Sailing Through Cosgrove

We left our mooring about 10:00 ish this morning. It was a lovely mooring, especially for birdwatchers.

Boy was the wind a challenge, though it wasn’t as cold as we thought.

The village where we stayed, Grafton Regis, has an amazing history. Remember the TV series ‘The White Queen’? The White Queen was Elizabeth Woodville who lived in the manor. She and Edward IV secretly married in a hermitage in the village. Elizabeth and Edward (re War of The Roses Edward) were Henry VIII’s grandparents. Elizabeth is also believed to be the mother of the Two Little Princes who were murdered in The Tower. They were thought to have been murdered on the command of Richard III. (Strangely, Shakespeare also has a place in the village’s history).

Henry VIII used to spend his summers in Grafton, and it was because of him the village was renamed ‘Grafton Regis’.

It’s an awful lot of history for a charming little village with a population of around 200!

We passed Kingfisher Marina, where a ‘sense of humour’ obviously resides. I wasn’t quick enough to snap a notice on the wharf, though it went something like: “Please don’t let your dog pump out on the wharf!

Plenty of evidence of how hard boaters of old worked – I’m always fascinated by the rope marks, from horses towing the barges, left embedded into the metal guards. Just how many years does this ‘wear’ take?

Sometimes we just can’t see what’s around the corner!

We passed the Navigation Inn by Thrupp Marina.

By the time we sailed under the beautiful Cosgrove Bridge (#53) the wind had turned cold, and we were getting really chilled; we succumbed to temptation and moored.

After mooring, and a hot mug of coffee; the sun came out!

Following a ‘Cyan board meeting’ we decided to slip our mooring, and continue on our planned day’s journey. Three bags of rubbish, water in our water tank being low, the need to visit to the Elsan services, and being moored by a muddy towpath, swung our decision.

At the sanny station at the top of Cosgrove lock, we’d just hooked Cyan’s hose to the water tap when we were asked how long did we think we’d be. The answer was as long as it takes to fill up our water tank!

The lady wasn’t being ‘funny’, and I think she was as ’embarrassed’ at the question as we were. She’d just helped her husband bring their boat up through the lock, and they’d planned to fill up with water.

The water pressure is very slow at this water point (we were warned by another boater), it took about 4o minutes to fill Cyan’s tank. We had a rather nice chat with the boaters while waiting for the tank to fill (after Elsan and rubbish duties completed). They did say they weren’t in any rush… it was just as well!

Left on the wall by the water point were two white mugs, it looks like some boater’s put them down, and they accidentally forgot about them after waiting ages for the water to fill their tank! We ‘normally’ forget the tap connection!

(Just a note: John sent an email to C&RT about the condition of these services – he thought they were the worse he’s seen. Though the rubbish area was locked with a boater’s key, it was filthy, and he had to squelch through filth to get to (pretty full) bins. On the outside of the rubbish area he had to pick his way through the fly-tipping, ie mattresses, tractor tyres, office furniture. The loos were out of service (not that we needed them), and the Elsan point was really grim. We don’t like to complain, but sometimes a situation isn’t acceptable.)

After services completed, I set the lock while John took Cyan through. This is the first lock I’ve done on the Grand Union; they’re big beasties aren’t they!

The man in the boat below (see pic below) shouted to me that he’d shut the gates. I’m confused because he’d winded his boat around, was he going in the lock backwards?

When I looked around a few seconds later, I couldn’t see where he’d gone?

We were soon sailing over the River Great Ouse via the Cosgrove Aqueduct.

The Aqueduct is just like a very mini Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, and ‘almost’ as thrilling! Poor duck, I think we frightened her.

This is the pedestrian side.


Crab apples still on the ground in February! Don’t any birds or bugs eat them? What a waste; still there’s never anything unwanted in nature, so no doubt they’ll eventually break down and serve as fertiliser for the tree.

We’ve moored at Galleon Wharf, just across the way from a ‘brick-brack’ store. (No no no…. I am not going to go in! 😉 )

We cruised approx 4 miles, and through one lock.


We passed several of these contraptions this morning, they looked to be next to a conservation area. Does anyone know what they are?

Jules Fuels With Towcester and Bideford

We’re still floating on our spot where we moored last Friday, such is this lovely place! A lot of time has been spent here with the binoculars in our hands; spying on the local wild life.

We’d made arrangements with Jules Fuels for them to pay us a visit. The overnight temperatures have been so cold over the past few days, resulting in waking up to a frozen canal, and slowing down the progress of Jules Fuel’s 1937 ‘Towcester’, and its 1939 butty ‘Bideford’ (I may have got those dates muddled!). Towcester had its engine fitted in 1947, so she must have been horse drawn previously?

As luck would have it, our gas bottle ran out while cooking breakfast yesterday (the spare was soon connected);  and we’d just about managed to eke out the last of our coal, such perfect timing! Jules Fuels advised us they’d be with us this morning, and they didn’t let us down.

Cyan was topped up with 8 bags of Excel, 2 bags of logs, a replacement gas cylinder, and 60 litres of fuel. The fire was lit and soon glowing red with logs and coal from Jules & Co.

We’ve only had the opportunity once before to use the services of a fuel boat (that was Auriga at Polesworth, on the Coventry), so it’s quite a novelty for us. Jules and Richard organised their two ‘beast’ boats to precision.



Tomorrow, weather willing, we’ll tear ourselves away from this spot, and continue on through Cosgrove lock, mooring up somewhere after. On the way we’ll use the services of a sanny station, and top up with water.

We’re Weekending In One Of The Best Places Yet!

Waking up for a call of nature at 2:00 am, and looking out the window; what a wonderful sight! The stars were so bright, they looked like Christmas baubles hanging on the bare trees. Even though it was a clear night, we were still surprised when we woke to find the canal was covered with a frozen layer.

There was a heavy frost over the fields.

On John’s return from taking Rusty for his morning walk, he said just round the corner was a fabulous place to stay. It’s right next to ‘Grafton Regis Meadow Nature Reserve’, and the River Tove.

So today, we’ve basically travelled 200 yards, and what a spot to moor!

Just as we moored a red kite hovered overhead, and we watched this magnificent bird soar and fly around until it dropped down in a field across the canal.

At breakfast we watched two green woodpeckers climb spirally up and down a tree opposite. We’ve watched a pair of swans roam over three fields, swim on the River Tove, then onto the canal, and eventually taking flight.

We’ve watched geese pairing up, and with males squaring up against each other, and seeing off rivals.

We’ve been spied on, and studied by a flock of sheep; and we’ve laughed with a boat full of kids as they passed – the boat was a day-tripper called Barney > Barney Rubble, full of trouble!

At one point a man walked past with a Border Collie dog and two Jack Russells. Rusty gave his normal warning bark, which made the man spin around and walk toward our boat. I was surprised as normally a German Shepherd barking makes people march on.  The man came back to the boat and asked if that was a German Shepherd he’d heard. Yes it was, and Rusty was introduced to him. The man put out the back of his hand to say ‘hello’ to Rusty, he was obviously used to dogs. He told his story that he was head of a breeding programme of German Shepherds in South Africa, tasked with training them for sniffing out explosives. We had quite a chat about the breed. It’s always a surprise what people we meet on the canals.

Shortly afterwards a nice young chap stopped to chat, he was on his way to the local shop to buy some ale to go with a pot of curry he’d prepared (he was obviously from a boat behind us). He kindly asked if we wanted anything from the shop. How nice of him! We told him we’d just had a visit from Mr Tesco. It turns out this young man WAS a Mr Tesco, and we spend quite a while hearing tales about his deliveries to canal boats.

The field is flooded, obviously a flood plain for the river.

The word that come to mind is ‘IDYLLIC’!

Between talking to people, we cleaned out the cratch; picked up the decking, and throwing it on the towpath. We gave the area a clean before laying the decking again. We took advantage that there’s just one bag of coal in the cratch, until we get more coal delivered. We’ve also cleaned the windows on the towpath side (of course), cleaning out the channels, and the ‘hopper frames’.

We made a telephone call to Jules Fuels; they will be with us sometime on Sunday. They’ve been slowed a bit because of the ice.

We’re staying put in this fabulous place for the weekend.

Seven Stoke Bruerne Locks Completed!

By 10:00 am we’d slipped Cyan’s moorings, and were on our way to the first of our five locks for the day. Yesterday we gave up after the first two Stoke Bruerne locks because of a strong wind, and rain.

Today’s a glorious day, though there is a ‘cheeky’ wind, which didn’t help controlling Cyan in lock pounds, while locks are set.

At the first lock of the day, John was about to close the gates when another boater appeared round the corner. Obviously we shared the locks. The boater was single handed, and jumped on and off his boat helping to work the locks.

We were soon cruising out of the 7th lock, and calling in at the sanny station.

After helpful comments from Pip and Marty about picking up bags of coal, we called Jules Fuels on Fuelboat Towcaster. Jules answered saying they were on their way back to Stoke Bruerne; presently they are at Leighton Buzzard. We’ll keep an eye out for Towcaster so we can buy some coal from them, but meanwhile we’ll pick up a couple of bags from Kingfisher Marina, which is just a mile away. (Thanks again Pip and Marty!)

We also made a phone call to Willowbridge Marina some 20 miles down the canal as they have a chandlery. A couple of days ago I carried John’s blue lifejacket which he uses at locks (at my request 😉 ), downstairs; on my way down the steps I managed to trap the toggle under the door, and the jacket inflated! Willowbridge confirmed they have ‘re-arm’ kits, and suggested we pop in with the inflated jacket to make sure we buy the correct kit. While John was doing the locks today, he looked very fetching in my shocking pink lifejacket!

Today we’ve cruised 2.5 miles, and ‘dropped down’ five locks.

We’re now 23 miles away from Braunston; and it’s only taken us 10 days!

Only Managed Two Out Of Seven

Watching the weather forecast for yesterday we knew we wouldn’t be moving, meaning this would be a great opportunity for a liaison with Mr Tesco. For a few moments the Tesco van had parked in the museum’s ‘Pay & Display’ car park while the driver delivered our order. As the car park was practically empty, I didn’t feel a bit guilty for not paying the £2.50 car park fee.

There’s a lot of work happening at Stoke Bruerne, mainly by voluteers with C&RT employees managing the work. They hope to meet their target for all works to be finished before the end of March.

Along from the tunnel to the Museum 50 ‘square’ holes have been dug, lined with bricks, filled with concrete, and with a mooring ring set in the concrete. Though moorings over the winter are 14 days max, officially there are 14 days, 7 days, and 48 hours (depending how far away you’re moored from the museum). Overstayers will incur a charge of £25 per night!

Our aim today was to drop down the seven Stoke Bruerne flight of locks, visit the sanny station at the bottom locks before mooring up.  That didn’t happen though… John did the locks, and when he started pushing the gate open, I slipped Cyan’s mooring and slowly made our way to the locks. Just as we started moving the wind came from nowhere, with strong gusts that made the short journey a challenge – “Hurry up John, open the flippin’ gates!”

The gate wouldn’t open for John – it was with mixed thoughts for John to quickly open the gate, but please don’t let him strain too much with his athritic knees!  Cyan was getting blown about the pound, I tried to aim for the lock landing and failed due to the gusts of wind.  Eventually it was realised that the paddle on a lower gate was left slightly open, causing the lock to not completely fill; keeping the pressure against the top gate, and stopping it from opening.

Sailing out of the lock, Cyan was held back in the ‘throat of the bridge’ for shelter from the wind, while John set the next lock. Cyan poked out from under the bridge just enough to clear the chimney, I didn’t want the arch of the bridge to squash the chimney.

While we were in the lock the rain started! Enough!

It was a challenge due to the strong wind, but we managed to moor just after the second lock. Thank goodness my splicing on the new centre line, securing it to the boat, passed the ‘strength’ test as it took both of us to hold onto the centre line pulling/holding Cyan back against the towpath for us to moor.

Before we left we snapped a few photos of the lovely woodland walk.

The weather looks like it’s going to be a very welcome sunny day tomorrow! We hope to drop down the five locks, visit the sanny, and probably moor up. We’ll be opening our last bag of coal tomorrow, which means we’ve a day or so to find a marina for supplies – I believe Kingfisher Marina is just over three miles from the bottom lock.

Ignoring the Blisworth Tunnel Ghost!

This morning we left our mooring of 3 days, where we’ve been nestled against the wind, sleet, snow, rain, and glorious sunshine!

From daybreak, the day’s weather has been beautiful.

After Marmite and toast for breakfast, we made our way to the services at Gayton Junction.

Since the water gauge broke, it’s been difficult to fathom how much water’s in the ‘tank’. We thought we were very low on water as Cyan rocked whenever one of us moved. Walking up and down the boat with the gait of someone who’s had a few drinks; we now know is a strong ‘signal’ we need to top up with water fast!

Despite the sunshine, there’s lots of evidence it’s been a cold night!

John saw a plaque on the towpath when he walked Rusty, and he wanted to take a picture of it.

The plaque commemorates ‘Thomas B Faulkner’, (born 1883 passed way 1984…….101 years young!) who worked on Banbury Lane area of the Grand Union Canal for 48 years. He started work on the Grand Union at the age of 20 until he was 68 years old. Did he fight in WW1? He must have seen the ‘posh’ ladies that worked the barges during WW2 – wonder what he thought of them? He also must have seen the ‘demise’ of the canals from an important artery for moving goods around. So many questions – wouldn’t it be wonderful to chat with him over a drink. Just that little plaque of his has brought history to life. “Thomas; we doff our caps to you Sir!”

John jumped off Cyan to take the picture on a bend, in windy weather, near a bridge, and leaving me to take ‘battle’ with her.

With rubbish dumped, Elsan service done, and water tank topped up, we set off for the Blisworth Tunnel.

We passed two old ‘work horses’, Bordesley and Greenock – Greenock is nearest to the camera.

Here’s an old picture of Greenock, courtesy of this website.

Ever wondered what you’d get if you ‘mated’ a old British Waterway’s work boat with a container?

It wasn’t long till we were passing Blisworth Marina. Can’t find out what this huge, old, building was. Was it a mill, a warehouse, factory? Whatever it was, it is now a block of lovely apartments.

(Editted to say, thanks to ‘Mike’ sending us this link, we now know it was a mill, warehouse, spice importer, etc.)

Just love old nooks and crannies. (Bottom of the apartments).

Entrance to the Blisworth Tunnel. At 3,076 yards (2,813m) long it is the third-longest navigable canal tunnel on the UK canal network after Standedge Tunnel and Dudley Tunnel (and the ninth-longest canal tunnel in the world). At its deepest point it is 143 feet (43m) below ground level. We’ve done Standedge, but not Dudley (yet!).

Work began on the tunnel in 1793, but sadly 3 years into the work the tunnel collapsed killing 14 navvies. I’ve not read too much about the tunnel due to the constant mention of the Blisworth Ghost or Ghosts. When you’ve an imagination like mine, it doesn’t do to ‘feed’ it! 😉

It was a relief to leave the tunnel, leaving behind the ghosts (of the killed navvies) who reputedly light up a ghostly tunnel with candles, enticing you to steer your boat into their tunnel!

Just outside of the tunnel there’s a pre-cast concrete ring on display. Major rebuilding of the tunnel was undertaken in the 1980s, with sections lined with these pre-cast concrete rings. It was also used to test out the materials that were later used on the Channel Tunnel.

Busy CRT men at work, cutting back the vegetation at an over-grown winding hole. We were to meet these men later.               

Eventually we moored at Stoke Bruerne, but we weren’t moored long when there was a tap on the side of Cyan. It was the workmen asking if we’d move along as they needed that spot to unload the vegetation from their work boat (there were no signs or notices telling us not to moor at this spot which was within the ‘mooring arrows’). Trouble was there wasn’t anywhere for us to move to, except on the disabled mooring, or the ‘special’ mooring by the historic boat and the tunnel trip boat outside the museum. The latter mooring is for ‘authorised’ boats.

We tried to be obliging, and it worked! Christina the CRT employee tasked with looking after this area gave us authority to moor on the ‘special’ mooring for a couple of days (doubt we’ll be moving tomorrow due to bad weather). Christina was very nice, though she did enlighten us to how rude a lot of boaters were/are to her.

Seeing that the weather was nice and calm, John fixed the bow button back on after I’d knocked it off entering Braunston lock. While he was in the middle of fixing it, one of the CRT men brought us a sack of kindling for our stove! Just goes to show how a bit of ‘give and take’ can be so successful.

Hopefully while we’re here, Mr Tesco will be able to bring us goodies to restock our cupboards.

Today we’ve cruised almost 6 miles, and through one enormous tunnel!

Today’s Three Mile Cruise

Wasn’t too sure whether we’d leave our ‘spot’ today. The weather doesn’t appear settled, but as we felt in a rather ‘exposed’ mooring, we took a chance during an anticipated sunny hour to move further down the Grand Union.

We’ve now moored just 3 miles away. We’re nicely nestled under a hedge, with the 3 solar panels fully exposed, and ready to catch any solar rays.

Running practically parallel to the Grand Union is the railway line. The noise of the train doesn’t really bother us when we’re tucked up inside Cyan, we can hardly hear trains whizz by. One of the advantages of being near a railway line is the WiFi – there’s nearly always a good WiFi signal.

In the picture below, spot the ‘camouflaged’ WiFi tower.

By the area where we were moored last night is a magnificent badger set. Considering the interest Rusty paid, I’d say the set’s occupied. He was only allowed a quick ‘sniff’, I would expect a large bill from a vet to treat Rusty, should Mr Brock take offence!

We cruised past two marinas; Heyford Fields, and Bugbrooke.

We’re now moored by Banbury Lane Bridge #43. We could be here for the weekend, depending on the weather of course.

Today we’ve cruised 3 miles in cold windy weather.

Brass Monkeys

Where we moored last night near to ‘The Narrow Boat PH’, we had no digital TV signal at all. Still the WiFi was good thank goodness.

This morning the boat moored next to us (bow to bow) was reversed a few yards, then it moored up again. We couldn’t help but think, “What have we said?” Around 11:00 am we untied Cyan’s bright red mooring ropes, and pushed off. The boater who moved his boat was standing on the towpath next to his boat; we had to ask the question why he moved. He replied saying where he was moored he couldn’t get any digital TV, but with moving the boat back a few yards, he now gets over 130 channels! We live and learn 🙂

The main reason we moved today was because we couldn’t pick up any TV channels.

The night appeared to be cold, and this morning the canal had a layer of ice in areas but we hardly noticed. That was until we started cruising. Gosh it was cold, the breeze was perishing!  We’ve not travelled far today, only a mere 2 miles, cruising was slow going because of moored boats, and ice. Our cruise was just about long enough for a wash cycle on the washing machine to run.

One ‘brave’ daffodil! Think this is the first one this year we’ve seen in a garden setting.

We passed some ‘interesting’ and ‘fun’ boats.

Side note… I did wonder if the ‘Brass Monkeys’, the title of this post, had rude connotations. Googling it comes up with many explanations and meanings, and some are rude. But I like this one, though it’s scientifically inaccurate!

“The story goes that cannonballs used to be stored aboard ship in piles, on a brass frame or tray called a ‘monkey’. In very cold weather the brass would contract, spilling the cannonballs: hence very cold weather is ‘cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey’.”

Today we’ve travelled just two miles.