Market Harborough was only ever a temporary mooring for us. It is convenient, being near the house and located in a bustling market town, but it has several drawbacks: it is a very public situation, with people walking past all the time; it lacks several facilities, including diesel; and, most surprisingly for its location, our pontoon could receive neither wifi nor satellite signals.
We also wanted a more rural setting. Some time ago, we visited Crick (Northamptonshire), which we knew well because of the annual boat show. The marina there was good, but we found an even nicer one just down the road at Yelvertoft. This is a beautiful marina, with a very eco-friendly policy (no metal pontoons, for example) and located in a village with a good pub, butchers, and a general store and post-office. It is just off the M1 at Junction 18 (not that you can see or hear the motorway from the marina) and is therefore well positioned for family visits in all directions. It also reduces Andy’s travel time to work by a couple of hours, which is a great boon considering his weekly commute is around five hours..
So, over the past few days we have moved Froth to her new location. Meanwhile, the house sale progresses smoothly (completion probably end of May, all being well). So this relocation has also involved ‘downsizing’, i.e. disposing of very large amounts of ‘stuff’. It really is amazing how much one accumulates over eight years of living in a house!
Anyway, last Friday we set off from Market Harborough:
Rosie, needless to say, was excited and knew we would be moving once her life-jacket went on.
Louise was at the helm and executed a flawless turn in Market Harborough basin.
Barbie and Graham (Louise’s parents) were on board as we left Union Wharf.
The Market Harborough arm of the Grand Union canal is very pretty and also very winding, so it took us a couple of hours or more to travel its length. In a car it would probably take ten minutes! At the end of the arm, there is a swing bridge, opening onto Foxton Locks.
Foxton Locks is one of the most famous landmarks on the canal system: ten locks rising 75 feet in a steep flight, with pounds by the side of each. It is carefully managed by lock-keepers, who are mostly volunteers from the Canal and River Trust. The ascent was hard work for Louise in particular, who operated the locks, but not as daunting as it might have been, thanks to the help of the lock-keepers. Running alongside the locks is the site of what was once a fully operational inclined plane. Boats would be loaded onto a continuously rolling vessel that would be winched up the hill, as in the old picture below:
The inclined plane has not been operational since 1911. It only worked for about a decade and was considered to be not economically viable, even at the time. There has been a campaign for a full restoration, but it looks as though a virtual model will be built instead. There is a fascinating museum next to the locks which describes the history.
Here is our ascent in pictures. First, the bottom lock seen through the bow window:
Next, some pictures taken while ascending:
Notice the gongoozlers in the next picture (people who stand around watching boats and boaters). There are not very many, by Foxton standards. The inclement weather meant few visitors and few boats. When we reached the top, the CRT volunteers asked if we’d be willing to go back down and up again to entertain the crowds! We declined their request.
The views across the countryside got more spectacular as we rose.
The single locks are nicely constrained.
View from the top.
The force of the water rushing in meant a lot of forward and reverse thrust was necessary as the gates opened. But even so we did not escape getting the cratch covers soaked. Some water made its way inside. There was nothing we could do about that. Fortunately there was no serious damage.
This is a welcome sign for the weary traveller!
And here we are, exiting the top lock…
We moored up for the rest of the day shortly afterwards, got the satellite dish in position (worked perfectly!) and settled down to watch some TV.
But the TV weather forecast was somewhat alarming. We had intended to dawdle our way to Yelvertoft, arriving Sunday or even Monday. But the imminent storms, gales, high winds, snow, etc. changed our minds and we decided to press on.
‘Our’ stretch of canal is 20+ miles of lock free cruising. with Foxton Locks at one end and the Watford Staircase locks at the other, leading down to Norton Junction. It’s full of beautiful countryside.
Husbands Bosworth tunnel is quite deceptive. As you enter, the exit is clearly visible and you assume that it will be a quick trip through. But there is more than one kink in the tunnel, which means a slower journey. On the plus side, the tunnel walls are in quite good condition compared to some others we have been through, so fewer cold drips on the helmsman’s head in the dark!
So, here is a view of our destination, Yelvertoft Marina.
Froth on the Daydream, lying in her new mooring.
This is a view taken from the towpath opposite, showing a different angle on the mooring.
The crew is very happy with the new location. Loads of great walks, new sniffs, strange birds, other dogs. She does love life afloat!
For us, this was a champagne moment. It’s hard to capture this in a photo, but we have hung some pretty coloured lights up in the conservatory and we have citronella candles to discourage biting insects (not that there are many at this time of year). Sitting out here is a joy.
At this stage, we think Yelvertoft marina will be our base for the foreseeable future.