Anyone remember wearing a liberty bodice…?

Crick to Market Harborough, 12.9 miles as a crow flies

Dates and deadlines seem to be ruling this year’s cruising programme.  With plans drastically changed (attendance at Bedford River Festival not possible this year) the Captain returned to the spreadsheets he creates using CANALPLANAC.

Cleddau had taken a mooring at Crick Marina in September 2022. It’s proved a great success, just under an hour by road from home, the marina staff and fellow moorers are all very friendly, the toilet, bathroom and laundry facilities are in excellent condition and it is possible to get the car close to the boat for loading and unloading.  During the winter social events to mark Burns Night, St David’s Day, St Patrick’s Day and St George’s Day have provided opportunity for social gathering.  So  what’s not to like…?

For years Cleddau has been ‘out on the cut’ by early May – and so the impact of Crick Marina being the venue for the huge annual four day Crick Boat Show over the late May bank holiday was never felt.

Last May Cleddau and crew had escaped from Crick Marina to boat down to Stratford-upon-Avon before set up for the Boat Show had even began. This year though, with plans changed and changed again, Cleddau and crew intend to remain at Crick for the duration of this year’s Crick Show.

By Sunday 12th May parts for the pedestrian bridge between canal and marina had already been delivered and marina moorers were under instruction about temporary car parking arrangements.

Out of the marina Cleddau crept, free days on the calendar being enough to get to Market Harborough – and back.

A single (turning right) blast of the horn warned any approaching boaters of an exit from the marina. A boat held back along the canal – and when later Cleddau moored up that boat cruised past, nb Holderness. (Hope we weren’t going too slowly, Holderness)

It’s a familiar route now,   along the Leicester Line to Welford Junction  – and then a left turn past North Kilworth Marina (provider of emergency fuel only two weeks earlier), past the miscellany of boats at North Kilworth Wharf, a follow on for about a mile and then a plunge into Husband’s Bosworth Tunnel.

To follow a just hired boat very slowly through a thousand metres of black tunnel (1170 yards / 1071 metres) was a challenge, but there is visual reward aplenty once the rolling, billowing Laughton Hills are reached.  There’s little human habitation here, but there was life indeed in an orderly line of dairy cattle queueing up for milking,  a goose entourage,  a large herd of energetic black and white heifers,  a flock of docile sheep, paddocks of horses and a swan on a nest…

Not far from the top of Foxton Locks repairs were being made to the narrowed and collapsing towpath.

Foxton is a busy spot, a great place for a towpath stroll, a bottleneck for boaters in a hurry. Ahead went two cousins, on a job delivering a 70 foot boat from Harefield Marina, near Uxbridge to Shardlow, near Derby. Down they went, to turn  left at the bottom on the Leicester Main Line.

Down went Cleddau, aided by the windlass-wielding Captain and a volunteer lock keeper, urged on by plenty of gongoozlers.

It was a right turn for Cleddau at the bottom, a squeeze past the pair of hotel boats, a passage through the swing bridge and a night moored below the locks.

How did the hotel boats get on in their ascent? Curious, Boatwif walked back to the flight to take a look. Only the first boat was powered, the second being pulled by rope from chamber to chamber, up through all ten of them. At the half way point the long rope from a centre roof ring was being used to haul the boat out of the lock and then fed by lucky throw under each footbridge. A hotel boat guest (an American from Utah) was intrigued by how in earlier times the towing horses and ropes would have been managed…

Market Harborough (visited previously just a year ago) is a pleasant place. You can tell it’s affluent by the number of womenswear shops, plus a bespoke jeweller, smart kitchen shops, gift and ornament places – and there’s a Lakeland coming to town…

St Dionysius Church is a fine building (East Window)    (textile screens at the West End). Any visitor to the town will notice the huge Symington Building.

There’s a fascinating family history – one corset-making mother, ten children and a large number of Symington products made within Market Harborough.

The building now houses the District Council, a stunning library,  a  stylish coffee shop   and a well laid out museum. Here’s the Old Market building   reproduced within a large mural displayed insidethe Building.  

Pride of place in the museum is given to the Hallaton Hoard, discovered very locally in 2000 and comprising Roman and Iron Age finds.  Would-be archaeologists can find lots to interest them here, from the narrative of how the discoveries occurred, to the way a Roman helmet has been visualised using traditional techniques and modern 3D technology as well as child-friendly exhibits.

Elsewhere there are corsets   (who remembers haberdashery, millinery, hosiery and corsetry?)  A striking art installation in the  foyer celebrates corsets and a careful look in the museum display cases will reveal a maternity corset    and a liberty bodice… The Symington brothers gave their name, it seems, to a whole range of food products but a browse in the museum reveals a long history of other products manufactured in the town in the past: car batteries, jet engines, carpets and glues.

To arrive on foot in a downpour at the Symington Building for a couple of hours of dry investigation was one thing; to return up the hill in another downpour seemed a trifle much. Thank goodness for spare waterproofs and several umbrellas…

Onward on Friday, retracing steps, miles and locks towards Crick and a different mooring at the marina…

Crick Marina to Market Harborough as the crow might have flown: 12.9 miles

By boat:  23½ miles, 1 tunnel, 10 locks, 2 swing bridges

(AFTERTHOUGHT: : Was Women’s Lib also an expression of freedom from liberty bodices…?)

*2024 Monkton Moments* (Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections) – now 4

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3 Responses

  1. Debby says:

    I remember liberty bodices, those silly rubber buttons! My Grandma insisted my Mum put her litttle girls in them, so I had them for a while – especially when Grandma came to visit! best wishes

  2. Sue Deveson says:

    Hi Debby,
    You are certainly not the only person irritated and confused by those liberty bodice buttons – the lady lock keeper at the top of Foxton Locks yesterday said exactly the same thing – and this what two of my sisters said:

    Dear Boatwif – I have just read your blog and yes I certainly remember wearing a liberty bodice! They had little rubber buttons which invariably broke in half, never did find out what they were there for!! But it did keep me warm! (Senior Sis)

    I remember them well too – especially the colour, they were never quite white were they? Even with Daz! (Baby Sis)

    Cheers and happy cruising!

    Sue /Boatwif

  3. Sandra Briskham says:

    Dear Boatwif or should I add “sister no 2!!) I certainly remember wearing liberty bodices in the early 50’s and was especially intrigued by the little rubber buttons which invariably broke into small pieces – never knew or enquired what they were for but in later life found out that they were for attaching “other items of underwear”. One plus point though – they were an extra layer of clothing to keep one warm in the days long long before central heating!

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