On Tuesday we had possibly the earliest start since we've been back on the boat - we were up and away by 0830hrs - I'm not normally even out of bed by then!
We managed Crick Tunnel, opened in 1814 and 1528 yards long, without mishap; in fact we were the only boat going through at that time of the morning surprisingly.
Emerging from the tunnel
Quaint red-brick bridges contrast nicely with the surrounding greenery
Bringing their garden shed with them! Waiting at the top of Watford Locks under the M1
Unfortunately, we weren't so lucky at Watford Locks, a bizarre series of locks consisting of one single lock, then a short pound, then a staircase of four and a short pound, then two locks extremely close together. The instructions state that boats should adopt a 'one up, one down' approach, and not enter until they've been booked in and given the go-ahead by the on-duty lock-keeper (they're only open from 0800 - 1900hrs).
Barry duly went to see the man in charge, and when he came back we went through the first lock after the boat in front of us. We then sat and waited a while, until Barry went to see the man again who told him he should've followed the other boat and now we'd have to wait for a number of boats to ascend! I wasn't too happy, it meant we were stuck in the pound for over an hour when we could've been going down - a bit of mis-communication somewhere?!
The pound below the Top Lock
The 'red, then white' sequence again Another beautiful blue sky day
A very busy lock day All tied up out of mischief's way
Wonder why Barry took this shot? Must've been distracted by the lovely lock legs!
Continuing our journey after a quick lunch stop, we turned right from the Grand Union Canal Leicester Section onto the Main Line, heading westwards and ultimately south to Oxford.
Norton Junction - left turn takes you south towards London, right takes you towards the Coventry Canal, Grand Union Main Line and the Oxford Canal
Our second hurdle was in Braunston Tunnel, opened in 1796 and 242 yards long. It's difficult to imagine how they built these long vaults in the 18th century, by hand and a bit of dynamite - I can't even try to comprehend the challenges they must've faced - unsurprisingly in this tunnel they made a slight mistake in direction causing a slight 'S' bend about halfway!
We encountered a boat in front and one behind, but until we were almost through no boats in the opposite direction. The leading boat appeared to be going slower and slower, and once a boat entered from the other end seemed to go into a complete panic, almost bouncing of the walls and the poor bloke kept looking to one side and then the other - we discovered at the locks shortly after the tunnel that they were hire-boaters and this was their first day out. Barry gave them some advice on tunnel negotiation - it can be very disorientating when you're in there and it's dark and so monotonous, and all you can see is a tiny light at each end. It must be very scary for novices, bless them.
Looking fairly cool and calm entering Braunston Tunnel
Braunston Top Lock number 1
Sandra negotiates the lock to hug the left side ready for another boat to enter - the lock cottage contains a superb narrowboat scene, stained glass door
Lots of waterways history around these parts
A helping hand at Braunston Lock Number 1
More history to take you back to the canals 'golden years' - Not enough room to fit the whole company name on little 'Mouse'
Looking back towards the bottom lock at Braunston with the canal pump house on the right
Barry bumped into the two ladies from the hire boat boat later on who said they were going to have to go into the marina to get a pump-out, but they'd have to back out and hadn't a clue how to do that as the hire boat company had told them they wouldn't need to reverse anywhere! Amazing!
We moored for the night close to Braunston Marina so we could use their launderette on Wednesday - hurrah, no more hand washing for a week or so.
In the evening we walked into Braunston and had a drink at another pub called 'The Wheatsheaf' - once again there was a very convivial atmosphere, and the World Cup was on - the semi-final between Holland and Uruguay which was actually quite fun to watch, well done Holland! Once the match was over, Barry and I found ourselves still intently watching the TV - it becomes mesmerising somehow, no wonder people are addicted to it! We tore ourselves away once we realised what was happening, you could reside in that other world quite easily I'm sure, but we'd rather 'live' in the real one and pay a visit every now and again to the TV alternative!
Braunston Marina from the footpath leading to the village
Braunston has an eclectic mix of old and new buildings, and the fine All Saint's Church steeple can be seen for miles from the canal. The village is built on the junction of the Grand Union and Oxford Canals, and there's a large gathering at the end of June annually for the Braunston Working Boats Rally when more than 80 working boats from around the country gather and parade majestically in all their glory - they certainly seem proud of their canal and it's history around here.
Like going back in time
'Cruck-built' framework of two curved tree trunks All Saint's Church Spire
Braunston Marina at night
A display of wild flowers mimicking exploding fireworks