Sunday morning, and another beautiful day. The good weekend weather had been forecast and we expected there to be lots of traffic around, so decided there probably wasn’t really time to go down Foxton Locks and into Market Harborough, even though the latter boasted a Waitrose emporium for herself. A cruise to the top of Foxton to watch the fun and games before heading back South for Cropredy seemed a good move though.
Leaving Welford Basin, we swiftly arrived back at Welford Lock, to find a boat in front of us, but who wanted us to go first. Rather odd behaviour, to say the least. Turned out to be a pleasant elderly American couple who had left Market Harborough the day before, and made it up Foxton Locks and into Welford without actually having to work a lock themselves. This was their first, acknowledged they hadn’t a clue, and hoped that by watching us they could follow us successfully. So we leapfrogged them, giving the Operation of Locks 101 course as we went, then left them safely in the hands of another crew who by now had arrived to lock up.
Pump out, diesel and milk at Kilworth Wharf all sorted, – someone’s building another huge marina opposite the wharf – and we arrived at the top of Foxton locks mid afternoon, to be told “there’s at least six ahead of you”. So we just smiled, moored up just before the place we could wind, and went for a wander.
It’s a favourite spot for gongoozlers, with cafés, pubs, a museum and quite a lot to see. The place was indeed packed with non-boaters as well as the boaters trying to get up or down.
There are 10 locks, arranged as two 5-lock staircases, with a short “passing” pound between them. We reckon this chap in the middle pound was waiting over an hour while the staircase above cleared down. The volunteer lockkeepers were certainly busy!
At the bottom lock there is the junction with the Market Harborough Arm – it’s the only place that comes to mind where there is a canal-side pub on both banks opposite each other.
The Foxton locks were such a bottleneck that they built an alternative way of climbing the hill: an inclined plane/boat lift. It didn’t last long (1900 to 1911), but they’re still talking about restoring it!
Getting away from all the furore, we turned round, headed South again and found some lovely moorings out in the sticks. Another boat was similarly inclined, and we realised we’d met before somewhere last year. Whio – named after an antipodean blue duck – was owned by a New Zealand couple who kept it at Aylesbury during their summer, and came over to cruise the system for several months during their winter. Sounds good to us. So we’ve met a Tasmanian chap and a New Zealand couple: wonder how many others from down under do the same.
Anyway, it was such a nice evening, even Biggles broke his usual rule when other people are around, coming out to say “hello” and pose.