We woke to a very sunny morning -- which we weren't expecting as the forecast was for heavy rain from lunchtime onwards. We set off just before 8am; continuing north on the mainline actually means a left turn at Welford Junction.
From the junction, we were on waters we haven't travelled for three years, and much of it rang no bells at all. It was a beautiful morning, through, with some great reflections.
One bit I did remember was where the Laughton Hills are on one side of the canal. It's a very pretty section.
It took about two and a half hours to reach the top of Foxton Locks. These are ten locks, in two staircases of five, with a passing place in between. They're controlled by lock keepers, so I went to book us in. The lock keeper at the top said the one at the bottom of the hill was in charge, so he radioed him to say we wanted to join the queue. He said there was one boat on its way up, then it would be the turn of the three boats at the top to come down.
We then experienced some of the worst lock keeping we've ever seen. When the uphill boat had arrived, the boat at the front of the downhill queue went into the top lock. I was about to shut the gate behind him, when the lock keeper at the bottom radioed to say that we was sending two more boats up. The lockie at the top said he'd also got a boat in the lock, but was told the uphill boats had to come up first. The lock keeper at the bottom wouldn't even let the boat go down to halfway. So the boat had to reverse out; the other boats, including us, had shuffled up, so there was nowhere for him to moor -- so we suggested he come alongside us.
With the prospect of a wait of at least an hour, we treated ourselves to a mid-morning snack from the top lock cafe, of either sausage or bacon baps. The second uphill boat was really slow, so it seemed an age before we could set off. But eventually, the downhill queue, now five boats, began the decent. Then news filtered back up that there would be another delay, because the lock keeper at the bottom had allowed another boat to start up. They'd apparently said they knew what they were doing, so he calculated they'd make it to the middle passing point before the first boat down got there -- but they were a Canal Boat Club crew, who clearly didn't know what they were doing. Consequently, there were boats in all the top five locks, something you very rarely see, as there's normally a lock between each boat.
Of course as soon as we'd started the locks, the rain had arrived, and at times it was really quite heavy. But we were eventually down the ten locks, and moored on the almost empty moorings just last the junction. We decided to go for a late lunch at Bridge 61, and then also visited the little museum, now called The Boilerhouse, which is small but perfectly formed.
It's been raining on and off all afternoon and boat and foot traffic are both lighter than you might expect.
8 miles, 10 locks. (62 miles, 33 locks)