Leicester sits on the River Soar, running northwards towards Nottingham and the Trent, thence navigable to the sea. By 1778 a long programme of improvements from North to South meant that Loughborough, ten miles as the crow flies, was linked to the growing network of ‘water roads’, as Watts calls them.
The Canal Bill of 1791 allowed for the construction of a sixteen-mile canal from Loughborough south to Leicester, opening in February 1794.
Unfortunately, Watts did not revise her book in later life. By 1814 the canal had crept south, a painful twenty-year project interrupted by furious landowners, to meet the Grand Junction Canal; the whole of Eastern England was now navigable from the Thames at Brentford to the River Humber at Hull. She would surely have been impressed by the massive engineering project at Foxton, where staircase locks lift the canal up towards the county boundary and Northamptonshire.