After the disappointment of the 14 day quarantine rules effectively ending – for the time being at least any prospect of foreign travel – it was time to check out a local attraction we hadn’t visited for years.
After a quiet cloudy morning at home we jumped into our rather under-used LoveBus campervan and headed off to Foxton Locks, near Market Harborough.
Expecting it to be jam-packed we were pleasantly surprised to find just about the right amount of visitors to give the place atmosphere but still maintain some semblance of social distancing.
It was great to actually go somewhere rather than be at home, or walking locally, and just as we arrived the sun made a welcome appearance.
I didn’t realise that this relatively local attraction, the sort of place you take for granted is the UK’s longest and steepest lock network in the UK. It’s also Grade II listed and in 2008 it became part of the European Route of Industrial Heritage.
It comprises of ten canal locks consisting of two “staircases” each of five locks, located on the Leicester line of the Grand Union Canal. Building began in 1810 and amazingly it took just four years to complete which compares very well to the major infrastructure projects of today!
Alongside the locks is the site of the Foxton Inclined Plane, another fine example of Victorian engineering which was built to speed transit through the locks. It was not a commercial success though and only remained in full-time operation for ten years.
It was dismantled in 1926, but a project to re-create it commenced in the 2000s, since the locks remained a bottleneck for boat traffic.
The view of the gently undulating Leicestershire countryside from the top of the hill is stunning and reminded me that when the sun is shining there are few places more beautiful than Great Britain.
We walked every which way up and down the various tow paths of the intersecting canals, sat and marvelled at what an extraordinary feat of engineering this would have been over 200 years ago and reflected on what life must be like under lockdown for people who’s barges were moored here.
I was even able to enjoy a bottle of beer sold at the Bridge 61 café which was opened for me by a pleasant shop assistant somewhat surreally singing the Bee Gees ‘Stayin’ Alive’ while wearing a face mask.
Everything felt just a little bit back to normal and it’s wonderful to be allowed to go a little further afield. I’m going to make the occasional day-trip to some of the other local outdoor attractions I’ve neglected to visit a big part of my next few weeks.