Wednesday 11 October 2023

Stoke Bruerne

Today's Canal : Grand Union

It was quite grey as we set off and remained that way. However, it was far from cold.

Just around the corner we spotted nb Free Spirit - see right for their blog. We have not met them IRL, only virtually for some time now, and would have stopped for a brief chat but non-one seemed about. That's canal encounters for you!

Whoever thought that allowing people to hire e scooters and abandon them at will needs a lesson - or two - in human behaviour. Let's hope that they do not take over from shopping trolleys as underwater obstacles for unwary boaters and their props.

Close by was this piece of open air art work. Not sure what the artist is telling us but it certainly brightens the location.

A little later we saw a pair of fuel boats pulling alongside a customer. They left us as much space as they could and we gingerly edged our way past. We did not see anyone on the customer's boat so perhaps this was a pre-arranged delivery with payment to follow. A number of the fuel boats offer this service to their regulars so that they can get a top up even if they are out at work. Just after we had left them behind then there was a crew decision that we ought to top up just in case, so we edged back, hoping that no-one else would appear wanting to get by. The crew quickly tied us to their side and efficiently delivered the fuel. A most helpful crew, friendly and  chatty. A service that many liveaboard boaters come to depend on especially in the upcoming winter season.

We noticed the steering on this Dutch style boat, somewhat unusual on the canals. We wondered how tiring it might be as canal boats have to change direction very frequently often quite sharply.

Just occasionally we had a glimmer of sunshine.

Nearing Wolverton we passed yet again under the West Coast Main Line - Wolverton was once an important railway town with a substantial engineering works, but no longer.

As we closed on the bridge we could see a team working on a floating platform, we think carrying out a, hopefully routine, inspection. HS2 will not be finished soon enough if there is a need to close this line.

Just beyond the bridge this railway connection over time is commemorated in Bill Billings well-known, and much photographed, mural, all in black and white and completed in 2011.

We moored on the rings beside the footbridge that gives access to the main road above and a choice of three supermarkets - Tesco, Lidl and Asda. Leaving Mike to guard the boat Andrew and Christine went to Tescon for supplies, especially bread and milk, We seem to be getting through those rather quickly.

Cosgrove Lock is not deep and is alongside the junction with the former Buckingham Arm.

Also close is a former wharf which still has the remains of some tram tracks visible in the ground, once used to help speed up loading and unloading the boats.

Solomon's ornamental bridge was built from soft sandstone and much of the decoration is no longer visible. However, this time we did spot a little section that shows just how decorative it once was.

At last we arrived at the seven locks at Stoke Bruerne. Part way up and the foliage alongside added some bright colour. Most of the trees have yet to gain their autumnal leaves. 

We wrote about side ponds in an earlier blog. On this flight they are well preserved, even if no longer used. This picture shows a bit more clearly how they worked - unlike those at Hanbury, these ponds have two chambers and a paddle for each has to be opened and closed in turn. The extra effort to save some of the water was not popular with the boatmen and women and the canal companies found the extra cost and maintenance not to be good value. Hence they were gradually abandoned but still stand as testament to the inventiveness of engineers in the canal era who continually sought to improve the system. Sometimes innovations worked well but not quite always!

We followed a boat up the flight but they did not spot us until almost at the top but they kindly waited for us to share the last lock.

In the line of moored boats before the tunnel we spotted the Laundry Boat - not seen one offering that service before.

We wondered if we would find a space to moor for the night or would we have to go through the tunnel? We hoped not as by then it would have been quite dark. However, around the corner was plenty of space for both boats to moor up. The down side was that we did not have a signal on either of the networks we use.

Although we could not upload this blog, Mike still prepared the photos and the text, carefully saving the immortal prose in a file for use tomorrow. The next day we also were out of range and so Mike used the text file as a template for the next episode. As he started he made a mental note to be very careful not to overwrite the previous edition. A while later he checked back on a detail from the previous day only to discover to bhis horror that he must have instinctively 'saved' before changing the title! At least the photos were OK. So, if you think that this blog has a sense of frustration about it, please forgive the errant writer . . . 

18.3 Miles - 8 Locks

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