Thursday, 6 July 2017

Swing bridges near Foxton

There are two swing bridges to negotiate near Foxton. The first is a pedestrian bridge guarding the entrance to the Market Harborough Arm. This requires a BW key. The helmsman moors up to the left of the bridge while the crew walks across, unlocks the bridge (if clear of pedestrians?!), swings it to the side letting the boat through, then returns it to position before walking back to hop on to the boat moored nearby. This is a quirky little episode but not challenging - unless you're a solo boater. Incidentally it was broken on our last visit (July 2017) - open to boats but pedestrians are re-routed to the fixed bridge.

The second swing bridge is a mile or so further on and, because it is a road bridge you are moving has more safety features, is heavier, and has the added burden of the responsibility for delaying the cars waiting for you to finish.
It may be helpful to describe how to use this bridge so you can approach it with more confidence.
Bear in mind that everything must be done in the correct sequence with every catch, key and barrier slotted in to its correct place or you (and the fuming traffic) will be frustrated.
Also, it's impossible for solo boaters, who must wait for another passing boat to give a hand.

1. Moor up at the bollards before the bridge.
2. Take BW key then walk to and across the bridge
3. Read instructions carefully ...

then insert BW key in the control box (on left of this picture) and give it a quarter turn.

4. If road is clear of traffic, walk back across the bridge and swing the barrier across the road.
5. Walk across the bridge again and close second barrier.
6. Pull red handle to disengage the hook holding the bridge in place.
7. Now you can push, with all your weight, the long grey bar that moves the bridge. Keep going until canal is completely clear.
8. Indicate boat to pass through. Check there are no other boats coming.
9. When boat is completely through close bridge by pushing or pulling on the long grey bar. Make sure it is fully lined up with the road's white lines and check the catch is back into position. Leave the key in!
10. Open the first barrier and push the end into its slot.
11. Walk back across the bridge and open the second barrier.
12. Walk across bridge again to reclaim key and apologise to queue of traffic.
13. Walk back across bridge (for the sixth time!), through the other gate to your boat.

Congratulations. Can you do it quicker next time?

To Market Harborough

The previous post recorded a trip from Welford through Foxton Locks towards Market Harborough, which was then aborted due to a tree across the canal. We repeated this trip and succeeded in reaching Market Harborough this time.
The weather throughout was a perfect balanced of a slight breeze, sunshine and warmth which highlighted the peace and beauty of both the Leicester line and the Market Harborough arm. For us this offers us a restful passage through overhanging greenery punctuated by a tunnel at Husband's Bosworth, the impressive locks at Foxton and the interest of two swing bridges with a final destination in the attractive market town of Market Harborough. It's just two hours from Foxton to Market Harborough, offering a pleasant day out from Foxton.
Market Harborough arm
We recommend the museum and library here, situated in The Symington Building, the old corset factory. We also remember that pioneer of the canal revival, LTC Rolt visited the town in "Cressy" (see chapter 12 of Narrow Boat), and later, with Robert Aikman, proposed the first boat rally at the town, in 1950.
We moored at the beginning of the Market Harborough Arm, which is off the Leicester Line of the Grand Union, with the choice of refreshment from Bridge 61 traditional pub, Foxton Locks busy restaurant and - our preference - The Black Horse at Foxton. We note there is also a steak house at Foxton but we opted for The Black Horse which is just right for us with a range of beers and excellent pub grub, plus wi-fi.
The bottom lock at Foxton
It was a relaxing trip with the exception of one pushy boat who forced his way in front of us and sped ahead at a rate we had neither desire nor ability to compete with. "It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive" and "Boating is the fastest way to slow down" are firmly in our minds.