Sunday, 22 May 2011

Market Harborough

Market Harborough
20th April 2011

You may have thought that my post which ended in Market Harborough didn't really do Union Wharf justice. Market Harborough is an interesting destination and I felt it justified a post of its own.

Union Wharf - Market Harborough

I have to admit this I arrived with high expectations. After all, this was the site of the inaugural IWA festival back in the 1950's and all those grainy black and white photos suggested a location redolent with atmosphere.

The mere existence of the canal to Market Harborough is a story in itself. The original plan had been to build a wide beam canal to connect the Erewash canal system to Northampton and then on to London but as was so often the case the project ran out of dosh at what is now Debdale Wharf. After a number of years more money was raise and work progressed as far as Market Harborough but there it stalled again, this time for good.

In the end the Grand Union Canal Company despaired and built an alternative route from Foxton to Crick, leaving the five lockless miles to Market Harborough as an arm.

Early morning tranquility of the Market Harborough Arm

As for Union Wharf - it spectacularly fails to deliver on its promise. Sure it is all spick and span as you would expect from one of Leicester's up market dormitory towns, and unquestionably safe but it is sanitised to the point of tedium.

Little of the old remains, with the basin surrounded by flats and housing. This residential bias means that quiet is valued over all and that in turn means that what should be a honey pot location dosnt even have a pub - just a restaurant which only sells bottled beer.

OK, the BW facilities are all there but the basin set up means that visitors have nowhere to stop and have to skulk away beyond the entrance to fine one of the scarce moorings. There are a few long term moorings but most of the space is taken up by a huge fleet of "hire a canal boat" craft (Canaltime was so much more catchy, don't you think?).

Smelly Fish, Blood and Bone meal factory

So, I guess I could best describe Union Wharf as over restored and devoid of character. A regeneration architect's dream but a history buffs nightmare. As for visiting boaters, is OK. Bland, safe but ultimately unmemorable.

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