First, let’s get the negative stuff all out in the open.
- We booked a five day canal cruise. We were told to pick up the boat at 3:30 and expect an hour or so of instruction. Then we had about a two hour sail until we should dock since you can’t sail after dark. This include 45 minutes though the 2018 metre Blisworth Tunnel, the third longest in the UK. Then we docked for the night. That constitutes Day One. Let’s skip to Day 5 when you have to be back at the marina by 9am and have all your stuff off by 9:30. So two of the 5 days are very, very short.
- Hard beds which are the width of a double and have a ledge on one side where one can easily break the orbital bone around one’s eye when one rolls over. (Ed. note: Okay, maybe only Geoff could do this and he didn’t really break it, just hit it.)
- There is nowhere to sit if you are outside.
- Some people have difficulty adjusting to their land legs once the trip is over.
Now, let’s get to the good stuff.
- Mal is a fantastic captain.
- Terry is a great sub-captain.
- Karen is a great meal organizer and “scullery maid”.
- Geoff is a great rope catcher.
- The quiet pace is incredibly relaxing.
- The opportunity to find a fantastic Indian meal or pub meal was readily available.
- The beer in the pubs is great
- The scenery of bucolic, rural England was very special
- Boat renters are very friendly and helpful as are the people walking the towpaths (Ed. note: Boat owners maybe not as friendly)
- Opening and closing the locks is a great physical workout.
- The wine in the pubs is great.
- The towpaths are great places to go for runs in the morning and walks in the afternoon.
- It is kind of like Venice – everyone should see/do it once in a lifetime.
A pictorial and captioned review of the cruise:
The narrow boat is narrow – but it is 65 feet long!
The Blisworth Tunnel
The entrance to the Blisworth Tunnel. In the olden days at this point the horses were unhooked from the barge and led overland to the other end of the tunnel. The workmen then laid on their backs and pushed their feet against the roof of the tunnel to “walk” their way to the other end. This also just one hour after you take possession of the boat and have a one hour lesson.
Roughly in the middle of the tunnel – the light is not a train coming at us, although we did have to pass another boat 200 metres from the end.
Mal is pleased as punch at the completion of his first major test as Captain – getting us through the tunnel!
The gates of the locks which have to be pushed open and closed to raise or lower the water.
Mal and the Audoin Gull are in the first lock, waiting for the level of the water to drop.
So this is what you have to do. Push that HEAVY wooden beam 90º to open or close it. If you try and there is even one inch of water more on one side or the other, no luck. The surface of the water has to be absolutely equal.
Terry navigates her first lock. You have to get the boat to just the right position in the lock. They are 70 feet long, which doesn’t leave much room at either end.
Life on the Canal
A look of the view we had many, many times – water and narrowboats.
We say many swans, cygnets and coot like birds. The “coots” would walk up the mooring ropes to get on the deck of the boat.
This was the first aqueduct we passed over. On our way back, Terry tried her damnedest to run us over the edge. Thankfully it was a little too high.
The second aqueduct – over the highway.
Blisworth – one of about 6 villages we passed through.
After all the pastoral settings, it was a little disconcerting to pass through Wolverton.
We don’t know if anyone actually used this swing. All of the shower and sink water was emptied into the canal – but not the waste water. A good memory of days gone by, I suppose.
There are a lot of bridges over the canal. On some you can see where the ropes of the tow horses have worn deep into the brick corners.
Just another beautiful scene.
It isn’t all work. If you aren’t opening or closing the locks, you do a lot of this. Geoff is taking this too casually, however. You really need to concentrate or the boat will veer one way or another. Mal doesn’t seem too worried though and Terry and Karen are off walking the tow path.
The Inns and Food
The inveterate trio at the “Sublime India Cuisine Restaurant” at Stoke Breurne. Terry maintains it is the best Indian food she has ever had.
The menu at the New Inn
Terry had the minted lamb chops, Karen and Mal had the pie and Geoff enjoyed the faggots!
Hmmm. Faggots and mash. (Ed. note: When in an English pub, don’t turn to the assembled patrons and ask “What are faggots?”)
The Barley Mow Pub. I had fabulous fresh duck.
One of the three times Mal had fish and chips.
The pubs up and down the canal are all advertising Christmas and to book now. Apparently all the suppliers want to know how many turkeys, hams, roasts etc. will be needed.
Final meal on the canal at The Walnut Tree pub – a variation on a theme – Mashed potatoes, bacon, onion rings, fried cabbage and liver!
At the Walnut Tree on Thursday night there was a wedding. Always need a photo of the bride.
The Blisworth Church
The Blisworth Church
The timeline of the church.
Self explanatory – and oh so polite.
In the horse tunnel Geoff cracked his head open. Luckily it was after dinner so he didn’t feel anything.
There are many weak bridges in Northamptonshire
The English are fine mad. They fine or jail big time if you don’t catch and release, if you fly tip (Ed. note: putting the garbage in the wrong place) and apparently if you don’t close this gate.
And we Come to the End
Mal and Karen get us underway on the last morning.
Still having a wonderful time.
The Shoe Blog
Okay, so maybe I am jumping the gun a bit, but rural England doesn’t lend itself to a lot of good shoe photos. I took this just after we got into London after leaving the north.
Her foot is fairly close to a 60º angle.
Next time – a day in London.