Foxton to Market Harborough & Back

Friday 28th July

This morning we moved just a few hundred yards down towards Black Horse Bridge as we had arranged to meet our good friends Ted and Carol for lunch and we had arranged to rendezvous opposite the Black Horse pub.

They drove us to The Roebuck, just a 10 minute car journey, where we enjoyed a really good value lunch for £5 per head with pudding for just another £2… well it would have been rude not to!
Couldn’t fault the food or the cheerful service.

Saturday 29th July

Foxton Swingbridge

Well, today is our 45th wedding anniversary so as a treat we made an early start to reach Market Harborough by noon to make sure we got ourselves a mooring.
Our plans were nearly thwarted by the next swing-bridge, which we got through all right, but found we couldn’t remove the (BW) operating key afterwards and we had to open & close the barriers several times before it was released.

 

Hedges and vegetation out of control

It’s four years since we last came this way but the views of the Leicestershire countryside have been lost by C&RT (or their contractors) failing to control the height of the hedges, as you can see they have only been cut back to whatever height they can reach. It made for a couple of boring hours cruising and would certainly discourage me from making the trip again, which is a shame because Market Harborough  is a nice town to visit.

All Aboard!

Very nice as it happened as we had more visitors, my nephew, Richard, his wife Penny, daughter Sarah and partner Daniel not to mention my newest great-great nephew Logan came aboard and later whisked us off, this time to The Langton Inn where we had an anniversary meal.

 

Not really got the hang of this ‘selfie’ thing!

Earlier in the afternoon we went down the town for some provisions and Joy bought a new dress then caught a bus back up the hill, again the driver went out off his way to drop us back near Union Wharf where we revived ourselves with a drink at the Waterfront (more a restaurant really)

Sunday 30th July

No visitors today, but we walked down the town again where the town centre streets were closed and a Classic Car Show was taking place. Some of the cars were a bit new to be classics in my estimation (Mazda MX5s, I ask you?) but there were enough to get the nostalgia going with a collection of Fiat 500s (the first car I drove) & a HA Vauxhall Viva like the one I had my driving lessons in, a Austin A35 van (the only vehicle in which I have ever been carsick) an 1950s Austin A40 Countryman like friends of my mum owned.

Joy wasn’t so impressed with the ‘classics’ but rather liked this red VW ‘day van’ complete with bar and sound system.

Today it was my turn to buy myself something, Clarks had a sale on and I scored a pair of slip-on shoes for £20 and after lunch in the indoor market café we walked back to the boat.

Monday 31th July

This morning after visiting the local convenience store we set off at about 10:15 and retraced our way back to Foxton.

Following my comments about the high hedges I managed to snap a  glimpse of the view which we could have had.

 Wiv a ladder and some glasses,You could see the ‘Ackney Marshes If it wasn’t for the ‘ouses ‘edges in between.

As it nearly says in the old music hall song.

At Foxton swing-bridge the following boat kindly opened the bridge for us and let us through. We moored shortly after Black Horse bridge , currently Jade is exploring the hedgerow and Joy has the washing machine on.

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Dawdling through Foxton

Café
Top Lock Cottage Café Foxton Locks

We spent a couple of days on the 14 day moorings but on returning to the boat after having lunch at the café in the old lock-keeper’s house at the top lock we found the top of our boat covered with flies so decided to move down to the 48 hour moorings. Catty was well pleased as there was a stream of people to show off to instead of going hunting.

Tuesday 25th July

Local Celebrities

After spending Sunday and Monday night here this morning we moved down to the water-point to fill up and wait our turn to descend the locks.
As this is a double staircase (2 sets of 5 locks) it’s only possible to pass another boat between the 2 staircases. We had to wait for 5 boats to reach the top before it was our turn.

 

Nearly at the bottom

We had to pass a brand new boat at the middle which exercised Joy’s concentration but she passed it in textbook style and we were surprised to find that had only taken us 45 minutes to complete the entire flight.

The volunteer lock-keepers were helpful without being intrusive and a little girl of 3 or 4 was keen to help with opening and closing the gates for us.

On reaching the bottom we found the moorings outside the Foxton Locks Inn were empty so we tied up there as we had arranged to meet my sister, great-niece & great-great nephew for lunch.

After a good lunch we moved the boat through the swingbridge and had a brew and a chat before walking back to the car with Courtney and Noah and bringing it down the the pub to pick up Jan. Later we moved the boat again down to a spot near Black Horse bridge.

Three generations together for lunch

Wednesday 26th July

Today we dodged the rain and caught a bus into Market Harborough and did some shopping, the driver on the return trip was really kind and dropped us off at the Black Horse which saved us the slog back up the hill to the canal.

 

 

Thursday 27th July

A few days ago  Joy looked out of the side-hatch and saw what looked a bit like a black swan taking off, it had a flat fan shaped tail so we think it may have been a cormorant.

Another drizzly day today so a chance for blogging, so here’s a few of animal piccys.

Welford and Foxton

We spent a pleasant couple of days at Yelvertoft, on Tuesday we walked down to the village to post a letter and rested our legs at the village pub, The Knightley Arms where we received a friendly welcome. The pub only does food at the weekends but they offered a couple looking for food a range of takeaway menus and said they were welcome to order and eat it in the bar, great idea and good PR.

Wednesday 19th July

This morning we reversed back to the waterpoint and disposed of our rubbish then at 10:20 we left, headed for the Welford Arm. On the way we saw a heron who was determined we shouldn’t take his photo, but eventually we caught him in flight.

We reached Welford Branch Junction at half past two and turned into the arm. It’s a curious piece of canal, tree-lined and somewhat overgrown. Just one lock and three bridges and we were moored on the 48 hour moorings. The Welford Arm, which was originally a navigable feeder, connected to the reservoirs which provided the water supply to the canal, but the wharf exists as a testament it became more than  that although all that remains is the Wharf Inn and a small marina.

Jade wasn’t impressed with the location as the access road to part of the marina runs alongside the mooring and she wasn’t allowed out. It was useful, however as we had arranged a Tesco grocery delivery for the next morning despite an intermittent phone and internet signal.

Real Ale Tasters

We patronised the Wharf Inn, which has a good selection of real ales and offers 3 x 1/3 pint tasters so you can find your favourite without over-indulging.

We had a nice meal here too, I had a mushroom & pepper stroganoff while Joy had ham egg and chips with a very generous portion of ham, some of which went back to the boat on a ‘Catty Bag’.

Thursday 20th July

Tesco Delivery Van (stock photo)

This morning I had a text saying our Tesco delivery would arrive between 9 & 10 am, I always ask the driver to phone so I can meet them, so I was surprised when he knocked on the side of the boat, he couldn’t ring us as he didn’t have a phone signal so came looking for us.

He was able to drive down the service road and deliver straight through our side-hatch. Good service mate! Saved me from sour milk in my tea and we now have our grocery cupboard full again.

We spent our second night here with heavy rain beating on the roof.

Friday 21st July

It was time to leave this morning, fortunately the rain had stopped and the sun was shining but at the first (and only) lock That Cat decided to escape and then got chased by a dog (served her right) and we had to wait until she consented to be captured. We weren’t delayed long and were soon back at the junction and headed for Foxton, 15 minutes later we were going past North Kilworth Wharf.

Another new marina is being built nearby  and some piling work was taking place opposite.

 

 

North Kilworth Marina

Another few minutes and we were going through  Husband’s Bosworth Tunnel and before one o’clock we found a 14 day mooring just short of Foxton Locks which was handy as we have a few days to spare before we want to be in Market Harborough.

 

 

Norton Junction to Yelvertoft

Sunday 16th July

William

Shortly after I sent my last post we heard the distinctive “Chuff, chuff, whiffle” of a Bolinder semi-diesel engine and there was the impressive sight of  Royalty Class boat William approaching.

They moored behind us and I discovered that William is operated by Inland Navigators as a ‘back to basics’ canal camping boat and is the only boat of its type, currently available for skippered charter.

In the morning there was no doubt when they were getting ready to leave, although not being driven as enthusiastically as in the video below!

I should have said we are now on the Grand Union canal which has locks big enough for two narrowboats side by side. We had heard murmurings that there were problems with one of the locks at Braunston so we reconnoitred as far as the Admiral Nelson last night and found all was now well, so we set off up the [double] locks alone this morning which went well until the last one where an oncoming boater thought he should bring his boat in before we had exited.

Then it was through the 2,042 yard tunnel, which was fairly dry, only meeting one boat on the way and moored at Norton Junction where we decided to have lunch at the New Inn Long Buckby Wharf. Their on-line menu looked promising and we chose our food beforehand but on arriving found only their Sunday Roasts or snacks were available. What a pity they didn’t state that on  their website, so we settled for a drink and ate on board. [for reference their full menu is not available on Sundays OR Mondays.]

Monday 17th July

Almost at the top of Watford Locks

We now headed off up the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union, called at Welton Haven Marina for diesel and a pump out and were soon alongside the roar of the M1 and Watford Gap Services. When we arrived at Watford Locks there was a queue so we had a bacon & egg brunch while we waited about 1½ hours until it was our turn. The volunteer lockies were most efficient and with Joy at the helm we accomplished the seven locks in an incredible 45 minutes according to my GPS.

 

Joy in charge

We covered another 5 miles through some pleasant countryside, through the not-so-dry Crick Tunnel, past the adjacent Crack Hill with its beacon and found a sunny mooring at Yelvertoft Wharf for a day or two.

Crack Hill

Biding our time at Braunston

Monday 10th July 2017

From Hilmorton it was an uneventful 2 ½ hour journey including the Barby Straight (Much of this section of the canal was straightened out in the 1820s, and remains of the original less direct route, which hugged the chosen contour, can still be seen in places. ¹) until we reached the outskirts of Braunston.

Braunston is often regarded as the ‘Heart of the canal system’ and Braunston church, which we moored in sight of, was the place for working boat families to meet and celebrate christenings, weddings and funerals. There’s much more information on the Village Website and on the Church Website we learn:

With Braunston at the “heart of the Canals” there was a tendency for passing boatmen to meet and marry local girls and set up homes in the village…… Other immigrant boatmen also came to the village and set up homes. All Saints Church, the “Cathedral of the Canals” was very central to the boatmen’s lives for performing Wedding, Baptism and Funeral Services, indeed many well known boating families have ancestors buried in the churchyard.  It was the most central of locations for families afloat to meet up.

The “Cathedral of the Canals”

So this was the view from our idyllic mooring for the past few days, a footpath from the nearby bridge took us up the left side of this field to access the village from the church in order to buy supplies from both the butcher and village shop. It’s a walk of about ¾ mile each way trying to dodge the ‘deposits’ which  the sheep had left for us.

 

 

The sheep kept us amused as they had the choice of three fields to choose from and would follow from one to the other, er, like sheep!

The church obviously has a fine team of bell-ringers as they could be heard practising at times no services were advertised.

Mad Hatter hat

We spent 5 nights here and Jade enjoyed the freedom to roam the hedgerows here and we got to chat to several boaters including Lorraine aka The Mad Hatter (a travelling canal trader on the way to Cropredy for the festival) from whom Joy bought a hat.

Sea Otter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just near the next bridge was the sad sight of this burnt out Sea Otter (a aluminium narrowboat) such was the intensity of the fire it had melted parts of the hull. We understand no-one was aboard at the time.

Friday 14th July

John, Jill & Yours Truly

Today  we were delighted to have visitors, our friends Jill, John & Tricky (the lurcher) from our old mooring in Banbury. We had lunch together and spent the afternoon catching up with each others news.

In case you were wondering Catty occupied the bedroom and Tricky was in with us and seemed un-bothered with each other.

 

Saturday 15th July

This morning we have moved up to The Stop House moorings filled up with water and visited Braunston Marina to use their launderette and plan to set off again tomorrow.
Oh the bell-ringers are off again, a wedding I suspect, hence the practising!

1) Wikipedia

Sutton Stop to Hilmorton Locks

Wednesday 5th July -Thursday 6th July

We stayed put here for a couple of days by the Old Hawkesbury Engine House taking advantage of the 7 day mooring.

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Thunder was forecast for Thursday afternoon which was another factor in our decision as we didn’t fancy boating through a thunderstorm, in fact it never came so we just spent time idling around and managed a couple of odd jobs. I had a go at splicing the ends of our centre ropes, they are synthetic and were supplied with the ends just heat sealed and had started to come apart, after studying some instructions on the internet I was reasonably pleased with  the result..

 

Friday 7th July

This morning we set off about 10 ish did the turn through the junction bridge without touching anything and once through the stop lock onto the Oxford  Canal we filled our water tank before heading off toward Rugby. Just before Tusses Bridge where the B4109  crosses the canal tree surgeons were working and Joy snapped the guy dangling from a harness, his colleagues on the ground posed as well but were told they weren’t glamorous enough.

I was surprised and pleased to see no less than three gangs of C&RT staff working on repairing the coping stones on a bridge and improving the towpath, well I say working, the last gang were on lunch-break!

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Just before we left Hawkesbury our gas ran out so we stopped at Rose Narrowboats for a refill, but after mooring up against their hire fleet, which all seemed to be back at base, were told that they had run out of gas. Armada Boats at Falls Bridge Wharf were able to oblige however and at a very reasonable price of £25.50.

Then it was a quick transit through the Newbold Tunnel before mooring within easy walking distance of The Barley Mow for a refreshing pint of Doom Bar.

Saturday 8th July

Just a quick hop into Rugby this morning after a fry up and and once at Brownsover caught the bus into town visiting the market, Clocktower shopping centre and charity shops. In the afternoon we tidied out one of the food storage cupboard and I concocted a divider to stop all the rolls of cling-film and so forth descending into a chaotic heap as it usually does.

Moored opposite us is Rose Narrowboats’ “Buckaroo” (remember the kid’s game?) I always imagine it flying apart when the last person steps aboard.  🙂

This evening we treated ourselves to a meal at the Bell & Barge (a Harvester pub) just across the road.

Sunday 10th July

After a visit to Tesco this morning we covered another 3 miles and 3 locks and have stopped at the top of  Hilmorton Locks. The locks here are duplicated (2 side by side) and we were able to reassure a couple of first time hirers from Rose Narrowboats they were doing OK as this was the first locks they had encountered.

We plan to go on to Braunston tomorrow, but the internet signal there is reputed to be poor so don’t be surprised if I can’t blog for a few days.

Bradley Green to Sutton Stop

Sunday 2nd July

We bade farewell to our mooring and neighbours at 9:30 this morning and started off up Atherstone locks, after an early morning flurry of boats coming down, the first few locks were not very busy so we had to empty each one as we ascended up to town. By the time we reached The Kings Head things started to change and we met boats at most locks and there was a solitary volunteer lock-keeper at the top lock. Although barely over 2 miles this journey took 3 hours 10 minutes and we were not sorry to find a mooring, after lunch we took a walk into town and patronised Aldi and Co-op for last minute supplies. We spent a quiet night here, apart from a boat which went through about 10:30pm and  found folk were out walking the towpath from 5 am onwards!

Monday 3rd July

Our journey today was somewhat longer, but there were no locks! There was, however, a pit-stop at The Anchor to chat briefly with Kate Saffin who is on tour with The Alarum Theatre Company’s production of “The Idle Women: Recreating the Journey” and performing at The Anchor tonight.

Then it was on to Springwood Marina were we stopped for lunch and then used their facilities to fill and empty our tanks.

We slogged on through the seemingly never ending ‘delights’ of Nuneaton, past Marston Junction where we were only a few weeks ago on our trip up the Ashby Canal and ended up ‘almost’ in Hawkesbury at the end of the piled section. As we were mooring up a young collie from the next boat decided ours was much preferable and jumped onto our front deck promptly curling up and making itself comfortable much to the embarrassment of its owners. Catty soon discovered that two cats lived on a boat the other side of us and hissed and growled ever time she caught sight of them, so we kept her in. Part way through the evening there was a loud splash from the front of our boat and on investigation one of the neighbour’s cats had walked along the outside gunwale but slipped off while trying to negotiate the cratch cover. I went to rescue it but by the time I got there it had swum to the back of its own boat, and hauled itself up on board via the rudder and the back fender and disappeared inside looking like a drowned rat. The owner came out to check and commented that it hadn’t had a dip for a while but was prone to visiting other boats, sorry no photos!

Tuesday 4th July

This morning we waited until we judged a few boats had left their moorings and made our way up half a mile to moor next to The Old Engine House where we have spent a quiet day watching a pair of coots looking after their baby. Narrowboat Tench (part of  “The Idle Women: Recreating the Journey” team) passed us late afternoon and swung through the junction to moor up outside The Greyhound for their performances there tomorrow and Thursday evenings.