What next…?

Was the Crick Boat Show the wettest, muddiest ever? Some marina residents believed that to be the case. Three days after the Show a welcome email declared the normal car parks (all on gravel and small stone) to have reopened. The marina was still to be regarded as a building site (ie. CAUTION recommended) and a tow service was available for those vehicles still parked on the fields…

A few structures still remained  and a wide beam boat was on the back of a lorry being transported away.  Faded grass and churned up surfaces provided evidence that Something Big had happened…

Cleddau’s outings this year have been local jaunts for boat and crew (to Welford, to Braunston and to Market Harborough). Next up was to be more of a Proper Trip.

Post-Show the boat escaped from Crick, took a left turn, trundled through the tunnel, met a workboat on a bend and then arrived at the top of Watford Locks. There was a wait of nearly 90 minutes before permission was given to proceed down the 7 narrow locks.  Leaky top gates in lock 5 sprayed the back deck and the steerer too…

Onward, to arrive at Norton Junction, and for the first time since 2022, turn left, for the Buckby Locks and the Grand Union Canal (for Milton Keynes and places south to London).

The afternoon was whiled away with jobs, both domestic and boat-related. Who would have thought that a simple rope splice activity would lead to scissors at the bottom of the canal, a sea magnet so powerful that it would latch onto the embanked steel piling, a fruitless prodding around with a boat hook and a sharp snatch on an extended rope eventually releasing the magnet…?

The 7 Buckby Locks are double width and spread out over about a mile and a half distance. The gates are always heavy and the bottom gate paddles always very stiff. Would this be a solo descent or would there be a locking partner? Luck was in – on Saturday morning a Napton hire boat crewed by two parents, three boys, a small girl and two dogs appeared from behind.    A rhythm developed, smallest boy lock side with the mid-rope, older two boys with windlasses,  little girl supervising, mother with the dogs, father on the tiller.

“We’re doing it to get the kids outdoors,” said the mother, “and when we get to the bottom we’ll have some lunch and then turn round and go back up…”

There was a delay after the fifth lock, two boats ahead tied up in a queue. A lock keeper further down the flight was managing the excess water coming down the locks.

Eventually the boats moved onwards and down to the bottom lock. Here was the toughest struggle with paddle gear. “Why would you want to go back up again?” the lock keeper asked the hire boaters, as if he’d forgotten the satisfaction and fun novice crew have in learning how to navigate through locks…

While Eliana turned and headed back to the bottom lock to retrace their route, Cleddau continued south, crew keen to lose the sound of the M1’s traffic. Cow parsley, lupins,  a WW2 duo,   boats of varied shapes and sizes  and then a mooring at Weedon Bec.

A preferred mooring is on the embankment above the church. Many of the buildings are constructed with that lovely mellow Northamptonshire stone and thatched roofs.    There’s a distinctly village feel in the One Stop shop and in the nearby local businesses.

In the early 1800s the Ordnance Depot was built  at Weedon Bec in the centre of England, as far from the coast as possible. . Its purpose was to house a huge store of muskets, cannon and gunpowder during the time of the Napoleonic Wars. It remained in Ministry of Defence hands until 1965.

In 2015 a security guard had allowed Boatwif and the Captain a quick peek at these magnificent buildings dating from 1802. By 2018 a Visitor Centre and small businesses had appeared at the Depot. How was the iconic site doing now…?

The Visitor Centre has a video now to explain the Depot’s history, with re-enactors explaining their role.    A current display explains Weedon’s role in the D-Day preparations.

To the right of the East Lodge entrance is Building 1, home to The Antiquarium on the ground floor (collectables, antiques, upcycled items).   Upstairs is The Reading Tree (home to hundreds of books and very good coffee).

On a sunny weekend plenty of folk were visiting The Depot, but why so many motorbikes? A street of buildings at the far end of the Depot seemed to be attracting visitors.  An eclectic mix of vintage vehicles and kit cars drew admiring glances. Then, in an amazing ground floor space for Petrolheads, there was a half aeroplane, the tail of a USAF Hercules aircraft, computer simulator road driving games and a rather expensive Ford saloon (*see below for details). All very curious…

After Weedon Bec, what next? Onwards the next day (about 7 miles) to Gayton Junction. Somewhere is a farm that seems to “grow” Portaloos…   2024’s Cruise Plan A would have seen a left turn at Gayton, down the 17 locks to Northampton and the River Nene. Plans change…

Now on Plan B Cleddau was to cruise further south, through Blisworth Tunnel (at 3,075 yards / 2,811 metres long it is the longest wide, freely navigable tunnel in Europe) to arrive at Stoke Bruerne, a location often described as a “canal honeypot”.

More on “the honeypot” next time.

Southbound from Crick trip so far:  21 miles, 2 tunnel passages, 14 locks

2024 Totals: 112½ miles, 8 tunnel passages, 62 locks, 4 swing bridges

 *2024 Monkton Moments* (Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections) – now 7 (1 from a passing boat, I from a walker who grew up near Carmarthen.)

Tudor Rose enquiries: 1. “Why have you got a Welsh name and an English rose…?”

*Vehicle Details

Model Variant: Ford A 

Primary Colour: Black

Fuel Type: Petrol

Engine: 3900 cc

Year Manufacture: 1930

Euro Status: N/A

Vehicle Age: 94 Years 5 Months

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4 Responses

  1. Nidia says:

    Sue Ken, mid year break for me so I’ve caught up on your adventures. Can’t wait to see you both in a month’s time. Happy boating and blogging in the mean time. Nid xx

  2. Boatwif says:

    Hi Nid, looking forward to hearing your news from the southern hemisphere!

    Sue /Boatwif

  3. Jaqueline Biggs says:

    Sue your description of leaving the marina did make me laugh: “the boat escaped from Crick…” for some reason I pictured you and Ken asleep at home in Wootton while the boat escaped in the night under its own power.

    We enjoyed mooring up at Weedon Bec and buying fruit form the greengrocer that used to have a small store there at the downhill bend of the high street. We watched several weddings come and go from the church as well.

    We had several gorgeous days moored in the sunshine just north of bridge32 across from Heyford Farm. We walked across the hay fields into the village for meat from the butchers and a few bits and bobs form the One Stop.

    On the way to Gayton we loved to moor out in the countryside across from the farm with the horses between bridges 44 and 45. We walked up to the village and did a bit of scrumping! I planted some of Les’ ashes and some Daffodils under the large Oak tree on the towpath there as it was one of his favorite spots.

    That Iconic picture of me and Les frolicking in the snow, heads thrown back and laughing, was taken when we moored up just after coming out of the Blisworth tunnel, on the Stoke Bruerne side but not into S.B. itself. We were frozen in there for a few days in January 2013 with Jacki and Lars on Likeducks2water.

    Another of Les’ favorite places to moor was just after bridge 57 at Grafton Regis. He loved looking out over the fields and into the distance. He told me had always wanted to moor there but every time he had cruised through, there were boats moored and no room for him. I planted his ashes and more Daffodils on the offside by a fence post with the open fields on the other side. Now he always has a mooring space there to take in the view.

    We loved mooring just before Solomon’s Bridge in Cosgrove, such an iconic piece of canal architecture and a lovely walk through the village. I moored there a final time in 2017, meeting Kevin there to take possession of some of hid dad’s belongings. I also left some of Les’ Railroad and canal books there at the service point for someone else to find and enjoy.

    Cleddau and her crew will be coming up to Stanton Low, a place that still holds a big piece of my heart and some of Les’ ashes and more Daffs planted at Bridge 75 on the park side just beyond the large rock blocking bridge access to vehicles. We loved to stand on the hump backed bridge at dusk and watch the barn owls quarter the fields for a meal. The ruins of St. Peter’s chapel are there and lovely walks around Linford Lakes and the bird sanctuary . We spotted dozens of nesting Egrets and Herons on an island in the middle of the lake and a dozen Grebes mating in the water. I loved delving into the history of Stanton Low and discovering the Spencer family owned the fields, through their relationship to Sara, Duchess of Marlborough who was the current Duke’s great, great, great grandmother.

    On the opposite side over the bridge is in my humble opinion, the best planned housing estate in the UK. We enjoyed walks around the houses enjoying the beauty of a well planned community. In late 2016 a small Asda store at teh far edge of the estate making it a really handy place to moor up and nip in for a top up.

    Soon you will be in MK proper with Great Linford–another lovely place to moor and peruse the ancient Nag’s Head thatched roof pub and the village with the almshouses, the art centre, and the stone circles. Then there is The Doric Seat and The Sheep art installation, and further on southward are The Great Linford Brick Kilns.

    There is now the Gyosi Art Trail which follows the canal, starting just south of the M3 overpass. Before you and Ken know it you will be near Campbell Park another of our favorite mooring spots for a couple of days, to enjoy walks through the park and enjoy its beauty. I enjoyed walking the labyrinth with the Armillary sphere at its center for a bit of pensive thinking. I was surprised to discover there is the Circle of Hearts Medicine Wheel and the Peace Pagoda on the shores Of Willin Lake. I would have loved to have visited them. Thanks for bringing these lovely memories back to life!
    Biggs big hugs and loads of love to you both,
    Jaq xxx

  4. Boatwif says:

    Thank you, Jaq, for such a gloriously detailed comment! The Tudor Grocers shop is closed now (and it was last time we went past) but the convenience store down in Weedon Bec is still alive and strong! I absolutely remember the Angels in the Snow picture taken near Blisworth Tunnel. We spotted the chapel remains but couldn’t pull in anywhere near there. Your clear memories have given us plenty of places to look out for as we do this dawdle down Memory Lane…
    Thanks again,
    Love,
    Sue /Boatwif

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