Event marks the start of canal’s 200th birthday

Narrowboats gather during the Foxton Locks Easter boat festival.'PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER
Narrowboats gather during the Foxton Locks Easter boat festival.'PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

A total of 40 historic narrow boats were among the highlights of a weekend at Foxton Locks to launch the 200th anniversary of the Grand Union Canal in Leicestershire.

Many of the boats, aged between 70 and 100-years-old, had previously been used to haul coal or minerals along the canal.

The event was organised by the Historic Narrow Boat Club (HNBC) and coincided with a weekend of Easter family fun at the district beauty spot organised by the Canal and River Trust.

Sarah Hale, from the boat club, took her boat Chertsey to the event. It used to carry goods along the canal.

She said: “More than 40 boats made the gathering and joined in a parade at Foxton.

“We attracted a great deal of interest from the visitors to the locks.

“We even had musicians playing on deck.”

The weekend included craft stalls, a children’s Easter egg hunt and talks on what life used to be like on the waterways for working boat people.

John Best, chairman of the south-east waterways partnership for the Canal & River Trust, said this year was a special one for Foxton Locks and the Grand Union Canal in the county as it celebrated its 200th anniversary.

He added: “Opened in 1814 and built by canal engineer Benjamin Bevan, this stretch of canal links Foxton with the Norton Junction in Northamptonshire.

“Foxton Locks is a great place to spend a few hours and enjoy some spring sunshine.”

There are several events being held at the locks and the Foxton Canal Museum to mark the anniversary this year. For more details, see the website www.fipt.org.uk/museum.html.

Meanwhile, a canals expert will speak about the 200-year history of the Old Union Canal tomorrow (Friday) night.

Mike Beech will be the speaker for the Old Union Canals Society meeting at Great Bowden Village Hall.

Mr Beech is heavily involved with the Foxton Inclined Plane Trust and Foxton Canal Musuem.

The talk starts at 7.30pm and Mr Beech will speak about the canal and its working life from the Foxton to Norton.

Call 0116 2792285 for more details.