Friday 26 July 2013

Fenny Compton Marina and home again

Tuesday 23rd July

Dave set off before 8.30 for the mile (at least) trek to the far end of the village for the bus to Leamington on his way to Springwood Haven to fetch the car.It was late, he missed the train…  didn’t get back till 3.

In the meantime, I started the cleaning etc, and wandered up to the marina to find out where we were to moor.  Passing the boat next to us, whose name seemed to be familiar yesterday, I met up with Mick and Elly again – Parisien Star, bloggers of course!  They were waiting for the water point to be free and left soon afterwards, but great to meet you both and a new addition to our blog list.

There was thunder this morning, some rain too, but no respite from the sultry heat.  I cleaned the windows outside on the towpath side but the sun was scorching and it was too hot to wash the boat as well – it’s going to have to be one of the first jobs when we are back at the end of August.  Let’s hope the weather’s not so hot – without a Houdini hatch the boat tends to overheat and the fridge can’t cope!  At least the new fuel filter seems to have solved the engine problems we were having.

Dave returned after a long tedious drive, with the satnav failing at a critical point! and we moved up into the marina, with a nice berth convenient for the car park.  Air-con on, we headed southwest, listening to radio 2 for the traffic news – no problems for us but there was a text read out from a boater stuck on the Soar because the river was in flood! no name unfortunately but we were surprised the river came up so quickly when the levels were so low last week.  It must react quickly like the Avon where we had an exciting time a few years ago.

A beautiful evening as we neared home with a massive moon rising -


With the car headlights and the phone’s flash it looks a bit weedy but it was orange and much bigger than it looks here!

Oh well, back to the drought-stricken garden (except for the bits our lovely neighbours kept watered for us, so cucumbers, peas, beans, tomatoes to look forward to!)  Off again after the bank holiday, all being well, for the trip down to Oxford, the Thames and the K&A!

Monday 22 July 2013

Flecknoe to Fenny Compton

The low hills round the canal were shrouded in cloud and it was cool and lovely!  We were away by 8, aiming to get up the Napton flight before the weather got too hot.

By 9 we were passing Napton junction and though there was no sun it was humid and sultry, not quite the weather for lock work!  You can’t pass Napton without noticing the windmill of course….

napton windmill

We paused at the bottom services to empty the cassettes and dispose of rubbish, then straight into the bottom lock kindly set for us by one of the two volunteer lockies, who set the next for us before going off for a coffee. 

We could see the other lockie setting the third lock for us as we worked through the second, before he went off for coffee, but discovered when we arrived that a boat had been waiting to come down.  He had just walked past them - what on earth was he thinking of?  On we went by ourselves again, the sun well out now …

napton locks

As we approached the road bridge at lock 12 we had some unusual company on the towpath.  There was no sign of where they had come from, so we shooed them away from the bridge to keep them off the road and reported it via 101.  escaped sheep

They and the water buffalo on the other side of the canal ignored each other totally.

water buffalo

By the time we reached Napton Adkins lock we had left the sheep behind, but as there were people at Holt Farm (the cream tea place) Deb ran up to see if they knew who they might belong to, and left them about to phone the owner.  Consciences assuaged, we cleared the locks and found a shady spot for lunch before going on to Fenny.  The afternoon’s cruising was extremely uncomfortable, a scorching sun and high humidity, and we were relieved to slip into the only remaining space on the moorings.  No shade yet! so we fled to the pub garden for an ice lolly under the weeping willow.  Hearing strange noises we investigated ….

piglets 2

As well as their little camp site the pub now has piglets to entertain the customers!  Although there is a sign warning that pigs bite, they do enjoy having their backs scratched – we could see from this one’s snout and tummy that they had been wallowing in mud to keep cool.

piglet 1

As we enjoyed a meal in the pub (cooler than outside) we could hear a few sporadic drops of rain which continued during the evening with thunder.  Because of the rain we couldn’t sleep with the sliding hatch open as normal and in spite of having the front doors open beneath the cratch cover the boat was like a sauna.

7 locks today.

Sunday 21 July 2013

Braunston to Flecknoe

We aimed to get down Braunston Locks in the cool before the clouds cleared, but had to wait a while as the CRT guy let some water down – we noticed last night that the top pound was very low.  Apparently they have to do this every morning in summer – 8am normally, 7.30 on a summer Saturday and 9 on Sundays.  As we waited another boat joined us and we were soon on our way, meeting plenty coming up.  The first pair was breasted up and we elegantly passed each other, no trouble.  The second pair had followed their example but we met in the pound below the pub, on the bend by the moored boats – not such a good idea!  We were soon down however, meeting the usual congestion at the bottom – this photo does not show the other 4 waiting their turn nor the two coming up beyond the hire boats!congested braunston

We nabbed the one space outside the marina as we needed to go shopping and visit the chandlery.  As we tied up we could hear the bells of All Saints ringing up (getting the bells ready to ring and call the faithful to worship), so Deb grabbed her purse and bag and rushed over the bridge and up the lane to join the ringers.  You can’t pass up a chance to ring at the Cathedral of the Canals!  The ringers are a friendly lot and I was delighted to be able to ring with them – 6 bells, and lovely to ring, unlike some!  Here is the tower captain Peter on the right with one of the other ringers as they ring down (leaving the bells in a safe state once the ringing has finished for the day).  Thanks to them all for the chance to join them.

braunston ringers 1

The butcher opens for  few hours on Sunday, so I was able to get some of their brilliant Braunston Bangers and some runner beans, then over to the supermarket for the paper, and back to Chuffed for a relaxing coffee with the papers while waiting for Dave to get back from the chandlery.  I even managed to get a couple of blog posts uploaded from earlier in the week.

Dave got back with a new brass fender eyelet to replace the one that sheared off at some point while we were on the Soar – the water levels were so low we should have got the tyres out for mooring fenders but didn’t bother unfortunately.  As the towpath was on the ‘right’ side Dave got the drill out to start prepping the area so we didn’t leave Braunston till after lunch, making for Flecknoe where we have moored several times before.  Now we are on the main line it’s a lot busier than we have been used to!  On the way we passed this tasteful example of graffiti, getting a bit obscured by undergrowth now …

good graffito

Deb went off for a run towards Norton Junction as the shade came across the towpath, though it was still pretty hot – and was lucky to return unscathed.  I passed a boat with the owners relaxing in the sun with their little dogs so I stopped for a chat, made a fuss of the dogs, as you do – but on my return, though I slowed to a walk to pass the dogs and wish the boaters good evening, one of the dogs took exception to my ankles and took a bite – luckily only out of my sock  and not me – but it was a salutary warning to be very careful round other people's dogs on the towpath!  It was probably my fault, in that I was maybe too close to the little dog who probably thought I was a threat, but I do think the owner could have asked if I was OK and maybe even apologised? Hmm.  I’ll be more aware in future ….

Saturday 20 July 2013

Crick to Braunston and a bit cooler (for a few hours) ……

We walked up to the Crick Village Market before we left – it’s like a little farmers’ market with cakes, crafts, jams etc but no veg, so having bought some cakes and snacks for lunch it was off to the Co-op for some salad stuff before we set of about 11.  Cruising created enough breeze for us to need long sleeves – quite a novelty this week. We only met one boat near the entrance to the tunnel, so it was an easy passage, and only slightly damp. 

Leaving the cool Crick tunnel.leaving crick tunnel

As we neared Watford locks with boats coming towards us we thought we might be lucky with the queuing and we were – just time for a quick cuppa and down we went, third in a line of 4.

Keeping well clear of the cill!going down watford 2

As we neared the bottom Dave (Chuffed) fell into conversation with Dave (What a Lark) comparing jokey boat names as What a Lark waited in the bottom pound for us to go through, with Yarwood waiting at the bottom of the flight.

Although it was lunchtime it was now so hot we decided to find a shady spot to stop, but there was nowhere suitable till we got to Weltonfield marina so we stopped to get diesel and ate while we waited.

We were almost looking forward to Braunston tunnel to get cool again (Deb hates tunnels).  As we entered we could see there was a boat coming, some way off, when we heard three loud blasts on a horn – panic! could we remember what horn signals mean?  then a loud bang boomed down the tunnel with the sound of an engine revving violently .  We crept on very cautiously and along came a tug, going very slowly.  As he passed us the helmsman burst into what appeared to be singing and echoed his way to the exit.  Moored soon after the tunnel was nb Mosame, recovering their shattered nerves as we moored above Braunston locks.  They had seen the tug bearing down on them in the middle of the tunnel with no sign of realising they were there, so they had stopped and blasted their horn – we had heard the resultant bang and engine in reverse. The guy had been singing then as well so we thought perhaps he had lunched too well at the Admiral Nelson. Idiot.

We walked down to the village but were just too late to catch the butcher, so we ended up with a boring old pizza for tea, jazzed up with some roast peppers and courgettes.  

Friday 19 July 2013

Welford to Crick

When we left at 9 our cool shady spot was still cool and shady, along with parts of the Welford arm.  Once we left the arm ….

leaving the welford arm

we were out in the sun again, though thankfully there is a cool breeze today.  We moored at Yelvertoft and walked up for a few bits and pieces.  If you look very carefully and squint a bit, you can see one of the 11 wind turbines which are intermittently visible from the canal (or maybe very visible if you are taller or stand on the roof …..)

yelvertoft 1

We had lunch and took on water, then on we went, needing the umbrella again to protect us from the sun.  This bridge (on a bend) looks as though it has had a few close encounters with boat roofs (not ours, I hasten to add!)

donked bridge 1

Passing Crack Hill, not far from Crick – we have walked up it before but chose not to this time …. the grass on the top shows how dry it has been recently.

crack hill 2

We nabbed a good spot at Crick opposite the marina with shade and plenty of space to sit outside.  Yet another trip to the shops! Deb has run out of tea!

We went to eat at the restaurant at the bridge, sitting outside as it is still so hot.  One excellent meal and one fine but very overpriced.

1 lock today and not too many miles.

Above Foxton to Welford

Thursday 18th July, posted later…

Our lovely shady spot remained cool until we set off around 9am along a very beautiful and shady section towards Husband’s Bosworth tunnel, which was blissfully cool and only slightly wet.  This is the entrance to the tunnel – just looking at this photo makes me feel cool …….

approaching saddington tunnel in the shade

Once we reached Kibworth Wharf, there were no more shady trees and we were baking hot again.   Once we had turned into the Welford Arm however the trees returned and though we had seen hardly any boats all morning, suddenly there was a queue at Welford lock – in both directions.  However we could pull into the shade while we waited.

waiting in the shade at welford lock

We earmarked a good spot to moor on our way to the winding hole at the end, and returned to moor in deep shade between the marina entrance and the lock.

After lunch we hauled out the lockers from the well deck so Dave could get it cleaned up and painted, while Deb walked up to the village for a few bits and pieces – the shop only had the basics so we will need to visit Yelvertoft tomorrow as well. This cheery chap had been carved from a dead tree stump at the end of the ‘pocket park’ leading from the pub car park to the village road – he is about 6’ tall.  It is hard to see, but he has a cat (with green eyes) carved into his left leg!

welcome to welford

The towpath is diverted round the little marina, and there were shoals of roach and a few rudd basking in the sun.  There were some larger fish as well, lurking under the pontoons, which a marina resident thought could be carp.

! lock today and not many miles.

Thursday 18 July 2013

Foxton locks and not much further

Wednesday 17th July, posted …….?

Another scorcher. The radio 4 weather said it was going to be 32 today and we reckon it was.  We set off for the locks to find that we only had a half-hour wait at the bottom, and a shorter wait half-way up, and we were done by 11 having arrived at the bottom at 9.30.  The work was easy as pie – narrow locks as well, yippee!

entering foxton bottom lock

As it’s mid-week and the schools haven’t broken up yet, there weren’t a huge number of gongoozlers, just a couple of families with little kids who asked some good questions and ‘helped’ open a gate.  We took on water before finding an excellent shady spot beyond Gumley Road bridge to moor up.  We smartened ourselves up and set off to buy ice-creams at the top lock and do a spot of gongoozling of our own.  This sculpture of a horse and child was at the top of the locks;

horse sculpture foxton

We walked round the ‘discovery trail’ and didn’t go into the museum, but saw this intriguing sundial outside in the shade;

foxton sundial 2

It only made sense once we went round the corner into the sun and saw this, which was showing the right time of 12 noon; foxton sundial 1

We looked at the inclined plane of course, though it’s difficult to take pictures that show it all!

inclined plane 2

It’s absolutely scorching in the sun and we felt sorry for the people waiting at the top of the flight.... poor old Tess would have hated this weather.  We strolled back for lunch in the shade, then Dave touched up a few bits of paintwork until the sun came round, when we set off to find a better spot which we did near bridge 51, not very much further on.  There were boats moored every hundred yards or so in patches of shade, and we had a lovely spot with a herd of cows in the field opposite to keep us entertained.  In spite of the shade, the evening was intensely hot.  The cows came down periodically to drink and splash about, which didn’t do much for the fishing!

Just the lovely Foxton flight and a couple of miles today.  Too hot for anything else.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Fleckney to Foxton

Tuesday 16th July, posted later ….

It was hot by the time we left at 8 and moved up a couple of bridges to walk across the fields to Fleckney village for some shopping.  By the time we got back it was scorching again.  We were soon into Saddington tunnel where the coolness was delightful till we emerged back into the heat.

saddington tunnel east portal

As we came out of the tunnel the engine started stuttering – it ran well for a few days after we left Springwood Haven, supposedly having had diesel bug cured, but started playing up again and has been cutting out several times a day.  We wondered whether to call out RCR but pulled into Debdale Wharf marina instead and Steve was able to have a look at it straight away.  He found that one of the fuel filters, which had both supposedly been changed during the winter service, was almost totally blocked (though the diesel was coming through completely clear, so no diesel bug then!)  He changed the filter and we were on our way within half an hour (I’m writing this on Saturday and everything’s been fine since Tuesday) – fantastic service for a casual drop-in, and they let us get rid of rubbish and recycling too.

We pulled in beyond the bridge for lunch in a shady spot, then cruised on towards Foxton using the big umbrella as a parasol.  As we approached the moorings before the locks, there was a blast on an air horn as what appeared to be a gigantic widebeam came past the moored boats, so we waited in trepidation;  it was just a trip boat, not even very big for all its noise – here it is on its return after we moored.

vagabond at foxton

We were lucky to find a brilliant spot in some shade which deepened as the afternoon wore on.  Dave repainted the port gunwale now at last the towpath is on the correct side.  After spending the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the shade, we strolled up to the Foxton Locks Inn for a meal.  The other pub, Bridge 61, was offering only beef stew, sausage yorkshires or baked potatoes, none of which appealed on such a hot evening!  so over to the other side where we sat on the shady veranda and enjoyed a good meal.

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Kilby Bridge to Fleckney

Monday 15th July posted later …..

We had a later start today; Dave cycled back to South Wigston for some shopping while Deb did some washing –  we hadn’t reckoned on this hot weather and keep running out of shorts and t-shirts!  We stopped at Kilby Bridge for water and to empty a cassette. This service area, unlike some, is extremely well kept.  There followed another series of very heavy locks, with so much weed and chunks of reed that the gates wouldn’t open properly.  The lock fairy was also having a bad day – the locks were mostly against us, and the gates that opened themselves were always the ones you wanted to stay closed and there was a lot of running back for Debby to open the bottom paddles quickly enough to keep the top gates closed!  Now we are clear of Leicester the canal is much prettier.  Some stretches we cool and shady and now and then we were cruising through clouds of willow fluff (that’s the white bits in the photos!)

bridge with willow fluff

willow fluff

We managed to find a small patch of shade at Newton Harcourt for a lunch stop – the banks are mostly very overgrown along this stretch.  The weather is scorching hot - we have drunk more squash and elderflower this last week than we did in the whole of last summer!

We thought we had been working hard this afternoon but on one of the locks there was a house being renovated; there seemed to be no road access, and there was a scaffolding lorry parked in a field one the other side of the lock.  One of the guys was carrying 2 poles at a time on his shoulder along the field edge, over the fence, across the bottom gates and 50 yards down the towpath while his mates worked in the shade erecting the scaffolding.

We found a good shady spot for the evening near Fleckney and it was time for some painting and cleaning.

We have seen some lovely wild flowers since we left Leicester; flowering rush, water plantain, water forget-me-not, arrowhead, yellow flag, yellow and white waterlilies, pretty blue meadow cranesbill, watercress, and meadowsweet perfuming the air as we passed.

13 heavy locks and 6 miles.

Monday 15 July 2013

Birstall to Kilby Bridge

Sunday 14th July, posted much later.

We were awoken at 6 by a boat going up the lock, so we got up to take advantage of the coolness.  We set off at 7.30, locking up to Leicester with another early starter who was moored a short way behind us last night.  The bottom gates at Birstall needed 2 people each side, too soon after breakfast for the crew!  The locks up to Leicester were extremely heavy and when we spotted a space at Castle Park we grabbed it.  We had some toast and tea, while the Cathedral bells were ringing for morning service.  Excellent method ringing, for those who are interested!  Then we walked up to the shops for some food for the evening and some Belgian Macaroons from a street stall “the best in the world”.  As we returned the sun broke through the clouds and it suddenly became scorching hot again.  This statue of Richard III was in the gardens;

RIII statue castle park gardens

We set off after lunch down the Mile Straight between West Bridge and Freeman’s Lock.  There is only room for 3 or 4 boats at Castle Park moorings – a pretty poor show we thought! There are rings on the towpath side but no-one wants to stop there for long.  Here is West Bridge seen as we left the moorings;

leaving castle park moorings

This stretch is kept tidy and clean, unlike the scruffy approach from the north, which is full of litter and rubbish in the canal. Looking back along the Mile Straight, you would think Leicester is a good place to moor …….

  on the leicester straight mile

The approach to Freeman’s Lock has been sown with a mix of wild flowers and looks very attractive.  The lock, as well as being another heavy one, also had a large chunk of tree in it – 10 or 15 feet long.  It was enough to prevent us holding Chuffed in to the edge of the lock.  Once the lock had filled, Dave got the boathook, and with the help of the crew from a cruiser coming down, and a delightful young Polish chap who had helped with the bottom gate, between the four of us we managed to haul it out.

After Freemans’s lock it got rather grotty again, and the locks kept coming, heavy and difficult.  Here is one of the dye works which used to cause dreadful pollution of the Soar;

dye works

We had hoped to stop at King’s Lock in Aylestone, but although there was plenty of space to moor, the towpath was very narrow and there was no room to put the chairs out without blocking the (busy) towpath, so on we went.  We couldn’t find a place nice enough to stop until Double Rails lock just short of Kilby Bridge.  This was a super spot, quiet countryside, shady and pretty.  We were hot and tired and thankful we had opted to cheat and buy a ready meal for tonight!

18 heavy and horrible double locks, 13 miles.  We are so looking forward to Foxton!

Watermead Park to Birstall and a visit to Leicester

Saturday 13th July posted who knows when?

We left our pretty mooring in a cloud of willow fluff blowing off the roof which Dave had so carefully cleaned last night!  We had a short cruise to Birstall where we moored by the trees below the lock.  We walked up to the village and caught the bus into Leicester which was great because we could go upstairs at the front! Our local bus at home doesn’t have an upstairs so this was a great start to the day.  As it was Saturday the streets were thronged with shoppers and strollers, lots of street stalls and the largest market in Europe.  We wanted to visit the Richard III exhibition at the Guildhall and on our way we passed the original excavation site where his skeleton was discovered.  There is a viewing platform, some information boards and the team of archaeologists working on site.  One was giving a short talk to the visitors and answering questions – it was brilliant!  Here is a view of the whole site; the area was the car park of a school which was closed for redevelopment.  As it’s an ancient city site the archaeologists from the uni got to excavate before the builders moved in and bingo!  they found part of the friary which had been dissolved and demolished in the time of Henry VIII.  It’s not very big is it?  I had got the impression it was a huge council car park.

archaeologists at work

The next photo shows the spot where his skeleton was discovered. The skeleton is currently still at the uni being studied until it is formally buried again, probably in Leicester Cathedral though there is some controversy over this.  The dig will become a visitor centre site and his grave (hastily dug by the friars after the body had been carried in triumph to Leicester from Bosworth Field by Henry VII) will be preserved for people to see.  It’s currently protected by a sheet of plastic covered with sand, the spot being indicated by the ‘R’ on the orange barrier behind it.

here layeth RIII too

They have found other human remains, which will be given a decent reburial at some point, and a stone sarcophagus which hasn’t yet been investigated but which was probably the grave of someone locally important .  They also found some places where the mediaeval floor was still in place with its floor tiles – the best examples are in the exhibition but we got to handle two examples of broken ones;

mediaeval tile 1   mediaeval tile 2

It is amazing to be handling artefacts that until recently had not been touched for hundreds of years!  Although they were damaged you could see the amount of work that had gone into their production.  The talk, given by a practising and enthusiastic archaeologist, was totally free and the best history lesson we have ever had. 

We went on to the exhibition in the Guildhall, which was interesting but not large.  We saw a 3-D print reconstruction of his skull, showing the battle injuries (sorry about the reflections from the glass case), but unfortunately the reconstruction of his head and actual features has gone off on a tour of museums so we had to make do with a picture.

RIII 3d printed skull reconstruction

There was a touch-screen display of his skeleton with explanations of his injuries and the scoliosis which twisted his spine.  Fascinating. The Guildhall itself is beautiful but was not open to visitors that day.

leicester guildhall

We walked down to Castle Park to look at the moorings (room for 3 boats only, pretty poor), then as the weather had become oppressively hot we had a quick lunch in a shady cafe and caught the bus back to Birstall where thankfully Chuffed lay in deep shade.  We did a quick bit of shopping in the Co-op (air-conditioned, hurray!) and got rid of the recycling as the thunder rolled.  We discovered later that there had been short rainstorms north and south of us but we didn’t see a drop.

We had a beer in the pub garden and then fish and chips from the excellent chippie, followed by a pleasant stroll around another of the Watermead Park lakes, where we watched terns fishing and Great Crested Grebes diving.  As with long stretches of the Soar yesterday, there were great banks of nettles and we were delighted to find some black hairy caterpillars munching away;

nettle caterpillars

The flash on my phone makes it look a bit odd but the white bits are where the caterpillars had eaten the leaves.  They could be Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell or Comma, but whichever they are they must be having a better year than last year!

Sunday 14 July 2013

Sawley Cut to Loughborough

Thursday 11th July, posted later ….

An early-ish start at 8.15, because we are hoping to get to Loughborough in time for Deb (who is a bell-ringer) to get to the Bell Foundry museum which closes at 4.

In my haste to get yesterday’s blog posted while the laptop battery held out I forgot these photos of two of the houseboats on the Erewash;

cool houseboat

Not such a nice houseboat but a cool dinghy!

houseboat with swan dinghy

The paired Sawley locks are BW Key operated, so very easily descended, and it was out onto the Trent which is very wide below the locks – this is looking back towards the locks.

leaving sawley locks

In the distance was the entrance to the Erewash canal at Trentlock;

entrance to erewash canal

and this shot proves that Debby does drive sometimes!  and she truly is not as worried as she looks – the sun was in her eyes, honest!


As the Trent went east towards Nottingham we swung round to the south towards Thrumpton Weir and the mouth of the Soar.  Although the water levels are fairly low we could still feel the push of the Soar as it joined the Trent.  Here is the weir with the railway crossing it. – much further away from us than it looks here.

thrumpton weir

We have seen a lot of widebeams since Shardlow, and there were plenty more moored along the lower reaches of the Soar, though none in this photo of Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station.

ratcliffe on soar power station

We had a bit of a wait at Kegworth Deep lock while two boats in front of us went up, then discovered why the wait was so long – it’s quite deep but also has very stiff paddle gear and heavy gates.  Apparently the locks get worse towards Loughborough!  No problem through Zouch lock, then we passed the emergency flood mooring dolphins – we had expected something more interesting than this …….

zouch flood dolphins

Normanton-on-Soar has expensive-looking houses and a pretty church, then it was into the locks below Loughborough.  Yes they are heavy and luckily we had company through them.  We moored for lunch just before the basin, where Deb phoned and discovered that the Bell Foundry was closed this week because of staff holidays.  Grrrrr.  But we went into the town for some shopping, then Dave cycled out to Halfords to get an aerial for the new digital radio.  We moved on for a quieter spot for overnight, passing what may be the bell foundry on the way – at least it’s one of the more attractive buildings you can see from the canal.

possibly bell foundry loughborough

We found a lovely spot in the evening sunshine, the peace disturbed only by walkers, some teenagers learning to row, and this unusually bold little moorhen which came up to the side hatch begging for bread.

bold moorhen

Loughborough to Watermead Park

Friday 12th July, posted later ….

A later start today at 9.30, as the clouds parted and the sun came out.  Once we had left the canalised section the Soar became very wide and meandering for a while.  Barrow Deep Lock was not particularly deep at at 9’7”, and the wooden boards round the approach to the lock were being repaired so only one top gate could be used. 

repair work

We were on our own, but a widebeam was just coming round the bend …. this is its back view of course.


As the river became narrow with tight bends on the approach to Mountsorrel, we came across a narrowboat being towed off one of the tightest bends where they had run aground.  We were being hotly pursued by a widebeam which caught up as we were going up Mountsorrel Lock.  It belonged to one of the Charitable Trusts in the area which take disadvantaged groups or families caring for a disabled family member for days out.  The delightful crew closed up for us as we left.  We moored a little later just below Sileby lock which was very quiet apart from the weir – this was taken from the bridge over the weir.

chuffed from weir bridge 2

As Debby went to set the lock after lunch she was surprised to see this exotic sunbathing in the water;

terrapin at sileby

it’s a red-eared terrapin.  These became popular years ago because of the cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and many were released when their owners had enough of them. They are not considered a Good Thing by environmental organisations. This one would have comfortably filled a dinner-plate.

There were some brilliant carvings on a private mooring above the lock;

carving at sileby moorings 1

We were recommended the Hope and Anchor bridge moorings for an overnight stop – yuk!  The moorings near the pub were noisy from the main road and the happy drinkers, and on the other side of the bridge the coping stones were collapsing into the water, with nettles shooting up where the earth was exposed.  The only acceptable area was taken up by CRT barges full of dredgings.  So we went on a few hundred yards to discover a long stretch of lovely quiet mooring by the King Lear lake of Watermead Park.  A grass snake was swimming across the canal as we moored and the willows were releasing their fluffy seeds.

Dave decided to wash the roof of the accumulated aphid honeydew and other bits from the trees we have been mooring beneath – then we both felt in need of exercise so Dave cycled off towards Leicester and Deb went for a run round the lake. There are various sculptures around the lake, for example a scale model of the dinosaur skeleton which was discovered during gravel extraction, and this sculpture of King Lear mourning the death of Cordelia (shame about the gull on the lord’s head);

lear sculpture 1

Lear was apparently a real king in this area in the distant past and is reputed to be buried in a cavern under the Soar.  This is just one of several flooded gravel pits which have been transformed into a fantastic park with cycle tracks and picnic areas stretching right down to Leicester.