Thursday, 19 April 2012

A Lockin good day!...

It was nice to get back behind the tiller today (well actually in front of it but you know what I mean!) We don't have the budget, or the need, to be travelling every day. I really want to see a bit more of England's rural countryside and get to know some of the towns and cities that we will be passing not too far away from. So we will aim to change location somewhere between weekly and fortnightly. over I can't see!
We left our mooring just south of Buckby top lock about 10.30, a time of day that is soon approaching being early morning for us! But in fairness its not just like grabbing your keys and phone and jumping in the car. That reminds me, how that guy getting on in X-factor? His rap was one of the funniest things I have seen on this years shows with his song 'where me keys, where ma phone...' We did have an audience whilst we prepared our departure. I can almost imagine them thinking ... 'no that's the wrong type of knott, won't get far with that...'

Our first lock, and the last before the Braunston summit,  was in the pub garden of the New Inn. Deb was quite pleased that we were there before opening time as this was our first solo passage through a wide lock and the fewer spectators the better. To stop LJ getting bashed about by the incoming water (we were going up) I had to climb on the roof, feed the centre-line rope around a bollard, keep steady on the roof until we were at lock wall level and try and keep all 20 (aprox) tons of us tethered at the side whilst Deb operated the lock paddles. It was about as easy as it sounds, certainly not as easy as pairing up with another boat and wedging ourselves in.

Deb decided to do the washing up at this time and still hasn't got used to the amount of washing-up liquid to use :)

not going to get 200 washes out of that bottle now!

stubble is coming on, but you should see the hair!
It was a pleasant run for the next mile or so with manageable winds and little rain, although we kept waterproofs on just in case. We passed through farm land and a wooded cutting before I felt a chill run down my spine! The passage in the map book had reminded me the entrance to 'the' tunnel was shortly after a wooded cutting, surely we couldn't be there already!

Sure enough as I waited to let an oncoming boat through a narrow section, the boat following behind it was just extinguishing its tunnel light. 

Braunston tunnel is over 2000yds long and has a couple of kinks in the middle due to engineering difficulties back in the late 1700's when it was built. As the construction was so long ago in an era where health and safety was not even a glimmer in a bureaucrat's eye, there are no lights, no safety barriers, emergency exits, no little phone booths to call for help, no gps or phone signals, no powerful extractors clearing the air of diesel fumes. Worse still whilst headroom is ok the tunnel is only 15ft 7 wide. Now LJ is 6ft 10 wide and lets say the oncoming boats are the same that's 13ft 8 wide if we touch leaving just 23 inches for a gap between the wall, boats and other wall, minus the size of any fenders! Tight to say the least! 

One Following us in
Now imagine you are stood behind the boot of your car in the pitch black, there are another three cars in front of you, the further most one has been equipped with one headlight from a post war motorbike. Your view over the four car roofs is obscured further by a pile of wood, satellite dish, chimney and big plastic box; oh and you have no brakes and rear wheel steering. Lastly add deafening noise from the echo of diesel engines and choking fumes and you're in the tunnel too!

Surprisingly we made it through with only one very minor knock from the three boats we passed. As it didn't take quite as long as I expected, we pushed on through the next flight of locks heading down to Braunston village itself. The towpaths here were a little soggy from the last few days rain.

Small person takes large dog for a walk

We managed to find a mooring right outside Braunston marina at the bottom of the village and hiked up the hill to get a few supplies ready for mum and dads visit tomorrow. Braunston is a pretty little two street village with lots of character and a proud history. A local information sign says that one family owned the farm, windmill and bakers and all the villagers used to share the oven to roast their meat and cook their pies once the daily bread was baked. You can imagine what a thriving community it would have been, after all the canal (end of the 'grand union') was the main thoroughfare for all goods between the midlands and London.

I hope to spend a week or so close to here and learn more about Braunston's history.