Yesterday morning I unlimbered John Sage from the bike rack and pedalled down to the Black Horse to get some fresh veg from the shop in the skittle alley. What we have is looking a bit past it’s best, two spotty carrots and three bendy parsnips. The shop wasn’t open, although it was well past nine o’clock. Is it still going, does anyone know? The website is still live…
Into the reserve supply of canned goods now, till we get to Market Harborough!
I was tempted to cycle into the town, so I left the bike on the counter, leaning against the swan’s neck, while I had a cup of coffee. A boat leaving the locks came past a bit quick, slamming the rudder over with the displaced water and depositing John Sage in the cut! I heard the bang from the rudder, followed by the scrape and splash, and knew straight away what had happened.
The boat was moving away towards the bridge as I got off, but they kindly advised me that my bike was in the water…
Anyway, it was floating upside-down because I’d recently fully inflated the tyres, so it was easy to retrieve. An hour on it’s handlebars, then another on it’s wheels drained the water out of the tubes, it wasn’t in long enough for it to have penetrated the bearings.
At least it got a wash, removing the cobwebs!
Earlier Meg and I had had a walk around the site of the Inclined Plane.
The stop lock on the upper arm.
The arm was dredged and relined, and the lock rebuilt in 2006, allowing the earth dam to be moved from near the mouth of the arm to where the upper docks used to be.
Dam at the end of the Upper Arm
The lock had to be made good – if this dam failed 20 miles worth of canal water would be cascading down the slope into the Lower Arm!
From the dam, looking at where the docks used to be.
The hull on the left is in the channel linking to the caissons, had it still been there.
Looking down the ramp towards the Lower Dock and Arm
The lower section was all cleaned out and new pontoons built recently, too, and years of tree and brush growth removed to reveal the ramp.
The lift was opened in 1900, heralding a new era of fast canal transport from the coal-fields in the north to the consumers in the south. Or it should have done, but the money to widen the Watford locks wasn’t forthcoming, so the planned-for broad-beam barge traffic never materialised.
The tanks could, and did, take pairs of narrowboats up and down the 75 foot hill in far less time than it took to negotiate the 10 lock chambers alongside, and their use also involved a fraction of the water the locks did. But the lift was expensive to run, and, as cargos moved to rail transport, it became uneconomic to keep the steam engine that provided the motive power ready for the dwindling number of boats.
In 1911 after only 11 years, the decision was made to mothball the structure, in the hope that canal transport would revive, but of course it never did, and the steelwork was dismantled and sold for scrap, the buildings, apart from the boiler house, demolished.
Now that the arms have been restored, the next stage in the total restoration of the site is the rebuilding of the Upper Dock and rails, and construction of two new caissons. Then there’s the building of an engine house for the motors to haul them. A snip at around £15m… But wouldn’t it be a wonderful attraction for this part of the country!
This morning we decided to drop down the locks fairly early, to avoid the majority of gongoozlers that flock the locksides on a pleasant weekend. So we were on the water point just above Lock 1 at half-nine.
While we were filling I walked down to find the duty lockie and book in, and was told to come straight down. A quick jog back up the hill, fill the top lock, disconnect the hose and we were in the top half of the staircase 15 minutes later.
Looking down into Leicestershire
The brick building on the right is the old boiler house, now housing the museum.
Worth a quick look.
The slideshow is interesting…
That’s a familiar boat, Mo and Ness’s NB Balmaha outside the pub! Where else…
Forty-five minutes top to bottom today, passing an uphill boat in the midway short pound.
The volunteer lock-keeper, Malcolm, helped a single-hander down, then came back up to us for the last couple of locks. It turns out he reads this (amongst others), so thanks for your help, Malcolm! Hope you had a good day.
Mags doesn’t quite believe the size of whatever it is Malcolm’s describing…
Below halfway, the Foxton Locks Inn on the right
Water rushes into a side-pond as I empty a lock
Bottom Lock, complete with onlookers on the bridge, inevitably.
We swung round into the entrance of the Bottom Arm to finish off our interrupted tank-filling, and to empty a loo and rubbish, then Mags brought Seyella through the swing bridge and we set off towards Market Harborough.
There was one other interruption, Foxton Swing Bridge, which had to be negotiated.
Through Foxton Swing Bridge
We had no intention of heading all the way into town today, instead pulling in about halfway, beyond Gallows Hill Bridge.
Good TV and cracking internet here. I bought a PayG SIM for the iPad recently, an Orange/EE one. It was picking up 4G earlier! I still can’t register it though, I can’t work out how to send and receive text messages on the iPad!
And that’s the whole point really. It’ll be easier for Mags to text family and friends on there rather than the rather arcane keypad on her phone.
Locks 10, miles 3