On our 10th day we have finally finished retracing our steps and are now moving on to new waters. It has taken over 120 miles for us to arrive back at Gayton Junction and we have now turned left on to the Grand Union Canal, heading towards London.
Sunday 19th March
Northampton to the Northampton Arm
Pleased to have had a peaceful night so close to the town centre of Northampton, we set off to do the final lock and the last mile of our journey back across the beautiful River Nene. We passed along the quiet water front and were soon at the left turn that would take us on to the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal.
It has been just a few days over two years since we passed this way but the area around the first lock has changed. It was a run down area where you didn’t want to linger but now there are new flats and general regeneration.
Our journey today was a short one of just 5 miles but 6 locks. This leaves the 12 locks of the main Rothersthorpe flight to do on Monday. The only mooring spot is very close to the motorway but the only people passing by were runners and dog walkers.
With such a short day we took the opportunity to catch up on chores. Washing clothes, cleaning the boat and trying to track down the problem with the engine not always stopping. I am now pretty sure that it is a faulty solenoid, so have ordered a replacement. Thankfully I was able to order one from Ebay, that is being delivered to the Argos store in Leighton Buzzard. Until then I have to manually pull the arm to stop the engine.
Mid afternoon we were disappointed to see a boat head up the flight, this means that all the locks will be set against us. This could however be a help, as water often has to be run down the flight due to some of the lock pounds draining dry overnight.
Monday 20th March
Northampton Arm to Stoke Bruerne
The weather forecast was rain for most of the day so we were relieved to start in the dry. As expected the locks were against us but then after the first three, they were either at the right level or just needed dropping a bit.
We made steady progress up the flight and within two and a half hours we were at the top. It was at this point that the rain started to fall in earnest. We stopped off at the service point to top up the water tank and get rid of the rubbish. Throwing away my work shoes felt like a ceremonial event.
Moving on to new waters
It was at this point that we turned left for Brentford and arrived on waters that are new to us. Our next canal landmark was a couple of miles away. At 3076 yards, Blisworth Tunnel is the 3rd longest navigable tunnel on the network and the longest that can be done without being guided. At its deepest point is is 143 ft below the surface. It takes about 30 minutes to pass through.
Canal tunnels can be quite disorientating. Even with the boat’s tunnel light on you often feel as though you are going to hit the side. To help, we also put all the lights on inside the boat to help us see the sides better. For the first time I also used a head torch with a wide beam and this I found to be a great help.
Eventually we were out the other side at Stoke Bruerne and into a deluge of rain. We only had a few hundred yards to get to the moorings but the bank side was quite muddy. So were we by the time we had tied up for the day. We are planning to stay here for a couple of days to do some walking and on Wednesday to visit the canal museum.
After the crossing of the Nene we can now relax and slow down to canal pace.