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Friday 31 May 2019

Wandering up to Wellford.

We headed off at a decent hour and were soon approaching Husbands Bosworth tunnel.

We could see right down the tunnel and nobody was heading our way, although it is two way working tunnel.

This photo shows how deep the tunnel is. Above the tunnel are the dates 1813, when it was built, and 1924 the year when the portal was rebuilt. By the time we got to the tunnel mouth a boat had come in the other end. It had a LED head lamp. It wasn't in a beam, but a flood light. Whilst not exactly blinded by it, as it was non directional it has the chance of doing so to some.

The cuttings at either end of the Husbands Bosworth Tunnel are deep and are either side of the ridge that is the watershed. On the east side the water flows into the River Welland that ends in the Wash, and to the west it flows into the River Avon, yes Shakespeare's Avon that continues to the River Severn and Bristol Channel.

North Kilworth Marina is filling up. The entrance looks as though it would be challenging in a wind as once in it seems to be hard a starboard, or hard a port and then round an island!

We decided to head up the Welford Arm and along with a finger post this mile post marks the junction. Wellford was our first mooring on our delivery job on Holderness in October 2013. It was completed in the dark!

Helen brought the boat into the one and only lock on the arm. In the distance the narrows marks the site of a lift bridge of unusual design. The wooden post that stands on the off side is the only part of the structure standing.

The arm was built to bring water from the Welford, Sulby and Naseby reservoirs but soon after it was opened a wharf was built and cargo was soon brought in, such as coal and lime. Seven lime kilns were constructed at the head of the arm and cargoes were brought in to WWII. By 1946 it had become disused, but by 1969 enthusiasts had brought it back to life so 50 years later there were celebrations of that time. The arm is short but sweet.

On a walk around the village I saw another Phipps & Co ghost sign. This time it was on an old village store and off licence. You can also see a painted sign that says Rattcliffe's Celebrated Stout!

Wellford church is at the high point of the village and is dedicated to St Mary the Virgin. It has lovely honey coloured stone with lichen. The tomb stones are mainly slate and are well preserved. The church dates from 13th Century but there is a tradition that an earlier church dates from around 1100. This was connected to Sulby Abbey that was closed at the reformation. This is supported by the finding of a 12th Century lead chalice that was found in the church yard and displayed in a small niche in the north wall.

The service block at the end of the arm was obviously the wharf warehouse. The MIKRON theatre's boat 'Tyseley' is moored by the building ready for a show next week. We are going to miss all their shows I think.

Thursday 30 May 2019

Floating up Foxton.

There were a few movements before that we  we were ready to leave. However we only went a couple of boats lengths as we needed to fill up with water. I had lost track of how much we had left so was pleased to see were right to fill up.

We then moved up and moored up opposite the Bridge 61 pub whilst Helen went up to log us in. It seemed that we had about half an hour to wait as a couple of boats were on the way day. 'Katie' was waiting to go up too.

We were soon on our way leaving a clear lock between us and 'Katie', heading up at 1045, just in time for the visitors to start coming en masse.

As we rose up through the first five lock staircase the side pounds reminded me of rice paddy terraces.

The view from the top is always good and makes you realise what a hill you have passed up, 75 ft in ten looks. The side pound paddles stand out, painted red. It took us 45 minutes to get to the top, I seem to remember that the best we have done is 35 minutes. I shall have to check that!

The canal from the top of Foxton has occasional long views across the rich Welland valley that flows to the Wash. The dates on the lock walls etc seem to date from the 1920's and 30's and the occasional concrete edge seems to be of the same era.

It is good to see the occasional part mile marker as well as boundary posts. I'm not really sure what use a 1/4 mile post was to boat men though as I'm sure that in this rural part of the system, with no junction or lock nearby they would not need to now where they were to that accuracy.

We didn't go too far and moored up in the sun before Bridge 46. This gave us a bit of a walk into Husbands Bosworth to stretch our legs and post a letter. There are some nice houses in the village. This one on, the main road, stood out as an ex pub. It used to the the Graziers Arms, one of seven in the village. Phipps started brewing in Northampton in 1801. It merged with Northampton Brewery in 1957 and was bought by Watney Mann and the old brewers beers ceased in 1968.

The place is found in the Domesday Book as Bareswarde, or the farm of Bar. This obviously became Bosworth. The Husbands part didn't get added until the 17th century and denotes husbandmen or farmers, possibly to avoid confusion with Market Bosworth not too far away in Leicestershire. Above is Wheatsheaf House and is a 16th Century close studded timber framed house. It was once an inn and a farm. The building immediately to the right has a typical cruck beam structure that could date from 14th century.

Bosworth House was due to be demolished but it seems it has had a reprieve and seems to be a single family home. It looks to be massive judging by the number of chimney pots.

Honeypot Lane is where you will find The Old House. By the way the honey pot referred to may be talking about 'night soil'! Old House has small hand made bricks to infill the timber framing at the front to replace the original wattle and daub. They will have been made locally. You may be able to make a T B D in dark brick between the frames. This refers to Thomas Blakesley and Diana who modernised the house in 1712! You can also see where the house has had the roof raised above the upper horizontal beam.

The day has been a bit breezy but warming up and the walk back down the tow path was pleasant. I lovely tea and then making jam from blackberries brought from home as Helen was fed up of having no room in the freezer. They were all from our garden too. Ten jars made. I am looking to make some elder flower and blackberry jelly when I find enough elder flowers.

Wednesday 29 May 2019

Brothers, beaches and Barbershop.

I have been off line for a couple of weeks, but I have been very busy. The first  long weekend was spent with my four brothers on our annual get together. This year we met up in Normandy. It was just a little before the 75th anniversary of the D Day Landings, and we seem to have a bit of a theme going through our meets, WWI last year!

We started out with the Omaha Beach Landing Museum and the Operation Overlord and the iconic action where a soldier was suspended on the church tower and survived. Just to emphasis in the picture is a dummy, not a real person.

The museums were very well set out and we spent hours going round them.

We visited the Arromanches Museum where after the landings one of the two Mulberry Harbours were built. The British Built one here survived and as you can see is still to be seen today. 

We visited Bayeux too and the lovely cathedral. The tapestry is on tour I believe.

On our last day we visited Sword Beach which is close to the ferry terminal. It is also where our father played his part in the fantastic venture and defined a generation or two. He was on HMS Largs, the HQ ship for Sword Beach. There is nothing about the British here, no museum, but poignantly several memorials and war grave sites. How ever this German bunker is an excellent museum. It survived aerial and naval bombardment as it was mis-interpenetrated.

The Americans have provided many museums along the landing site. The Canadians have got an official place where Cnadaian youths show you round, like at Vimy Ridge WWI, but there is almost nothing to say the British were there!

This last weekend I was down in Bournemouth at the British Barbershop Convention competing as a chorus, our first time. We came 30th out of 35! We will definitely do better next time.

The first link is us. We have been going 18 months and it is out first time at any competition.

This second link are the winners. I'm not sure how you compare the two, but it was a great weekend.

Back to the boating now, at least for a a couple of weeks.

Monday 6 May 2019

Fun at Foxton.

We had intended to spend most of the day in Market Harbrough but when we looked there was nothing on and the museum was closed so we changed the plan and left for Foxton at 10:00. The day boats and several others had gone before us.

As the canal from the basin follows the contour it forms a tongue of land that seems have some very large houses and gardens on it. It kept Helen happy as we drifted along. 

Wooden Step bridge, Br.14, has made way for a new road bridge that gives access to a new housing estate being built. It is surprising how many houses get built near canals. A combination of derelict industrial land from the commercial days of the canals, and 'it is better by water'.

The tree lined canal is a lovely in parts, especially with the leaves really coming through now. Not seem too many bluebells.

About half way down the arm is the J.G. Pears rendering plant. They started in 1972 in Yorkshire. Their business is collectioning waste animal by products, fallen animals, or fellmongering and food waste from shops and production sites. They pick up about 10,000 tonnes a week! It is good to know that it isn't just wastedThey then render these products into animal feeds, oils and meals as well as fertilisers. They also produce a bio fuel that can be burned in power stations in place of  fossil fuels. They also use their process to produce electricity too. Nearby there was the WWII aerodrome that was built in 1942/43 and was home to Wellington bombers and then later Hurricanes and Curtis Tomahawks. In 1945 it was handed to the army but they left in 1950. There were various plans to develop the site, one being a Christian theme park that was to re-create the Garden of Eden in 1997! It is now a business park. Just out of sight closer to Foxton is Gartree Prison that was built in 1965 as a Category C prison. It then went to a Category B and is now a main 'lifers' prison.

We have been up and down the Fowton locks several times but have never to see the inclined plane. The new plan was to take this in. It is well known for its side pounds to save water and to fill the locks more quickly. It was very busy this Bank Holiday but there were few boats passing up or down.

The museum in the old boiler house is small, and the best bit for me were the films of old canal footage and working. The inclined was short lived, only about 11 years. The plan was to make the canal wide beam to Leicester but the plan to put an inclined in at Watford Locks never happened and the traffic declined anyway. The locks were re-opened and the plane mothballed. It was  such a shame that it was all scrapped. Just think if they had managed to do that at the Anderton Boat lift too!

The top of the plane where there would have been the housing for the caissons into which two narrow boats could have fitted. One came up as the other went down.

It is a 1:4 slope and it took 8 minutes to descend. 12 minutes including the entering and leaving. 

This is the level that the top canal was at and where the boats ran into the caissons.

There isn't much left of the inclined plane but in-situ is a bit of rail in palce. These were attached to wooden sleepers. At the bottom can be seen the two basins that took the 'moving docks' with the boats in.

We walked to the top of the lock and had an icecream, despite there being a cold wind. I was a bit disappointed with the icecream though. We then decided to walk into Foxton and back to the boat via field paths. We will probably head to Bridge 61 when all the visitors have gone home.

Sunday 5 May 2019

Making hay to Market Harborough.

We walked into Fleckney yesterday and on the way back bumped into Karen and Jim who we had left in Leicester. They had caught us up as they had got lucky with sharing the locks with a large crew so they stuck with them and and did our two day journey in one. Why don't we get lucky like that?

We said our good byes to them as we passed at about 0930 and just round the corner was the Saddington Tunnel. It was opened in 1797 and is about 880 yards long. It was very dry today and we didn't see any bats, or the headless ghost of a girl called Anna!

The other side of the tunnel is a small aqueduct over the Langton Brook. In this region there was a breach in the canal in 1917. This maybe why the area has concrete edges. Just a little further on is the feeder from the Saddington Reservoir. It is the second oldest reservoir in the county and is a SSSI especially for beetles and dragonflies.

There are plenty of fields with medieval ridge and furrow evident. This was caused by the non reversible ploughs they used at the time. The would plough up one side of the strip and then have to turn the plough at the end and come back down the other side of the strip. They were strips so that they didn't have to drag the plough far. The action of the plough over time pushed each furrow up to form the rise. Over time this created different habitats for crops. Drier conditions on the top of the ridge and wetter  in the bottom.

It was eerily quiet of boats at the foot of Foxton Locks. The number of gongoozlers seemed to be crowing though. 

The bridges in the area are quite distinctive with a tall arch and low parapet.

The trees and bushes are really getting their leaves now and the greens are beautifully vivid as we passed along the cut towards Market Harborough.

At bridge 10 you pass Great Bowden Hall that was built in the early to mid 1800's. The more imposing side of it is facing the road, not the canal. It was converted into apartments etc in 1998.

The arm is quiet, when the day points have passed, but has some sharp bends and blind bridge holes. It makes it an interesting trip.

We got to the end of the arm, Union Wharf, and winded before finding a spot to moor for the day.

A well known bloggers boat that is now out on it's own now that Ray and Diane have returned to Australia was moored up and looking in a fair condition.

Saturday 4 May 2019

Fourteen Locks to Fleckney.

Another quiet mooring and a good nights sleep. We got away just after nine o'clock, but not before a boat headed into the lock and then waited for another coming along.

First lock of the day was Double Rail Lock and although the sun was shining brightly there was a fairly strong cold north wind blowing. Fortunately largely from our stern.

After another lock we pulled over at Kilby Bridge to take on water. There was  somebody on the tap so we parked up alongside the C&RT crane barge to wait our turn. We soon moved back on to the tap. They don't make things easy with residents and work boats hogging the flat wall. We had to sit across a knuckle but it was fine.

The slog up hill from Leicester, especially with the wide beam locks, is not for the faint hearted. We were doing fourteen today and as they were mainly spread out it takes time. It is no wonder that Helen takes a breather whilst the lock fills. The countryside is very pretty and in the sun was pleasant. The cold wind kept the heat down, and neither of us felt cold.

To save walking round the lock, despite it being a wide lock, Helen crosses over the gate to open the offside ground paddle.

Almost halfway there and Helen is still taking a rest when she can. There is plenty to see, but boats coming down to lighten the load were few and far between.

A lot of the locks and bridges are dated between 1912 and 1926 so the fact that this lock fitting dated 1897 is nice to see. I wonder if modern lock fixtures have the same longevity?

As we approached the five locks round Kibworth we saw another boat leaving the lock. We hoped that they would see us and wait. It was too far away for the horn to work. Above the first lock it looked like a wedding was due to take place. At the same time the clouds rolled in and we had a heavy hail shower. I bit cold for a skimpy dress in a tent, in a field, me thinks.

We caught them up and as Helen went a to set the lock they waited for us. We shared the last two locks. It has been a funny day lock wise as our first lock had a boat entering to come down as we got close. Nothing happened so we waited a bit before venturing up to find that one of the two boats had caught something round his prop so they pulled the boats out and swung the lock for us. When we got to the Bottom Half Mile lock it had been turned despite the earlier boats having passed through. A hire boat was working ahead and in the end we had to wait 15 mins before it arrived. I think working ahead is fine but it shouldn't be too far and really it should be only when you are insight of your boat.

We got to Kibworth Top Lock around 1500 so it had taken us six hours to do the six or seven miles and fourteen locks.

We moored up by bridge 73 as we will walk into Fleckney for milk, and maybe a pint whilst we are there.