Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Goodbye to the Soar

We've now come through Leicester left the River Soar and on to the Grand Union Canal (Leicester Branch) which will take us through the narrow locks at Foxton and Watford to Norton Junction to meet the main route of the Grand Union towards London.  However, that is getting a bit ahead of ourselves as we are moored tonight in a remote spot with sheep bleating just two days out of Leicester.

On Thursday while staying at Zouch we went for a walk through the riverside meadows and had our first definite sighting of a Reed Bunting:

On Friday we cruised from Zouch through Loughborough to Sileby Mill, an idyllic spot where we've never moored before.

The stretch of the River Soar upstream of Zouch is very pretty and passes Normanton Church seen here.

This gives a good idea of the lower Soar.  A fairly wide river with gentle river meadows either side.  Compare this with later pictures on this posting where the river gets much narrower.

This swan is shepherding her cygnets out of the way of a passing Leo.

This is Barrow bridge which comes just before Barrow Deep Lock.  The channel below the lock is quite narrow and it pays to tie up the bow to stop the boat being thrown around when emptying the lock.

Round a few bends from Barrow we passed a field with horses and a surprising number of young foals, including this one which can only be a day or two old.  Its legs look out of proportion with its body.

Here is Leo below Sileby Lock with the mill in the background.

We went up the lock and moored above.  Here is the view looking back from above the lock.  The only problem with this mooring was an amazing number of flies, though they did not seem to bite.  No fish jumping and no swallows: perhaps that was why there were so many flies!

We walked through flower meadows to Sileby village where we saw this fine thatched pub.

The meadows were packed with buttercups - yellow as far as the eye could see.

On Saturday we carried on up river to Birstall where we spent two nights as our son, David, came to visit on the Sunday.  We ate out twice at the Old Plough in the village which is cosier and cheaper than the White Horse on the riverside.

Oddly, where the River Wreake joins the Soar, the navigable route goes up the Wreake for a way before joining a cut that goes back to the Soar.  A navigation along the Wreake valley used to go to Melton Mowbray and on to Oakham but is now disused.  This picture shows Leo on the Wreake.

Watermead Country Park is on both sides of the river at Birstall.  A full sized mammoth made from concrete and steel stands on a hillock in the park.  The connection with the park is that mammoth bones were found here.

There are lots of lakes in the park which were once gravel pits.  We saw these strange figures from a distance.  Next time we must get closer and find out what they are.

This picture is taken through the galley window when a goose family came to visit.

With David we walked a mile or so to what is called Leicester North Station, though it is some miles from Leicester.  The station is on the old Great Central Railway which runs steam trains the 8 miles to Loughborough.

From Birstall on Monday it took us just 2 hours to reach the centre of Leicester though the stretch of water between Belgrave and Lime Kiln Locks is foul.  The water is black, bubbles rise from below and break to give a horrible stench.  We had been warned also of rubbish in the canal and we ground to a halt under a bridge with a green sari round the prop. 

From beside North Lock artists have been allowed to paint some colourful murals on the walls of the industrial buildings.  Two painters with aerosols were at work on this one.

We've been to Leicester before but this time discovered the delights of Abbey Gardens.  The ruins of an enormous abbey are here and Cardinal Wolsey was buried in the abbey, having fortuitously died on his way to London to face the wrath of Henry VIII who was later responsible for the sacking of this and other monasteries.

This is part of the Abbey Gatehouse which survived Henry VIII but was burnt down in the Civil War.

The Abbey Gardens (looked after by the City Council) were a delight and include a boating lake, a miniature railway and a pet zoo, all for free (though no doubt you need to pay for the boats and trains which were not running on a wet afternoon).  This rose was one of many in the gardens.

On Tuesday morning we joined forces again with Geoff and Sue on Rubbin Along to tackle the 12 locks and 8 miles out of the city to Kilby Bridge. 

We moored in the city at the new pontoon mooring at Friars Mill downstream of West Bridge seen here and Rubbin Along was at Castle Gardens the other side.  So we came through the bridge to meet our arranged start time of 9.30.

The navigation out of Leicester first goes along the Straight Mile which describes it perfectly.

For a short way you are still on the River Soar but, as this shot shows, it is now a lot narrower and is very twisty too.

Though we didn't have any rain to speak of until the evening, this householder was taking no risks of the washing getting wet!

This was our last section on the Soar below King's Lock.  The Soar comes in under the bridge but the navigation goes left away from the river.

On Monday evening some delightful people had opened the top gates of Whetstone Lane Lock and all the bottom paddles.  As a result the canal above the lock was empty.  By the time we arrived a team of CRT chaps were working to refill it and had moved this motorbike from the middle of the channel.  We had to wait below the lock for 2 hours.

 Last night we enjoyed a meal at the Navigation Inn at Kilby Bridge with Geoff and Sue and today (Wednesday) we have come 7 locks further to Wistow which is a favourite quiet country mooring.

Leo and Rubbin Along are sharing Newton Top Lock which is the last one we have done together since we met this year near Nottingham.

Geoff and Sue have a very gentle and well behaved German Shepherd dog called Harriet so this photo is by way of being a goodbye to Harriet.

Here we are following Rubbin Along coming out of Newton Top Lock.

And here is Rubbin Along heading off as they were going on to the bottom of the Foxton flight this afternoon.  As for us, we've had a restful afternoon in the sunshine, including a short walk to the garden centre and church across the fields from us.

In the next few days we will be continuing south up the Foxton locks and to Norton Junction near which we will be leaving Leo for a week while we go home for various appointments.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Soaring off the Trent

Sorry but I couldn't resist the pun in the title of this posting as we are now cruising up the River Soar and away from its confluence with the River Trent near Long Eaton.  We have been around Nottingham for a few days socialising with friends who live nearby.  Three successive days meeting different people each day.  Very good to catch up with them all.

Our friends Rowan and Martin came to Leo on Monday and we took them on a cruise from Holme Lock where we moored on Sunday into Nottingham on the River Trent.  This picture is of Trent Bridge famous of course for the cricket ground next to it.  You can cruise under here but you are supposed to turn before the next bridge which we did.

Here Helen is sitting in the cratch with our friends, showing them pictures of our cruising from last year.

Next to Holme Lock is the National Watersports Centre with a white water course that runs parallel with the lock and so drops 12 feet in quite a short distance.  We watched the canoeists enjoying the challenge.

And here's another one.

And another!

We ate out at the Manvers Arms at Radcliffe on Trent which was good, though they had run out of quite a lot of choices on the menu and puddings were down to just ice cream.  Still a very pleasant day.

On Tuesday we set off upstream again but this time turned right just before Trent Bridge onto the Nottingham Canal.

This fine mansion is beside the Trent close to the city.  Goodness knows who lives there and how much it cost but it is a lovely house.

Just before the Nottingham Canal turns off the river and on the other side you can see the first lock of the Grantham Canal.  This is presently derelict, but one day perhaps it will be navigable.  If they could only dig a canal to connect Grantham and Sleaford then you could also have a non-tidal route from Boston to Nottingham.

Here is Leo waiting below Meadow Lane Lock which leads off the river onto the Nottingham Canal.  You can see Trent Bridge in the background.

Here you can see Helen winding the paddle on Meadow Lane Lock to empty it before Leo can come in off the river. The lock was closed the following day for repair work, so we did well to come through on Tuesday.

There are some fine old warehouses in the centre of Nottingham, some of which have the ground floor converted to wine bars and pubs.

If you peep between the tall buildings on the right of the canal you can just see Nottingham Castle.  The flag was at half mast because of those killed in the Manchester bomb blast.

A big Sainsbury's is right by the canal so we took the opportunity to stock up.  Another friend, Steve (otherwise known as 'Hodge') joined us here and we cruised with him the rest of the Nottingham Canal and then back on the River Trent above Beeston Weir to Trent Junction.

Here is Hodge helming Leo up the river.  As we got near to Cranfleet Lock the current became pretty fast and we heard later of another boat that had gone aground and then spun round in the fast current. Leo however behaved herself.

Here we are approaching Cranfleet Lock which lifts us up into a cut avoiding the weir at Thrumpton.
And finally moored at Trent Junction.  This is the centre of the waterways with links to the North East (via the Trent and the way we had come), to the South (via the River Soar and the way we are going), to the Midlands and the North West (via the Trent and Mersey Canal) not to mention the dead end of the Erewash Canal which goes North from here. 

So there is lots going on at Trent Junction and many boats passing.  Hodge had forewarned us that the Trent Lock Cafe was closed on Tuesdays and we had bought scones and clotted cream from Sainsbury's earlier.  So we had a cream tea onboard which filled us up to the extent that we had little room for a meal in the evening.  We did however manage small meals at the Steamboat Inn before Hodge had to return home.

We spent the day on Wednesday doing various odd jobs on the boat including two lots of washing.  The weather has been improving day by day lately and the washing dried quickly.  In the evening our nephew Martin and partner Caroline came to Leo and we enjoyed a meal together at the Trent Lock pub nearby.  So that was the end of our social whirl for the present.

Today (Thursday) we finally left the River Trent which we have been following for the last week and turned off up the River Soar towards Loughborough and Leicester.

This picture as we left the mooring at Trent Junction gives a good idea of the size of the River Trent.  From the mooring you go down river for a couple of hundred yards and then turn right up the Soar.  Stay on the river and you go over Thrumpton Weir, not a good idea!

At the entrance to Redhill cut this sign welcomes you to the River Soar.

I haven't mentioned that our friends Geoff and Sue on Rubbin Along (seen here) have caught us up.  We travelled with them last year from Marple, over the Huddersfield Narrow and on to Castleford on Aire and Calder.  We have been sharing locks today.

Here we are approaching Kegworth Deep Lock which, at 12 feet, lives up to its name.

Egrets seem to be more common than they used to be.  Little Egrets apparently came to the UK in the 1990s.  We saw this one above the Deep Lock.

Having helped us up the Deep Lock with another narrowboat, Rubbin Along had got left behind so we helped them through Zouch Lock three miles up river.  Here you can see them coming to the lock.

We are moored tonight above Zouch Lock.  It is proving to be a very hot and sunny afternoon so we are mostly lazing.  In the next few days we will be continuing up the River Soar to join the Grand Union Canal in Leicester.  It is good to cruise a much smaller river with a more human scale and to work the locks ourselves rather than having lock keepers do it for us.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Almost at Nottingham

The heavy rain recently has speeded up the flow on the River Trent quite a bit.  So poor Leo has been working hard the last few days coming up the river.  We are now moored above Holme Lock on the outskirts of Nottingham.

We were glad we'd come up the tidal river as far as Cromwell Lock on Tuesday.  The weather on Wednesday was pretty awful.  We did walk into the village but the rain had set in by the time we got back and it carried on most of the day.  So we stayed where we were.

Helen decided to wash the sheets as we came up the tidal river to Cromwell.  As the weather wasn't conducive to drying the washing, we lit the stove and here's what the inside of Leo looked like that evening.

Thursday morning after the rain and wind was wonderful and very still.  Here is the view looking downstream from our mooring towards the lock.

We made the most of the fine weather to cruise the few miles upstream into Newark.

Here we are approaching the junction where you turn off the river onto the navigable cut through Newark.  Shortly after the junction you come to Nether Lock, which like all the locks up to Nottingham has a lock keeper who works it for you.

Newark is a very attractive town and we arrived on a beautiful day.  We sat at a cafe in the market place shown here and it was really too hot.  This was our first sign that it might be summer.

We followed a walking trail around the town which pointed out all sorts of curiosities.  One was this building which was the Castle Brewery.  It is no longer a brewery but is an attractive Victorian building.

Here is a detail of the carving in the pediment above the entrance.  It is a fine representation of Newark Castle.

There are two signs like this one either end of the ruins of the Castle.  What on earth possessed someone to put up a notice like this?  On Friday morning we had a guided tour of the dungeons in the medieval castle.  Suitably gory tales of how debtors who did not pay up and finished up perishing in a stone chamber with up to 60 similar people, a fair percentage of them dying and being trampled underfoot.  Not a pretty thought.  Some of the chambers we entered were only accessible by ladders.  You need to be fit to explore Newark Castle.

We liked this tactile plan of the town.  The River is in the foreground.

Here is a view of the castle from Town Lock.  Like the castle at Lincoln there never was a central keep but there were buildings against the inside of the curtain wall by the river.

This view  is from near our mooring and also shows the lovely arched bridge over the river.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday we have come further up river.

Upstream of Newark is a huge unfenced weir at Averham.  We stayed well away on the other side of the channel!

We have a new plastic duck to add to our collection.  The nearer one is the latest addition.  We've called him 'Stampy' because we rescued him from Stamp End Lock at Lincoln.  Trouble is he needs a magnet on his bottom like the others.  Another job for Ian.

This stretch of the river above Hazelford Lock reminded us of the River Thames near Cliveden with steep woods coming down to the river.

Because the river is flowing faster than usual, approaching a lock (here Gunthorpe) entails cruising through the foam coming off the weir.  The flow also gets faster as you approach the lock and weir.

On a walk from Gunthorpe Lock moorings we came across this culvert where it looks as if two hands are buried.  Makes you wonder if the rest of him is attached to the hands. Obviously the builder had a sense of humour.

After the rain, we had a calm evening and this is the view from Gunthorpe Bridge.  Our mooring is in the distance on the left.

This is the view coming to Holme Lock.  At 12 feet this is a lot deeper than the other locks on the river.

A channel running parallel with the lock and weir creates a white water channel for canoes and rafts as part of the National Water Sports Centre.  It makes a diverting afternoon when mooring here, but I don't think we'll take Leo down here!

Like the ducks in an earlier posting, here we have a family of geese with Mum and Dad at each end and the kids in a line between them.

We are going to stay in and around Nottingham for a few days as we have arranged to see several friends living nearby.  After that we will be heading south away from the Trent valley on the River Soar.