It's 78 miles to Braunston in the first picture but Mark, Phil and I got there on 3rd February and ended up at 0 miles. Braunston in Northamptonshire is the centre of the canal network where the Oxford Canal joins with the Grand Union Canal and there was a canal boat festival taking place this weekend. There were lots of stalls of canal boat impedimenta and several extremely luxurious boats on display. We even went for a ride in one!
The journey was good- thanks to Phil for the night's hospitality, although it was a complicated journey to Braunston, involving a trip to Rugby then a local bus. We arrived and walked down to the marina and headed straight for the refreshment tent - bacon roll and cup of tea for £1.70 Great!!
We had another look round the stalls there were lots of flower painted coal buckets etc, and got a price list for the boat shares on offer then it was time to head off into the sunset on a narrow boat! The boats all have beds (doubles) and bathrooms with a real bath shower and toilet (no piddling over the side then). There is also a coal stove (a plus point with me and central heating (a plus point with Mark). The engine appears easy to operate and fairly silent but the boats are not easy to manoever. I asked various questions about the boats to get an idea of what was involved in the management of a boat (they are fairly economical with diesel) and the number of people required. It can be done single handed but it's better with two and even better with four. Isn't that so much like life?
So were we convinced enough to want to buy a boat? Not really but the germ of an idea is there and it might be best to have a holiday aboard before deciding.
Braunston itself is a pleasant little village with a church and a few Northamptonshire limestone cottages. Most are brick and there was one half timbered shop called the village salon. The Canal people seemed friendly and pleasant without the hard sell I first expected.
Rugby (the picture shows Rugby Town Hall) was quite a long way from the station, and although we did not spend much time admiring the cement factory the town was pleasant if a little ordinary. Rugby is home to a large public school (US Private school) where the game of Rugby was invented, when William Webb-Ellis picked up the football and ran with it, no doubt being rugby tackled as he did so. The town museum is rather sparse but the Art Gallery contained an amusing exhibition of photographs and an installation of electronic projections that I don't think any of us 'got'. The museum contained exhibits related to Roman Rugby and social history (more interesting) including memorabilia relating to British Thomson-Houston, an electrical engineering firm which I think made generators and light bulbs amongst other things.
There was a large and delapidated coöp department store and smaller electrical shop and the usual town facilities although not much for a town of its size.