Victor: Onwards and upwards

Published: Wednesday, 20 September 2017

NEEDLESS to say the stoppage had buggered up our plans so it was a gentle cruise to Market Harborough and back for a bit of shopping.

We had little choice but to go to Market Harborough as we were stopped once again as Foxton Flight was virtually closed for the week-end as there was a festival and it was reserved for traditional boats and their butties ascending and descending. A stoppage notice telling us that we had no chance!

Weeds In the Everglades

It was way back in May 2010 that we last cruised the Market Harborough Arm, and looking back through the many photographs of that cruise—you can guess what I am going to tell—the towpath vegetation made us believe we had somehow or other arrived in the Everglades!  (The picture was of the towpath side!)

It could no longer be classed as vegetation, for it was well over head-high reeds and fairly tall trees growing out of the towpath, and for mile after mile.  I just cannot imagine if some poor boater had an engine failure or wanted emergency treatment, as there was no way he or she could have managed to get into the side.

There were the occasional clear spaces with a bit of piling, but of course they were crammed with moored boats, so there was little chance of stopping once you were well clear of Foxton.  At least there was mooring before the basin with a decent length of piling, and mowed, as if townsfolk had to be made to believe that all was well and the canals nice and tidy with no vegetation allowed—if only!

DrunksNot good for anglers

The weeds were so bad the poor anglers, on two occasions, were demoted to fishing off bridge holes! But alas found it too much of a bother as it being Sunday there were a few boats about including Foxton Services day boats, complete of course with drunken crews waving along the waterway. Not sure what the particular drunk hanging out of the front of the pictured boat was doing, nearly clouting his head on a bollard.

Strangely, even though Canaltime has long vacated the basin and only one end is for permanent boats, there is no mooring whatsoever allowed there. 

Back from the basin, the vegetation was non-existent with the towpath nicely mowed to impress the residents of course, and there were actual walkers taking a Sunday stroll.

Excellent shopping facilities

The recompense at Market Harborough is that there is an easy walk downhill into the town with its excellent shopping facilities, and then well loaded, as all who have travelled the Leicester Section will be aware, shopping facilities along it are virtually non-existent, it was a taxi back to the boat, and on our way.

Moored Mk HarBack along the 'Everglades' (which was She Who Must, etc, etc's description) we had remembered a spot near Foxton with plenty of footpaths for our evening tour.  But what we certainly did not remember was the trees growing out of the towpath and of course the now lush vegetation.

Traditional boaters messing about taking forever

Monday morning and we managed to moor behind a boat at the bottom of Foxton Flight, with the Australian aboard telling he was promised the last spot up the flight the evening before, but then not allowed up, as in his own words: "Those traditional boats were messing about taking forever."  So he had to wait until the following morning.

Which again shows the problem with volunteers.  In those now long forgotten days of real lock keepers at Foxton they would have made sure anyone promised to go up the flight, would have gone up the flight.  Whereas unpaid volunteers most likely struggling with those "traditional" boaters and their butties who according to someone else we spoke to told us 'they hadn't a clue what they were doing opening the wrong paddles', so the volunteers would have had enough of them, packed it up, locked the flight and gone home, and to hell with the promise of letting the Australian up.

Plenty of waterOne thing about Foxton, the paddles are a joy to operate, for as 'She' often proclaims, where there are lock keepers you always get the paddles well looked after, they see to that.  And there is plenty of water as the picture shows.  Don't know how a boater with an open bow and an open door would go on though if he or she was right up to the gates...

Grumbling boater

Anyway, up we went following the Aussie with four boats behind, our making it as usual in the hour—59 minutes to be precise, with a boater grumbling as someone had been let down to the half-way passing place before him. He having been promised by the different volunteers the day before that he would be first down the flight the following morning, but when the new volunteer lock keepers arrived at 9am at the top, the fella didn't even get out of his boat and report, so they let the next in line down, who had reported.

FoxtonThe fella eventually came storming down asking why a boat had been allowed down to the passing place and not him who had been promised first place. One of the present volunteers told him he was very sorry but he should have reported at 9am as soon as they appeared. With six boats coming up and two of those single handed, his wait would be a long one.

The obvious moral of this story is don't just sit there—report as soon as you see a volunteer locky.

Though the locks are quite a visitor attraction it was a Monday, so there weren't any getting in the way hogging the lock bridges. And I can't mention Foxton Flight without a picture! Not so dramatic though looking back down.

Very pleasant

Real towpatWe all agree that it is very pleasant above Foxton, with a nice wide waterway, marvelous views of its rolling landscape and plenty of piling with footpaths to take the dog.  And original towpaths, as can be seen, with ner a cyclist anywhere. 

On this particular waterway clutches of moored boats are few and far between, and with so much piling leaves plenty of choice of mooring. Certainly more than there was some 20 years or so ago when we first cruised up here.

For those of you, though to me it seems very few, who like walking, many of the bridges carry footpaths and the like with miles of walks available all deep in the countryside.

Very often we have moored with other boats joining us, yet none of the boats' occupants seem to set foot out of their boats, unless of course moored within a very short distance of a pub!


Bridge 51At such as Bridge 40, there is nearby piling and footpaths going off both sides of the bridge and even a disused railway track for good measure, we had a couple of long most enjoyable walks. Then at Bridge 51 (on the way back) another two paths, one though a little on the steep side, as can be seen, plus the enjoyment for Rusty of a rabbit to chase.

I always feel that many boaters miss out on this aspect of boating, or perhaps walking is not such a pleasure for them.

The tunnel

Then we had the bad luck to catch up with one of the traditional boats, obviously refugees from the Foxton festival that was pulling his butty on a rather long tow, with past experience telling us it was no use attempting to pass as they would not like it, even though we had to keep throwing the engine out of gear to prevent running into the butty.

As they entered Husband Bosworth Tunnel we could see the smoke they were churning out and also not wanting to ricochet at their speed through the tunnel or choke on their fumes, we moored for 20 minutes to let them go. As we entered we could not even see the light at its other end it being so muggy.


Over the many years we have been boating we have travelled many of the broad tunnels and many times, meeting other boats and passing without incident, but alas, not this time.

Though we always slow right down to pass in the restricted space, there was a boat approaching rather rapidly and bang in the middle of the waterway, making no attempt whatsoever to move over, leaving us about three feet of space, and there was an almighty crash as we hit, the force of his boat pushing ours over into the wall—even though we were on the side with the wooden protection—taking off our navigation light and paint.

Thomas did mention to the boater he was supposed to pull over, to which he apologized, but with no explanation.

It was an hire boat, but going so fast we could not get any details.  Our new paint job was a bit spoilt, but luckily we had spare paint, so quickly sorted that, though the navigation light had been demolished.

Turned back

When we came up we noticed the low pound between Gees and Whetstone locks, our keeping to the deepest part of the channel between the locks, and now we have heard from Keith Gudgin that there was still low water in the pound and it was closed on Monday up to today (Wednesday). So upon getting this news and not knowing what else will be closed we decided once again we will have to cut our journey short and turn back.

This time Jan made sure we were through Husband Bosworth Tunnel early before the hirers had had their breakfasts, as we did not want another collision.

VolunteerFoxton again

And so to Foxton again, and we were lucky as we were behind one boat amongst the first down.  The reason this time was that one of the two volunteers had not turned up, so being on his own the volunteer simply let us down, not going right to the bottom lock to unlock it and let the boat there come up to pass in the middle, As obviously he could not be in two places at once.

That of course begs the question what would happen if he didn't bother to turn up either?  After all they don't get paid, so have no real reason to turn up should they not feel like it.

There was a woman on the boat behind who was a member of some Cart committee or other and told Jan how bad the waterways were when the 'new charity' inherited it from British Waterways and how much better they are now! It was a good job she didn't tell our Thomas that!

I only hope she follows us down to Leicester, she may change her mind.  But alas. being on an hire boat she did not, so will still believe in the wonderful waterways of Cart, and no doubt a firm believer in that propaganda churned out at her meetings. Pity she did not venture down through those locks with their 'emergency stoppages' into Leicester, then she would have had her eyes open to the real world.

Victor Swift