Monday, 24 March 2008

Spring Cruise - Part Two

Day 3 - Sunday 16 March

Heavy rain overnight, which was still falling when we got up, so we had a lazy start to the day. After breakfast, with the rain easing somewhat, we walked back to the village shop for some essential supplies, and finally set off in drizzle and a gusty wind at about 10.15. Immediately, we found at least thirty anglers spread along the next mile or so of canal. They all looked cold, wet, and miserable, and many of them were battling with their umbrellas more than their rods.

Bridge 32 is still in a sorry state, as it was when we passed this way in October. There was a stoppage in this area during the winter, and I'd expected this bridge to be part of the reason. Obviously not.

We stopped for lunch after a couple of hours, after which the rain began to clear away. We continued northwards through the Husbands Bosworth Tunnel, and by the time we reached the top of the Foxton Locks at about 16.45, the sun was out. Our arrival was also greeted by the ringing of church bells. Having tied up, we went for a quick look at the locks, but the wind was still bitterly cold so we were soon back on board, cooking a roast dinner.

17 miles, 0 locks. (34, 16)

Day 4 - Monday 17 March

A text at 6.30am told us that Adrian's cousin had finally given birth during the night. She's started contractions on Friday night, so the baby had been a long time coming. Consequently, we were up and about early and went for a look at the work on the inclined plane. A lot of work has been done since we were last here almost two years ago, by BW and the Foxton Inclined Plane Trust. There are new footpaths, car park, and observation point. The arm leading to the top of the lift was been dug out and rewatered, while the arm at the bottom has been made into moorings. At the foot of the lift, there's a new swing bridge across the Market Harborough Arm, improving access to the site. The Google Maps image was taken before the work, so you can seen how much had to be done. The whole area is clearly well used, as even quite early in the morning there were runners and dog walkers, and there seem to be gongoozlers present at all times of day.

Having spent a while exploring, I went to find the lock keeper while Adrian got the boat going. Unsurprisingly, we were allowed to go straight down, entering the top lop at 8.50, and leaving the bottom one 45 minutes later. We were the only boat anywhere on the flight.

Having closed the gates of the bottom lock, I walked round by the pub to open the swing bridge. It needs a BW key to release the bridge, and the mechanism retains your key to ensure you close the bridge after you. Once it's moving, the bridge moves effortlessly. The next swing bridge on the Market Harborough Arm, Bridge 4, is on Swingbridge Street and requires barriers to by swung over the road. We held up just the one car.

The Arm is pretty rural, so it was something of a surprise that the place we saw a kingfisher was on the stretch by what Pearson's describes as a bone works. It certainly smells rather unpleasant. By 11.30, we'd arrived at the basin, spun the boat around, and tied up on the visitor moorings just outside. The basin was full of Canaltime boats, but several were being cleaned and prepared so it was obvious that a few would soon be going out.

We knew it was quite a walk into town, so we got the number of a taxi firm from the BW/Canaltime office at the basin, and got a ride into Market Harborough. Among other things, we needed New Baby (and New Grandmother!) cards, and we had a good lunch at a cafe bar called Square 53. Back at the boat, we took the rubbish to the service point round the basin, and topped up the water. As it was still quite early, and as the sun was out, we decided to head back down the arm. We moored just before Bridge 5, and Adrian and I went for a walk round Foxton village. It's quite pretty, with lots of very expensive looking houses. Our main quest was for a post box for the baby cards, and we eventually found one outside the church which is up on the hill on the southern side of the canal. However, it was so small that only one of the three cards would fit through the slot!

9 miles, 10 locks. (43, 26)

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