Watford Flight

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The Watford Flight is located near to the Watford Gap services on the M1 motorway. The road can be heard here and occasionally glimpsed through the trees. The whole flight is seven locks, consisting of two single locks, a staircase of four locks, and a final top lock. A ‘staircase’ is a sequence where you emerge from one lock directly into the next, whereas single locks have a pound between them.

Traffic through the flight is strictly controlled by a CRT volunteer lock-keeper, because these are single boat locks and the staircase can only accommodate boats going in the same direction. On the day we went through, there were three boats coming down, so we had to wait a while at the bottom before being allowed to enter.

Here is a video record of the ascent through the staircase.

And here is the familiar view that greets you as you emerge from the top lock. You do get a great sense of achievement when you come through. We stopped at the services on the left before heading on to moor up for lunch after the second bridge, and then the final journey back to the marina described in the previous post.

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Return journey

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” (The Wind in the Willows).

We’ve dawdled. It’s been a very relaxing trip. Some days we did not travel at all. Louise made some roses. Andy did some composing. There was quite a lot of sitting about.

The outward journey was consequently not a great distance: a matter of 18 miles or so to Gayton Junction. The return journey took us slightly less time because we decided to come back a day sooner than predicted. The weather is closing in and a cold snap is forecast. But for most of our trip, the weather has been very good, with some days of brilliant sunshine, even if it was a bit chilly.

Gayton Junction, our half-way turning point, is a busy place, with boats coming from three directions.

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We stopped at the neat and well maintained service station to fill up with water and empty the toilet cassettes. It took quite a long time, and we enjoyed chatting with a gentleman who was doing the same thing.

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The other junction on our trip was Norton, where the Grand Union canal turns south towards Brentford and London (our direction) or west towards Braunston.

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This is a very pretty junction, with a lovely house on the corner and good services round the bend.

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We had a nice meal and a pint or two at the nearby New Inn. But the best meal out was on our 18th wedding anniversary, last Sunday, when we dined at the Narrow boat Inn, Weedon Bec. The food there is very good.

Most days, though, Louise cooked meals on board. This was a particularly delicious one: Italian Veggie Cottage Pie

For a few miles north of Norton Junction, the M1 motorway and the main railway line to London flank the canal on either side. Three historical transport routes in close proximity. The railway finished off the canals, and the roads rendered large parts of the railway network obsolete. I know which I prefer! I shot this video to capture that experience.

And here are a couple of stills of trains (these are the ones I take to Euston station when I go to work).

Rosie has really enjoyed the whole trip, and is getting very grown up. She behaves well at locks and really does not need to be put on a lead any more, but watches everything with keen interest. She also does not bother passers-by (unless they are on bikes, unfortunately) if they do not pay her any attention. More often than not, though, they cannot resist giving her a cuddle.

We have seen lots of widlife, including this pied wagtail (a relatively rare sight these days, sadly) and a rather handsome mandarin duck, who seems to be mixing with the mallards with no problem.

But mostly, it has been slow cruising through beatiful countryside and occasional villages. Here are a few pictures to give the flavour:

Hanging out washing on the back deck was a happy experience, after the long winter.

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We also see some peculiar boats, like this one made from a shipping container:

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On the return journey, Louise was pleased to stop at Anchor Cottage canal shop, near the top of the Long Buckby locks. It’s full of wonderful stuff, but the lady was camera shy so we took these pictures from the boat. We bought a couple of lovely planters for the roof. More pictures will follow when they have been planted up.

The last big adventure on the way home was acending the Watford Flight. I shot a video record of that, which will be a separate blog post.

After the flight, we cruised the last few miles back to the marina. The entrance is now a familiar sight, but getting throgh the narrow opening is always a bit of a challenge in a 67 foot boat!

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Holiday Dawdle

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Spring has sprung and it is time to set forth once more. Andy has two weeks’ annual leave (well almost – minus the one day the university chose to have a Very Important Meeting) and both of us could do with a break!  So, we resolved to dawdle down the Grand Union Canal to nowhere in particular and back again. Gone are the destination timings and anxieties of last summer’s trip round the Leicester ring. Instead, the emphasis is on relaxation and slow travel, with some creative work too (roses, music).

We set off yesterday, after taking down the pram cover, checking the engine, filling the water tank, etc. etc. As you can see from the splendid photo above, the blossom is out and weather is not bad at all, although there is a chilly wind. That picture was taken at the bottom of the Watford flight. The one below shows us waiting at the top, with the M1 barely visible in the background.toplock

The locking crew were waiting too. It took 40 minutes for the boat at the bottom to come up. Since these are single locks, this was necessary before we could descend

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Everything is controlled by the Canal and River Trust volunteer lock-keeper, who has a little office by the top lock.

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Next door is this useful facility:infobookswap

And here is Peter the volunteer, talking to Cap’n Andy as the boat goes down…volunteer

Rosie oversees the procedure, watching concernedly as her home descends into the hole:rosiewatching

Rosie does have her uses. Here she is carrying the walkie-talkie, a proper comms-dog!commsdog

Before we reached the Watford Flight, we had to pass yet again through Crick tunnel. Here’s a photo showing that you can see all the way through to the end before you enter:

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There were some pataphysical moments during the trip past Crick marina too…ubique

So now we are moored up in a lovely spot in the middle of nowhere (somewhere north of Long Buckby and Norton Junction) and have enjoyed a day of doing not very much. Last night, Louise cooked this recipe for cheesy spinach bake. The comes highly recommended. Here is what it looked like before serving:

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We had some for lunch today too. All gone now…

 

The Mother’s Day Cruise

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Froth has been lying in her moorings all winter long. But narrowboats are meant to travel. So it was with great excitement that we seized the fine weather over the past weekend and prepared for the maiden voyage of 2017! Rosie was certainly keen to get going..

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First things first: we had to take down the pram cover. It’s quite a clever arrangement. A zip joins the two halves in the middle, and when undone they part like a clam shell. It really did not take too long. Here is the back deck in all its glory. You can see the supports for the cover lying flat fore and aft.

There is plenty of room to move the tiller, but the struts also remain within the line of the boat, so no problem in tight situations. For a longer cruise, we would remove them altogether, but Sunday’s trip was to be just one day. Our plan was to go down to the top of the Watford Flight, then turn around and come back again. The trip should take about 4 hours and would involve two trips through Crick tunnel, there and back.

Since it was Mothering Sunday, we had invited all the generations of Louise’s family. This meant a boatload of seven people and a dog. Louise, as usual, cooked a fantastic buffet lunch.

Before we set off, though, here’s a quick peek into the back cabin, where you can see Peter Warden’s fabulous painting of Looe Island now hung on one of the few vertical surfaces on board.

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And so to a photo montage of the day’s trip. All these pictures were taken by Graham, Louise’s Dad, with his super camera.

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Boats in the marina

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Leaving the marina

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Andy at the tiller, catching the sun

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Jack and Toby went ahead in an inflatable kayak

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One of the many Canada geese that are now starting to nest

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Cute lambs everywhere!

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Leanne and Toby, ready for action.

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The buffet!

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Barbie and Rosie contemplate the scenery

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Moored at Watford flight, the family set off for a walk under the M1

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Leaving Crick Tunnel

As you can see, it was a lovely day, with loads of wonderful sights and sounds. There were three mothers on board and we hope each was given a special day to remember.

Christmas walkthrough

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A very merry Christmas to all our followers, and a happy New Year!

Since we’d cleaned and tidied the boat for the oncoming holidays, we thought it would be fun to give you a Christmas video walkthrough. As you’ll see, we are really very settled in now and loving the life afloat.

 

Pram Cover

Several weeks ago now, we had a “pram cover” fitted. It was constructed by Canvasman, who we can wholeheartedly recommend. With winter coming, we really want to have a covered back deck. It is much warmer, and a useful storage area, and perfect for cleaning muddy paws before stepping down into the cabin. It also keeps the engine compartment dry. All in all, it’s a terrific addition to the boat. Here it is under construction:

As you can see, it’s very sturdy and tall enough for Andy to stand up comfortably. The feeling of extra space is great!

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Since it was installed, it has quickly filled up with useful stuff like coal, hose, water, toilet cassettes, even Halloween decorations! And we have hung solar powered lights for extra twinkle.

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Here it is seen from port and starboard:

And finally, a view from the other side of the canal:

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Leicester Ring, Days 18-19: Foxton Locks to Yelvertoft Marina

So, finally, the homeward journey. We set out on August 1st, so the whole trip has taken a lot longer than 19 days, but we were stuck in Leicester for quite a while. There are really two big events in these final two days: going up Foxton Locks and arriving at our home mooring in Yelvertoft. This is not to say that the rest of the trip was dull – far from it. The stretch from Foxton to Yelvertoft is beautiful, uninterrupted countryside. Here’s a typical picture:

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We also saw some amusing boat names, such as this homage to Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot:

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We stopped overnight opposite the Welford Arm turn, where there are fine moorings. This gave Andy an opportunity to paint the boat. Removing all those bumps and scrapes was surprisingly satisfying. Froth is now resplendent and good as new (well, almost).

But…the main part of this blog must be devoted to the magnificent trip up Foxton Locks. The real heroes are the CRT volunteers, who are incredibly fit and very efficient, as well a good humoured. This is Ian, proudly displaying his gold cap badge for 2,000 hours of service:

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He was one of many, all working away:

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There are ten locks in the flight, and, as you will hear if you watch all the videos below, I became rather carried away by the experience, likening it to Mahler’s 10 Symphonies (well, 9, plus the one finished by Deryck Cooke). It does feel quite symphonic and takes about as long as one of Mahler’s movements!

Here is the entrance to lock one:

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And now, a video sequence going up:

Coming home after such a long journey was also exciting. Here is the approach to the marina entrance:

Here’s the marina from the hill above:

And finally, some lovely shots of the sunset:

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This will probably be the last blog entry for quite a while, so we hope you have enjoyed it so far, and thanks to all those who have commented or sent messages.