Thursday, 21 August 2008

Summer Cruise - Foxton to Watford Gap

Monday August 11th 2008
Foxton to Watford Gap
Clear weather, although windy still - many miles of lock free cruising, and perhaps some of the most beautiful quintessentially "English" scenery I've seen for a long time.

Just steering, and passing by distant villages - the canal doesn't pass through any towns or villages, but through two tunnels - Husbands Bosworth Tunnel and Crick Tunnel.

Just to show how dense we can be - we spent ages discussing the Battle of Bosworth Fields. Was it a Civil War battle? What happened? Who won? Would there be any point in looking at it? Isn't the Battlefield Steam Railway nearby - that might be interesting? We couldn't find it in the pages of Nicholsons on Husbands Bosworth. Then we realised that the Bosworth Fields was at Market Bosworth, on the Ashby Canal - several days cruising from where we were. Well History and Geography were never our best subjects - obviously.

Just before Crick tunnel a bloke sitting by the bank said - "It's wet - well the first half is anyway", and it did indeed seem to be wet for the first part. Alan disputes this, but I was sat at the front with an umbrella.

British Waterways were dredging a lot of the pound near to Watford Gap - we've seen a lot of this new restraining edging while on our trip. It seems to be set up in front of a weak and broken up bank, then BW seems to fill it with dredgings. Here there were big 'dumb barges' filled with dredged slurry, as well as the dredger itself, which seems to be propelled by pulling itself along by the dredging arm.

Suddenly we arrived at the top of Watford Locks - the roar of the M1 motorway was absolutely deafening. We went to find the lock-keeper who was painting some paddle gear, and told us that a boat was working up - we could start down as soon as it arrived. Once again, despite warnings of long waits we got going through the flight almost immediately.

Watford Gap flight is one lock, a staircase of four, then two more single locks. Like Foxton, it's red paddles first then white on the staircase.

I said (loudly) to the lock-keeper "It's very attractive here, but the motorway and the railway are very intrusive. "YOU GET USED TO IT," she answered. I'm not sure that I would.
Looking up Watford Gap Staircase - beautiful, looking so peaceful, and ruined by the constant roar of road and rail.

After a refill of water at the bottom lock we passed by the noise and bustle of Watford Gap Motorway Services behind the hedgerow. then looked for a place to moor for the night where we wouldn't be kept awake by the noise. The motorway and railway parallel the canal for several more miles, including Buckby flight of locks - we just wanted to tie up. About a mile past the bottom of the locks, near a small marina, is a section of canal which is somewhat shielded by a slight hill - we moored up overlooking farmland, and with very little noise to disturb us.

Daily Total: 22 miles, 7 locks & 2 tunnels
Running Total: 289.3 miles, 325 locks, and 18 tunnels

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