Traffic Jam, Canal Style

Having pitched up – well, moored up, I suppose, since we’re on a boat – about 5 miles short of Weedon Bec yesterday evening and, there being sunshine and no locks in the offing, this morning Francine and I decided to get some exercise by walking along the towpath to Weedon Bec. Weedon Bec was a suitable stop for two things, our daily water top up and a pharmacy for Mrs Virginia’s sinus problem/cough/cold (whatever it is).

J14_2160 Juniper in the morningJ14_2167 Francine streaks offOur morning walk was both very pleasant, being through open countryside in the early sunshine, and very educational. Francine was using her Nordic walking poles and set off a good pace, while I was just plain walking, complete with camera in rucksack, giving me a chance to get a different view of Juniper.

The educational bit was that our walk proved our suspicion to be correct – Francine and I beat Juniper to Weedon Bec by a good five minutes and that’s with no intervening locks to impede the boat’s progress. What does almost constantly slow the boat’s progress is the moored boats scattered liberally along most sections of the canal, so most of the time you’re on tick-over avoiding creating any wake. Once Juniper arrived, we waited between 30 minutes and an hour while our water tank filled painfully slowly.

Weedon Bec is an interesting place. It was apparently chosen as the place to hide King George III when Napoleon was conquering vast swathes of Europe. Fortunately, Napoleon was stopped in his tracks before that became necessary. As well as cough mixture for Mrs Virginia, it also supplied us with a dump for our rubbish.

J14_2187 Francine in Braunston tunnelBack underway, we eventually negotiated the seven locks up towards Braunston. We weren’t yet quite at Braunston, though, that required another 2000-yard tunnel followed by a further six locks down. Braunston Tunnel differs from Blisworth Tunnel in that it doesn’t drip water all over ones head. Navigating Blisworth Tunnel would have best been done in the company of an umbrella.

_MG_6113_MG_6115Braunston Tunnel was no problem and felt considerably shorter than 2/3rds of Blisworth Tunnel yesterday. The same could not be said for the six locks down towards Braunston. Approaching the first lock, we came across a canal-system blockage – workers had drained the top lock and intervening pound in order to perform some maintenance work on the lock gates. An hour delay ensued, assisted by wine, during which time six other boats queued up behind us. Ultimately, the work was finished, the lock and lower pound were refilled, and we continued on our way. At least we’d been at the head of the queue.

Naturally, a few boats had also been held up trying to lock-up so traffic levels were high; our down-bound lock full of two boats threaded its way between an opposing up-bound lock full of two more boats. I was glad I was operating locks as opposed to driving.

Entering the OxfordWe eventually exited the last of the six locks and crawled past the floating city on the canal at Braunston Junction. It was not a pretty sight. We were happy to turn onto the combined Oxford/Grand Union link canal that would eventually lead us to the Oxford Canal proper before finding a calm, rural mooring place for the night.

The unscheduled Canal and River Trust lock maintenance had cost us an hour and a couple of miles; we’d covered about 19 miles in a little over 10 hours.

Tomorrow we’ll enter the Oxford Canal proper and hit a flight of nine locks.

Day 3 Map

Posted in 2014 The Thames Ring

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