Leicester Ring: Day 1 – Watford to Braunston

So, today is the official first day of our trip round the Leicester ring, but of course we had already made a head start on “Day 0” (the weekend). Today has taken us almost to the point at which we were supposed to moor at the end of Day 2, so we are well ahead of ourselves. This is a good thing, because you never know what will happen on the canals. As we have remarked before: “canal time” is real and slower than normal time!

The day began at the top of the Watford flight of locks:

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As we queued for the locks, there was time to buy some fresh rhubarb, using the honesty box outside the former lock house.

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There are seven locks in the flight. We had some great help from Brian, the Canal and River Trust’s volunteer lock-keeper:

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He is incredibly fit! He had already walked 4.5 kilometres before 10. a.m. Yesterday, he helped 42 boats through the flight. He explained that some need a lot of hand-holding and others don’t want his help at all. But when boats arrive they are all put into his book, to be called through in strict order. He manages the flow of up-and-down traffic to achieve the most economical use of water.

Rosie is behaving well at locks now:

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She always attracts admirers, though, and is very friendly to everyone. But she waits patiently while Louise does the lock. Here is Froth nosing the lock gate:

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Once we had gone through the Watford flight, we reached Norton Junction:

The right turn took us towards Braunston. This is an old stamping ground. We once spent part of a winter moored here and got to know the place pretty well.

The first step is to go through the Braunston Tunnel. This is very long (830 yards) and very kinky, owing to the trouble they had with soil movement when they dig it out in 1796. It’s held up very well really, but it is very hard work to drive through, and today was full of boats coming through. The headlamps and the darkness combine to play tricks on the eyes of the poor helmsman. But eventually we made it through to the western mouth:

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There are five locks that take you through to the junction with the Oxford Canal in Braunston. We paired up with another boat to go through the first three locks, but then got waylaid by the Admiral Nelson, a favourite watering-hole. After some excellent open sandwiches (crab, yarg) we pushed on to the Midland Chandlers. Andy took the opportunity to buy some new rope fenders – our rubber piping ones are not so good – and a load of cleaning and waxing equipment. Not that we’ll be able to use it right now, because as he returned the rain started to come down.

So we pressed on through Braunston, passing this fine looking heron on the way…

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…and moored up at the first good looking spot. Guess what: more noisy cows! Rosie doesn’t like them one bit.

The rain has settled in now and is falling steadily. Louise has made some fabulous rhubarb crumble and custard and we have settled down in our cosy boat for the evening, The wifi and the TV are both working well. Who knows – if it’s raining like this tomorrow we may spend the day here!

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