Tuesday 18 August

After a breakfast of porridge we returned to Weedon Bec village and visited the church before heading off along a public bridleway to the south of the Royal Ordnance Depot. Its boundary wall was visible across the field and we got a clearer picture of how big it had been in its heyday.

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After lunch we said goodbye to John and Jill and headed south down the Grand Union.

We enjoyed our cruise as neither of us can remember much of this route from our 2010 trip and it was like seeing it all for the first time. We passed the end of the Northampton Arm and stopped for the night on the outskirts of Blisworth.

We took Max for a stroll round Blisworth Village and as we walked round we started to recognise some of the buildings and recall events from 2010.  Hopefully we can walk round tomorrow and next time I’ll remember to take my camera with me.

As we have a good internet signal tonight, I’m planning to place a grocery order for delivery tomorrow.

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Monday 17 August

The outside of the boat was suddenly looking quite dusty and in need of cleaning so I swept the roof and the decks and then washed one side of the boat. This took over an hour. I’ll do the other side another day when the towpath changes sides.

Afterwards we moved down to the waterpoint to top up and then we headed for the first of seven locks in the Buckby flight.   Just as we lined up to enter the lock, the pump system that pumps water back up the flight suddenly started up creating a strong flow in the canal which caused us to swerve dramatically across the canal and crash into the other lock gate. This didn’t cause any damage but was embarrassing as the beer garden of the New Inn was full of drinkers who weren’t aware of the true cause of the bump and gave us some funny looks. Anyway we smiled sweetly, opened the far gate and motored in.

John’s sister Jill, joined him as crew this afternoon. I’ve known Jill for a long time and it was lovely to see her and we had a lot of catching up to do as we’ve not seen each other for about five years.   As we chatted we worked the double locks which were really heavy and John came to assist us with some of the stiff paddles and heavy gates when we struggled.

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Both the M1 and the London Midland railway run alongside the Grand Union here and upset the normal tranquillity of the canal.

We headed to Weedon Bec. Storm and I were last here in 2010 and explored only the area to the east of the canal which we didn’t find too exciting. This evening we all headed along the embankment and down off the tow path and crossed under the canal and the railway to visit the old The Royal Ordnance Depot & Garrison that John had discovered previously.

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The security guard on the gate gave us special permission to walk around the site, provided we stayed on the main drag. It was an amazing place, a scaled down canal version of Chatham Dock Yard. Each building had a number painted on the end wall and we saw building number 95, which gives some indication of the scale. This site was once accessed from the Grand Union Canal but is now land-locked although the canal arm is still in water. The site originally extended to 125 acres but now only 25 acres remain, the remainder having been sold off for housing.   [The link above details the history of this real gem – the only shame is that it is privately owned and not generally available for the public to view – it would make a fabulous museum.]

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Weedon Bec is a very pretty village, but by the time we left the Depot the light was fading and so we promised to visit the village again in the morning.

Sunday 16 August

We got up early and headed off, first through Crick Tunnel which was significantly wetter inside today after Friday’s rain than it was last week.

We set the washing machine going as we came back out into the sunshine and carried on to the top of Watford Locks. We were the only boat there and we booked in with the lock-keeper who was busy adjusting water levels and said he’d be with us in a minute. We sat and watched swifts flying in and out of the lock-keepers shed through the tiniest hole in the door.   We assume they’re raising a second nest of chicks as they’re not alone as we’re still seeing newly hatched moorhen chicks bobbing about in the water.

The lock-keeper waved us through and he left Storm to work the staircase locks on his own and only joined us again at the bottom where there was a boat waiting to come up.

Last week when we were waiting to ascend the locks we’d noticed a campervan showroom on the road just beside the lock so this morning we moored up on the now vacant 48 hour mooring just after the water tap and, after hanging out the washing to dry, went off to kick a few tyres. We keep dreaming that one day we might buy a motor home although we’re not ready yet.

By the time we got back to the boat, we were surrounded by waiting boats, and although we were moored legally, we felt we were causing a little anguish by being there as we received a few terse ‘good morning’s. The washing was dry so we took it in and moved off out into open countryside to enjoy lunch and to have a Skype chat with Laura and Summer.

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We’d arranged to meet up with John again at Norton Junction and so late afternoon we moved off again. We found John and enjoyed a cup of tea and cake on board Kaimy and later we all enjoyed a home-made jalfrezi curry with rise and chapattis on Blackbird after which we went to The New Inn for beer.

 

Saturday 15 August Part 2

When I posted 15 August Part 1, I thought the excitement of the day was over. However after tea we took Max for his evening stroll and noticed smoke rising from the top of Cracks Hill.

We climbed the hill and found a group of villagers standing round the blazing brazier there commemorating VJ Day. The very steep climb to the top of the hill was worth it even though it left us gasping for breath for a few minutes as the view from the top extended at least five miles in each direction.   We also spotted three hot air balloons away in the distance that were taking advantage of the balmy evening.

We hadn’t fully appreciated either just how busy the residents of Crick and Yelvertoft had been in creating Millenium Wood, which now extends both sides of the canal with a maze of footpaths criss-crossing the area and which when viewed from the air makes pretty patterns through the trees.

When we left Cracks Hill we walked along one of the footpaths to the village before heading back towards the canal.

Saturday 15 August

A sunny but cool morning.  Storm headed off with Max to buy the paper from the village shop before they sold out and then we pootled down to Crick.  We moored up near Crick marina and headed off to the Co-Op as they sell  a  good selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, whereas the shop in Yelvertoft is more of a post office.

We stayed in Crick and our paper reading was accompanied by the sound of  an electric sander and a regular stream of boats passing by.

We spent the afternoon thinking about where we head next as we have ten days before we need to catch a train to Chester.      We may do a return trip to Milton Keynes in that time.

Friday 14 August

A month after St Swithin’s Day and its raining!  We needed to move today before we exceeded our 48 hour mooring and having donned wet weather gear, and filled up with water, we headed off in convoy for the lock.

After the lock we led the way and cruised back to Yelvertoft where John greeted a new member of crew  and they headed off to Crick for the night, leaving us to enjoy the peace of Yelvertoft.

No photos today as it’s too wet!

Thursday 13 August

At lunchtime today we were expecting our friend John on his boat NB Kaimy to join us in the Welford Arm.

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Storm has been on board Kaimy before when he helped John cruise the River Nene from Northampton to Peterborough back in 2011 so today John was keen that I see her and I got the tour of this very compact 45ft cruiser.

After coffee and cake we headed off for a walk. On the information boards at Welford Wharf there are details of five walks that vary in length from 2 miles to 8 miles. We opted for the 6 mile Reservoir Walk as this didn’t include walking beside the canal.

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We left Welford via Naseby Road and then turned off along the Jurassic Way towards Sibbertoft. This took us over the causeway between two reservoirs; Welford and Sulby – both of which keep the canal supplied with water. We then continued along the path through the parkland of the former Sulby Hall (now sadly demolished) and past the site of a WW2 airfield where there are one or two buildings remaining and a solar farm. We then crossed harvested wheat fields before reaching the pretty village of Sibbertoft.

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Our return walk took us back through the 1645 Naseby Battlefield and so we brushed up on our Civil War history.   It started to drizzle as we headed back to the wharf and it was only a short time later that the heavens opened and it continued to rain all night.

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John had been looking forward to eating at The Wharf pub and enjoying a couple of pints and so we kept him company as the means are good there. (Back on the diet tomorrow!).

When we left the pub  our patch of grass, where we’d enjoyed our picnic yesterday, was a lake that we had to paddle through to get back on board.