Autumn Cruise to Welford

We haven't been cruising for some time, with lots of things on our plate, but we have just managed 6 days up the Grand Union to Welford. We haven't been to Welford since 1998 when we made a fleeting visit - it was summer and there were no moorings free.

We left Yardley on Wednesday afternoon (3rd November)and went up the Stoke flight alone. We saw flocks of fieldfare near Grafton Regis, some being harried by a kestrel. On the way up the flight we met our friend Chris Allin who was helping a friend move a boat south. Stoke was, understandably quiet and we met only one boat in Blisworth Tunnel. We moored at Blisworth and found out later that the Cheese Boat was just ahead of us.

On Thursday morning the weather was bright but it was very windy. Sometimes it felt like we were sailing. The boat was listing and crabbing going down the cut. We passed fellow bloggers Zindani at Brockhall, they were going south. The water was a carpet of fallen leaves which meant the prop had to be cleared frequently. A quick burst of reverse appeared to do the trick. We made Buckby flight in good time and met NB Urquhart Castle waiting for as at the bottom lock. We made good progress up the first few locks with them but then we met some shallow pounds. At one stage we got stuck under a bridge and could only make progress be drifting along in neutral. At the top lock we found the lock keeper who told us that there were problems with the back pumping.

Brockhall and a Carpet of Leaves

Because we had made much better progress than we had thought, and realised that going up Watford flight might be a problem, we pressed on arriving at Watford locks at 3:45 The flight was closed; it closes at 3:30 during the winter with last boats entering the flight at 2:45. However it did mean that we were first up the flight in the morning.

Maggie negotiating Watford Flight

Friday was not good weather, dull and damp, but we had a trouble free journey north. Being first up Watford we got to Crick by mid morning and took on fuel and had a pump-out. For the rest of the journey to Welford the weather was dull. We passed the new Yelvertoft Marina and met NB Hadar at the junction to the Welford Arm. Just as we turned into the arm we saw two kingfishers chasing each other, their vivid colours just catching the last rays of the setting sun. It was getting quite dark as we got to Welford. We moored up near the 70' winding hole and explored the end of the arm and the village in the dark (and rain). The local village shop and post office was very useful and we were impressed by the pocket park that is close to the River Avon. The shop staff recommended the Wharf for a meal and we had a good honest pub meal there for a reasonable price.

Saturday was a bright but colder day. It gave me the opportunity to take some early morning photos of Welford.

Morning mist on the Welford Arm

Getting the fire going

Welford Arm Terminus

Welford Arm's only lock

As we left the arm we saw more kingfishers and they continued to appear all the way back to Crick. In total saw saw about six or seven. There were lots of gliders making use of the good weather and the bright autumn sun lit up the hedgerows which were laden with berries.


Ash Keys

Sloes - waiting for the gin!

Close to Bridge 32 there was a large shoot in progress. Beaters were operating on both sides of the canal and when we passed the guns, who were standing near to the canal, they opened up at a group of birds. One unlucky cock pheasant came down in dramatic fashion just close to Albert. It landed in a thicket on the bank, just a few feet from the cut.

We had passed NB Intrepid on the way up to Welford and noted that in their engine room was a Ruston. On the way back we came alongside Intrepid and I had an extended chat about engines with the owner Colin. He has a great boat (Les Allen shell) that is well turned out and an immaculate Ruston & Hornsby India 2YW engine. The engine was installed in '92, so it was probably installed by Keith Jones. Colin has managed to polish many items that I never knew could be polished. He has also fitted copper cladding around his exhaust using an intriguing and quite novel system.

NB Intrepid

Ruston 2YW in Intrepid

We moored up for the night outside Crick Marina; Hadar were moored up in front of us. Unfortunately, for the third night in a row the only O2 mobile Internet connection I could get was GPRS - not much use for blogging. I could have used the Crick Marina WiFi but I would have had to arrange payment.

On Sunday we rose early again to get down the Watford flight without much delay. We were first down the flight and made Norton junction in very good time. Although the forecast indicated that the whole of Britain would have good sunny weather, we did pass through some showers. We took on water at the junction and went down the Buckby flight with a former Ownerships boat now run as a private consortium. This time there was lots of water. We took lunch at Wilton and then made Weedon for our night's mooring.

Monday was a day of weather warnings across the UK. It was clear that we would might not move so we had moored up for the night on the embankment near to be near the services in Weedon Bec. As it turned out the morning was horrible with high winds and heavy rain so we stayed put! By the afternoon the weather had abated sufficiently for us to take a short trip down to Bugbrooke where we moored up outside The Wharf. We have heard good reviews from a crew going North about their meals. We will find out shortly.