Summer Sunday at Stoke Bruerne

Nether Heyford to Stoke Bruerne: 10 miles, 1 tunnel
           Congrats to Senior Sis who overnight emailed a correct identification of the pretty flag shown yesterday. (See below for details).
           Last night’s storms brought an air change and today has been bright and breezy, with one brief afternoon shower. It was a pleasant enough cruise towards Gayton Junction, the main features being  sheep in the fields, the railway line, the curving course of the canal and a fair number of other boats either moored in marinas or alongside.  En route an old ship’s lifeboat was passed

– and Tegg’s Nose!

At Gayton Junction

there was a moment of realisation. Here the 17 narrow locks of the Rothersthorpe Flight lead down (under the M1 near Junction 15A) to Northampton, onto the River Nene and on to the Middle Levels and even out to the Wash. Today’s mission, however, was to continue on the Grand Union to nearby Blisworth, and on through the third longest navigable canal tunnel…        
           Waterproofs  CHECKED
          Side hatch doors closed –CHECKED
          Back hatch spotlight – CHECKED
          Cratch lights on – CHECKED
           Internal lights on – CHECKED
           Outdoor adventure nearby (the boy on a swing,

a family trying to clamber over a fallen tree)

was left behind as Cleddau plunged into the 3,076 yards (2,813m) of broad tunnel.

It is high – and frequently wet. Streams drain in to it at various points and water drips (sometimes cascades) down from the air ventilation shafts. Four boats approached and passed without incident. Cleddau emerged at the Stoke Bruerne end about twenty five minutes later

– to a phalanx of cameras. “Could you reverse back and do it again?” joked one photographer.          
                 Despite this being a honeypot site a mooring was easily found. Visitors patrol past on the towpath on their way to the blacksmith’s forge

and the tunnel mouth. Questions are asked: engine type, fuel costs, heating arrangements, canal routes… and so on. Little trip boats potter past regularly; a longer trip boat does less frequent through the tunnel return trips. Behind the towpath is a short woodland walk where observant eyes might spot a fox

or even two deer…

          There’s a buzz further along outside the Waterways Museum

and waterside cafe. Gongoozlers, some there for the afternoon it seems in their own deckchairs,

ogle and even assist any boats reaching the last (or the first) of the seven locks. The Old Chapel has been re-launched as Topiary, selling designer gifts and delicious ice-creams. The pubs are busy and beside the second lock a family group of twelve shared a picnic happily.

            To last night’s puzzles: the Captain uses small go-kart tyres as fenders when mooring up against hard edges. At Warwick a rope frayed and a tyre was lost! Solution: attach a U clamp (Midland Chandlers) to the tyre for the rope – so at least the rope shouldn’t fray again!
             As to the flag, yes, Senior Sis, it is the flag of one of the Netherland’s 12 provinces, Friesland.

(No prizes were offered so no need to lurk expectantly by the letterbox!) However, Senior Sis and other Pembrokeshire readers, there was a Monkton Moment* this morning:
            “Oh, Cleddau,” (pronounced correctly, Cleth –i) said the man on a Sea Otter, “did you name it yourself? I’m from Carmarthen!” (Pity the boater from Swansea yesterday who didn’t have the remotest clue…)
Captain’s Postscript:
Three flypasts today : a Dragon Rapide and an Avro Anson in close formation, a Chimpmunk and the Red Arrows.
(Tomorrow: down Stoke Bruerne Locks to Cosgrove and the northern end of Milton Keynes)

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