6 Hours / Day • 20 locks
This route lets your mind escape to a place that is not as far off the beaten track as the canal would have you believe. A lazy cruise ambling uncluttered countryside, deliciously dosed with a flight of energetic locks to work through.
The historic market town of Market Harborough has attracted shoppers ever since the early 1200s, and the tradition still thrives today. There’s also a museum and plenty of pubs. Leaving the town behind, the canal lures you to quickly slow your pace and savour every peaceful moment until you reach Foxton. Here, one of the highlights of your journey awaits, with a staircase flight of 10 locks scrambling 75ft uphill. The passage of boats through these locks is the quiet drama that remains unchanged since the flight first opened in 1812.
In its heyday Foxton Locks was travelled by horse-pulled haulage boats laden with cargoes of sugar, tea, soap, tinned food, chemicals and paper. Look out for the old stables opposite the top lock, and allow time to visit the museum and explore the remains of Foxton Inclined Plane. The plane once lifted boats from the canal at the bottom of the hill, hauling them over dry land to the higher levels. This method of lifting boats up the hill took a fraction of the time of travelling through the locks, but after only 10 years in service the plane was deemed too expensive to maintain and was abandoned in 1911.
Carrying onwards from Foxton along the Grand Union Canal - Leicester Section, there are no locks for around 20 miles. Open views are only temporarily blackened by Husbands Bosworth Tunnel (1,166yds/1,066m long), and shortly beyond North Kilworth Wharf, there’s the option to detour for 1½ miles along the Welford Arm to explore Welford and the reservoirs which supply the canal with water.
Back on the main canal the sense of isolation increases, with only trees occasionally breaking the silence of the landscape. The canal meanders through bridges and round curious hills, and seems to deliberately miss the region's villages.
Just after bridge 15 outside Crick, use the winding hole to turn your boat around in preparation for the return journey. It's worth mooring for a while and taking a short walk along the towpath to explore the village and visit the site of the annual Crick Boat Show at Crick Marina. And if you collide with the weekend of the show in May you can look forward to plenty of busy festival fun and traffic jams of bunting and gleaming boats. From bridge 15, as you retrace your cruise back to Union Wharf at Market Harborough, the route comes to life again with a surprisingly different viewpoint.
The following are examples of the boats that you can hire from ABC Boat Hire at Union Wharf Marina:
Alvechurch Grebe - For a maximum of 4 people, 2+2 Berth, Length 49ft, Cruiser Stern
Alvechurch Eagle (6 berth) - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+3 Berth, Length 66ft, Cruiser Stern
Alvechurch Thrush - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+2 Berth, Length 66ft, Semi-traditional Stern
Alvechurch Eagle (7 berth) - For a maximum of 7 people, 4+3 Berth, Length 66ft, Cruiser Stern
Union Wharf Gosling - For a maximum of 8 people, 6+2 Berth, Length: 63FT, Semi-Traditional Stern
Alvechurch Owl - For a maximum of 10 people, 6+4 Berth, Length 70ft, Crusier Stern
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