Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Leaving Braunston

A second trip to Midland Chandlers at Braunston late yesterday.  Only two items on the list, a handcuff key (needed because of the games played at night) and three plastic hose clips to hold the tiller arm in the cupboard when we’re not cruising.  The handcuff key was in stock (a good nights sleep was had) but they had no 35mm hose clips in stock.  Oh well, not critical!

Then we wandered to Braunston Marina to have a look around.  In Tradline Ropes & Fenders we noticed the ‘soft shackles’.  That’s when we realised we’d purchased our two soft shackles online from this very shop whilst living on Waiouru when it was being fitted out at Aldermaston Wharf.  The shop was full of interesting things, but we kept our hands firmly in our pockets.  The route back to Waiouru took us through the village and somehow we ended up with a 2 litre container of ice cream?

Walking down the hill the end of this building caught our eye. 

Three generations of the same building??????

Jan got all ‘clucky’ when her friends arrived with their young ones.

Then she saw nb Rangitoto go past.  Later a Black Prince hire boat passed with the wife calling out in an excited voice.  They were a Kiwi couple from Auckland over on holiday!  The lady on board asked “Why Waiouru?” and then answered her own question by calling out “Army!”

We had some of the “bangers” (sausages) from the Braunston Butchers for dinner and were very impressed.  Jan baked them in the oven and no fat or water oozed out.  They tasted pretty good too!  The shop is on our list of places to call into next time we’re back in Braunston.

This morning it was an 8.00am start but only a short 200m cruise to the water point where we filled the tank (one hour) and disposed of our rubbish.  Then we slowly cruised through Braunston to the bottom lock. Just before the lock is this large brick building with a tall chimney.  It looks like an old steam driven pump house, but I couldn’t find a plaque.  My guess is the initials “GUC” on the chimney mean Grand Union Canal.  Does anyone know more about the structure?


Back to double locks.  Jan found the lower lock gate on the towpath side very heavy and we started to think we might only open the “offside” gate on each of the locks.

On reaching the second lock we discovered the pound (stretch of water between locks) above the lock to be well down.  At least 18 inches!  As Jan was filling the lock a lady appeared and informed her their boat was hard aground in the pound around the corner and that we should stay in the middle to avoid running aground ourselves.  We crept along the pound on ‘tick-over’ grinding on the bottom twice but managed to get into the next lock.

Jan had been looking for a pub lunch last Sunday and we settled on The Plough in Braunston Village.  She didn’t like the look of the pub beside the canal and suspected the 3rd pub “Admiral Nelson” might have been over in Braunston Marina.

It wasn’t until we were going up Braunston Locks we realised the Admiral Nelson is on the flight Smile

As Jan was working this lock a very friendly lady appeared with windlass in hand from further up the flight.  She started chatting to Jan and then noticed the name on our boat.  It was blog reader Lisa from nb What a Lark.  David was on the boat further up the poundOur last fleeting meeting occurred during our cruise a few weeks ago when we were heading towards Rugby from Braunston and Lisa & David were heading south towards Braunston.  We’ve passed in opposite directions AGAIN!  Lovely to meet again Lisa and maybe next time we’ll be going in the same direction.

With the locks now in our favour and boats coming down we started to pick up speed.

Shortly after the locks we entered the 1873m Braunston Tunnel.  Our first tunnel in five years and the first in Waiouru.  A good opportunity to test the headlamp.  To begin with my night vision wasn’t very good and to improve my peripheral vision, plus get an idea of where the cabin sides were at the cratch, I turned on the navigation lights.  Jan disappeared inside and turned on all the cabin lights to assist with the illumination of the tunnel walls.   Being exposed at the stern I’d donned my light raincoat anticipating it would be wet inside the tunnel.  Actually it turned out to be reasonably dry and quite cool.  I managed a quick glance up two of the air shafts and gained the impression the tunnel isn’t terribly deep underground.  After we exited the tunnel Jan returned to the stern telling me she had been sitting in the cratch ready to call out if it looked like we were going to hit the tunnel walls (we didn’t).  She did tell me I hadn’t gone in a straight line (true) but in my defence the tunnel didn’t appear to be straight either.  Fortunately we didn’t meet another boat coming from the opposite direction.  It was lovely to get back into the warm sunlight, albeit the wind had picked up! 

There’s no photo of our sharp turn onto the Grand Union Leicester Branch at Norton Junction.  I was busy steering and Jan was in the cratch checking to see nothing was coming in the opposite direction.  We slowly cruised up to Watford locks passing under the railway line which crossed the canal using a very ornate wrought iron bridge.

Jan was a few seconds too late to take a photo of the bridge with a Virgin train racing across at speed.

We’re now on the 48 hour moorings just below Watford Locks.  There is a faint rumble from the road traffic on the busy M1 motorway a short distance away.  Funny to think we’ve been up and down the M1 a few times now without realising the canal was so close. Tomorrow morning we’ll go up the flight and, almost immediately, pass under the M1.


Bruce in Sanity said...


It's GJC on the chimney for Grand Junction Canal. The tunnel is famously dog legged where one of the headings was misaligned.

You need to treat yourself to a canal history book, tell Jan!



Davidss said...

'Watford Gap', the name used by the motorway services, is interesting if you look at a map, and perhaps adventure on foot. Nowadays Google Earth may also 'give you a view'.
Close together you see transport through the ages. There's the A5, based on a Roman road, the canal, the railway, and the motorway.
Nearing the locks from the South you pass under a small road bridge. Moor nearby then walk back to the road, and you can see the back entrance to Watford Gap services on the M1. Before the days of universal mobile phones this was a useful source of payphones, mostly not vandalised and therefore working. Available 24 hours.
Biggest impact was the speed rush, 3 mph to 70+ mph, a real jolt to the senses.

Enjoy the lock gear on the flight, so light and well lubricated it's a single hand wind.

Regards, David.

Nb Duxllandyn said...

Hi there - so you're on the Leicester Line. Its been 'our patch' for the last two years. Some say its boring but we have enjoyed the peace and quiet. There are some beautiful spots to moor especially onwards from bridges 36 through to Welford Junction at bridge 42. The spot immediately after bridge 41 and before you go around the bend is coveted by many with its wide towpath and great views to North and South Kilworth. Check out your OS map as there are some good circular walks too along the old railway line and another across the fields to Welford. I've just seen that the Mikron Theatre are at the Welford Inn on Weds 12th June at 7.30. They are excellent and well worth a visit.
We're Kent based for another week or so bogged down with domestics. Can't wait to get back on the water.
Happy cruising both of you - hope to meet again soon. :))

Unknown said...

I don't think the Grand Union Canal company existed in 1879 but looking at the photo I think it is GJC - Grand Junction Canal (Braunston to Brentford with the Leicester line and Northampton arm). It amalgamated to form the Grand Union in 1929.

I think the building is was/is a pump house to back pump up the Braunston flight


Tom and Jan said...

I don't "Tell" Jan anything...... I ask and stay reasonably healthy! :-)

Tom and Jan said...

Hi David,
We actually discussed the adjacent road, rail and canal "networks" with the lock keeper as we went up the flight this morning. For some reason the term "Watford Gap" was on my mind.

Tom and Jan said...

Hi Marian & Mike,
We've had two unplanned stops today after collecting some unwanted visitors below the waterline at the stern. It was a quick trip to the Coop at Crick before moving on.

Tom and Jan said...

From Deb in NZ
I almost had a tear in my eye reading this post. Two years ago, on the 4th June, we spent the first full day of a 3 week hire traveling from the Old Royal Oak pub where we had moored for our first night to the moorings below the Watford staircase. It was a beautiful, calm, warm, cloudless spring day and ranks up there as one of the best I have spent on the canals. We moored below Braunston bottom lock to explore the village and have lunch. We photographed the pump house and the '3 generations' building and the church and the windmill. We shopped at the butchers and bought sausages. We were even passed by nb Rangitoto! The skipper of the boat we went up the flight with told me the tunnel had 2 kinks. I found a few more than that! And the wind did indeed freshen on the other side and I made a hash of the turn at Norton Junction due to being caught by it. We moored below the winding hole below the Watford Locks as we were actually heading south but wanted to have a look at the staircase. No motorway noise there.
Deb (NZ)