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6. Inlanding to London – 1989

Grand Union

Day 6. Braunston to Buckby Top Lock

06.08.89
4 miles – 6 locks – 1 long tunnel – 6 hours

[In reality I suppose today isn’t Day 6 at all – because I stayed an extra day at Braunston taking advantage of the sunshine to get on with some varnishing, added to which I had planned to take a diversion down the Stratford for a few days but was forced to turn back to Braunston, as low water levels are forcing the locks to be chained shut early each day.]

I saw this on the internet, from the 1970s, and simply like it…
Half way up the Braunston Flight…

In cruising terms however this is Day 6. And it’s a broiling hot summer’s day. The Braunston Flight this morning was Sunday morning, high season crowded. I queued for close to two hours at the bottom lock, with at least 8 boats ahead of me. One of the frustrations of solo boating is that I can’t even get off the boat and pass the time by stretching my legs, not without losing my place in the queue… queues on canal – bizarrely frustrating despite a mug of coffee and the sunshine.

The welcome ‘Admiral Nelson’ mid-way…

Still, I am slowly coming to terms with the pace of life afloat.

I rapidly recalibrate the day to take account of the queues, and decide to make the most of the weather and simply get through the magnificent 2042 yrd. Braunston Tunnel.

It’s nerve-racking process navigating the tunnel in the relatively fragile wooden boat. What normally seem to be rather passive and attractive boats in the daylight suddenly become threatening metal juggernauts as they loom out of the darkness with dazzling spotlights to the fore. And inevitably, despite clinging as close to the side as possible, to prevent collision, the tall cabin sides scrape horribly along the tunnel’s sloping roof – sigh.

Tunnel approach…
Into the glooming…
And, 2042 yrds later, back out again…

I moor up early, between Norton Junction and Buckby Top Lock.

By late afternoon I’m securely moored, next to a wonderful breasted up camping barge, the varnishing brush has briefly made an appearance – as I survey the ugly scrapes suffered in the tunnel – and I’ve  spent the last few hours sitting on the long foredeck reading – perhaps this is as close to peace as solo boating comes eh?

Buckby Top Lock and the ‘New Inn’ [I think this may be a Granny Buttons ‘night’ image]
A walk to the bottom of the Buckby flight, adjacent to Whilton Marina…

A summer’s evening, a pint, a book, contentment – at last.

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