Old Stratford Wharf

We pass along Watling Street almost daily since we live just north of Stony Stratford. I am familiar with the route of the Buckingham Arm of the Grand Junction and the Old Stratford Branch in particular. I often sit at the traffic lights at Old Stratford in queues of traffic thinking of the boats that used to pass under Bridge 2 (the so-called Old Stratford Tunnel) on their way to and from Deanshanger and on to Buckingham. I blogged about the tunnel back in 2015.

It therefore came as a pleasant surprise to see a model narrow boat being constructed just by the lights and close to one of the former local canal wharves. I have been promising to photograph it for some weeks but not had the opportunity - Watling Street is a busy road. However, between Christmas and New Year the roads were relatively quite and the sun was shining so I took the opportunity to take a few snaps.

The impression the wooden model gives is of a very short narrow boat because what might be the traditional back cabin is finished off by a prow which is adorned by the usual bow decoration and a boat name - Falcon which in the days of carrying was the name of a nearby inn.

An unusual road side memorial
Watling Street, Old Stratford (MK19 6AE)

The boat is decorated traditionally with the name of JT Canvin, Coal Merchants who operated at the adjacent wharf. The registration is given as Cosgrove 1928. Canvins were well-known locally. It appears that at the turn of the twentieth century they owned a steam narrowboat Jubilee which, if records are to be believed, was not very sound and appeared to sink in tunnels. It was eventually reported sunk in Old Stratford in 1961.

I think Alan Holloway, who appears to be responsible for this monument, should be congratulated for his enterprise and handicraft. What a good way to commemorate a location's canal history - particularly one that hasn't got a functioning link to our current system.

Batteries replaced and recycled

It's the time of the year when temperatures begin to drop and batteries struggle. As I reported on our recent Autumn Cruise, our stater battery failed as we started our journey. Well during our trip it was clear that our domestic batteries (I don't know why they refer to them as leisure) also struggled and it was clear that the little tell-tales that show their charging condition (acid specific gravity) was not showing green. So it was a big sort out. The failed domestic batteries had lasted over five years and the starter a bit longer - probably six.

I purchased two domestic batteries from Baxters at Yardley Gobio Wharf, swapped the temporary start battery they had supplied earlier into a domestic so I had three identical domestic batteries. I then purchased a new 664 starter battery from Midland Chandlers. Like many boaters I contemplated upgrading the domestic battery technology but given the cost, options available and the charging system on Albert, I went for a like-for-like replacement.

No green indicator despite the battery charger
(top centre of image)

Our truck-sized starter battery.

This left me with four dead 110 AH lead acid batteries. In the past I have taken the old batteries to the local tip, but this time I browsed the internet, talked to fellow moorers at the marina and decided a trip to a local scrap metal merchant in Bletchley was on the cards. The world of scrap metal is now very professional. I delivered the batteries to the yard; they weighed them and then directly transferred to my bank account around £40. It's well worth considering the local scrap dealer when disposing of  old lead acid batteries, it goes someway towards defraying the cost of the new batteries.

Stoke Bruerne (and Home)

Yesterday we left Gayton in sunshine and made our way to Blisworth. The trip through the tunnel was clear with nobody coming in the opposite direction. We had a pretty rapid transit.

Stoke Bruerne was very quiet. The Canal Museum is closed on Mondays but I think the real reason is that the half-term holidays are over. No other boats were moving.

A quiet Monday at Stoke Bruerne

The first two locks we set for us (full) and then we passed another boat coming up who announced that the next three were set for us. In fact all the way down the flight all the locks were either full of half-full. This meant we cleared the last lock in good time.

We paused to take on water at the bottom lock and were appalled at the conditions of the towpath. I know its been raining a lot recently but the area is impassible for walkers - the puddles are enormous and deep. We've contacted CRT to complain. It needs grading and the drainage sorting.

What a mess!

We missed seeing NB Sculptor on its usual mooring by the museum, but they passed us going north just above Grafton Regis - just where offside vegetation makes the canal very narrow. A winter job for somebody?

Then started the process on packing up and closing up. Our trip has also highlighted that not only did our starter battery also needed replacing - it could hold a good charge overnight. Since the batteries were around 5 years old I suppose that is par for the course. Some searching online for bargains is called for.


No not the junction - we are moored up opposite the village of Gayton which is some distance away from the start of the Northampton Arm. As we arrived this afternoon the church bells were ringing and the sun was shining. It wasn't like that earlier today. As we left Long Buckby this morning it was quite different - cloudy and drizzly.

Our evening view
The moon and its reflection, Virgin Train going south, and the Village of Gayton on the hill

We left our mooring below Buckby Top Lock this morning and made very good progress down the rest of the flight. The first few locks were set in our favour and as we progressed we met boats coming up. As a result we managed to clear the flight by 11:15.

South of Whilton the canal is heavily wooded and the section through Brockhall was a bit like travelling through soup. It took a few judicious applications of reverse to keep the prop clear. After Weedon the weather improved and the rest of the day was dry and bright.

Clearing weather at Swingbridge Wharf

Autumn on the canal

We got to Gayton we met a few friendly passing dog walkers who were enjoying the weather. One who was also fishing related how he had seen otters along this stretch. We weren't as lucky, although we watched a heron fishing. However, earlier on we did see three kingfishers and one even dived during its flight. 

Tomorrow we are should be back in Yardley Gobion so we will set off for Blisworth and Stoke Bruerne in the morning.

Watford and Norton

Today we watched the Rugby Cup Final moored up near Weltonfield Marina. Shame about the result. Too much to hope that England would beat all the Southern Hemisphere rugby giants at one tournement.

Once the match was over we set off towards Watford. Our original intention was to try for Welford but that was plainly too much since we need to be home on Tuesday. We therefore winded below Watford Flight. The wind was very strong and it rained off and on. This brought down clouds of leaves which blew like a blizzard across the cut. Albert is a relatively heavy boat but we soon began crabbing. However, the winding hole at Watford of sheltered and "roomy" so turning was fine.

Watford Gap Services from the Canal

We retraced out steps to Norton Junction where we took on water. Mooring was plentiful at the junction but we decided to drop down one lock to use one of the more cozy moorings. Our intention is to go down the rest of flight tomorrow. So we decided to take a stroll around the fields along the Leicester Branch.

Obviously another enthusiastic Ruston owner 
(at Norton Junction)

Wallking along the moorings at Norton we discovered NB Trevor, a steam-powered narrow boat built around 1995. It is diesel fuelled which must make it more convienient to operate than classic steamers fuelled by coal. It appears that it has just changed hands from being moored on the Basingstoke Canal.

Steam Narrowboat Trevor

Diesel furnace and steam engine

Because of the canal's elevation the views around Norton are impressive. Today the lines of black clouds, and the sun occasionally breaking through, made this Midlands landscape look and feel very autumnal. Tonight we shall walk up to the New Inn where it should be warm and cosy.

Wool on barbed wire near Norton

An enormous Badger Set