Canal Cuttings March 22

To date this winter has been mild, so no problems with ice. Ice was a big issue in commercial days, and special ice-breaking boats, drawn by teams of horses, would be deployed to force a channel through. (Two examples are on display behind the sideponds at the locks). Nowadays the many moored boats and climate change make thick ice a less frequent occurrence. The lengthy maintenance stoppage at Watford (Northants) lock flight is due to finish at the end of February, so hopefully we will start to see more boats coming this way.

Number-plate recognition parking

Canal & River Trust have obtained planning permission for a new number-plate recognition parking system. People will then pay according to the length of their stay, rather than a blanket charge – which is off-putting to those who only want a quick walk or visit, especially in the winter. Maybe it will lessen the numbers that have been parking in the village or at Debdale.

Towpath repairs in the pipeling

There are some positive moves regarding the towpath between the village and the locks, which becomes badly waterlogged in wet weather. The towpath was originally surfaced in the 1990s, between MH and Debdale, as part of the millennium Sustrans cycle route project, and subsequent responsibility for its upkeep has been a little unclear. Local groups have done various repairs over the years, but it is now beyond the scope of volunteers. Hopefully improvements are now in the pipeline.

Silt and stones block the swingbridge

The village swingbridge has undergone some maintenance with CRT clearing out the running tracks which fill up with silt and stones that run off the land above, making the bridge very difficult to operate.  This is the first obstacle that hirers from Union Wharf encounter, and many struggle. It was temporarily closed to road traffic.

CRT welcomes new volunteers

CRT have recruited a team of new volunteers for the coming season, and as well as helping boaters through the locks and enlightening visitors, they will be running a second-hand bookshop in the top cottage (in the room opposite the Coffee Stop) and a ‘Welcome Station’ in the old stable. There are plans to have guided walks round the site every day. 

Circular walk around the Inclined Plane

The path alongside the top Inclined Plane arm is finally fully open, so there is now a good circular walk available. Our regular pair of swans is currently investigating nest sites there, although last year their eggs unfortunately failed to hatch. The Incline slope itself remains fenced off, as apparently there are newts hibernating in the concrete rail grooves, which must be dealt with by experts.

New Volunteers always welcome

Foxton Canal Museum is looking for volunteers to act as welcome guides to help visitors to get the most from their visit to the museum and the Foxton Locks site. An interest in local history is useful but not essential as training will be given. Helping with entry and the shop would also be welcomed. Just a few hours or odd days all help. Contact Currently the Museum is open at weekends, 11am-4pm, but further days will be added in the next couple of months.

Mary Matts