We departed Norton Junction at about 9.30 this morning heading towards the Watford lock flight. As we approached it became apparent there was a queue, and we were number three. There was also one more boat in the flight going up, and three more on their way down which we would need to wait for. Still, at least it was warm and sunny. About an hour later we were on our way up. The flight was manned by volunteers, who helped with our progression through the central staircase section. We had been close to the M1 for a while, but once through the top lock, we passed beneath the motorway and soon left the noise behind us. Although we’d had a bit of a wait, it is nothing like the wait people will have in a couple of weeks time, when all the Crick Boat Show traffic is on the move. It is one of the reasons we have returned to the summit level a tad early. Then it was Crick tunnel, wet as usual, but not as bad as it has been previously. Passing Crick Marina we were soon on familiar water, rounding Cracks Hill and Yelvertoft. We passed our winter home, noting our usual berth is currently empty, and then stopped for water by bridge 19. Whilst waiting we had a bite to eat, then it was on again, about half a mile to our intended mooring spot.
Having arrived in the pound below Buckby Top Lock, we intended to stay put a couple of days due to forecast rain. We have stayed in this pound previously, and the water level does tend to drop during the day, as boats use the flight. This time however, everytime a boat came up the flight draining a lock of water from the pound, we found our boat listing quite severely. During Tuesday I had to run some water down from the top lock 4 or 5 times, just to maintain a reasonable level. Discussing the issue with the volunteer lock keepers the problem has been caused by CRT removing a course of bricks from the bywash, thereby lowering the maximum water level held in the pound. Consequently today we moved. Once through Buckby top lock, the last of the wide locks, it was only a few hundred yards to Norton Junction where we turned left onto the Leicester Line G.U. We moored in our usual spot, and are now well placed for our trip up the Watford flight, and on towards Yelvertoft tomorrow.
We spent a pleasant weekend moored close to Nether Heyford, but today it was time to move on. The mooring we had is now recorded in our book as a good spot, it is nice and rural, with some good walks and fairly close to a pub. The towpath is wide and grassy, so plenty of room for the four legged crew to play. The fishing however is rubbish. Three days spent, and not a single bite. Clearly all the boat traffic had an effect. On the Saturday we walked to the Old Dairy Farm in Upper Stowe. It was until that point, the hottest day of the year so far, and the clue was in the name, Upper. It was uphill all the way. The centre has a collection of small farm buildings surrounding a courtyard. There is a selection of arts and crafts shops to visit and also a restaurant for refreshments.
After breakfast we set off from Stoke Bruerne. The day was already warming up as we approached the locks. Fortunately the crew only had two to do today. We got logged by the CRT, I suspect Stoke Bruerne, as a tourist hotspot is frequently checked, to ensure time limit compliance. Approaching the top lock a huge willow tree hangs over the canal. It won’t be long before it obscures the view completely.
We are now back in the pound below the Navigation Inn at Stoke Bruerne. We expect to stay here only a couple of days, although we are allowed up to seven in this spot. Leaving Cosgrove this morning the sun was doing its best to shine through some light cloud, but the forecast heatwave is yet to arrive. After ascending the lock at Cosgrove, we had a pleasant six mile cruise through the countryside, picking out some nice rural mooring spots for future reference. During the last mile before the Stoke Bruerne flight, we caught up with a CRT ( Canal and River Trust ) dredger which was weaving along. Square shaped with a large digger bucket on the front, they don’t look the easiest things to steer in a straight line. Fortunately we needed a tank full of water so we stopped at the base of the lock flight to fill up. The CRT crew asked if we were going up, to which we replied “yes, in about 40 minutes”. They didn’t want to wait. We had lunch whilst waiting, then it was on up five of the seven locks. Tonight a visit to the Spice of Bruerne is on the cards for a takeaway curry. Tomorrow the weather is reported to be glorious, so a day of gongoozerling, ( boat watching ) whilst sitting outside one of the pubs will probably be the order of the day.
On Friday we set off from bridge 75, aiming for the visitor moorings below the lock at Cosgrove. We thought the area may get busy due to the weekend being a bank holiday, however it has been the opposite, we were spoilt for choice as to where we wanted to moor. Whilst here we have walked both directions along the bank of the river Great Ouse, which is accessible by descending steps at the Iron Trunk Aquaduct.