Friday 26th May
I was tightening the mooring lines this morning, when Kate Saffin walked past; we spent some time talking about her show ‘The Idle Women’ and recreating the journey that the trainee boat women did when carrying during World War II. I personally have read all the diaries that these women wrote and about the hardship they had to endure on those boats – fascinating stuff.
Some shopping was due and already knowing where the local Tesco was I strolled along the towpath and up to the bridge. On the way back I had a chat with Alex Bennett, who owns nb Tench, one of two boats that she owns. Knowing something about historic boats by now, we had quite a fair bit to talk about. She bemoaning the fact that the other ladies in the group were holding her up and if it was up to her, she would have left at 6 am and had the whole of the Buckby Flight to herself. Apparently when she bought the boat, there was nothing that required attention, which is quite unusual.
Just after lunchtime, I spotted Jaq Biggs mooring up well astern of me. We had been in touch since I met James and Doug on nb Chance. Later, she came and knocked on the boat and I invited her in for a drink and she asked for a pint – iced water that is, not beer! We had a good old chat about everything from boats and places to health and the sad loss of her husband, Les, very recently. We ended up agreeing to do the Buckby Flight together early tomorrow.
Later, I paid another visit to the Weedon Ordnance Depot and this time I took a camera and walked right to the end. Most of the buildings now appear to be occupied by various industries and there were several vehicles about. Being the hottest part of the day, I walked on to The Plume of Feathers, which is by far the best pub in Weedon Bec, but only if you like Everard’s beer!
The whole of the Ordnance Depot, with derelict canal in the centre.
The entrance gatehouse, taken form the same spot.
Again, from the same spot, which shows how powerful
the optical zoom lens is on this camera!
Saturday 27th May
I was up early again, as Jaq wanted to leave at 06.30 to get up the Buckby Flight before the rain set in and we did have a shower or two before getting to the top. A boater friend of hers, called Arthur had agreed to meet up at the bottom lock and help us up, which was very welcome indeed and we soon got into the rhythm of opening paddles and closing gates efficiently, getting to the top at 10.00. After mooring up, Jaq invited us both for coffee and delicious homemade brownies and I got to talk to Arthur in greater detail about his boat.
There was only one boat moored there, which is unusual as it is often so full that you have to moor elsewhere – we were lucky, but then it was early and filled up to capacity later.
I was hoping to touch up the top bend scratches, but rain could be imminent, so after lunch I went to The New Inn for a pint. Sitting outside, Alex Bennett came across the bottom lock gates, so I offered to buy her a drink after she had taken her dog to the car. We sat and chatted about boats and Alice Lapworth, who was featured in Towpath Talk by Tim Coghlan of Braunston Marina. She will be at Braunston Hysterics this year and is going to do the parade for the first time on Tench of course. She reminded me of the couple she bought it from in Alvecote, who I knew vaguely, but cannot remember the name – I think it was Jason the saddler.
Back at my boat. I set about touching up the Uxbridge scratches without any catalyst, so let’s see what happens. Certainly not an easy job, because not only is it very low down, but the hull keeps moving in the wind, despite the spring lines.
I had not long got back inside, than there was a boat tooting as it went past; it was Jack Reay, one of my fellow Braunston Cat Herders, as Graham likes to call the Parade Team of marshalls. I shall be leaving early again in the morning, so may well see him on the way.
Sunday 28th May
We let go at 06.30 for Braunston and a day of events on board Stronghold. As we got towards the end of Braunston Tunnel, the engine water temp gauge was reading 100°C+, but as I was the leading boat of three, there was no chance to stop until I got out. Being well ahead of nb Valerie, I pulled in, lifted the hatches and kicked open the water cock. All was well, but the last rust bucket of a boat shot past at a rate of knots to be at the locks first – bugger!
Jaq bow hauls nb Valerie out of the lock,
just before my cable broke.
Now all the locks would be against us, but worse was yet to come. After doing a couple of locks, my throttle cable broke and I was without any power – good job it was now and not in the tunnel! Fortunately, Jaq was to come to my rescue and we breasted up in the lock, even though nb Valerie was 7ft longer than Stronghold. She was very apprehensive, never having breasted up boats before and continued to Butcher’s Bridge to find a mooring, halfway through Braunston. Steering through the long line of moored and moving boats was one of her greatest fears with a single boat, but she coped fine with two boats abreast at tickover speed. I set to immediately to replace the cable, having had a spare on board for four years. It took me and hour and a half, but had to adjust the tickover stop several times, before I got it right.
Having success at last, we both walked back to The Admiral Nelson for lunch and I was pleased to recognise the landlord, so it had not changed hands after being put up for sale. Although we were the only two in the restaurant for quite a while, the food was limited in choice, but excellent as usual and the pub filled up as the afternoon wore on. Although it was a Sunday, there was no Sunday roast on the menu, which I find most unusual for a pub; not that I wanted one anyway.
Back on board, I cleaned up the tools and other detritus that had accumulated after the event. Just as I was repairing the extension lead to the tunnel light, Mick Wilson phoned for a chat and to see where I was. Having left Little Venice the same time as me, he was on the Rochdale now at Upper Mill, Saddleworth and only a day away from Standedge Tunnel (the longest, highest and deepest on the system at 3.25 miles long) and thinking of going as far as Ripon in Yorkshire.
More info on the tunnel here :-http://www.penninewaterways.co.uk/huddersfield/standedge.htm
The Rochdale is one canal that I would liked to have done last year, but it was closed at the time, because of flood damage.
After a hard day of fixing things, I was in bed early for the early arrival in the morning of the fuel boat Southern Star run by Ryan Dimmock as part of the Jules Fuels group of boats. This had been arranged by Jaq, whose boat also needed topping up.