Sunday, 15 May 2011

Leicester Ring - Market Harborough to Crick

Leicester 2011
Market Harborough to Crick
21 April 2011

28 Miles - 12 Locks - 10 Hours

I am glad that I dedicated a whole post to Foxton, because that leaves more space for today's missive.

Horse sculpture above Foxton locks

The 67ft of ascent at Foxton lifts the Grand Union Leicester Section to the 412ft contour which the canal sticks to all the way to Crick. You get the feeling that when the GUCC built this canal they decided on a roll up the sleeves and no nonsense approach - a big staircase at each end and a very long summit pound with two long tunnels. The only snag was that they built the locks to a narrow gauge, which was undoubtedly a mistake with hindsight.

This summit pound is arguably the canal at its best. Mile after mile of rolling fields, many clothed in a searing carpet of Oil Seed Rape yellow. This area has a remote beauty to it, winding through the wolds of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, skirting low hills with names like Laughton, Hemplow, Downton and Cracks, each rising about 100 ft above this lofty summit of the Grand Union system. 

Downton Hill

The first big structure id the Husband Bosworth tunnel - 1170 yards of dry double width bore which has to be negotiated before the diminutive Welford Arm. I am a total sucker for side arms and this one is a real peach, so I will merely say that we did make our way to the end of this little stub of a canal but such was its attraction that it deserves a post all of its own. More of that next time.

The canal winds its way generally south but such is the terrain that it takes two miles of water to achieve one mile of progress as the crow flies. Frustrating for a commercial boat owner but for me it meant that it was just more miles of rural idyll, more miles to bask in the spring sunshine, and more miles to daydream away before we hit the bustle of the main Grand Union which lies just beyond Crick.

There are no towns and very few villages hereabouts. That means very limited opportunities to restock depleted larders and few pubs to slake the thirsts of enthusiastic boaters. The moral of this tale is to take plenty of supplies, including a few crated of beer for consumption under shady canal side trees.

We  finally rolled into Crick, passing two marina's, the new one at Yelvertoft and the more familiar one in Crick itself before reaching the village and a rendezvous with some old friends over to share the evening with us. In the dying moments of the day the skipper of an IWA boat throttled back, leaned over the taff rail and advised me that he regularly reads about the travels of Wand'ring Bark within the pages of Captain Ahab's Watery Tales!

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