Thursday, 12 August 2010

Lazy Cruising: from Blisworth to Welford and Foxton part 1

This part will be followed by 'Illusions of cruising on the cut' and part 2. I've adjusted the order so that you can read them through without going backwards and forwards.

Friday July 30th 2010

We arrived at Blisworth Tunnel Boats mid-afternoon, drove past the closed gateway, not having been to this boatyard before, and had to turn around and come back. We found it very relaxed and friendly, booked the essential valet service, loaded our stuff on board and set off for Welford and Foxton about 5pm.

On our way

We didn’t intend going very far because this was to be a relaxing week. Our days of cruising from 7am to 10pm with no lunch breaks, travelling to exotic places like Wigan, Ellesmere Port or round the Cheshire Ring in a week are over. This week, we only have about 35 miles and 28 locks to do. We moored at Bugbrooke and, just after, it rained heavily, so we got that one right! This is possibly the closest part of the canal to the railway; trains are frequent but by no means as noisy as they used to be.

Back over the tiller

Saturday July 31st 2010

Traditional boats. The small back cabin is the
living accommodation. The rest is for cargo.

Even mooring so close to the railway, the trains didn’t keep us awake. Molly (the spaniel), however, did. She woke us about 3 times wanting to go out. In fact, what she really wants is to come and sleep in our cabin but we’re not having that!

Canalside dwellings

We cruised up past Gayton Junction...

...which leads to Northampton, through the Heyfords, Weedon and Brockhall to Long Buckby locks.
Arriving at Buckby Locks

These are double locks, accommodating 2 boats, and are deep and heavy to operate. The usual thing (and the correct thing) is to share them with another boat, saving water and dividing the work. We were lucky to share with ‘Herewego’ crewed by 4 men so this made progress easier and quicker.

Sharing with 'Herewego'

Molly wanted to be both on and off the boat; at one point, with Marea on the lock and me, on the boat, making a gradual progress towards the lock (the intention is to cruise slowly to arrive as the gates are opened), Molly didn’t know where Marea was, so decided to join me on board. She jumped in and seemed rather surprised to find herself in the water. I shut off the engine so as not to risk and injury to her and Marea eventually dragged her onto the bank.

Wet Molly

We shut her on board for the rest of the flight. The weather was mostly cloudy but we got a bit more sun later on.

Turned right at Norton Junction towards Watford Locks...

Rope marks from horse-drawn boats

...and moored below the locks ready to go through at 8am Sunday.

We spent the evening sitting in the bows with books and white wine. This is what it’s all for!

Late brood

Sunday 1st August 2010

We were though Watford locks by 9.45 without the help of the lock-keeper who weemed to think others were less knowledgeable and needed more help.

Back down the staircase

The top 4 locks of Welford area staircase and you have to join the official queue before being allowed to enter the flight. Just below the flight is s gap in the hedge which allows access to Watford Gap motorway services for newspapers and other shopping.

In this photo (above), even though I've done some work on it to increase the contrast, you'll find it very difficult to see what's actually going on. The tiny dots aren't birds; they're gliders. If you look at the pic below, you'll see what I mean. This is nothing unusual; Husbands Bosworth is perhaps the busiest gliding centre in the UK and there was some sort of festival on. The only reason I've included it is because, a little later, we saw the air ambulance go over and, even later still, we found out from the radio news that one of the pilots had flown into the power cables and been killed. It all looks idyllic, but is still a dangerous sport.

From there, it was a peaceful cruise through Crick Tunnel...

Meeting another boat

The exit at last!

Looks too small for 2 boats

... turn right at Welford Junction and down the Welford Arm where the single lock was very busy.

We followed a boat which was clearly privately owned but the family had no idea how to proceed and seemed unconcerned. (One sometimes expects this of hired boats where newcomers may not have been shown how to work locks.) Marea gave them some advice and, as they left, we were amused to see the boat’s name ‘Barely-a-wake’. We found a good mooring at Welford and were joined after dinner by Ben and Emily.

Ophelia's front cabin

Monday 2nd August 2010

I took the opportunity to walk up the hill to the shop in Welford village (Welford is very close to home; Marea drives through it every day on her way to work) to buy bread, newspaper and superglue. It’s quite a steep hill so makes a good constitutional.We left Welford after a leisurely breakfast and had a lazy cruise in fine weather to Foxton.

Duck ladder by a newly dredged section

Husbands Bosworth tunnel was drier than I expected – for those who don’t know, canal tunnels drip water that percolates through the ground from above. I say ‘drip’; some pour and other, like Blisworth and Harecastle, deluge.

Canalside sculpture at Foxton

Having arrived at Foxton with no intention of going down the locks (2 hours down and 2 hours back – 20 locks) we showed a rabbi and a group of orthodox Jewish schoolchildren how to turn a boat, then cruised back to Laughton Hills (br 52-53), a favourite spot; very beautiful and peaceful, for the night.

Moored under Laughton Hills

I barricaded Molly into the front cabin; very successful.

Tuesday 3rd August 2010

We set off fairly early, though we had plenty of time to reach Watford locks, our target for today. There was sunshine as we got up but, by the time we set off, the skies had clouded over and the weather was cool. As the cloud get denser, it got rather cold (August?) and we had to put sweaters on.

Approaching Husbands Bosworth Tunnel

We cruised back through Husbands Bosworth Tunnel, North Kilworth, now more of a going concern than when we decided not to move ophelia’s mooring there some years ago, and had a look at the new Yelvertoft Marina which, like all new marinas, looks rather bleak.

Another glider being towed into the air

Through Crick Tunnel – reputedly haunted if you believe that sort of thing – which I don’t; not at all; never.

A good brood of cygnets

The harvest reminds us this is now August

We moored a little way back but ready to move on and go down Watford locks early Wednesday morning.

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