Saturday, 23 June 2018

South on the Grand Union

Pleasant boating weather, more cloudy than yesterday and not so hot.  Today's cruise was non-stop, lock free, with the aim of reaching the Northampton Arm ready for tomorrow's descent of the 17 Northampton locks down to the River Nene.

View from canal of Pendolino about to enter Stow Hill Tunnel

Passing other boats on the Grand Union

Moored Widebeam

After leaving later than usual at 10:30 the canal took us through varied scenery, some wooded and some with wide views over the fields.  We were generally able to maintain a good speed since the canal is wide and reasonably deep. As usual there is little habitation near the canal, except for the village of Weedon, but for much of the journey we were in sight of either or both the M1 and the West Coast Mainline railway though the instrusion into the seclusion of the canal was limited.  Unusually for this year's trip the canal was fairly busy with many moored and passing boats. A couple of the boats were widebeam which seem a little out of place in this part of the Grand Union.

We reached a suitable mooring spot about a mile north of the Northampton Arm at 14:00 and decided to stop here since moorings may have been more difficult to find further on.

Today: 10.3 miles 3 hours 30 minutes travelling

Friday, 22 June 2018

Lots of locks - onto the Grand Union Main Line

A beautiful and productive days boating.   Just over half a mile after setting off under blue skies with very little wind we reached Watford Locks.  We will now be going down hill until we descend close to sea level on the Great Ouse beyond Peterborough.
Waiting above Watford Top Lock, M1 in background

View of Watford locks

View from Watford Bottom lock

Watford locks are a smaller version of Foxton and take the canal off the summit level.  They comprise 3 standard locks and a staircase of 4 chambers located in idyllic wooded suroundings.  Well, nearly idyllic but the M1 crosses the canal above the first lock and the west coast main railway line does the same below the bottom lock.  Despite this I prefer Watford to Foxton because of the scenery, the lack of crowds and the absence of any tourist trappings.  Note that Watford is a small village in Northamptonshire perhaps best known for the nearby Watford Gap Services which can be accessed from the canal.
Looking back at Norbury Junction, Birmingham left,Leicester right at the large willow

We had minimal waiting time and were helped part way down the flight by the volunteer lock-keeper.  Beyond Watford the canal passes through woods to Norton Junction where it meets the main line of the Grand Union Canal joining London and Birmingham.  So we reached the end of our 66 mile journey from one end of the Leicester Section to the other.

We could have moored at this point but since it was not yet lunchtime we decided to carry on down the 7 lock Buckby fight.  These large, double width locks locks were notorious for being difficult to operate but despite us being on our own we had no problems and completed the flight in about 90 minutes.

We moored for the day soon afterwards near Whilton where we had lunch and visited the chandlery.

Today: 4.88 miles, 14 locks 4 hours 5 min travelling.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Yelvertoft, Crick and Crick Tunnel

Filling up with water at Yelvertoft
We delayed our departure as we like to listen to Melvyn Bragg on Radio 4 on Thursday mornings.  The weather was sunny and less windy than yesterday as we cast off at 10am.  25 minutes later we moored near Yelvertoft, the first village close to the canal for some days.  We had hoped to visit the local butcher and Italian Deli but after a half mile walk we found it was closed for the owner's holidays.  So back to the boat and a 100 yards move to tie up again this time at the water point where we filled up before carrying on towards Crick.
Bridge 16 between Yelvertoft and Crick

The nature of the canal is changing. It is noticably wider and deeper, enabling us to maintain a steady speed of 3mph without any feeling that the engine is being strained.  Also the attractive scenery is more visible being less hidden by canalside trees.  By 12:45 we had reached Crick and moored up next to the main road into the large village.  A 10 minute walk took us to the Coop where we bought a few groceries, hopefully, to last us until Northampton, perhaps 4 days away.
Approaching Crick Tunnel
After lunch on board we set off again to go through the 1500 yard Crick Tunnel. It is perfectly straight and from the entrance you could see the trees at the far end with a pair of binoculars.  It is also rather wet with continual drips of water falling from the roof.  For most of the journey through the tunnel there were no other boats around so we were able to travel quickly down the middle. However another boat entered as we were close to leaving.  Unlike our experience at Husbands Bosworth Tunnel we passed each other without any physical contact.
Moored south of Crick Tunnel

We moored up for the day half a mile further on in a pefect sunny location opposite a field of sheep with no other boats in sight.

Today: 4.69 miles, 2 hours 10 minutes travelling

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Yelvertoft nearly - in the wind

Another day similar to previous days on our journey south along the Grand Union (Leicester Section).  Pleasant weather, some cloud, some sunshine, but too much wind for a really enjoyable day on the boat.  The canal continues its tree-lined way through the low hills avoiding any signs of habitation.  The only villages near the canal shown on the map are the sites of ones abandoned centuries ago.

The waterway is shallow and progress was rather slow .  We rarely attained 3 mph, partially because of the strong head wind.  As we were getting tired and frustrated by the wind we stopped at lunchtime but after eating decided to carry on for a bit longer.  Fortunately the wind was less of a problem as the canal was sheltered  by  the trees and the meanderng ensured that we did not face the wind for extended periods.

After some attempts to moor which failed due to insufficient depth of water near the bank we found a good spot, sheltered but not too overshadowed by trees, just under a mile from Yelvertoft where we stopped at 3pm.

No pictures as there was little different to see from previous days.

Today: 7.33 miles, 3 hours 5 minutes travelling

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Welford


Heron strolling down towpath
 After yesterday's 10 locks we  took things quieter today.  We set off at 9:50 for yet another pleasant day in fairly warm, occasionally sunny weather through the same isolated countryside.  Some wildlife - the picture shows a heron walking down the towpath. In this area they take little notice of the passing boats.
Wsaiting to enter Husbands Bosworth Tunnel

First and only point of interest was the 1166 yards Husbands Bosworth tunnel where we were second in a line of 4 boats passing through.  Entry to the tunnel was delayed for about 1/4 hour as the lead boat did not want to enter because there were boats coming the other way although the tunnel is wide enough for two boats to pass.  Note that in the picture the light in the tunnel isnt the far end.  In the tunnel we met another boat who hit us as we passed.  Shortly afterwards I heard a bang as he also hit the boat behind us.  But no damage was done.

We stopped soon after leaving the tunnel at North Kilworth Wharf to pump out the waste water and for a quick repair.  A few days ago the brass fairline which carries the top ropes over the edge of the boat to protect the paint work came adrift when one of the screws broke.  The helpful guy at North Kilworth drilled out the old screw and fitted a new one for us.

We arrived at the junction with the Welford Arm at 13:00 and moored immediately.  We took Densie to the end of the arm a few years ago and saw no point in going again as there is little of interest.

During the afternoon Denise varnished some woodwork, washed one side of the boat as this was the first convenient mooring where the right hand side was adjacent to the towpath, and touched up some scratches in the paintwork.

Today: 5.22 miles, 3 hours 10 minutes travelling.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Foxton Locks and beyond

After a very enjoyable 3 night stay in Market Harborough we are now stocked up with groceries and filled up with water.  So it is time to move on. We started a bit earlier than usual in bright sunny though breezy weather and made the 2 hour journey back to the main Leicester Section of the Grand Union at Foxton Locks.
Entering Foxton Bottom Lcck

In the Foxton Flight, being watched by 2 visitors

Looking down the Foxton Locks
Here, one of the most popular visitor attractions on the canal system, two consecutive staircases, each of 5 single width locks, raise the canal by a total of 75foot.  The only passing place for boats is a short pound between the two staircases. After reporting to the lock keeper to book a slot we had about half an hour wait at the bottom as 2 boats made their  way down and then a small open boat entered the first chamber ahead of us.  We could then follow directly using the water from the chamber above us they had vacated to fill our chamber.  Help was provided both by a team of volunteer lock keepers who managed the alternating flow of boats and by visitors happy to have the chance of helping open the lock gates.
A pleasant mooring spot but too crowded for us

Beyond Foxton Locks there is a 20 mile lock-free section.  As previously the canal largely avoids the villages as it makes its way through attractive wooded scenery alongside the low Laughton Hills.  We moored for the day at 1:15 in a secluded spot 2 miles from Foxton.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Market Harborough

On the Market Harborough Arm

Saunt's Bridge

Moored outside Market Harborough Canal Basin
 As yesterday's wind had died down overnight we set off at 9:35 from Foxton to Market Harborough on the Market Harborough Arm of the Grand Union Canal.  Just beyond Foxton there is a swing bridge carrying a minor road across the canal.  Sadly although the control panel is electric the rather heavy bridge has to be operated by hand.  Having opened the bridge for Densie two other boats turned up which we let pass through.  Further on is a really delightful stretch of canal, similar in its isolation to the Leicester section but the trees lining the waterway are more mature and when visible the rural scenery is more hilly.  The only downside is that the canal is fairly shallow so we travelled at about 2.5 mph which was really very pleasant considering the quality of the journey.

By lunchtime we had arrived at the terminus of the Arm, the Market Harborough Canal Basin aka Union Wharf, where we turned around and moored at the visitor moorings just outside.  We walked the 3/4 mile downhill  to the supermarkets and 3/4 mile back again uphill carrying as much shopping as we could..  Since the town is interesting with a good range of shops we have decided to stay until Monday and so reversed the boat into a paid-for visitor mooring in the basin.  This is supplied with electricity which means we wont have to run the engine during our stay.

Today 5.1m, 0 locks, 1 swing bridge, 2 hours 15 mins travelling