Monday, 27 October 2014

Milton Keynes to Leighton Buzzard

Monday 20th October

Bridge 75 to Campbell Park, Milton Keynes

This morning there was a heavy dew, and a pleasant sunrise.

Dawn over Milton Keynes

It was a lovely sunny day by the time we left our mooring, and cruised the short distance first East to the facilities at Giffard Park, bridge 78, then South through autumn colours to Campbell park, bridge 81, where we found a mooring on the off side. There used to be several visitor moorings here, but the council decided to use most of them as permanent moorings, leaving just one visitor mooring.

Autumn colours on a sumac tree in Milton Keynes

Then we had a pleasant half hour walk through Campbell Park to MK centre.

We bought a winter duvet and a small dustbin (for our ash) in John Lewis, using farewell vouchers from our Barnabas group.  We also had lunch at Nando’s, using a voucher from the church.

The bin we will use to collect our ash

The shopping centre is very big and we had walked a lot, so we took a bus back to Campbell Park.

Hugo had another cat spat with a small black cat from the next boat.  This was a wide beam on a winter mooring, and we guess the other cat had the territory, so we kept Hugo inside.  It was windy and wet anyway.

0 locks, 3 miles, 1hr10

Tuesday 21st October

Campbell Park

Very windy – the remains of Hurricane Gonzalo

We took a bus into MK to buy a few bits and pieces. We discovered that Waitrose, marked on all the maps, had closed down a few years ago. In its place had been an ice rink, but this had also closed down.  We found the “Chinese supermarket” marked on Google Earth, but this was no bigger than the average Mace or Londis store.  Thankfully they had the Thai Green Curry paste we had been searching for.

The open-air market was functioning, and we bought some fruit and cheese.  We bought our milk from M&S, and had lunch at Chopstix noodle bar before catching a bus back to Campbell Park.

We discovered that our life ring was missing.  Whether it had blown off or been lifted off we don’t know.  James had a look for it in the canal downwind but couldn’t see it.

Still very windy.  Occasional horizontal rain.

Wind on the water

 Water effects

More effects. Is this art?

No boating today

Wednesday 22nd October

Campbell Park to Water Eaton

Our mooring at Campbell Park

There were lots of boats moving this morning as the wind had died down.  We continued our journey south through Milton Keynes suburbs.   There was a boat in front of us, and as it went under a bridge we could see another boat coming the other way. We slowed and paused to let them through, as they were closer to the bridge than we were.  They must have spotted us very late, because, just as they reached the bridge they suddenly slammed the boat into reverse, losing their steerage, and the boat went diagonally across the canal.  When they had sorted themselves out, we beckoned them on, as we hadn’t moved and were still waiting for them.

This little escapade slowed us down sufficiently for the boat in front to decide to use Fenny Stratford Lock on his own, and he had started on his way down without waiting for us.  We needed to use the lock bollards, and there were two fishermen sitting there on chairs.  In 12 miles of Milton Keynes towpath there is only one lock and one set of lock bollards, and they decide to fish just there!  We apologised to them as we pulled in, and as they moved their equipment out of the way they were saying things to one another such as “There’s always one, isn’t there?”.

Fishermen on lock bollards

The lock has a swing bridge over the top, which gets swung every time a boat uses the lock, probably thirty times a day.  There is just one building on the East side of the lock, and a car has to go over perhaps four times.  Would it not be more sensible for the swing bridge to be left in favour of the boat traffic, which is far more frequent than vehicle traffic?

Fenny Stratford Lock and swing bridge

After the lock and swing bridge we used the facilities, where the dustbins were overflowing.  We moored just before bridge 98 at Water Eaton.  Hazel had done the washing and we wanted to hang it out while the sun was shining.

A fuel barge named Ascot came past and we hailed him to buy another three bags of coal.

We had a chat with a lady dog walker about BCF and churches, as she wasn’t happy with the local Anglican church, which was Anglo-catholic. We showed her our church directory, and suggested one or two alternative possibilities.

We were getting low on cat litter, which we usually buy from Sainsbury’s, and James searched online for the nearest branch. He discovered that there was one at Bletchley, not far away.

We think that Hugo had a mouse in the night.

1 lock, 5 miles, 1 swing bridge, 1 mouse, 2hr25

Thursday 23rd October

Water Eaton to Stoke Hammond

The story of the bus routes

We had decided to catch a bus to Bletchley and we had picked up a map of bus routes from the bus station in Milton Keynes.  We worked out that if we crossed bridge 98 and walked a short way there would be a bus stop where we could catch bus no 5, 19 or 70.

When we reached the spot we couldn’t find the bus stop, so we walked to a junction where we thought they would turn left, into the road marked on the map as Queensway.  This turned out to be named Water Eaton Road. As we did so, a number 5, followed by a number 19, went past and turned right at the junction, into Manor Road.  Thinking our map must be out of date, we walked on past the junction to a bus stop we could see in Manor Road.  Looking back, we then saw another bus, turning left at the junction into Water Eaton Road!  We had now missed three buses.  We retraced our steps and waited at the stop in Water Eaton Road. The only bus number shown at the stop was number 6!

Three buses went past in the other direction.  All were number 6, except the last one which had number 6 on the front, and number 5 on the back! In the words of Pete and Dud, “This could confuse a stupid person!” At last a bus came along going in our direction, a number 6.  We checked that it was going to Bletchley Bus station and thankfully took our seats.

Later, with a close examination of Google earth, and comparing it with the bus route map, we discovered that bridge 98 was not marked on the bus map, and the only bridge shown was number 97, although it was not identified with a bridge number.  We had therefore crossed bridge 98 in the belief that it was the bridge shown on the bus map, which it wasn’t.  It explains why the roads were named differently, the bus stop was missing, and the bus routes were different.

Anyway, that’s enough about buses!!!

We went to Wilko and Sainsbury’s, where we found the cat litter. We had a drink in a café, and caught a number 6 back to Water Eaton.

We moved on, pausing at Willowbridge Marina to visit their chandlery, which didn’t have anything we wanted. We set off again, and caught up with a boat at Stoke Hammond Lock.  We shared the lock with them.  The boat had L-plates on the front, and the lady at the helm was very new to it.

Stoke Hammond Lock

We stopped soon after, as far from the railway as possible, where we had lovely views of farmland.

Hugo went exploring and soon returned with a recently expired mouse as a gift.

We have concluded that the coal we bought at Crick Marina is awful stuff.  It gives off a choking smell, and produces lots of ash.  It is called Briteheat.  The only thing it is good at is staying in overnight.  Thankfully we have nearly finished the second bag.

In the night, James had to go outside on the towpath to breathe some fresh air, as he felt as though he had been down a coalmine.  Hugo seemed to think that this was for his benefit, and he scampered up and down, and hid in the grass.  It is not hard for a grey cat to hide in the dark.

1 lock, 2 miles, 1 mouse, 1hr10.

Friday 24th October

Stoke Hammond

We had a moorhen peering in the window today. Moorhens are usually shy birds, but no one had told this one how to behave.

Our visiting moorhen

The rain was not as bad as forecast, so late morning we set off on foot to explore Stoke Hammond. It doesn’t have much: a pub, two churches and a village shop – cum - post office. There were some pretty thatched cottages, and one or two large houses. The pub didn’t look very nice – full of gaming machines, pool tables and big screen TVs, so our plans for a pleasant lunch in the village local did not materialise.  We were hoping to have Hammond eggs! J  Get it?

Neither of the churches were open (Methodist and Anglican), but we bought some smoked pork from the shop.  We returned to the boat just before the rain started.

Stoke Hammond Church

Paella on board

No boating today

Saturday 25th October

A boat went past very fast at 7.30am, making our boat surge at its moorings. Someone later said they had left all the gates open and paddles up on the three locks.

The pram hood was very wet from rain on the outside, and condensation on the inside and mopping it up was like having another shower.

Several boats went past in our direction, and this surprised us, as the waterway had generally been quiet.  As we reached the bottom of Soulbury Three Locks, there were boats going up and one waiting, so we joined Miss Molly. It turned out that the boats were from Taverners Cruising Club, just north of Cosgrove.

In every lock there was one boat coming down, mostly Wyvern hire boats from Leighton Buzzard.  They hadn’t been told much about how to negotiate the locks. “Do we shut the gates now?” one of them asked, after his boat was safely in the lock. “Yes” we said.

Soulbury Three Locks with Miss Molly, meeting a hire boat coming down

Thankfully the sun had come out and it was a lovely autumn day.

We left the top lock first, before Miss Molly, and we soon found ourselves leaving them behind as we cruised in the sunshine through Great Train Robbery territory and past the Globe Inn.  We slowed down to let Miss Molly catch us up.  As we approached Leighton Lock, Ascot, the fuel barge, pulled out behind us, as though to join us in the lock.  Two Taverners CC boats were already in the lock going up, so we tied on to the lock bollards.  Miss Molly came into view, and we suggested they share with Ascot, so that they could join their friends in Leighton Buzzard, where they were all stopping for lunch. No boats were coming down this time, so we reset the lock after they had gone through.

Fuel Barge Ascot sharing Leighton Lock with Miss Molly

Moorings in Leighton Buzzard are not very sensibly organised.  Coming in from the north there is a long line of moorings for “permit holders only” first, many of which are unoccupied.  Then there is space for about five boats on two-hour shopping moorings. Taverners CC were all tied up there. Finally there are two spaces for 14 days, but they are right next to the road bridge and Tesco car park. 

After using the facilities just south of the bridge, we moved to the towpath beyond, where there are 14 day moorings, but there are no rings or piling, so we had to use mooring spikes in soft grass.  We intend to be here for two nights.

They could do with changing about four boat lengths from permit holders only to 14 days.

Hazel went shopping in Aldi, and came back with a whole fresh chicken, which we roasted for our evening meal. 

We remembered to put the clocks back.

4 locks, 4 miles, 3hr25

Sunday 26th October

Leighton Buzzard

They say you get an extra hour in bed when the clocks change, but although you may understand this in your head, your body clock doesn’t change for several days, and no one had told Hugo.  So we were up an hour earlier than necessary.

Our church choice this morning was New Life Community Church, who meet in a school at the near end of the High Street.  We have been here before, and very much enjoyed the young worship band, whom we later saw at the Mission: Worship conference in Eastbourne.   This time there was no worship group. Apparently they had moved on to university.  Instead we had CDs and videos, and the room was arranged café style with tables.  There was a dedication of a baby girl, and there were about 15 family members visiting because of this.  The service was therefore geared very much as a seeker service with a good gospel message being proclaimed.  We had a warm welcome, and were invited to stay for lunch. James has a cold, which has just started, so we declined.

New Life Community Church at Leighton Buzzard

We visited Homebase, looking for some non-slip treads for the steps down into the galley.  The existing strips are wearing out.  They had nothing suitable.

Lunch on the boat and zzzzz.

Later James trundled the cassette back to the facilities block, and on the way got chatting to the people on Kookaburra.  We have been playing leapfrog since Market Harborough.  We found we had a lot in common. They have let their home in Bristol, and this is their first year as live-aboards. They also have a cat on board.  They are planning to be on the Braunston pound for the winter.  The boat has the previous owners names on the side, R & D Bell.  We wondered whether they came from Kangaroo Island, south of Adelaide, where half the population seem to be called Bell.

Back on Gabriel we had a lovely chicken curry with what was left over from the roast chicken yesterday.

No boating today.

Next week: a slow descent through 11 wide locks to Marsworth and 14 narrow locks to our winter mooring in Aylesbury.  The first job will be to buy a car. The blogs will be less frequent.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Norton Junction to Milton Keynes

Monday 13th October

Norton Junction

A very wet day.  An amazing number of boats were still on the move despite the rain.

Rang Kathryn to arrange to meet at Stoke Bruerne, to find she was working up the Buckby flight on an old working boat belonging to a chap called Mike.  James went to meet her and helped her through the last lock.  They came for a coffee on Gabriel, before Kathryn went back by car, and Mike went on towards Braunston where he had booked into the dry dock for a week to paint the boat.

No boating today

Tuesday 14th October

Norton Junction to Bugbrooke

We cruised the short distance to the facilities and as we emptied cassettes and disposed of rubbish, we filled the lock – the bottom gates were open.

Buckby Top Lock
Busy A5 by Buckby Top Lock

We passed under the busy A5, and as we passed a boat called Lady Elizabeth, Andy suggested we share the rest of the locks.  We also saw BCF boat Padworth but no one was evident.

As Andy was on his own, we tied the two boats together, and Hazel steered.  At one point there were two sets of two boats coming up, and they were very slow, which held us up.

Sharing with Lady Elizabeth

Breasting up

After the seven locks, we stopped and had a late breakfast at Whilton Locks Café, which was very good.  Perfectly done fried eggs.  We visited the chandlery and bought a large bottle of their own brand of toilet blue.

We stopped at Weedon where we visited a new Tesco express. Kathryn had told us about it.

A little further on we saw Padworth again. This time we were able to say hello to Jeff and Gill Crow, BCF members we hadn’t met before.  They have shared ownership of this boat, and put BCF stickers in the window when they are using the boat.

Alpha was moored a little further on. They had a BCF sticker but there was no one around, and we couldn’t find them in the BCF directory.

Just after that, we were hailed by a young man who spotted our BCF sign.  He had just bought a boat from Whilton Marina and this was his maiden voyage. He had never been through a lock before but this boat was to be his home.  We gave him such literature as we had, but we have no suitable BCF membership forms.

We stopped at Stowe Hill Marine, but discovered that it was closed. The fuel price at 77.9p was very good.  Thankfully, two miles south, we were able to fill up at Bridge 32, where the price was 76p!  We also bought some coal.

We stopped a few minutes later just before Bugbrooke, where the railway is slightly quieter and there are some badger setts.

Moored near the Bugbrooke badgers

Active badger sett

When it was dark, James crept along the path towards the sett, and could hear some scuffling noises.  With camera at the ready, and with great excitement, he waited for the badgers to appear. Then the phone rang! It was Enterprise Car Hire following up our recent rental.  The moment was ruined and he never saw the badgers.  Having a camera and phone in one gadget does have disadvantages at times.

Back at the boat, Hugo was hiding behind a bush, and he leaped out as James went past. Very playful.

7 locks, 7 miles, 5hr05

Wednesday 15th October

Bugbrooke to Blisworth

The day started mild, turning chilly later.

We paused at Gayton junction services 25 minutes. A boat called Elan was there, and was still there when we left.

We called in to Blisworth Marina where we saw our old boat at its mooring. We phoned Arthur to find out where he was, and it turned out he was on board.  We had a chat with him, and invited him for a meal that evening.

Our previous boat in Blisworth Marina (The green one)

We cruised on to Blisworth, where three fishermen were occupying most of the mooring length. We squeezed in at one end, and went shopping in the village.

As we arrived back at the boat, we noticed Elan moored further along. Heavy rain started.  We send Arthur a text suggesting he come by car as more rain was forecast.  We had a pleasant meal with him, but were concerned that he has no heating on his boat.  The corner bubble won’t light (it probably needs a service), and, although he has electricity at the marina, he has no electric heater.


Moored at Blisworth

0 locks, 5 miles, 1hr50

Thursday 16th October

Blisworth to Stoke Bruerne

An old warehouse in Blisworth

After all the rain, we had a very wet pram hood to dry off before we folded it down for the tunnel.  The tunnel was wet in places with water pouring through holes in the walls and roof. We met no other boats and it took 28 minutes.  There were plenty of moorings, so we stopped almost opposite Kathryn’s boat Leo II on some piling, just before the bollards.

Leaving Blisworth Tunnel

We went to explore the village and found Kathryn looking out of her cottage door. She invited us in to look round, or rather, up and down. Her place is on four floors, with a room on each floor. It is ideal for her, being very central to all that goes on in the village.

After coffee we explored the two pubs.  The Boat Inn first, which has bar food in one area, and a restaurant with a more up market menu upstairs.  We found that they had a still cider, and we booked a table for four tomorrow at 7pm in the restaurant.

We looked at the shop in the pub, which has very basic items, but no bread or vegetables.

The Navigation Inn had a very standard looking menu, and we stopped for a cider, which was OK, but nothing special.

We had lunch back on the boat, sitting in the stern in the sunshine.  Kathryn went past on the heavily laden Sculptor, with BBC cameras capturing the scene for an item on Look East.

Kathryn at the helm of Sculptor

Later we went to meet Kathryn for dinner at the Indian restaurant, which was very good, especially as she is known in there, and we had some extra dishes on the house.

We then went to a room behind the museum where there was a talk from the lock keeper at St John’s Lock, Lechlade

Back on the boat we managed to get Look East on i-player, with a lot of buffering. There was shot where Sculptor went past our boat and we were sitting on the back deck.  There was no mention of Stoke Bruerne or the Canal Museum. That was a shame because the BBC made no payment for the use of the boat, as the museum was hoping to gain some publicity from it.

Hugo was out somewhere, but we suddenly saw a mouse running from the galley area into the saloon. Galvanised into action, James managed to catch it and release it into the hedge. Hugo must have brought it in while we were out.

0 locks, 3 miles, 1 tunnel, 1 mouse

Friday 17th October

Stoke Bruerne

This morning there was some blood on the floor indicating the demise of a mouse.  Whether it was the same one as last night we will never know.

We had a short walk to the tunnel mouth to explore. James came back via the “woodland walk” which was parallel, but higher up the bank.  There were some wire sculptures of animals.

Hazel went to see Kathryn again.

We saw Elan going down through the locks

The Boat Inn at night

Allen and Angela
It was good to catch up over dinner with Allen and Angela (previous residents at Portmore Quays) in the upstairs restaurant at the Boat Inn.  A very good meal, but there was only one other table in use.  A shame for a Friday, which should be busy.

No boating today

1 mouse

Saturday 18th October

Stoke Bruerne to Cosgrove

Cloudy and windy

The first lock was against us. As it was filling, James tried to raise Kathryn, but the TV was on and she evidently didn’t hear him call.

The rest of the Stoke Bruerne locks were in our favour, except the last one, which was empty with the bottom gates open.  We used the facilities at the bottom before moving off again.  As we left, we noticed that the bottom lock was emptying, and a boat appeared about ten minutes behind us.

Locking down from Stoke Bruerne
We travelled through some open countryside past Yardley Gobion and Thrupp Wharf. At Cosgrove we passed under the lovely Soloman’s Bridge, built of mellow stone. What a contrast to the ugly bridge 54 which carried the A508 Northampton Road across the locks just south of Stoke Bruerne.

The ugly bridge over the Stoke Bruerne lock flight

The mellow stone Soloman’s Bridge at Cosgrove

We paused at Cosgrove facilities to empty our final cassette, and to let the boat behind catch up before we used the lock.  We shared the lock with them, and they were heading for Stoke Hammond that night, a lot further than we were going.

Sharing Cosgrove Lock

We stopped on the embankment, on some piling before the aqueduct.  We had a little rain, which had been forecast.

James went to explore the aqueduct, and read on the information boards that there was a small horse tunnel under the canal at Cosgrove, as well as the one by the aqueduct.  Perhaps we will try to find this next time.

Cosgrove Iron Aqueduct

The tunnel under the aqueduct

8 locks, 6 miles, 3hr35

Sunday 19th October

Cosgrove to Wolverton to Bridge 75 Stantonbury Park

As we were getting ready to leave, a hire boat went past, and we pulled out behind him.  He was very slow, but we weren’t going far.

We stopped in Wolverton on some rings in a new development of apartments near the station.   We used the new footbridge to cross the canal, and headed into Wolverton in search of King’s Church. 

Moored on rings in Wolverton

The new footbridge

We have been to this church twice before, when they met in a school.  From their website we found that they have managed to purchase the old Wesleyan Church which they are restoring.  They now also own the community centre next door, which was previously run by the council.  We were expecting to meet in the church, but welcome signs were out by the community centre doors, so we went in and up some stairs to where the band was practising and people were gathering.

There was a good mix of modern worship songs and old hymns.  The talk was based on a passage in Hosea, where the people had let the temple remain in ruins. When they started to restore the temple, God’s favour returned.

This is an exciting project. The church has moved from being a small, almost private, family church meeting in a school, to finding a place in the heart of the community where they are visible and active.

King’s Church

The project

We had lunch in a café afterwards and looked round the shops.  As well as Tesco, there is a small Asda, and Wolverton supermarket, which specialises in Asian food.

We stocked up with a few things, and then cruised to quieter moorings just before bridge 75, where, a few years ago, we couldn’t see any houses, but now a housing estate has stared to creep over the brow of the hill towards the canal.

There was a bit of a cat fracas – Hugo and a small black and white cat. Otherwise a peaceful night.

0 locks, 4 miles, 1hr25

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Foxton to Norton Junction

Monday 6th October

Sitting out a wet day.  Catching up with blogs and emails

James went for a walk round Foxton Inclined Plane in the evening and saw a water vole.

Moored above Foxton Locks

Horse sculpture

 Foxton Inclined Plane

Very few boats went past

No boating today

Tuesday 7th October

Foxton to Crick

James set out to walk to Foxton Village to post a birthday card to Oliver.  At the foot of the locks he found a post box by the pub, so he came back earlier than anticipated.

Early morning at the locks

We set off straight away, and a Canal Club boat pulled out at the same time, about four boat lengths ahead.  It was probably his second day, as he would have come from Market Harborough.  He was quite slow, but thankfully he saw us and pulled over for us to pass.

There was intermittent sunshine but it was quite chilly as we travelled, although we had no rain. There were few boats moving, but we did meet another boat on a blind corner, and we had to sound the horn.  Fortunately we both had quick reactions and we churned up a lot of water in reverse gear.

 Early morning views

As we entered Husbands Bosworth tunnel, the warm moist air inside the tunnel caused James’s glasses to fog up!

Husbands Bosworth Tunnel

We passed lots of pleasant mooring places around the junction with the Welford Arm, but we pressed on as more rain was forecast for tomorrow, and we needed to get to Crick to hire a car (and buy some milk).

This section is very remote and rural, with some lovely scenery. We saw several kingfishers.

We stopped at Yelvertoft to fill the water tank and empty the rubbish, before setting off once more for the final two miles to Crick.  We pulled in to Crick Marina, where we bought some coal, and 50 litres of fuel.  We also took the opportunity to empty our cassettes.

Crick Marina

We moored a little further on and walked into the village to visit the Co-op.

Hugo brought us a live mouse as a gift.  James released it back into the hedge.

0 locks, 17 miles, 1 tunnel, 6hr00

Wednesday 8th October


Another mostly wet day today.  There were the remains of a mouse on the floor, so the first job was to clean that up.

Then James looked into the detail of the Data Protection Act and prepared a report for the BCF committee.

We made our plans for car hire the following day and decided that we needed a taxi to get us to Daventry so that we can make an early start soon after 8am, when the Enterprise office opens.

The rain paused late in the afternoon, and we went for a meal at the Wheatsheaf. It was a fairly limited menu, but the food was well prepared and very good.  They had two real ciders.

No boating today

Thursday 9th October

We had set the alarm for 6am.  We walked to the entrance to the Marina to meet our taxi to take us to Daventry.  We were there by 0750, and they had already opened their doors and were waiting for us.  We were on the road by 0803, in a Vauxhall Corsa 1.4.  Thankfully it had cruise control.

We went across through Southam on empty roads, and joined the M40 northbound, to connect with the M42 and M5.  There were no hold-ups, although there were some short 50mph sections where the lanes were narrow.

We made good time and arrived at Westerleigh Crematorium (Bristol area) with ten minutes to spare for the 1030 funeral for Jenny Mullinger.  It was a very sad occasion, because of the many unanswered questions which follow a suicide. 

We all drove to another venue for a memorial celebration followed by soft drinks and sandwiches. It was good to see Graham and Sheila, and John, who, with us, were for many years part of a very special church cell group with Jenny and her husband David.

We drove back across country without touching a motorway, and visited Tesco in Banbury to stock up, then had an Indian meal in an upstairs restaurant in Southam.  Excellent food.  BYO booze, but we didn’t know so we had water.

Back at Crick we parked in the entrance to a field as the only public parking near to the canal was locked at night. 

No boating today.

Friday 10th October

Crick to Norton Junction

James went off at 0730 to take the car from its overnight parking place (thankfully before the farmer found it) and he drove to Daventry to return the car, and was given a lift back to Crick.

We dried off the pram hood, inserted our tunnel light, and set off south through Crick Tunnel.

Leaving Crick

Emerging from Crick Tunnel

On arrival at Watford locks we found that we could go straight down, so we decided to do that, rather than use the facilities at the top of the flight.  There is a single lock, then a staircase of four, then two more singles.  By the time we had finished there was a boat coming up, and another waiting at the top.

Watford Locks

We cruised down past Watford Gap services to Norton Junction, where we turned and reversed towards Buckby locks, and we found a mooring in the sun, where we could dry our washing for a few hours.

We trundled our cassettes to the sanitary station, and disposed of our rubbish, but we decided to leave our water tank until Braunston.  We cruised to a frequent mooring of ours, just past Norton Junction and bridge 10, where there are lovely views, and a little less noise from the A5 and M1.

Norton Junction

Hugo brought a present that had died.

There was a beautiful sunset. A little later we were relaxing comfortably, when we heard a commotion in the water at the stern.  Hugo was having some swimming practice. He got himself out OK and ran along the path to the bows, where, thankfully, the doors were shut. This gave us time to grab a towel and shut the stern doors until we had dried him off a bit.

Sunset over Norton Junction

7 locks, 5 miles, 1 tunnel, 1 mouse, 2hr35

Saturday 11th October

Norton Junction to Braunston

Ottawa went past at 0755 – a BCF boat.

As we prepared to set off, two boats came past, and then a third.  We had a convoy. In Braunston Tunnel there seemed to be more bends than last time, although if there were to be any alterations, surely they would have straightened it out, not made it more crooked?  We met three boats coming the other way in the tunnel. 

At the locks we found ourselves sharing with Jim on Henrietta.  There was a fish symbol on the bows, and Jim was a regular churchgoer, but he said BCF wasn’t for him.

At the second lock there were boats 1 and 2 waiting to come up, and they left the third lock open for us.  By the time we got there, two boats 3 and 4 following them had closed the gates, emptied the lock, and were just starting to come up in the lock, which took water out of the short pound, causing the waiting boats 1 and 2 to list at their moorings.  We had to wait while boats 3 and 4 coming up emerged from the lock.  It didn’t take us long to go down in the third lock, and boats 3 and 4 were still waiting for their lock.  Because of our insignia on the boat we don’t usually moan at other boaters, but Jim had no such inhibitions.  They really should have waited.

Further down the locks we discovered that we were following a single boat. We were originally following two boats, so either one stopped halfway down, or another pulled out between the first two and us.

Locking down to Braunston with Henrietta

Jim pulled over before the marina, and we moored just past the stop house, where there were bushes for Hugo.

6 locks, 4 miles, 1 tunnel, 3hr15

Sunday 12th October

Braunston to Norton Junction

Henrietta went past, heading up the Oxford Canal
As we walked to the church this morning we discovered that the boat in front was BCF boat, Petroc.  We hadn’t realised the night before. We took a path across a field up to the church, where there was a family service. The hymns were chosen to highlight things that we can give thanks for: Creation, Jesus, the resurrection, The Holy Spirit.  Marian Thomas not there, but we met Gill and Geoff from Petroc, who were in the row behind us. We suggested they come with us for lunch at the Millhouse, but they had had a huge breakfast on board the Gongoozlers Rest floating cafe.  Lunch at the Millhouse was good value. From our table overlooking the canal we saw Petroc go past.

The path to the church

The knobbly spire

 Family service

We would have stayed for the rest of the day, but the forecast was wet for tomorrow, so we trundled a cassette to the nearest disposal point, reversed to the stop house water point, reversed further to the winding hole at the marina entrance, where we turned to face the other way.  The first part of the Marina, under the old iron bridge, is the original route of the Oxford Canal, which followed the contours towards Napton.

Braunston Marina Entrance
We went back up the six locks on our own.  At the first lock there were two community boats coming down, and they had lots of willing helpers to operate the lock.  There was a single boater going up two locks in front, so most of the locks were against us.

We had a clear run through Braunston Tunnel, which took us 16 minutes.  When we arrived at Bridge 10, there was just one space left.

Ottawa went past again, returning to their mooring in a marina just up the Leicester arm.

We had another amazing sunset.  Hugo brought us a mouse as a present. This one had a water burial.

Another sunset at Norton Junction

6 locks, 4 miles, 1 tunnel, 2hr45

Next week:  A slow weather-dependent cruise to Stoke Bruerne, where we have people to visit, and on to Wolverton, the start of Milton Keynes.