Thursday, September 25, 2014

Through Leicester

Alongside where we were moored last night is a Local Nature Reserve, Aylestone Meadows. To get to it there’s a footpath over a 15th century packhorse bridge, crossing the Soar and an area of wetland.
The bridge was built to cross the river but I think it must have been diverted since. A modern concrete footbridge crosses the biggest stream of those that spread across the flat ground, but the old bridge still keeps the feet out of a small tributary.  IMG_1715

Kings Lock had to be filled before we could get on our way, but I did that while Mags was sorting herself out ready for the day. Once down we’re on the river, and alternate between natural and artificial channels for the rest of the day.
As to be expected any settlement with running water nearby spawned mills, using the stream for power and as a processing medium. The next two locks are named for adjacent mills, Aylestone Mill has been demolished, but St Mary’s Mill is still in use.

Aylestone Mill LockIMG_1720

St. Mary’s Mill, decorated with an array of “Street Art”IMG_1725

The local yoofs certainly like their graffiti, if there’s no man-made structure to hand they tag the trees! 

Unfortunately for the river a lot of the industries along it’s banks were dye-works, as Leicester was well known for it’s hosiery.

Until relatively recently the river and canal around Wigston and Aylestone were stained and polluted. Legislation against toxic effluent discharge has improved the water quality considerably.

After a winding section the river suddenly breaks out of the trees as several streams come together at Freeman’s Meadow.

Freeman’s MeadowIMG_1728

The lock here is the deepest on this stretch, just below an impressive bow-shaped weir.

Freeman’s Meadow WeirIMG_1732

Didn’t this lot have a good result last weekend!  IMG_1729

The lock here also marks a 1¾ mile lock-free pound as the navigation runs through the city. The river dips in and out, appearing under bridges and disappearing over weirs.IMG_1739

The “Mile Straight” isn’t a mile but it is straight, passing under several bridges, some ornate, some modern and unadorned.


Amazingly, for the first time since we started cruising through here, the pontoon moorings at Castle Gardens were completely empty today. They’re often breasted up on here. It’s a shame that we needed to be at Birstall this afternoon else I’d have pulled in here for the night. It’s ages since I’ve had a look around the city.

These are secure moorings; there’s gated access to the pontoon itself, and the gardens are locked at night too. All along the Mile Straight there are bollards and mooring rings, but there’re rarely used, and usually only for short forays to the local shops.IMG_1733 Leicester had a bad reputation for local behaviour, I’m not sure it’s justified any more but no-one is prepared to moor on the towpath overnight to find out!

Under West Bridge, and we must be in the town centre…

We’d been making good progress so far, after meeting a boat above St Mary’s Mill we’d had the locks full ready for us. But North Road Lock slowed things down. We were just about 50 yards from the lock when a boat crew appeared on the bottom gates and promptly lifted the paddles. With quite a bit of water coming over the upper sill it took a while to drain, then they seemed to be doing an awful lot of fannying about getting the boat in and starting to fill the chamber. Eventually, after 25 minutes, they left the lock.
What should have been a quick 15 minutes, into a full lock, empty it and leave it ready for them, turned into nearly an hour. Ah well. They were heading for Kilby Bridge. At the speed they were doing the locks it was going to be a long day…

In North Road LockIMG_1743

North Road Lock marks the start of another canal section, the river departs above and runs through Abbey Park before rejoining at Belgrave Lock.

Lime Kiln Lock is part way along this section, and is where the Inland Waterways Association held a campaign rally back in 1967. Above the lock is Memory Lane Wharf, cleaned up for the rally but the 40-odd years since has seen it returning to nature.

Memory Lane Wharf
With a bit of imagination this could become secure moorings with easy access to the city centre and Abbey Park.


The navigation leaves the city at Belgrave Lock, where a channel above skirts the weir and heads back upstream into Abbey Park. It’s supposed to be navigable for half a mile or so, but I don’t know anyone who’s tried it in anything of any size. When  was in the Scouts we used to have canoe rallies in the park…

Mags waiting above Belgrave Lock, the channel back round into the park opposite.IMG_1751

Below the lock a pretty, winding length of river heads downstream to Birstall. We often stop below the lock, there’s good moorings there, but today we decided to tie up above. It’s more open and the banks are lower.

Heading down to BirstallIMG_1756

Moored above Birstall Lock

I’d arranged to meet the man from Cox’s, the company who’ve had two of our alternators for repair. Just about on time I picked them up from him on the White Horse car park. This is why we couldn’t stop in the city. This and the temptation of fish and chips from Birstall Fisheries…

Not sure what we’re doing tomorrow. Meg has a morning appointment with the local vet, just a check-up and boosters, and there’s some shopping to do. We’ll see what time it gets to.

Locks 7, miles 6½

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