Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Braunston: the fun begins already

Well, it's seven thirty on Tuesday morning, and the sun is streaming through the side hatch as I write this, tied up above Braunston top lock. It looks as is this is here we'll be staying, as we've been told it's already becoming chaotic further down. I haven't been down that far yet, only as far as the pub - the famous Admiral Nelson, recently reopened after a period of being closed.

This is the place where, according to David Blagrove's Bread Upon the Waters, the legendary Leslie Morton used to hold court in the days of Willow Wren. Sadly perhaps, there was little sense of history or atmosphere left, but on the plus side, the food was lovely; nothing flash, but my sausage, bacon and liver casserole was one of the best things I've eaten in a long time, and the chips were excellent.

Still, back to the beginning. Saturday lunchtime, I got a phone call from Jim to say that he and Craig had arrived at Northampton, well ahead of schedule, so I set off on Sunday morning to meet them at Cotton End at lunchtime. The plan had been to stay there until Monday morning, when Craig would leave for Denmark (the world of duct cleaning and dry ice is truly an international one), and Michelle and Bill would walk down to meet us and accompany us up the flight. Craig, however, had other ideas. Having been well and truly bitten by the bug, he was keen to get in some more boating prior to his 4 a.m. departure, so we decided to head off up the flight. I thought Craig deserved a treat after all those Nene locks anyway.

Thus it was that at around tea time, just before Gayton Junction we saw two people on the towpath that we instantly knew were Bill and Michelle. If they were surprised we hadn't waited, they didn't show it (we had been planning to let them know we'd arrived!). We quickly agreed that they would follow us onto the main line and tie up at Gayton, which we did, at bridge 47. We then enjoyed cups of tea and looking at each other's boats, and greatly enjoyed their company.

Then Jim, Craig and I set off to find a pub; slightly haphazardly, as Craig's internet connection was interrupted whilst doing his researches, but we headed away from Gayton and towards Milton Mansor, and the Greyhound, where Craig treated us to a sophisticated repast (I know it was sophisticated because it came on square plates) which was also delicious. Nice as it was, we decided that we should also investigate the village's other pub, the Compass, which was rather strange; a bit like our local at home, totally empty of customers with only the TV blaring out for company, so we drank up quickly and left.

On Monday morning we awoke to find Craig gone, as expected; he had found a taxi to pick him up from outside the marina, and after breakfast set off in convoy with Shilling to tackle the Buckby locks. We worked out a routine whereby littler 31' Shilling went into each lock first and came out last, and overtook us in each pound, and so we didn't need to open both monstrous gates. This worked well and soon we were up the flight and through the tunnel. As we came away from the tunnel, the steerer of a passing boat called out that he liked the blog! So thank you.

On the way down to the pub last night but Victoria and Chiswick, Mike and James proudly demonstrating their newly acquired and extremely impressive thumblining skills, whereby they use a line from the mast to pull the lock gates open, and as they come out, without the tension on it, the line undoes itself without the need for human intervention. We had offered to help them down the locks, but were clearly redundant.

As we approached Braunston locks we saw Owl, who we sort of knew from the forum, and they were very welcoming. As we made to go down the first lock they said we'd be better off staying at the top, so here we are. Braunston, I remembered all to late, has appalling mobile reception, and in order to even try to post this, I will have to go back down to the pub and stand on the bridge... and see what happens.

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