings!  There is a lot of water draining down the hillside even in this dry weather.  There are drainage pipes every few yards along the bank.  The towpath above them is dry and level, but unless you want to hear trickling water beside your boat all night long you really do need to moor closer to the lock.

We were settled by 12 – unexpectedly early – and I went down to the Nelson to see about a table for lunch.  Oh dear….  not only does the Nelson not do Sunday Roasts, they were a chef down today so it was bar meals only.  Their card machine wasn’t working either.  We hadn’t got much cash and didn’t fancy thing and chips for lunch, so we had a sandwich on the boat then took Meg out for a walk up over the tunnel.

9 tunnel plaque

It was very hot up there.  We turned back before we reached the A-road that crosses the tunnel.  Here is a different view of Braunston Church, not the usual one from the canal.

10 new view of church

Things are looking very dry up here, but there are still wild flowers holding their own – this is some field bindweed in the hedge, the small pretty pink and white one, not the big white thug.

11 pink bindweed

Back at the boat, we had a cool drink, then a cup of tea and some cake, read the paper, watched the boats go by …. too hot to do much else even though we had a bit of shade.  Much later, having left an egg and bacon pie cooling for our tea, we went down to the Nelson for a beer.  Or two.  On the way back up, Meg’s ball went in the canal, way out of reach of an outstretched arm.  A lovely boater on her way down the locks gently coaxed it into the side … how kind!  I‘d gone to help them close up and happened to mention our plight …..

12 retrieving the ball

The boat behind us had a rather lovely pussy cat.  It taunted Meg from the safety of its roof.

13 taunting Meg

8½ miles, 7 locks (Watford flight), Crick and Braunston tunnels.

I have had a very informative email about the Living Mileposts, and I’ll add that info at the end of this trip’s posts.


  1. If my memory is correct the Red paddle sends the water to and from the side pond. The white paddle sends the water down to the next lock.

    Red before White You'll be all right
    White before Red you'll be dead

  2. Hi Tom, I've just looked it up, as I was certain I was standing by the white one, and wondering why the side pond wasn't filled by the red (first) paddle (as I'm used to Hanbury locks where you use the side pond first, then close those paddles before moving back to the paddles by the lock. Here, the red one starts filling the next lock from the side pond, then the white one flows into the side pond to keep it topped up. So the water that fills the next chamber all comes ffrom the side pond. I will update the post. Thanks for that! hope the plans for your trip are going smoothly!
    best wishes, Debby