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The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Archive for June 14th, 2008

The Odyssey – Summer 2008 Day 10

Posted by indigodream on 14 June, 2008

Stoke Bruerne to Bridge 8 Grand Union Mainline

It’s been a funny old day today – although Stoke Bruerne is as peaceful a mooring as you could wish for we both woke up at dawn (4am in these parts!) – the idea of a sunrise cruise was briefly contemplated and hastily rejected so we went back to counting sheep! This must have worked because the next thing I know is that Lou is whining pitifully at 4.50am – her blanket had fallen off and she was cold! So, back to the sheep…… We eventually motivated ourselves to get up at 9.30am-ish after the central heating had been on for a while and the boat was toasting and full of the smell of the fine baguette that we bought yesterday. The dogs didn’t rouse until 10.30am – this is normal for them! I should say that it was a baguette minus the first four inches – Blue loves bread as you’ll find out later…..

Verdant countrytside and reflective bridges!Anyway after that strange night’s sleep we’ve been cruising in a bit of a trance today – still lots of interesting things on the waterway and plenty of verdant countryside but it seemed to lack all power to excite us. I blame the weather – it’s been cold and cloudy most of the day and the atmosphere seemed to press down on us like a heavy blanket. Of course, all that won’t stop me from writing my customary 1000 words!

I haven’t been as observant of nature today though I did spot some woody nightshade in an otherwise relentlessly green hedgerow. So I’ll tell you some doggie tales instead 🙂

First of all, why was Lou cold when Blue wasn’t? Well, our bedroom is in the front of the boat – the bed folds away against the ‘wall’ so there isn’t a window there and on the opposite side there’s a porthole which we bung with a classy (NOT!) piece of insulating polystyrene. In this cosy cabin sleep me, Richard and Blue (in a nest of duvets, blankets and cushions at the end of our bed). Blue had always slept here as he likes to be close to the pack. Terry Pratchett describes a barn as being ‘cosy, warm and slightly flatulent’ place – that’s our boat bedroom with two humans and a dog! (Speak for yourself Sue) It was 2 degrees warmer than the back of the boat this morning! The back of the boat being where Lou sleeps – she likes the comfort of the sofa – lying on two sheepskins with a pillow for her head and covered with a blanket. As long as she’s comfy then the pack can go hang – but she is in the coldest part of the boat!

Once again Lou came soaking wet from her morning walk – this time she’d dived into a very smelly pond and was thoroughly proud of herself. I hear that some owners have greyhounds that don’t like getting their feet wet – LUCKY YOU!

I mentioned the fine baguette. Blue likes a steak if he can steal one, and is very fond of pate, but if you want to see him drooling (and you don’t really, take it from me!) then give him some bread, preferably with butter and maybe soaked in a little milk. When we came in from Tesco yesterday he was pleased to see us, but he was ecstatic at the sight of the baguette. He managed to slobber over the end of it while we were coming down into the cabin and was rewarded for his efforts by a large chunk (which we really didn’t fancy!). I don’t begrudge him a chunk of bread but his table manners leave something to be desired!

Our ever alert lock-detectors!Both dogs were very excited today – Lou spotted a rabbit on the towpath just as we were leaving our mooring and both have been on the alert all day. I’m surprised that Blue’s nose hasn’t fallen off – it’s been twitching all day, especially as passed fields full of sheep and rabbits. He definitely had a ‘gravy ‘n mint sauce’ gleam in his eye – we revved the engine and passed on quickly! The photos shows them in ‘lock detector’ mode – they adopt this pose every time they hear the engine go into reverse!

Anyway, enough of this maudling – on to our travels! We passed through the last two locks at Stoke Bruerne and had intended to have a look at the canal museum. Alas, the moorings were totally jam packed with boaters left over, I believe, from the festival last weekend. There were some fine old working boats plus one particularly enticing boat selling fudge and ice cream. Regretfully we didn’t stop – with boats brested up there was just space for one narrowboat to get through and I didn’t think we could justify blocking the canal in the name of fudge! We’d like to explore Stoke Bruerne again though – so far in our two visits we’ve focussed on doggie facilities but we really must visit the museum one day – maybe next year.

Note: The locks at Stoke Bruerne are in particularly good condition with gates that don’t leak, perfectly balanced beams and well-oiled and smooth mechnisms.

On then to the Blisworth Tunnel – the third longest in the UK. Richard likes tunnels – he does a particularly evil maniacal laugh and likes to take advantage of the echo in tunnels to practice. But today he was all business – he had a target to achieve for getting through (I looked around for the teambuilders!) and as the Blisworth is 2-way tunnel then it demands a bit more concentration – we met 3 oncoming boats one of which was a bit of a pain – bright headlamp pointing left not right. We were struck by the fine condition of the tunnel – it is well-lined, of an even and generous diameter and absolutely straight – if you’ve ever been through Standedge then you’ll appreciate why these features are so important!! We read later that the tunnel was closed for 4 years because of its poor condition but was re-lined in 1984 – what a great job! As always we were fascinated by the ventilation shafts – just big ‘holes’ that reach from the tunnel up to the top of the hill – you can often spot them by the faint circle of light on the water. We did what we always do – we looked up to see the light and got drenched in the process – although it wasn’t raining on the hill there was a tremendous seepage of water into the tunnel and the boat was soaked. After the first one I hid inside with the dogs and let Richard get wet – he’s a man, he likes that sort of manly challenge! Talking of challenges – he made it through the tunnel in 25 minutes.

Note: You need to turn off any naked flames before you go into any tunnel – this is because tunnels sometimes have pockets of methane which are explosive! As well as your tunnel lights, switch on all the internal lights – they really help you to ‘place’ the boat in the tunnel; Carry a torch on the back deck or you won’t be able to find the tea that your wife helpfully made for you before turning the gas off! Tunnels tend to drip so take perishable objects off the deck and wear a rain hat! There is a particularly nasty heavy flow of water about 2/3rd of way through which we could not avoid as an oncoming boat had slowed to a crawl just there. So top tip: If you see the downpour (looks like a 3″ hose is running) then stop until you can go past avoiding it.

Burnt out boatQuestion: Are there any reported incidents of a boat exploding methane in a tunnel or is it just an extreme safety precaution? Let us know if you’ve heard of any. This burnt out boat (always a sad sight) was well away from any tunnels…..

After the excitement of Stoke Bruerne we started on the soporific lock-free pound towards Buckby. I thought Richard had won the prize for ‘not paying attention’ this morning when he uncharacteristically left the bottom paddle open while trying to fill the lock (meaning that water was flowing out almost as fast as it was flowing in). But I’m so competitive and beat him to the prize by missing the turn after one bridge and driving the boat into a load of bushes offside. It’s not a holiday if you haven’t had the boat in the hedgerows!

Like just about everyone in the world at the moment we’ve been musing on fuel prices, in our case, Red Diesel. When we started boating around 6 years ago it cost 30p/litre (them’s were the days….) but this week the most expensive price we found was 95p/litre and the cheapest was 75p/litre (off a fuel boat). We would have filled up from the boat but sadly they were closed and we didn’t think they’d catch up with us this week. So, we stopped off at Stowe Hill Marine (by Bridge 27) where the diesel was a reasonable 79p/litre. There was an absolutely delightful lady serving at the the boatyard – great customer service. This boatyard specialises in Tradline ropes and fenders – we think they do good ropes and have stopped here before to stock up. Today we invested in a new ring fender for the side (we’ve ripped one off somewhere), a new spare rope (for the back) and some mooring chains. Now, the more naughty of our readers will make something of this shopping list but I can assure you they’re all tools for tying the BOAT.

After this brief sunny interlude I soon sank back into my torpor. I knew that you could feel oppressed by the M1 when you’re driving on it, and we all know that the West Coast mainline (train) is enough to get anyone down but I hadn’t realised how they could dampen your spirits when you’re just travelling in between them! To the left of the canal is the M1 – I hadn’t realised just how pervasive the noise was until we finally left it behind and it was so suddenly quiet. On the right was the train line with the Virgin Pendalino’s heeling over alarmingly as they sped along. This continued for some miles!

The M1

The photo on the right shows a truck on the M1 – it’s literally on the other side of the hedge! And below is the West Coast mainline.

The West Coast Mainline

Note: It’s a tradition on Indigo Dream that we wave at everyone, including trains. It’s now become a game with maximum points going to the person who can get the train drier to beep his horn. Points are also awarded if you get a sad commuter to wave back from the train……

Lock 12 has it all!Richard was throughly bored by the lock free stretch (as were dogs as they normally get to frolic round the locks) so Buckby Bottom Lock was a welcome sight. The next lock in the flight was just a perfect dog place (see photo!) – the lockside is fenced off and gated so that they can’t get onto the road and there is a dog poo bin and a supply of free poo bags – everything you need! Richard and the dogs burnt off some energy cycling and running between the next 4 locks before I took the dogs back on board (road looming!).

Note: The people living in the lock cottages by Bridge 12 have done a great job of looking after their plots. The drift planting of all the old cottage perennials by the bridge (and in crevices in the bridge wall) were beautiful. I’m sorry I wasn’t quick enough to get a photos – I’ll just have to remember!

The sun breaking throughI don’t know what I’d hoped for this evening but we decided not to moor in Buckby Wharf but carried on left onto to the rural stretch between Buckby and Braunston (the right branch heads off towards Leicester). Well, there it was, as we turned onto the mainline the sun broke through and lit up a lovely rolling valley (see photos left and below). My spirits lifted immediately. We’re now moored up by bridge 7 on a stunningly rural stretch near to a footpath -we’re full of home-made Bigos (a hearty polish stew) – dogs and humans all well-fed, warm and contented so a good end to the day. Beware towpath is incredibly rough here!

Looking back towards the Leicester Arm

Photoblog:

Here are a few other bits that caught our attention today:

Train and canal bridges

We though that these bridges taking the road over the train line and the canal were very attractive for relatively recent structures.

Mobile phone mast

The phone companies try really hard but we still worked out that the odd looking tree was a mast!

Live wires!

As we passed under these power lines they were crackling with energy and Richard’s hair was standing on end – another case for revving the engine and moving by FAST! WE never know how risky it is to be in a metal boat on water during a thunderstorm (usually holding a brolly!) but we usually moor up……

Canalside cannonThere are many ways of asking boats to slow down – simple signs (“please slow down”), witty signs (“for duck’s sake slow down”; “elderly ducks crossing – please slow down”), dramatic signs (“go round us not through us”). However, we thought that threatening boats with a cannon was going too far!

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