We started our first long cruise at Debdale Wharf on 13th April. We headed south on the Grand Union Canal Leicester Section and our first destination was Market Harborough, down the Market Harborough Arm. We got stuck below behind a slow boat since just after Foxton but we got there in the end. What a nice little town for a couple of days.
Just outside Union Basin near Market Harbrough. Grand Union, Leicester Section, Market Harborough Arm.
We headed back down the arm and straight away into the Foxton staircase locks. From the top we wriggled our way down the Grand Union Leicester arm, passing the Welford Arm and we had done that earlier in the year. We passed Crick where we had bought 'Holderness' and through the tunnel to Watford Locks. After Norton Junction we were through Braunston Tunnel and the canal Mecca itself.
The view from the top of Foxton Locks, Grand Union Leicester Section.
From Braunston we headed south on the Oxford Canal/Grand Union with the intention of getting Calcutt Boats to check over the operation of the Hurricane heater. By the time we got there I had it sorted (thermostat dial had been displaced). We reversed our route back to Braunston and continued up the Hillmorton and Rugby. The Oxford Canal has some very beautiful parts.
Bridge 35 on the Oxford Canal near to Brinklow.
We stopped at Hawkesbury Junction, or Sutton Stop as it perhaps better known and headed down the Coventry Canal to Coventry Basin. There is a lot to see in Coventry and the Basin is a very good location so we stayed two full days there.
Coventry basin with James Brindley checking the boat matches the plans. Coventry Canal.
After we got back to 'Sutton Stop' we continued up the Coventry Canal through Nuneaton and Atherston.
Lock 3, Atherstone on the Coventry Canal.
We now were into May as we passed Polesworth and Tamworth where we stopped. We stopped at Fazeley Junction so we could attend a reunion of my old Venture Scout/Ranger Guide Unit from the 70's and then continued up the Coventry Canal. The weather was definitely turning more pleasant and we had a great couple of days moored up near Hopwas Wood.
Tamhorn Park Bridge, Hopwas Wood on the Coventry Canal.
Fradley Junction was our next milestone and we turned north on the Trent and Mersey Canal. Through Amitage and Rugeley and settled for a few days at Great Haywood and made a visit to Shugborough Hall. I remember that the weather was cold and wet there so the weather was hot and sunny yet. We moved on and had a very great day with an impromptu 'do' in the village hall at Weston on Trent. We later stopped at Barlaston and had a good visit to the Wedgewood Factory and Museum. I had a prolonged stay at Stone as Helen went home for a little while.
Joules old brewery building, Stone. Trent and Mersey Canal. The reason for this photo will become clear in a while!
We continued north and pulled in at Etruria in Stoke on Trent and then went up the Caldon Canal. The first bit of this canal is not brilliant visually but with lift bridges and sharp bends and narrow canals it keeps you occupied. Soon it becomes very picturesque and the rewards keep coming. We slowly headed to the Froghall Basin but wouldn't fit through the tiny tunnel at the end. We had some lovely walks and the scenery was great with spring finally sprung. It was very quiet traffic wise too.
Consall Forge Station on the Caldon Canal.
We headed back up to Hazelhurst Junction and turned on to the Leek Arm. This is definitely one of my favourite lengths of canal as it is so beautiful. We found Leek itself quite an interesting place and this is where I had a pint of Joules Bitter. It was one of the nicest pints I had tasted in ages. Mind it isn't brewed in Stone anymore. More of this in a latter blog.
Hollinhay Wood on the Leek Arm of the Caldon Canal.
To end May we headed back down to Etruria and then continued north with our first passage of the Harecastle Tunnel on 'Holderness'. We met one of my brothers and his wife the other side and we went over the aqueduct at Hardings Wood Junction and on to the Macclesfield Canal. We had extra hands so carried on up the Bosley Flight and they left us after a very long day At Macclesfield
Snake or Roving Bridge 43 on the Macclesfield canal near to the Gurnett Aqueduct. These snake bridges are a great feature of the 'Macc'.
Looking back through the photos reminds me that the weather wasn't brilliant all the time but as the days lengthened and nature started clothing the trees the seasons become much more noticeable when you are out in the open all the time. We were getting to grips with the life and learning how best to live on the boat for us. We were really looking forward to the summer.