46 Miles, 28 Locks and 3 Tunnels
North Oxford Canal, Hillmorton Paired Locks, Braunston Tunnel, Watford Staircase, Crick Tunnel, Husband Bosworth Tunnel, Foxton Locks, Market Harborough Arm
A short spring cruise taking in some highlights of the Grand Union canal.
Leaving our busy Rugby mooring we make our way out of the city and into the Warwickshire countryside. After a few hours relaxed cruising we see oneof the innovations designed to speed boats on their way; the three sets of paired locks at Hillmorton. If the traffic is in our favour you’ll see our pair glide through these locks, separating at just the right moment to allow both boats to enter their own lock! Between Hillmorton and Braunston a number of long, straight sections show where the miles were taken off this canal – a definite contrast to the unaltered South Oxford canal!
We turn onto the Grand Union canal haer and pass through Braunstone, one of the spiritual homes of canal boating. Making our way through Braunstone wide locks, we come to the 2042 yard long Braunstone tunnel. Due to subsidence during construction, the tunnel is not quite straight, making passage trickier than usual. Leaving the tunnel, a mile or so of lock free cruising brings us to Norton Junction where we turn north on to the Leicester brach of the Grand Union. Here we, along with the roads and rail, head for Watford Gap where a triple staircase lock takes us up to Crick tunnel and the 15 mile summit pound.
The summit winds its way through open fields and wooded hillsides, the only interruption Husbands Bosworth tunnel, on its way to the top of Foxton locks. Using a combination of two sets of five locks built as staircases, they climb 75ft in just a few hundred yards, with views over Leicestershire stretching out in front of us. Whilst here there is time to look around the museum and the site of the old inclined-plane boat lift that used to be an alternative to the time consuming bottleneck of the staircase locks. There are plans to restored this to working order, but there has been little progress thus far due to difficulties in funding.
Finally, five miles of lock free cruising brings us to our final destination, Market Harborough Wharf.