Canal Cuttings April 2021

Brisk Bookings for Boat Hire

From Monday 12 April all boaters were finally allowed to move. Hire boats could start up again, albeit still with restrictions on numbers and households.

So, there was a bit of a rush. However, it was good to see boating activity after a long dull boring winter. Bookings are brisk, but we will feel the loss of the Canaltime fleet from Union Wharf making their regular passage along the Harborough Arm. The standard towpath mooring regulations are back in place.

Unfortunately, no sooner had the locks re-opened than the operating hours were reduced to 10am to 4pm. The Canal & River Trust needed to drain Sulby reservoir (which feeds the summit) for repairs. This will deter boaters from venturing up the Leicester Section, as the locks at the other end of the summit at Watford Gap are the same. People do not want to spend their long-awaited cruising time in a queue.

Track & Trace remained in place

Visitors were pleased to be able to use the pub gardens again, although the April/May weather was generally not very conducive to sitting around outside. Track & Trace regulations apply over all the premises, even for those only going inside to use the toilets. This may be unfortunately rather tedious and time consuming for both customers and staff.  From Monday 17 May people were allowed inside again, but still with social distancing and other rules.

National Census on the waterway

The recently conducted national census has always been a bit of a tricky area as regards people on boats. Past censuses for Foxton from commercial days vary considerably; some give meticulous details of boats and their crews. Others just say for instance ‘17 on boats’, and others list none. I find it hard to believe that there were ever no boats, Foxton being an obvious stopping place (with possibly the only drinking water between Watford and Leicester) but can believe that the enumerator came down on a cold wet March night, glanced at the tightly shuttered cabins, imagined the possibly hostile occupants, and had a sudden attack of myopia.

The 2021 census was the first to be collected mainly online. But, on the day three ladies also visited the canal in Market Harborough, Foxton Village, the Locks and Debdale Marina. This was to make sure that all boat dwellers were recorded. 

Complete re-fit at the Museum

Foxton Canal Museum, which re-opened on Saturday 5 June, has had a complete internal re-fit with many new exhibits and interactive displays. It will be open weekends only to start with. New volunteers are very welcome. Further information can be found at:; 0116 2792657 or Facebook @Foxton Locks

Floating Market traders

Over the May Bank Holiday there was a Floating Market of boat traders along the towpath south from Bridge 60 (Gumley Road, above the locks).

Many people now sell a fine selection of original crafts and other items from their boats. (It is always preferable to support small independent traders, rather than multi-million-pound foreign companies). Further information can be found at The Roving Canal Traders Association is a non-profit organisation that works with Canal & River Trust and local authorities to run an increasing number of Floating Markets.

Mary Matts