Bridge 61, Foxton Locks, May 2017

A busy bank holiday weekend on the Grand Union canal. In its heyday it could take 5 hours to navigate this flight of ten locks, the longest set of staircase locks in Britain. Nowadays it takes about 45 minutes. These Grade II listed locks on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union canal are over 200 years old. They demonstrate how 19th century canal engineers solved the problem of getting boats up and down a steep hill.

Alongside the locks there are side ponds which provide reserves of water for the locks and prevent wastage. Behind the boiler house is evidence of another amazing feat of engineering, the inclined plane boat lift, which was the other way of getting boats up and down the hill. This was in operation for 10 years at the start of the twentieth century until it became uneconomic, with parts sold for scrap in 1928.

There are 2 pubs here (you can see the other one in the background of my beer photo), and they were both absolutely rammed on this sunny-ish Sunday afternoon. We’d already tried to find a table at the Foxton Locks Inn (where we’ve been a few times before) but it was all booked up all day.

We managed to grab a picnic bench outside the other pub, Bridge 61, which is housed in what is believed to be the old accommodation quarters for the workers on the inclined plane. They have a simple and competitively priced menu which enables them to cope with the enormous demand on busy days such as this. All the usual stuff is here, pies, pastys, sausage rolls, jacket potatoes and various sandwiches such as bacon, sausage, cheese, ham, tuna mayo, pork, chicken and beef. There’s also a chilli, a stew, a curry and that pub classic of a ploughman’s. You pay at the bar and collect your order at a little hatch when sitting outside.

My lunchtime pint (above) was a Sigma Gold from The Langton Brewery who are just round the corner from here. A crisp golden ale which went very well with the Ploughman’s, which was standard pub stuff.

This is a no-frills pub which seems to cope reasonably well with the huge demand, although they could probably do with a few tips on the most efficient way to take orders on a busy bank holiday.

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