North Oxford & Grand Union Canals Hawkesbury to Gayton.
Before we left Hawkesbury Junction with our new Squirrel on board, Dave put our new bed base together. Using two slatted single bed packs from Ikea and some lengths of pine from Wickes he constructed this.
On our way back to Braunston, because we liked it so much the last time we were there, we moored up again at the non-existent bridge at Ansty. From there we had a car trip up to Chesterfield and Buxton to pick up our roof box and go to Annie’s birthday party. When we got back we found John and Camilla - whose wedding we went to last year - sitting in the boat drinking wine! Years ago, John owned a boat called Andante, and weekends spent aboard her gave us was our first taste of this wonderful life, so it was great to have them on board. They are toying with the idea of another boat and we think they ought to do it as soon as possible.
We boated with them to All Oaks Wood, a lovely, middle of nowhere mooring near Brinklow and when we got there it was a struggle to prise John’s hand off the tiller. Lovely people – hopefully they’ll be on the water before long. Just in case you were wondering, we knew they were coming to stay and they hadn’t broken in.
In the field opposite the boat, as well as the antics of Redwings and Fieldfares, lambing season had just started.
While Dave was re-assembling the roof box, boingy, fluffy little lambs came down to the water every morning with their mummies for a drink. This activity was accompanied by excited squeaky noises from Ann-Marie. Everything was all fine and happy until one of them fell in. Lots of really squeaky noises followed, and just at the point when Ann-Marie had decided that pushing the back end across to rescue it was the thing to do, it climbed out. So that saved an argument.
On one of our walks back for the car we went through Brinklow and what a lovely little village it is. It’s got Roman roots from being a fort on the Fosse Way, and in the Middle Ages it gained a very impressive Motte and Bailey which we climbed up before finding that it also has a quite splendid chippy.
When we left, Dave single handed Legend back to Braunston while Ann-Marie took the car and spent a very enjoyable morning swimming with Kim and George. George did more pool drinking than actual swimming but they all had a lovely time. Dave moored up on the GU, just before the floating café, and Ann-Marie had the odd experience of going home without knowing exactly where home was. In the afternoon we drove back into Rugby and picked up two new phones that we’d ordered from Tesco’s. We’ve decided that owning the phones with a sim only contract is the cheapest option for us at the moment.
Braunston was a nice safe place to leave Legend for the weekend while we went off to Essex to see Martin and Yvonne. Their boat – Evolution - is moored in Ramsey on the middle level so as well as being terribly excited about seeing them and their wonderful cottage, we were keen to pick their brains about navigating the Nene and the Middle Level. They had a full weekend planned for us; trips out, walks and a beer tasting all included and, best of all, a canoe trip that took us from the tidal limit of the Blackwater River,
down to the sea,
where we ported the canoes over the sea lock
and came back along the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation.
A truly wonderful weekend with amazing people. Thank you Martin and Yvonne, thank you so much for having us, and for putting so much joy and enthusiasm into our lives.
Back at Braunston, we stayed another day so we could pick up all the flower boxes and the other tat that lives on our roof, then in the morning, set off past the marina and the boat yards to climb up the six Braunston locks. On the way up we paired up with Nb Bodmur whose owner, Alan, had bought it 4 days previously and had never owned a boat before. He and his brother Chris were taking it to Watford and sorting out a lot of stuff that needed doing as they went along. They moored up at the top and we imparted a few nuggets of advice that we’d have found useful when we first started, before wishing them luck and diving into the gloom of Braunston Tunnel.
We stopped at Welton Wharf, just out of the other end and within walking distance of Daventry. Chloe came to see us while we were there; she only moved from Daventry recently and she thought it was really cool that we were moored on a bit of towpath that she used to run along when she was training for the London Marathon last year.
We were both really ill for a few days at Welton. We either caught some kind of virus or got food poisoning, either way nothing much happened for a while.
When we were feeling better Dave set-to in the well deck and created a new pin/rope/hammer storage affair,
while Ann-Marie finished a new tea-cozy.
As we won’t be boating in that direction for a long time, we took a walk up to Norton Junction and up the Leicester Section to Watford Locks.
When we lived in South Lincolnshire we used to visit Foxton locks fairly often but we’d never been to the other end of the summit pound. Watford Locks are really pretty and very well looked after with flower tubs everywhere and neatly cut grass.
Ann-Marie had been a bit apprehensive about the next bit.
The gates and paddles on the Buckby locks are notoriously hard work and when we came up the flight four years ago she struggled with them. However we’ve been up the Calder and Hebble since then, and over the Pennines. Twice.
Be under no illusion, Buckby Locks are tough. Whoever built them must have had a wonky bubble in their spirit-level and a very ambitious attitude to paddle gear ratios, but the sun shone, there were no tears and no patronising blokes coming to help the girly boater, and we were down in no time. Ann-Marie’s nemesis is now well and truly buried.
Last time we were at Weedon we stopped on the embankment overlooking the church. This time we went on to Stowehill Bridge, where the Narrowboat pub is on the A5. Dave had a blood test and a retinal scan booked in Chesterfield the following morning, so we went up that night and had a yummy vegan curry with Anne and Jennifer. After all the medical stuff was done we reclaimed our folding bikes and camping gear from Anne’s shed and headed back down the M1.
We had a couple of days work to keep us busy while we were moored at Weedon; there probably won’t be very much of that this year while we’re out on the Nene and Ouse, so it was very welcome especially as we’d bought a new genny.
Yes, Dear Reader, once again we’re in a New Generator saga. To cut a long story short; our big, heavy, never-have-liked-it-very-much Hyundai has popped its clogs. We bought it because we thought that with an electric start, it would be easier to use and do a better job than our lovely Honda that got nicked in Wigan but, to be honest, it wasn’t and it hasn’t. We should have just bought another Honda and looked after it better, but there you go.
So this time, as money is really tight this year, we looked on Ebay for a second hand one and we found a 1Kw Kiam, up for £160. (they normally go for £350 odd.) A week later and we were in Peterborough to pick it up. The chap had it advertised as hardly being used, and he wasn’t joking. He’d only started it 3 times since he’d bought it, and the first time we ran it for more than a few minutes we could smell singed paint from the exhaust. We don’t think it’s ever been under load. It’s about a third of the weight of the Hyundai and although it’s only got half the output, we don’t have anything that needs more than 1Kw anyway, and it runs the hoover without a hitch; something the blue monster never did.
And, while we were in Peterborough, we went for lunch with Mandy and Chas. Double Result!
On the morning of the Eclipse, we were blessed with an almost clear sky. There was just a bit of cloud to start with, which actually made viewing easier.
The second one is reflected in the canal. We're so artistic.
Dave spent the rest of the day using up all the various bits of wood he’s been collecting and made a new gang plank. We’re going to need something better than our little ladder for a summer on the Anglian Rivers. This is more like it.
Chloe was on her last few shifts before leaving these shores for a life over the water, so she and Shandy came for a visit before she went. We took them from Weedon to Gayton Junction, stopping at Stowe Hill for some cheap diesel and expensive gas. Shandy did a stirling job on the tiller for most of the trip, with Dave only taking over when his hand turned from blue to purple. It would appear that there have been some mooring changes at Gayton; what we’d been told were permit holders only on the side opposite the Northampton Arm are now 14 days, so we dived into a sunny spot and chained up to the Armco. There’s a very useful car park at the bridge and full services, so it’s a good place to be for preparing Legend for our next adventure.
Mum and Dad found the car park handy when they came to stay; they had a couple of days with us before their car club AGM. Martin and Yvonne were in Northampton for a rugby match so they popped in for lunch as well and transferred all their notes onto our Imray Guides. After they’d all gone home we went off to see Lindsay, Paul and Jack on Happy Daze at Foxton before they go cruising, had a lovely lunch with them and borrowed their Middle Level windlass. We also cribbed their Imray Guide notes as well, so we now know where all the secret moorings are between here and Bedford.