Thursday, 25 August 2016

Up the valley of the Trent

We've decided to travel the long way round from the Midlands to Yorkshire on our way home which means going up the wrong side of the Pennines and over the top.  So we are now going up the Trent and Mersey Canal towards Stoke on Trent.  On our last posting we were on the River Soar heading downstream.  The rain came down as we left Barrow on Soar last Friday (19th) and we came just a short way to Loughborough.

Before we left to go through the lock at Barrow this unusual vessel came up.  It was a canoe with outriggers and could apparently carry up to five people.  Never seen anything like it before.

The road bridge at Barrow below the lock is very attractive but, being on a sharp bend, you have to keep a good look out for oncoming boats.

By the time we were approaching Loughborough the rain was quite heavy.  As you can see, even this heron was taking shelter under a bridge.

It was a bit of a shock to see this cruiser coming through a bridge.  There is not much spare room with his cabin roof up.

One reason we stopped at Loughborough (apart from the rain) was that we spotted our friends Dave and Jan on 'Yes Dear'.  We had a good afternoon catching up with them having tea and sheltering from the rain on their boat.  On Saturday morning the rain seemed to be stopping so we decided to set off.  However the wind was very strong and did not think it sensible to go out on the wide waters of the River Trent.  We moored a few miles further down the Soar at Kegworth.  In fact the wind was so strong that Ian's cap blew off into the river.  It was too windy to try and recover it, but Ian walked back a mile or so from our mooring to see if there was any chance it had been fished out or washed up.  Amazingly it was still floating and making its way slowly down the river!  Spotting a bend coming up, Ian followed the cap until it came close enough to the shore to fish it out with a boat hook.  So we can now say that Harris Tweed is so water repellent that it floats.

The River Soar flows right past the village of Normanton and its old church.  

Approaching a lock cut at Zouch there are some flood mooring 'dolphins' seen here.  The idea is to moor to the posts if the river is in flood.  We're not sure why they are called dolphins though.

 From the boat at Kegworth we walked into the village.  This view is taken from the road bridge over the Soar looking to Kegworth Shallow Lock.  You can see that both sets of gates are open which is normal in summer.  The lock is a flood lock and is only closed when the river floods.

In this view from the bank looking up river you can see Kegworth Deep Lock with the church behind.  Depending on the river level the Deep Lock can be 10 feet deep and there are warnings about the number of boats in the last year that have been caught on the cill.

On Sunday we carried on down to where the River Soar flows into the Trent at Trent Junction.

Here is the view in Kegworth Deep Lock as Leo goes down.

The lower reaches of the River Soar are pretty wide and open to the wind which was still blowing quite hard.

Here is Leo going through Redhill Flood Lock, the gates of which are open.  This is the last lock before the Trent.

Here is Leo approaching the confluence of the Soar and the Trent.  You have to remember to turn left, upstream, as there is a huge weir just beyond the railway bridge to the right.

This is looking to the right where orange buoys remind you not to go towards the weir.

If the Soar felt big then the Trent is enormous.  Here we are going upstream towards the lock straight ahead that takes you onto the Erewash Canal.  This is Trent Junction which is a major meeting of the waterways.  Right takes you down the Trent, left leads to the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Here is Leo moored on the pontoon at Trent Junction.  The power station in the background is at Ratcliffe on Soar.  As well as Sunday Lunch at the Steamboat Inn (highly recommended) we met our nephew Martin and his girlfriend Caroline.  We managed a cream tea with them and they even took us back to look at their house in Nottingham.

Monday we set off up two stretches of the Trent and then onto the Trent and Mersey Canal to Swarkestone.

The first lock a couple of miles upstream of Trent Junction is at Sawley.  This proved to be manned which made life easier as the landing here below the lock is high and a bit tricky for narrowboats.  As it happened, two boats were just coming out so we could go straight in.

Approaching the start of the Trent and Mersey at Derwent Mouth there is a cross roads.  The River Derwent comes in from the right and is not navigable and the Trent comes in from the left.  Straight ahead is the entry to the Canal.  The mixing of the rivers here leads to some strange cross-currents.

Through picturesque Shardlow and a few more broad locks further on we came up Swarkestone Lock.  Above the lock is an arm on the north side which is all that remains of the Derby Canal which once went all the way to Derby.

We had a good walk around Swarkestone.  This is the bridge there over the River Trent which starts a mile long causeway across the river valley.

This unusual building which can be seen from the canal is a summer house and all that remains of Swarkestone Old Hall that was demolished in the 18th century.  The wall either side encloses a square field which was used for bear baiting.

This hole in a wall near the Summer House reminds me of a cartoon character powering through a wall and leaving his shape as the hole.  To me it looks like a chap with a big hat.  Well I thought it was funny.

Swarkestone's claim to fame is that it was the furthest south that
Bonnie Prince Charlie reached before returning north to his defeat at Culloden.

Our friend Steve (otherwise known as Hodge) met us at Swarkestone.  We enjoyed a good meal at the Crewe and Harpur Arms and Steve stayed onboard and joined us as we cruised on the following day to Burton upon Trent.

The last of the broad locks on the Trent and Mersey is at Stenson and is a cracker.  12 feet rise with a reputation for fast flows of water.  Here is Leo waiting below for the lock to be emptied.  There were CRT volunteers here as well.

After going through Willington the canal crosses the River Dove on an aqueduct.  The Dove seemed quite full.

Here you can see the aqueduct with the River Dove flowing through the shallow arches beneath.

Steve took to steering a narrowboat like an old sea salt.  Pity he didn't tuck his shirt in before the picture!

At Burton upon Trent there was just time to check the e mails!

Yesterday we had fun going on the brewery tour at Marstons Brewery.  This was entertaining and included a certain amount (quite a lot in fact) of tasting well established and new experimental brews.

Here are the coppers where the mash is being boiled and hops added.  This was for a brew of Hobgoblin.

This is a picture of the Burton Union System.  This is how Pedigree is brewed and is a system peculiar to Marstons.  The system functions with gravity only and the beer finishes up in the barrels at the bottom and the yeast in the troughs above.

This is the fermentation  house with three Burton Union plants and several stainless steel fermentation vessels for other brews around the sides.

What is Leo doing in a house?  Actually we are filling with diesel at Shobnall Marina where you have to reverse into a tiny under cover area at right angles to the canal.  Quite tricky.

Today we've come through Alrewas and into Fradley where we are moored just a lock below the junction with the Coventry Canal.

Before the rain started we came through Tattenhill Lock which is very pretty.  This is not Leo but the boat that went up before us.

We've never seen a heron before perching in the telegraph wires.  It looks very precarious.

Some of the bridges here are certainly not for wide beam boats!

At Alrewas there is a short section where you venture out onto the River Trent for the last time.  Much smaller than further downstream of course but nevertheless flowing quite fast after the rain.

And here we are in Alrewas Lock coming up off the river.

We are out for a meal with our friends Rowan and Martin this evening and tomorrow we will carry on up the Trent and Mersey towards Stoke on Trent.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Back on a river and really enjoying it

We've now come down from the heights of Northamptonshire and are cruising the River Soar heading for the Trent.  At our last posting we were on the Market Harborough Arm of the Grand Union.  We left there on Sunday (14th August) and started our descent towards Leicester.

Here we are passing the bottom of the Foxton locks that we had come down on Friday.  Several boats were waiting to go up the locks.

You can easily miss this insignificant stream coming into the canal.  It is a feeder from Saddington Reservoir which supplies water to the top end of the canal (albeit below the actually summit level above Foxton Locks)

We have found that quite a lot of this canal needs a 'haircut' to cut down the offside vegetation as this shot shows.  Leo is approaching the Saddington Tunnel which is only half a mile long and the shortest of the three tunnels on this canal.  You can easily see the far end of the tunnel.

There seems to be plenty of water up here as this waterfall at the top end of Crane's Lock shows.  In fact a CRT chap was letting some more water through higher up causing the level above the lock to rise.

We moored overnight at Wistow.  We've been here before and enjoyed again the walk over the fields to the Garden Centre which includes a model village.  Thomas was pushing Annie and Clarabel around the track and generally the model seemed in a better state of repair than two years ago.

There is a canal in the model and a couple of locks, albeit the weed in the water would have meant repeated trips down the model sized weed hatches.  I hope you can see the red boat coming into the lock.

How about this?  A living knife and fork topiary.

While at Wiston we moored near and then met a friend who, like us, volunteers at Naburn Lock on the River Ouse near York.  Dereck and both of us help out there during the winter months when we are not boating.  it was good to see Dereck again and to meet his wife, Brenda and to be nosy on each other's boats. On Monday we carried on down a succession of locks to moor at South Wigston, the last reasonably safe place to moor before doing the last leg into Leicester itself on Tuesday.

Quite a lot of the wide locks here have gates that don't like closing and open when they shouldn't.  This view shows the gates opening all by themselves once the water level had dropped.  We do like to open just one of the gates and keep the other closed as we can easily fit through just one gate.  However the other gate keeps coming open.  It's infuriating.

This is Kilby Bridge an attractive spot with a very wide stretch of canal and moorings.

We stopped a bit further on that evening and had our first barbeque of the year on the wide towpath.  It was a touch windy but we managed.  Ian is not in fact about to pick up hot sausages with his bare hand!  There are some tongs in the picture which are difficult to see.

On Tuesday we cruised down another 10 locks into Leicester.  This dull view is a spot of history.  This is where the well known removal firm of Pickfords had its water based headquarters at one time.

The last few miles into Leicester from the south are very green and rural as this picture shows.

Eventually at King's Lock you meet this notice which explains that you are about to join the River Soar which had been following close alongside us for several miles.

Approaching Freeman's Meadow Lock you pass this stadium which Leicester City FC have now made world famous by their success this year.

The final stretch into the city is called the Straight Mile.  This channel was dug in 1895 to reduce flood problems.  It is good for rowers too, though we were surprised how much weed was growing in the river.  The river looked a bit stagnant and unloved in the centre of the city.  The council really ought to clean it up.

We had been told there was a car in the river and you can just see its back door sticking above the water.  We did not hit it.  It seems it had come through a barrier and down a slope into the river.

We have previously moored at Castle Gardens but there is a new secure mooring at Friar's Mill just downstream.  This is next to a partially completed development but is quieter than the other mooring, albeit a longer walk from the big Tesco.

We enjoyed two half days in Leicester visiting places we had not seen before and found time for a great pint of Everard's in the Globe.

Last time we came here the Cathedral was not open because they were preparing for 'Songs of Praise' on BBC TV.  This time we were able to go in.  If you visit do look up to the roof which is wonderfully well painted.

Do you remember the fuss about whether Richard III, who was discovered under the letter 'R' in the car park, would be buried in Leicester or York?  This is his tomb which we thought was suitably regal.  There are also three stained glass windows commemorating this reburial.
We visited the Jewry Wall Museum which is next to this site of the Roman Baths.  The high wall with the arches is the 'Jewry Wall' but the name has nothing to do with the Jews.  The wall itself is one of the tallest remaining Roman structures in England.  The museum has a lot of Roman and other remains presented in an engaging way and is well worth a visit.

This is Jubilee Square which we crossed several times and liked.

On Wednesday afternoon we cruised out of the city for a couple of hours to Birstall and ate at the White Horse there.

Leaving Leicester going North is pretty dismal with lots of derelict industrial scenery but this fine mural at Frog Island certainly brightened the view.

Here is a second part of the same mural.

The National Space Centre (the interesting shaped building) is seen across the large weir at Belgrave Lock, not that there was a lot of water flowing as the river is pretty low.

This is a view looking back southwards to Thurcaston Bridge.  Going this way there is no real indication other than the size of the left hand arch to indicate which way you have to go.  If we come back this way next year (which we might) then we must remember to go left.

Today (Thursday) we have left Leicester well behind and come down river to Barrow upon Soar.

A mile and a half below Thurmaston Lock the River Wreake joins from the right.  Once this formed a navigable waterway to Melton Mowbray up the river and then the Oakham Canal went on to Oakham in Rutland.  That would be fun with 20-30 miles more of navigable water.

Here is Leo with Geraniums on top so you can tell it's not windy.  We are approaching Cossington Lock after a stretch where you are cruising on the River Wreake and only join the Soar again below this lock.

In places the River Soar is really wide like this stretch approaching Sileby Lock and Mill.  In other places it is quite narrow.

Here below Sileby Lock we are looking back towards the Mill.  The white foamy water is coming off the weir.  The additional water coming down the River Wreake seems to have increased the flow.

At Mountsorrel the village comes right up to the River whereas most of the villages are at a distance, presumably because of flooding.  Mountsorrel is a pretty spot but was quite busy.  We even met a boat coming the other way through the lock.  Most of the route round here has been very quiet.

This is below the lock looking back at Mountsorrel.

We passed Mum and Foal having a drink.  Their colouring is so remarkably similar.

The gardens coming through Barrow were attractive, some worthy of Chelsea.  Not so sure about this one though with its fortifications and cannons facing passing boats.
 The above panorama shows the view from the River bridge at Barrow looking upstream.  The left channel goes to the lock (a deep one at nearly 10 feet) and the right channel is the river coming from the weir.

This view is taken from the weir above the lock where the River Soar leaves the navigable lock cut for a grand detour of a couple of miles.  The navigable route is only about half a mile.

Our plans in the next few days are to complete our trip down the Soar to where it joins the River Trent and then to turn west up the Trent and the Trent and Mersey Canal heading gradually northwards.