(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)
Another very retrospective blog post.
For various reasons relating to planning around other events, it turned out that the best day to move "Sickle" on the final leg of the trip from Shackerstone to Stoke Bruerne, ready for "Village at War" was the Thursday, even though we did not need to be at Stoke until a day later.
To do these point to point moves often involves two cars, and a lot of shuffling around, but that is pretty expensive in fuel, so if we can avoid it we prefer to. We have had some success recently combining use of a bike with just one car, and we decided to try that again for this move, although we had learned the lesson that a full sized "mountain" style bike makes it much easier than one of the Brompton folders. It does also need fairly good towpaths. So the plan was that we go to Braunston with a bike in the car, which we would use to lock-wheel the flight, before Cath returned to the car, with bike, and then drove forward ready to assist at the Buckby locks, again using the bike. Once clear of Buckby she would drive to Blisworth with the bike, then cycle back to meet me as I progressed South with "Sickle". By choosing Blisworth we both avoid the parking limitations at Stoke, and the need for Cath to cycle over Blisworth tunnel. I could drop her back there later, and she could then drive to Stoke whilst I went through the tunnel alone.
I like a good plan, but it all started to fall apart as we tackled Braunston locks, where progress ended up being incredibly slow. Virtually all traffc seemed to be the direction we were going, up the locks, with few balancing movements down. There were some very slow crews who were working locks slowly and ineffeciently, and a volunteer lock-keeper positioned at just one lock in the centre of the flight seemed to actually be insisting on things that made it take even longer, but probably overall wasted more water than it saved.
Again many of the pounds in Braunston were low, and this wasn't helping. This is quite a basic thing, but in many of the Grand Union lock flights it now seems commonplace, with nobody assigned to attempt to keep the levels up.
By the time we were through Braunston it looked highly unlikely we would be tying up in Stoke Bruerne before nightfall, as we had planned.
Howeer, at Buckby things went rather more smoothly, and a couple of boats we shared with were very helpful, and, hearing we needed to make Stoke, suggested we went ahead of them. By the bottom of Buckby it seemed just about possible we might succeed, if no more hold ups. Cath set off with bike to do the next leg by car, and I set off with "Sickle".
I can't recall exactly where I finally saw Cath again, but of course Buckby to Blisworth is a fair old way, so she had done a fair amount of cycling by the time we did meet. However it had worked well, as she had largely avoided the rougher towpaths, and after that we continued to make good speed, although wondered if we would have to call it a day by the time we reached Blisworth.
However some local knowledge confirmed plenty of availability of moorins at Stoke, so even if I emerged from the tunnel in darkness, mooring up should be no issue, (it of course makes little differenvce if night has fallen whilst you are in a tunnel!)
So I set off through the tunnel - always a pleasure when nobody else is in it, and you can go at the speed that "Sickle" actually seems to prefer! 4mph was easily achieved!
So we not only got to Stoke, but were also in time for a meal at The Boat - it seems to be "our local" tese days even though we live many miles from it - we almost certainly visit this pub more than any other.
I suppose the fact we took not one single picture says a lot about the nature of the day - all standard stuff, but such slow going for the first few hours. Braunston to Stoke Bruerne at this time of year used to be an easy days boating - now it seems you can't rely on it not taking an awful lot longer than it really ought to need to.
Braunston to Stoke Bruerne
Miles: 20.6, Locks:13
Total Miles: 537.0, Locks: 268