Here we sit on the Grand Union Canal close to the the top of the Buckby Lock flight (only 7 locks) which we will tackle tomorrow. Given that today’s weather forecast was for showers, rain and thunderstorms we only moved a small way this morning and have positioned ourselves for good progress when the weather clears tomorrow. But this gave us a relaxing day and Bob a chance to watch the latest AFL game where his beloved Crows suffered another defeat.
We spent last Wednesday – after our success in cleaning the inside of the boat and fitting the insulation to the engine bay (which has resulted in a considerable improvement to the noise level!) – cleaning and polishing the outside and hopefully ridding ourselves of the huge number of spiders who have been freeloading!!! It took all day but she came up a treat and I would think in excess of 100 spiders have now relocated to new addresses!!!!! Meanwhile many sheep looked up from their almost continuous grass munching to occasionally pass judgement on our labours!!
Jim and his dog Gina paid us a visit that evening whilst out walking – I think he got sick of hearing how much we had done that day!
We moved into Braunston on Thursday morning, availed ourselves of the services and found a mooring opposite The Boathouse pub and right next to Sylph. Chris and Jim were away all day but returned and joined us for dinner and a last few drinks before we headed off on Friday morning. We very much hope to catch up with them again as we will both be heading up the Leicester Canal over the coming couple of months.
Soon after we met Chris and Jim we decided to adopt a dog. It seems that most of the boats we come across have one and they seem very contented with life aboard. We had 3 dogs while we lived in Australia but age took them all eventually and we had decided not to get another. But talking one day we decided that Bunion would be a great name for a dog and as we tried it on for size he/she seemed to materialize and become a part of our lives. Very cheap to feed and incredibly well behaved, Bunion has settled in well and also gets on very well with the other dogs we meet. Being very camera shy it is not possible to show you a photo but you can rest assured he/she is beautiful!!!
We missed saying goodbye to Jim and Gina (they were out walking) but said sad farewells to Chris and then headed off to tackle the Braunston Lock flight of 6. There was quite a line up which was expected given how many boats had cruised past us in the morning. But we finally got through and teamed up with a father and son boat making the locks a lot easier to manage. These all take 2 boats which is a big change again from the Oxford Canal where they only fitted one at a time and often had only one gate. And for the first time Bron encountered both gate and ground paddles on the top gate!! Took a little bit of getting used to. She also forgot to close one of the paddles on the bottom gate when opening the top but someone from a waiting boat came up and fixed the problem!! How embarrassing!
After getting through the locks without major mishap we then rushed headlong into the next challenge – the 2042 yard long Braunston tunnel which takes about 30 minutes to get through. On came the navigation lights and Bob courageously ventured forth. After an unsettling couple of minutes Bron eventually found the best spot to manage the joint phobias of dark and small spaces by sitting on the bed with the bow doors open – ostensibly to alert Bob to any dangers she might see before him. We only encountered 2 boats which passed easily – one merely brushing us as they tried to navigate past in the very narrow tunnel (about 14 foot wide with each narrowboat 6 foot 10 inches wide – not much clearance and great skills required by the captain!!).
On reaching daylight we breathed a sigh of relief knowing we have more of these to come but now having some experience under our belt. Apparently the next one is about a thousand foot longer. The vista changed again and we finally stopped just before the Norton Junction where the Grand Union Canal heads south and the Leicester goes north. We had a lovely view down the hillside at farm land and across to a wind farm. This stretch comes very close to the M1 motorway but you can’t hear much from the canal.
We went for an exploratory walk up to the junction and down to the second lock in the flight to get some exercise and see what lay before us. Passed a lovely pub and little canal side shop selling all sorts of hand painted canal boat paraphernalia. We hadn’t brought any money so it all stayed right where it was!!!
After a good nights sleep we had a slow start today and chatted to a couple of our children on Skype (thank God for Skype and other forms of social media to keep in touch) before deciding to head around the corner to the top lock. Our moorings were right on the edge of the canal partially stuck on a sandbank leaving us on an uncomfortable lean. And the weather still looked OK.
So here we are – it has rained, sun has shone and now the thunderclouds are rolling in. Hopefully there will be better weather tomorrow and we can make some progress along the Grand Union towards London and hopefully rendezvous with relatives!!