On a bright and sunny October’s day, we arrived at North Kilworth Wharf to pick up ‘Lady Sienna’, a beautifully modern, 62ft semi-traditional stern narrowboat. We were kindly greeted by the staff who allowed us to unpack the car and get all our belongings onboard the boat.
Lady Sienna has a reverse layout, so the gallery and saloon area are towards the rear of the boat, whilst the mid cabin contains single bunks. The forward cabin has the double bed with double doors that lead out onto the foredeck.
Once on, we were given a full run through of all the safety and operating features of the boat by our instructor, explaining the right and wrong things to do whilst onboard and at the helm. Following this we were then taken a short distance south towards North Kilworth Marina entrance. With all of us being novices, we were taught how to steer using the tiller and throttle control and turned the boat around at the marina to head towards Foxton.
As we cruised past the wharf, we were immediately met by our first bridge which we navigated slowly under supervision still. Shortly after, the trees begin to line the canal side and the rumblings of the boat engines from the wharf behind us started to fade into just the quiet chug of Lady Sienna. We meandered round to the right before gradually pulling up alongside the towpath to let our excellent instructor off. He jumped off as the boat was gingerly moving along and wished us a good weekend. Before we knew it, we had quickly approached the entrance of Husbands Bosworth Tunnel as we saw a boat just switch off its headlight as it was exiting the tunnel. This actually reminded us to switch ours on as we entered the kilometre stretch through the rolling ground that laid above. We cruised the whole length of the tunnel being the only boat in there and took it slow, completing it in roughly 15 minutes.
The canal remains rather rural and remote, but still offers incredibly attractive countryside mixed with flat farmlands and rippling hills. As we cruised North East, we passed a number of bridges along this quiet stretch before, to our surprise, arriving at the top of Foxton Locks. There were no moorings available past Gumley Road Bridge (no. 60) but luckily there was a winding hole, allowing us to turn the boat around a moor up just past the bridge. Once moored, we stook a stroll down past the Foxton Locks and crossed the footbridge at the bottom to allow us onto the towpath of the Market Harborough Arm and headed towards Foxton village. We found The Black Horse on our travels, a charming and warm village country pub. Once we had indulged in some lovely traditional pub food we stayed and enjoyed live music entertainment before heading back to the boat, which was ever so toasty as we had the wood burner going whilst we enjoyed the pub!
We awoke on a beautifully sunny autumn morning and got some breakfast on the go using the brilliantly crafted galley and made ourselves a full fry up. Using the outdoor furniture of tables and chairs, we ate on the fore deck watching Sunday morning dog-walkers pass by. With our stomachs full, we went in search of a CRT volunteer to give us a place in the queue to head down staircase of the Foxton Locks. Luckily, there was no queue and we able to walk back to the boat, cast away and make our way down the locks as the first boat for the day! At the bottom of the locks, we kept right and headed onto the Market Harborough Arm, approaching first a swing footbridge which we opened to get Lady Sienna through and this was shortly followed by Foxton Swing Bridge (no. 4) that required the waterways key to operate. This stretch of the arm became very narrow at points but the long reeds that lined it made it incredibly picturesque and quiet, with the gently wash of the boat and the wind refracting off the reeds the only noise to be heard. Some friendly fisherman even alerted us to stay in the middle of the canal where possible due to shallow parts by the bank.
The scenery on the canal changes along the way, with the trees becoming tall and more enclosing halfway down and after this, opposite the towpath side, the vast green gardens of immense houses back onto the canal all the way into Market Harborough. We moored up at the visitor moorings just before Union Wharf. Our map book showed that there were rubbish disposal facilities at Union Wharf so we brought our rubbish with us before heading into town. As it was a Sunday, the town was quite busy but we managed to walk around and even passed a grand building standing on wooden carved pillars, which used to be the Old Grammar School up until the late 1800s, but is used today as a meeting hall. Seeing the sights from pootling around the town made us a little parched, so we stopped in The Freemason Arms for late lunch. Afterwards, we made the short 20-minute walk back to Lady Sienna, lighting the fire halfway through our quiet evening to keep us warm and toasty as the temperature dropped on an incredibly autumnal night.
With an early start on Monday morning, we set off towards Foxton Locks, arriving just before midday. As we began to moor at the bottom of the locks, a CRT volunteer came over and told us that there was no queue at present, and that we could proceed through the locks imminently, so we did! After the hard work of completing the 10 locks for the second time, we decided to get some well-earned ice cream at the Lock Keepers Cottage, located right beside the top lock. We then walked over and visited the site of the Foxton Inclined Plane, a boat lift built in 1900 as a solution to various issues caused by the Foxton Lock flight at the time. After seeing the scars of this once short-lived operating site, we walked back down to the bottom lock and sat outside Bridge 61, a warm and comfortable pub named after the bridge next to it, which is a popular stop with narrowboaters.
Next, we headed back down the canal, passing Husbands Bosworth Tunnel and North Kilworth Wharf. We continued past the boatyard and came to Welford Junction where we kept left on course for Welford. This arm is very quiet with just a few bridges and a couple kinks along the way. After a short while cruising we approached a lonely looking lock in a beautiful area, taking us from open flat farmlands into a tree canopied stretch of the canal, which eventually took us to Welford Wharf for the evening. Once moored, we trundled to The Wharf Inn for our last evening for a couple drinks. The kitchen was in fact closed, but the staff we helpful enough to recommend a takeaway that we enjoyed on the boat.
Up at the crack of dawn on Tuesday morning, we swiftly got on our way travelling back up the Welford Arm in order to return the boat back to the yard for 9am. As we were the last ones through the lock the previous night and first through in the morning, it was interesting to see how the water level of the canal between the wharf and the lock had risen significantly overnight. Once passed the Welford Junction, we were doing well for time so managed to pull up along side the towpath and stop to take in some amazing views of the land whilst making our last breakfast. We then took our final 20 minute cruise, taking everything in before arriving at North Kilworth Wharf ready to hand the boat back on time.
‘Lady Sienna’ is a truly beautifully crafted boat, with careful consideration and thought put into every last detail of each aspect of the boat. It is perfect for extended families, close families and couples alike to enjoy with single and double beds available. The bathroom is spacious and the waterfall shower is definitely a luxury feature on a narrowboat! The reverse layout creates a lovely social environment for the helmsman and crew to enjoy while the foredeck allows for eating and drinking comfortably outside whilst stationary or cruising to enjoy the tranquillity the canals have to offer. Don’t be afraid to book this in the winter months either as the solid fuel stove keeps the boat incredibly toasty! The route up to Foxton and Market Harborough also lends itself to beginners as you can experience and learn the locks with the help of CRT volunteers, whilst the canal offers stunning countryside, canopied treelines and excellent pubs for all to enjoy.
Why not get excited for 2023 and book early to get ensure you get the dates you want! Our website shows live availability and pricing (see below), and we are open 6 days a week on 01252 796400 if you would like to speak to one of our friendly advisors about booking Lady Sienna.