Ships That Pass In The Light, and A Sign of the Times

Back at the boat, after a less exciting lunch than we’d been hoping for, we raised two fingers to closed butchers, and headed off. We had an appointment with some some Russian Blue cats on Saturday, and didn’t want to be late.

Not far down the cut, we called in at Crick Marina (owned by the same people who run Song & Dance’s winter home at Cropredy) for fuel and a pump out. Manoeuvring a narrowboat in unsheltered confined spaces in a strong wind is always interesting…

The only time we’d been there before was by car, to the huge annual waterways festival held there every year. It looks very different then.

We’d planned on finding somewhere near the top of Watford Locks for the night, which meant passing through Crick Tunnel, then trying to locate somewhere reasonably quiet. A boat had just emerged, and left it’s headlight on, and just as we were about to tell them, realised it was our friends Ian and Janet from Guildford Folk Club and Yately Morris on their boat Tuesday Night. They used to moor in Cropredy too, but last year, at the Crick Boat Show, won a free year’s mooring somewhere else (near Napton Junction, we think). If we’d been three minutes earlier, we’d have passed in the dark of the tunnel, and never known it was them. Guess we’ll see them in Guildford in due course to catch up.

On this section of the Grand Union (the “Watford Gap” area), the M1 motorway, the canal, Mr Branson’s finest express trains and Watling Street (the A5) all converge through the same gap in the hills. Finding somewhere reasonably quiet for the night can be a challenge, but having been this way before, we knew a likely spot, and luckily had the place to ourselves.

Should you have wanted to, you used to be able to access the infamous Watford Gap Services from the towpath, but alas no more. The angle of the barbed wire at the top of the high security fencing that now surrounds it is clearly set up to prevent anyone getting out of the services onto the towpath (as opposed to the other way round). Rumour has it that as a favourite “first stop” after Dover for lorries heading north, it’s a prime spot for illegal immigrants to jump ship (or lorry, as it were) and head off into the hinterland. So us boaters have to forego our Big Mac, Costa Coffee and Krispy Kreme Donuts…

What a hardship.

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