Saturday 27 August 2016

From the Soar to the Trent in a thunderstorm

Saturday 27th August; Loughborough to Trent Lock

It was reasonably bright when we set off to cruise down as far as Chain Bridge in Loughborough.  We moored close to the bridge and went up to Sainsbury’s for a few bits and pieces, not expecting the forecast rain to have arrived before we came out again …. it was light though, so a speedy walk back down from the basin meant we didn’t get too wet.  We had a cup of tea, then as the rain eased off I nipped back up to Sainsbury’s where I had spotted some recycling bins – paper, card and glass.  Just before we left six boats went by going in our direction, so we were not in a hurry to set off!  We arrived at Loughborough lock to find a single boat shuffling up on the lock moorings, so we teamed up with Northern Star Light for most of the other Soar locks.

Our initial plan was to use the facilities at Bishop Meadow lock, but the Elsan there is now closed.  We should have turned left at Chain Bridge and gone up to the basin where there are facilities.  One of the liveaboards offered the use of their Elsan in the car park – not really to be recommended as there was no tap to rinse your cassette or your hands either, but needs must.  Anyway, on we went past Normanton with its photogenic church.


We met a couple of CRT chaps measuring up a lock gate back in Leicester – it looks as though more locks will be getting the footway widening treatment.  Most if not all of today’s locks had already had extra width added which makes crossing them much easier even for smaller people like me.


We decided to stop above Zouch lock for lunch, though our companions opted to eat on the move.  We had a delightful break in the sunshine, dropped down the lock and enjoyed the long cruise to Kegworth Deep lock where to our surprise we caught up once more with Northern Light.  They had arrived to find six narrowboats and a widebeam in front of them and had only just reached the head of the queue! 

As we got closer to Ratcliffe lock the power station at Ratcliffe on Soar began to come into view. The rain had started as we left Keqworth Deep lock and was steady but not too heavy.  Another short queue at Ratcliffe lock, and then at last it was our turn.  A boater having a break on the offside mooring bollards came to give us a hand as the weather worsened though I don’t think I would have been using an umbrella - as we chatted there was a flash and a mighty clap of thunder.  The storm continued as we dropped down the lock.  We said farewell to Northern Light as they were going on to Shardlow.  Luckily there was a boat coming up so I could get back on board.  The photo doesn’t show the pouring rain!


The IWA Boat Show was apparently happening at Redhill Marina.  There were lots of boats moored, though we had no idea which were just visiting and which had permanent moorings here.  One had some fabulous artwork;  named for the film presumably.

clip_image004 clip_image005

Something was certainly happening at the marina, or would have been if it hadn’t been raining!  Several boats were there for viewing, some gazebo-type stands with lone and glum volunteers or salespeople, and no punters to be seen anywhere.  In the deserted children's play area the operator sheltered inside his bouncy castle.


Northern Light drew ahead of us as we turned onto the Trent, as we approached the moorings below Trentlock at the start of Cranfleet Cut.  We wanted something easy in the foul weather and there was one perfect space opposite the sailing club.  Dave turned so we were ready for the morning – we will be going up the Erewash, not down the Trent – and we were sitting inside with a cuppa before the really bad weather hit.

We wondered about going to one of the pubs to eat. On a Bank Holiday Saturday they would normally be packed, but with the weather as it is there weren't many visitors about.  But after we had walked Meg in a short dry spell the storm returned and the rain was even heavier so we junked that idea and stayed on the boat.

10 miles, 7 locks including 2 flood locks

Friday 26 August 2016

On to Loughborough

Friday 26th August;  Watermead to Loughborough outskirts

Off we went in bright sunshine at about 9.30.  We were soon past the Hope and Anchor, where the moorings seem so very noisy because of the road, and past the point where the river Wreake joins the navigation, just past the Old Junction boatyard.

1 river wreake joins the navigation

Once the Wreake confluence was the junction with the Melton Mowbray Navigation, long gone.  There were few other boats on the move this morning.  We met one just coming out of Cossington Lock.  There is a little path through the hedge going down to the weir and its pool, very pretty.

3 weir at cossington lock

4 looking downstream from weir

The Soar is very attractive round here.  Although we came in the other direction a few years ago we found we hardly remembered a lot of it.  It’s nothing like the Thames where we were only a couple of months ago – far more in the way of water meadows, for example.

5 pretty soar

All quiet at Sileby lock.  We stopped here for a while last time and saw a large terrapin sunning itself below the lock. It was very hot this morning - in a variation on cows cooling off in the water, we found a field full of mares and foals.

7 horses cool off

We didn’t remember Barrow-on-Soar at all.  Lots of properties of various kinds making different uses of their river frontage.  We were amused by this!  the dark shapes in the crenellated wall appear to be cannons!

8 crenellations at barrow

We pulled in just before the little basin at Barrow-on-Soar to have some lunch.  The water was busy with people hiring the various water-craft available from Barrow Boats.  These looked fun!

9 cycling fun at barrow

Barrow Deep lock is indeed deep, and the gates are heavy, but there were willing helpers and a boat coming up.  We carried on and moored on the outskirts of Loughborough, shortly before the Peter le Marchant Charitable Trust base between bridges 34 and 35.  They have two trip boats and a hire boat specially adapted for disabled passengers.  It was still before 3 when we stopped, so we left Meg with a Bonio (which she knows means she will be on her own for a while) and went off to walk into town.  We thought we would be able to cut through from bridge 35, but found the railway blocked the route, so it was a bit of a trek in the end.  We passed Taylor’s Bell Foundry, but the museum is closed for two months in the summer and even the office was shut so no chance of a tour of the works.  We finally found our way to the town centre, where we failed to realise we could have visited the Carillon in the park.  (Maybe next time).  Though we did spot this statue.  We couldn’t think why he is pointing his toe in that assertive way until we looked at this website, which says

The Sock is a statue in the town centre of Loughborough in Leicestershire.  It can be found in the Market Place of this thriving market town, outside the Town Hall.  The Sock was created by the sculptress Shona Kinloch, having been commissioned by Charnwood Borough Council "to provide an attractive feature and focus of public interest". It was unveiled in 1998.  The statue is of a man seated on a bollard, wearing only a sycamore leaf and a sock, which he is looking down at admiringly. His sock is symbolic of Loughborough's hosiery industry, and the rest of the sculpture contains images from the town's history.  As is not unusual in these cases, The Sock was far from universally admired when unveiled but, as predicted, hearts have warmed to it and it is now a well loved feature of the Loughborough scene. Images significant to the town, such as a bell, are engraved around the base.”

I have to confess we didn’t spot the sock.  (The tent behind it is part of a display from an outdoor shop).

11 statue in loughborough

Instead we found ourselves disappointed with the shops (on the whole we are not keen on the retail experience as a leisure activity) but M&S were doing their £10 dine in offer so, loaded down with steak, profiteroles and basically free wine we picked up the canal at the basin and walked back the long way round.

We do like profiteroles.

And wine.  Well I do anyway.

9 miles, 6 locks including Pilling’s Flood Lock

Thursday 25 August 2016

A flying visit to Leicester

Thursday 25th August; Aylestone to Watermead Country Park

It was a grey and damp day, with occasional showers, but still warm.  I quickly popped up to the farm shop for some veg before we set off for Leicester soon after 9.   The river Soar joins the canal – or is it the other way round? - just below Packhorse Bridge.

1 canal joins river soar

As we drew closer to Leicester we passed the backs of various industrial units.  We wondered if this business just chucks its rubbish over the fence and waits for the next flood to clear it.

2 are they waiting for the next flood to clear their rubbish

Somewhat more attractive was this artwork at St Mary’s Mill lock….

4 artwork st marys mill lock

where we saw a fancy dress charity walk in progress, raising money for a local children’s charity.  The second group of walkers we met at Freeman’s Meadow lock

6 charity walk

where we also passed the stadium of Leicester City FC, last season’s Premiership champions. 

7 freemansnmeadow lock and leicester fc stadium

We had hoped that by mid-morning there would be space to moor at Castle Park in Leicester, as we needed a visit to the big Tesco nearby.  And there was.

9 castle park moorings

We didn’t want to go into the city this time, so after our shop, some lunch and a quick run in the park for Meg we carried on.  In this grey and misty atmosphere some of the weirs are hard to make out until you are almost on top of them.

11 soem wiers are hard to make out

There is some more artwork at one of the locks – North lock I think.

12 artwork at north or limekiln lock

13 artwork  14 artwork

Although it has been defaced by some graffiti, the perpetrators seem to have avoided the creatures apart from the tail of the kingfisher.

There is an outdoor pursuits centre on the northern outskirts of the city and our progress was slowed somewhat by groups of children in various kinds of small craft.  They were having huge fun.  The river soon got pretty again although it rained on and off.

16 pretty soar

Although there was mooring available at Birstall we went on to the long canalised section by Watermead Park, where there is plenty of access to the paths round the lakes.  The rain had finally stopped, so off we went for a walk.  The sculpture is looking a bit weather-beaten now.  It is of a scene from Shakespeare’s King Lear.  Lear was a king of the 8th century, who legend says lies buried in a chamber under the river Soar.

18 lear sculpture at watermead park

8 miles, 8 locks

Out with the sun cream again … till it rained

Wednesday 24th August; Tythorn lock to Aylestone Meadows

It was a lovely sunny morning again.  We had spotted some mooring below the next lock which had Armco piling but were happy where we were, even though as you can see the water level in the pound had dropped a little overnight.

1 lovely tyrhotn mooring

It wasn’t a problem, no pushing was needed to get off.  We left about 8.30 and went down to Kilby facilities block for filling and emptying and getting rid of rubbish, including stuff from someone’s picnic we picked up at a lock.  The gate paddles in the top gates around here are rather fierce and it is easy to see why you wait for them to be covered before you open them if you are coming up the lock.

2 fierce gate paddles prob tyrhorn

There is a pretty little sitting area at Kilby which someone has created by the bridge with a false window to break up the expanse of wall.

3 interesting bridge at Kilby

At the facilities block is a CRT sign but we weren’t quite sure what it meant – CRT is watching you perhaps?

4 interesting sign at Kilby services

It got hot very quickly but luckily there were shady stretches along the way and it was all very pretty.  There are a lot of patches of a miniature yellow water-lily all in bright flower.  I took several photos but the flowers didn’t show up in any of them.

We pulled in after bridge 95 between South Wigston and Glen Parva where there are shady moorings and walked up to Blaby for shopping.  We expected a boring traipse across a field but found the path followed an old lane.  First it passed Glen Parva Manor, an attractive 15th century manor house which is now a pub.

11 glen parva manor way to blaby

The lane was shady and quiet, closed to traffic apart from bikes and popular with dog walkers.

10 path to blaby

The lane dropped down to an old ford across the river Sence.  There is now a footbridge and the ford is popular with local families.

8 ford over sence at blaby

We followed the way past the church and this interesting barn.  Shame about the graffiti.

7 barn on way to blaby

We had not been to Blaby before and found a lot of shops but nothing we really wanted to patronise apart from Waitrose and a rather splendid pet shop.  On the way back we had a look at the Moat, which is not well defined but is in a little public park next to the pub.  It is believed that manor houses in this part of the Midlands had moats either for defence or just to show how grand/rich the owner was.  We had our lunch back on the boat and Meg had a pig’s ear, a mega treat for her.

11a meg with a pigs ear

Although the shade was lovely we didn’t stay put.  We wanted to get down to Aylestone Meadows tonight so we had a chance of a mooring in Leicester tomorrow.  It was scorchingly hot, so sun-cream, hats and copious glasses of squash were the order of the day.  We moored at the meadows below King’s lock just before 5 o’clock.  The towpath is not wide, and busy with dog walkers, commuting cyclists and runners. 

15 aylestone mooring

So no sitting out, but lots of lovely walking for Meg on the paths through the meadows.  I took her out straight away as Dave had a bit of work to do.  The original packhorse bridge over the river Soar has triangular refuges (like Essex bridge at Shugborough Hall) where walkers could stand as the loaded packhorses went by.

13 aylestone packhorse bridge

Dave and Meg got back from her second walk just as it began to rain.  It was still hot and every time the rain eased off we had to open the side hatch to cool the boat down while we cooked.  We had wondered about eating in the pub, but when I checked the menu earlier they seemed to have more burger choices than other items on the menu, and that wasn’t very appealing to us.  Braving the rain were a couple of chaps with a motorised floating device of some sort, though it broke down the second time they used it.

16 speedy man

The wake looks huge but didn’t rock the boat at all.  Noisy though and probably a bit illegal.

6 miles 11 locks

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Holly, soot and heat

Tuesday 23rd August; Foxton to Tythorn Lock

We didn’t go far to start with – just nearer to the junction as we had some cleaning to do and needed the rubbish disposal!  Dave did the brasses while I got down and dirty with a holly branch.  Actually I just cleaned the flue pipe.  I read somewhere long ago that holly was a good way to get the soot from your flue and it really works!  and no storage issues as you would have with a sooty brush.  The pictures are on my phone as my camera flash gave up the ghost some time ago.  I brought a bit of holly from home, tied a cord to it and pulled it up the flue.

2 holly bough on the way up

There was quite a long stem bit so I could pull/push it up and down for a bit.  Two boats went by – one made the ‘small boys’ joke and the other said, what a good idea, must try it.  Guess which was the hire boat!

3 cleaning the flue

It works well and when you have done you just leave it in the hedge.  Not so the soot – wrapped in newspaper it ended up in the skip at Foxton.

4 the soot etc

I disposed of it, along with the other rubbish and a bag of recycling, at Foxton while Dave hovered waiting for me to get back to the swing bridge.  I got a bit distracted taking a snap of the pulley wheel from the inclined plane which is now on display at the car park.  Not many people seemed to be taking an interest though – just one mum trying to interest her child.

6 pulley wheel at foxton junction

Most kids round here seem to be glued to their phones, as are a lot of the adults.  Some of them are Pokemon hunters though.  There seems to be something to be caught halfway up the flight.  (Pokemon is a vastly popular phone app game thingy which we only know about second-hand through newspaper reports and now watching people hunting invisible monsters … or something).

Anyway.  We left Foxton and its visitors behind and soon it was peaceful once more.  The canal quickly becomes rural and secluded, and very reedy in parts.  The stretch beyond Debdale marina is an SSSI. 

8 reedy canal

Before long we were at Saddington tunnel.  No-one was coming through so it was a quick and easy passage.

10 saddington tunnel south portal

Then we were at Kibworth Top Lock, the first of the double locks of the Leicester Line.

11 entering kilworth top lock

Luckily as I was about to close the gate we were joined by one of the ‘Narrow Escape’s on the network.  It was very hot and we were delighted to see them, but they were only planning on doing five locks – she had a shocking cold and was feeling rotten, while he had had a fall onto the boat – Dave saw the bruises and they were horrendous.  They pulled in as soon as they could, but we went on through some shady and very pretty stretches of canal like this

12 pretty and shady canal

and eventually moored above Tythorn Lock.  It was shady, quiet, and Dave saw two kingfishers while he was putting a coat of paint on the tiller arm, which had been in need of a bit of TLC.  I missed them as I was sitting in the cratch doing yet another running repair on the cratch cover.  We really should have got  a new one ordered earlier – this one won’t last the winter, as the fabric is beginning to crack as well as the stitching coming away, so we must get on with it.  But which supplier to choose?

Anyway, it was a lovely mooring.

13 lovely mooring above tythorn lock

And a warm and quiet evening too.  Meg and Dave had a bit of a play after tea.  It was getting dark (hence the odd colouring on my phone camera) but still very warm.

14 dave and meg relaxing after tea

9 and a half miles, 10 locks, 2 swing bridges

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Market Harborough and back to Foxton

Monday 22nd August;  Market Harborough and back to Foxton bridge 5.

Although it rained a lot yesterday evening it was dry during the night – at least we didn’t hear anything – and dry this morning.  We set off soon after 9 making for the terminus.  There is not a great deal of mooring on the arm, as a lot of the banks are full of reeds and other water plants.  Mooring is basically round Foxton, half-way along between bridges 8 and 9, and near to Market Harborough.  On the offside seems to be a more expensive part of town – large bungalows and other properties with sweeping lawns and little else, and most hadn’t made anything of their canal-side location.  We liked this hedge though.  There was a pretty gate in the arch but it felt a bit intrusive to take a photo of their garden.

1 good hedge in m harborough

We pulled in to the basin but couldn’t get directly onto the service block as a hire-boat was being pumped out and washed and having its water tank filled.  We pulled in around the corner, which was fine as far as using the Elsan went but it was a right bu**er to get back out into the basin to turn as a strong wind was blowing.  Made it though, and we moored a little way back down the arm.  There is not a huge amount of visitor mooring – the basin pontoons have the Canaltime timeshare base and a few hireboats, so it is mostly online.  There are several water points along the towpath, and there is no restriction on mooring times so people just moor up.

We left doggie on the boat with a Bonio and walked down to Market Harborough, a town we have never visited.  Although it was slightly out of our way we went to the far corner of the basin to look at this sculpture though we are not quite sure what he is supposed to be doing.  His right arm looks a little out of proportion!  (not to mention the bit of boat).

2 sculpture in m harborough basin

Growing in the water amongst the pontoons is Water Soldier, which is quite endangered in general but has proved to be rather a nuisance on the Grand Western Canal in Devon where there is not a lot of traffic to keep it within bounds.

6 water soldier in basin

The town centre is about half a mile from the basin, and it seems to be a very pleasant place with a wide variety of shops including a large Sainsbury’s, bakers and at least one butcher.  We have bought ourselves a shopping trolley for the boat, but not having realised that there was a good supermarket we failed to take it with us!  The town has a number of interesting buildings, such as the butter market, the upstairs of which used to be the Grammar School but is now a meeting room.

3 butter market 1

The building in the background is the church of St Dionysius, which has a sundial on the side of the tower with an interesting injunction – applicable to us all I would think though I’m not entirely sure what it means!

5 sundial on church

After a bit of a slog back (uphill) to the boat with our shopping we had lunch, with some very nice bread from Hambleton Bakery, topped up the water and returned down the arm.  We heard from the hireboat staff that there had been a tree down which had held up returning Canaltimes and ABC hireboats, and we saw them all come back within a short period.  We didn’t see the CRT message about the tree until we had been past it twice – the second time it was being cleared.  Ash, so some good firewood for someone.

7 fallen tree

Parts of this arm reminded us of the Monty or the Droitwich canals, with narrow sections and lots of reeds.  We met this day boat in one of the reedy bits – on a bend, naturally.

8 reeds and dodgy dayboat

I had just taken the picture when it suddenly changed direction – the poor chap had pushed the tiller the wrong way – and clouted us.  He had the cheek to tell us we should have slowed down (we had) but he did look very embarrassed.

A little further on were some works with an interesting looking square chimney.  A recent article in Canal Boat says it is Pears’ Meat Rendering Plant and suggests it can be very smelly but it looked a bit closed down to us and no pong at all.

10 pears chimney

We moored for the night at Foxton between bridges 6 and 5, where there was a nicely mown edge and Armco piling.  The fields opposite had been harvested and the straw bales – the ‘Swiss roll’ type – were being collected.

11 collecting straw swiss rolls

We went for a stroll with Meg down to the junction, where we sat watching a boat come through the swing bridge and Dave enjoyed an ice cream, before we returned for a quiet evening on board.

6 miles