Is this the perfect winter walk?
On Sunday I followed the upper part of the Brampton Valley Way, walked through Market Harborough, and then along the canal to Foxton Locks.
Overview of walk
- 11.5 miles in total. Flat and very easy.
- Firm surface with minimal mud.
- Varied scenery: including old railway track, a market town, a canal walk, and an interesting series of locks.
- A spooky tunnel to start the walk!
Part 1: upper section of the Brampton Valley Way, a cycle way and walking route which follows the old railway track from Northampton to Market Harborough. (If you want to walk the whole of this path, the Brampton Valley Way is 14 miles in length, and starts on the northern edge of Northampton.)
Part 2: walk through Market Harborough
Part 3: follow branch of the Grand Union Canal to Foxton locks.
Map: OS Explorer 223, Northampton and Market Harborough.
My Walk from Great Oxendon to Foxton Locks
I joined the Brampton Valley Way just south of the Great Oxendon tunnel. The A508 runs close to and parallel to the Way at this point.
There is no official car park along this section of the A508, but you could park at Great Oxendon and walk south to join the Way. (Or, if you want to miss out the tunnel, walk eastwards from Great Oxendon and join the walk just north of the tunnel, at its junction with the Macmillan Way.)
I was looking forward to walking through the tunnel. I hoped I could do it without a light, once I had let my eyes adjust to the darkness.
Maybe I was too impatient, or maybe it was just too dark, but I didn’t have the nerve to stride out without being able to see the floor. The surface was slippery and uneven underfoot.
So out came my torch. After that, it was still very dark, but at least I could see the puddles. The tunnel is 400m (1/4 mile) in length, with a ventilation shaft in the middles. It has no lights, just some reflector markers on either side.
I emerged from the tunnel and into bright sunlight. What an interesting experience! It was darker and spookier than I expected.
There are two tunnels on the Brampton Way. The second one, the Kelmarsh Tunnel, is closer to Northampton and not included on today’s walk.
As I approached Market Harborough I passed over the county border from Northamptonshire into Leicestershire. And I began to meet more people; walkers, cyclists and the occasional jogger.
At the end of the Brampton Way, I continued into the centre of the town along a path called the Millennium Mile. Market Harborough has an interesting town centre and is worth a visit in its own right. But I was just passing through…
Strangely, the beginning of the Market Harborough arm of the Grand Union Canal is very poorly signposted. You follow the B6047 heading uphill and north out of the town and look out for a turn off to the left, to find Union Wharf.
Union Wharf is the basin where the canal terminates at Market Harborough. From here I walked along the left hand bank of the canal, following the towpath, to where this arm of the canal meets the Leicester Line at Foxton Locks.
The walk was delightful with several sightings of kingfishers.
Photography was difficult because of the bright winter light and sharp contrasts under the trees, but I managed to catch one with a small fish in its mouth.
The walk continues along the canal for approximately 5 miles, a thoroughly enjoyable route.
Eventually you reach Foxton (where there is a pub) and here I met my husband. Unfortunately, the pub had run out of food, and so we missed out on our Sunday Lunch!
After a short walk further along the bank we reached Foxton Locks. Here the canal widens into a basin, marking the T junction where the Market Harborough branch of the Grand Union Canal meets the Leicester Line.
Here canal traffic can head northwards towards Leicester, or turn south to join the main trunk of the Grand Union Canal. If you are heading south by boat, you first have to negotiate the famous Foxton Locks.
Foxton Locks consists of two series of 5 locks, making 10 in total. It’s a popular area, with a museum, cafes and a car park at the top.
From the top of the locks there were lovely views over the surrounding countryside of Leicestershire.
Links to information
Long distance walkers guide: Brampton Valley Way
Wonderful, spooky personal site about the Great Oxendon Tunnel
Union Wharf Marina: Union Wharf at start of the canal
Wikipedia site: Grand Union Canal
Leicestershire guide: Foxton Locks