Canal passes milestone

Ponies trained to pull canal boats.
Ponies trained to pull canal boats.

Crick will be hosting special celebrations this weekend to mark the bicentenary of the opening of the original Grand Union Canal.

The 22-mile canal between Norton Junction, near Long Buckby, and Foxton, in Leicestershire, was opened in 1814 and eventually became part of the larger canal system now called the Grand Union.

Crick Wharf in the 1950s

Crick Wharf in the 1950s

The festivities, organised by Crick History Society, will start tomorrow (Friday) at 3.30pm when a procession of historic boats, led by the steam-powered President, will exit Crick Tunnel and moor up at Crick Wharf.

In the evening from 6.30pm onwards, there will be live music from Half Cut in a marquee erected at The Moorings.

The celebrations will officially commence at 9.30am on Saturday morning when a commemorative plaque at Crick Wharf will be unveiled by Joan Kirkbride, chairman of Northamptonshire County Council, Catherine Lomax, chairman of Daventry District Council, and Roger Lowe, chairman of Crick Parish Council.

During the day there will be boat trips through the mile-long Crick Tunnel every 30 minutes, and hourly trips by charabanc to the tunnel’s south portal.

In the afternoon, President and Kildare, a horse-pulled barge known as a butty, will set off for Foxton to complete the first journey made 200 years ago.

Among other attractions taking place are an exhibition on the construction of the canal, wharf and tunnel, craft displays, historical re-enactments and canal boat pony demonstrations.

On Saturday night there will be more live music from several bands and artists, including Village Voices, MDF, Bob Deluce, Paddy Wex and Barry Watson. The celebrations end on Sunday when President and Kildare return to Crick Wharf at around 4pm.

Bryan Turner, vice-chairman of Crick History Society, said: “On Saturday it will be 200 years to the day since the Old Grand Union Canal was opened. The canal was never very successful commercially but it has always stayed open and its bicentenary is worth celebrating.

“Today it is one of the most peaceful stretches of the canal network in the country.”

All profits from the celebrations will go to Crick Towpath Treaders, which is working to improve the local towpath between the tunnel and Bridge 14. Entry is free.