Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Calcutt to Braunston

After an enforced sojourn at the top of the Warwickshire plain, North Star is once more able to slip its lines and head out onto the canals. Naturally, at the very moment the bows leave the small jetty, the wind picks up to gale force 9 (Marina's Law of Wind) throwing the boat in unexpected directions.

The whole family joins in locking up the Calcutt Three and we are immediately alongside the lovely Napton Reservoir. I'd be more than happy for one of the upper level linear moorings here, looking south over the still waters. No space though.

Almost immediately though, we have noticed fumes in the engine room and suspect - with rather heavy hearts - that we still have the same old engine problems. It's not quite the same as Adrian Flanagan being swept off the back of his yacht within hours of setting off on his (successful) round-the-world, round-the-top voyage, but it is a disappointing start.

We turn north at Wigram's, discovering that the horn doesn't work either, which - given the tortuous nature of the North Oxford, may cause us problems later. Indeed, at the very first bridge, under the A45, we have to back-pedal fast to avoid an oncoming hire boat. We get to be able to spot Anglo-Welsh and Black Prince boats at a distance soon.

We pass the mellow buildings of Lower Shuckburgh - if ever there was a setting for a small canalside pub, here it is! Helen decides that the cluster of farmhouse and ramshackle buildings is definitely the place for us. I recall she said that about a place outside Long Itchington, Shirley, Alrewas, Shardlow and Weston as well.

We motor on past Flecknoe up among the yellow ash and alder and oaks, and weave through the fields - the plains to our left, the slopes to our right. We watch common and lesser black-backed gulls wheeling around in small groups. It's grey but a warm grey sky and the dog gets for a scamper on the towpath for a while. She really doesn't like it on the boat, sadly.

We pass the site of the old railway bridge that announces the approach to Braunston, and the loops off to west and east. One day I want to get permission to walk the fields around the old canal loops. None of it is a public right of way.

We glide effortlessly across the Braunston Puddlebanks, passing a motley collection of boats. It is good to see a variety of boats, every one a picture of beauty to its owners, possessors of memories of voyages and adventure. The background of wasteland that many moorings create is somewhat less pleasant. I know from experience, that the owners - or lessors - of these little plots defend their little New Age empires as being somehow environmentally-friendly, as if somehow owning a collection of old vehicles in various states of disrepair is part and parcel of the ultimate Gaia lifestyle. I don't agree, but love the fact that I live in a country where people who don't agree can live without one fearing the other. But still, parts of the Puddlebanks have become a right old eyesore.

The last stretch is sublime though, passing the brick bridge and then the triple bridge over Braunston turn. Such a shame that at such an iconic location, someone was able to erect concrete sheds, garages and boxes on the north bank.

Despite a short cruise, we decide to take up a space just by the junction and opposite the busy workers of the Mill House refurbishment.

7.6 miles, 3 locks

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