Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Braunston to Hawkesbury Junction

Sat 11th May  Braunston

Moored in Braunston with Willowbrook

We had breakfast this morning with Tim and Hilary at the Gongoozlers Rest, the floating cafe at the entrance to Braunston Marina.  They departed soon after, while we walked up the road to the Midland Chandlery. From there we spotted them going under the cast iron bridge at Braunston Turn, so we took a video.

Farewell to Tim and Hilary

We looked round the chandlery for a replacement chimney as ours is developing rust holes.  Although they are 6 inches across, the same as ours, the internal measurement for all of them was 3½ inches, whereas ours is 4 inches. We will keep looking. We may have to have one put together for us, perhaps of sturdier material.

Holes in the chimney

We did come away with a replacement piling pin, as one has mysteriously disappeared from the stern over the last few days.

New piling pin

Back at the boat we ran the engine to operate the washing machine.  We also managed to move up two boat spaces, as Willowbrook had gone, and so had another boat.  The spacing of the mooring rings was much better.

The previous position where we had to be clever with the ropes

The new mooring position.

James went up a footpath into the village and found the butcher, where he bought a large chicken and ham pie and some sausages.  With one or two other items from the village shop across the road, he returned to the boat.

Although Hugo was on board when we moved the boat, he went ashore again soon after the move.  He was gone a long time, and, because we had put the washing out to dry, it started to rain.  After several hours, James went to look for Hugo, and found him in the bushes, just where we had been moored. We had only moved two boat lengths, but he had not been able to find us. He happily followed James back to the boat.

No boating today

Sun 13th May  Braunston to the countryside

The path up to the church

We walked up the hill to the village, and visited the butchers and the shop once again before going to the 11.15am family service at All Saints.  They have a new lady vicar who was very engaging and excellent with the children. This is her second week.  The service style was traditional, with a robed choir and the most modern hymn was Majesty. The singing was good and enthusiastic and there was a good number of people, mostly our age.

All Saints Church, Braunston

We walked to the Old Plough for a Sunday Roast, which was very pleasant and a reasonable price, before going back to the boat.

Stone buildings in Braunston

We had decided to move on to somewhere more rural, and we needed to use the facilities first.  We reversed out under the main road bridge to a water point and elsan. Hazel walked back to the Stop House to dispose of rubbish. As the water tank was nearly empty it took half an hour to fill.

We set off once more, turning right at Braunston Turn onto the North Oxford Canal.

Braunston Turn

The signpost at the junction

The traffic jam chaos
Just past this point the canal is very narrow, with visitor moorings full of boats on the left.  The boat that had been moored at the end of the line set off in front of us and went under bridge 90, and we followed.  Just beyond the bridge, there were more moored boats, plus one in the middle of the stream facing us, trying to moor up, and another facing us beyond, looking as though they were coming through.  The boat we were following pulled into the side, and we followed suit, to let the oncoming boat through.  They didn’t seem to be getting any closer, and another boat arrived behind us, effectively blocking the passage through behind us.  We then discovered that the boat in front of us that we thought was waiting for the oncoming boat, was actually trying to moor, so we went past.  Then we discovered that the oncoming boat was going slowly backwards, and they, too, were trying to moor in a gap that they had passed.  CONGESTION!!  We passed them all slowly, followed by the boat behind us.

We went another half a mile and found a mooring ourselves, with lovely views of green fields, trees and occasional cows.  The boat following us came past muttering about the chaos we had both left behind.

Cows in a line

Rural mooring

0 Locks, 1 mile.

Mon 14th May  Bridge 88 to Newbold

Sunshine was warming the boat this morning as we were pointing north, and the starboard side was facing east.  Karma Waters went by at 8am travelling quite quickly.

When we set off we passed Firecrest, and the lady on board said she had just been reading Gabriel’s blog.  Having now had a look at the Firecrest blog, I have discovered that she is called Cheryl, and her husband is Eric. I have also learned that there is a cidery in Napton.  We will investigate next time we go that way (possibly April 2019). Thank you Cheryl for the information.

We passed the very new Dunchurch Pools Marina, where John and Gillian Speight keep their boat Faithful.  We couldn't see their boat but we were impressed with the modern towpath bridge in the traditional style.

Dunchurch Pools Marina

We saw fields what looked like white flowers, until we realised that they were dandelions going to seed.  The spring was so late this year, that when the warm weather finally arrived, everything came out at once, and the dandelions have been magnificent. Now they have all produced their seeds at the same time. (They must have synchronised their clocks! J)

Dandelion clocks

We spotted the first cygnets of the year in Barby Straight. It was a glorious day, with the white hawthorn hedges catching the sun.

First cygnets


We arrived at Hillmorton Locks, which are three sets of narrow locks in pairs side by side.  At the first pair, both were empty, so we filled the one on the right. Another boat came up in the one on the left.  At the second pair, a boat was just coming into the one on the right, so we used the one on the left. James helped the lady in the right lock by closing a gate, because she would have walked round otherwise instead of stepping across.

Hillmorton Locks

The first narrow lock since the Aylesbury Arm.

Then, with Gabriel in the lock and the gates closed, James raised a paddle to empty the lock. Halfway up, the windlass slipped out his hand, and the paddle dropped again, spinning the windlass, which hit James’s arm.  He now had cuts and bruises but thankfully nothing worse.  There are no safety ratchets on these locks – only a square collar to place on the spindle to keep the paddle up after it has been raised.

After mopping up James’s arm, and popping some Arnica pills, we managed to leave the lock.  At the third set there was a volunteer, who locked us through.

Windlass injury

As we approached Brownsover, we saw some engineering works taking place in the fields to the right of the canal, where the old radio station used to be.  Then, round a corner, there was a new bridge being built, with an amazing vertical lifting device.  Looking online, there is a new housing project with over 6000 homes being built and a link road to connect them with Rugby.

Bridge building

The right tool

At Brownsover, where many people stop to visit a large Tesco, we were delighted to see that new mooring rings have been installed. Previously we had to tie to bits of string that other boaters had left in the concrete piling.

New mooring rings

After the compulsory visit to Tesco, we decided to move on to Newbold, as the traffic was noisy where we were.  Newbold was more peaceful, except when darkness fell, and Hugo had two feline contenders for territory.  We locked him in when we went to bed, as we did not want a fracas in the night.

Sunshine in Newbold

3 Locks, 10 miles.

Tue 15th May  Newbold to Brinklow

Morning sun at Newbold

Newbold tunnel was the first landmark this morning.  A few years ago they made a lot of fuss about installing lights in the tunnel, and ended up with an art installation of red, blue and green lights, which all combined to give white light for any pedestrians walking through.  After about two years they fell into disuse. Now there are no lights working.

Newbold tunnel

We met a fuel boat coming the other way, and it turned out to be Callisto. Years ago this boat was used as a houseboat on the Basingstoke Canal, and when James was editor of the Byfleet Boat Club magazine, the people who had been the owners at that time got in touch with him, and James wrote some articles on the subject.


We had a lovely sunny day with white hawthorn everywhere, and occasional yellow fields Old iron bridges mark places where the old course of the Oxford Canal used to meander off, following contours. 

A beautiful day

Yellow fields

Iron bridges

We stopped at Brinklow and were pleased to find a few mooring spaces.  James cleaned the side of the boat where the chimney had caused stains on the paintwork, and then we sat in the shade. 

The streaks before cleaning


Later on, we discovered a boat in front of us, moored nose to nose with us.  It turned out to be John and Gillian Speight on Faithful. They had come from Hawkesbury to go to the folk club with us.  We can’t really call them fans, because they have never heard us sing before.

Moored at Brinklow with Faithful

Brinklow Village sign

The Bull’s head

We wandered up to the Bulls Head and found the people running the folk club. Marc Block was the guest artist.  Eric, the host, opened with three songs, followed by the guest, who sang for about half an hour. Then another floor spot of two songs by a guy with a guitar, and then it was us. We sang Long Way Down and Chickens.  Then the guest came on again to finish the evening.  We left before the end, but we had an encouraging email afterwards from the organisers, offering to get some pub gigs lined up for us.

Performing in the Bulls Head (Pic: John Speight)

Then back to the boats with torches in hand along the minor roads for about a mile.

0 Locks, 4 miles, 1 tunnel.

Wed 16th May  Brinklow to Hawkesbury Junction.

Early this morning James was woken up by cat noises, and as he moved into the saloon and galley area, a strange cat made its escape through the cat flap.  All of Hugo’s cat biscuits had been eaten, and Hugo never normally finishes them.  He came in about a minute later. Perhaps he invites his friends in sometimes.

We said farewell to John and Gillian as we set off.

John and Gillian on Faithful

Today's cruise took us along a section of canal that is spoilt by railways, motorways and electricity pylons.  There is nowhere on this stretch that we would consider to be a good mooring place. It was not helped by the much cooler weather and strong breeze. 

However, the hawthorn was spectacular, and there were swallows and buzzards.  The highlight of the day was seeing a yellowhammer in vivid yellow plumage.

Iron bridges

We passed through Rose narrowboats, where they have a swivelling plank known as a swing bridge.

Rose narrowboats

The baby swing bridge

Hawthorn hedge

More amazing hawthorn

The M6


Electricity sub station

Our mooring in Hawkesbury was on a curve, so to get the stern in for ease of access, the bows had to stick out a bit.

Moored on a curve

Then we headed for the Greyhound pub, where we met Stephen and Gwyneth Carter (BCF friends) for a meal.  Very good food and friendly service.

0 Locks, 8 miles, 1 puny swing bridge.

Next: heading up the Coventry Canal, aiming for Atherstone, to celebrate Hazel’s birthday on Friday (restaurant booked, taxi needed), and watch Harry and Megan getting hitched on TV on Saturday, and a visit to the Anglican Church there on Sunday.

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