Back to the canals

Cleddau had been climbing steadily since leaving Peterborough on 27th August. Peterborough is judged as 10 feet above sea level and Gayton, where Cleddau has paused for an engine service, is 300 feet. A lot of feet and a lot of locks then…

Monday was the day for a serious climb. There was an early departure from a mooring overlooked by the University of Northampton, then on past the Carlsberg Brewery      and back onto Canal and River Trust waters. 

The first lock (Lock 17) is virtually alongside modern apartments     but soon the rural character of the canal is apparent: it is extremely narrow (especially noticeable after months spent on wide rivers), the boat pushing, it seemed, past greenery and through submerged weed. More than once the Captain fished large clumps of weed and reed away from the lock exit and from beneath the bow. 

As the boat began to climb away from the town an extraordinary structure came into view.       It’s the National Lift Centre  officially opened by the Queen in 1982 to test lifts. Since 1997 ‘The Northampton Lighthouse’ has been a Grade II Listed Building. It is now used for research and development – AND for extreme abseiling

The first five of the locks are spread over about three miles.   A new housing estate has sprouted since 2014, large houses too. 

Then after Lock 13 the canal passes under the M1.   (For any potential Mastermind contestants, chosen subject British Motorways, it’s near Junction 15A). There’s a fresh and striking mural under the M1 motorway bridge, showing Northampton’s history via a simple time line*    (See Northampton Extra below for a little more detail about the town)

From here on the locks are close together,   and steadily the convoy (Tentatrice ahead   and Chrisden behind) climbed the hill.  At some locks pretty stone mosaic inserts, part of a 2018 Nature Trail installation, added charm to the flight.     A helper for the Chrisden crew was a swift and lithe clamberer across the pairs of lower lock gates. “I’ll be catching you up, catching you up,” he had announced, so slacking was not an option…

A routine evolved: Boatwif dropped water in each lock ahead, closed and opened gates, wound paddles up and down as required; the Captain steered the boat into and between each lock, closing up each one as he left it.    On and on up the hill. The top (ground) paddles became stiffer and tougher.     The regular windlass was swapped for a long-handled version, which made operation a tad easier. By Lock 3 a role swap was decreed so that the Captain could do battle with the stubborn ground paddles… Tentatrice reached the top and rejoice, the cavalry arrived to help with the final two locks.  

A few twists of the Grand Union Northampton Arm later and, amid much boating movement, towpath moorings were found opposite Gayton Marina, ready for an engine service in the morning…

Northampton to Gayton: 4¾ miles, 17 locks, a rise of 102 feet.

*Northampton Extra







The previous post gave a few indicators of Northampton’s unexpected charms. Too late on Sunday Boatwif came across a Heritage Open Days leaflet for the area. With some careful planning visits could have been made to the Victorian Gothic Guildhall,   the National Leathercraft Collection and the auditorium of the grade II listed Royal Theatre…

All Saint’s Church (visited on Saturday) is the town’s Civic Church.      It was built in 1680 replacing the larger 11th century building which was destroyed in the Great Fire of Northampton in 1675. There’s an enormous portico at the west end of the church,  above which, unnoticed at the time, sits a statue of King Charles II who gave 1,000 tons of timber from his forests to help re-build the church.

As for the Charles Rennie Mackintosh house at 78 Derngate  it’s open Tuesdays to Sundays, with a discount on entry for English Heritage members. There are four tours a day for groups up to 12 although Boatwif was the sole person at 3pm on Sunday (video plus about an hour’s information-packed guided tour).        

And while one member of the crew was perusing Northampton’s cultural delights the Captain had his own exciting time, going on a couple of B&Q spending sprees so as to repair under-bed drawer slides and the television aerial system… 

Remaining distance from Gayton to Victoria Pit Moorings: 97 miles, 67 locks

Travel stats since April: 673 miles, 191 locks

Height gain Peterborough to Gayton: 290 feet

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