Welton Hythe to Flecknoe Field Farms Bridge 103, Oxford Canal
Few people like two way tunnels, even fewer like those that have dog legs in them. Braunston Tunnel has quite a big kink between 400 and 300m from the south portal, we know where it is and try our best to avoid meeting anybody there. Today we decided to see if we could get through the tunnel before the masses started to move. So the alarm clock was set, cuppas made to drink on the way, rather than in bed. The sun was low in the sky and we definitely needed our extra layers on. Such a lovely start to the day with that autumnal feel in the air.
We were at Norton Junction by 7:40am. Here the hire boat we’d followed yesterday were filling with water, had they known what laid ahead they would have waited to fill their tank! We rounded the bend to see a boat tagged onto the end of the new armco that is being installed. So long as the depth is suitable this is likely to become a new favourite mooring for many as the view is great. All the hedges are fighting to hold the mass of red berries now. A red glow lines the canal at times.
A sudden flash of blue, then another. Two Kingfishers having a bit of argee bargee wove around each other infront of us for a short while, of course no where near long enough to turn my camera on let alone take a photo! In the morning sunlight their backs were more a turquoise than the usual electric blue.
As we approached the tunnel we could see a blue t-shirt and life jacket start to walk towards us. We were arriving at just gone 8am.
Braunston Tunnel is a broad tunnel, so two narrowboats can pass each other (except when they biff into one another at the dog leg). However if you are in a widebeam you need to book passage so that traffic can be held back at the other end of the tunnel. Passage for widebeams is at 8am and ahead of us there were two of the big brutes. The C&RT chap came to chat, it turned out that we had arrived at just the right moment. The widebeams would take their time to go through, so as we would be much faster we’d be allowed to go through ahead of them. We just had to wait for two coming the other way. As we moved to the front of the queue to wait our turn we could see the lights coming towards us, not far away.
First a Calcutt hire boat popped out, they had also arrived at a good time. The second boat was a cruiser who hadn’t wanted to meet a narrowboat in the tunnel as if there had been a biff, the cruiser with it’s grp sides would have come off a lot worse for wear.
We were then given the thumbs up by the man in blue. Life jackets on, tunnel light on, cabin lights on and big torch at the stern. We were off, happy in the knowledge that there was no chance of anyone coming towards us. On entering the south portal we hit a wall of fumes and then very warm air that steamed our glasses up for quite a while. About a third of the way through the noises changed in the tunnel, we could tell we’d been joined by another boat behind. Two big lights on the bow, no need for them to be focused up at the roof as the likely hood of a widebeam meeting anyone coming the other way is very slim. As we got further north the temperature dropped and by the time we were coming out the other end it was cold to say the least. We pulled in at the end of the moorings and settled down to have breakfast having enjoyed our tunnel trip, knowing that someone knew we were in there is quite reassuring.
Knowing that the two widebeams were likely to be followed by the hire boat we waited for them to arrive so that we could share Braunston locks. This took quite some time. First the blue widebeam came past and carried on down the flight. We waited, and waited, and waited. How long was the other boat going to take to come through? At least an hour and twenty minutes had passed from us mooring up before the very wide widebeam pulled up, using his thrusters so much it made us wonder if the boat had a tiller at all. A few minutes later the hire boat appeared, waved on by the C&RT chap at this end of the tunnel. We made ready and pulled into the lock to await our lock buddies. However after an hour of sitting behind the widebeam they needed a break and some fresh air, so pulled in themselves. The lock was in our favour and boats coming up, so we set off on our own. As the Lockie said you can’t make someone do the flight just because it’s ready and waiting for them, certainly not after lungs full of someone else's fumes.
Working our way down we passed several boats coming up, all very well timed. On reaching the lock by the Admiral Nelson it was half full. One of the bottom gate paddles hadn’t been shut properly so it was gradually draining. No one was heading our way so I topped it up and down we went. We were now following another boat, the lock ahead was empty and had been left open for one coming up. Perfect timing again as I’d spotted wool hanging from the grab rail of Riverknits boat moored just above the lock. Becci came out to check her wool and spotted us, so time for a chat and catch up in person rather than just virtually on Instagram.
No reason to stop in Braunston, we still have some bangers (anyway they are not gluten free!) we carried on to Braunston Turn. The Midland Chandlers mooring was so full, one boat had tied up their stern and left the bow to drift, ‘Won’t be a minute mate!’ to pick up some new ropes. He wasn’t blocking our route, so we didn’t mind as we veered to the left under one arch of the double bridge. Now we just needed to find a suitable mooring. There are plenty to choose from if you don’t want to be by a road. We carried on hoping to find one with a gap in the hedge for a view.This being the Oxford Canal, gaps are few and far between, so in the end we opted for a good view on the off side and pulled up in time for lunch.
6 hours! Brilliant, then it started to rain, even more Brilliant! We closed up the covers leaving Tilly access at the back. The afternoon was spent stewing apples, jointing a chicken for the freezer and then the drawing board came back out, time to do proper working drawings for Panto. Boats came past the crews getting very wet, it wasn’t until after 4 when the hire boat came past, good job we’d not waited for them. The stove was lit and we enjoyed our first Blackberry and Apple crumble of the year. We just need to top up on berries tomorrow so that there can be a couple more waiting in the freezer.
Our friend Frank has been trying to send me a photo for the last week by text. With the signal around Crick I kept getting messages informing of the message, just not the picture. Frank kept trying and we kept waiting wondering what was so important to persevere. Had he found a stash of ancient coins and jewellery whilst digging his garden? Had he won the Lottery? Had he died his hair red? Was he wanting to show us a wonderful bit of marquetry he’d just done? Had someone we’d not seen for years been to visit? Had the tide in Scarborough gone out so far that it had revealed the location of Atlantis? Well at last we got to see it. Scroll to the end of this post to see what was so important.
6 locks, 7.62 miles, 1 right, 1 left, 1 way tunnel, 2 fat boats, 2 sheets of drawings, 4 soggy paws, 1 box full of interesting things, 1 cat about to loose her nose! 1st crumble, 1 stove lit, 23 apples plopping from the tree behind.