I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Monday 9 September 2013

Top of Foxton Locks (Grand Union – Leicester Line) – Saturday 7th September

 A lovely morning in a lovely spot.  We thought we ought not to languish in bed as Ray and Diane are early risers and we didn’t want them coming past expecting us to be ready only to find all the curtains closed!

We moved up to the swing bridge and waited until the others appeared then opened the bridge and we all made our way up to Foxton.  The men wandered up to see the Lock keeper to book in while Diane made bacon sandwiches J 
View up the locks
View back down the locks
The lock keeper explaining how it all works

NB Isobel coming into the lock below us
It took us 1¼ hours to lock the three boats up the 10 locks and 75 feet.  We went first followed by Isobel and then Ferndale.  There were three lock keepers working so Mike had help and it all worked like clockwork – we just had to remember red before white and we are all right, white before red and we are dead!  I found this on the internet which explains what I mean.  “The water is controlled by paddles painted red or white. In effect they are big taps, turning the water on or off. Red paddles fill locks, white empties them.  Get the sequence wrong and you risk flooding the pub!” 

When Benjamin Bevan was given the job of designing locks he faced two major problems. The first was water, which was in short supply on the 20 mile summit pound of the canal. The second was the steep escarpment which he needed to use to get the canal from one level to the next. The flight was built in 1810, and the top summit route opened four years later. Foxton Locks are the largest flight of such staircase locks on the English canal system. Side ponds provide reserves of water for the locks, prevent wastage and speed up traffic.

The site of the inclined plane
The locks at Foxton are narrow  and by 1897, the Grand Junction Canal Company were keen to meet demand from carriers seeking to use wider beam craft, rather than the traditional narrow beam boats, which were the only type the locks could accommodate. Their solution was to build an inclined plane to the side of the locks. Initially, the company had planned for the plane to replace the locks, rather than having it act as a second, faster option. Construction began in 1898 and was finished by 10 July 1900.  (Rather than me bore you with details of the inclined plane check it out here on Wikipedia).  In 1926, dismantling of the incline's machinery began, and it was sold for scrap in 1928 for a mere £250. That year the chimney on the engine house was demolished and its bricks used for various canal repairs – how sad.

The statue of the canal boat horse
We moored up at the top and recovered – well that’s my excuse anyway.  I caught up on the blog – however we are moored beside a statue of a canal boat horse and the amount of people who knocked it wondering what it is made of were really annoying – I kept thinking they were knocking on the boat!  Ray and Diane went to the museum and Richard took Muffin for a walk and then we all met up, along with Mike, to visit the Foxton Inn where we sat and watched other boat users.  The pub serves Doombar, one of Richard’s favourite brews and I think Mike and Ray are rather partial to it too!  Diane and I decided to go back to the boats to watch Strictly Come Dancing and Ray joined us.  Richard and Mike finally wandered back about 2 hours later!

Clarkes Bridge to the top of Foxton Locks
1.27 miles
10 locks
2 swing bridges

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