Saturday, 31 October 2015

Norton Junction to Wolverton

Wed 14th October

Norton Junction to Weedon

View from moorings at Bridge 10

Holes in the mooring

We left the run-down mooring at Bridge 10, and cruised slowly to the top lock, where we disposed of rubbish, and emptied a cassette.

We shared the first lock with Tane Mahuta, with Gael and Gillie in charge. This is a shared ownership boat, and Gael (the guy) and Gillie (the lady) are BCF members. They had their daughter with them, and they needed to wait after the lock while she parked her car properly. We waited too, as we prefer to share locks wherever possible, and we were not in a hurry.

Sharing with Tane Mahuta
Plenty of water

We worked well as a team down the remaining six locks. They paused at Whilton Marina, and we carried on, past the very noisy M1, and we moored in Weedon, on rings just before bridge 24, where we picked up a doormat on our propeller.


Doormat on prop


We had a very pleasant meal in an Indian Restaurant called Brinjol.

7 locks, 4 miles.

Thu 15th October

Weedon to Nether Heyford

It was cloudy this morning, but thankfully no rain was forecast. After a brief visit to Tesco for milk and bread, we cruised for less than a mile before arriving at Stowe Hill Wharf, where Rugby Boats sell some of the cheapest diesel in the area – 59.9p per litre.

Just as we were leaving there, a heavy shower defied the dry forecast, and we put up our canopy.  We moored another mile further on, after bridge 29.  Who wants to cruise in the rain?

Tane Mahuta obviously thought differently, as they came past a little later.

The rain stopped in the afternoon, and James went for a walk into nearby Nether Heyford.  This place does not feature in the first mate guide, although it has a One-Stop, with post office incorporated. There is also a baker’s and a butcher’s, and a hairdresser.  The little church was open and quaint, and there were what appeared to be mud walls topped with tiles near the churchyard.

Nether Heyford map

Church in Nether Heyford


Ancient mud walls in Nether Heyford

Village sign

0 locks, 2 miles

Fri 16th October

Nether Heyford to Stoke Bruerne


Moored near Nether Heyford

Another cloudy day greeted us this morning as we left our mooring, heading for Stoke Bruerne.  As we passed the badger setts near Bugbrooke, we noticed that they were very much in use, with fresh earth spilling onto the towpath.  We also saw a sparrow hawk flying fast along the hedge towards us, and making a skilful turn into a bush where we heard a lot of squawking. We guessed that the sparrow population had just declined by one.

We overtook a very slow boat after Bugbrooke, but as soon as had we done so, he put on speed.  We were still faster on open stretches, but he gained on us when we slowed down for moored boats and fishermen.

We paused at Gayton Junction to empty two cassettes and dispose of rubbish. We decided not to fill the water tank.

Fungi in Blisworth

Mill building in Blisworth

In Blisworth we found Tane Mahuta just about to leave a mooring. They waited for us to pass, and then followed us towards Blisworth Tunnel.  We noticed two guys at the tunnel entrance who were taking photos.  We managed to avoid the worst of the wet places in the tunnel this time – we are getting to know where they are! 

Leaving Blisworth Tunnel

We moored on the 48H moorings, where we found the same two guys who had come over the hill by car.  It turned out that they were Christians from a church at Yaxley on the fens, and they were very interested in what canal Ministries was all about. Yaxley is impossible to reach due to Bevills leam sluice, which has no lock, and a very low bridge on another section.  They were campaigning to have a few alterations made, so that boaters could reach their village.

We waved to Mike on the trip boat and wandered down towards the locks, where we found Kathryn chatting to Alan on a fuel boat. We walked with her back towards the tunnel, where we met CRT man Rob, who was painting some beams, to be used for an information display panel.  We had met him before, when we were waiting for a wide beam boat to emerge from the tunnel.


We walked back through the woodland walk, where Kathryn showed us more of these display board sites. We also spotted what appeared to be a large puff ball in a field, but there was no way in to reach it. It turns out that the field belongs to CRT.

We returned to Kathryn’s cottage, where we collected the paint that had arrived.

Back on the boat we had a go at making an online booking for our train tickets to Suffolk.  Although we had a good internet signal, James could not get a phone signal, which we needed to receive a text regarding our booking.  James went up on deck, then along the path towards the locks, then across the canal, and up the hill to the church. Then through the churchyard and out of the village and through a field to the crest of the hill. Still no signal.  Giving up, he returned to the boat, where he found that Hazel had a signal, had completed the train booking, and had tried to phone James. She had received the message that James’ phone was switched off!  James switched off his phone, and switched it back on again, and found a signal straight away.  Grrr!

We went to the Indian restaurant and ordered some food to take away, which we took round to Kathryn’s for a pleasant evening meal.

Spice of Bruerne

9 miles, 1 tunnel

Sat 17th October

Stoke Bruerne to Wolverton
Stoke Bruerne

Joules Fuels

We cruised down to one of the coal boats, and took two bags of Homefire Ovals. We had arranged this with Ryland, whom we had met last night, and we left the money with Kathryn.


Stoke Bruerne Top Lock

Sumac trees at the second lock down

We shared the top two locks with another boat, and were expecting to share the remaining five locks with them.  However, as we passed some moored boats in the long pound, one pulled out between our two boats. We discovered that another boat was in the next lock waiting to share with someone, so we joined them. It was Robbie on a boat called Naughty Lass.  The one that had pulled out shared with the boat we had shared with in the first two locks.  They were followed by Alan and Roland on the two coal boats.

 Sharing with Naughty Lass

We paused at the bottom of the locks to fill the water tank, and empty cassettes and rubbish. The next three boats did the same. We were away before the coal boats emerged.

As we moved on past Grafton Regis, we saw two pheasants in a field. That is not very unusual, except that one of them was white! We also saw some partridges, which we don’t see often.

Solomons Bridge

Cosgrove Aqueduct

Looking down on the Great Ouse

At Cosgrove there was a boat at the facilities block, and they were putting away their hose. We established that they were going through the lock, and we said we would wait for them. By the time we had filled the lock and opened the gates they were ready to join us. In conversation we learned that they were heading for the same mooring as us, opposite the Galleon. They planned to leave their boat for ten days, which we thought was a bit unreasonable, as there is only room for five boats, and the moorings are very popular. Their boat was 70 ft.

When we arrived, there was only room for us, and we just managed to fit in between two CRT work barges. Our boat is 59ft.  We noticed that the moorings were marked as 48H, so if they had stayed, they would have been ignoring the rules. They moved on through two bridges, and moored up somewhere more sensible.

As we had been crossing the aqueduct, a group of people had been excited to see our boat with BCF on the front, and they came to talk to us.  They were Christians from local churches, and they had been doing a “treasure hunt”. The idea is that they gather together to pray and seek inspiration about people to look for and pray with, and they make a list, e.g. man with a brown coat, lady with a small dog etc. They then find these people and offer to pray with them.  They had spoken to a man on a boat called Saisons, and he had suggested they look for a boat with BCF on it. Five minutes later we appeared.

It was good to see the churches working together and they prayed for healing for James’ back.  Two of the group were from New Life Church, and we told them we were heading their way in the morning.

Wolverton with the group of Christians

As we have been disposing of the ash from our stove, we have noticed that it looks the colour of brick dust. We are still on Supertherm, and we are using about a hod full every day.

The coal boats arrived and turned, and moored outside the Galleon for the night.

Heavy rain arrived late afternoon.

8 locks, 6 miles

Sun 18th October


We walked across meadows in wet grass to get to New Life Church, which we had had visited earlier in the year with Peter and Lin and Henry and Lin.  The message was about Joseph in prison, and how he had maintained his integrity and gained respect from his fellow prisoners and prison officers

New Life Church 

 Worship band

The worship was excellent, and there was a time of prayer for healing.

We refrained from our usual search for Sunday lunch, as we had some shepherds pie to finish.

Moored at Old Wolverton 

The ash from our fire, using Supertherm at present, is very red, looking like brick dust. We'll try to take a pic of the ash from Homefire Ovals to compare later.


No boating today

Friday, 30 October 2015

Hawkesbury Junction to Norton Junction

Apologies for the delay in posting this. This was due to laptop failure. Now sorted out, three weeks later as we are now (30th October) in Aylesbury. A bit of backlog to catch up on, but normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Fri 9th Oct

Hawkesbury to Brinklow

There was mist this morning until the sun rose and cleared it away.
Moored near Hawkesbury Junction

Yellow flowers in the mist


Norfolk Belle went past early (BCF). We don’t know them but we waved through the window.
Engine house at Hawkesbury Junction

We set off fairly late and passed all the moored boats and arrived at the junction, where we turned round under the lovely old iron bridge and reversed to the water tap. 
As we were bringing the boat to the side we felt something arrive on the prop. 

Paused for facilities

James lifted the heavy engine hatch, and one of the hinges broke.  The spindles had seized in their sockets.  He managed to detach the hatch from the other hinge, and attempted to remove the spindles but three out of four were seized. He tried to drill out the broken one, but failed.

Inspecting the propeller via the weed hatch, there was a small amount of polythene, but not enough to make a difference, so the prop had cleared itself.

We had some difficulty putting the engine hatch back in place because of the broken hinge, but we finally managed it. We decided to try and get it fixed at Hillmorton as we passed through.

We emptied cassettes and rubbish before making a zig zag under the iron bridge to arrive at the lock. A boat was just emerging, so we went in, and locked up the token few inches. This height difference was insisted on by the Coventry Canal, to avoid water loss when the junction with the Oxford Canal was designed. 

The iron bridge at Hawkesbury Junction

Taking our turn for the lock

Soon after the junction, the canal runs alongside the M6, and the noise is deafening.

 Autumn Colours

After the small village of Ansty, we spotted a movement in the brambles above the water on the offside. It was a water vole, hanging by its tail face down above the water. Somehow it had caught its tail on one of the blackberry thorns, and couldn’t get away.  It was wriggling about and its little legs were trying to get hold of something to take its weight but it was in mid air. He was quite tubby.

Water Vole

We reversed the boat as near as we could get, which was still too far to reach.  We used the boat hook to pull the brambles nearer, and put our landing net under the water vole to take his weight. As soon as he was no longer hanging by his tail, he was able to unhook it from the thorn, and he moved further down the bramble bush and plopped into the water out of sight.  The tip of his tail was very red, but he was free.

We were very pleased that we had been able help him. The timing had been perfect. If he had got himself hung up in the evening, he probably would have died from exhaustion or been prey to something.

We passed through the little swing bridge at Rose Narrowboats, where lots of people were waiting for their hire boats to be ready.

We found the last mooring at Brinklow, where there are rings, and we stopped for the day.  We tried several times to reach the boatyard at Hillmorton, but their phones were not accepting calls.

Moored at Brinklow

Sat 10th Oct

Brinklow to Brownsover


We didn’t have very far to go and it was a pleasant cruise, mostly in sunshine.  We noticed that there were no longer any lights in Newbold Tunnel.  They used to have coloured lights on one side, and they merged to form white light on the other.

Newbold Tunnel

We were hoping for a towpath mooring at Brownsover, but they were all taken, so we moored on the offside, where people have left useful bits of rope at the edge to tie to.

We visited Tesco and came away with a trolley full of things. This will be the last large shop for a while. The cat food there was expensive - £4.50, so we searched online for Pets at Home, where it was three boxes for £10.  We found the place on Google Earth, and it was just across the road from Tesco!

Hazel went back down the path find them, and discovered that the place was a building site. The stores were gone as they were redeveloping the retail park.

When she returned, we looked again online and found that their new store had just opened, a little bit further down the hill.  We decided to leave it until tomorrow, when we would also see if we could find it in Rugby.

We were pleased to find that there was a Sunday bus service no 4 from Brownsover into Rugby. We therefore widened our search for a church and selected New Life Church, fairly near the centre of Rugby.

Bus route 4

Sun 11th Oct

Brownsover to Clifton


We walked across the bridge over the canal and found our way to the bus stop we had seen on Google Earth. 0932 was the departure time from Brownsover, and we stood at the bus stop indicated in:
1)    the First Mate Guide,
2)    on Google Earth
3)    on Bing Maps
4)    on the bus route map by
5)    On the bus stop itself, marked with route 4.

We saw the bus arrive from the opposite direction from that marked on the map and enter the housing estate where there are apparently three stops.  We waited for it to reappear and turn left to our bus stop. Meanwhile we had time to study the intriguing sculptures behind the bus stop.

Sculptures by the bus stop

We saw the bus again eventually, but instead of turning left towards us, it turned right away from us and took the road down past our boat towards Tesco!   We had noticed that the number 4 timetable was missing from our stop, but the number 4 was still in place on the “flag” above our heads. There was no notice to say the route had changed.

Bus route 4, with the revised route marked in red. Our bus stop in yellow

Thankfully we had allowed one extra bus to avoid being late, so we still had 45 minutes before the service. We decided to walk. It took 25 minutes, past the railway station, where we couldn’t resist a photo of a large rugby ball.

Rugby Station

We arrived at New Life Church, where the welcome was a bit thin at first, but we soon realised that were several people from other churches due to a presentation from Street Pastors.  The worship was led by a lady on a keyboard, accompanied by a lady on drums, and a lady on guitar.  There were several good songs we didn’t know. The talk was about how the world is changing. Very appropriate for us, as they have moved Pets at Home, and re-routed the buses!  The point was that God does not change.

 New Life Church, Rugby

After the service, several people came up to say hello, so our first impressions were somewhat modified. This is a good church, involved with food banks, Alpha courses, Street Pastors etc.  All ages were represented, with thriving children’s work, and a multi-cultural congregation.

We wandered into town, and found a pleasant bistro where we had lunch, before going to ASDA for one item only out of the three we were hoping for. We found the same continuous but indecipherable advertising messages being broadcast in the store as we had at Tamworth. We did battle with the self checkout for our single bag of rice.  The cat food we were hoping for was even more expensive at ASDA than at Tesco: vastly overpriced at £5.40 for just one box.  So much for their low-cost image!

We caught the number 4 bus back and found that the route was according to our map as far as the railway station, but after that it had been diverted to the new retail park where the new Pets at Home was located, so we alighted there and finally bought some cat food – 6 boxes for £17.98! Not only was the price three for £10, but they had a 10% reduction on everything as an opening weekend special.

We walked back to the boat along the footpath that goes past Tesco, so Hazel popped in for the third item we needed. Success.

We cast off and went another mile to Clifton to moor somewhere more rural. Sadly the plums by bridge 66 were either past their best, or inaccessible.

Sunset at Clifton

0 locks, 1 mile

Mon 12th October

Clifton to Barby
Morning mist at Clifton

We found evidence of Hugo’s hunting skills this morning on the stern deck. The local mouse population had decreased by one.

We had a gentle cruise to Hillmorton, where we ignored the waterpoint, as we know it is slow. We used the first lock, which was already set for us, and we moored up opposite the boatyard.

Hillmorton Locks

We found the engineer there on the towpath, talking to people on the next boat. We explained the problem with our seized hinges, and he suggested that we reverse into the arm. He had some similar, but smaller hinges, but they were no good, because the hatch would not clear the edges of the hole. So he made some new hinges for us, the same size as the originals, in stainless steel.

While he was doing the work, we went to the cafĂ© for an early lunch – very good.

Grantham Bridge Boat Services

We moved on through the final two locks, which were both in our favour.

One up and one down at Hillmorton Locks

Three bridges

Just round the corner from the locks we found a hire boat with both stern and bow lines dangling in the water. There was a pub opposite and just beyond, and Hazel went in there to see if she could find the hirers to tell them. She couldn’t, but the boat was in no danger, and seemed to be staying put close to the edge, so we left it.

There was a chandlery next to the pub, so we went in to see if they had the paint we wanted. They didn’t, but they had quite a range of stock for future reference.

We moved on out of the Hillmorton area, down Barby Straight, and past Barby Marina to a mooring looking out onto Barby Hill, and backing onto a disused railway line.  There were no boats or houses in sight.

3 locks, 5 miles, 1 mouse

Tue 13th October

Barby to Norton Junction

Barby Hill

There was a blue sky this morning, and by the time we had left our isolated spot, two boats had arrived and moored.

Approaching Braunston

We had a lovely cruise into Braunston, and we paused at the facilities area next to Midland Chandlers. The edge here is very poor and the whole area is overgrown, but we managed to empty cassettes and dispose of rubbish.  We also popped in to the chandlers but came away with nothing.

Braunston Turn

We continued past Braunston Turn, where the second water point was occupied.  Further on, the water point by the Stop House was also being used, so we pulled just before and had some lunch.  We moved on when the coast was clear, and topped up the tank. 

Just after this is Bridge 1. The first bridge on this section is number 91, originally on the old route of the Oxford Canal.

Bridge 1

We headed for the locks, intending to moor by the Admiral Nelson, two locks up.  We stopped on the lock bollards, while James went to visit the chandlery opposite. They are still waiting for the paint. It has been promised by the end of October!!  We will be in Aylesbury by then, and it will the end of the decent painting weather.  Meanwhile, Hazel had been to the canal side shop and bought some milk.

Lock 1, Braunston

We were on our own in the first lock, but another boat, Norfolk, had waited for us to join them in the second. We decided to go up all the remaining five locks with them, and we proceeded through the tunnel.

Sharing locks with Norfolk
Braunston Tunnel

Summit pound

We moored finally just before bridge 10 at Norton Junction.  The moorings here are regular favourites of ours, as the further west you go, the louder the noise from the M1. Sadly, the towpath now seems to be in a sorry state of repair, with orange netting everywhere to warn of big holes in the bank.

The view across the valley was just as good.  Norfolk moored up behind us.

We contacted Kathryn at Stoke Bruerne, and ordered some paint online to be delivered to her address.

6 locks, 8 miles, 1 tunnel