This morning we went to see if anyone looked like they wanted to buddy through the locks with us. A barge and butty that had passed the night before were heading off. Another man on an old working boat was sitting at the towpath and said he was just about to go and would be happy to share a lock with us. Last time we had come down these locks we had accompanied a group of 6 jolly men holidaying on a hire boat in high spirits. Today the main noise was the rhythmic put-put of the old fashioned engine from their boat as he drove in. His locking partner was efficient, working ahead at times when lock keepers helped us. There had been lock keepers last time too and we really had too many crew but this time there were jobs for everyone. This set are unusual in that you can wall on either side most of the time so there was no chatting on the way between the locks. I remembered there had been artwork under the otherwise dull bridges but I didn’t see them so well this time as I was walking along the other side which didn’t take me near the bridges.
All went pretty smoothly, until the barge and butty hit a snag on the last lock and got a bit wedged. They had to uncouple and pull back and go in singly. Waiting in the sun was no trial.
As we did the last lock, the lock keeper advised us that bread and milk could be purchased from the small shop beside the thatched pub. He happily let some tourists take photos of the lock operating and they asked to close a gate. They were going to give it up as too difficult but he gave a hand and some instructions while I demonstrated on the other side how to push by leaning on the gate once it was pulled far enough to walk round. They seemed delighted with their photo opportunity.
I had seen a boat coming and thought the gates didn’t need closing at all but it was a trip boat and was just turning around and no locking was involved. The lock keeper told me it was just a short trip to the start of the tunnel and then it reversed out again.
We picked up milk, but bread was not available today. However ice cream was and a couple of scoops each made us confident we wouldn’t starve before the next shopping opportunity on the other side of the (very long) tunnel. As we headed the (very short) distance to the tunnel, three separate passers by remarked on how quiet our boat was. At the mouth of the tunnel we saw a trip boat but it was reversing out. It doesn’t do the whole tunnel or it would be a very long trip. The trippers just get a quick tunnel taster.
The tunnel is more pleasant in electric , not just the noise but also for the fume levels. At the end I hopped to the shop in Blisworth. A man I had never seen before met me on the way back and said “he’s still waiting for you” I don’t know how he identified me and why he thought I might have thought he would have left without me but he seemed impressed by the waiting anyway. I was less impressed by bashing my knee on the folding step. Bruises are part and parcel of boating.
The activities of the morning over, it was an afternoon of fields and hedges on pretty wide water. Two or three more people on boats moored along the way remarked on how quiet we were during the afternoon.
The only other job was to get a pump out, but there was no such thing at the place Shane was expecting it. Later there was one but it had closed fifteen minutes earlier. We decide to press on to the next set of locks where we are told there is another pump out opportunity, rather than moor opposite the pumpout overnight, as the man suggested. We are now moored close to the next set of locks but first call will be the pump out in the nearby marina. Strangely I saw a query this evening about pump out toilets and find myself advising on where to find pumpouts on the “women on Barges” Facebook page.
It is still a rural setting but the trainline on one side and the M1 on the other means it isn’t the quietest of moorings.