Friday, October 31, 2008

More locks than miles, and a bit short of the wet stuff….

We had a quiet day at Kilby Bridge yesterday. A few jobs to do around the boat, a bit of reading, a bit of cleaning.

We pushed across the canal this morning, filled with water, and emptied the loo and rubbish before setting of at 09:45.

Watering at Kilby Bridge.
The locks come rapidly – the first after 20 minutes is the delightfully named Bumblebee Lock.

Bumblebee Lock
Most lock name's origins are obvious; local farms, villages, and landscape features are common. But every so often you come across one that defies explanation. Did one of the navvies get stung?

We made good time, even though all the locks were against us.

Turnover and Bottom Half Mile Locks
Lock Keepers house at Newton Top Lock near Newton Harcourt.

We had a spot of bother at Pywells Lock though. The pound above was low, the water draining through leaks in the top and bottom gates. BW are aware of the problem, there are signs asking that boaters ensure both sets of gates are closed when leaving the lock. The lack of traffic on this stretch (we’ve seen no moving boats for 2 days!) means that water hasn’t been moved down the locks, allowing the pound to drain off.

We ran aground just after clearing the lock, and I had to fetch 3 lockfulls of water down from the next pound up to get us afloat.

Going nowhere at Pywells Lock
Then, of course, the next pound up was a bit low, but just 1 extra chamber of water kept us off the bottom.

All the to-ing and fro-ing didn’t slow us down much, though, and we were able to moor up just past Ross Bridge at around 14:30.

Meg sets up camp on the towpath.
We’ll stop here for the weekend. It’s close enough to Fleckney for the shops, far enough away not to be too bothered by fireworks. I don’t think “Trick or Treaters” will bother us either! We’ll just have to watch out for restless spirits.

It’s pretty and remote on this stretch. The only roads cross at right angles, arriving and disappearing rapidly. And they’re not busy, anyway. The only intrusion is the railway, which (inevitably) follows the line of the canal for a couple of miles.

Leicestershire Landscape
The weather has been good, sunny and bright, but with a coolish breeze. The low sun causes problems when you’re heading south on water, though. It’s difficult to see where you’re going sometimes. But I'm not complaining!

Locks 12, miles 5

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What a difference a day makes….

After a cold night, we woke up this morning to a hard frost shining in the sun from a blue sky.

Just after I’d stoked the fire!
I took Meg for a walk up the towpath, and took a couple of pictures on the way.

Autumn colours reflected near Bridge 100

Bridge 100
We were away from Gee’s Lock at 10:10, and had a short 20 minute cruise to the next, Whetstone Lock. After yesterday it was a pleasure chugging along in the warm sun.

Whetstone Lock
The water was overtopping the gates at both ends of the chamber, making it slow to empty but indicating that there is no shortage of water on this stretch. In fact a couple more of today’s locks were the same.

After Whetstone we swung round to head east, just south of the residential suburbs of Leicester. Passing through 2 more locks we arrived at Ervin’s Lock, and emerged properly into open countryside. From here, for miles, the canal runs through rolling countryside, with very little in the way of habitation.

Ervin’s Lock
Gemma, Donna and Gary pose for me at Ervin’s Lock
From here it is a short distance to Double Rail Lock and then Kilby Lock which is followed quickly by Kilby Bridge BW maintenance yard. We pulled both boats in to use the services here, then we moved across the cut to moor on the 48 hour VM, while Gary and Donna decided to take advantage of the fine weather and head on for another couple of hours. They are on a schedule; they have to be back in Tamworth in a few days. We’re going to hang around here till Friday.

NB Silhouette at Kilby Bridge.
We exchanged contact details and will look them up when we’re in their neck of the woods.

We lost the sun around 2, and the temperature took a nosedive. I reckon it’ll be another cold one tonight.

We’ve only seen 3 other boats today, 1 private, 1 Canaltime and Millstream, the 62 foot 8 berth hire boat from Sileby Mill. All were heading north. We may look at Millstream with a view to hiring it next autumn for Neil, Val, Wilmar and Eleanor when they come over from Canada. I don’t think all 6 of us will fit in Seyella!

Locks 6, miles 4

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Meg visits the vet, and we all get wet.

Well, the day started well. A sharp overnight frost, but clear sunny skies. Not to last though. By noon the clouds had rolled in, the wind had picked up and it started to rain.
But first of all I took Meg up to Borrajo’s the vet in Birstall. Checked over and with boosters injected, she’s OK for another year. And she was really good, didn’t bother at all.

Yesterday afternoon a boat arrived at Birstall and moored a bit in front of us. I had a chat with the owners this morning, Gary, Donna and daughters Katy and Gemma are on a maiden voyage with NB Silhouette, from the builders (MCC) at Stenson to their home mooring at Tamworth. We agreed to travel together to share the locks (and the work), hoping that we’d get to Kilby Bridge by the end of the day.

But we were off a little later than ideal, at 10:40. We still made good time, even though most of the locks were against us, but with the weather closing in Kilby Bridge was not viable. So we decided to stop just above Gee’s Lock.

Leaving Birstall
Soar Valley Canoe Club HQ at Loughborough Road. I’ve paddled a few canoes from here as well…
Approaching Belgrave Lock, with the National Space Centre looking like an oversized chrysalis on the right. That’s going to be a mighty big moth…..

Castle Gardens secure moorings full up.
Freemans Lock and weir, with Leicester City Football Club to the right.

The trip through Leicester was uneventful apart from motoring through an oil slick between Lime Kiln and North Locks. I’d already been alerted to it by a chap on the towpath, and when we got there decided it was bad enough to warrant a call to BW. It appeared to be coming from a culvert under the road just below North Lock. Lee from the Environment Agency called later in the day for some more information, and promised to look into it. Apparently it’s not the first time, someone in one of the garage businesses in the Frog Island area is being careless (or criminal!).

I wouldn’t want to cruise this section when the river is high. There are a few large weirs that have minimal protection for boats.
Wet and cold, we arrived at Gee’s Lock just after 3:30, and tied up on the end of the lock landing. That’ll do for today, thankyou. I hope the weather is kinder tomorrow!

Gee’s Lock. Done for the day.

Locks 10. YES, 10! Miles 7¾

Monday, October 27, 2008

Soggy Saturday, somnolent Sunday, on the move Monday.

Well the forecast for the weekend was right. The wet weather that blew through on Saturday raised the river level by about 4”, not enough to close the navigation though. It must have deterred a few weekend boaters, we only spotted half a dozen all weekend.

Sunday was a lot brighter and dry, but cooler. We had Dad and Ann around for lunch. A fine piece of Scotch beef from the local butcher, cooked to perfection by Mags and accompanied by yorkshire puddings, 2 veg and roast and mashed potatoes. Lovely. And topped off by home-made apple pie, the apples from Paul’s trees.

The water was on the way down by the afternoon, and this morning was off the amber zone on the level indicators, and back in the green. We set off at 10:40, in bright sunshine but with a nip in the air. We’d had a mild frost overnight.
We could have been off earlier, having been awake since just after 7. The one clock I forgot to change at the weekend was the heating controller. And, as anyone who has an Eberspacher boiler will testify, they don’t half make a row when they start up! That’s why it’s set for 08:15. We’re always awake by then anyway.

Away from Sileby Lock.
We had a very pleasant trip from Sileby, through Cossington, Junction and Thurmaston Locks, finishing up at Birstall, just below the lock.

Approaching Cossington Lock
Junction Lock
The Scout Hall at Thurmaston.

I’ve launched many a canoe from here a lot of years ago. It doesn’t look like there’s so much waterborn activity now though, judging by the weeds on the wharf. And the steel shutters on the windows weren’t there 40 years ago, either. A sign of the times, I guess.

Moored just below Birstall Lock.
We’ll be heading off down through Leicester tomorrow, so long as we can get a reasonable start. That depends on the local vet; Meg has an appointment for her annual check-up and boosters at Borrajo’s at 09:20. Shush - I’ve not told her yet…….

From BW’s email alerts, at 15:49:-

Upper Trent in flood

Monday 27 October 2008 until further notice.

Boaters are advised that the upper section of the River Trent is currently in flood and the floodgates at Cranfleet are on.

Enquiries: 01636 704481 More stoppages on this waterway:

You can find all stoppages at the url below:

I guess the water that’s draining out of the Soar has got to go somewhere…

Locks 3, miles 5

Friday, October 24, 2008

Farewells and a short cruise

We stayed at Mountsorrel yesterday. For one thing, the weather was not fit for cruising, with strong winds and heavy showers, and for another we had lunch at The Waterside (yet again, we’re becoming locals!) with Sue and family, and Dad and Ann.
This was the last chance for us to see the New Zealand connection before they head south for a couple of days prior to jetting off to the other side of the world. So it was a little bit emotional as we waved them goodbye. While at Kay and Paul’s house the other evening for dinner (we’ve never been out and about so much!) we used Google Earth to zoom in on their house in New Zealand. Having seen where they live we’ll be looking for renewing passports, I think! If you’re able, check out Lake Hawea, Otago, then feel as jealous as I do.

I also nabbed some photos of the weekend in Sherwood Forest, and the cruise to Mountsorrel, from Paul's PC.

The gang at the Major Oak..

And Sue at the funfair.
On the boat
Meg’s face is a picture
You can tell Paul is a professional, he sees subjects that us mere mortals miss… Barrow Lock Mags blessing Kay
It’s been a fine day today, so we moved on up to Sileby. Only a mile or so, but we stopped at Sileby Mill to fill with diesel, water and solid fuel, and to empty the loo. I also bought a few bits and pieces in the chandlery (like you do…).
I wanted to fill with diesel before the end of the month and the introduction of the new tax rates for pleasure cruising. I’m sure the new scheme is (not) going to be implemented without a hitch…..

Then up through Sileby Lock and moored opposite the millstream.
Sat out on the bank reading for a while in the warm sunshine, taking advantage of what might be the last chance for a while. Wet and windy again tomorrow, brighter but colder Sunday.

And they say it’s a dog’s life…..

When we moored I set the TV aerial up and just caught the BBC local news at 1 o’clock. Sue on NB No Problem mentioned the stoppage on the Trent and Mersey near Stenson, involving “farm equipment” falling from a bridge into the canal. The equipment in question appears to be a trailer full of what the reporter on the scene politely called fertiliser but what you and I know as cow s**t. I wonder what impact that’ll have on the fish? It should certainly make the weeds grow faster!
BBC coverage here.
It should all be sorted out by the end of today, but will take a while for the queues of boats to clear. I bet Willington was busy!

Locks 1, miles 1.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Moving on out......

Well we’re officially OUT. Of the marina that is. After 26 days tied up to a floating pontoon we came out and spent last night on the bank just above Pillings Lock. It’s been OK, but if it hadn’t been for us spending a week on the east coast near Whitby, then a weekend with the family in Sherwood Forest, I’d have been going stir crazy long before now.

Moored at Pillings Lock
Pillings Lock and weir from downstream

We’ve had a couple of trips out on the boat, one with Sue, Trev and the lads that I’ve already mentioned, and then last Saturday we took Kay, Paul and Samantha on the same run out.

Turning round at Mountsorrel (photo courtesy of Paul)

And we took the opportunity to get our Eberspacher heating boiler serviced. It’s done nearly 1000 hours and was due. Jim Packer did it, a useful all round boat engineer and a pleasant bloke as well.

Just across the pontoon from our mooring was an Aqualine boat called Muriel. On Sunday we chatted to the owner for the first time, turns out he knows Derek and Gloria from NB Completely Foxed, whom we met up on the Macclesfield Canal in August. Hiya both, thanks for the comment on the last post. Been up any good hills recently, Gloria?

The seasons seem to have turned properly while we’ve been off the cut. Most of the trees are now yellow and gold, and the water is often covered in floating leaves. On one of our regular walking routes, Meg and I came across a farmer tilling a field ready for sowing winter wheat. The week before the same field was full of sugar beet!

Clear Field
Millers Bridge

On both sides of the access lane (Flesh Hovel Lane, apparently there was a slaughterhouse somewhere around!) to the marina, there are horses grazing in the fields. We are in fox hunting territory after all. But there are also these chaps, who I don’t think will do much jumping over hedges in pursuit of Reynard, even if it were still legal. They’re so laid back they don’t even bother to get up when you cross the field.
A couple more pictures of the marina…..
We moved on to Mountsorrel today, the same cruise we’ve done twice in the last couple of weeks, but without guests this time, and with no return ticket. Stopping here tonight. The weather has been pretty good, fine and clear.

The river near Barrow
But last night was cool, with a frost in the sheltered bits.

Frosty Teazel
All set to change for tomorrow though; wet and windy weather coming in.

And the posts will be back to their usual regularity now we’re on the move again…

Since last post… Locks 9, miles 9

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Great Run, and the weather improves.

But not until Sunday…
The last couple of days of our stay on the east coast turned out pretty miserable, generally. We did get some odd breaks in the heavy showers, so here are some pictures of Whitby inner and outer harbours, and the Abbey on the headland above the town.

And a great shot of Meg above Robin Hood’s Bay
We left our accommodation on Saturday morning. I was hoping that we would be able to stay another night but they were booked up. So we resigned ourselves to kipping in the car that night, up near South Shields. All Saturday it was wet and windy, limiting what we could do. The weather (and the car seats) made sleeping almost impossible, but we managed catnaps till dawn.
The organisers of the Great North Run must be living right, or something. After several days of gales and lashing rain, Sunday dawned dry, cloudless and calm. Cold though!

After waiting around at the start for an hour or so, we were all glad when the gun went off and we could start the 13.1 mile course.

The start system stretches for nearly a mile to accommodate 52,000 entrants..

The women had a very dramatic finish, with our Jo Pavey just being unable to hold off Gita Wame and Magdalene Mikunzi. She came in 3rd, but still got a new personal best.

She wasn’t the only one. I was chuffed to finish in 1:40:27, just over a minute faster than my time at Liverpool earlier in the year, and 5½ minutes faster than last year’s GNR.
It was a brilliant day, great conditions for running, and the organisation, as usual, was first class.

Incidentally, my justgiving web page is still live, so you've still got the opportunity to donate some money...

We set off back down to Leicestershire at around 2, getting back shortly after 6. After getting all the luggage from the car, unpacking and sorting out, we were ready for bed. So Meg had a quick walk and we hit the sack.

We’ve enjoyed our week away, but it’s good to be home, even if home is only 57 feet x 6 foot 10!

Monday we spent catching up with some rest, then went over to see Dad and Ann in the afternoon. Sue (sister, now living in NZ) and family arrived (they’re staying up near Ollerton while they’re in the UK). We’d met husband Trevor before, but not his 3 boys. Tom, Brad and Adam are a credit to their parents.

Tuesday we were treated to lunch at the Quorndon Fox, very pleasant it was too.

Rainbow over the marina on Tuesday night
Wednesday was another chillin’ day, and yesterday we had the Kiwis on the boat for a cruise to The Waterside at Mountsorrel and back. Trev and Sue had been aboard before, but it was a whole new adventure for the lads. Living beside a lake they are familiar with boats, but narrowboats are different beasts altogether!

Trev and (L-R) Adam, Brad and Tom
They all had a go on the tiller, and got on really well.

Helmsman Adam looking cool (but stood on a stool!).

Lunch at The Waterside in Mountsorrel. Dad and Ann drove over to meet us there.
After a really enjoyable day we arrived back in the marina around 16:30.

The weather has been good for the last few days here, and it’s still sunny today, but with a stronger breeze. Still, we’re only going shopping later.

Since last post – locks 6, miles 5, road miles – nearly 1000!