Wednesday, 16 October 2019


A quick dash up to Northamptonshire today.  I first went to the marina to pick up a couple of things from the boat and drop off a couple of other ones.  Then on to Weedon for a feature article I’m working on.  After that, just to stretch my legs, I went for a look at the Weedon Royal Ordnance Depot.

Bearing in mind the number of times we’ve been through Weedon, it’s amazing that this was my first visit.  The canal arm used to join up to the mainline.  These days, the buildings are rented out as offices, and there are a few specialist shops too.  Then it was back in the car to head home.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Autumn Cruise: Stats

Here are some stats for our trip.

290 miles and 303 locks, of which 138 were narrow locks and 165 were wide.  67 of the miles were on rivers, the rest on canals.

CanalPlan says we could have done the trip in 22 days, but it took us 29.

We travelled on the following waterways:
  • Grand Union Mainline
  • North Oxford Canal
  • Stratford Canal
  • River Avon
  • River Severn
  • Worcs and Birmingham Canal
  • Droitwich Junction and Barge Canals
  • Staffs and Worcs Canal
  • BCN -- Old and New Mainlines, Gower Branch

We went through the following counties:
  • Northamptonshire
  • Warwickshire
  • Worcestershire
  • Gloucestershire
  • Staffordshire
  • West Midlands
  • Buckinghamshire

We went through lots of tunnels:
  • Blisworth (twice)
  • Braunston (twice)
  • Shrewley (twice)
  • Dunhampstead
  • Cookley
  • Dunsley
  • Wolverhampton
  • Coseley
  • Summit
  • Edgbaston
  • Brandwood
Just over seven miles of the trip was underground.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Yelvertoft spec boat on test

The November issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on a spec boat built by Yelvertoft Marina.  The front cover is one of Andy’s fantastic drone shots.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Autumn Cruise: Day 29

It was raining again this morning, but at least it was fairly gentle and it was very calm.  I set off at 8.30 and found Cosgrove Lock was empty so I could go straight in.  As I was leaving the lock a Wyvern hire boat arrived so I could leave the gate open for them.  They eventually made it into the lock.  I stopped by the service block and dealt with the loo and the rubbish, then continued to the marina.  With the calm conditions is was easy to reverse into our berth.  It wasn’t long before I was in the car heading home.

1 mile, 1 lock.  (290 miles, 303 locks)

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Autumn Cruise: Day 28

This was another day when we expected to get very wet, because the forecast was was rain pretty much all day.  And there was rain last night and early this morning.  But by the time we got up, it was fairly bright and the sun was even trying to come through.  We were getting ready to leave when a single boat came along, having come down the top two locks, so we got our act together and joined them.  It turned out to be a man who’d bought the boat as a replacement for a caravan at the Cosgrove Park, being helped to move the boat by his friend and his two sons.  With crew, it meant I could go ahead and set the locks ahead.

Even though we were catching up with a single-handed boat going down ahead, we did the five locks in about 45 minutes, largely thanks to each one being ready and open for the boats to enter.  At the bottom of the locks, we set off south.  It was sunny, warm in the sunshine, but very blustery.

We had intended to go back to the marina today, as Adrian needed to get a train to London and I had hoped to do a boat test tomorrow.  However for various reasons the boat test is postponed, so we sailed right past the marina entrance, went down Cosgrove Lock, and continued across the Wolverton Aqueduct.

Just before the Grafton Street Aqueduct there was a very heavy but thankfully very brief shower.  The rain hammered it down, but for probably less than a minute.  We turned around at the New Bradwell winding hole, where the boat always seems to turn very easily, and went back to Wolverton.  When we’d passed through, there hadn’t been a space big enough for us, but one of the boats there was coming the other way, so we knew there would probably be room to stop.  The boat was Tarporley from Camden, which has just had a nice new paint job at Baxter’s at Kingfisher Marina.

We moored up, made a quick visit to Tesco, then Adrian got a train from Wolverton Station to London.  I continued retracing our steps, mooring up beyond the aqueduct.  The last ten minutes or so were somewhat frustrating.  I’d caught up with a not-very-wide widebeam to such an extent that I had to keep going into neutral, and in front of that was a monster widebeam, which seemed to make a right meal of getting over the aqueduct, and then through the moored boats towards the lock.  Since mooring up I’ve done a few jobs, including tacking the oven shelves which we omitted to clean when we did the rest of the oven at Hanbury Junction, and trying to seal the bathroom mushroom vent, which appears to be letting in water.

11 miles, 6 locks.  (289 miles, 302 locks)

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Autumn Cruise: Day 27

We had a very nice evening with Catherine, Nigel, and the kids — with good fish and chips delivered by them to our door.  They needed an escort to get home up the A5, as the road is closed overnight for roadworks.  This morning was overcast, but completely still.

We set off at 8.15, and one of the Canal Boat Club boats moored behind off was doing the same.  I wondered whether they might be turning at the junction for Market Harborough, but in fact they followed us round the corner on their way back to Gayton.  When we got to the top lock a boat was coming up, then our two boats went down.  Our companions turned out to be excellent locking partners, having had the timeshare membership for many years.  By the second lock, it turned out we were following another boat down, who must have been moored in the long pound.  Between us, we had enough crew that someone could always go down to the next lock to prepare it.

As we arrived at the second lock, the Anchor Cottage shop was just opening.  They were in the process of putting all the outside display items on the racks when I popped in to see if they had a Stratford Canal bridge plaque.  I’m not sure why we haven’t already got one as we’ve done the whole canal before; I tried in Braunston yesterday, as the bottom lock shop usually stocks the whole range, but the chap said the manufacturers had managed to lose the moulds and he hadn’t been able to get any for nine months.  Apparently they have been found, and production has restarted.  Anyway, Anchor Cottage had one, and it’s rather nice with one of the barrel-roofed cottages on it.  They are also slightly cheaper here than in Braunston!

At the bottom lock I popped into the chandlery to get some bread and cheese, as we’d realised we didn’t have much in for lunch.  In spite of following a boat down, we’d done the seven locks in two hours.  Our companions moored up for breakfast at the marina cafe, while we carried on.  A boat heading for the locks said there was nothing on the move, and they’d have to go up alone.  They could hardly have been more wrong: we seem to have seen more moving boats today than any other day of the trip.  The stream of boats going the other way has been constant, with one or two met at awkward bridge holes.

We stopped at Rugby Boats for diesel.  With the service wharf occupied by someone loading stuff from a car, we tied up outside two brokerage boats, and the diesel hose was brought across them.  That’s the second time this trip we’ve taken on diesel while moored outside other boats.

We plodded along these very familiar waters, went through the tunnel, and were surprised by how much space was available in Stoke Bruerne.  However, we decided to go down the top two locks into the long pound where it’s a bit more open.  There appeared to be a boat in the top lock, and they opened a gate for us to join them.  They said it appeared they were doing us a good turn, but in fact we’re just pausing for tea and a sandwich!  As Kathryn came out to say hello, and Mike from the trip boat wandered down for a chat, we all just paused in the lock for a few minutes.

There was loads of space in the long pound, so both boats moored up.  I’ve added the plaque to the collection in the engine room.

16 miles, 9 locks.  (278 miles, 296 locks)

Friday, 4 October 2019

Autumn Cruise: Day 26

It blew an absolute hooley last night, but by this morning it was much calmer.  In spite of rain it the forecast, it was also dry but overcast.  We’d slept really well on the very quiet and dark mooring, so didn’t set off until 9am.  As we approached Bridge 102 it appeared that Ryan on the fuel boat, Southern Cross, had just taken on a delivery of diesel.  The boat was certainly low in the water.

It was just a few miles into Braunston, where the sight of the church and the former windmill on the top of the hill is something special to the canal traveller.  We turned right at the junction towards the village — meaning that on this trip we have done all three sides of this triangular junction.

We waited to stop, and gambled on there being a space nearer the village, outside the marina.  Having left a bit later than normal we thought our arrival time was pretty good, and we had seen a few boats on the move.  Sure enough, there was a big space beyond Butcher’s Bridge, which we and another boat slotted into.  We went up to the village to the butcher and the convenience store, returning across the field to the bottom lock.  We set off again to go up the locks.  The former chandlery at the bottom has turned into an artist’s studio and gallery in the past three weeks.

We met quite a few boats coming down the locks, and eventually teamed up with a singlehanding lady going up.  At the top, we continued through the tunnel, where I took one of my best fluke shots of an air shaft.  While steering, I just have to point the camera upwards and press the button at what I think is the right time — so I was pretty pleased with this one.

We were aiming for the new piling just before Norton Junction.  It was pretty busy, but there was still space — and there will soon be more, as even more piling is going in.

This evening, Catherine, Nigel, and the kids are coming round as they live very close — and they’re bringing fish and chips from their village chippy.

7 miles, 6 locks.  (262 miles, 287 locks)