Victor: The summit pound

Published: Friday, 22 September 2017

IT WAS way back in 1998, when we were very keen and very fit, on our way back from the Thames that we first ventured on to the summit pound of the Leicester Section.

Summit scenery2With a much better memory, Jan, regarded as She Who Must Be Obeyed, remembers the waterway with very few places to moor and in many places very shallow as in those days there were few boats and only a very small Crick Marina.

Dredged and piling installed

But the then British Waterways dredged the section and installed a great amount of piling, making it a very attractive canal with plenty of depth, lots of mooring and the towpath edges regularly strimmed making the mooring easy.

Passing through the scenic rolling hills of the Leicestershire countryside, we had noticed at out regular forays it has become very popular with boaters, and now noticing quire a few boats using the waterway, for though parts of the towpath are now overgrown, the lengths with piling have been left clear of vegetation and seemed to be regularly strimmed.

New marinaPopular with boaters

This summit pound is no doubt popular with the boaters from the marinas that now abound, with those we spoke to using it as a day out or a two days cruise, usually going down the Foxton Flight and back or to Market Harborough, with very few seeming to prefer the route into Leicester.

And eventually there will be many more boaters as a new massive marina in being constructed between bridges 43 and 44, to be called the North Kilworth Marina, being, according to its blurb: 'The midlands most exciting Marina'. Though I really have to ask how on earth a marina can be exciting! And I also have to ask just when will it come into being, as the last time we passed some three year ago it was still being constructed.

I'm not sure if the building by its side has anything to do with it, but if it has, the mind boggles, as there is a further two stories section behind that in the picture.  Perhaps next time we venture here it will be completed.

Tfoxton buildings derelictShe pub

Those boaters possibly showing their friends the Foxton Flight, working down and back up with a call at the pub at the bottom for respite, would not have been able to do this in our early days, as the pub was a complete wreck as the picture taken then clearly shows.

It was British Waterways that took what proved to be the disastrous decision to go into the pub trade, either re-opening or buying many pubs by the side of the waterways and running them in conjunction with a brewery chain.

The stupidity of it all it was at that time that supermarkets where stocking so much liquor tempting drinkers to stay at home by the telly and partake, and pubs were closing by their hundreds that the stupid decision was taken with the result that the pubs lost money and it cost British Waterways mllions of pounds to pull out.

Gained popularity

With the big extension to Crick Marina and the opening of another on the summit pound, Foxton Flight gained popularity, as its extra use had brought in visitors, with a car park being constructed by the bridge above the locks to accommodate and Leicester Council pushing it as a major attraction of the county.

foxton cottage wrappedThis prompted British Waterways to undertake the replacement of many of the badly worn lock gates and paddles with the resident lock keepers instructed in a bit of 'public relations'.  At the same time the old boiler house used to drive the now derelict Foxton Plane was turned into another visitor attraction as a museum.

Though there is is café at the bottom of the flight, British Waterways wanted one at the top where the visitors came  from the car park, so the lock cottage was transformed into such, with the picture showing it during its transformation.

The desire for visitors

The desire for visitors to the flight however has a detrimental effect for the boaters attempting to work it, and the reason why many are there when it first opens in the mornings, us included, having once arrived in the afternoon of a Sunday and finding it virtually impossible to get across the lock bridges they being packed with visitors ogling the boats in the locks. It was on our first venture through the flight that the lady lock keeper, Crystal, who was a formidable force(!) told us something concerning the paddles we well remember to this day, and still of course put into practice: 'Red before white and you'll be alright, white before red and you'll wish you were dead!'

As many of you will know the red paddles allowed water in from the side ponds and of course saved water. A system in use at many places, though now discarded, but can be seen by the derelict side ponds by some lock flights such as Atherstone on the Coventry.

Two cyclistTopThe walkers and cyclists

Of course it is expected that I will tell you about the 600 odd visits per mile or whatever is claimed now,  For the three full days after we left Foxton on the summit pound we neither saw walker, cyclist or even an angler on the way out—ner a soul.

On the way back to Foxton two cyclists struggling rather slowly on the unused towpath that I had time for the picture—definitely no Lycra louts here.

Before this, moored before we turned back we heard the chatter of two women, so thought here at last were the first two walkers. But alas and alack, no. For the two with their three dogs came up from the disused railway, over the canal bridge and along a field path on the other side, so nowhere near the towpath, so not a visit after all.

Then at last a real towpath walker near Husbands Bosworth with a newspaper in her hand, who had obviously used the towpath to get her paper. But was she a 'real' visitor I ask? Whatever, she was the only one during the three days.  Makes rather a mockery of those 440,000,000 or so visits to the canals every year, that equates to 628 visits per per day for every mile. So for these 19 miles there were 11,929 visitor missing!  Where were they?  I have to ask.

foxton DerekrCart 'in cloud cuckoo land'

 So back to the present, and a retort from a volunteer locky when we asked him what it was like working 4,000 boats through Foxton Flight a year (Cart statistic): ',Whoever told you that is living in cloud cuckoo land, why it's shut most of the winter and only busy at week-ends'.  He added more, but as it was obviously then in confidence I shall not embarrass Cart further.

The picture is of a a bygone breed—Derek Turner, a former 'real' Foxton lock keeper.

Then down Foxton Flight in 46 minutes with no waiting anywhere, back hopefully to Leicester. 'Hopefully' as Keith has just sent us an email stating the leaking pound between Whetstone and Gees locks was closed for a week from Monday 18th to 26th September—the day we are due to arrive back at Sawley!

Will we make it?

So now we know the reason why only a single boat passed us the whole time we were moored by Ivy Bridge yesterday after the seven locks after Foxton. So it looks that once again we are going to be stopped, with just a chance that as Cart personnel 'is on site to monitor levels', we may get lucky tomorrow, Saturday.

What a bloody mess.

Victor Swift