Thursday 27th April; Yardley Gobion to Nether Heyford
It was frosty first thing but it was soon gone. We left at 9 as the forecast for the afternoon was wet and we wanted to get up Stoke Bruerne locks before it started! These two swans were displaying to each other as we approached, but have no nest – I wonder if this is their first breeding season or whether they are just
practising establishing a pair bond for next year.
We had a closer look where the river Tove crosses the canal as we approached the locks. On the offside is a small weir though levels were too low for any water to be flowing over it. The photo shows the river below it.
By the rubbish skips at the bottom lock a group of local volunteers was filling potholes in the towpath. They were working hard but barely acknowledged us, even though I said ‘Good Morning’ when I walked right by them with my bag of rubbish. The stuff they are filling the potholes with is very loose – I hope they will compress it in some way or it will soon be gone with rain and the passage of vehicles.
Even when I walked back again with some bottles for the recycling, and spoke to the girls about the work, they barely answered. They are obviously concerned with the towpath as a local resource but don’t seem to have any interest in boaters, which is rather a shame as without the canal they wouldn’t have the numbers of visitors that they do.
We ascended the first lock on our own, then spotted a widebeam a lock ahead and waited for it to come down. Meanwhile NB A Frayed Knot had arrived at the bottom so we waited for them. A couple of locks further and there were a couple of volunteers coming down – or so we thought. They studiously avoided eye contact until we said ‘Good morning’, when one responded, but then both totally ignored us. It looked like one of those CRT employees who check that everything is as it should be, and maybe he was introducing the other to the job, but they certainly were not there to help. That is no problem if they haven’t had the training to operate locks but why on earth couldn’t they have cracked a smile and told us so? We have come across this attitude once before, on the K and A I think, when I actually had to walk around the resolutely silent man with my windlass. At least he told us what he was doing, and was actively putting data into a hand-held device.
Anyway, A Frayed Knot worked the locks in exactly the same way as we do so the rest of the morning passed swiftly and extremely pleasantly. For a short while at the top lock there were no gongoozlers at all. Quite unusual I would think.
A Frayed Knot moored before the tunnel as they were catching a bus to go into Northampton, but we opted to go through the tunnel before stopping for lunch. Extensive repairs were carried out in the 1980s and where more work was needed than just brickwork repair, pre-formed concrete hoops were installed. Outside the south portal one of these is displayed. The inclusion of a fender both sides gives the tunnel a spacious feel as you cruise through. The link has fascinating pictures and information about the restoration – not just on how the work was done but also the extensive preparations needed to drain the section of canal and construct roadways for the vehicles to use.
The tunnel is very wet in places. I managed to get some photos; here is one of the many square holes in the walls. They are for drainage and are linked by a channel above the roof to drain the rocks above. Some have iron staining where the tunnel passes through iron-bearing rock strata.
The light at the end of the tunnel is the end of the tunnel – we didn’t meet anyone till we were nearly out. And no sign of the ghost on either passage this trip. We were through very quickly and after lunch decided to move on to find a mooring near Heyford Fields marina. The weather became intermittently wet and miserably cold but somehow none of the spaces looked quite right. But we were amused by this smiley-faced boat winking at us.
Even without the sun the colour of the oilseed rape is intense enough to give a bright reflection.
We ended up mooring at Nether Heyford where we were last week. It had been a long day.
13½ miles, 7 locks, Blisworth tunnel
Total this trip; 102½ miles, 72 broad locks, 3 tunnels, 2 large aqueducts, 4 swing bridges