The stop-over on the boat on Friday night allowed me a golden opportunity on Saturday morning to get up early and, with camera in hand, weave a winding route to Napton and the Historic Narrow Boat Club AGM (taking place that afternoon)…

My journey inevitably took me to a number of my favourite waterside locations.

The first being Braunston.

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I parked up on the main road in Braunston and walked down across the fields to Butcher’s Bridge. I’ve got to admit to being fascinated by these archetypal hump-backed, brick-built bridges. In frost shattered bricks, deep-etched ironwork and paint-stained mortar they store so much of the silent history and heritage of the water road. Part of my ritual, when re-connecting with canals after the working week, is to simply take a moment or two to have a really close look at whatever structure presents itself. To enjoy the craftmanship, the colour, the form and the function of what’s in front of me. It’s a quietly meditative moment, and one that helps shed the clutter of the working week and re-opens my eyes to the waterways.
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Turning right, beneath Butchers Bridge I walked past the numerous mooring pontoons of Braunston Marina, crossed the narrow wooden ‘beam bridge’ over the second marina entrance and entered the busy straight towards Braunston Bottom Lock. Immediately ahead of the bridge lie many of the Union Canal Carrying Co. adventure fleet. My eye is always drawn to rusting hulks! Whilst I admire polished and gleaming boats, it’s the slightly battered vessels that grab my attention. such as the push tug ‘Mouse’ shown here… (I believe Mouse and sister tugs Mole and Frog were built at Braunston in the late 70’s by Braunston Canal Services for the purpose of fulfilling the contract to repair and re-render Braunston tunnel which had closed 01.10.78. They were used for pushing pans of equipment and materials through the tunnel and have the huge advantage of being able to turn around inside the tunnel. ps. they had a tendency to submarine when not attached to a flat, if the power was increased too fast the bow would dip and the engine force the craft down under the water!)
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And, of course, what with owning a BCN day boat, a S&L tug, such a Vesta, is a ‘cert for photographing…
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ex. GUCCC icebreaking tug Tycho. She was built as a full length motor boat in 1936 and converted to a tug in 1943.
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Passing under the bridge at the foot of Bottom Lock brings you out into this wonderfully evocative and unspoiled canalside scene with lock, dry dock and cottages. The rather wonderful shop at lock-side proved too great a temptation for me and I spent ridiculous amounts of money on second hand canal-related books.
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