A Crack at Cracks Hill

Norton Junction – Cracks Hill Footbridge – Crick Marina: 4 miles, 7 locks, 1 tunnel

It’s hard to leave a favourite mooring, especially one as glorious as this.

A couple of hundred yards ahead was the pedestrian bridge at Norton Junction.    Under the bridge, round past the pretty cottage and the shepherd’s hut in the garden    and under Bridge1 of the Leicester Line.

An oversight on the Captain’s part (he kicks himself still!) had been the shock discovery that morning that there was no gas left in either gas cylinder. A morning without an early morning cup of tea was unthinkable… Once directed to the right corner shelf the Captain dug deep into the dark recesses and discovered the small electric kettle.

A morning cup of tea sipped and a plan made – en route to Watford Locks there’d be a pause at Weltonfield Marina to purchase gas there.     It was a useful stopping place, the Captain managing to re-jig a pair of Calor Gas bottles (in what a boat surveyor had once described as “the worst designed gas locker on a boat” that he had ever seen).  While the port side of the boat was temporarily tied alongside the Weltonfield quay Boatwif spotted plenty of “fresh decoration” on the roof. Birds (Pah! Shady moorings can have their disadvantages) had left plenty of fresh deposit on the rear section of the boat. A tap nearby was a welcome sight. While the Captain dealt with the gas, Boatwif dealt with the mess…

Onward then, under Bridge 2,     past a tree screen      and past what looked like a bona fide ice-cream selling boat… 

Though Leicester was 40 miles further on     Cleddau would not be going so far. The Leicester Line winds past the back of the M1’s Watford Gap Service Station on one side and past a restaurant (no longer in use?)   on the other.

Watford Locks were ahead, booking in with the Duty Lock Keeper required.   However long the wait for down coming traffic, at least there was not a line of waiting boats at the Bottom Lock. Boatwif set off to walk up the flight to report to the lock keeper.

Two boats were already in the descent, after which it was a smooth run up the flight for Cleddau.

Up two singles. 

Up the four staircase locks. 

Through the final lock   – and shortly under the M1.

Onwards, along the pretty mile or so towards Crick Tunnel.    Perhaps the wind was blowing in a different direction during this stretch as road traffic noise was far less apparent than it had been three weeks ago.

It was a blisteringly hot day, nonetheless waterproofs were donned.

Into – and out of Crick Tunnel   (“Watch out!” the Captain called to an approaching boat with a large crew of enthusiastic young adults. “First third of the tunnel is very wet!).

Wet splodged roof as Crick Wharf was passed 

Past Crick Marina   (not ready to tie up yet), past Trafalgar    (and its owner, a volunteer lock keeper who had just completed his 0730 -1300 stint at Watford Locks).

A mile further on, a lucky mooring place was found   – just right for a spot of exploring…

A couple of gaps in the towpath hedge give access to community woodlands.

Close by is a footbridge which leads across the canal to Cracks Hill. This would be the walk route in the morning…

There were 6 litres of water in the Captain’s rucksack the next morning. Always best to “Be prepared…”

At the foot of the hill is a fascinating notice – so this geographical feature is a leftover from the Ice Age… (See also here:)

Rutted paths, goat tracks you might think, lead straight up the very steep slope.  Instinct suggested that there must be an easier route… Round the hill an alternative path winds – and shade seekers can follow the hedge line to reach the hilltop.

It’s a 98 feet climb (30 metres) from the canal to the top, where there is a brazier, visible from the canal. It was designed to mark the millennium in Crick village and now here it stands on an Ice Age outcrop. It’s one of a chain of beacons in the national chain for celebratory events

(“I remember that hill and seeing that torch,” Cal Guy Jnr texted later, recalling his Crick to Welford and back boat trip in July, his trip here ).

On top of a stone pillar is a plaque giving directions to points of interest to be seen from the viewpoint.

Text at the centre of the plaque   

Crick Church

Crick sports fields

Warehouses near the M1 /M6 Junction

Solar farm

Traditional farm (in Yelvertoft direction)

Far below was the ribbon of the canal, the forward part of Cleddau clearly visible.

A young family took the direct route from the footbridge up the hill. “My legs hurt,” groaned one of the girls as they puffed to the top and attempted to use the swings hung from a couple of tree branches…

There’s a picnic bench on the brow of the hill (previous visitors had obviously been here, leaving their Co-op shopping bag, snack wrappings and empty plastic drinks bottle for someone else to carry down the hill – shame on them). With trees providing shade there was chance to cool off between view-gazing sessions…

By mid-morning boat traffic down on the canal was increasing      – best to leave the Cracks Hill viewpoint and get back to Cleddau There she was, festooned now with crisp, dried out leaves. 

Once an historic boat pair had passed by Cleddau was untied from her mooring. Slowly boat and crew wended their way the mile back towards Crick Marina.  Their 2023 Ashby Adventure was over now  – on what felt like the very hottest day of the year! 

Trip trivia: 4 motorways passed under: M1, M45, M6, M69; black peppercorns spilt in the galley: simply hundreds…

2023 totals: 354½ miles, 276 locks, 6 swing bridges, 16 tunnels

  Do you live aboard?  FAQ now posed 22 times

2023 Monkton Moments*– 9 (Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s                     Pembrokeshire connections)

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