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  • clivenmel

March 1st

Normal 0 false false false st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} So, here we are. It�s Saturday and a fine morning, so we got sorted out and left the Crick mooring about 9.30. Almost immediately we plunged into the Crick Tunnel, just about a mile long and rather drippy. Actually it�s a blessing that you can see the exit at all times, way off in the distance. It makes it easier to steer and helps to keep a focus.   Anyway, emerging at the other end slightly damper than before, we pushed on to the Watford Locks. This is a set of 7 locks with a stair of 4 in the middle. The place, as expected, was deserted and so we could take out time, dropping down over 52ft and ending up just over the fence from Watford Gap Service Station, which is visible through the hedge. It�s not a particular place you want to linger so we pushed on another couple of miles until we recognised the now familiar Norton Junction coming up.   On our way through here back in January, we remember Molly May II mooring up just this side of the Junction, so we did the same. We found a pleasant spot along with a couple of other boats and got settled in.   At least I could watch the Rugby!   We also were delighted to see that the good old 3G signal was back and we were back on Broadband! Excellent; we wanted to download the new BBC iPlayer. I don�t know if anyone is familiar with this new Media Player? The BBC in their wisdom has decided to ditch Real Player and have created their own and it allows, amongst other things, to view programs again that you may have missed. I particularly wanted to watch the new series of �Who do you think you are?� We caught the ones with Rory Bremner and Rick Stein but we knew we�d missed two other episodes so this was the chance to catch up. Last night we watched both Zoe Wannamaker and Fiona Bruce, both interesting. By this time it was after 11 so that�s it.   Sunday 1st March.   This is a rather special day for us as it�s now exactly 6 months since we set off on our travels!   Can you believe it?   Actually, we are of two minds; the time has flown by really and yet, strangely, we seem to have been doing this for ever�it�s a very odd feeling and I�m not sure what to make of it: if we discover something profound, we�ll let you know!   Anyway, here we are on Sunday and it�s a beautiful day here � no wind, not cold, some distant mist in the trees and the sun just starting to break through the light grey cloud cover; couldn�t be better, so off we set, taking a Right at the Junction and a 30 minute jog down to the Braunston Tunnel. Now we�ve been here before once or twice so it holds no fears anymore. This is the 7th longest in the country at over 2000 yds but yet again, the exit can be seen in the far distance, which is always encouraging. Almost within sight of the tunnel exit, you can see the start of the Braunston Locks, which drop the level down a further 35 ft into the famous (for boaters, at least), Braunston section. This area has a long history in the canalboating world, as I�m sure we have mentioned before, being at the junction of the Oxford Canal and the Grand Union, where in days gone by, huge tonnage of goods would pass by.   Of course, the old working boats have long gone and so Braunston has lost some of its old magic with the village itself, sitting somewhat aloof on the hill above. Looking down today, it is still a very busy place with lots of residential boats, two hire boat company�s, a massive Marina filled to the brim and traffic passing in both directions every day with folks like us or weekenders, taking the boat out for a spin. While the boat was in the last lock and no-body coming, I nipped into the Chandlery at the side of Bottom Lock and renewed my supply of grease for the Stern Tube (stops water getting up the prop shaft and into the engine bay). Meanwhile Melanie happened to look over the bridge and noticed a boat moored up on the right; it has an unusual but somehow, familiar name! (Bet she takes some handling!)   A story before we go further; somewhere in the middle of coming down the locks we met a boat coming up and as these are all double locks, it makes sense to help each other as we pass each other in opposite directions, using the lock water wisely and more often than not, conversations start up.   Anyway, two ladies from the boat got talking and one said they had had a bit of a disastrous start to their day as her husband had fallen in! Now you might think that this could be due to any number of reasons; carelessness, old-age, wet decks making it slippy�.could be anything. Anyway, think on this and with reflection, consider could this possibly have contributed?   It seems that his son�s girlfriend was, for whatever reason, on the roof. As she shifted position, one of her rather ample breasts popped out of her top! The lady�s husband duly fell into the canal!! What do you think? Wet decks? Old-age? Na..hhhh!   At the end of the Braunston �leg�, we turned left under one of two rather splendid cast iron arches to find ourselves on a new bit! This is the start of the south Oxford Canal and we haven�t been down this canal before.  Its quite an interesting junction because when you are coming up the Oxford stretch towards the junction you have the choice of going through the left arch to go North or the right arch into Braunston.       The first mile or so is rather uninspiring as it�s full of residential boats and old rotting hulks that are awaiting restoration. Quite quickly, however, it opens up into what we were expecting to see; open country and a quite narrow canal that meanders about across the landscape much more than most. To the south there is the lovely picturesque Victorian church of Lower Shuckburgh and beyond, strangely scalloped high hilly ridges that show the clear imprint of ancient mediaeval Ridge & Furrow cultivation. The village of Upper Shuckburgh lies just out of sight beyond the church; the name Shuckburgh is said to mean �a hill haunted by goblins!� Actually, it is said that a 17th century member of the Shuckburgh family, whilst hunting on the hill, was accosted by King Charles I who was on his way to the battle of Edgehill. He is said to have reprimanded the man by demanding to know how an English gentleman could spare time for hunting when his King was fighting for his crown! Perhaps he didn�t ask him if he was a Royalist!?   Not a mile further on is yet another junction; we had intended originally to keep straight on and head down the Oxford canal but as we have a little time to spare, decided to make an excursion up this leg of the Grand Union. It will go all the way to Birmingham. For us, the objective is Warwick, still another day�s journey away. So, it�s a Right turn at Napton Junction (or Wigram�s Turn as the old boatmen called it) and North again. Almost immediately the three Calcutt Locks intrude, dropping us a further 16ft and a very tight and tricky little set they are, especially with the wind blowing now quite freely over my left shoulder � keeping the boat off the right bank was almost impossible and every boater that we saw resorted to pushing and manhandling it as much as steering the thing! They also have yet another version of paddle mechanism, which Mel, our resident Lock Anorak had to go sort out (and have a chat with other passing lock-managers, of course)!   Once through, whilst we were cruising Mel spotted a buzzard overhead and out came the camera again!  We travelled about another 30 minutes to moor up just before the rather challenging Stockton Flight; but that�s for tomorrow. So here we are, well fed and watered and settled in. As it happens, there�s a pub opposite where we�ve moored up! It�s called The Boat - original!  We may partake of a nip..    

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