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In John's latest blog entry he talks of his journey from Braunston to Market Harborough, taking in Welford Lock, Husbands Bosworth Tunnel and Foxton Lock.
Last Friday saw me back to Helen which I had left moored in Braunston Marina. I walked into the village and shopped at both the well-known butchers and also the general store; I also took advantage of the lesser known hairdressers, been going for four years – recommended (£5 - but then I don’t have much!)
I worked the first three of the six Braunston locks myself, aided by boats coming downhill. Then I caught up with a boat which had had to wait and so we paired up the last three locks – to my advantage. Having turned on the Leicester Section, I arrived at Watford locks at about 6pm and being single-handed I was pleased to have the help of John, one of the volunteer lock keepers. John has been helping for years, he now usually does two days a week. Between him and others, they cover the flight seven days a week in the summer. They also mow the grass etc and do painting. I tied for the night at Crick Wharf and ate in The Moorings.
Saturday saw me progress towards Welford – whilst also listening to the Test match. The Leicester Long Pound is one of my favourites. It twists and turns across the country at over 400ft and seems to avoid habitation – a reminder that it was mainly a through transport route to London (unlike, say, the Coventry with all its coal mines being a source of cargoes). It also passes significant hills. It’s part of the middle of England which has deserted medieval village sites. There were a lot of boats on the move – well, it was a Saturday in August.
The Welford Arm is thought by some to be a quiet backwater – I didn’t find it so with three of us waiting to work through Welford Lock. It has some lovely scenery as it winds along the Avon valley. Yes, the same Avon which goes through Warwick and onto to Stratford. Quiz question for you? Why is the Leicester Summit wrongly called? Because the highest part of the Leicester section is actually above Welford Lock.
On Sunday, I was joined by Vicky Martin, waterway manager for the Trust’s South East area. This covers all the Oxford Canal and the Grand Union from about Rickmansworth to nearly Leamington Spa and includes the Northampton Arm and the Leicester Section to Kilby Bridge. She’d had a canal holiday last year and wanted to join me on my way to and down Foxton Locks.
The weather was again brilliant – by the way, this was also the day we won the Test Match! We passed through the (dryish) Husbands Bosworth Tunnel and then past the glorious Laughton Hills on the offside – and also the great views over the valley through the towpath hedge. Vicky did most of the steering along here.
We arrived at the top of Foxton a little before 2pm. We had to wait about 30 minutes which enabled us to have a bite to eat at the top lock café. Of course, Foxton on a sunny afternoon in August means large crowds. We managed to thread our way through the crowds to work the locks, helped by the two volunteer lock keepers – and by some of the children who were eager to push gates. I always encourage this – catch them young! One of the advantages of the volunteers is that seasonal staff (taken on in case there are not enough volunteers) can go off and do other work.
Vicky left about 4pm - but not before she had seen for herself how to operate the Foxton road swing bridge. I went onto Market Harborough for the night, with the canal following the line of the River Welland valley. This is one of the watershed parts of the country where I marvel at nature. The Avon goes to the Bristol Channel. The Welland goes to the Wash. And soon I’d be on the Soar which heads for the Humber.
John Dodwell blogs
Read more from John and his travels on his boat Helen.
John Dodwell was formerly one of our 10 trustees. He owns Helen, a 51ft old BCN tug/icebreaker which draws 3ft and is based near Stourbridge, West Midlands. His waterways interest goes back to the early 1960s.
John’s been involved in the waterways since the early 1960s and he enjoys all aspects of the waterways. To pick out one oddity, he was pleased and surprised to see about a dozen herons this June around the BCN Main Line, including two under the M6 motorway!