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Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Up through 7 locks brings us to Stoke Bruerne and what was an old 19c mill building is now the Stoke Bruerne canal museum, the cottages alongside the museum were once used to house the mill workers.

The canal museum at Stoke Bruerne

Also here at Stoke Bruerne lived Sister Mary Ward (1885-1972) daughter of a rope maker. Although not qualified as a nurse Sister Mary had spent 10 yrs as a nursing sister in convents across Europe and upon returning home to nurse her sick father she became the boat peoples nurse giving them much needed medical help long before the NHS started.

Sister Mary married and her husband Charlie Ward took over the family business that moved to a shed by lock 15 that was once occupied by a stone mason and this also became her surgery.

Until the late 1930`s she financed herself in the caring of boaters when the canal companies appointed her consultant sister to the boatmen and their families.

Boats coming up through the locks would know that upon seeing other boats moored up that someone was ill or that one of the boaters wives was about to give birth.
In 1951 Sister Mary was awarded the British Empire Medal and in 1959 was the subject of a "This is your life " programme. She retired in 1965 and passed away 7 yrs later.

Through Blisworth tunnel (3057yds long) on past Gayton Jct. where you can branch off to Northampton & the River Nene the next flight of locks is at Buckby and just before the flight I

Noticed this cruiser still half submerged as it was a year ago. Climbing 63` through 7 locks brings us to Norton Jct. where the Leicester Arm leaves the main line but we are carrying on to Braunston.
The tunnel is 2042yds long and as i travelled through i remembered the landslide that had occurred last year restricting the canal width and view from both directions and in fact closing the canal for a short time so that emergency dredging could take place.

So having slowed down i was pleased to see that all the trees and vegetation had been cleared but still some dredging was needed to restore the canal to it`s full width but at least you can now see a boat approaching. You can see in the picture below I took last year the angle I had to steer around the slip to enter the tunnel.

Trees now cleared giving a better view to boaters

So as the sun sets over the bottom lock at Braunston I`ll say goodnight.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


The Grand Union Canal leaves it`s jct. with the River Thames and ascends 380` through 56 locks on its 36 mile journey to its summit level at Tring. Completed in 1797 the summit level is 2 1/2 miles long stretching from Cow Roast lock just south of Tring in Hertfordshire to Bulbourne lock at the jct. of the Wendover Arm.
The Wendover Arm, the arch to the left in the above picture, was built in 1797 for the purpose of feeding water to the summit level from local springs and as its name suggests went into the village of Wendover. Sadly little of the arm is in water but work has been going on since the late 80`s by the Wendover Trust WWW.WENDOVERARMTRUST.CO.UK to once again make it navigable for its entire length.
Eventually the arm began to leak and instead of it had the opposite effect. In the dry summer months working boats would queue for days to cross the summit level so in the early 1800`s the canal co. built tring reservoir to feed a pumping station on the Wendover Arm.

One of the reservoirs at Tring

Today there are 4 reservoirs at Tring feeding the Gd. Union. The reservoirs are lower than the canal so Tringford pumping stn. on the Wendover Arm was used to pump water from deep wells created below the pumping stn. into the W Arm and thence by gravity water entered the summit level. The water travelled from the reservoirs underground through brick lined tunnels into the wells.
At the height of summer 4 million galls are pumped into the canal. As a lock is used 50,000 galls will drain from the summit level.
So after that long climb up to the summit we start to descend 42` down the Marsworth flight of 7 locks using water from the summit level to lower us down. Anyone coming the other way would use water from the summit to fill the same lock to raise them up.

A festive cottage half way down Marsworth flight

Nice to satisfy your curiosity and not just accept that the locks take you up and down. How? Why? When? didn`t seem to important in my working life perhaps the rat race didn`t allow time to stop and think but just get on with it. Nice now to have that time and to pass on to you all what i have found so interesting.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Hello everyone Happy New Year to you all.

Well hands up who`s started a diet or joined a gym, maybe you have started chewing the gum as one of your new year resolutions. I`ve made a new yr resolution that i intend to keep in that i will never be late for work and i won`t pull a sicky. Sorry to all of you now back at work and the only advice i can give is make a plan for retirement and try to make it work. Life afloat wasn`t the plan of my late wife Valerie and i, in fact it was to buy a place near to the Norfolk Broads a place we had many boating holidays. But then life is like a game of cards and you never know your hand till dealt and you then have to play it the best you can so here i am on a boat named Valerie so we sort of retired together. Anyway don`t know why i started off the blog in this way maybe the time of year, thoughts etc.

So after leaving Uxbridge i made my way through dozens of locks sometimes on my own and some locks shared with others. One couple were heading to Warwick for christmas and another to Peterborough, hope they all made it in time.

My destination was Cow Roast summit level of the Gd. Union Canal but more of that in the next blog as it got me thinking while there over Christmas why? when? and how? so i went looking for answers.

Leaving Watford after my daughter in law Bev`s visit the canal passes beneath the M25 near to

Kings Langley and the Wind Turbine pictured above can be seen from the canal. If you have travelled on the M25 between say the M1 and Heathrow you might have noticed it. The wind turbine is located at Beaufort Court, which is the head office of Renewable Energy Systems a very `green` company that claims zero emissions from it`s HQ that is actually sited on the old Ovaltine egg farm part of the Ovaltine factory now gone to be replaced by canal side housing. Ovaltine had their own narrow boats for shipping coal and goods in and out of the factory.

Cruising along at a slow pace gives time to view the your surroundings and some of the wildlife

don`t seem to disturbed by your presence.

In the last blog i mentioned the cupboard i intended to build and i managed to do this after returning from Christmas at Luton with son Kev and his partner Joanne. Below you have the before and after pictures. In the lower pic the CD`s are sitting on the shelf as i have yet to decide exactly where to fit them. Being able now to hang my coats up is wonderful and the space below is very handy.

Earlier on this evening i was watching the new series of Waterworld all about canals, now this programme is on Central tv but with technology being what it is i was able to tune my Sky-Box and add Central tv as a channel i could watch whenever. This was something i was not aware of and learnt it from my friend and fellow blogger Sue on NB No Problem ( link to her blog is above to the right) so if you want to add other channels to your Sky box at home or on your boat then go to Sue`s blog and follow her link.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs