Walk 29: Foxton Locks: Slowly up or down…

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 5 miles (8.05 km)

Time to walk: About 2.5 hours, although there’s lots to stop & see around the locks themselves plus the pubs are well worth a visit. In the summer, when it’s a nice day, there’s nothing like sitting watching the boats come through, especially the first-timers getting used to it

Difficulty: Easy & a cracker of a walk! A mixture of canal paths & fields, which despite doing this walk in early February, were quite dry

Parking: Large, well signed car parks at the top of the locks – beware though, these do get very busy in the summer

Public toilets: In the car park, or at one of the two pubs, the Foxton Locks Inn or Bridge 61, at the bottom of the flight. Nothing else after that until returning

Map of the route: map

It’s been a long time since we last visited Foxton Locks &, after today, we won’t leave it so long. Although it gets very crowded in the summer, it’s a fabulous place to sit & while away a couple of hours watching the world go by

Located just outside Market Harborough in South Leicestershire, they’re within easy reach of Northampton

The staircase of 10 Grade II listed locks were opened in 1814 & raise the canal by 75 feet. On its 45 minute journey passing through a boat displaces an amazing 25,000 gallons of water

Alongside the locks is the site of the Foxton Inclined Plane, built in 1900 as a solution to restrictions imposed by the lock flight. It was not a commercial success & only remained in full-time operation for 10 years. It was dismantled in 1926, but there’s a project afoot to re-create the Plane

It’s a beautiful sunny, frosty winter’s day so…

Let’s Walk!

1. Follow the Foxton Locks signs heading towards Leicester from Market Harborough, passing Gartree Prison, home to Europe’s largest population of life-sentenced prisoners, & park in the huge car park – there’s a long & short term one. For this walk you’ll need the long stay

Don’t forget to buy a ticket & pay a loo call if required!!

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2. We were really impressed with the information on hand at Foxton Locks which starts with the boards in the car park & then follows us down the locks. It’s really worth stopping & reading each one…

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3. Exiting the car park, the route to the canal is really well marked & there’s a contained path that keeps walkers safe from the busy road…

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Again, there’s more interesting information plaques…

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“Most canals were cut before mechanical tools were invented. Thousands of navvies dug channels from one end of the country to the other, using only spades, picks & barrows, helped by horses

Canals were built to carry working boats, enabling cargoes like coal to be transported all over the country

The canal here at Foxton is known as the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal which opened in 1814″

4. This little path really is quite good as it builds the anticipation of reaching the canal…

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Looking after our small feathered friends...

Looking after our small feathered friends…

And here we are…

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5. There’s some boats moored to the left with their fires going to keep warm – you can see the ice on the canal…

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Spectacular!

Spectacular!

6. Our route to the locks initially lies under the bridge on the right & then sharp right & up & over to reach the far tow path…

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This bridge is known as ‘turnover bridge’. Again there’s another interesting plaque…

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“If you were a child leading your horse, how would you swap from one towpath to another on the opposite side without having to disconnect the rope from the boat?

The answer is the turnover bridge

Now continue your journey to the locks by crossing the wooden turnover bridge to the towpath on the other side of the canal. Try to imagine yourself as the horse attached to the boat & think about where the rope would be as you cross”

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7. Now we’re going to follow the left towpath to the top lock – it looks like there’s another interesting sculpture along here…

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This is a beautiful statue of a boy & his horse. There doesn’t seem to be any information about who the sculptor is, but they certainly deserve praise

8. There’s a couple more boats moored along here, one of which sells fudge & a further information plaque explaining the reason the canal forks here. The locks are to the left whilst the old lift route is to the right…

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Still icy...

Still icy…

Mmmmm

Mmmmm

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“Charlie Holloway, a boatman 1900 says ‘See the fork in the canal up ahead? Nowadays we mostly go down there to the boat lift instead go goin’ straight on through the locks, ’tis quicker by far, and a lot less work for yer back. Plus it gives us a chance to ‘av a quick cuppa”

9. Well Charlie today we’re going down the lock route so follow the path for a short distance until arriving at the top lock & keeper’s cottage…

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The red building on the left dates back to 1814 when it was used as stables for a stop off point for the working horses after a long, tiring day towing heavy boats

Have a look inside as you can learn more about the lives of boat horses on the canal

The white lock keeper’s cottage next door is now a coffee shop, that was unfortunately closed today. Another plaque invites you inside…

“In 1894 this was the home of Jack Cryer and his family. Jack was one of many lock keepers who lived in this cottage. Why not come inside for a cup of tea and a chat with Jack. He’ll tell you what canal life was like back then”

10. See the bridge on the right?

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Stand on here to get your first view of the flight but, if the lock’s empty, don’t look down if you have vertigo!

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11. We’re going to follow the right hand path down, but be careful as it’s a lot steeper than it looks in the photo…

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On the right is a brick building that houses the Museum which opens sometime around Easter…

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12. At the fork in the path below keep left & continue to head downwards…

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Some of the lock arms are going to need replacing soon…

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…& eventually we arrive at the bottom bridge…

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…where we can stand & admire the view back up the flight…

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13. So we’ve eventually arrived at the bottom lock &, if in need of light refreshment, we have a couple of choices. On the right is the large &, in the summer, very popular Foxton Locks Inn

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14. Fancy something a bit more traditional & local? Then follow the path down the side of the Foxton Locks Inn & over the canal to the other side…

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…where we find the local store & the smaller, more traditional pub, Bridge 61

15. Bridge 61 doesn’t have its own website, but click on the link to get Tripadvisor reviews. It really is a fab little traditional pub…

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And they also serve one of our favourite beers…Adnams

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16. It’s a little early though & we have paths to tread so maybe on the way back! In the meantime we have to cross the stunning Rainbow Bridge…

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…& here’s the view back across the basin…

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17. Once over the bridge we turn away from the basin & follow the path with the canal on our left…

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The guy on the above boat thought we were the canal authority coming to check up on him…

18. We now simply follow the canal path for 1.5 miles taking in some beautiful countryside…

We'll cross this bridge later...

We’ll cross this bridge later…

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19. Next we pass under Bridge 64…the bridges on the Grand Union Canal are all individual & all stunning. This one’s also know as ‘Pat’s Bridge’

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20. The sun’s coming up now but, with the wind chill factor, the canal’s never going to defrost today…

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..but why can’t people after they’ve picked it up just put it in a bin!!!!

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Still some old bullrushes around

Still some old bullrushes around

Looks like this one may be reused

Looks like this one may be reused

21. Slightly further along a swan was in some distress as its mate had become stuck in the ice 100 yards further along…

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Luckily, with the help of 2 others, we managed to release it & continue our walk along the towpath…

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22. Eventually we arrive at the next bridge (65)…there’s signs of spring!

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23. Under the bridge on the left we arrive at Debdale Wharf

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The above pictures don’t do it justice as there’s so many boats there either waiting repair or just mooring over the winter months

24. The path continues round the left bend & into a conservation area where the canal get’s considerably narrower with slower speed limits…

Careful it's a bit muddy

Careful it’s a bit muddy

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There’s also some superb views across Leicestershire…

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…& maybe just one left for some lucky bird…

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25. This really is a stunning stretch of the canal & there’s so many birds flying around the hedgerow here…

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The latest bridge above is number 67, Binleys Bridge…

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26. The next couple of hundred yards are pretty special…

We'll pass the farmhouse shortly

We’ll pass the farmhouse shortly

It might be a bit early but that looks like a Fieldfare to us

It might be a bit early but that looks like a Fieldfare to us

Beautiful bullrushes

Beautiful bullrushes

This little chap kept following us too…

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27. Our path away from the canal lies up & over bridge 68 where we climb over the stile on the right & then walk over the bridge…

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28. Our path back to Foxton is now really well marked – well done you land owners! It initially heads in the direction of the yellow marker up the left side of the field towards Debdale Grange which we saw earlier…

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It's a bit icy!

It’s a bit icy!

As we climb there’s some great views back to the canal…

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29. After reaching the house we pass through the gap in the hedge & continue to hug the left side until reaching the road…

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30. It seems a long time since we’ve seen a road (which is fab!) & it’ll only be a couple of hundred yards until we leave it again – our type of walking!

We turn right along the road – time to stamp some of that mud off the boots!

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Hello girls, we'll be coming to see you soon

Hello girls, we’ll be coming to see you soon

Shortly we see the fingerpost showing our way left into the field…

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31. The footpath leads us across the field towards Gumley Wood & we follow the left edge…

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We keep following those yellow posts

We keep following those yellow posts

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32. Down to the left’s a very impressive farm estate…

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..but we’re not going there so carry on sticking to the side of the wood, following those yellow markers into…a field of very friendly goats!!

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This really is beautiful countryside

This really is beautiful countryside

33. Passing through the next gate, if you fancy a look at Gumley then head straight up the hill. Otherwise head diagonally left to continue the path back to Foxton…

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We met Archie here…a little live wire…

Go on…throw that stick again!

Go on…throw that stick again!

34. It now couldn’t be easier to follow the path across the fields through gates straight back to the canal – just keep following the yellow posts…

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Dogs on the lead time

Dogs on the lead time

Excuse me missus

Excuse me missus

So now across a couple more field through the well marked gates…

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The last field

The last field

35. Finally we arrive back at the bridge we passed early & now need to cross…

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…before turning right & retracing our steps to the basin & Rainbow Bridge…

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Adnams calling…

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36. Now choose which side of the flight you want to walk up. We chose the right side…

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37. It’s a steep climb, but it was made easier by watching a buzzard flit from post to post following us up the hill…

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…& now we retrace our route to the carpark

So that’s the end of a great little walk & one that we’ll definitely be doing again in the summer once the weather’s warmer

If you haven’t been to Foxton Locks go visit as it’s close enough for us to nearly call a Northamptonshire treasure. If you have been, then go again & try this walk – you won’t be disappointed

Go Walk!!

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