Locking down, from the top to the bottom of Foxton locks

A good start to the day

Waking up to a cerise sky through the porthole ought to be a warning to any good shepherds, but we took advantage as it turned blue to go down the flight at Foxton. 11 locks, in 2 staircases and several helpful volockies to make sure we did it all in the right order.
We sailed past the horse and his boy

The Foxton horse and boy

and straight into the top lock

Top lock

The volockies were happy to recruit some younger helpers, so this family took great pleasure in opening and closing the opposite gate for me. (We came down before the current lockdown 2, so we only had to adhere to proper social distancing)

Volockies of the future

And once at the bottom we took advantage of the water point, looking wistfully over to our favourite pub on the canal network. Bridge 61.

45 minutes to complete the flight, 1 hour 45 to fill with water

We have very fond memories of becoming an accepted part of the Foxton community when we spent the 18/19 winter season around here. Those memories were one of the main reason, we opted to book our hull blacking at Debdale during the winter months. Then we enjoyed homemade soup, pies and pints and a roaring log fire in the tiny room.

Happy memories from winter 2018

This year, we could have sat outside with our pints and takeout, but it doesnt hold the same appeal. We will still pop into the shop regularly, especially as we can order fresh food, and as one wise person reminded me, we shouldn’t be panic buying toilet rolls, but panic buying as often as possible from our precious little independent shops like this, because these are the heart of small community.

Not quite what we had in mind, but nice to see a good custom

I was doing some reading about the history of Foxton Locks and found this amusing list of items that they found when the flight was drained in 2018 for maintenance.

3 iPhones, a digital camera, a dinner plate, a laptop, a vintage boat hook, a paddle rack and paddle plate, a debit card, a car battery, some solar lights, a pair of child’s sunglasses, a pair of sunglasses, a thermos mug, 3 mugs, a spirit level, a tape measure, a chimney cap, 4 lamp irons, a pie of spare piling, a water valve, a washing machine cold water pipe, an A board from the museum, 3 Walsh aluminium windlasses, a steel windlass, the missing gate cap off number 12’s bottom gate, 5 pint glasses, a blanket, a vent from the door of a boat, a shield from the bottom of our fence posts, an umbrella, the missing brick from the end of the waterfall weir, 2 dollars 50 cents in Canadian money, 12 pence in UK sterling, a stapler, a 1960s Coca Cola bottle, 4 beer bottles, a child’s scooter, an anode, 2 navigation lights, the missing aluminium extension to the drag, 4 golf balls, a paint tin…
… and 84 fenders!!

Golden days

The stretch of canal between Husbands Bosworth and Foxton is a favourite of ours. I think it’s the hills on one side,

bridge 51, Laughton

and the vistas on the other.

Looking towards Lubenham

But in October it’s the golden trees glowing, that adds an extra joy to cruising in the autumn.

Somewhere around Lubenham

We love being rural, but it takes some planning to make sure we don’t run out of fresh food. There isn’t a supermarket on every street corner and sadly you can’t rely upon there being a village store anymore. But today, Google maps had revealed a potential opportunity in Husbands Bosworth. And having checked the tortuous route of the canal we reckoned I could walk the 2 miles inland and do the shopping by the time Eric had cruised the 3 miles to the next easy access.

A4304 to Husbands Bosworth

And we’d got our timing right. I arrived back on the Towpath just in time to see Eric and Firecrest emerge from the Bosworth Tunnel

North portal of husbands Bosworth tunnel

Fully stocked up again we were able to enjoy a few days quiet mooring

In the middle of nowhere

With some profitable walks, as we found several generous apple trees with enough windfalls to gather

I see Apple pie

So I made pie for tea

Pie day

And again it would be quicker to walk, 3 miles to Market Harborough or 8 via canal

Looking towards Leicestershire

Locking Up

Now we are on the Leicester line of the Grand Union canal, or the Grand Junction carrying company, as it used to be known. we have almost reached our destination.

We are only planning 24 miles

We are booked to have the hull blacked at Debdale over the winter. And as luck would have it there are planned winter stoppages around Husbands Bosworth, which means we can’t hang around in case we got caught on the wrong side. No stormy clouds to start the day.

Looking northwards from the wooden bridge at Norton Junction, firecrest is third on the right

We pushed on and the day’s journey took us past the Watford Gap service station on the M1. And each time we wonder if those hurtling up and down the country have any idea that life in the slow lane is a mere stones throw over the barrier. Despite our gratitude to the haulage companies responsible for keeping the shelves stocked, we’re in no hurry to swap our 200 year old super highway for the modern version.

There’s a four lane motorway behind that hedge

We got to Watford flight nice and early before pening time at 10am, to be greeted by the volockies, “oh we’ve been here since 8, we always are.” Consequently instead of mooring up and enjoying a boaters breakfast, we set off up the flight straight away.

Half way up

It’s a very pretty flight of 7 locks, 5 being a staircase, which means extra care and attention is needed to manage the water flow. Instead of the water being directed into and out of the pond inbetween locks, there are side ponds.

Water whooshing into the side pond

It’s all very logical but countless people get confused and end up with no water in the lock they are aiming for or flooding the boat below, hence the reason no one is allowed to use them without a lock keeper. And to be honest i struggle to articulate how it all works, but I do know the correct sequence to get it right.
But it’s a pleasant flight and takes just over 30 minutes to reach the pond before the final lock.

Almost there

Then only a short hop to the Crick tunnel

The southern portal

but enough time for us to enjoy a Braunston Bacon Buttie.

You can’t beat a bacon buttie when you’re cruising

And onto some lovely rural countryside.

Just another lovely bridge

We decided not to stop in Crick this time, but pushed on to Yelvetoft, where the welcoming committee came to check us out.

Swanning around