Saturday, 31 July 2010

Day Nine: Going Underground

Norton Junction - Bridge 51 (North of Husbands Bosworth Tunnel)

GU Leicester Section 19 miles, 7 Locks (4 staircase locks), 2 tunnels

9 hours

Exiting Crick Tunnel

Today we ended up setting off much later than planned: we'd moored last night opposite a boatyard which had a chandlery, in order to pick up some more engine oil (our engine still leaks a bit, especially when run hard for several hours) but they didn't stock they type of oil we needed. So I cycled back to Whilton, where there is a better chandlery, and picked up a 5l tin. It was only a few miles back, but it was very useful to have a bike! We brought our little foldie on the offchance that it might be useful for getting to shops etc.

So it was 11am by the time we eventually set off. The first excitement of the day was the Watford flight, which consists of 3 narrow locks and 4 staircase locks. Staircase locks are special because the top gate of one forms the bottom gate of the next, creating a chain of connected locks. Watford has a lock keeper to ensure that everything runs smoothly. He sends several boats down, then lets several up, to keep things fair. But it can still mean a long wait before your turn comes around. We were lucky that today was 'quiet' - on a busy day there can be 15 boast waiting at either end! In our case we were at the locks for about an hour and a quarter before we left the top one. Locking up was quite simple, once we'd got the hang of it. We helped several boats lock through before our turn came around so we knew what we were doing. And we got help ourselves when we took the Duck up, from others who were waiting.

The Duck ascends Watford staircase

Above Watford locks there is a long lock-free stretch, broken only by a couple of tunnels. However, we did pass nb 4EverMoore, and gave them a wave and a shout! Crick Tunnel was first. Our passage was uneventful, and we moored at the far end to head into Crick village and pick up some provisions. However, before we could go shopping we had to attend to an emergency! I'd seen a chap walk along the towpath towards the tunnel and climb the bank to the top. We were also up the bank by the boat, attempting to herd Lyra back in after she had gone out for an explore. James had just managed to secure her in the boat when the same chap I'd seen earlier walked back towards me. When he came close I could see him cradling his hand and he asked 'Where is the nearest hospital?' 'Erm, I've no idea', I said. 'What's wrong?' He had fallen whilst climbing the bank, had landed on his wrist and suspected that it was broken. He seemed quite distressed, although claimed not to be in much pain. 'Right', I said, 'come with us, we're heading into the village, I'll call you an ambulance.' So we walked up to the main road which was thankfully not far, and waited with him while the ambulance arrived. The paramedic confirmed that it was indeed broken. Once he was in safe hands, we left to get some provisions in the village shop.

Progress was slow north of Crick. The canal was shallow and narrow, with overgrown parts and lots of reeds. But despite that, it was lovely. The sun came out, and we enjoyed the picturesque scenery. Lots of rolling fields, canal bridges and flower lined banks.

Pastoral loveliness typical of this stretch

A proper country canal scene

Curious calves

We decided to keep going until about 8:30, to make up for the slow speed, and put some music on. We soon approached our second tunnel of the day: Husbands Bosworth. Passing though at 7:30pm meant that it was even less likely that we'd meet another boat, and it was as quiet as expected. Now we are moored up on the towpath, having let Lyra out to explore the hedgerow for a bit, and eaten the delicious local sausages we bought in Crick earlier.

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