This route is in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, with the border weaving vaguely about.It is an area of leafy lanes and scattered tourist attractions. It has 3 vineyards, at Hellidon, just off the A361 Banbury to Towcester road, Chevelswarde, the original organic vineyard, at South Kilsworth, and Welland Valley just outside Market Harborough.
The area echoes with history, with the civil war battlefield at Naseby In the open fields of that small Northamptonshire village, parliament's New Model Army destroyed King Charles I's main field army
This route takes in Welland Valley Vineyard, which requires a phone call in advance to ensure that it is open. The owners do not live on site.(phone: 01858 434591 )
For this route, start in the ancient town of Market Harborough and drive north on the B6047. After about two miles from the town centre, turn left towards Foxton. The turning to the museum and canal is on the left, just before you enter the village.
The Grand Union Canal runs from Foxton To Norton Junction where it joined the Grand Junction Canal. It opened on the 9th of August 1814. from then on the canal from Foxton to Market Harborough has been known as the Harborough arm.
Foxton Canal Museum was opened in 1989 and is situated in the Boiler House of the lift which was reconstructed by Trust Volunteers. It tells the story of the lift and canals it served conserving the history for the benefit of all.
Foxton Locks are at the centre of Britain's inland waterways network. The canal north of Foxton to Leicester, the River Soar and the Trent, are wide (14 feet) as is everything south of Watford Gap, down to the Thames. The locks at Foxton and Watford were constructed at just 7 feet wide to save water and money.
In 1900, the Foxton Inclined Plane Boat Lift was opened to widen the canal, speed up traffic and save water
The Lock flight at Foxton was built in 1810, and the top summit route opened four years later. A trip through the ten locks takes about 45 minutes to climb the 75 ft hill.
The journey through the flight of 10 locks took 45 minutes, not critical when the only competition was the horse, but very significant when the railways arrived. In order to compete, the Foxton lift was built in 1900, with 2 caissons, each capable of holding 2 boats for the 12 minute ascent or descent. Even this improvement could not save the canal and the lift was mothballed in 1911
Welland Valley Vineyard
On leaving the canal site, retrace your route to the Foxton Village road, and turn right. Take the 2nd minor road on your right (just round the right angle bend) to Lubenham. In the village, turn right on the A4304 for about half a mile, before turning left to Marston Trussell. At the end of the village, the road bends to the left. About 60 yards beyond this bend, turn left. The vineyard is about a mile down this road on the left hand side. Welland Valley vineyard occupies a south facing slope, with a shop and winery at near the entrance.
If you have warned the owner of your arrival, the gate will be open and you can park inside the entrance. Red, white and sparkling wines are on sale. Full details at www.wellandvalley vineyard.com
Leave the vineyard and turn left to East Farndon. Turn right in the village. After about half a mile, the road forks. Take the left hand fork to Great Oxenden. In the village, turn left and after half a mile, turn right on the A508 to Kelmarsh. The hall is on your right as you enter the village.
Kelmarsh Hall is an 18thC house in beautiful gardens, described by Pevsner as Ďa perfect, extremely reticent design with impeccable finish. The gardens were laid out by Geoffrey Jellicoe with a formal terrace and horse chestnut avenue, leading down to a lake. It has a triangular walled garden currently being renovated with the aid of national Lottery funding.The gardens are open Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from Mid-April to September.
Image from The History Re-enactment site- Copyright acknowledged