The perceived wisdom is that boats shouldn’t stop overnight in Leicester, Kilby Bridge to the south and Birstall to the north are the “safe havens” at either end of the city. In common with most cities these days, though, that idea is outdated. There are secure moorings at Castle Gardens in the city centre, but there are also moorings on the towpath opposite, reportedly used without any trouble. Mags is no longer easily able to cope with the seven or eight hours needed to go through in one go, so we usually stop over at King’s Lock, about at the half-way point.
To get here the canal skirts the outlying villages on Leicester’s fringes, staying mainly rural with just a few patches of housing alongside the canal. Even amongst the open fields, though, the built-up area isn’t far away.
We pulled over to the wharf to top up the water and empty a loo tank, then headed off to our first lock today.
John and Mags in Kilby Lock
Several of these locks have delicately balanced gates, which tend to swing open. Kilby is one such, and, after two failed attempts to get them to stay put, I left them open.
There was no-one else following us from Kilby Bridge, three boats had already left ahead of us. So it was likely that an upcoming boat would get there first and take advantage of the empty lock, and so it worked out. We met a crew at Double Rail Lock, the next one down.
We had an uneventful trip, steadily working our way down the locks and meeting a few boats coming up. We’d agreed to leap-frog, taking it in turns to go ahead and set the next one while the remaining boat closed up, which worked well.
Heading past Wigston
We’d been told by C&RT that the pound below Dunns Lock was low. Apparently some local oiks managed to jam a paddle open on Whetstone Lock, the next down, and sent all the water downhill. The waterways guys had been steadily refilling the pound, but it had still not yet recovered to it’s normal levels.
It actually wasn’t bad at all, about a foot down but we’ve negotiated shallower water. Moored boats near Blaby Bridge demonstrated the need to stay in the middle…
It was here that we collected a volunteer lock-keeper, who joined us for the rest of the trip.
Pete walked ahead and set the last four locks for us, making it a very quick second half.
Mags concentrates bringing Seyella out of Gees Lock
Blue Bank Lock, Pete the lockie on the right hand side
We usually stop above Kings Lock for the night, but today dropped down to the moorings below as we were travelling in company.
After closing up behind us Pete joined us for a brew and a bacon butty, it was the least we could do after the help.
The river, after running alongside the navigation for a couple of miles, splits here. One branch joins the navigation channel below the lock, alongside a medieval packhorse bridge. This channel then swings past two mills, presumably built to take advantage of the waterway, before the two unite above Freeman’s Lock. From there we head into the city proper, the river joining and leaving the navigation several times in the next couple of miles. That’s for tomorrow.
Locks 9, miles 5½