The GU Southbound – and an emergency evacuation
Monday 2nd June
It was a peaceful mooring on Sunday evening just west of Norton Junction – sunlit until dusk, with only a country lane in the distance,
few passers-by and open fields opposite. Bliss…
Between Braunston and Norton Junction the Grand Union Canal runs roughly east/west. Then at the junction there’s a choice – bear left (roughly north east) for Leicester, or right (south) for Brentford (where the canal reaches the Thames). Take the right and you’re soon heading south between two walls of sound, the M1 and the West Coast main railway line. Though you can shake off the motorway it is harder to be out of earshot of the fast Virgin trains…
First after Norton Junction there are the Buckby Locks to contend with – a flight of seven over a distance of about 1½miles. The gates are immensely heavy, the paddle gear occasionally stiff but there are plenty of rewards for boaters: pretty cottages, clematis in full bloom,
the attractive canal ware shop,
a bee hard at work on a thistle,
the pottery and art gallery
beside the bottom lock, the marina at the bottom pound.
On the convoy continued, M1 to the left, trains to the right.
Moored boats were passed (many of them), and then came Weedon Bec. From the canal you’d never guess this place’s history – it was chosen as a military stronghold during the Napoleonic War and even had accommodation for George III and family in case of invasion.
Climb down from the embankment on the village’s southern end and you’ll find golden yellow mellow stone housing,
a pretty church, the occasional thatched cottage and some curious windows.
A mile further on (just 10 miles from Braunston)
was an easy mooring: the rural views were pleasant but the noise from the trains was a little intrusive! Walk further on down the canal and you’ll see highly individual properties.
If the day lacked new adventure it did provide some interesting boat names:
Tuptonia, the Girlguiding boat for Northamptonshire and Birmingham
Cider With Rosie
Tuesday 3rd June
Prepare for the river – that was the purpose of the day: on Cleddau and Tentatrice fill up the fuel tanks, fill up the water tanks, catch up with the laundry, attend to the toilets, position the boats ready to descend to Northampton… such was the plan…
Stowe Hill Boats was closed until Thursday – so no diesel there. Like buses (none at all, then three at once)
three boats then converged on Nether Heyford Wharf to fill the diesel tanks.
Refuelled off the boats set, frequently passing moored boats – some of them with an unexpected previous life.
“Remember that tree,”
Then, just past the charity trip boat
“Smoke!” yelled the Captain. “We’re on fire! Get off the boat!”
Boatwif tore to the front, leapt to the bank. “The washing machine’s on…” she directed backwards.
“Back on the boat – turn it OFF,” came the order. Another gallop through the boat, a fiddle with the dials and another jump off.
What to do now?
While Boatwif held the centre rope the Captain gingerly crept back on deck. Smoke there was, but no flames. A deck board was lifted; from inside the cabin the smoke detector wailed.
Tentatrice drew in behind – what was up? The two Captains sniffed and inspected…
A tell-tale scorch mark on the exhaust was the clue to the cause: the plastic tube from the bilge pump, too close to the exhaust, had become over-heated (its innards “cooking”) and the fumes caused the smoke. The smell of hot plastic drifted through the boat.
Reopen the side hatch.
Restart the engine …
Restart the washing machine – and all was well.
Onwards to Gayton Junction, and the services.
Where to go, what to do…? There is no mooring at the Junction while nearer the locks is dominated by A43 noise. So a couple of miles further south the boats drew in at Blisworth, right behind The Cheese Boat.
Conclusion: plans are merely formalised wish lists…
And tomorrow (Wednesday): with the forecast for heavy rain it’s likely to be a stay at the current mooring sort of day.
Total distance to Bedford: 341 miles (+ detour)
Distance so far: 134 miles
Total number of locks to Bedford: 143 (+ detour)
Locks so far: 66