Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Braunston (love it or hate it)

It’s now five months since Karen started her contract in Leamington Spa, heralding a complete change in our boating life.  Until the end of February we were cruising most days and visiting places all over the country, most of which, neither of us had ever been to before and many we had never heard of.  Now we are staying put for a week or two at a time and having a mini cruise when we need to move. Our cruising requirements are now governed by the facts that our licence demands that we move every two weeks, that Karen’s office needs to be accessible and we need to moor close to safe parking spots for the car.

In those five months we have covered 87 miles and 63 locks:

Started at Huddlesford on the Coventry canal and travelled slowly down to Warwick on the Grand Union.  We then turned round and have got back as far as Braunston on the Oxford canal

It is three months since we were last here at Braunston and now the holiday season is in full swing it is really busy with boats going by constantly.  It is also a tourist hot spot so many non-boaters are wandering up and down the towpaths looking into how life used to be in a canal village.  Because of this we moor just outside Braunston where it is quieter.

Looking down from the bottom lock at Braunston with a pumping station on the left and original boatyards on the right (oh, and a pile of stanking planks on the left)

One of the reasons we like Braunston

A boat café for tourists (gongoozlers as boaters call them)

We also like Braunston as there are many country walks in the area, several sites of medieval villages, abandoned railways and unclassified country roads to explore.  The Admiral Nelson, one of the lockside pubs here, holds a music festival every August in a meadow next to it.  We have never been but fully intend to this year.  We are allowed to stay for two weeks where we are moored so should catch it as it is on over our last weekend.

Another change for us is that we used to do large shops whenever we were in a town with a supermarket by the canal.  Now, Buddy and I walk to the local store, greengrocer etc. to top up daily.  When Karen and I lived in a house and both worked, she used to cook in the evenings and prepare lunches for the following day.  She had a lovely habit of putting sticky notes in my lunch box with a message on.  Before the children left home they used to get the same treatment.  I now do the cooking during the week and prepare Karen’s lunchboxes and I now realise how good she was at inventing messages especially when she had four to do each day!

Typical audience when preparing dinner

On our first walk of the day yesterday we walked through Braunston and up to the 1 ½ mile long canal tunnel.  There are six locks on the way and always scope for some entertainment from the holidaymakers, whether hireboaters or people who take their boats out of the marina a couple of times a year.  Yesterday was no exception.  A couple of private boats came out of a lock and were heading to the next lock.  I gave them a cheery wave and hello; one boater returned the same as is usual, but the other, on a shiny expensive looking boat, totally blanked the scruffy man with a dog.  I stood and watched them get ready for the next lock.  The shiny boat man didn’t tie his boat up to the lock landing correctly and the wind caught it and he was left trying to hold on to the rope.   Fortunately his wife could see from the lock and was shouting for him to let go.  You could see he didn’t want to let go of his precious boat but fortunately he saw sense and he dropped the rope.  The boat wasn’t going to go far as it was a short pound between the locks and the guy on the other boat picked him up and manoeuvred over to rescue the abandoned boat.

Boat drifting away on the left with distraught owner (in white top) on the towpath

Lessons like that are good as it always shows that boats must be shown respect as they are far stronger than humans.

On Tuesday afternoon Buddy and I took in a much longer walk and were following a footpath towards the hamlet of Sawbridge (about half a dozen houses, three of which sell free range eggs so we feel guilty only visiting one) and we came out onto one of my pet likes:

An unclassified country road

In fact we went on two different unclassified country roads on our walk.  At one point we walked under an abandoned railway and I suspect the road looks little different now to when the railway was first built.

Old railway bridge across the unmade road

We left the unclassified road and walked up and along the railway embankment until we met the canal.

The old bridge across the canal was removed soon after the Beeching cuts

The rest of the week is going to be different as we have Karen’s son, Matthew, and Marie, his Norwegian girlfriend, coming to stay for a few days.  Two of my sons, Steve and Jake (and Jake’s girlfriend Domi) are also coming up to stay one night so it’s going to be a boatful.  Our new boat is 12 foot shorter than the current one so it will be tricky putting up a large crowd once we take delivery of it!

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