Towards Market Harborough

Whist yesterday’s wander into Welford had been a joy to be out cruising in autumn,  today it was cold and harsh.
At least as we made our way through Husband Bosworths tunnel it was dry.And although it wasn’t sunny, the canal cut through an avenue of beech trees. And out into some open hilly Leicestershire countryside.  To help warm me up I got out and walked.
Until we got to our overnight mooring at the top of Foxton Locks. This has to be one of my top ten views from the canals, sadly the camera doesn’t do it justice.

Wandering up to Welford

Continuing our journey north, we woke to the most glorious of days, so decided to make the most of what autumn was left. Today was a true Codiwomple To travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination. We would take a detour just for the pleasure of cruising and venture down the short Welford Arm.

First though, it was with great amusement (and smugness) that we cruised underneath the A14As anyone from Suffolk knows there are only 2 escape routes, the A12 and the A14, both long tedious roads that are too small for the volume of traffic using them. We had crawled the A14 many a time on our way up to Braidbar and frequently stopped off at Welford to refresh our sanity. Seeing the A14 from the canal is much much prettier. Mind you we did have a moment when we thought the canal would grind to a halt, we had  “leaves on the line” More in the lock than on the trees,Although what were left on the branches were pure gold.Welford itself has a small marina basin at the end of the line, we were able to moor up and head for sustenance, this time enjoying a huge bowl of homemade soup, in Totty’s tearoom.  It’s a tiny place and the as the owner/cook/waitress chatted to us, she got Eric summed up in one, and offered him a second bowl on the house. Silly man, he was too full for the best coffee and walnut cake I’ve had for a long time, not that it stopped him having a piece. The light was going as we got back to Firecrest so we didn’t walk around the village this time. But this little detour was worth it. We will be back again to visit Welford and to explore properly.

Remembering

We spent Remembrance day in Yelevetoft, the next village beyond Crick. It’s little more than a main street but there was a good turn out at the cenotaphWe spent a few days in the village, it has a Deli butcher who is enthusiastic about local produce. So we indulged in some good food. And I took advantage of the local footpaths to burn off some of that indulgence. I set out walking in the sunshine,but got drenched on my way back. Although that Oak tree made a good shelter.

Climbing Crack’s Hill

Crick is fortunate to have a lot of footpaths crying out to be walked, so setting out from our mooring we happily scaled the local Everest, Crack’s Hill. Ok it’s only a mere 25 m above the tow path, but it is the highest point locally and gives stunning views. That’s the DRIFT distribution centre you can see in the distance. 7.8 million sq feet of logistics.  Amongst other things, it’s where several supermarkets gather their goodies before sending them onwards to fill the shelves. That’s progress for you. Many millennia ago, Crack’s Hill arrived when the ice age deposited debris as the glacier melted, which is how this landscape became what it is. There have been Neolithic bronze and iron age settlements discoverd here and the Romans also took advantage of this hill as it overlooked their Wattling Street route march. The names Crack and Crick are derived from the Celtic word Cruk which means hill. Crick village got a mention  in the doomsday book.I don’t know if this modern adornment will still be standing next millennia but the current community marked the start of the 21st century by erecting this beacon. I would have liked to have seen it lit. There’s an active community in Crick that has raises money to create and maintain the local woodlands and public spaces. This year they have added a memorial commemorating 100 years of the end of WW1, I quite like that the area behind Tommy is rough ground.

Crick in November

I think most boaters have been to Crick at some point on their canal adventure, not always by boat, and usually over the May bank Holiday weekend when the annual Crick Boat show takes place. The Marina and surrounding fields are ideal for hosting this inland waterways festival, we spent many an hour, and a pound, meandering around show boats and accessory stalls dreaming of what life could be like afloat.However this time we emerged from the Crick tunnel and made straight for the Moorings pub for a pie and a pint. (Or in my case a rather tasty mediteranian fish stew)We had plenty of time to explore this pretty area, while we took a few days to use of the Poste Restante mail service offered by the post office. The young farmers put on their annual bonfire and fireworks display for us. I harvested some crab apples from the millennium woods and made some jelly. And we met up with our new “best friend” the fuel man Mark on Calisto. Hopefully he’ll be keeping our tanks topped up over the few months. And finally here are our neighbours for the week.

 

 

 

Locks Stock and Tunnel

Not quite lock, stock and barrel, but leaving Braunston meant
Locks
stockand tunnels. (This is Crick tunnel, nice and straight, if a bit drippy)

Our plan was to cruise on to the Leicester Line. A stretch of canal we haven’t done before. Usually the Braunston double locks are fairly heavy but usually busy enough to meet someone share with and to meet boaters travelling in the opposite direction so at least some of the locks as set to our favour. This time was no exception and we got through in no time. Even the Braunston tunnel didn’t cause us any problems. And we moored up in the woods on the Daventry side so I could walk down to Tescos for supplies.Back out into the open again,
under the pretty bridge by the cottage, to turn onto the Leicester Line,  enjoying the autumnal sunshine as we went. The next day we cruised at 3 miles an hour alongside the M1 going at at least 70mph, we passed the Watford Gap service station, (not worthy of a photo) a few miles before arriving at the Watford Flight. CRT is closing this flight for essential repair for 6 weeks before Christmas so we had to make our ascent before then. Unlike individual locks the Watford flight has 4 staircase locks, where each lock empties or fills from the adjacent lock, so if you dont open the paddles innthe right order you could end up flooded or stranded. Consequently there are volunteer lockies on duty to help you through. Its quite straight forward if you rememeber the rhyme

Red before white and you’ll be alright, white before red and you’ll soon be dead.
We both took our turn and enjoyed the day

A few days around Braunston

Having enjoyed Jo’s company for a few days it was time to pull the pins and continue our journey as we headed into Braunston.We don’t particually like cruising through Braunston. It’s narrow and busy with bridges and bends. But it’s a lovely active village with good reasons to stop. So this time we moored on the north side, just before the Midland Chandlers water point, still on the North Oxford canal.Last time we came this way our eyes were distracted by a burnt out shell of a boat, so we failed to appreciate what a lovely mooring spot this is. Although I think other canny boats have already marked the spot, it’s usually full up. Thankfully CRT have removed the dead boat which was a hazzard to us all.
After a few days, stocking up on Braunston Bangers at the butchers, and a few extra bits and bobs from Tradline, the rope emporium. We said our goodbyes to Braunston for this year. The sheep didn’t seem that bothered to see us go.

 

 

The Toft Alpacas

Toft is a small company on a working Alpaca farm. They rose to prominence in 2013 when Kerry Lord, their founder, started designing crocheted animals and wrote a book called Edward’s Menagerie. And if you mention the word Toft to many a yarn aficionado, they will instantly start to drool. Toft produces high end super soft wool that’s very hard to resist. It’s only a few miles from the canal, so when Jo suggested we went on a visit, I leapt at the chance. Edward’s Menagerie has grown in numbers and there are now over 200 furry friends who regularly make an appearance at yarn festivals and craft shows. I knew that I was in for treat.Toft is situated in a purpose built barn studio and welcomes visitors with a hot drink. Everything at Toft is beautifully presented, including the coffee, and we indulged in a piece of spicy pumpkin cake as well. Then we were set to shop. Deciding what we could bear to leave behind or more to the point, how much we could afford to bring home. Jo is going to crochet some presents and I bought a gift for Heather. Heather has already made several of the Menagerie so Leanne the Chameleon will be an addition to her family. There’s a walking trail around the farm where we were able to see the alpaca.Although Heather and I both think that this is a llama not an Alpaca.

 

 

Help at Hillmorton

The North Oxford Canal skirts the northern edges of Rugby, and currently it’s a very pleasant rural route. However the urban scrawl is taking over with lots of new development encroaching the open fields and hillside. There’s a big road bridge being built, linking Clifton upon Dunsmore to the main town. There are towpath closures during November while they crane in the structure but canal traffic will be “managed”. There are also several miles of earthworks running alongside the canal after this, between Clifton and Hillmorton. We assume this is preparation for more housing. It’ll be interesting to see if the developers embrace or ignore the canal as an asset to this new community.In the mean time you cant beat a little red brick bridge at this time of year. We had a lovely surprise when we got to Hillmorton locks, our good friend Jo was waiting for us to lend a hand. Locks are always more fun with company, even if it was only a little flight of three. And it gave us the chance to share a bowl of soup for lunch. Jo and I then found enough blackberries hanging on to add flavour to an apple crumble and the feasting continued all evening when Jo prepared a delicious dinner for us. Topped off by the most spectacular sunset.Jo’s boat BluePearl is a year younger than Firecrest and it’s the first time we’ve really been able to spend much time on board. Jo knows the area quite well so we moored up and she took us for a cruise into Braunston and back. A nice experience to cruise on a different boat.

A few days in Rugby

Rugby is another boaters blessing-if you want some big shops. The 14 day mooring is 5 minutes walk from a big Tesco, and a decent out of town retail park, Debenhams M&S Next Halfords, DIY, cinema and several bargain stores. Sadly that means that the centre of town has lost its big shops and its vibrancy. but this time even the fabulous old architecture and the proud engineering heritage did little to excite us, despite the brilliant blue sky it was all a bit was tired and tatty. Come on Rugby get your act together and make the most of what you’ve got.  We did find an exceptionally good artisan coffee shop, probably cashing in on being opposite the school, but even Rupert Brookes was pondering.