Thursday, 11 October 2012

Tunnel Vision

We’ve been gearing ourselves up for lashings of rain as we slide north westwards through Northants, but it’s been positively barmy over the last few days, well since the weekend anyway. The forecast keeps saying rain is on its way, but, as that old adage says, “the sun shines on the righteous”, and that’s me “Righteous Rog”.
It has meant, though, that we have been able to put a bit of a spurt on, as this cannot last for much longer, and today we are resting on the Welford arm of the Grand Union. We spent much of last weekend in the environs of Milton Keynes. I have been through the city by canal a few times, but it was a first for Pat. It is an attractive route, bordered by the linear park that runs along one side for much of its length, though the canal does skirt some of the more “well heeled” areas of the MK. Joining us was our old pal Laura, who I think, on reflection, I have known since I was about 15, so we go way back. Laura is a keen boater and I felt very confident in handing over the tiller to her. However the combination of her height and the huge suitcase bursting out from under our top box, made steering difficult for her. We also picked up another boating chum  Paul, who I cruise with every year under the “BIGCHINS” flag, and Viv. It was Viv’s first time on a narrowboat, and I think she had brought her seasick tablets. She soon got into it though. They got off at Wolverton and Laura stayed until we got to Cosgrove Lock.  
Our weekend guests. Viv, Paul and Laura

Considering that we often cruise on a Sunday (when not at the launderette), and have now clocked up over 600 miles, we had not encounted club fishing before. Perhaps the season is just starting. Throughout our cruise on Sunday there seemed to be miles of poles reaching out across the cut, almost daring you to collide with them, until the very last second, when they raise them skywards or shuffle them in beside them. Now, I have nothing at all against fishing. Personally, I don’t get it, and the waterways system is for all, but this phenomena just went on and on and on. Most of them were charming and we nodded to each, and passed the time of day with others, but it became quite tedious after an hour or two.
Of course, Stoke Bruerne is something else. Described as the “perfect canal village”, we arrived at the top lock in the centre of things at 2pm, and, it seemed, the whole world and his wife, had pitched up, as the weather was so nice.

Stoke Bruerne
One of the features of Stoke Bruerne is the Blisworth Tunnel, just a couple of hundred metres from the centre of things. This is the third longest tunnel on the system, coming in at around 1 ½ miles long. I think we were in there about 40 minutes, which was about 39 minutes too long for me. And then we had the Crick tunnel which is a bit shorter and took us 20 minutes to get through. Pat informs me we have a couple more as we head north. I’m not that keen on tunnels but we managed to get through without meeting another boat coming the other way.

Half way through the Blisworth Tunnel
We moored at Crick one night, and then turned right at Norton Junction, and are now on the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union, which will become the Soar at Leicester and take us right the way up to the Trent, and then we just have to cross that and get through the lock and boat is back home.
Yesterday was a long cruise through very remote locations and we decided to turn right off the main navigation and travel the mile or so down to the little village of Welford. I think the front of the boat is in Northants and the back in Leicestershire as the boundary is only yards from where we are moored in a very attractive basin with a marina on one side, all the facilities we need on the other and a decent free house, The Wharf, in the middle. The pub had a beer festival over last weekend and there are still a few tasty beers left, so as soon as I have finished this I am off down there.
Tomorrow, we cruise up to the famous Foxton flight of locks, where we are meeting our pals Jan and Dai, the Kingfisher boat before ours, for a night out.

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