The replies to a question on Canal World Forum seemed to indicate that the water saving measures British Waterways have in place on the Northern Oxford would not after all cause us excessive delay, so the vote was to revert to our original plan, and go North on that route. It was also suggested that it would be less busy at Hillmorton later in the day, so it seemed sensible to try and get through those locks today, if we could make good progress before then.
|"Chalice" passes "Ocelot".|
By pushing on to Weedon last night we had left ourselves with not too many miles to reach the lock flight at Whilton and Long Buckby. Despite it being very busy with people coming down, we actually worked the whole way up neither catching nor being caught by another boat. This flight can be a "pig" but today it was relatively easy. Part way up we met "Proper Job", (or just "PJ"), from the Canal World Forums who is doing the Thames Ring on his boat "Ocelot". He reported just how low he found water levels on the summit of the Southern Oxford - fortunately not where we are heading.
|Braunston Bottom Lock|
We pressed straight on to Braunston. I am developing a theme about boats that have tunnel lights quite unfit for purpose - usually a bright penetrating spotlight beam, rather that something that illuminates the arch of the tunnel, but does not blind oncoming steerers, Every passage of one of the long Grand Union tunnels now seems to be marred by these horrors, and the worst have left me protesting to their owners about just how dangerous they are. Some boats also now have multiple headlights, so blind you doubly.
Braunston locks are some of my favourites, being much shallower than those at Buckby, and far easier to operate. Again there was very heavy traffic going the opposite way, but initially we started the descent alone. We did catch another boat after a bit though, and shared for the remainder.
Straight through Braunston and turn right onto the Northern Oxford. Yet again much traffic towards us, but we had an unimpeded run through to Hillmorton. Charlie got a long walk with Cath, who I was surprised didn't ask to be picked up again sooner.
|Padlocked paddles on half the locks|
Hillmorton locks are paired, and normally some of the busiest in the country. To limit lock uses BW currently have one of each pair locked out of use, We feared long queues, but need not have worried. Clearly boat numbers are down, and we only had to wait for a couple of boats ahead.
The couple on the boat following us down approached us and said that it was their first ever lock - would we mind showing them how to do it? Cath stayed with them, working down a couple of locks, to make sure that they felt confident. A lovely couple, and it's nice when beginners feel that they can ask for assistance.
|Hillmorton Top Lock(s)|
These are very picturesque locks, and it is a route we have seldom used, although, unusually we have already passed them once this year, in the other direction, collecting Sickle.
|Leaving a Hillmorton Lock|
By now we were running well ahead of our expected schedule, so decided to carry on right past Rugby, to Newbold, where we knew a Co-Op would provide supplies.
|I really must organise having a shave!|
Weedon (Grand Union) to Newbold (Northern Oxford)
Miles: 20.3, Locks: 16
Total Miles: 64.4, Total Locks:39