Canal Boating on Inland Waterways, Volume II

This is the continuation of our week long adventure aboard a narrowboat, cruising the UK’s inland waterways through Leicestershire. Judi and I were joined by our daughter-in-laws mum and granny, which made for a rather cramped, but fun week.

I’ll start on day 3, with the first 2 days covered in a previous post, which is available by clicking here

Day # 3 – Heading Down to Crick Boat Show

During the training, while recommending we head up the Foxton Locks and then south, they did warn us about the Crick Boat Show, which was scheduled to start on Friday. They suggested the surrounding area will be one huge marine traffic jam, with boats arriving from everywhere.

Crick Boatshow (courtesy of website)

Today’s navigational plan was departing Welford Marina, returning to the main Grand Union Canal and heading south to Crick, a total distance of about 10 miles. We planned to spend the night in Crick, and being Wednesday, it shouldn’t be too busy.

My day started close to crack of dawn, as usual, with me sitting back aft reading my Kindle and enjoying the fresh air. When the ladies were awake, I cast-off and commenced day 3 of our adventure.

Our departure route from Welford Marina

It was still fairly early, so I proceeded at idle through the line of secured boats and on reaching the lock, the ladies were ready to assist. Judi and Erica took the controls and I jumped ashore to operate the lock. Once through the lock, I decided to partake in my daily walk for a couple of hours, strolling along the tow path, in advance of the boat.

Cruising the Grand Union Canal

With a brief stop for lunch we finally reached the approaches to Crick by late-afternoon. OMG, they had reserved notices on the canal banks, starting about 2 miles before the town. They were also reserved 2 deep. Wow!!

Although spots were reserved for the weekend, few boats had arrived at the outer berths, so we continued on towards town. Almost opposite the marina, we found a stretch of bank that was completely free, so we pulled alongside and secured to the bank. One of the organisers stopped by, a really nice chap. He explained they are reserved all week, but at this time it is unlikely the reserved boats will arrive tonight. He said we are very welcome to stay and if a boat arrives later, he would find them somewhere to berth and get it sorted in the morning. We had some great conversation with him regarding the boat show.

For dinner that evening we headed to the The Moorings, another canal side pub. Yet again another great meal, with super friendly staff.

Day 4 – The Crick Tunnel, Watford Locks & Backing Down a Channel

Today’s navigation plan was an early departure, proceed through the Crick Tunnel, descend the Watford Gap locks and secure alongside at Buckby Wharf, a distance of about 8 miles.

Judi doesn’t like tunnels, so at 07:00, with all the ladies still asleep, I started the engine, cast off the lines and pushed off the dock, heading further south. Immediately on departing Crick, we approached the Crick Tunnel.

Entrance to Crick Tunnel (Grand Union Canal website)

The Crick tunnel is 1,528 yards, or close to 1 mile in length. Similar to the previous tunnel, except for the amount of water dripping from the ceiling. Don’t forget to wear a hat, or even bring an umbrella. Once we cleared the tunnel, the ladies were awake and delivered my mug of steaming hot tea.

Approaching a left turn with sheep in field

Clearing the tunnel, we had clear skies and a fairly open transit, but it quickly changed to an almost full canopy over the canal.

Left hand turn with full tree canopy over canal

The canal is crossed by many bridges, rarely going 1 mile without passing under a bridge. Over the 25 miles we travelled south of Foxton Locks, we passed under 61 bridges, hence the name of the pub back at Foxton Locks.

Approaching one of the many bridges

After a couple of hours cruising we arrived at the Watford Gap locks, a series of 7 locks that you head down, while heading south.

View from top of Watford Gap Locks

We again lucked out with timing, as we had 1 other boat ahead of us, so about a 5 – 10 minute delay, before heading down the locks. This time Erica took command, while Judi and I operated the locks.

Passing other boats on the canal

Cruising with trees on both sides, but not full canopy

Early afternoon cruising the canal

This was the hottest day, with temperatures reaching 30C/90F, under clear skies and calm airs. When passing through areas of full canopy, we got some pleasant shade, but these open areas were rather hot.

Reaching Buckby Wharf we stopped at a water tap to fill the fresh water tank, and then we had a decision to make. The Grand Union Canal ends at a “T-junction” and to return to Market Harborough we must retrace our route. I could have turned around and docked at the junction heading north, but it would have entailed over 3/4 mile walk for Judi & Nan to the pub for dinner. If I steamed down towards the pub, I had nowhere to turn around, so would have had to continue through about 4 or 5 locks before reaching a turning basin.

Solution, reverse about 1/2 mile down the canal, so we were closer to the pub and pointing in the correct direction for departure tomorrow.

Part of the channel I reversed the boat down

Looking astern towards the pub

For dinner, we walked down the canal to The New Inn, which is located at a lock. They had a large patio, but the amount of smokers drove us inside. Yet again, another very good meal.

This concludes our southbound journey down the Grand Union Canal, so tomorrow morning we start heading north. Part III, the final installment will be posted in a few days.


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