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  • clivenmel

Feb 1st

Normal 0 false false false st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} We knew that today should be fairly easy, in the sense that we didn�t have far to go; the overnight mooring was only about 25 mins from the Foxton Locks, so we didn�t need to start out early. In fact, it was grey, cold and damp when I poked my eye out of the curtain this morning, so it was a cuppa and back to bed for another hour!   Quite quickly, the sun came out and the whole day looked far more promising; we had a quick breakfast and I set off again, leaving Mel to sort out the camera; we had decided that enough was enough; we simply had to bite the bullet and empty the current memory. Now the camera has the equivalent of more than 2000 images in High Quality built into it and we still had something like 850 left. We have saved everything onto the laptop hard drive but that was it � no backup. So, Mel set to and copied everything we had onto the external drive just in case and then deleted everything from the camera. Now all�s well. We have everything backed up again and an empty camera.   This really is nice country here; rolling hills, lots of green fields and hedgerows and some spectacular properties tucked away from the road�s prying eyes but unfolding onto the canalside with sweeping lawns, stables and gardens � nice..   Foxton Locks soon appeared; I remember them from our previous holiday encounter in 2007, only this time it was cold and wintry!    Now this is what you see when you arrive but all it does is lull you into a false sense of security........................... However, once you have got yourself into the top lock and you look down, the sight that greets you is quite daunting...................................! This part of the canal system was built from around 1793 to hopefully link up Leicester to Northampton and from there, onto the Grand Junction Canal and points South. Unfortunately, they ran out of money and the link was never completed; Progress was made as far as Market Harborough, (our next stop and a dead-end) but no further. A new company � the Grand Union � took control and made the final link; Norton over to Foxton using two monumental lock flights over the 20 mile summit. It�s this that has accounted for the popularity of Foxton, of all places, in the boating calendar.   Anyway, pulling up at the Top Lock, the weather just started to change and the first few flurries of snow were in the air. A quick sortie was called for to ensure no-one was coming up; no boats in sight but surprisingly, on a day like today, the place was still well supplied with folks out for a Sunday stroll, some with toddlers all wrapped up staring down into the locks. We know that the lock-keeper despairs in the summer as children clamber about the lock gates in their excitement; he is described as �living in perpetual fear of tragedy!� Couples out for a brisk Sunday walk and other assorted hangers-on, seemingly standing around, just waiting for the off-chance of a boat going through so they could see how the locks work and offer instruction and comment to those who�ve not seen it before. The interesting engineering point here, is the use of the �holding pools� set out to the right; these act as reservoirs for the down-spilling water, which can be re-used in the lock below, thus conserving water.   So today we had a loyal following of about 16 souls, many of whom struck up conversations with Mel as she negotiated the complex Red/White paddle system common to Lock �Staircase Flights�; Foxton is composed of 2 sets of 5 locks separated by a small �passing place� and so one lock empties directly into the next in two enormous bounds, dropping more than 75 ft into the basin below. As these are all single locks, it can be very complicated in the summer months when boats intending different directions are vying for the attention of the lock-keeper, who masterfully coordinates everything. In the winter months, however, there is no lock-keeper, so you have to do it all yourselves. Given the lack of general traffic, it�s usually not a big problem; you just have to be steady and patient. Actually, the fact that you have conversations with a sizeable audience helps pass the time rather well and there are always willing helpers who want to have a go; one such today was a young lad called Tom, who is 9 years old. He helped open one side of the gates all the way down, which was both kind and helpful (and hopefully educational), he also ran down to check that there were no boats coming up the second half of the flight � thanks Tom!   Eventually we arrived at the bottom lock and I pulled up immediately on the left so we could decide our final resting place for the evening. Mel had a chat with the staff in the Shop and they agreed to my pulling over onto the far bank where their pleasure craft usually sits (in the Summer months) so that we could have easy access tomorrow for my engine service and most importantly, for the Launderette next door!   Armed with a variety of bags and boxes, Mel got the first of the washing going and we fell into the local bar, called Bridge 61, that sits between the shop and the laundry�it�s a traditional boaters place overlooking the basin and was pretty busy. However, we sat and had a drink while the washing was progressing and finally after much too�ing and fro�ing, Mel valiantly managed to get it all done and dried and in recompense we had a nice meal at the Foxton Locks Inn.   The only other thing to mention is that I have a bad toothache � I�ve had it on and off for a day or two and it clearly isn�t going to resolve itself, so I�m going to chase up a dentist in Market Harborough tomorrow morning and see if I can get an emergency appointment; it�s giving me quite a bit of discomfort right now so the sooner I can get it looked at the better. In the meantime, the engine is booked in for its 500hr service and then we�ll be fighting fit again � to go to Market Harborough! I don�t know if I can wait to get there under our own steam, as it were, so depending on the phone call tomorrow, I might just get a quick taxi � it�s only about 2 miles away; it depends on timing.

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