Wednesday 8 November 2023

King’s lock to Buckby. Grand Union Canal (Leicester Section).

While Ann-Marie was still in Nottingham, Dave had another day single handing up the 18 locks to Newton Harcourt.



For a few of them he was joined by Pam and Keith, a Kiwi couple on Nb Kune Kune, so that made things easier. They tied up at Kilby Bridge but fortunately after the next couple of locks, a local chap called Vinny gave Dave a hand, which he very much appreciated. Some of the bottom gates were inclined to swing back open after he’d shut them; the way to stop that happening is to hold the gate shut and slightly open a top paddle till the water keeps it shut, and obviously that’s a lot easier with two people. You can do it on your own by opening the top paddle then running back to shut the gate, but it doesn’t do the lock any good and it looks like panic.

Dave tied Legend up overlooking Wistow church and the rural centre,


exactly where we’d been with Nb Matilda Blue when we‘d come up here a couple of years ago. It had been the beginning of summer then, with the little River Sence gently meandering between the sheep on the flood plain below the canal. This time the flood plain was rapidly turning into a very wide fast flowing river as Storm Babet drenched the country from top to bottom, and the bedraggled looking sheep were huddled in a bunch by the fence.


While the weather was rubbish, Dave took the engine-room door off, planed it, straightened the hinges and re-fitted it with longer screws so that it shuts without us having to kick it, which is nice.

After two days of heavy rain Ann-Marie came home. The journey back from Nottingham was pretty horrific with lots of abandoned vehicles and flooded roads. Some of the water was so deep that one of the plastic inner wings got bent backwards and Ann-Marie was mortified because she’d broken the car, but it was quickly fixed with a cable tie and Dave was just grateful that she got back safely.

Ann-Marie accumulated a fair bit of foliage in the floods!

Our social media was full of stuff about flooding. Everywhere behind us there was devastation; the moorings at Birstall were under water, there was flooding all through Leicester, and at King’s lock, where Dave had been a few days previously, the River Soar had risen so high that it was over the top of the lock gates.

This isn't our photo, but it could have been if Dave hadn't moved when he did.

Getting moved was a really good call, and we felt very fortunate that we’d been able to do it.

Predictably, most parkruns were cancelled, but we’d got a busy Saturday anyway. First we went to Peterborough for lunch with Diane which was lovely; it had been far too long since we’d seen her and she’d not been well, but it was good to see that she was on the mend and looking good.

After that we went over to Bourne, where Bob and Mandy were staying at their old house - now Mandy’s mum’s - for dinner, then out to a Black Dog Ceilidh.


We were really looking forward to it because Glen and Holly were also going to be there...


...as well as our old Morris dancing side, Bourne Borderers. They opened the evening with a dance set and dragged us up to join in. Considering it had been 13 years since we’d danced and waved big sticks around, we didn’t make too much of a hash of it. The Ceilidh was really good fun and we were up and dancing for most of it, then back to the house for a brew and bed.

In the morning, after Bob’s bacon bagels and lots of hugs and goodbyes, we set off for Smeaton Westerby, where we left the car and walked back to the boat. On the way we met Pam and Keith, who were working Kune Kune through Crane’s lock, at the bottom of the Kibworth flight. It would have been nice to share the flight with them, they seemed like a great couple, but they were too far ahead of us to catch up. Hopefully our paths will cross again sometime. Back at Legend we set off with lunch on the back deck and the washing on the go. We had a lovely sunny autumnal afternoon working up the locks and through Saddington tunnel, before mooring up just before the footbridge at the bottom of the Foxton flight.

Two days later, assisted by the very friendly lock keepers, we set off up the flight...







...and moored just after the visitor car-park bridge, nose to nose with Matilda Blue.


Bob and Mandy returned just in time for lunch on board Legend while their heating kicked in, then we helped them down the flight.


At the bottom we waved them off on their way to their winter mooring at Market Harborough...

Yes, We know that's not the way to Market Harborough, but they went to get some diesel first.

...then with a celebratory ice cream we walked back up to Legend via the observation platform at the top of the inclined plane.


All too soon it was time for Ann-Marie to put her bags in the car and set off back to Nottingham for the third session of her trial, leaving Dave to fend for himself for another five days. He didn’t have chance to get lonely though, that evening he re-united Bob and Mandy’s car with them and stayed for an evening of Bake Off and left over Ceilidh nibbles...


...before wobbling home in the dark. Over the following three days he took Legend across the summit to the top of Watford locks...

Misty morning boating on the summit.

 ...first stopping just after Welford Junction...

Legend hiding in the reeds.

...then again at Crick Wharf.


Mooring on the Leicester Section summit is really easy; there’s no shortage of lovely, south facing stretches with yards of Armco, the towpath isn’t too bad and there’s services at Crick (where there’s also a Co-op), Welford and Yelvertoft. If you were looking for somewhere to spend the winter tootling back and forth, it ticks most boxes.   

Martin and Yvonne dropped in for a cuppa while Dave was at Crick, on their way to see their son Max in Manchester, so he made some scones...

Not a patch on Ann-Marie’s of course
 

...and had a lovely catch up with them. The pair of them were looking well, despite Martin’s recent spell in hospital. Recovery had been difficult, but thankfully he seemed to be over the worst.

The mooring at Watford is one of our favourites...


...there’s a lovely view out over Watford Park on one side, with a gentle hill up a sheep field on the other and despite the proximity of the M1 it is very peaceful. Dave was there for two days before Ann-Marie came home, he filled his time with putting a couple of coats of gloss on the side hatch lid, re-hanging the fridge door and cutting up kindling. He also had a rather hairy cycle ride into Daventry for supplies. He’d forgotten how narrow and muddy the towpath was between Watford locks and Norton junction, and had to get off and push it a few times to avoid falling in the cut.

Ann-Marie came home and after an afternoon spent moving the car to Norton Junction and walking back, Dave set to work on our pumpkin ready for Halloween in a couple of days time.


The next morning we cast off, following Karma and Chalkhill Blue down the locks with our pumpkin on the roof and all the Halloween bunting in the windows.




As we expected, there was no room to moor at the junction, nor between there and the New Inn, so we shared Buckby top lock with a little boat called Compass Rose and moored just below it.

That turned out to be a better place to be than up at the top - being closer to the car park and quieter - and although it was signed as a 48hr visitor mooring, we got there on the 30th of October and, unless there is signage to the contrary, from the 1st of November, all short term moorings revert to 14 days. That evening we sat down and re-considered our current plan. We’d been on a dash to get down to the bottom of the GU before the winter maintenance closures at the beginning of January, but it meant we weren’t seeing any of it and boating was becoming a chore that we had to fit in between trips away from home. Also the new ULEZ - which we have to pay a daily rate to take our car into - was now in force and extended out over the GU below Rickmansworth. So, even though being down below there would put us closer to Mum and Dad, if we had to get public transport for all or even part of the journey to see them, it would take longer than driving down from anywhere further north. It didn’t take long for us to scrap plan A and slow things down. We still want to go down and onto the Thames and the Wey in the spring, but we’re now going to do the bottom of the GU after the closures in March, giving us more time to enjoy the journey.    

With that decision made we put the bird table up and settled in for a week. We needed to leave Legend while we went off for a visit with Anne and Andy in Bristol, and we needed a day to plant the spring bulbs and re-pot the strawberries, so Buckby Top lock was perfect.

As we’ve said many times, the only reliable thing about our cruising plans is their unreliability.     

      

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