Friday, 31 July 2009

North of Watford Gap


19 miles, 24 locks, 2 aqueducts. 1 VERY suicidal dayboater...

In which the Ducks assist the crew of nb Melaleuca in kick-starting their canal holiday.

On Wednesday evening, after work, James and I left Lyra in the capable hands of a neighbour, and got on an X5 bus, follwed by a train to arrive in Northampton. It was pouring with rain, but we found our way through the grimy city from the station along a route we knew far too well, and soon we were at the bottom of the Rothersthorpe flight, where we were to meet our friends Simon and Ann, on nb Melaleuca. They have just embarked on an ambitious trip through the inland waterways, and had invited us to join them for a couple of days. We had a lovely supper before retiring to bed aboard Melaleuca.

Leaving Northampton

Our first task of the morning was to go the Netto that we used to shop at when we were languishing in Northampton last September, to get provisions. Then it was off up the Rothersthorpe flight towards the Grand Union. These are narrow locks and most of them were in our favour. With three of us lockworking at any one time we were soon at Gayton Junction and turned North up the GU towards Braunston.

Ascending the Rothersthorpe Flight

There are no locks to deal with until the Buckby flight starts near Whilton Marina, but there was plenty of excitement to be had, due to the large volume of traffic along this arterial waterway. The most hair-raising incident was when a small day hire boat approached. It appeared to be on a good line to pass us with no issues, then but suddenly seemed to make a sharp U-turn right in front of us! It was pretty scary, as Melaleuca's bow button hit the boat broad-side on, and started to turn them to an alarming angle. The boat righted and cleared, smashed headlong into the bank, and the steerer apologised, claiming to have 'steering issues', and that he thought you travelled on the left! Their boat had a noticeable large dent, but we were unharmed.

Soon we were passing through the famed Watford Gap, where the East Coast Mainline, the GU and the M1 motorway pass through the same gap in the hills. Towards the end of the day, we climbed the Buckby flight, our first broad locks of the trip, and moored at the top, just before the Braunston Tunnel.

Watford Gap

We had dinner in a lovely pub called the White Horse, in Welton, which was ravenously devoured by all before heading back to the boat and collapsing into bed. In total, we had gone through 24 locks, and were exhausted. But it was a fantastic day - good to spend time with friends on a lovely section of the waterways which brought back so many memories for us!

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