You know they say, “A trouble shared is a trouble halved”. Well the same thing applies to broad locks, and we’ve been lucky to find partners for both yesterday and today.
We had a later start than planned yesterday, some silly person had left top and bottom paddles part way up at Kilby Lock, allowing about two feet of water to disappear down the canal towards Leicester.
We weren’t too bad, although you can see by the stern how far out of the water we were…
…some were quite a bit worse off!
But CRT were on the ball and started to run water down from Saddington quickly, so, instead of having to wait until the afternoon to get going, we were across at the water point topping up at just after 10, and heading to Kilby Lock by half past.
Bruce and Judy on Just the 1 followed us on to the water point, then joined us in Kilby Lock
Seyella and JT1 in Double Rail Lock
A footpath crosses the top gates and it has a handrail either side of the balance beam footway, hence the name.
The locks come steadily, Ervin’s, Bush, Dunn’s, Whetstone Lane. One unforeseen advantage of losing the water from the Kilby Bridge pound was that it all went downstream, overflowed the top gates of the lower locks and kept them filled, so they were mostly ready for us!
Dunn’s Lock (I think)
We had a couple of minor hold-ups. I had to cut half a pair of track-suit bottoms off our prop above Dunn’s Lock, and Bruce had to grope around in the underworld, retrieving a shirt, after Whetstone lane.
By the time we’d rounded the corner and joined the Soar valley we’d started to meet boats coming up, so had the last three pretty much set for us.
Holding off, waiting for boats coming out of Blue Bank Lock
Kings Lock, our last for the day
The lock-side tea-rooms were open, so the towpath was busy.
We pulled in below the lock, Bruce and Judy to have lunch before moving on a bit, us to wait for friend Nessa who was visiting for a couple of hours. Good to see her again.
We had a quiet night here, then I was up at seven to take Meg out so we could get a reasonable start.
We were having breakfast when we felt the boat move a bit, followed by a boat passing having just come down the lock behind us. We weren’t in a position to give chase, so resigned ourselves to having to travel solo and turn at least the first few locks.
King’s Lock moorings. No-one to join us from here this morning!
For the first time the River Soar now joins the navigation, dipping in and out under low bridges until it becomes an almost permanent fixture at Freeman’s Meadow.
Although the river sections have obviously been “improved”, they still have an essentially natural feel to them.
We arrived at Aylestone Mill Lock to see the preceding boat just leaving, and I remember thinking that they were slow… We were too! Only one top paddle was working, so it took ages to fill, then took a while to empty because afore-mentioned paddle wouldn’t close properly, having been bunged up with weed.
Aylestone Mill Lock
There you go, Nessa!
Although the channel below Aylestone is now clean and sweet-smelling, it used to be heavily polluted from several dye-works that used the river water in their processes. One is still here…
Almost opposite is what I thought was a gasometer, but now it’s being dismantled I guess it was a large tank.
With water meadows and no road access on that side of the river, a temporary road has been built on the opposite side, and a bridge is waiting to be slung across the river to carry away the removed segments.
I wonder if they brought them here by water, initially?
It’s not far to the next, at St Mary’s Mill, and we were delighted to see that the boat in front had spotted us at Aylestone and was waiting for us.
Russ and Elaine, NB Hour Time holding the lock for us.
The river loses it’s meandering character above Freemans Meadow Lock, opening out into a large pool above the weir.
We timed it well; another boat had arrived at the bottom, and, as the lock was full, they opened the gates for us. This is the deepest chamber on this stretch, so takes some time to fill.
The Mile Straight carries the navigation through Leicester, while the river wanders about a bit over to the east, just occasionally returning under a bridge, bringing an injection of fresh water before disappearing again over one of several weirs.
Leicester is much maligned, known for a long time as “bandit country”, where the local youths would stone boats and break in and empty them given half a chance. But it’s a shame, there are lots of moorings on the towpath side on the Straight, and I think it’s one of the nicest city river frontages on the network.
At the end of the Mile Straight are the secure pontoon moorings at Castle Gardens. Usually thronged, the only boat on there this morning was our friends from yesterday, Bruce and Judy on Just The 1.
West Bridge marks the top end of the Old Grand Union Canal run by the Grand Junction Canal Company, and the start of the Leicester Canal.
Friars Mill, the oldest factory left in the city, has been rebuilt by the local council to house offices. Opened in 1790, it produced woolen yarn from raw fleeces. Closed in 2000 it fell into dereliction until it was badly damaged in an arson attack in 2012. But now it’s rebuilt, and will be home to several businesses.
Part of the redevelopment proposal involved installing a mooring pontoon with services, and that’s there now and appears to be open, though I‘m not sure that the service block is yet finished.
Fine “muriels” at the entrance to North Road Cut
We were fortunate in meeting a boat just coming out of North Road Lock, less fortunate was the fact the the bridge arch chewed our handrail as we came out the bottom. Another little job. They’re never ending, aren’t they…
The canal (it is a canal now, till below Belgrave Lock) runs past Abbey Park and more under-used moorings, before starting to look a bit shabby at Lime Kiln Lock.
Memory Lane Wharf would make good secure moorings, close enough to the city centre. Maybe residential?
It’s wise to go dead slow between Lime Kiln and Belgrave Locks. There’s a lot of rubbish in the water, and the disturbed bottom silt has an evil smell. Not somewhere where you’d want to have to visit the weed hatch…
Although the Wolsey knitwear factory has long gone, the chimney still remains as a reminder of Leicester’s proud hosiery industry.
The rather odd-looking silver thingy to the left is the top of the National Space Centre. Really will have to go there some time…
All change again at Belgrave Lock.
The river rejoins here after meandering it’s way through Abbey Park, and most of the rubbish is caught on the weir crest.
Thurcaston Road Bridge is the oldest crossing over the navigation, probably dating from the 15th century. After renovations and improvements over the intervening period, there’s not a lot of the original left…
The river now winds it’s way towards Birstall, passing the busy activity centre at Loughborough Road Bridge and under the new-ish Watermeade Bridge.
Canoes out at the activity centre. School’s out for summer!
Lots of Himalayan Balsam on the banks along here.
Pretty in the summer, but devastating to local flora.
We pulled in above the lock at Birstall, it’s a bit more open up here and there’s a bit less foot traffic than below. A trip to the shops got the first load of provisions in, I’ll get some more tomorrow.
Later in the afternoon Meg and I toddled up to the vet, Borrajo’s. She needed a repeat prescription of Metacam which does a good job of managing her arthritis, I wanted him to look at the sore patch on her chest even though it’s healing, and also to check her teeth. Sometimes her breath can strip paint!
He’s recommended a dental descaling as there’s quite a bit of plaque on her molars. That requires a general anesthetic and if they find any bad teeth they can remove them at the same time.
I’ve got to get an appointment booked for that. She’ll be off me for a few hours afterwards! But generally he was pleased with her condition.
We’ll move on about mid-day tomorrow, only a couple of locks and a bit more miles. Our Andy and Donna are coming to see us, all being well.
Locks 15, miles 11½ over the two days.