Welford to Cosgrove
The Grand Union's Leicester summit section is remote, to say the least. It passes through no locks or towns and instead is winds through field after field. The landscape is unremittingly rural where even the smallest hillock is named and represents a notable landmark.
Lock Keepers Cottage Watford Locks
Whilst there are no towns, it is peppered with marinas, one so new its vast acres of water contained just two boats. Yelvertoft, North Kilworth and Crick to name a few of the larger ones.
Monday was spent passing these marinas and finally through Crick Tunnel to find a shady spot half way between the tunnel and the locks.
The addition of Dan to the crew meant the start of a new Six Handed Rummy tournament which saw him continue his winning ways and I was the tail end Charlie, proving, once again that its just a game of chance......
Innovative use for a boat window in Weedon
We had a short 30 minute wait on Tuesday at the top of the Watford Locks before we descended in a group of three boats. Our journey to Cosgrove had been timed at four days travel, but with six days on our hands we elected to take things slowly. As it happened, Tuesday was the one day we completed nearly a full days cruising, descending the Buckby Locks in the friendly company of Euston 73, who had already passed us on one or two occasions. I sometimes wonder about boat names so had to ask why name a boat after a station? It turned out that it was a combination of Sue and Tony, which was rather good. Oh, and the 73? its the number of the bus which stops at Euston!
We pressed on south through Weedon, eventually finding a quiet mooring near Nether Hayford, where the noise from the trains or the M1 were muted.
Wednesday saw us reach Gayton Junction and a much needed opportunity to use the services. It was here we had, as Frank Spencer would put it "a spot of bother". I went to use the Elsan and somewhat carelessly put the cassette cap on the rim of the waste shoot. I moved the pipe to rinse the cassette and.... knocked the cap down the hole! Arrrhhhh!
Stables at Stoke Bruene
What was worse the bottom is simply an inclined gutter so I couldn't see / rescue it "down the hole". I went round the back and lifted the inspection cover and saw that the outfall pipe was smaller than the cap, which means it was stuck upstream and would therefore cause a blockage the next time solids were poured in. In something of a panic I considered the options and found a 4" inspection pipe which, with its lid removed, revealed a kinked down pipe and there at the bottom was my cap - 4ft away. Close but oh so far.
I was starting to rehearse my call to CRT (I cant just walk away from these things) when inspiration struck. Every boating problem can, in theory, be solved by cable ties or duck tape. The tape was recovered from the butty and a ball attached to the end of the mop handle with a sticky side out. Dan shone a torch down the hole and I carefully pushed the handle in. Much to our amazement it stuck on the second attempt and then, very carefully, we lifted it out. Top tip to self, always put the cap on the floor!
With tanks purged and filled we were off through Blisworth where we will return in a month's time. Considering how dry it has been Blisworth Tunnel was soaking wet. Nothing seems to reduce the water available under the hill.
Floating fuel stop
On the way through my eye was caught by a fleeting glimpse of a light in a shaft, just beyond the rebuilt section. Later enquiries revealed that this is an offset air shaft with two connecting adits to the main canal tunnel. There are several possible reasons why this shaft is off set, but my guess is that it is a shaft which accessed the first attempt at a tunnel.
We did little more than pass through the tunnel, stopping on the visitor moorings near Sculptor and the museum.
Kathryn Doddington paid us a brief visit in the morning before we set off down the Stoke Bruene Locks, five were for us and two were against. As it was nearly three weeks since we last refuelled we were pleased to see the Jules Fuels boats moored at the bottom lock. Cash was exchanged and the tank topped off with enough diesel to last us a month or more. In fact, after two weeks of running we still had 2/3 of a tank left. Its the happy combination of a large tank and an economical engine.
Then is was the final few miles into Cosgrove, dropping through the one lock in the village to reach the sump pound as it crosses the upper reaches of the River Ouse. We arrived on Thursday afternoon by which time most of the traders were in place. Helen walked ahead and found our spot, immediately before Ray and Lesley on Morgana. This was a lovely surprise, but I have lost count of the number of times we have been trading neighbours. The arrangement is so regular that their four cats immediately identify their favourite resting places on the roof.
The only fly in the ointment was one visiting boat who was determined to sit on the mooring till the absolute expiry of the CRT mooring restriction notice. I think this was a matter of principle, but by shuffling boats we all squeezed in.
Dan rounded off his winning streak and was whisked off in an Uber to Milton Keynes station leaving us to prepare for the festival.