Day 43 – Back to the GU

From Hawksbury Junction to Braunston is 22 miles and three locks (not counting Sutton Stop I did yesterday. The Oxford canal continues to wind along the contour line, only occasionally resorting to cuttings and embankments and a short tunnel at Newbold just north of Rugby. From the canal Rugby appears to be a small village with a park down to the water. There are a few glimpses of roads and commercial development through the trees but you don;t get a sense of it being a big town at all.

Soewhere along the route between Hawkesbury and Rugby I passed ‘Equinox’ heading in the opposite direction. That’s the boat that got in terrible trouble on the Nene during the floods about 5 weeks ago. Tony (I think) was amazed I’d been to Wales and was on my way back. Didn’t have time to ask as we passed where he’d been.

The locks come in a group at Hillmorton south of Rugby, they had some CRT volunteers but I only got helped through one. They are all in need of serious work, the gates sway alarmingly on their posts and the paddles are incredibly hard to wind.

Braunston is one of the system’s busiest hubs with chandlers, marinas and hire bases grouped around the junction.

I arrived here about 5pm assuming I could go through the locks and find a mooring before Braunston Tunnel, but the lock opening hours are being restricted to save water. They closed at 4pm. I’m moored on the wharf of one of the hire fleets just below the first lock.

From here on I’m back on the route I took 6 weeks ago, GU to Gayton, Northampton Arm, Nene, ML and Gt Ouse.

No easy locks from here on, the GU are wide and heavy, the Northampton Arm are narrow but awkward with the bollards on the wrong side and the walkways on the ‘pointing doors’ on the wrong side of the gates so you can’t hop across the half open lock to open the other side.

The Nene is a slog. It’s pretty and I guess if you keep your boat on it and potter up and down between your favourite watering holes it can be pleasant enough but for the long distance voyager it’s 3-4 days of heavy locks that for some reason have to be left empty with the guillotine raised, whichever direction you are going in. I’m dreading it.

I got a text from Nick Sharp this evening, he didn’t stay for the Eisteddfod and set off home a week before me. He’s currently on the Nene around the area where we met during the floods.

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