Monday, 19 May 2014

Fluffy lambs on the Northern Oxford - Braunston to Brinklow

(Boat Chalice - posted by Cath)

Pleasant mooring near Braunston's well known church spire.
Another beautiful morning. Alan and I walked Odin a short distance first thing then we had breakfast. Alan wanted to go into Tradline Fenders, but they don't open until 9:30.

Patient dog at Hilmorton locks.
I got on with things at the boat, when Alan staggered back with a new front fender for Chalice, which he and David spent some time adding new chains and fitting it to hang at the right height. So we didn't set off until after 11:00. We are not early starters, but that is really late for us.

Perfecting the scruffy boater look!
The old boatmen and women who worked their boats into Birmingham were told by the canal companies to travel back to London via the 'Bottom Road', which they hated. It went through the Midlands coalfields and was notoriously dirty and greasy. I have read that it was the 'Idle Women', the wartime volunteers recruited off the land that changed this. The women 'trainees' who stayed the course were articulate and educated, and decided that the whole thing was silly, so refused to do it - and the boat people followed their lead.

Not so much "Viking Afloat" as "Viking Aground"!
I've always thought that the name 'Bottom Road' reflects the different perspective of the boat people. It is the Northern Oxford Canal, the Coventry Canal and the Birmingham and Fazely Canal. The route skirts Birmingham to the East, then goes into Birmingham from the North East. To me, used to maps, this isn't a 'bottom road' - because the approach to Brum is further north on the map. The boat people, however, were illiterate, and because they were unschooled didn't know the conventions of maps. They had a different view of how the canals connected together. I don't know why they considered it the 'bottom road', but I'd be interested to find out why.

Trying to pull them off was far more effort than we had expected.
Alan also dislikes the 'Bottom Road', but not because it is dirty, the coalfields of Coventry and Nuneaton are long since gone. No, he doesn't like it because there are not enough locks. He gets bored steering the boat for a long time without the diversion of a few locks. So he wanted to go into Birmingham via Hatton - a long, flight of big, deep, double locks.  He was told by David and I that we are not going that way with Odin, not yet. Odin has made incredible progress, but we still need to keep a close eye on him. He wears a buoyancy aid and a harness when we are not on the move because he does occasionally wobble a bit still. He hasn't got the stamina to walk up the long flight while we work the locks, and would be a hindrance up the flight if he was in the engine room where he often lies on his bed while we are boating. Alan saw the sense in our argument, so we are travelling the Bottom Road - but I have agreed to do a lot of the steering. I consider this a delight with spring in full bloom and the lambs frolicking in the Oxfordshire fields. Whether I still think it is a good idea in the rain remains to be seen.

It would have been massively easier with "Sickle"!
The journey was largely uneventful, we stopped for shopping in Rugby, then had a brief interlude pulling a 'Viking Afloat' hire boat off the muddy bank where they had wedged themselves. We were not quite sure how they had got quite so stuck, it took both boats going at full chat with someone on the front with a boat pole to pull them off.

We moored near to Brinklow - the weather changes tomorrow...

Braunston to Brinklow

Miles: 15 (Chalice), 0.0 (Sickle), Locks: 3

Total Miles: 82.9, Locks: 39

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