The Braunston boggart

Published: Sunday, 12 September 2010

EVERY tunnel on our inland waterways is haunted and has its ghost or boggart, writes Allan Richards. Braunston Tunnel is no exception, and one of the recent stories is that the Braunston boggart lies in wait outside the western entrance to the tunnel waiting for working boats which it then tries to tip up.

Tilting boats

Those that believe in boggarts tell stories of seeing deep draughted 70'ft boats tipping at an alarming angle just before entering or after leaving the tunnel.

Non believers say it is nonsense, and point to the landslip at the tunnel mouth in July 2007 claiming that large boats are unable to negotiate the underwater obstruction left by the slide. Furthermore, those who do not believe in ghosts say that since BW dredged this section last winter and stabilised the slip large boats no longer tilt.

Believers counter this by saying that the noise and disruption of the works have caused the boggart to retreat inside the tunnel but he will return.

Bodged repair

The slip occurred after heavy rainfall in July 2007, and caused a short stoppage whilst a channel was dredged allowing narrow beam craft passage. It is understood that full dredging could not take place for fear of another slip occurring. Repairs did not start until two and a half years later in January 2010 and were somewhat delayed by bad weather.

Dredging has taken place at the site of the slip, and it seems for some distance back towards the lock. An attempt has been made to stabilise the slip (on the offside of the canal) and a considerable length of towpath has been re-laid.

However, it seems a bodged repair as these photos taken in August 2010 show.

Slipping again

The first photo shows the site of the slip. Just a couple of months since repairs were completed and the bank is moving into the canal again. Is that black plastic sheet held in place with scaffold poles?

However, it is not just the site of the slip that has problems. BW have attempted to repair the towpath opposite where water from springs in an adjoining field turned it into a quagmire.

Sadly, this is a repair of a repair, the original having only lasted about 12 months. As can be seen, despite reasonably dry weather at the time of the photo, water is beginning to collect on the surface.

Worse still are three piles of unexplained concrete blocks, with orange marker buoys against the piling on the towpath side of the canal. Surely these are not part of a permanent repair!

A day before this picture was taken the buoy in the foreground came adrift causing a hire boat hit the concrete blocks attempting to go around it.

Return of the boggart

Of course it is very easy to criticise, particularly if you are not a structural or civil engineer. However, taken from the viewpoint that if it looks wrong then it is wrong then it is a bodged repair!

How long will it be before the Braunston boggart returns to tip up boats?