Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Long haul through Leicester

I checked with the boats moored above Birstall Lock with us to see if we could share the broad locks on today’s trip. The private boat ahead was leaving at 07:30 – nah, and the hirer behind was heading back the way they’d come, to Sawley. So we were on our own.

Meg and I had a walk around the lake at this end of Watermead Country Park before we left this morning.

Across the lakeIMG_0373

Replica woolly mammoth sits on a hill
Mammoth, bison and horse fossils, dating from the last Ice Age, were found in the gravel pits here.

Leaving Birstall on a beautiful morningIMG_0375

It was 40 minutes of fine cruising before we arrived on the outskirts of the city at Belgrave Lock.

Cruising towards LeicesterIMG_0379

Even the herons were waving on such a fine morning…IMG_0384

Belgrave Lock, the National Space Centre rising like an up-ended chrysalis beyond. IMG_0385
In the past there’s been a raft of rubbish above the top gates here, today we both commented on how much cleaner it is. Not clean, just much cleaner.

Following the early riser this morning, we had to turn each lock as we reached it, but it wasn’t too much of a problem with the shallow river locks this side of Leicester.

Passing the large factory below Limekiln LockIMG_0387
The canal here is shallow and the bottom silt quite nasty if you stir it up too much. It’s worth crawling through here on tick-over, it’s not a place where you’d want to have your hands down the weed-hatch clearing rubbish off the prop.

Limekiln Lock, the site of the 1967 Inland Waterways Association National Rally.IMG_0389
These campaign rallies are held each year to publicise a particular waterway or canal. The 1967 rally drew attention to the poor condition of the Leicester Canal, once an extremely profitable navigation but rapidly falling into disrepair. About 350 boats attended, moored on the main canal and on the arms above and below the lock.

One more lock at North Road and the navigation rejoins the River Soar, and flirts with the river all the way to Kings Lock, now natural, now artificial.

Out on the Soar again.IMG_0401

Several unprotected weirs drop under towpath bridgesIMG_0399

Through the city the waterway is broad and deep, passing under several ornamental bridges.

Castle Gardens moorings on the offside are always busy, being secure and giving easy access to the city centreIMG_0403

Under the bridges...

West BridgeIMG_0404

Newarke Bridge

Upperton Road Bridge, the pigeons like this one.IMG_0408
Pigeon poo has even partially obscured the road sign!

Don’t know what this one is… but it’s got to be Victorian. Just look at those rivets.IMG_0407

At the end of the long straight there’s a short arm which used to service a timber yard, now the headquarters of the Leicester Rowing Club make use of it.IMG_0410

Freeman’s Lock is the deepest of the day, and marks the end of the lock-free section through the city.

Freeman’s LockIMG_0413

A long, curving weir carries the river down from above the lockIMG_0414

From West Bridge the navigation was built as the Leicester and Northamptonshire Union Canal, authorised in 1793 and intended to run from Leicester to the River Nene near Northampton. By 1809 it had reached Market Harborough and there it ended, the north-south link being completed by the Old Grand Union Canal a year later.

The locks start to come with regularity now, every 10-20 minutes Meg takes the chance to hop off and watch me work…

St. Mary’s Mill Lock

Aylestone Mill Lock with a miniature Globe Theatre alongside…IMG_0419

We often break the journey at Kings Lock, there’s a good stretch of piling for mooring below the lock. But today we decided to press on, one of the reasons being the sight of a boat coming down. At last the locks would be in our favour!

Kings Lock, didn’t have to empty it first, yippee!IMG_0423

Blue Bank Lock was also in our favour, but the wheels came off as we arrived at Gees Lock to find a pair of boats in the lock, going up. They were a pair of single-handers travelling together, and not in any hurry.

Cooling their heels, just like we had to do…IMG_0430

We caught up with them at Whetstone Lane Lock, Dunns Lock, Bush Lock and Ervin’s Lock, each time closing up for them and emptying the lock before we could use it.
To be fair, they did offer to let us pass, but I declined, unfortunately.
I was sure there’d be well clear by the time we got to Bush, Dunns had slowed us down considerably as I had to evict a single parent family from the lock chamber before I could empty it…

Here’s the ducklings, mum’s standing quacking on the lockside.IMG_0432
One’s using a discarded inner tube as a personal flotation device.

Into Bush Lock, once again after closing up and turning it for us.IMG_0434

Even Meg had had enough…

Ervin’s next, the pair ahead just starting to fill up the lockIMG_0439

As we came in a Napton hire boat full of Scandinavians arrived from above, so at least we didn’t have to close the gates on this one.
They were making for the secure moorings at Castle Gardens. I took this at 4 o’clock and it was half-ten when we passed their destination. They’re in for a long day… but at least most of the locks will be set for them, and they can work shifts!

Coming into view of Double Rail Lock and seeing our friends ahead once again we made the decision to pull in on the piling a hundred yards short of the lock for the night.
Still two locks short of Kilby Bridge, but we’d all had enough. Good timing actually, almost immediately we were treated to a lengthy shower. So much for the forecast…

We’ll mosey into Kilby Bridge tomorrow, waiting till a boat or two have come down the locks first, of course.

Here’s a picture I should have posted yesterday, but forgot - IMG_0341
Caption? “OK, children, today’s lesson, how to bum bread off passing boats… You there! Pay attention!”

Locks 13, miles 11. 7½ bl**dy hours!

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