Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Archive for October 2nd, 2009

The Odyssey 2009: Day 55

Posted by indigodream on 2 October, 2009

Monday 28th December

Bridge 28 (Nether Heyford) to Wolverton

We’ve had quite a varied cruise, which has made it seem like quite a big day. We knew we had to collect the car and drive home at the end of the day, but it was hard to believe that we’d actually have to stop cruising and leave the boat.

The Cheese Boat cruised past us this morning while we were still enjoying our lattes. We found out that they were aiming for Bridge 33, so we caught up with them there. We stopped off at their hatch, tasted some cheese, had a long chat and bought some cheese. They have many varieties and I like the fact that you buy a whole wax-wrapped round of cheese so they’ll stay wonderfully fresh. The Cheese Boat was wandering down to Stoke Bruerne for an event next weekend.

Well stocked with cheese, we moved on down the canal past the very smart Heyford Marina. Further on, we passed nb Moore2life – possibly a fellow blogger. I say possibly because we do read Moore2life’s blog but I think their boat is blue and I’m sure this one was green so I’m not sure if I’ve got the right boat. Sadly the crew weren’t around for us to check.

We do like the Grand Union canal. When we passed through the narrow corridor between motorway and railway yesterday I couldn’t help but think that “this is it” and that the canal would be swept into a bleak commuter corridor all the way to London. But I was wrong – the stretch today has been very pleasant surrounded by swathes of rural landscapes.

Bugbrooke Marina is not as grand as the one in Heyford, but it does have a very pleasant canalside house with a fine balcony. The whole area’s very attractive; we even met some exceptionally friendly fishermen here. We saw another sign of autumn today – twittering flocks of starlings gathering on power lines and in the trees, ready for their spectacular aerial displays. Of course, the drifts of fallen leaves on the boat roofs gave us another seasonal clue.

There are very good permanent moorings by Bridge 45 – once again with nicely fenced parcels of land, though they were a bit close to the railway. One of the boaters here has decorated his (or her) mooring with marvellously realistic wooden toadstools, up to five feet high and looking perfectly organic.

We also saw a friendly farmer today. I was curious as he was driving the farming equivalent of a golf buggy across a wide field by the canal. He overtook us then turned his buggy to face the boat to reveal his toddler grandson. I waved at his grandson and the child’s face split into a pumpkin smile and his granddad gave me a thumbs up.

The approach to the Blisworth tunnel is a fine stretch of canal. The wooded corridor leading to the tunnel is so silent that it has a real ‘end of the cut’ feeling; maybe enhanced by the prophetically named nb Ahab moored near the tunnel entrance.

Blisworth is a wet tunnel, though it wasn’t as bad as we remembered; it was particularly fumy in there today – not sure why. This is another 2-way tunnel and we met a few oncoming boats. We’ve always fancied a big antique tunnel light but today we realised that tunnel lamps really need to be angled. One boat passing us had a very bright light fixed centrally to the front cratch – it was dazzling and Richard really couldn’t see a thing. There are so few 2-way tunnels I guess that it isn’t usually a problem.

The approach to Stoke Bruerne was lined by historic boats, together with their crews walking the towpath in traditional costume. We guessed they were here for the event that’s happening here next weekend – we never did find out what the event might be.

We were amazed to find a mooring spot just outside the museum in Stoke Bruerne – we couldn’t quite believe our luck – we’ve always wanted to look at the museum. Because we felt almost guilty at having such a good mooring spot we raced around the museum. But it was fascinating and we must have a longer visit some day. We did find out that the newer sections of concrete lining in the Blisworth tunnel (the only really dry part of the tunnel) were installed in 1984. There was also an interesting exhibition about bomb damage to the local canals – I’m amazed that Braunston is still standing.

We’d though of having lunch at the museum café, but the food was limited to a few pre-packed sandwiches which didn’t look very appetising. As Richard’s a very good barista, we didn’t stop for a coffee either.

Stoke Bruerne had lots of visitors, even though it was a cool, overcast Monday in September. We had a fair number of gongoozlers at the first two locks; there are wonderful moorings below the second lock and the dogs were able to have a good rummage, though Lou was a bit reluctant – she’s knackered after 3 days of rummaging.

Having said that, both dogs were very good – there’s a busy road by lock 5 and I was afraid that Blue, in particular, would be drawn to it, but they were fine and stayed close to Richard. Lock 5 also has interesting signboards explaining the wildlife in the side pounds – given that the water was bright green there’s no doubt that there plenty of life there.

The bridge below Lock 5 has very attractive mosaic murals. There’s good parking between lock 5 and 6 – that might be useful for future car shuffles.

There are very good services below lock 6 – we stopped here to get rid of our rubbish and to fill up with water.

Moving away from the bottom lock, we noticed that water was being pumped INTO the canal. We were fascinated, because Richard had commented that there was too much water in the pounds above.

As you may have gathered, there’s lots to see and do at Stoke Bruerne – it’s one of my favourite places on the water. I’d have enjoyed an extended stay here but our target for the day was Wolverton. Despite the fact that the railway’s never far away from the canal, there are very few train stations.

Still, there were fine views to be enjoyed by Bridge 58 – so typically ‘English’ with rolling fields dotted with small villages and their imposing church towers and spires.

We’ve passed a few marinas that are due to open in 2009/2010 and we haven’t thought that any of them would be ready in time. Thrupp Wharf marina was no different, though the pontoons and services are in place, there was still a huge amount of landscaping work to be done – a few weeks’ work we estimated, but they’re due to open in 3 days’ time – good luck! There were lots of boats moored on the towpath nearby – we wondered whether they were waiting to take their places in the new marina.

A little further on we noticed the Taverner’s boat club – a length of online moorings protected by security gates and CCTV cameras. You’d certainly feel safe here but it has the limitations of access of any online mooring – it’s a long walk if you’re the furthest boat from the gate.

There’s a thriving boating community around Cosgrove Lock – it’s very pleasant here and there are fine 14-day moorings below Cosgrove Lock.

We were aiming for the moorings between bridge 68 and 69 at Old Wolverton, but it was a spookily deserted tunnel of trees. However, the moorings beyond Bridge 69 were much more attractive, and popular, there were few spaces left. We passed by and cruised on as far as the next winding hole, just after the aqueduct. But although the towpath is very well maintained and attractive, there weren’t any other boats moored here and we weren’t sure whether Indigo Dream would be safe if left unattended. We winded and headed back to Bridge 69. Richard dropped me off at Wolverton Station on the way back (by Bridge 71).

I took the train back to Nuneaton. Unfortunately the train was delayed by over 35 minutes; add the delays on the M1 on the way home and we had yet another late night – arriving home at 11.30pm.

However, we’ve left Indigo Dream in a good spot. We’re in the company of other boats, so it feels secure. There is very good parking in the adjacent Deans Road Industrial Estate with good access to the towpath – perfect for off- and on-loading. Delays made for a tedious journey home but the reality is that we’re very close to home now – 69 locks left over 2 weekends so that we get back in time for this event: http://www.greyhoundhomer.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=1984 Do come along!

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