Well at last we are off. Ian took the car back home on Thursday - 2½ hours by car and 5 hours back by public transport - we finally set 'sail' on Friday morning after saying our goodbyes to people at the marina.
|Leo - waiting to leave|
After an hour getting used again to driving the boat, we came to the bottom of Buckby Locks.
Here we are waiting below Buckby Bottom Lock for two boats coming down. There are 7 locks in this flight taking boats up to the summit on the main part of the Grand Union before it drops down again to Braunston in just a few miles.
And here we are a couple of hours later just coming up in the top lock. As you can see the weather is treating us kindly so far.
Just a couple of hundred yards beyond the top lock comes Norton Junction.
We had come from the direction of Brentford and at Norton Junction we turned right towards Leicester. This leads on to the Leicester Branch of the Grand Union. Whereas the main Grand Union is a wide canal with locks suitable for 14 foot wide boats, the Leicester Branch has only 7 foot wide locks.
Just round the corner from the Junction we decided to stop for our first night in a lovely spot in the sunshine.
On Saturday morning we soon met the Watford Locks. These rise 50 feet or more in 7 locks of which 4 form a staircase of locks. Amazingly all this canal fun is going on right behind Watford Gap services on the M1! Staircase locks are so called because the top gate of one lock is the bottom gate of the next so they form steps up the hillside. You do have to be careful how you operate these but Watford is easier because the locks have a series of side ponds to store water as it goes down the flight.
Here is the view of the staircase locks seen from below. There was a volunteer lockkeeper on the flight who asked us to wait here for 4 boats to come down as he was faced with more boats coming down than going up and a shortage of water lower down the flight.
After an hour or so wait it was our turn and here you can see the view down the staircase from the stern deck of Leo. The main line railway, the M1, the A5 and the canal all go through this gap in the hills side by side.
Once up these locks the Leicester Branch reaches its summit level of 412 feet above sea level. From here there is a lock free section of canal for over 20 miles and 2 tunnels.
This is Crick Tunnel, nearly a mile in length and with one torrential waterfall of water about two thirds of the way through. You can just make out the light at the end of the tunnel. Once through the tunnel we stopped at a favourite restaurant - the Moorings at Crick, as it happened to be lunchtime.
|Leo moored at Crick|
Crick is where there is the largest canal boat show in the country at the end of May. But now there were no crowds so we cruised on for a few hours and then found a nice spot in empty countryside near Elkington to spend the night. Today we've detoured off the main canal up the Welford Arm. This was built mainly to supply the summit level of the canal with water as it allows the output from a couple of reservoirs to join the canal. The Welford Arm is delightful and meanders for a couple of miles along the side of the upper valley of the Warwickshire Avon, though it is only a little stream here. Towards the end of the Arm is a small lock.
Here is a descending boat coming in to Welford Lock.
We had lunch at the Wharf Inn at Welford which is conveniently situated right by the end of the Arm. Both beer and the roast lamb were excellent. We then walked up into the town and found this chap carved out of a tree stump and then painted. As well as Postman Pat they've also managed to include his cat, Jess and round the back is a mail sack.
There were some lovely horses by the Welford Arm including this one who was clearly curious to see who was passing.
This afternoon we carried on through the second tunnel at Husbands Bosworth.
Again you can just make out the exit of the tunnel. This one was slightly shorter than Crick at about three quarters of a mile and much drier - only a few drops rather than a soaking.
We are now moored in a lovely spot with rural views just 3 miles from Foxton Locks which we have to descend on our way North towards Leicester. We heard an owl this evening.