Spring has sprung
Our weekend sort of started on Thursday when we travelled to Braunston after work. After eating our evening meal of chicken breast wrapped in bacon and stuffed with cheese and pesto, we took a walk around the village only stopping for refreshment at the Old Plough and at the Boathouse before returning to our part time home.
Work sadly continues to intrude and Friday was no exception, the trip to Basingstoke in Hampshire is one that I often make but not normally from Braunston and not normally with Sue either. Thick fog clung to the landscape as we made our way along the Daventry to Banbury road before we joined the M40 at junction 11. We stopped just off the A34 around 8am a short distance from the Peartree interchange where Sue left me and boarded a bus bound for Oxford city centre.
I collected Sue from the same location at half past one, she had endured a hard morning’s shopping followed by lunch at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant in Oxford before returning to the Peartree park and ride.
We were back in Braunston an hour later and we wasted no time in getting ready to leave for the weekend. Unusually, the new engine started with some difficulty but eventually spluttered into life. It proved to be a tight squeeze getting the boat out of her berth but as usual we persevered and left the marina by the private entrance. We had no plans as such but we headed off in the direction of Napton, passing the junction and tying up near the Bridge Inn. We had our evening meal and then took a walk to the pub for a bit of exercise and and a quick drink before returning to the boat for the evening.
It was a misty start to Saturday morning by which time we had decided to turn around and head for Stockton on the Grand Union, a place that we have visited on a number of occasions. We had a delicious cooked breakfast as we waited for the visibility to improve and by nine o’clock we were ready to move on. We saw a few boats climbing the three locks at Calcutt but we travelled down on our own. We saw very few boats on the move as we made our way to Stockton where we eventually moored just before the bridge where the Boat Inn sits.
The mist had well and truly disappeared and we had already enjoyed a couple of hours of blue skies and sunshine before we tied up on the straight above bridge 21. We sorted ourselves out before we started our towpath walk down to the village of Long Itchington. After visiting the local Co-op store we stopped off at the Buck and Bell where I sampled a couple of local beers and we shared a light lunch, a sample platter of bread, hummus, vine leaves and peppers stuffed with cheese. After leaving the Buck and Bell we made our way to the Cuttle Inn just to see what it had to offer and it was alright. We then made our way to the opposite bank and visited the Two Boats where we had another drink before climbing the towpath back to our mooring. We enjoyed the last couple of hours of sunshine on the back deck before we retired for the evening after having a shower. Our pictures of the village are in the gallery: Long Itchington
The last weekend in March as usual means that the clocks move forward an hour as we embrace British Summer Time. Most countries around the world do the same thing but it is known as DST or Daylight Saving Time but I like the fact that we have BST. In my mind it is a statement that time belongs to Britain, re-inforced by the fact that the centre of world time is the Greenwich meridien. Regardless of whether we ‘own’ world time or not, we still have to alter the clocks on board so after we’ve done that and drunk our first tea of the day, we headed off and turned at Kate Boats before starting our journey back. A wide beam would not have been able to continue past this point as the picture clearly shows, presumably hire companies can do what they like when it comes to blocking the canal.
Leaving Stockton behind we made our way back towards Napton but stopped for breakfast just before bridge 19. Another gut-busting cooked breakfast of top quality bacon, sausage, black pudding and egg was enough to set us up for the day and so we set off for our ascent of the Calcutt locks. We waited at the bottom lock while two boats ascending swapped with two on the way down, by the time that those two emerged we had been joined by another which had just pulled out of the marina. We rose through the first two locks together and in an effort to save water, waited for a descending boat and set the locks accordingly. Our plans were scuppered when another boat pulled off the diesel point to ‘steal’ the top lock, well half of it at least! We left our companions behind and joined the lock thief for the last of the Calcutt flight. First out of the lock, we made our way to the junction at Napton, turning left and starting the journey back to Braunston.
We were of course enjoying yet another beautiful day and we decided to stop near the village of Lower Shuckburgh where we could visit the Victorian church that we had admired many times as we passed by on the canal. We weren’t disappointed although it is disheartening to find that like so many other churches, the one at Shuckburgh is locked for security reasons. Lower Shuckburgh
We returned to the boat by way of the footpath that crosses the canal at bridge 105 and then after we untied, we started the final leg of our journey back to Braunston. The fantastic weather had ensured that the canal was full of boat traffic but it was good to feel part of it all as we made our way through the sunlit countryside. It was tickover all the way from Wolfhampcote back to the marina, passing the Boathouse pub we noted that the moorings were full as was the car park and every table outside.
Half past two and we were back in our our berth in the marina, relaxed and satisfied after the weekend which had been blessed by lovely weather. We cleared up the things that we needed to carry to the car and then it was time for us to leave, back to our other life on dry land.