If We’d Known…

Setting off from Foxton to complete the 5 miles boxing the compass to Market Harborough (it’s about a mile and half as the corvid flies and even more convoluted than the South Oxford Canal summit pound), we turned up at Union Wharf to find that they actually had some pontoons available. With electricity. And cheaper than the Debdale Boat Park. Damn! We’ll know next time.

The wharf itself is mainly a hire base, a basin now surrounded by new flats and a restaurant, but better done than many, and not a bad place to tie up for the night. The last time we were here was almost exactly 11 years ago, picking up a Canaltime/RCI boat. As we drove up some bozo came straight out a side turning without looking and made mess of our car. We were on our way to Mull after a week on the boat, but fortunately the car was still driveable.

While we were sorting ourselves out Joss and Corniche turned up, and there was room for them too. Another arrival was a Piper boat Nice Butt… who we’d chatted to in Evesham last year; he’d had to give up cruising continuously to look after his aging mum, taken a mooring at Market Harborough, and had just got back from a week’s potter somewhere.

Anyway, shopping called. Apart from the usual town centre stuff about 10 minutes down the hill from the wharf (again, a better shopping area than many), just the other side of the centre is an area with a huge Sainsbury, a large Waitrose, an Aldi and a Lidl. There’s a Tesco Metro and a Co-op in the centre too. Spoilt for choice. The house prices looked pretty steep, and there’s lots of new houses being built – with St. Pancras a mere 60 minutes away, it’s clearly a commuter Mecca. (We’re only about 15 miles from Waterloo at home, and that takes 55 minutes!).

Well stocked with more supplies than we could carry, we splashed out on a taxi back, then had a decent dinner in the Waterfront establishment, all of twenty paces from the boat.

The next morning we went back into town to have better look at other than the local supermarkets.

Market Harborough

The name of this place seemed self-evident…

Market Harborough Grammar SchoolMarket Harborough Grammar School

… while the old grammar school clearly couldn’t take many pupils. Even more selective than today!

On the way back, looking for a cup of coffee, we bumped into the crew of Corniche outside the Angel Hotel, and while chatting a smartly suited chappie hijacked us and insisted we adjourn inside to a Macmillan Great British Cake Off coffee morning, where coffee and home made cakes were there for the taking; we could hardly refuse!

It being a hire boat turnround day at the wharf, we decided to head down to Foxton early afternoon before the hirers caused too much chaos, and so we could make a reasonable attack on Foxton Locks on the Saturday morning. Waving farewell to Joss and Corniche we started winding our way all round the compass back towards Foxton Junction.

As we approached Foxton village (complete with swing bridge) we passed Green Matters  tying up for the day. The chap called out “are you going through the swing bridge?” then “would you mind if I join you?” because swing and lift bridges are notoriously difficult for singe-handed crews. For some reason the landings are invariably on the towpath side, and the operating mechanism on the other. Which means that having tied up and gone across to open the bridge, you then have no way of getting back to the boat to take it through the bridge…

Leaving Green Matters at Foxton village, we ended up tying up just short of the second swing bridge, just by the junction itself. Only to find that Bridge 61, the traditional canal-side pub only did Guinness in “shake it up” pint tins (a Scottish landlord let us try one for free some years ago – it’s, as Douglas Adams would say – almost but not entirely unlike draught Guinness). And the Foxton Locks pub/restaurant had gone over to the dark side, and (the large Pepsi tap is always a clue)  not only didn’t serve Coke, but only had Murphy’s Stout instead of the real stuff. And we know they’ve changed, ‘cos here’s a photo from eleven years ago.

Foxton Locks

So, grumbling gently, we retired back to Bridge 61 for a cider and some real ale, wondering what the world was coming to.

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