Mishaps and misadventures
The cruise from Crick to Market Harborough had involved 23½ miles, 10 locks, 2 swing bridges and 2 overnight stops… So what was the town like?
On a Saturday morning the place seemed quite lively – the Lions were running charity stalls in the covered area below the Old Grammar School, there was a craft stall and coffee morning in the vestibule of the Harborough Theatre, an open fronted fishmonger’s shop was attracting brisk trade , there was a queue outside Starbucks and buskers performing in the pedestrianised area of St Mary’s Place. In all Market Harborough seems a thriving sort of middle England town.
Mooring time expired on Sunday morning but departure was delayed by a slight but wet misadventure. Drizzly rain had been around for several hours. As Boatwif stepped off the boat (first, to dump the rubbish, and secondly, to walk 300 yards or so to buy a Sunday paper) her leading right foot skidded on the wet smooth stone edging and her left foot dropped behind her – into the gap between boat and towpath edge. Down Boatwif went, boot, sock and left leg submerged, left wrist too… No-one was about until the Captain arrived at the front deck to establish the cause of the distress calls. Ungainly it must have looked but with his help Boatwf was brought back to vertical and posted back into the boat to find dry socks, boots, trousers, jumper and coat…
Bruising was slight and soon afterwards rubbish and newspaper errands were successfully and uneventfully carried out.
Now started the return cruise.
A couple of miles along the canal at Bridge 10 Boatwif hopped off the boat to investigate buildings that seemed to have been modified. These belong to Great Bowden Hall, which have been divided into apartments. As Boatwif re-joined the towpath at the bridge the Captain bellowed from Cleddau‘s stern. Alerted, Boatwif stepped back – and thus was spared a catastrophic collision with a fast speeding cyclist.
Two hours or so after leaving Union Wharf the pedestrian swing bridge and Foxton Locks pub was in sight again. Would there be plenty of gongoozlers observing boats progress through the famous Foxton Locks?
‘Expect the unexpected’ might be a useful motto for arriving at sweet honey spots on a Sunday. As the lock keeper signalled for Cleddau to approach the queueing point for Bottom Lock, a fat wide beam steamed through the bridge hole from the Leicester direction. What was it going to do? Not attempt to go up the narrow locks, surely?! With a certain amount of noise (a combination of human voices, bow thruster and engine revs) the wide beam turned and tied up at the waterpoint… With the way now clear Cleddau was moved across to the waiting area, where the footfall was more about the pub and café than about the boats…
Tempting aromas had to be ignored as the bottom gates opened and Cleddau began her climb…
There was a good chat with a gongoozler watching from his mobility scooter and another with a family further up. “Is that a Welsh name? Isn’t that a Tudor rose?… Oh, been to Tenby and to Haverfordwest…”
The Canal Museum at Foxton is a fascinating place.
It explains and celebrates the Boat Lift that had operated for just 10 years, moving boats sideways up and down the slope at Foxton.
3D models and an excellent animation help museum visitors visualise the 1901 technology which used steam and pulleys to raise and lower craft in two boat caissons between the lower Market Harborough level and the higher Leicester Line level. Clearance of the inclined plane site and restoration works of the upper canal arm (2006 -2008) plus good signposting help visitors interpret this very particular slice of canal history…
The journey south back to Crick (via Welford) continued on Tuesday. Early on, a combination of a bend, an oncoming boat and some elderly brittle tree branches resulted in a railway track of a scratch right down the starboard side of the boat…
Shy bluebells shone in the woods near the water’s edge. Sun and shadow enhanced the slopes of the Laughton Hills. Smoke curled upwards from a wood clearing bonfire. Cows grazed and lazed near to the canal…
Then hedges and trees closed in over a cutting before Husband’s Bosworth Tunnel. Not long after came the clutter of North Kilworth Wharf – recently painted boats on the side, a covered slipway, narrowboats and cruisers creating a tight squeeze for through traffic… On past North Kilworth Marina to take a left for the second visit of the year to Welford (and specifically to its Post Office).
From Welford Wharf the way to the single shop (with PO counter) is through the Pocket Park, scene a few days before of a Tree Festival
The River Avon was sliding quietly under the road bridge – three weeks earlier the water had been rolling through with a lot more energy. A germ of an idea formed: if the infant Avon parallels the Welford Arm and crosses below it on its route south and west, where was the aqueduct…
On Wednesday morning the Captain was instructed to pull in after turning south at the Junction. Unnoticed previously, here it was – a gate, some thirty steps – and a ribbon of water across the meadow – which had passed under the canal through a culvert. The aqueduct is unmarked but to know where the canal crosses above the Avon is just a little satisfying. Now if a pooh stick were dropped in that river how many days would it take before it passes the RSC theatres and the riverside Holy Trinity Church at Stratford-upon-Avon…?
The towpath repairs being set up a week before were now well established: stabilisers were holding the work platform steady and a pile driver was rhythmically pounding the new metal edging into the canal bottom.
Moored up that night what should be close by but the Living Milestone No 13 – and yes, a closer examination revealed a marker stone below (as at No 3, see reference here https://boatwif.co.uk/boat-update/o-to-be-on-water/ ) the number only faintly traceable under the moss and lichen.
Out came the polish and rags the next day – while the starboard cabin side was beside the towpath Operation Damage Limitation got under way – and during an hour or so’s efforts (aided by a boating neighbour extolling the benefits of home schooling, the perils of peer bullying, the problem of gender politics…) Cleddau’s new scars became less apparent.
It had been an “out and back” trip, the same route in different directions. Despite the chill winds, the scratched paintwork, the partial canal dunking and a narrow miss towpath collision the crew had survived – and found much to appreciate along the Leicester Line.
So where to in the summer, then? Now that is the question!
From Market Harborough to Crick via Welford: 26½ miles, 12 locks
2023 mileage total: 89¾ ; lock total: 24