I felt rubbish. I’d done really well avoiding all the germs from the coughing and spluttering going on around me but it had finally got me, although I think it may have come from taking in too much swimming pool water in the week! (from another adventure I am undertaking). I forced myself out of bed and had a shower, coffee and my breakfast biscuits. The weather wasn’t great but I try not to let it influence me, it’s so easy to stay in on a miserable wet day.
Jumping into Vinnie we set off westward, down the A14 toward Northampton, destination Foxton Locks, somewhere I’d never been before but had heard good things about. I’d come across an event on Facebook, an open weekend. Having experienced a bit of canal boating (ex partner lived on a narrow boat, had to take it three days down the canal for maintenance and back, except we did the return journey in 12 hours – 31 locks – very nearly killed me!!) I thought it would be interesting to see a flight of locks at work. What I hadn’t realised, until the night before from reading comments on the thread, was that it had been drained of water for maintenance purposes. It didn’t deter me, I thought it would still be interesting to see inside a lock. The weather was awful driving there, I stopped for a coffee and I checked on Facebook, the Canal and River Trust had posted an update, their car parks were full and it was advised to use the park and ride, they gave the postcode. I was glad I’d checked. I changed my postcode and carried on. It’s not an area I’ve seen much of before, I mainly drive through the Counties neighbouring me on my way to other destinations so when I turned off the A14 and continued on I was pleasantly surprised. It was very green with rolling hills, my favourite kind of landscape, well, that and the sea!! I went straight to the park and ride, drove in and stopped.
I thought they were having a laugh!! The bus was there, waiting, but ahead of me was a quagmire of mud. I just sat and stared, debating if I should turned around, it was that bad! I’d been seen, there was a white van and a man in a high vis jacket came over to me. I wound my window down, it was pouring! I asked him if it was ok to go on it, he assured me it was, told me to park next the the others, there was only three other vehicles! So off we went, there was literally no grip. I put Vinnie in second gear to see if that helped but it didn’t! I slipped and slid my way into a spot, it was quite scary, I thought I was going to get stuck. The man came over and asked me if I’d been in second gear🙄 I may be blonde and a little challenged but I do know some stuff – granted the stuff I know isn’t always useful but I still know it!🤪 – I told him I had been, he looked surprised as I’d wheel spun and slipped a bit! Shocker!! Anyway, can’t beat a bit of car ballet 😃 I bet it’s fun doing it at speed!! The bus driver patiently waited for me to get all my gear on and slide my way back across the mud, I was very conscious of being watched and I was determined not to go arse over boobs and go splat! I came close though!! It wasn’t far on the bus, dropping me off in the car park (bottom car park) to be greeted by a friendly volunteer who told me where the toilets were (I’d already clocked them) and where the pub was. That was something I noticed throughout my visit there, all of the volunteers, and there were quite a few, were lovely, friendly and pleasant and obviously loved what they did and cared deeply about the canals.
I started off at the bottom, looking up and into the empty locks. There are 10 locks in two staircases. I really noticed how narrow they were and deep! So deep! It was fenced off either side for safety but there was still a pathway to walk on. I made my way up on the left, stopping to look at the hill where the lift used to be. Apparently there used to be terrible arguments over whose turn it was and how long it was taking so they built a lift, to hoist the boats up the hillside, it opened in 1900 but only lasted 10 years.
I crossed over the locks and walked up a bit and then turned around, the view was spectacular, more rolling hills, I used my imagination on the weather front, it would look stunning on a summers day, but it was still breathtaking.
I feel like our beautiful open spaces and rolling countryside are getting smaller. I carried on but was soon stopped by a lovely young lady who asked me if I knew anything about our canals, not a lot really. She told me some interesting facts, particularly about how they have otters that have been spotted and how they are trying to bring back Water Voles which are on the decline. Every time they repair a bank or do any work they plant seeds into the bank to make it stronger and provide more habitats. I loved the sound of this, I love anything like that, it’s really important that we give back to our planet, we take so easily – too easily – too destructive. I ended up becoming a Friend of the Canals and River Trust – another direct debit🙄 but all totally worth it when you consider what is involved in the upkeep of things that most of us take for granted and assume will always be there. I walked on up, past some boats and over a bridge then back again.
It was so lovely and peaceful but so cold, I could see my breath! On my way back down I ventured down into one of the locks.
Wow! I got chatting to one of the volunteers, he was shovelling water, trying to keep it clear. I asked what a huge hole as for in the side wall and why there weren’t any paddles in the gate – the gate was a new one, it had been handmade in Wales. He explained that the water came in from the side ponds – simply put, when a boat was in the lock it took the same water with it by zig zagging it from the ponds down the side. An invention by Benjamin Bevan, very ingenious, I asked him if maybe his wife might have had a hand in it 😉 Behind every great man……😃 Anyway, he was a nice man, I learnt something and he obviously feels passionate about the canals, I left him to his shovelling. I made my way back down to the bottom, stopping to listen to some beautiful birdsong, then onwards to the bus that happened to be there. I asked him when he was going, he said whenever I was ready! So, I paid a quick visit and jumped on, only me again! How lovely was that! I got back to the car, convinced I was going to get stuck. I took all my gear off and got in.
I pulled off in second, took it really slow and managed to get out, I looked over at the guy in his van, we gave each other a smile and a thumbs up and I was off! Phew!! It was at this point I decided to not go straight home. I turned in the opposite direction and just kept turning, I had a quick look at my map, knew roughly where I was and carried on. At one point I turned down a gated road, single track and met a car coming the other way, I reversed back but there was nowhere to pull off the road, it was all so muddy, so he reversed and found a spot. The scenery on the roads I drove was beautiful.
I love it when all you can see is fields, nothing ‘man made’ (hideous buildings anyway). I stopped to chat to a horse that was obviously miserable, poor thing, but he didn’t want to move, he may have been stuck in the mud!!
I just kept turning, unfortunately ending up on the main road again about an hour and a half later!! I still didn’t turn my sat nav on, just winged it and found my way home. I loved the whole day. I hadn’t been sure about it but I was really glad I did and I appear to have made a friend out of it! I will be going back to Foxton Locks in the Spring to see the locks full and in working order, I will be able to say I stood on the 200 year old bricks at the bottom, how cool is that!! Plus, the countryside around there is worth the trip too, it’s funny I’ve never really thought about having a look round there before, I think when I go away I always feel I should make the most of it and go a fair distance. Just shows you, you don’t know what’s on your doorstep – Go Explore!!😃