Wednesday, 23 April 2008

We finally made it, just!

13 locks, 2 miles, Now moored below lock 13 Rothersthorpe flight, Northampton Arm

Where we were moored in our rural setting last night we became aware of a Canada Goose sitting on a nest on the opposite bank. During the course of the evening a swan wandered into the goose's territory and the gander had no qualms about chasing the swan away even though there was a size difference. After a while the 2 birds conceded each others presence but kept a wary distance and a watchful eye on each other. Later a Heron flew into the goose's paddock which also upset the gander, so another battle ensued with the Heron taking flight to safer surroundings. During all this, the goose that was sitting on the nest didn't even ruffle a feather and appeared completely oblivious as to what was going on around her.

This morning we set off about 9am for Gayton Junction where we stopped for water and rubbish. While at the BW facilities Dot and Christina wandered off to find the farm selling free range eggs that we had been told about (thanks Sue). A short time later they arrived back with a tray of 2 dozen of the little beauties at £1.30 a doz.

Next port of call was Alvechurch boats for diesel (74p per litre) EA Keys and a visitors licence for Kalimera and her crew. Well we spent the best part of an hour at this establishment as the staff had only been there 2 days and were at a loss as to what to do. Somehow Christina talked the young man into supplying a 2 month visitors licence which she duly paid for. Funny, I thought visitors permits were only for 28 days but hey who am I to argue, cest la vie. After we had left Alvechurch the young guy decided that even though we had a gold licence we still needed to fill out an EA visitors form. Luckily Christina was still there and she knew our details so she filled it out for him. You would think that if a member of staff was to be left in sole charge he or she would be properly trained but hey why should I worry if it's all wrong?

Eventually we arrived at lock no 1 of the Rothersthorpe flight and guess what, they were all padlocked shut. A sign on the paddle gear stated that BW were letting water down and would be back soon. Well we waited until 12 noon and decided that if they hadn't returned by the time we had had lunch we would have to ring BW. Lunchtime over and still no sign so a phone call to BW who advised us that somebody would be with us soon.

Ten minutes later and sure enough a BW vehicle with 2 workers arrived along with a boat that they had been assisting up the flight. Apparently this boat had been trapped at the bottom of the flight when vandals had completely drained the pounds to locks 14 and 15, the 2 largest pounds in the flight. This appears to have taken place on Friday night but with BW cutting back on costs it has taken them until today to rectify the problem.

Once we started to descend the flight BW again locked the gates behind us and told us that they would let more water down for a while to ensure we had plenty of water. For the first 5 or 6 locks everything was fine but after that we found that the water levels in the pounds were higher than the top gates and we had to wait for the water levels to self balance.

Water cascading over the top gates whilst in the lock

I was forced to go up to 3 locks ahead to try and lower the water levels faster. By the time we reached lock 12 under the motorway the water was surging over the lock sides and there was a waterfall flowing down the towpath ramp under the motorway. As we left lock 12 I had to re-board the boat as the towpath was closed due to a new bridge being built to widen the A43 off ramp from the M1. As we approached lock 13 we passed the bridge building site on our left in which 2 huge pumps were pumping out water that had gone over the top of the new pilings and 4 guys were at the lock with all the paddles open trying to lower the water level. Apparently with all the excess water coming down the flight the site had been flooded and the workers were wondering what the hell was going on, their words not mine. When I explained they were quite happy but I was amazed that the BW guys who had been down at the site twice during the course of the day hadn't warned them what might take place.

Lock 12 is almost under the M1 motorway

By the time we were both through lock 13 we decided we had done enough for the day and moored up on the bollards which still left plenty of room for anybody trying to ascend the flight. A couple of hours later we did see a solo boater approaching so we opened the lock gates to let him go straight into the lock without having the inconvenience of us being moored on the bollards.

1083 locks, 1399½ miles, 41 Tunnels, 41 swing bridges and 19 lift bridges since Nov 2006

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