Day Fifteen: 17 July (Bonus Day One) Braunston to Yelvertoft.
Originally, we'd have been handing the boat over at the time I'm writing this, but thanks to AW we're in Braunston Marina, and the Shore Party have gone to the gift shop! It's locks today - and of course, after a blue and shiny start to the day, it's clouding over and the wind's getting up, just in time for us to do the getting-out-of-marina manoueuvre.
Thoughts on the naming of boats... they seem to fall into several clear categories.
: - the Name-Combo - either the names of the kids/grandkids (Brittany Lauren) or the owners (Philjean)
: - the Traditional - three types, the 'work ethic' (Valiant, Warrior, Stalwart) and the floral (Gypsy Rose, Daisy) - or traditional girls' names like Martha and Ruby.
: - The Alternative Lifestyle - Chillin', Far from the Madding Crowd, Second Chance... these sometimes spill over into...
: - The Quirky - 'The Kid's Inheritance', 'Piston Broke' ...it goes on!
Hire boats tend to have their own set - either class (Jupiter is 'Planet' class), yard - for example the 'Valley' boats, or the Viking ones which have Nordic names. Canaltime seem to be the most random, almost as if they've had a competition to name the boats - 'Wilsons Chaos' springs to mind!
Shore party returned triumphant with books, postcards and a couple of gorgeous brass miners' lamps, and we made an elegant departure to meet our time slot of 1000.
Up the Braunston Flight, mostly in company with 'Daisy' - an old traditional boat which has wheels to control steering and engine. One of the locks had a cascade running over it ('short pound' said the Daisy skipper). We let them run ahead at Top Lock, and followed then through Braunston Tunnel (2042 yards) - very uneven, and with some interesting features - air vents casting pools of light, an odd side-vent, a pipe feeding water in a stream into the canal, reflections and shadows from the boat lights. Quite spooky and strange, but not claustrophobic. As we finally came towards the tunnel's end, we could see movement - turned out to be a bat (probably Daubentons) hunting the last 50 yards of the tunnel. As we got nearer, it flew up onto the tunnel wall and hung there until we were halfway past, before letting go and zipping past our heads - light through the part-translucence of the wing membranes - to go back into the depths of the tunnel.
Out into the light in a green cutting, and on across Braunston summit to Norton Junction. Kingfisher whizzed past, a flash of orange and electric blue (Mum was looking in the right direction for once, but still failed to see it despite my strangled squeak!) Tied up for lunch, then, after being battered by wake-wash for a while, went on to the Watford Staircase. Now we're officially back in the north - Watford Gap Services are just a little way beyond the fence. The lock keeper is in charge here, so we waited in the queue, some boats up, some down before we can go up; with any luck we'd get through before the locks shut for the night at 1900. Drew went off to take photos.
...well, that was an experience! A few hiccups further up were caused by an Important Personage who had a table booked for dinner in Braunston and thought He could start organising traffic- the lock keeper soon disabused him, and set him back up and out! We got through last one up (to His disgust, as we'd been there 10 minutes later than Him), and headed for Crick.
Crick Tunnel (1528 yards) is wet. Very drippy, lots of flowstone. Crick is full of marinas, and consequently full of boats, so we pushed on to overnight at Yelvertoft, opposite where they're creating yet another new marina - the whole area will be one big marina soon.
13 locks/13.5 miles/2 tunnels/Grand Union Canal, GUC Leicester Branch
Day Sixteen: 18 July (Bonus Day Two) Yelvertoft to Welford.
A short day, across green farmland (sounds of peacocks amidst hanging willows) and a kingfisher that Mum DID manage to see this time!
Went up the Welford Arm to the highest point of the GUC system - designed to bring water from the reservoirs to feed the canals. One small lock to go through (3 foot 6 inches), but a very odd set-up, with a narrow section almost like a half-lock before a 'pseudo-pound' and then the lock itself. It's a leafy backwater, with a lot of boats moored up the arm into the village. We turned at the marked winding hole and moored by the marina entrance - Drew went to investigate and found a few spaces higher up and another turning point - too late!
As we started the tedium of packing, a pair of familiar trousers went past - Matt the Engineer, and his dog Woody; he stopped to see how we'd got on, and have a chat. Drew caught up with him later at the pub (he lives in the village) and bought him a beer or two; he also ran into Jane from the yard, who gave us a late pass to return the boat in the morning!
1 lock/11 miles/GUC Leicester Branch, GUC Welford Arm
Day Seventeen: 19 July (Last Day) Welford to North Kilworth.
Up and sorting by 0800, and heading for the yard by 0900, to return the boat at a reasonable time. One last, small lock (number 103 for the trip).
Down to Welford Junction whilst cleaning sinks and sweeping floors, and the last three-quarters of a mile to North Kilworth, touching the wharf to tie up as the last breadloaf went into the crate. Unloaded reluctantly, chatted to Jane and Matt, and packed the car. The day turned hot and sunny as we drove home, not conducive to making the transition from 3-4 mph to 70 mph up the motorway
It's done, for this year.
1 lock/3 miles/0 tunnels/GUC Welford Arm, GUC Leicester Branch
I'll end with the usual collection of boat-and-bank dogs!