SP6989 : Foxton Locks 1978 2

taken 44 years ago, near to Gumley, Leicestershire, Great Britain

Foxton Locks  1978  2
Foxton Locks 1978 2
Three down, seven more to go.
A canal trip around the Leicestershire Ring - 1978

This was my first experience of canal boating, and it was certainly a matter of being thrown in at the deep end.

A group of volunteers from the National Tramway Museum at Crich hired narrowboat 'Kimberley' for a one-week cruise. 'Kimberley' was built for Fellows Morton and Clayton as a butty boat (i.e. unpowered), being later fitted with an engine. By 1978 she was owned by Union Canal Carriers, based at Braunston, having been 'converted' to a camping boat. The conversion consisted simply of putting a floor in the hold and installing some plain dormitory-style beds. The hold was enclosed using traditional tarpaulins over the traditional cratch frame.

'Kimberley' is the traditional full length 70 foot, and in addition draws nearly 3 feet of water at the rear, so without a load sits high in the water at the bow. This combination makes her quite crank to steer, and is quite a challenge to a novice boater she does not steer easily round tight corners!

What this all means is that she still presented the appearance of a traditional working boat, and this is reflected in the pictures in this collection.

The idea of completing the Leicestershire Ring within a week was certainly ambitious, but with a crew of 6 and the long hours of daylight in June, it was possible to make good miles. In addition to the crew, we carried a bicycle enabling one of the crew to cycle ahead to prepare locks in advance. This so called 'lock-wheeling' is frowned upon by some boaters, but if done with consideration for other moving boats is a real time saver. It has to be said that there were far fewer craft moored along the canals in 1978 than today, so it was possible to maintain the normal speed limit for much more of the trip than would be possible today.

The full route of the trip was as follows. (I didn't keep a record of where we overnighted, so can't break the trip down into individual days).

Start from Braunston along the main Grand Union via Braunston Tunnel to Norton Junction where we took the G.U. Leicester Line. Up Watford Locks, then on to Foxton, including doing the Welford Arm. Down the fine Foxton staircases, including a quick visit to the site of the inclined plane (the buildings still ruins), then along the Market Harborough Arm and back. An interesting excursion as the arm had not then been improved and silt had built up to leave only about 18 inches of 'clear' water. 'Kimberley's' large propeller, largely turning in the silt, certainly ensured that the water was not clear after our passage! Quite a narrow channel through reeds in places as well.

Down through Kibworth to Leicester and on to the Soar Navigation. At Soar Mouth we made the left and right turn into Cranfleet Cut and then via the River Trent and the Beeston and Nottingham Canals to Meadow Lane Lock at Nottingham. A brief turn in the River Trent, and then back upstream via the river and its cuts to Derwent Mouth where we joined the Trent & Mersey Canal. We followed this to Fradley Junction where we turned into the Coventry Canal, completing this the whole way to Coventry Basin. Back to Hawkesbury Junction where we joined the Oxford Canal, which we then used all the way back to Braunston. Even here we had just enough time in hand before turning the boat back to the owners to enable a quick side trip along the combined Oxford/Grand Union section to Napton Junction and back.

A total of 108 locks, and I haven't calculated how many miles!

Grand Union Canal (Leicester Section)/Soar Navigation

The Leicester section branches off the main line at Braunston and it is 66 miles long with 59 locks (including two five chamber staircase locks at Foxton) and two tunnels. Near Leicester it continues into the River Soar, and briefly along the River Wreake. The navigation then proceeds along the river, with some canalised diversions, to Loughborough and the River Trent south of Long Eaton.

Staircase locks at Foxton, Leicestershire

At the northern end of the summit level of the Grand Union Canal (Leicester Section), Foxton Locks is a flight of canal locks consisting of two "staircases" each of five lock chambers, separated by a short connecting pound. The ten locks are numbered 8 to 17 from the top. The flight alters the water level by 75 feet (almost 23 metres).
Water management is by way of large sideponds, so the correct sequence of paddles must be used when negotiating the flight. The locks are usually supervised by an experienced lock keeper, often assisted by recently recruited "Canal and Rivers Trust" volunteers. The locks have strictly applied passageway times, and are secured outside these hours. See LinkExternal link

Staircase locks are used where a canal needs to climb a steep hill, so two or more locks open directly into the next. The bottom gates of one lock form the top gates of the next. This is the largest flight of such staircase locks on the English canal system. Construction started in 1810, and they were completed by 1812. Restoration took place in 1909, shortly before the unsuccessful nearby Foxton inclined plane was taken out of regular service.

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SP6989, 372 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
June 1978   (more nearby)
Thursday, 7 October, 2021
Geographical Context
Canal (from Tags)
Grand Union  Lock Flight 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SP 6913 8956 [10m precision]
WGS84: 52:29.9743N 0:58.9852W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SP 6912 8953
View Direction
North-northeast (about 22 degrees)
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Other Tags
Leicester Arm of the Grand Union Canal  Staircase Locks  Narrowboat 

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