Thursday, 15 June 2017

Stoke Bruerne is a delight!

We've been home to Yorkshire for a week so Leo has been having a holiday from travelling, staying in a friendly marina near Norton Junction where the Leicester Branch of the Grand Union turns off the main canal. So last Monday we came back to Weltonfield Narrowboats by train and taxi and set off again, mooring nearby that evening. The following day we turned left at Norton Junction and went down the 7 Buckby Locks:

Here we are just leaving the marina and heading back on the Leicester Branch for a short way down to the junction with the main line.  Having not yet restocked the boat, we ate that evening at the New Inn at the top of the Buckby Locks. We thought the weekday menu was better than the Sunday roast.

Coming down the Buckby Locks we teamed up with Matt and his grandfather Brian on Matt's newly bought boat called 'Pied Piper'.  Matt was new to driving a narrowboat, but made a fine job of navigating the locks.

The locks are delightfully rural and here Leo and Pied Piper wait while Helen and Brian set one of the locks.  We met quite a few boats coming up.

The Buckby Locks were built with side ponds but these are no longer in use, though many still hold water.


Our son David has a large plastic duck called Middlewich (guess where he came from).  Middlewich obviously has a cousin who tails behind this oddly named narrowboat.

There are quite a number of fine old working boats round here and the inner one of these is called 'Ian'.

We spent Tuesday night at Weedon which proved to be a fascinating place as these pictures will show.  First we shopped at Tesco near the junction of the A5 and the A45.  That end of town is busy and not particularly attractive.  Lower Weedon is much better  though:

Some of the buildings are of soft yellow stone and this one was an inn and was built in the 1600s.

The infant river Nene flows through Weedon.  We've cruised down the Nene but you'd need a model boat to do so here.

The chief point of interest in Weedon is the Royal Ordnance Depot which was built in 1805.  This was when there was a fear of invasion by the French so the step was taken to move our weapons and explosives away from the coast where they might be seized.  A branch of the canal came into the Depot and was lined with warehouses.

This fire engine must have been needed in case of accidents with explosives.

The canal branch has a lodge at each end with a portcullis to prevent unauthorised entry and the East Lodge has a fine clock which is still chiming the hours.

A military horse training centre was also set up here and these hitching posts remain, now incongruously set between modern houses.  If you go in the church you will find a splendid free booklet called 'Weedon Bec Walks' which tells a lot of the history as well as acting as a guide.

On the walk back to Leo we passed under the railway and then under the canal.  The bridges get lower as you step back in time.

On Wednesday it was very hot and we didn't go far, mooring at Gayton close the junction with the Northampton Arm.  And today we've carried on to Stoke Bruerne:

We passed High House moorings, where Leo spent the winter of 2013/14, and stopped for a chat with Penny who lives there.

 Leo is one of the line of boats moored here with a nice view of horses and the hilltop village of Gayton beyond.

We walked up to Gayton which has some fine old buildings like the Manor shown here.

This pretty plant was growing on top of a wall.  We think it is Stonecrop.

Walking back from the village, the farmer had kindly mowed a clear strip through the wheat to mark the footpath.  You can see the plain below which stretches to Northampton and beyond.

Just before Gayton Junction the towpath is on both sides after this fine crossover bridge.

Here is the Junction with the Northampton Arm going left.  The Arm is a narrow canal, whereas the main line is a wide one and the Arm falls through 17 narrow locks to join the River Nene at the bottom.  We have been that way before, but it is not on the agenda this year.

Through Blisworth we passed this mill, more reminiscent of northern towns, and then after a short cutting you are into the long Blisworth Tunnel. At one and three-quarter miles it is the longest wide tunnel and the third longest of all canal tunnels in Britain. Standedge and Dudley are longer. We passed three boats in the tunnel.

Stoke Bruerne lies just beyond the tunnel and is a delightful place with a flight of 7 locks, two pubs and a waterways museum which we visited this afternoon and would recommend.

We have had tea this afternoon with Kathryn, a friend from the River Wey, who now lives in one of the lovely cottages by the top lock and this evening we are out for a meal with friends Paul and Gail who shared locks with us when we last came this way. Once we've finished enjoying Stoke Bruerne and meeting friends, then we'll be on our way south to the delights of Milton Keynes!

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