After a completely fruitless morning waiting for a boatfitter to look over North Star, we set off for Rugby up the Northern Oxford.
As with Wormleighton further south, the canal meanders around Braunston, hugging the 300 foot contour, with the Victorian spire ever-present and the valley of the infant Leam off to the West. More common gulls and large flocks of barnacle geese, and a signal gantry standing forlornly in a field reminds us of a long-lost railway.
The canal is noticeably narrower gauge than the stretch south of Braunston, and bridges seem to be deliberately placed on the tightest of bends. Few boats come the other way but we know that we are one of a procession northbound, as we move over to allow for numerous boats - seven in all, perhaps? - to pass us. Our engine problems require a slower process, but we are not entirely bothered. We enjoy the graceful, slow cruise through the medieval field patterns, coverts, copses and hedgerows around Barby Hill and then on towards Norman's Bridge and the noisy M45.
Behind us, the sun suddenly appears below the clouds and lights up the countryside all around. From a grey, even light, Northamptonshire is now a technicolour landsape of verdant greens and screeching oranges and yellows; behind us, the glare makes it impossible to see anything.
We head up the long, long Barby Straight, marvelling at the time and effort put in by the permanent moorers with their gardens - such a far cry from the junk and plastic of the boats on the Puddlebanks.
As the sun sets, the smoke from a smouldering log makes it difficult to see ahead, and - unexpectedly - there is no room at the inn, the Royal Oak and we need to continue a while. The noise from the railways, high above, prevent us staying overnight and we turn the bend towards Hilmorton where it is quieter.
Opposite, the forest of radio masts punctures the sky, while behind us we can hear unrecognisable birds in what seems to be a wetland area between the Cut and the railway.
6.5 miles, 0 locks
The Wings of a Gull - A whalerman’s lament learned from the singing of AL Lloyd, who at one time worked on the whalers… I really don’t know how traditional it is, given Lloyd’s ...
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