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Welford Arm to Crick (10 miles)

Wednesday morning and the winter woollies came out again, the tea didn't really do it for me, and I'd not lit the fire before we set off!

Very cold, but loving the scenery, me and the Scoob on the way to Crick

Oh well, no locks or tunnels to do, just lots of gorgeous canal scenery.

Herons are quite a common sight and they don't seem phased by our noisy Lister engine!

We moored on the Sleaford Navigation (River Slea) off the River Witham one year!

Small world sometimes it seems, when you see a boat from the place we lived and worked for over  12 years!  There was no one aboard, else we would have said hello from fellow Sleafordians!

The boys, moored for water at Yelvertoft

As we were going to potentially be moored for nearly a week when we reached Crick, a last minute top up of the water tank was a must.

Breasted up with the butty on the inside along the straight bit before Crick

Never had we anticipated that the edge would be so shallow, so that even the butty, which draws less than a foot, would not be able to get into the side!
Several attempts later, me reversing the big boat as Richard tried to pull the butty in tight to the side, we sort of succeeded.

Climbing up 'Crack's Hill' - a Trig Point pillar, picnic table and beacon await hardy climbers!

The next day, we did some exploring and discovered the view from the top of Crack's Hill next to the canal.

The Trig Point showing distances and direction to landmarks surrounding the hill.

Lister and me studying the Trig Point

Wow, what a long way down to the boats!

The showground in the distance, all set up ready for the weekend

Suddenly, we found ourselves surrounded by lambs, Lister was on his lead....

 and Scooby relaxed after a good hour playing with his squeaky toy .... whilst we were out on our walk, of course!

Foxton to Welford Arm Junction ( 7miles, 10 locks and 1 tunnel)

Foxton locks consists of 2 sets of 5 narrow staircases locks to raise and lower boats the 75feet between the lower level Leicester Line and the summit of the Grand Union Canal. (ref.Discovery Trail leaflet.)

A boy and his horse is a sculpture on the summit of the locks - a role a child was often given as the horse pulled the loaded boats along the canal

We moored below the flight and opened the shop for the weekend, but then discovered that we would have been better mooring at the top near the boy and horse sculpture, as we discovered on the Monday!  

Paragliders swirling around the skies above the locks on a lazy Sunday for all to see

My cousin and her husband arrived for a visit, so they got the usual guided tour and cup of tea!  It felt great to catch up, as we don't really see our relatives from the Leicester side often at all.

View up the flight towards the old Top Lock cottage

Passing the boat through the swingbridge early on Monday morning, we struggled to moor the butty against the towpath without anyone on the tiller!  Normally, I would have steered it in as we turned the 90degrees or so for our turn in the locks. But, as I couldn't get back on the butty after closing the bridge, Richard hoped the wind would help.  The butty ended up completely turned around against the big boat, so we had to spin it round again for the short wait to go up.  What a mess!

View back down towards the pubs and giftshop, and of course Richard (and the volunteer lock keepers) hauling the butty up the lock flight

I had by far the easiest job of all, steering (straight line!) the big boat up the flight as each lock chamber was emptied and the gates opened for me to enter, lifting us up another step towards the summit.

The volunteer lockies are friendly, helpful and we are in their debt for a speedy and incident free 'lock up'!

3 volunteer lock keepers were on duty and told us they would do the paddles and the gates whilst I remained on the boat and Richard hauled the butty into each chamber and closed his gate behind.
Only 50 minutes or so later, I reached the top and moored the boat.  As I walked back down the hill, Richard and the butty were only 2 locks from the top.  Pretty good considering they had had to empty all my locks as I was lifted up.

The weather brightened, so as I painted, I had the shop open

With the Bank Holiday approaching, we thought we could tag on the end of the moorings at the Crick Show and perhaps open the shop or have a good look round the showground or both!

Gorgeous scenery on the journey to Crick on the Grand Union Canal

Before we moved off, the following morning, we had got to know a couple on their boat Ali and John, who also write a blog and are members of the Canal World Discussion Forum as we are.

Husbands Bosworth tunnel - 1170 yards long - boat horses and today's pedestrians walk over the top

Mileposts measure the distance from Leicester, as we made slow progress along this beautiful canal.  The weather was clear but cold, so we decided to moor at the Welford Arm if we could get in.

Signpost at the junction to the Welford Arm - just over a mile in length, but a lovely detour

A few years before, we had visited the terminus on the Welford Arm, and with Crick Show round the corner, we were't going to partake in it's quantness on this occasion!

Mooring up on pins is always a little time consuming, but the towpath looked so green and inviting, and the dogs needed a wee!

A few other boats were already moored up on the rings provided, so we tagged on the end and carried on our jobs around the boats to ready them for the show......

Foxton, Market Harborough and back to Foxton again! (10 miles round trip)

A slight split where the plywood joined the steel had created a good leak in the butty roof.  We needed a bucket overnight and the next day as the rain carried on.

Beautiful gardens on the outskirts of Market Harborough

The plan was to travel to Market Harborough (about 5 miles) for a couple of days and then return in time for the weekend to open the shop if the weather behaved enough!  The Market Harborough arm was originally intended to go all the way to Northampton, but lapsed into branch status at the basin.  A busy hire company provides most of the traffic back and forth along this relatively short canal.

Quiet tranquil moorings in Market Harborough

The sky brightened the following morning and Richard managed to reseal the split and get it all dried in time for the later showers.  Thank goodness!  I was really worried we would lose the plywood roof to the elements, if it all got soaked for a length of time.

Lots of hire boats waiting for their new skippers!

Good friend John aka 'Smudge' who also lives on a narrowboat, called in the next day to drop our car keys off, so we could collect it from Sawley.  (Very complicated, but we had planned for Richard's dad to move our car next time he visited family in Sawley, that's why he had the keys).
Anyway, Richard jumped on a train and promptly returned with the car and we found ourselves in Asda in Corby at midnight!  We do do things on the spure of the moment sometimes.

The other side of Union Wharf basin

Richard's brother took our car back to his house, to use for a couple of months after we had stocked up at the wholesalers, so once again we are carless, but we don't care less now we've got everything we need for a while.

It was such a gorgeous evening, we thought let's go boating!  Winding the boats in Union Wharf

Isn't it funny that when you make a mess of something, everyone is watching, but when you're husband performs a perfect 180 degree turn towing a butty, no-one was watching!
I cheered for him, then someone opened their sidehatch as if to say 'what just happened'!

Secret garden summerhouse with large rocks all around and steps down to the canal, gorgeous!

We spent the next hour or so gliding back towards Foxton locks with no rain or wind, idilic!!

Everywhere is so green.  This arm (Market Harborough arm) is extremely pretty and leafy

Fabulous garden with a wooded area also full of flowers and a sea of colour

Recently restored Great Bowden Hall, Grade 11 listed Victorian mansion, now apartments

Mooring up on the outskirts of Foxton on Friday night, we prepared ourselves for a potentially busy weekend amongst all the gongoozlers at the famous staircase locks around the corner........

Kilby Bridge to Foxton Locks (9miles, 12 locks)

After a much needed deep clean of the inside of the boat, we set off to get the next 7 locks under our belts before the predicted rain later in the day.  Much of our journey is designed around the weather forecast, only moving if the river is going to be in flood the next day etc

The boys are very well behaved usually, if we let them off for a stretch of their legs near the lock (Scooby left and Lister on the right camouflaged!)

It was gone dinnertime as we completed the final lock, so we moored, fed everyone and then nearly jumped out of our skin as the Intercity from London flew past shaking the towpath to death!

So we swapped the boats over before the lock to avoid grounding on the bits of collapsed wall and the butty was fine, gliding over the obstacles unscathed!

Ok, we thought, this isn't good, as another train went past in the opposite direction.  Perhaps doing the next 5 locks would get us in a better place to get to Foxton for the weekend....

But the sky doesn't look promising...

Not having a great deal of choice, unless we wanted to be kept awake half the night, we put on the waterproofs and set off again.  But not for long

Lock gates padlocked as emergency work takes place 

Cranes lock caused everyone an impromptu and impatient halt just as the sun came out.  The stoppage would continue until about 4pm, so we relaxed in the small pound and let the dogs sunbathe as we chatted to our neighbours.

Lister loves the sun

but not as much as the Scoob!

Oh well, it gave us the energy to carry on once the gates swung open and we followed the other boats up the flight with renewed vigor!

Our mooring at Fleckney for a couple of nights, nice village and quiet spot

Mooring on the outskirts of Fleckney, we had a lovely few days catching up on painting and Richard neared the final stages of the boatman's cabin interior fit out.  The cupboards all have doors now and he scumbled the woodwork which won't have roses and castles on.  I will take photos on completion, cause he gets embarrassed easily, but I think it looks great!

Our friends Jim and Sheila on their boat Islonian

Later in the day, Jim and Sheila arrived on their boat Islonian and moored up for the night next to us.  We hadn't seen them since the Loughborough Show, and had started to think they had got caught the wrong side of the river!  The river Soar, apparently, is now in flood again!!

Saddington Tunnel at 881yards long, complete with ghost.....

Our tunnel light fittings were past their sell by date and Richard took great delight in making sure the new fittings were as bomb proof as could be.  As it was, the first tunnel this year (Saddington) was a lot shorter than I thought it was.  If you look carefully in the picture you can see the light at the end (sorry cheesy).

Not good if you don't like the dark and enclosed spaces, err that'll be me then!

Fortunately, we didn't encounter any oncoming boats, so we could drift all over the place in the tunnel and it didn't matter!

Saddington Tunnel exit southbound

Winding our way around Smeeton, we learned that there was a spectacular breach here back in 1917, when the canal water escaped down into the fields below ruining the farmer's crops!

Reassuringly sturdy sided Smeeton rebuilt after the 1917 breach

Lots of lovely bendy bits on this beautiful canal!

As the weekend had been a none starter, as regards sunshine, we hadn't bothered pushing to moor at Foxton, so we decided we would collect the car once again from Market Harborough and then turn around to get to Foxton for the following weekend.

Hey, your butty is bigger than ours!

Lots of areas where the land has slipped creating narrow shallow parts on the canal

Gorgeous babies all around!

Spectacular setting for a marina, very secluded and quiet

Foxton moorings came up all too quickly and we were plunged into the anxious few moments of finding a large enough gap to pull into.  As it happened, we squeezed onto the end of the 48hour moorings and breasted the boats up for the night.
Rain, rain and more rain encouraged a slightly leaky roof in the butty to be a proper leak!  Another job for when the sun comes out!!

Loughborough to Kilby Bridge (24 miles, 23 locks)

My first festival went really well and I had very positive feedback from many people looking at my display.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who came and said 'hello' and gave words of encouragement to us in our new 'hobby' and also to new customers I made.

Beautiful sunrise at Sileby Lock

The Bank Holiday Monday following the show, we decided to move on towards Leicester to avoid bad weather later in the week. The sun was shining, but as the show had finished, hanging around didn't seem the thing to do, as many boaters had already left.

Mountsorrel Bridge built in 1860 as the brickwork tells us

Coming through Barrow upon Soar, we had to negotiate clusters of small boats and not be put off by hoards of onlookers at The Navigation situated on the edge of the river.  There were many boaters out and about, so we had to keep our wits about us getting through bridge holes on blind bends etc!

Sometimes obstructions dictate which way to go on the river!

The weir at Sileby lock where we moored up after a hot morning's cruising

We moored at Sileby lock and had a lazy afternoon talking to fellow boaters moored there above the lock and looking around the shop there.

The boys and I, later on in the evening

During the evening, some local kids came down to the river and started daring each other to jump in the lock!  I hope none of them were ill, as the water is really dirty in the canal and river, as it is anywhere.

View towards Sileby lock and the old corn mill which is now a candlestick works!

Tuesday morning, we had fully intended to get up early and 'do Leicester' with all it's locks, but instead we thought we would moor, perhaps, at Birstall just outside Leicester and hit it the next day.

The river Soar is particularly beautiful and was as still as it could be, so ideal for boating

We wiggled our way along the windy river to Cossington lock, the first for the day, having an outstanding weir in the background.

Spectacular weir at Cossington lock

Our first challenge for the day was to negotiate the lock approach, as instead of being around 100feet long, adequate for us to moor, it was about 45 feet long, leaving the butty dangling in the bridge hole behind.  In between the lock approach and the bridge is an outlet of the river Soar, so we wouldn't like to moor up if it was running!  I had to jump off in the bridge hole and hold the butty to the side as Richard dealt with the lock on his own.   One to remember in the future.

Lots of repair work being done on the towpath at Birstall by CRT (Canal &  River Trust)

Mooring at Birstall, we had a wander into the village in lovely bearable heat.  My gran used to live here, but I hadn't been back properly for at least 35 years...... feeling very old now!

High ropes at Birstall.  Great fun but pretty scarey!  Memories of team building climbing weekends with school colleagues!

The alarm went off at 5 (!!) this morning.  I wasn't impressed but knew that Leicester would be a lengthy day with the 15 locks in around 10 miles, to do, in order that we moor at Kilby for the evening.

The National Space Centre in the distance above Belgrave lock

The weather was very wet, then warmed up, then rained again, so we were back and forth with coats and the dogs in and out of the boats.  But all in all, we had a good day and it brightened up a lot later on, so the lock areas were less slippy.

We can see Leicester!  In all it's glory, not an attractive inner city river at all, with all the dereliction and graffity surrounding it! Come on Leicester you can do better than this!

At around 8.30am, we entered the inner city area and wound our way around the large weirs and 'Mile Straight' to bring us out at Leicester City Football Club.

Mile Straight - takes the river under grand stone bridges and out into the outskirts of Leicester

Leicester City FC

View back to the city

A nesting swan hidden amongst the reeds

Several locks on our journey were overflowing and the bywashes seemed to be clogged with reeds and branches

At last we left the river behind for good, and entered the Grand Union (Leicester Section) proper!  Which, after the recent rain, was a relief.
I was beginning to flag and at the last lock (number 15) just before Kilby Bridge, we thought the water would never fill the lock up.  Eventually, we arrived at our destination at around 3pm.
We split the boats (me mooring on the towpath and Richard crossing to the facilities for much needed water), reuniting again and shutting the doors for the rest of the day.
                                   'Knackered' is not the word as I type this blog......