Grand cruising on the Grand Union

Gayton – Braunston Summit: 13 miles, 7 locks

Safely up and away from the River Nene, Cleddau and Tentatrice both had engines serviced at Gayton Marina on Tuesday morning. This was the first service for Cleddau since Burton Fields Marina, near Lincoln. For those who like numbers it was a basic service after 250 engine hours, the BETA 43 engine installed by Stoke Boats in Spring 2014 now having run for 2282 hours.

The engine service was a remarkably slick operation. As instructed the boats were tied up alongside the bank on the outside of the marina.  It was from there that the engine work was done and fuel and water tanks refilled. There was no battling in high winds across awkward inland lakes to workshop facilities as can be the case at some boatyard facilities: the efficient and helpful engineers brought their tools, oils and filters to the boats. The premises (moorings, chandlery, office and rubbish bin area) all appeared tidy and clean – all in all, it was a pretty pleasant experience…

Just a couple of hundred yards further on from Gayton Marina is Gayton Junction.     Turn left for the south – nearly 80 miles further on the canal leads to the Thames at Brentford or turn right for Braunston and the route to the north.

A right turn was taken. What a shock, boats moored on both sides of the canal – and the first one on the right was one of those fat-bottomed widebeam beasts   that seem to have proliferated along the Grand Union. A half mile further along, just 16 miles from Braunston,    a mooring place was found – and windows, hatches and cratch were closed up tight to prevent ingress from the rain. Rain…    a rather unfamiliar experience!

Onward on Wednesday, the 7½ miles to Weedon Bec. The route is familiar if not well travelled. The railway line that runs close to the canal is clear on the map – and apparent from the water,  Virgin trains whooshing past at regular intervals.   With no locks to punctuate the waterway on this stretch it is the bridges that draw the eye, old,    new     and under refurbishment.     Then there are marinas    and canal side moorings, an almost convincing looking artificial tree,


curiously painted boats    and curiously shaped vessels,     and curiouser still, a waterside house extended in various directions.

Back in 2015 that Cleddau had an enforced stay in Weedon Bec,      see here for details.  It was then that the vast Royal Ordnance Depot had been discovered, its 120 acre site bisected by the Ordnance Canal which enters the site under a portcullis at the eastern end.          Though the Depot was not then open to the public a kindly security guard recognised genuine interest and allowed a pair of intruders…  Two months ago a Visitor Centre, funded by a Heritage Lottery grant, was opened in East Lodge.    For about 150 years the Depot was a stores headquarters of ammunition, small arms, uniforms, boots, bell tents…



Locals employed at the Depot kept their roles secret but random quotations high up on the Visitor Centre walls hint at Weedon life in the mid twentieth century.  

In recent years businesses have been allowed to develop in some of the impressive buildings.   What a surprise it was to come across The Booksmith a coffee shop amid 30,000 books.   The coffee was good, there were ladies arriving just for the cakes and the books are incredibly well ordered. The adjacent room accommodated the non-fiction stock and a gallery. A waterway enthusiast might well appreciate this…  

The busy High Street of Weedon carries heavy traffic from the A45. There are several antique shops, a bridal salon and a shop for smart wedding outfits. A mooch in an antique shop or emporium can create surprise at items once thought highly desirable. Nowadays there is an apparent glut of fish knives and forks    but it was this that induced a wave of nostalgia.     (Sisters, does it stir memories for you…?)

Elsewhere in Weedon there are visual delights that just must be photographed – this ancient window    and this charming doorway.  

Northbound out of Weedon there is a very new as yet unfinished road bridge, crossing both canal and railway.      Onward, past the stuffed man and his dog,   past newly trimmed vegetation and dredged edges,   past dense offside greenery to Whilton.   Slowly, sedately, a large shape glided from the bottom lock.    It was a holiday hotel boat – does the food taste as good as the aroma that drifted behind it smelt…?  

The Buckby Flight of 7 locks have been tackled numerous times before – and it takes considerable effort to pass through them as each chamber is very deep and each lock gate is extremely heavy.  

At the top an anxious looking boater watched as a RCR employee (River and Canal Rescue) worked in the water to free the boat’s jammed rudder…     After a water refill (and a much needed scrub of the front deck),   after a dodge-the-boats left turn at Norton Junction    an overnight mooring was sought, a plan somewhat frustrated by wonderful bankside works and shallow water.     

Next, through the tunnel and down to Braunston…

Travel stats since April: 689¼ miles, 203 locks

Height gain Peterborough to Braunston Summit: 350 feet

Periodically in recent weeks crew members have logged onto the Canal and River Trust website, looking for improvements in the water supply situation on the Macclesfield Canal.   Cheshire Mum regularly gives reports on rainy conditions – but when would there have been enough rain to allow the upper level of the Macc to be reopened?

Then at Weedon came an email update from C&RT:

Although some rainfall has occurred over recent weeks, low levels of rainfall have persisted throughout August and are forecasted to continue through the latter part of September, this has impacted on the reservoir holdings which are still extremely low. At least 5 weeks of prolonged rainfall would be required before holdings were to reach a sustainable water level to consider reopening of the Macclesfield Canal. Therefore, it is anticipated that it is unlikely that the Bosley Flight will re-open until at least the end of October, possibly later if we don’t experience any significant and prolonged rainfall over the coming weeks.

The Bosley flight is padlocked closed and the gates have been ashed up to reduce leakage.  To prevent unauthorised use, measures have been taken to make the locks inoperable. While the closure will prevent use of that stretch of canal by boats the towpath will remain open for visitors and the local community alike to enjoy…

 … This does mean that customers wishing to access or leave Macclesfield canal won’t be able to do so until the stoppage works have been concluded and the reservoir holdings have improved.

AND then:

5th November 2018 at 08:00 To Date: 14th December 2018 at 16:00 inclusive

Bridge 14A, Burgess Arm Towpath Bridge

Ends At: Bridge 15, Brownhills Bridge.

A navigation closure is required to repair the voids under the surface of the towpath.   It will not be possible to repair the wall on either side of the bridge without dewatering the main navigation from Bridge 15 to Bridge 14A and removing access to the side arm.

Bridge 15 is immediately south of Victoria Pit Moorings.

So for those who look at updates on the return stats to Victoria Pit, forget that!

Where could the boat be tied up for winter? Heritage Marina (on the lower level of the Macclesfield Canal) is full but, fortunately, a berth has been found at Aston, south of Stone, in Staffordshire.

It makes you wonder about the impact on the canal side businesses in north Cheshire. No winter strolls up into Lyme Park then from Victoria Pit or convivial meals down the lane at The Boar’s Head  – what a pity…

Remaining distance from Gayton to Aston Marina: 64 miles, 27 locks

Travel stats since April: 689¼ miles, 203 locks

Height gain Peterborough to Braunston Summit: 350 feet

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1 Response

  1. Jennie Gash says:

    Goodness me Sue – from Gayton we have 68 miles to go, but 122 locks!!

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