Friday, July 31, 2009

Meg gets the all-clear so we move to a quieter spot.

Wednesday afternoon’s rain pushed the river up 18”, but it was going back down again by Thursday morning.
Dilys from Raynsway came round to say Hi, and to tell us to go into the marina if we needed to. Thanks, both. We’re going to be around for another 3 weeks, so will join them there for a couple of nights at some point, and maybe share a bottle or two.

A couple of heavy showers in the afternoon stopped the levels from falling any further, but it had faired up by the time Meg’s vet appointment came around.

Hailstorm yesterday afternoon.
Her paw has healed cleanly and the infection has cleared up so we’re free to go a bit further down river. It’ll save me buying another pack of sliced chicken as well. The only way I could get her to take her pills was half at a time, rolled up in meat. And even then she started to get wise, rolling the morsel around in her mouth, then spitting out the pill.

We celebrated Meg’s recovery with a takeaway, Mags with fish and chips and a Chinese for me. Meg had her share as well, after all it was her paw.

This morning was bright and dry, but the river was still on the red zone on the indicator boards, but heading in the right direction. So Meg and I had a pleasant stroll around the lakes at this end of Watermead, then we got away.

Meg’s new mate, Woolly Mammoth

Across the lake
Birstall Moorings
We followed a couple of boats down to Thurmaston, the flow on the river making anything above tick-over much too fast.
By the time I’d refilled the lock for our use another 2 boats had arrived at the top. We decided to send them down ahead of us; one was a hire boat with a crew from Seattle hoping to get to Sawley today, and the other was a private boat who had shepherded them down through Leicester. It seemed a shame to split up a good team, and we were stopping in a couple of miles anyway.

We had a gentle cruise the rest of the way to the Wreake junction, and moored in the same spot as last weekend. It’s out of the way here, but still fairly convenient for Syston. And we’re away from the “goldfish bowl” moorings at Birstall.

LR Harris and Son, aka Old Junction Boatyard, seems to be undergoing a bit of a renaissance. An old building has been demolished and the ground cleared, and you can now see those fine hexagonal windows from the canal.

Old Junction Boatyard

The slipway has also been devegged, although I think the trolley needs a bit of TLC.
Dilys told us yesterday that she’d heard they were going to start offering blacking services. It’s a good time to give the old yard a tidy up, they’ll be a lot of boats up and down for the IWA National at the end of August.

Locks 1, miles 3

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Back to Birstall

I kept an eye on the river level on Monday evening following the heavy thunderstorm we had, and it rose by 6” before returning to normal by the morning.
It was a fine dry start to the day and we set off to travel the mile back to Mountsorrel, pulling into the now available slot on the visitor moorings. I gave Dad a call to confirm that we’d arrived, and settled down to wait for them.
I was outside with Meg when we were hailed by a boat passing, it was Ray and Ann on NB New-Ark looking for somewhere to moor, so I invited them to breast up.

New-Ark arrives.

They’d spent a few days in Raynsway Marina, taking the opportunity to make a visit home before returning to the boat. They’re now heading north for the Trent and Mersey. With shopping to do they decided to have a couple of hours in Mountsorrel.

They set off into the village and we set off with Dad and Ann to The Waterside for lunch. We had a really good afternoon catching up with what’s been happening before they left us to go home. Meanwhile Ray and Ann had also pushed off, heading to Barrow so we were all on our own.

Ray and Ann and NB New-Ark
Artwork on the cabin side.

We toyed with the idea of heading back to spend another night at Sileby Mill, but inertia got the better of us so we stayed put.

The forecast for today was grim, so we decided to get off early to try to avoid the predicted heavy rain, aiming to get to Raynsway Marina. There we would be safe if the river rose, would have access to the facilities, and I’d still be able to walk Meg over to Birstall for her appointment at the doggy-doctor tomorrow afternoon.
We were on the move just after 08:00, and made good time, with only a bit of light rain for company.

At Sileby we had to be careful as we were joined in the lock by a family of swans, taking the opportunity of a lift up to the next pound without having to walk around. They left the lock as soon as I opened the top gate, without a thankyou or even a backward glance!

Company in Sileby Lock
At Cossington Lock we met a boat coming down, the 1830’s icebreaker Laplander. She’s steam powered, the boiler burning waste oil, which accounts for the pall of black smoke that follows her about.

Icebreaker Laplander
We’d done OK for weather until we reached Thurmaston, when the first fringes of the approaching front arrived. Heavy rain made locking through uncomfortable, and it persisted for the next couple of hours.
We turned into Raynsway, hoping for a berth, but phone calls to the office went unanswered and when we pulled onto the service wharf I found that office is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Into Raynsway in the rain
Dave and Dylis’s boat, NB Trundle (another one!) was missing from her usual spot. He’s the marina manager and I’m sure he’d have sorted us out. But with no-one to ask we didn’t want to moor without permission. We did avail ourselves of the water tap though, before turning around and heading out again, finally mooring below the lock at Birstall. With all this rain forecast, we’ll be keeping an eye on water levels. If we have to we’ll duck into the marina for security, otherwise, if Meg gets a clean bill of health tomorrow, we’ll be setting off back down river again.

I've just been checking on what my favourite bloggers are up to, and came across this on Granny Buttons. If you've got a fairly fast connection and feel in need of a good laugh, check it out.
Locks 4, miles 7

Monday, July 27, 2009

New meetings, family visits and a bit of down and back up the river.

We had a boat join us on Saturday, Mick and Jenny on NB Trundle. Turns out they’re lapsed blog readers - “You used to do a blog didn’t you?” I was asked. I made it clear that there’s no used to about it!
They’ve now caught up with our travels…..
They’re on the way down to the Nene and the Great Ouse, no doubt they’ll meet up with Sue and Vic on No Problem somewhere down there.
Have a good trip, you guys.

We had a phone call from my brother last night, they’re just back from a holiday in Fuentaventura, heard we were local and decided to have a walk down to see us. So we entertained Andy, Nyree, Megan and Luke, and a damp and daft year old labrador called Zack. It was great to see them again, it’s been a while.

Needing water and to get rid of rubbish, we planned to go to Barrow Upon Soar, do the necessaries, turn around and head back to Mountsorrel, mooring above the lock near The Waterside. Dad and my stepmum, Ann, are coming for lunch tomorrow, and this is a handy spot.
The day started a bit grey and damp, but brightened steadily, and the sun was making a brief appearance as we started back to Mountsorrel.

Leaving the weekend mooring and NB Trundle
A grey cruise this morning.
A bit of work has been done at Cossington Lock, with new timber fendering on the stone faced lock landing.

Cossington Lock

The only problem is, it’s been fitted too high for rubbing guard on a normal narrowboat, and it scuffs the paint on the top bend.
It’d be OK if the river was 6” higher, of course.

Down Sileby Lock and past the redeveloped mill, then down Mountsorrel Lock and on to Barrow. I was tempted to pull over on the mooring at Mountsorrel, there was a space available, but we may have been struggling for water in the morning. So we stuck to plan A and filled at the BW facilities next to Barrow Boating.

Near Meadow Farm Marina there is a field full of dappled horses. They look just like those you used to see in old westerns.
I’m always looking for the “Injuns” hiding in the bushes.

By the time we’d returned to Mountsorrel and gone back up the lock the one mooring space had been occupied. Sod’s Law, isn’t it. They’d only just arrived. Ah well.

So we pushed on, back to Sileby and arrived just as the mother of all thunderstorms let loose overhead. I dropped the centre line over a bollard and dived inside, waiting it out before going out to tie up properly.

Sileby Mill

The storm cleared the air, and it’s a fine sunny evening now.

I was delighted to see Lewis Hamilton and Maclaren returning to form, with a win in Hungary yesterday. But it’s tempered with sadness to hear the news that Felipe Massa’s head injury sustained during qualifying on Saturday may prevent him from racing again.
It’s a great shame, after such a freak accident.

Oh, and Meg seems to be lot better now. Her paw is still a bit swollen but the cut seems to have healed cleanly and she's eating again.

Just picked up my emailed stoppage notifications, and this was included:-

Grindley Brook Locks 3 and 4
Monday 27 July 2009 until further notice
Updated 27th July 2009 15.30

Our engineers and contractors are currently working on a temporary repair solution that will enable limited passage through the Grindley Brook Lock Flight.
A full feed of water has now been re-established through the lock flight which will enable us to successfully manage levels below Grindley Brook.
We are hopeful that a restricted system of navigation may be available through the locks in the next 48 hours and will issue another update notice tomorrow, 28th July with further details.

In order to assist customers in the local area we have temporarily extended the opening times of Frankton Locks which will remain open for passage from 12pm until 6pm for the next 48 hrs. In order to book please make contact with our customer service teams before 10am in order to arrange passage.

Winding can be found at Grindley Brook top lock and Wrenbury Lift Bridge.

Please note Hurleston Lock flight will be closed overnight 27th July 2009 to conserve water supplies.

27th July 09 - 10.00am

Due to a canal failure early on Monday 27th July, the canal pound between Grindley Brook Locks 3 and 4 is currently dewatered and the canal is closed to navigation. Movement through locks may be restricted between Hurleston Locks and Grindley Brook whilst water levels are restored.
Further updates will be posted as soon as they are available.

British Waterways apologise for any inconvenience caused.
Enquiries: 01606 723800

Not a good time of year for a major closure on the Llangollen Canal. I imagine there are quite a few boats at the top and bottom of Grindley Brook Locks.

And there’s been another narrowboat fire, this one just south of Leicester, near Dunns Lock.

Locks 5, miles 6½

Friday, July 24, 2009

Somewhere quiet for the weekend.

Birstall is very useful for picking up supplies, pubs and of course the vet, but the moorings are alongside the route from the village to the popular walks around the water park. So there are a lot of folk passing the windows, and sometimes having a good gawp in.
It’s not the place to stay more than a night, so we decided to move on and find a quieter pitch for the weekend.

After a bright sunny start, we had a thundery shower just as we were about to set off, so waited half an hour for it to clear.

At Thurmaston Lock we met a day boat out of Sileby Mill coming up the lock, then another couple of boats as we came out after dropping down.

They’ve built a smart new bridge at the tail of the lock, now with disabled access, to the footpaths around the old gravel pits.

New bridge at Thurmaston Lock.
We had another short shower along the long straight up to the Hope and Anchor. There are moorings both sides of the bridge here, but both lengths have sections fenced off due to bank slippage.

DEFRA mesh at the Hope and Anchor.
Just past Old Junction Boatyard we turned left onto what is strictly speaking the River Wreake, running from it’s source over in Stapleford Park.

Old Junction This was once navigable as the Melton Mowbray Navigation, opened in 1797. The entirely artificial Oakham Canal made an end-on connection in 1803, taking the navigation another 15 miles into the county of Rutland. Coal was the main cargo.
Railway competition soon hit hard and in 1847 the Oakham Canal was sold to The Syston and Peterborough Railway who built their trackbed on the line of the canal.
The Melton Mowbray Navigation struggled on but finally succumbed to the inevitable, and an Act of Parliament made the closure official on August 1st, 1877.
There is, of course, a preservation society, Melton and Oakham Waterways Society.

We pulled over after a couple of hundred yards, in a pleasant spot with a wide grassy towpath.

Moored near Old Junction
Meg seems a bit listless and off her food today. It’s probably the antibiotics. We’ll keep an eye on her.

Locks 1, miles 3.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Leicester at it’s best in the sun.

We were up good and early this morning, I’d had a run, Meg’d had a walk and we were ready to move at 08:45.
There were 2 boats moored overnight below the lock, and the first of these came up, so we took advantage of the full lock. Just going in and the second of the 2 was waiting at the bottom, so we could leave the lock open. A good start to the day, which continued in the same vein; locks set in our favour all the way apart from 2.

Just below King’s the River Soar makes it’s first appearance, flowing under a 15C packhorse bridge then under a rather more recent towpath bridge as it joins the navigation.

The river flows in…

The water immediately changes. From being cloudy and still, it becomes clear and full of life.

You can see the bottom….
It smells clean, too.

Aylestone Mill Lock has a curious structure built alongside, with “Aylestone Globe MM” inscribed around the top.

Aylestone Globe.

It’s an artwork by Richard Janes.

Approaching the edge of the city proper is the last lock south of the centre, Freemans. With a huge crescent shaped and unprotected weir alongside, it’s not the place to hang about when the river is in flood.

Freemans Lock and Weir. Leicester City FC’s ground is just out of picture to the left.
The “Mile Straight” (in point of fact only 0.8 miles, but who's counting), takes the canal/river through the centre of the city, and here we met another couple of boats coming the other way. Apart from those we saw at King’s Lock, these were the first today. The navigation is bordered by newish buildings set back from the water, giving it a spacious, open feeling. That all changes after North Lock, as the river shoots off to the left to take a tour around Abbey Park.

Off goes the river.

Discarded (at least I hope so!) wheelchair at the water point above Limekiln Lock.
From Limekiln Lock to Belgrave Lock is the grottiest stretch, shallow and dirty, the propeller lifting clouds of black, stinking silt from the bottom.

It looks quiet nice, but don’t fall in!
We often hit the bottom just on that bend, but today got over without incident. There must be something in the water, or this heron was being very optimistic.

Heron below Limekiln Lock
He does look a bit thin, doesn’t he.

The IWA held a National Rally here in 1967. A plaque at the lock commemorates the event.

Below Belgrave Lock the river rejoins, and the water quality improves no end.

There was a gaggle of canoeists out from the Outdoor Pursuit Centre at Loughborough Road.

Enjoying the river.
The channel through Leicester is generally quite wide, even on the artificial cuts. But there’s one bit that’s narrow, where it ducks under Thurcaston Old Road on a bend. And, of course, this is where we met the next pair of boats coming the other way.
A quick reverse to let NB Verity through, then the current helped us through just before a Canaltime boat came around the corner.

NB Verity through Thurcaston Old Bridge.

Floating Pennywort is an invasive species, imported from New Zealand in the 1980’s, and now escaped from captivity. The Soar is particularly blighted, and the first sightings were made as we approached Birstall.

It’s a problem because it forms dense mats of vegetation, starving the water of light, and bungs up water control weirs increasing the risk of flooding. Quite a bit of work has been done to keep the water clear, but it’s going to be an ongoing battle.

We arrived at Birstall at around midday, dropped down the lock and moored.

Moored at Birstall.

We’ve had a dry trip, but just had a light shower as we tied up.

I mentioned earlier in the week that Meg has a sore paw. Despite my best efforts it doesn’t seem to be improving, so I took her up to Borrajo’s, the vet in the village. She’s been there before, when she was spayed before we got her, and since for annual boosters. We came away with some antibiotics and antiseptic wash, and another appointment for next Friday. So we’ll travel a bit down the river before coming back next week.

Locks 8, miles 6½

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A better day after the rain.

We laid over at Kilby Bridge yesterday, watching the rain streaming down the windows. It did brighten up a bit later, but too late to make a start on the run towards Leicester.

So we were across at the facilities at 10:00 this morning, and caught up with NB New-Ark at Kilby Lock a little later. Ray and Ann had been moored behind us last night, and beat us to the water tap this morning. The boat was built in Newark, so they put a bit of a spin on it to get the name.
There’s an excellent picture on the cabin side, which I neglected to take a photo of. We may catch them up again by the weekend, if so I’ll take a picture. They moor on the Trent and Mersey, near Rugeley.

We had a bit of confusion at the next lock. 2 boats were coming up, and Ray lost his boat to the strong cross wind, so at one point there were 3 milling about just at the entrance to the lock.

A bit of congestion at Double Rail Lock.
Approaching Ervin’s Lock and the first sighting of the Leicester suburbs as South Wigston, Blaby and Glen Parva come into view. There are still some open country sections yet, though.

Nearing Commuterland
Just one heavy shower near Bush’s Lock required the breaking out of waterproofs, otherwise the day was pretty dry but with a strengthening wind.

Dunns Lock is the site of a schollboy drowning a couple of years ago. The balance beams of the lock gates were covered in tributes to Stephan. Since then though, BW have been along and repainted, and now there’s just the normal graffiti “tagging”.
He’s still remembered, though. A fresh spray of flowers was on the lockside.

In Dunns Lock

We parted company at King’s Lock. We’d made up our minds to pull over here earlier, as it’s about halfway to Birstall and just before the city starts properly. Ray and Ann decided to press on a bit further, maybe to the Castle Gardens mooring in the centre.

The local branch of the Inland Waterways Association, in co-operation with the local authority, have produced a very useful guide to the Leicester Line. These can be obtained from boxes at various points on the waterway, but all those I’d looked in had been empty. Till now. There were a handful left outside the Lock Cottage at King’s, so I got one and Ann had another.

Useful and informative guide to the Leicester Line.

Locks 8, miles 5

Monday, July 20, 2009

A good cruise and Meg gets some snazzy footwear.

The heavy showers over the weekend put paid to any plans for working on the outside of the boat, but I had a list of bits and pieces to do inside, so kept busy. Had a couple of good long walks with Meg, luckily missing the heaviest of the rain.

Dramatic sunset between showers last night.
We got away soon after 9 this morning, with an open-ended plan depending on the weather. As it turned out, we had a dry, breezy day so pushed all the way through to Kilby Bridge, a long day by our standards!

Weedy channel near Smeeton.
One of the hazards at this time of year are the floating reed rafts, as vegetation breaks away from the banks.

They always seem to be lurking in bridge holes…..

Saddington Tunnel was empty as we passed through. Even though there’s room for 2 boats to pass, I’m not keen on meeting other boats in these confined spaces. Didn’t see any of the colony of Daubenton's Bats, either.

Saddington Tunnel
We’d spotted another boat following us into the tunnel, so took it easy to the first lock, Kibworth Top Lock. There was an Anglo Welsh hire boat just dropping down as we arrived, and by the time I’d refilled the lock and we were ready to go in, we had locking companions.

In Kilby Top Lock, I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the other boat…

We had a bit of a drama a couple of locks down. We’d caught up with the hire boat, so were waiting on the top lock landing as I refilled the lock. This, of course, lowered the level in the short pound to the lock above, and Seyella finished up high and dry on a pile of rocks.

She was showing a good 6” of weedy bottom, and took 3 of us on 2 long poles, as well as a slug of water from the lock above, to push her off.

The rest of the day passed without incident. We lost our erstwhile lock companions at lock 27 where they stopped for lunch, did the next lock solo, then caught up with a single-hander and did the delightfully named Bumblebee Lock in tandem.

15 minutes later, at around 14:00, we tied up opposite the maintenance depot at Kilby Bridge.
Meg has been bothered by a sore paw the last couple of days, on examination she appeared to have a cut between 2 of her toes. So we’ve been bathing it in salt water and applying antiseptic cream, which she immediately licks off again!
Rather than having to keep telling her to leave it alone (and getting the sad eyed, wounded expression that makes you feel so guilty), I decided to remove the temptation. She’s now sporting the latest fashion in Saxon style bootees. I don’t think she’s very impressed, though.

Meg’s new footwear
An old running sock with a lace threaded around to keep it up makes a good lick proof covering.

It’ll have to come off when she’s out, but she’s usually distracted by other things while out on a walk. If we can keep it clean and covered for a couple of days I’m sure it’ll heal well.

Locks 12, miles 7

Friday, July 17, 2009

An hour to a weekend mooring

We woke up to heavy showers drumming on the roof this morning, so rolled over and went back to sleep again.
It brightened up by 08:00, so Meg and I had a walk, a later than normal breakfast, and then we moved off around 11:00.

Debdale Wharf looked busy, there seemed to be 3 boats queuing to get onto the services dock. I wonder if the diesel is cheap?

Debdale Wharf

Just past the marina the canal has been designated an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Importance).

The site runs the 9½ miles from Kilby Bridge to Foxton, and is considered important due to the biodiversity found here.

I suppose it also means that BW can’t clear the channel or cut the trees back….

Narrow Channel

We pulled over a little after bridge 70, on a nice quiet bit of towpath. The showers returned in earnest this afternoon, accompanied by thunder and lightening. But we were tied up and snug by then.

Thanks to Val in Ingleton who’s kicked of the sponsorship for my Great North Run. Come on, the rest of you!

Locks 0 miles 2½