Friday, 22 August 2014

Back to Base - 22nd August

Last night we moored just outside Braunston and the spire on the village church is a beacon for all canal boaters as it can be seen from a long way off.

1 Braunston Church

As I walked jimmy along the canal for his morning walk we saw about 100 – 150 swallows sitting on the barbed wire fence and in the hedge row along the towpath. At first they did not move but then all flew off together swooping and diving for insects across the canal, a real spectacle. When I went back with the camera most of them had gone off to another part of the canal with just a few left sitting on the wire.

2 Swallows

Around bridge 70 the canal begins to wind about and here is Autumn Years going in the opposite direction to Autumn Myst but actually ahead of us on the canal. The allotments just before Clifton Wharf were a picture and these apples were the reddest I have ever seen.

3 AY and Apples

One of the unusual boats we have seen today. It belongs to a mobile boat fitter and that is his advertising board on the roof.


Autumn Years stopped for a pump out at Clifton Wharf whilst we waited in the arm entrance and then we both continued on to Rugby where Graham and Carolann managed to squeeze into the last available mooring spot as they have arranged to meet friends tomorrow. We breasted up for a moment to say our farewells after a very exciting and interesting cruise. With sadness on both our parts we motored on back to our base at Brinklow and moored up on our usual pontoon.


Our summer cruise has included travelling down the Oxford Canal, The River Thames, The Paddington Arm, The Regents Canal, The Hertford Union Canal. The River Lee, The Lee Navigation, The Limehouse Cut, and the Tidal Thames.

Miles covered  =  385,    Locks  =  233,    Tunnels = 6,    Moveable Bridges = 5,    Engine Hours =  200.4

Canal Planner says  Miles = 396,  Locks =  238,  Hours = 178

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Busy Busy - 21st August

We left Buckby Top Lock at about 8am after Autumn Years had taken on a full tank of water and headed for Braunston Tunnel passing on the way Welton Wharf where Dog and Cat Grooming was being advertised. Might have stopped for Jimmy to have a bath if we’d had time. We entered the tunnel and could see 2 boats about 600 metres ahead of us so we knew we would have to wait going down the locks. Unlike Blisworth, Braunston tunnel (2042yds long) is very wiggly although you can still see the other end.

However, the locks were the busiest we have seen any over the last 9 weeks with pairs of boats coming up at each of the 6 locks as we went down.

1 Braunston Locks

The Crooked House beside the lock, but it does not look so crooked now.


At the bottom lock it looks as though a new bench is being installed alongside the towpath. On the one side of the lock is the Union Canal Carriers Dry Dock and on the other side is The Boat Shop which sell provisions and canalia and is where June bought our companion set to go with the morso stove.

2 braunston Locks

Below the last lock is Wharf House Boat Builders and Roger Farrington’s yard making it very crowded around the lock entrance particularly with boats waiting to go up.

3 Bottom Lock

Autumn Years moored up in Braunston, there were plenty of spaces, to go and do some shopping and to dispose of some waste oil whilst we carried on turning off on the North Oxford and mooring up a short way outside the village in a nice sunny spot. After coffee I took Jimmy a walk back along the canal and over the fields to Braunston village to buy a paper and provisions from the village store and butchers.

The village has some lovely old cottages and All Saints’ Church which has overlooked the village and the villagers for over 10 centuries and the canals and the boat people for over 300 years. Otherwise known as the "Cathedral of the Canals", it has existed since the early 13th century. However the land on which is stands has been sacred for longer still, as it was used as an ancient tumulus for the local farmsteads, as early as the 10th century, although little evidence to this time is available.

There is also the remains of the windmill, minus the sails, which is now self catering holiday accommodation.

4 Braunston Village

A couple more different boats we saw today including Sharpness (top picture). She was built as an icebreaking tug and spent all her working life on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal until she was sold into private ownership by the British Waterways Board in the 1960s. She retained her external appearance and was seen at many Inland Waterways Association rallies in the 1960s and 70s. During the 1970s she had her cabin lengthened and lifted to give more headroom. At the same time more patches were added to her hull. She was found for sale on the bank of the Kennet & Avon Canal in 1995, her hull and frames needing major repair. In recognition of their hard work the present owners received a Transport Trust Award in 1996. She originally had a single cylinder Petrol/Paraffin Kromhout 30 horsepower engine. This unfortunately suffered frost damage and was replaced by a lorry engine. Her current engine is a Gardner 4L2 engine built in 1932, 3 cy, bore 4 3/4 x stoke 7 1/4, producing 40 hp. The builder's plaque is not original.

9  Boats

Today we have seen the most moving boats since we left the marina in June. Mostly hire craft returning to Napton, Braunston, Rugby or further afield but also a lot of privateers presumably going out for the bank holiday.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

New Bridge - 20th August

As we left Bugbrooke this morning we could see this disguised mast partially hidden in an artificial tree, still it looked better than a metal one. There we some nice houses in sunny positions as we motored on and in the distance we could see Nether Heyford on the hill.

1 Mast and houses

At Whilton we came to the bottom lock of 7 up to Norton Junction and passed by Whilton Marina where it seems most of the boats down in London have come from. At the side of the first lock is Whilton Pottery in the lock cottage. As we went up in the lock we could see the water pouring over the bottom gates of the next lock as there are no by-washes on this flight. There are side pounds but again they are no longer used 

2 Wilton marina and pottery

This stretch of the canal shares the same route as the railway, the M1, and the A5 so it is quite noisy, but I am glad we are on the slow canal route rather than with the traffic flashing by on the others. At Buckby Top Lock is the The New Inn with plenty of gongoozlers watching the antics at the lock.

3 railway and mway

In the pound before the top lock are some nice houses with gardens down to the canal. The occupants were enjoying the sun whilst having their lunch in the gardens and watching the world go by. There is also Anchor Cottage Crafts which had a lovely range of Buckby Cans, hand painted by Tricia, and many other canal paraphernalia. Adam assures me that unless they are from Buckby they are just water cans and not Buckby Cans.

5 houses and shop

Norton Junction follows the the top lock from where it is 41.25 miles to Leicester and 4.25 miles to Braunston. The cottage on the junction corner has this old caravan in the garden.

6 junction

The Junction is also home to a C & RT yard and these guys there were making a new oak wood bridge to replace the old one at bridge 1 on the Leicester Section of the GU. and very nice it looed to.

8 new bridge

A few interesting boats seen today. Not sure if the Reckless in the top RH photo is the one Guy had in the TV series.

9 boats

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Blissworth Tunnel - 19th August

We made an early start this morning and were up the 7 Stoke Bruerne  locks by 8.45am and ready to enter the tunnel.
Blisworth Tunnel is 3,076 yards (2,813m) long and is the third-longest navigable canal tunnel on the UK canal network after Standedge Tunnel and Dudley Tunnel (and the ninth-longest canal tunnel in the world). At its deepest point it is143 feet (43m) below ground level.
Work began in 1793, but errors by contractors left a wiggle in the tunnel, and after three years work it collapsed due to quicksand, claiming the lives of 14 men. It was then decided to begin again with a new tunnel. By the time the rest of the Canal had opened between London and Braunston in 1800,  the section from Blisworth to the lower end of Stoke Bruerne locks was the only section unfinished. This was despite the tunnel having been under construction for seven years: the gap was filled by a temporary horse-drawn tramway over the top of the hill, with goods being transported from boat to wagon and back again.
In the 1980’s British waterways carried out some major rebuilding of the tunnel which was completed in 1984 at a cost of £4.3million. The middle section, approx. 950m from each end, is lined with pre-cast concrete rings. It was also used to test out the materials that were later used on the Channel Tunnel. One of the unused rings on display just outside the south portal was featured on yesterdays blog, you can clearly see the water line protection points in the bottom RH photo. The LH photo shows the original brick construction section of the tunnel.
I was surprised at how straight the tunnel was as you could see the other end as soon as you entered it and we followed another boat  through very slowly as it did not appear to have a tunnel light.
1 Stoke Bruerne
At the northern end of the tunnel we came out into a short cutting and then passed Blisworth Mill and the yard of Blisworth Narrowboats.
2 Blissworth Mill and NB
This lovely old wooden boat called Jenny Wren was spotted on route today; I loved the front window etchings.
3 Boat
We passed Blisworth Marina and then the Junction where you can turn to off go to Northampton and the River Nene. The Mountbatten Crusader was moored across the canal to pick up some clients at the wharf, but posed no problem to navigation. The next bridge is a Turnover Bridge which was constructed to allow a horse towing a boat to cross the canal when the towpath changes sides by placing two ramps on the same side of the bridge, which turned the horse through 360 degrees.
4 Gayton
We moored up in Bugbrooke and went to the Wharf Inn and Restaurant where we had a splendid lunch, definitely a place we will visit again. After lunch we walked into the village of Bugbrooke and visited the local shop for a paper and provisions. Taking a back lane we came to St Michael and All Angels Church. There is an hourly bus service from the village to Northampton which is only about 5 miles away by road.
5 Bugbrooke
On Jimmy’s evening walk we passed by Hayford Fields Marina and the views over the Northamptonshire countryside were lovely in the evening sunlight. 
6 Hayford Fields Marina and Views

Monday, 18 August 2014

A Tacet Surprise - 18th August

This morning Jimmy’s walk took us around Campbell Park with its off side mooring and and cricket stumps artwork.

1 Campbell Park

We had a very pleasant cruise around Milton Keynes and were soon crossing the Grafton Aqueduct and then the trains painted on the wall adjacent to the railway which give distances to the various villages and towns along the canal.

2 Aqueducts and Trains

Next came the Great Ouse Aqueduct (a square cast iron trough carried on stone pillars)  followed by the Cosgrove moorings where we spotted another Autumn Mist although spelt differently.

3 aqueducts and Autumn Mist

Just above Cosgrove Lock there is an arm which was once the Buckingham and Stratford Canal but now used for moorings. There are some nice moorings above the lock and as we left Cosgrove we passed under Solomon's Bridge a splendid stone gothic style bridge built in 1808. There does not appear to be any obvious reason why such a unique bridge should have been built here. Perhaps the owner of the Cosgrove Hall had some influence with the Canal Company.4 Cosgrove

All along this stretch of the canal there were lots of Crab Apples trees loaded with fruit so Nb. Wandering Bark will have a field day if they venture down this way in the next few weeks.

5 Crab apples loaded

Yardley Wharf has a couple of interesting signs, the first on the bridge urges boats to slow down due to “Elderly Ducks Crossing” and the one on the wharf suggests that you “Do not let your dog pump out on the wharf”

Baxter's have their dry dock here where Nb. Briar Rose had her bright new paint job done.

6 Yardley Wharf

A Surprise awaited us outside Kingfisher Marina for who should be there but Nb. Tacet of Ian and Karen fame. Hope that you two are not missing her too much. Thought that these pictures would bring back some very happy memories.

7 Tacet

We moored up on the visitors mooring just below Stoke Bruerne Locks and after lunch walked up to the village. It was very busy with tourists from all over the world and the Cheese Boat was doing a roaring trade. The entrance to the car park was framed by this Iron Support form the Pontcysytte Aqueduct in North Wales. The trip boat was also doing a good trade taking people up to and into the mouth of the tunnel.

8 Former Chees and SB

Beside the last lock is one of the abandoned original locks with iron gates and tubular beams and it contains an old boat. The village does have a few nice cottages like the one below.

8a Locks and cottages

I took a tour of the museum, which although only small has some interesting exhibits including these painted wears, boatman dress and back cabin and details of how gauging was carried out to charge boats for the use of the canal.

8 b museum

At the entrance to the 3057 yd. Blissworth Tunnel is a ring beam which was used in the rebuilding of the middle section of the tunnel. The protrusions on the inside of the ring are where the water level will be and the wooden protector strips fitted.

8b Blissworth tunnel

The Navigation Pub below the top lock is a very popular place to eat; and several of the locks still have their side pond together with paddle gear but they are no longer used and just form a wild life habitat. Bridge 54 has some interesting Mosaic pictures underneath its span.

8c Bridge art

A couple of interesting boats we passed today, the blue one Nb. Woodbine is steered from the front and we have seen it several times across the network. The Bolinder and Russell Newbury Engines are exhibited in the Museum Shop and Cafe, which is a shame as you cannot get a good look at them with people enjoying their coffee.

9 Boats

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Milton Keynes - 17th August

This morning we left Fenny Stratford with its lock which has the lowest fall on the GU, 1ft 1in. This was due to the pound from here to Wolverton having a lot of leaks. The solution was to lower the level of the pound so that most of  the leaks were eliminated. We were soon entering the outskirts of Milton Keynes with the canal bordered by tall poplar trees.

1 entering MK

We moored up near to Willen Lake and Campbell Park in a nice spot in the sun and sheltered from the ever increasing wind.IMG_5565

In the afternoon Leslie, Sue, Alan and Cassie came to see us and we went a walk into Campbell Park passing various pieces of artwork including this figure of a man and a Totem Pole (Onwards and Upwards) commissioned by the Parks Trust to celebrate John Duggan chairman of the trust from its inception in 1991 to 2011.

2 Art

A little further up the hill we reached the outdoor theatre which had the Skyfly big TV screen vehicle showing a Robin Williams film for the children. We carried on up to the Beacon which is a Light Pyramid produced by Liliane Lijn in 2012

3 Theatre and Beacon

In addition to the theatre there is a super Cricket Ground and Pavilion as well as lovely walk ways through woods and gardens.

4 Cricket and walks

Leslie had parked in the Willen Lake car park and when we went to see them off we saw the cable wakeboarding and  water ski area which looked a great sport. The lake also offers sailing, canoeing and wind surfing.

5 water sking

Next to the lake a small travelling fun fair had been set up with all the usual stalls.

6 fun fair

Closer to the canal is the Gulliver’s Land Theme Park and we could hear and see the people on the many different rides.IMG_5576

The whole area was a buzz with families and youngsters enjoying all the facilities provided by the Parks Trust.

The Parks Trust is the independent charity that owns and cares for many of Milton Keynes parks and green spaces.  This adds up to 5,000 acres of river valleys, woodlands, lakesides, parks and landscaped areas alongside the main roads – about 25 per cent of the new city area.

Like many things in Milton Keynes, the Trust’s creation broke new ground.  In most places parks are owned and managed by the local authority, but the city’s founders wanted to be sure that such a unique green landscape would be managed and protected forever, without having to compete for funds with other council priorities.

The Parks Trust was created in 1992 to care for most of the city’s green space and was endowed with a substantial property and investment portfolio.  The income from this portfolio pays for the vital work of nurturing and enhancing the landscape.  It is entirely self-financing.

A couple of boats we saw on route today included this old life boat with a roof garden and the Push U Pull me butty on this narrowboat which also makes and sell Rag Rugs and Bunting.

9 Boats

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Enigma - 16th August

This morning we left Stoke Hammond with its double arched bridge which used to be for the second of the paired locks, sadly no more, and on to Fenny Stratford lock which has a swing bridge across the middle. You must make sure that you swing this aside before entering the lock or you could be in for a nasty surprise.

1Stoke Hammond lock and fenny

Luck was with us again, a boat had just left a mooring on the 24hr visitor moorings and with a little bit of manouvering and moving a rowing boat which looked as though it had been there for a lot longer than 24hrs, we got both boats in. After coffee we made our way the 25 minute walk to Bletchley Park. As we walked down Bletchley Shopping road there was a band playing in the Band Stand and the street was full of hubbub.

The arrival of ‘Captain Ridley's Shooting Party’ at the Bletchley Park mansion house in late August 1938 was to set the scene for one of the most remarkable stories of World War Two. They had an air of friends enjoying a relaxed weekend together at a country house. They even brought with them one of the best chefs at the Savoy Hotel to cook their food. But the small group of people who turned up were far from relaxed. They were members of MI6, and the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), a secret team of individuals including a number of scholars turned Codebreakers. Their job; to see whether Bletchley Park would work as a wartime location, well away from London, for intelligence activity by GC&CS as well as elements of MI6.

The GC&CS mission was to crack the Nazi codes and ciphers. The most famous of the cipher systems to be broken at Bletchley Park was the Enigma. There were also a large number of lower-level German systems to break as well as those of Hitler's allies. At the start of the war in September 1939 the codebreakers returned to Bletchey Park to begin their war-winning work in earnest.

We arrived at the Park and had to queue to get our tickets and then picked up our audio visual guide and went to explore the estate. First port of call was the garden and the lake where the operatives would  relax when off duty. Across the lake we could see the old huts and brick built buildings.

2 BP one

At the far end of the garden is the mansion a very impressive looking building with a magnificent ballroom ceiling.


Behind the mansion are the Holley-Cornelius Toy Collection, Leighton Buzzard Model Boat Club, Bletchley Park Post Office all of which give an insight into the past. Trouble is that we  remembered making toys out of match boxes, tanks out of cotton reels, and corking. The ambulance and sports car have both been donated by Mick Jagger after appearing in the film Enigma which was produced by his company.

4 Toys Cars

There is one room which helps to explain the importance of homing pigeons to the code breaking activity and this picture shows how they were parachuted into enemy territory so they could fly back with vital information.


The Poles had broken Enigma in 1932, when the encoding machine was undergoing trials with the German Army. But when the Poles broke Enigma, the cipher altered only once every few months. With the advent of war, it changed at least once a day, giving 159 million million million possible settings to choose from. The Poles decided to inform the British in July 1939 once they needed help to break Enigma and with invasion of Poland imminent..

As more and more people arrived to join the codebreaking operations, the various sections began to move into large pre-fabricated wooden huts set up on the lawns of the Park. For security reasons, the various sections were known only by their hut numbers.

The first operational break into Enigma came around the 23 January 1940, when the team working under Dilly Knox, with the mathematicians John Jeffreys, Peter Twinn and Alan Turing, unravelled the German Army administrative key that became known at Bletchley Park as ‘The Green’.

The museum houses the largest and most comprehensive public display of Enigma machines in the world and the only fully-operational Bombe rebuild - the electro-mechanical device used to mechanise the process of breaking Enigma. The originals  were all broken apart by the operators as they left after the war and nothing was saved for future generations.

6 Enigma and Bombe

We had a very nice lunch in Hut 4 and feeling rather tired walked back to the boat for a late afternoon tea and cakes. Fortunately the entrance fee covers us for a years worth of visits so we will be able to go back and explore some of the areas we were not able to cover today.

A couple of the interesting boats we spotted today, this Dutch barge and Nb. Albion

5 Boats