We were awake early again today, perhaps because we knew that how far we'd get really depended on how long it took to get up the locks at Watford; sometimes, especially with all the traffic for the Crick Show, the wait can be hours. As it was, we were up early and set off at 7am. We arrived at the bottom of the locks half an hour later, before a lock keeper was on duty. These days, the locks are left as self service when there's no keeper, rather than being closed. No-one else was around, so we set off up the flight. The pound between the first two locks was very low, so I ran some water down. By the time we were ready to go into the staircase two volunteer lock keepers had arrived. There were also boats arriving at the bottom and the top; the boater at the top was annoyed he'd have to wait, moaning at the lock keeper that it wasn't his fault it was Crick week. They told him he could come down the individual lock at the top after we'd gone up, and he'd have to wait there. Meanwhile, we just got on with climbing the seven locks, four of which are in a staircase.
By the time we got to the top, there were five boats in the queue to come down. We were shortly at Crick Tunnel, which as usual was dry at first, then quite wet at the northern end. As we slipped through Crick, we were trying to identify our mooring spot; I forgot all about booking until the closest zone was sold out, so this year we'll be down near the tunnel. It didn't really matter today, because we were carrying on and will return tomorrow.
It was a rather cloudy dank day, and seemed to get chillier as the morning went on. We wanted to fill the water tank and do some washing, so we're on the look out for water points. The one at the top of Watford Locks had a CRT work boat moored on it, and we thought we'd be in the way if we went alongside -- not to mention that it would be tricky getting the hose pipe across. The lock keeper told us it was there because some routine maintenance had been planned -- pressure washing of the lock gates and reprinting the chill markers. He said they'd managed to persuade the powers that be that it probably wasn't a good idea in the week before the Crick Show! The Yelvertoft water point had two boats on it, so we carried on going. The canal twists and turns, and is very rural, with plenty of fields of cows and sheep. In places, the hawthorn blossom was spectacular.
Quite a few boats were going the other way, some we recognised as Crick regulars. One appeared to have no-one at the tiller -- indeed it didn't, as the steerer was at a wheel inside at the bow.
We stopped for lunch at Welford Junction, then decided that as it was still early we'd head along the Welford Arm, mostly because it was there, and because there was a water point there. We haven't been along the arm since 2008, in our Debdale days. It seems the junction is an awkward distance from everywhere!
We'd seen a number of boats turn up the arm, so when we got to the only lock there was one boat going up and another waiting.
At the end of the arm we stopped at the water point, and waited while another boat finished filling his tank. We also started a wash load and got rid of rubbish. Once we'd watered up we turned and headed back.
We moored in the same spot at Welford Junction, except facing the other way. The sun has come out, and there's very little to be heard apart from birdsong. I reckon the nearest road is the best part of a mile away. I can see why people who want to work on their gunwales like this spot, as the bank is very low down; we've had to lengthen the rope on our fenders so they can reach! After we'd moored up, I went into the neighbouring field to find the aqueduct, which takes the canal over the infant River Avon (yes, that one); here it's nothing more than a stream, but it also forms the border between Northamptonshire and Leicestershire, and we're just on the Leicestershire side.
18 miles, 9 locks. (41 miles, 23 locks)