Tuesday 25 August

We left Braunston and headed up the North Oxford towards Rugby. At the first of the Hillmorton locks we had an incident that reminded us to stay alert at all times.

Our front button fender caught on the top of the lock gate without us noticing and as Storm raised the paddles the back of the boat dipped backwards. A frantic shout from me spurred Storm to drop the paddles and race to the other end of the lock to let some water through.   The boat by now had freed itself to the sound of broken crockery. Thankfully there was no serious damage done and we only lost one tumbler and a side plate, but it shook us up a bit.

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If you look at our button fender you would wonder how we got stuck as it has lost most of its padding and you’d expect the chains to break first under the strain of 16 tonnes of boat.

Anyway we reached our destination safely and here we’ll stay until next week as we’re heading to Chester to celebrate Summer’s second birthday.

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday 24 August

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We left Norton Junction for Braunston. The stacked straw bales stirred mixed emotions in me as they are a sign of a successful harvest and also a signal that the Summer is nearing an end and the need for my fleece jacket was another sign today.

We met three boats in Braunston tunnel and we were also followed! This meant we would have a lock buddy for the six locks ahead.

We were met at the top lock by a cheery smile from the volunteer lock-keeper who was glad to see us – she was concerned about her water levels as there had been too many boats coming up the flight rather than down.

The family on the hire boat sharing the locks with us had enjoyed their first week on the canals and were about to hand their boat back so there were some glum faces on board.

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The moorings in Braunston were already pretty busy by lunch-time and we took the last space. The rain arrived at 1pm as forecast and we waited in until early evening for it to stop before venturing out. We walked through some of Braunston’s ‘open access’ pastures and followed a circular route that brought us back to the North Oxford canal and back into the village – a walk that took about an hour.

Late arriving hire boat crews, looking somewhat bedraggled after the rain, were venting disappointment that all the moorings were full, and were having to travel further to find somewhere to moor up for the night.

We returned Max to the boat and we headed back to the Admiral Nelson pub. For years Storm has worked in a building on the side of the Lord Nelson pub, Hamilton House, and so we just had to see what promotion had meant! This was a cosy pub, with an unusual collection of many chairs, sofas, stools, and a pleasant change from the gastro-style, child friendly Boat House. We sat in the far room and coincidentally met our lock buddies from both yesterday and today.

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Braunston Wharf

Sunday 23 August

A cooked breakfast treat this morning while we waited for the diesel pump engineer to arrive.   At nine o’clock the key holder arrived and opened the shop and suggested he give the diesel pump one more try. Miraculously it worked so in the end we didn’t have to wait for the engineer and filled up with 120 litres of diesel.

We paused in Weedon Bec to visit the cash dispenser outside the Tesco Express and then headed off again towards the Buckby Lock Flight.

This harmless drunk keeps an eye everyday on the boats that pass him by and his collection of empties never changes!

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We followed a shared ownership Boat Club boat for a couple of miles and this was a very welcome sight as it meant we could share the locks with them.

Momentarily our hearts sank when a boat pulled out in front of them and we thought this meant it too was heading to the locks and would share with them instead of us, but thankfully it pulled in again a bit further along!

Storm worked the locks and the family on the Boat Club boat were keen to explain that they own a two week share which means that in any year they can enjoy two weeks a year aboard with a choice of bases from which to start their holiday.   They love it so much that they’re in the process of signing up with another company to a six week share and they don’t think it will be long before they buy their own boat.

We started the day in glorious sunshine but as we were half way up through the locks it started to cloud over and at the fourth lock it started to spit. We managed to clear the flight, fill up with water and moor and get the hood up before it began raining in earnest.

By four o’clock the sun was shining again but there was a really strange light caused by the sun being behind low lying clouds.

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Max has found a new resting place on the back step that looks as though it was made especially for him, that is when he’s not sitting outside watching the world go by.

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Saturday 22 August

Having lost two cruising days this week while we got the computer repaired, and with an eye on the weather forecast for Monday and Tuesday this week, we decided to start our journey back towards Rugby as we have a train to catch later this week.

We filled up with water and emptied our rubbish and then winded just below Cosgrove Lock which meant going down in the lock, winding and then coming back up in the same lock.

I popped to the shop again. Unfortunately by 9am this morning all copies of our favourite newspaper had already been sold and so I came away empty handed.

With Storm’s weather app on his phone showing expected temperatures today of 28 deg C, I made sure I was blathered in sun cream.

We retraced yesterday’s journey and this time we were lucky and had company up through Stoke Bruerne locks which made life easy as I only had to open the paddles on one side of the lock, leaving the other crew member to do their side.

By the time we’d cleared the locks it was mid-day and we continued on into the tunnel. The cool damp air was most welcome today and helped restore my core temperature to normal after the exertions of the locks.

As we exited the tunnel the heat hit us again and we could have been abroad. We carried on through Blisworth aiming for either Bugbroke Wharf or Stowhall Wharf to look for diesel.

We do

We discovered that Bugbroke Wharf was closed and while Stowhall Wharf had diesel, their pump was broken.  We were told that an engineer is coming to fix it at 10am tomorrow and not wishing  to miss a sale, we were invited to stay on their wharf overnight. We accepted, even though this meant that we couldn’t walk off site until the keyholder returns in the morning.  This included the pub which was tantalisingly close (just the other side of the fence). We could have moved the boat across the canal to the towpath but we’ve decided to be good and drink tea instead.

 

Friday 21 August

Today we travelled seven miles from Blisworth to Cosgrove via the third longest tunnel on the canal network (3057 yards). It is the longest wide tunnel though as it has space for two boats to pass. It is amazingly straight and you can see the exit before you enter, even though the exit porthole is just a tiny dot in the distance. We met another boat about half way through. Nobody followed us through though and this meant that there was no-one to share the 7 Stoke Bruerne locks with us . I steered today and Storm did the locks and he noticed how heavy they were. (I think these locks from Norton Junction are some of the toughest we’ve encountered since doing the Rochdale Canal back in 2011.)

Stoke Bruerne is said to be the best example of a canal village with the houses flanking the canal.   Here you’ll also find the National Waterways Museum that brings to life over 200 years of canal history. [Actually this is one of three museums that claim to be a National Waterways Museum, the other two being in Gloucester and Ellesmere Port].

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We visited this museum in 2010 and so passed it by this morning. Our journey took us through rural countryside with some wonderfully named villages (Grafton Regis and Yardley Gobion) lying about half a mile to the West of the canal.

It was cool this morning and we wore our fleeces but by afternoon the temperature had risen despite it still being overcast and we put on shorts and teashirts. By late afternoon the sun put in an appearance and it got even hotter.

We walked Max along the now derelict Buckingham Arm of the Grand Union. Volunteers are working hard to restore this to a navigable condition. Parts of it are now in water but there is still much work to be done.

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The Arm in water and with boats

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The Arm in water but with weed and no boats

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The Arm or at least the line of where it will be one day …

We returned to Cosgrove over the Gothic style bridge. This was built in 1800 and its style is unique among canal bridges.

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Our Nicholson’s guide says there is no obvious reason for its solitary splendour. In Cosgrove there is also an unusual ‘keyhole shaped’ pedestrian tunnel under the canal that was built to accommodate horses being taken from the towpath to stables on the other side of the canal.

Thursday 20 August

We packed a rucksack today with waterproofs, and a couple of apples, and headed back to the bus stop for Northampton.

We started by following the Northampton Heritage Trail which begins at The Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  This church dates from 1103 and is the oldest building in Northampton and the largest and best preserved of four remaining round churches in the country.  Sadly the church was locked and so we were unable to view the interior.

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Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The tower and nave were added later

We should have followed the trail through the Market Square and past two sculptures; one commissioned to represent the town’s shoe and boot industrial heritage and the other to commemorate the life of Francis Crick, who with James D Watson discovered the structure of DNA.  We saw these yesterday though and instead took a detour along Upper Mounts where we passed the fire station and the public baths.  Hopefully these two buildings will be included in some future heritage trail that celebrates fine examples of 30’s architecture.

The fire station

The fire station

The public baths

The public baths

We rejoined the trail at Lutyens War Memorial that commemorates Northampton’s 23000 fallen from WW1 and only about 200 from WW2.

Lutyens War Memorial & Garden of Remembrance

Lutyens War Memorial & Garden of Remembrance

From there we continued on to St Giles Church which was also locked meaning that we couldn’t appreciate its stunning Victorian glass from inside – the external grills protected the glass from vandalism and from viewing!

We visited Beckett’s Well which legend suggests was visited by Thomas A Beckett as he fled his trial at the Castle in 1164.

Beckett's Well

Beckett’s Well

After that we crossed the road to 78 Derngate, a house remodelled by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  This is his only major work outside of Scotland.  We paid to look round and learnt that he was commissioned by Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke, the founder of a prosperous model-making business in the town. Bassett-Lowke is said to be one of Mackintosh’s most demanding, knowledgeable and progressive patrons who had quite advanced ideas of his own.  Money was obviously no object and in the early 1900’s Bassett-Lowke had arranged for both electric lighting and power to be installed in the house (lighting and power were supplied by two different companies at that time).

Mackintosh's Guest Bedroom

Mackintosh’s Guest Bedroom

Mackintosh never visited the house, although he did see the results of his designs from photographs taken by Bassett-Lowke and these photos provide a fascinating archive today and show that little has changed in the intervening century.

Mackinstosh is known for his style over function whereas as Bassett-Lowke had a keen eye for function and one can imagine that there may have been some heated discussions before the final designs were agreed.  Mrs Bassett-Lowke was a traditional lady and wasn’t keen on Mackintosh’s modern designs although she recognised the value of what her husband had commissioned and about ten years after his death she gifted most of the furniture to various museums.

This house is a real gem and love it or hate it it is a must to visit.

By now we were starting to feel a bit foot sore and paused for a coffee before heading off to the Museum and Art Gallery to view the town’s famous collection of boots and shoes (the largest in the World).  The lighting here was really subdued to protect the exhibits and it took a while for our eyes to acclimatise.  We would have loved to have been able to take photographs as there were some truly amazing designs.

The Northampton Museum & Art Gallery

The Northampton Museum & Art Gallery

After a while we had to admit defeat and abandon both the museum and the Trail as we’d only completed about half of them and time was marching on. We still had to go and collect the computer  and we needed to get back to the boat to see Max.   We will definitely revisit Northampton some other time and finish what we started.

Wednesday 19 August

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After last night’s red sky we were expecting a nice day.  We moved nearer to Blisworth village to receive our Tesco delivery and took Max for a stroll while we waited.

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Blisworth is a very pretty village with some lovely thatched cottages and I particularly liked the complex roof of this one.

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The groceries arrived safely although after that  disaster struck!

Our AppleMac refused to open and presented only a blue screen with no icons.  Plans to head for Milton Keynes were postponed and instead we caught the bus into Northampton to visit the Apple shop there.

A very helpful guy suggested that a £49 service would remedy the problem and that our computer would be ready to collect sometime tomorrow.  Feeling reassured we lingered a while in Northampton and did some shopping in BHS and M&S.

We also visited the Tourist Information centre and spotted a couple of interesting leaflets that tempted us to think of spending a day being tourists tomorrow.

By late afternoon it was looking as though rain was imminent and as we’d failed to pack an umbrella or a coat we headed for the bus back to Blisworth.