Days 11 and 12: back to the canals

June 23rd, 2010

Tonight (Wednesday), I’m in Stoke Bruerne, the quintessential canal village. Innocenti’s shabby paint and modernist build are rather shown up by all the brightly-coloured traditional style boats that have clustered here. Apparently there’s a Working Boats festival in Braunston (18 miles north of here) at the weekend.

Yesterday was a short day – I did some errands in Northampton and set off at 2pm to do a few locks and get off the Nene and onto the western side of town. My approach to the first lock was marred by it being against me, and by a teenage lad fishing off the lock-mooring, right where I needed to land. I excused myself and he kindly helped me put the boat through the lock. It’s strange to do narrow locks again after all the hulking great Nene locks. BW have put anti-vandal locks on the bottom few locks of the Northampton flight, but unusually these take the Yale key used for water points rather than the normal “handcuff” key used in Birmingham and in NW England.

The first few miles of the Northampton Arm feel like an extension of the river – with clear water and lots of weed. I moored at Banbury Lane, being the only place I could find where the reeds and irises were thin enough for me to be able to reach the towpath! My uncle and cousin (who live nearby) came by and took me back to theirs for dinner, and it was nice to catch up.

Day 11: Northampton to Banbury Lane Bridge, 3 miles and 4 locks.

Today I had 14 locks to do – the canal rises steeply out of Northampton, and I cunningly waited for a few boats to come down in the morning before attempting the flight, thereby ensuring that all but 3 of the locks turned out to be in my favour. Oh, and I wrote a thousand words of thesis. The bottom couple of locks were being worked on by British Waterways staff who kindly opened and shut the gates for me. Beyond that I was on my own – bringing Innocenti into one lock and setting it to fill, before going back to the previous lock to close the top gate and then on to the next one to open the bottom gates. I got plenty of exercise! At the top of the flight is Gayton Junction, and here we join the Grand Union main line. I shall return to this point from the other direction in September!

Within a mile of the junction is Blisworth village, and then the portal of its famous tunnel. This is a mile and a half long and wide enough for two narrowboats to pass. At the far end I quickly found a mooring space and dug out my special clips for mooring to sheet-pile, which haven’t been used in nearly three years! Tomorrow, Milton Keynes…

Day 12: Banbury Lane Bridge to Stoke Bruerne, 6 miles and 14 locks.
Total so far 130 miles and 61 locks. Thesis 7091 words and 34 pages.

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