Saturday, 12 September 2015

Up the Ashby. Part 1, widening the tunnel at Braunston

The plan was to leave our base at Welford and reach Snarestone at the top of the Ashby Canal by the end of the week. We could then leave Patience at Snarestone, return home for a week, retrieving Patience to take the return journey to Welford. This would require some safe car parking, and the generosity of our wives in taking and collecting from the further ends of the canal system.

The first stretch from Welford to Norton Junction, through the Watford flight (pictured), is old territory for us now, and we sped through in good time, mooring at Norton and surviving the perilous walk in darkness across the lock gate from the pub.

Day two, through Braunston, was a little less successful, as the uneven sides of the Braunston tunnel and oncoming boats nudged Patience into the crumbling wall of the tunnel, scraping off a navigation light at the bow and a piece of brick at the stern. Apparently the chandlery at Braunston do a regular line in green navigation lights; I was obviously not the first boater to have scraped against the tunnel walls. Nevertheless there was little damage done - it certainly sounded worse than it looked.

So through Braunston with its busy waterfront, proud metal bridges, shop full of excellent boating literature (I bought Rolt's "Narrow Boat" here) ...

and eventually moored up at Newbold on Avon, where the Barley Mow is right next to the moorings and Rugby (and rugby) always seems not far away (they portray the game even on the underside of their canal bridges).

This north section of the Oxford canal is interesting and new to us, and to highlight the sinuous route of canals John points out that at a point just south of the Hillmorton flight on the Oxford Canal east of Rugby, we were only 4.5 km (3 miles) as the crow flies from a point just north of Crick on the Leicester Arm - but about 17 miles by canal. See the red line below. And we passed Crick two days ago ....

However my favourite contrast between routes is between our original mooring at Stretham on the Ouse near Ely and Ware in Hertfordshire on the River Stort. I drove between them in an hour, (48 miles down the A10), and used Canal Planner to show that it would take SIXTEEN DAYS by boat, (230 miles, 7¾ furlongs and 162 locks) , having to go up the Ouse, through Denver Sluices, along the Middle Levels, River Nene, the locks at Northampton, the Grand Union down to the Regent's Canal and finally up the Lee and Stort (see map below). The sooner The Ouse is connected to the GU joining Bedford and Milton Keynes the better!

But now we're about to reach the Ashby ....

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