Thursday, September 30, 2010

A cobweb morning…..

The spiders were out in force last night, spinning frantically. The webs were clearly outlined with droplets of water from the mist.

Damp webs under Zouch Bridge
Misty morning, looking back to Zouch Lock.
One of those ethereal autumn mornings, soft pearly light as the sun comes up.

We’d moved the couple of miles to just above Zouch Lock yesterday. We managed to avoid the rain showers till we were tied up. It’s not so noisy from passing aircraft here.

Today was reckoned to be a fine day, sandwiched between two poor ones, so we toddled into Loughborough. The forecast was right, the mist burned off by the time we set off and it’s been a warm sunny day.

Some fine houses on the waterfront at Normanton.

Just below Bishop Meadow Lock the river comes back in to the navigation after leaving at Pillings Flood Lock. It's described a 4¾ mile loop north and east around the town, passing Cotes and Stanford on Soar. Our route though is all artificial cut through Loughborough.

In comes the river, we’re now on canal.

We filled and emptied at Bishop Meadow, then ascended our second and last lock of the day.

Loughborough Lock and lock house
We moored a little further on, around the corner near The Albion Inn. Not stopped here before, so we’ll see how it goes.

Locks 3, miles 5 (since Tuesday)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Definitely Autumnal

It looks like hopes for an Indian Summer have got to be put on hold for the time being. It’s certainly got a lot colder over the last few days.
Even the leaves are starting to turn now.

Kegworth Lock Cut

Our mooring Lovely spot, but the passing traffic can be a tad noisy.
After a couple of days odd jobbing, we collected brother Andy and family yesterday for a cruise down the Trent to Beeston and back. It was cold, but at least the rain held off.

Wide open spaces at Soar Junction
Leaving Beeston after turning around
Mo, Ness and Joe on Balmaha heading for Nottingham

Waiting for Cranfleet Lock with Andy and Zac.
After the lock we pulled over and had an excellent, if slightly late, Sunday lunch. Thanks, Mags.

We dropped our guests off at Kegworth Shallow Lock after a very enjoyable day. Long, by our standards, but good. I think we were all ready for an early night.

Today has been damp but milder now the wind has dropped. I’ve spent most of the day re-routing the wiring to the horn and the co-ax to the TV aerial. These ran from the gunwhales up the inside of the existing cratch board, but I wanted them out of the way for the new one, so now they exit the cabin through the roof, then along the top plank to the front of the cratch.
The new board is just about ready to fit, so I’ll do that this week, then I just need the modified cover back and we’ll be set for the winter.

Locks 6, miles 17 (yesterday)

Friday, September 24, 2010

A bit blowey….

After thundery showers last night came a “brisk” northerly. You could tell it was from the north, the temperature dropped dramatically. I think we can safely say that autumn has arrived.

Not ideal cruising conditions, but we’d a Tesco delivery to meet at Little Moor Bridge, and we wanted to get through Loughborough today. So we were off at 09:30, and moored waiting for the groceries at 09:45.
Tescoman was prompt, and we were on the move again by just after 11, cupboards filled.

The canal reaches a T junction at Chain Bridge, the through route turning right. To the left is Loughborough Wharf, now redeveloped with student accommodation surrounding pontoon moorings. This was the terminus of the River Soar Navigation (Loughborough Canal), completed in 1778 and running the 9 miles from Trent Junction. Behind us the Leicester Canal was completed in 1794, followed swiftly by the 40 mile link to the Grand Junction Canal at Norton Junction. This was constructed to take advantage of this new coal carrying route from the Nottingham pits, but was built to narrow gauge, limiting it’s potential.

We pulled up at Bishop’s Meadow Lock for water and the usual facilities, then dropped down the lock onto the river proper for the first time in over a week.

Bishop’s Meadow Lock
The reach from here to Zouch is one of the prettiest on the river, passing Normanton On Soar with the spire of St James Church visible from quite a distance.

St. James, Normanton On Soar

Soar Boat Club
This section has always been notorious for flooding there are warning lights at Bishop’s Meadow and Normanton.
Emergency moorings/gull perch.

There’s a short cut leading to Zouch Lock, after passing two weirs and ducking under the busy A6006.

Zouch Weirs.
It was in Zouch Lock that I lost my mobile 4 years ago. Still no sign of it.

Zouch Lock, Mags well bundled up against the wind.

There follows a couple of miles of more beautiful river cruising, with flood meadows on the right (east) and wooded banks on the left hiding the A6.
We pulled over just short of Kegworth Deep Lock, in a pleasant spot, marred slightly by aircraft heading for East Midlands Airport 2 miles away.

Mo, we’re “day tripping” with family from Kegworth to Beeston and back on Sunday, so we’re bound to cross paths at some point…..

Locks 3, miles 7¼

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Odds and ends at Millers Bridge

Since coming out of the marina on Tuesday we’ve been moored near Miller’s Bridge, just a mile nearer Loughborough. Hey, we get about, don’t we!

Leaving Pillings Lock Marina

We’ve enjoyed our 2 stays at Pillings, friendly people in the office as well as on the moorings. But we start to get a bit “stir crazy” after a while in the same spot, however good the location or the reason for being there.

Swan family preening
While here I’ve been getting on with preparing the new cratch board for fitting. The main paint coats are on, now I’m painting the diamond pattern on the outside while it’s flat on the roof. It’s easier here than perched on the foredeck after it’s mounted.
I’m also making a small folding table to mount on the inside of the panel.

Mags had her **th birthday on Monday, we didn’t do anything special, just had a pleasant day. She got more cards than I did!

We’ll be moving on tomorrow, we’ve a Tesco delivery scheduled a couple of bridges away, then we aim to toddle through Loughborough, probably ending up at Zouch. Then Sunday we’ll be picking up brother Andy and family at Kegworth for a day’s cruise. Weather permitting we’re going up to Nottingham and back.

I see Great North Runners weren’t the only ones putting their bodies through it last weekend. Amy and James rowed a marathon from Lincoln to Boston. Called the Boston Rowing Marathon, at 31 miles it’s a bit more than the road marathon distance of 26.2 miles. Well done you.
And my admiration goes to Chris Moon. Maffi posted about him on Monday after meeting him. Running 36 miles a day is no mean feat if you’ve got both legs….

The Leeds and Liverpool Canal is now fully open, although with opening time restrictions and limited passages on some stretches. It’s a bit late in the season now. The L&L is not particularly busy at the best of times, from now on into the winter there’ll be little traffic anyway.
It’s destroyed the confidence in BW’s ability to maintain the network though. One hire boat operator is calling it a day after this season.

But it’s not just our canals that suffer from poor water supply and limited resources…. this story from Illinois, USA.

Locks 0, miles 1

Monday, September 20, 2010

The World’s Biggest Half-Marathon.

That’s what the Great North Run is billed as, and with 54,000 entrants this year, who am I to argue?

I had a relaxing couple of days before Sunday, plenty of rest and carbo-loading on pasta. But by Saturday morning I was chafing for a bit of hard exercise, so Meg and I took a walk up Beacon Hill.

Summit Trig Point
At 800 feet it’s the second highest point in Leicestershire (beaten by the 900 foot Bardon Hill), and is formed from igneous precambrian sedimentary rock, the outfall from an extinct volcano to the West.

The Old Man of the Beacon

Looking North

On the horizon, just to the right of the cow in the middle distance, you can see two power station cooling towers and a tall chimney.
I couldn’t think of a facility with only a pair of towers in that direction, only Ratcliffe and that has eight. Looking at the OS map solves the problem. The towers at this plant are aligned N-S, and from this distance (9½ miles), only the southern two can be seen.

Some fine sets of horns
Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)
We both enjoyed the couple of hours up there, getting the blood pumping and fresh air into the lungs.

It was an early night, in bed for 9 and up at 3, on the road at 4 and arriving at South Shields at around 7:30. We always park near the finish, ready for a quick getaway.

There’s a shuttle bus service runs from here to the start, and I got there at about 9 o’clock.

Looking down at the start. It’s nearly ¾ of a mile long!
It soon filled up with people.
The weather was damp up until start time at 10:40, then it cleared up, staying overcast and cool, good running conditions.

I didn’t get a PB, coming in at 01:46, the 4606th across the line.

I had a bit of a battle for position with this chap in the last mile, but I got there first.

Maybe I’m getting a bit old for this…..

Well, I thought that till I was waiting in line to get my dry kit, and got chatting to a guy behind me. He’s done all 30 GNR’s and at 74 still returned a very respectable 01:52!

Sculpture on the traffic island near Gypsies Green.
The winner of the men’s race was Haile Gebrselassie from Ethiopia, honouring a promise made to Brendan Foster 10 years ago. He came in in 00:59:32, not a record but a great time. The women’s winner was another accomplished Ethiopian, Berhane Adere. Our hope, Mara Yamauchi, came in 5th, behind 3 Portugeuse runners.

We had a bit of an epic drive back, having to detour over to the A1 after an accident closed all three lanes on the M1 near Nottingham.
After 4½ hours we got back to the marina, I had a bit of trouble getting out of the driving seat!

A quick dog walk, shower, meal and bed was the schedule.

I took the car back today, dropping the cratch cover in to be modified at Tops Tarpaulins in Sileby on route. Reg at Redhill couldn’t fit it in till October.
We’ve got tonight in the marina, and then we’re out onto the river again tomorrow.

My Justgiving webpage is still open, so there’s still time to contribute to Cancer Research UK.

Locks 0, miles 0.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Back in Pillings

We spent a couple of nights at Sileby Mill, then dropped down the lock and filled the diesel and water tanks at the boatyard. The last fuel fill showed us using a bit more than our average 1lt per hour. I put it down to cruising on the Severn and Avon, and I reckon I was right; we’re back to normal now.

After filling we moved on downstream, through Mountsorrel Lock and moored just above Barrow Boating at Barrow upon Soar.

Immigrants. Jersey cows and Canada geese, near Barrow.
We stopped here on the visitor moorings next to the weir until today, then moved the last couple of miles back down to Pillings Lock Marina.

BW Boat Survey. Easier from the water than the towpath…
The marina is our base for the weekend, on Sunday we’ll be up in Newcastle Upon Tyne for the Great North Run. Wish me luck! And if you intend to sponsor me for Cancer Research UK and haven’t got around to it yet….. just click on this link. Ta!

I’ve been constructing a new cratch board, the old one is getting a bit soft on the corners. It’s a substantial panel, made from 2 thicknesses of 18mm marine ply laminated together. I’ve got to the stage of painting while at Barrow, and glossed one side yesterday. The weather being dodgy I did it inside, but we both suffered a bit from the fumes, so for the second coat I moved it out onto the roof this morning. Just got the paint on and the sky turned from blue to grey. An hour later our one and only shower today blew over, so now the finish is dull and mottled. I’ll have to leave it a few days before rubbing down and recoating.

New cratch board, rubbish paint job.
We got moored up and booked in here at the marina, and settled down with a cup of tea. Mags started chuckling while she was eating one of those fruit and nut bars.

Fruit and nut…..
This is why. On the wrapper……

“Those of you who enjoy reading the backs of ‘certain packs’ will be a little disappointed when we tell you this bar probably won’t change your life and it certainly won’t prolong it. Sadly, there’s not even evidence to suggest that it’ll make you more attractive. No. it’s just a bar of nuts and fruit.
Mind you, when it comes to taste…..”

Good, eh.

Locks 3, miles 4

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Just Pottering…

That’s all we’re doing at the moment. After the Sheffield run we were intending to head up onto the Trent and Mersey, and use Willington as a base for the Great North Run weekend. But, with one thing and another, we’re still on the Soar, so we’ve booked into Pillings Lock Marina again for a few nights over next weekend instead.
We had a night above Sileby Lock, then headed upstream to the Hope and Anchor on Friday afternoon.

Sunset at Sileby

Towpath works near the Hope and Anchor Inn.
We moored just the other side of the bridge from the pub, and went to spend a very pleasant evening with brother Andy and family.

Not wanting to spend another night so close to the main road, we turned around and came back down to Sileby yesterday.

Good moorings above Cossington Lock
We’ve never used these, though. The busy A6 is only a field away. In fact it runs quite close to the river often, taking advantage of the flat flood plain.

I had a good walk around Cossington Meadows with Meg this morning.

Cossington Meadows
Sand and gravel extraction were major industries in the Soar valley, like the Trent further north. Most of this has finished now, and the pits have been reclaimed as water parks. Watermead, running from Syston into Leicester, is heavily developed, with hard cycle paths and walkways. In contrast, Cossington Meadows has been left much to it’s own devices, and benefits from minimal management.

Sileby Mill
Sileby Lock

We’re moored on the left above the lock.

A floating hen party gets lock instruction this morning. They had a good day for it.
Locks 4, miles 5

Thursday, September 09, 2010

An eventful week…..

We came out of Pillings Lock Marina today, after a busy week.
First was Sunday’s trip up to Sheffield for the Great Yorkshire Run, a city centre 10k. It was a good day for a run, cool and dry, but there was a head wind to deal with on the way back.
I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped, a couple of minutes slower than my PB for the distance, but still came in 611th out of 8000, so not so bad. In my age category I came in 22nd.
The Australian distance runner, Craig Mottram, came in first, just beating Chris Thompson into 2nd place.

Looking forward to the Great North Run now, on the 19th.

As I mentioned on the last post, I’ve had a niggling vibration/noise/rumble from the prop shaft at certain revs. So on Tuesday morning I dropped Mags and Meg off with Dad and took Seyella round to the slipway to be hauled out.

Out on the slipway.
I was worried about getting the old prop off, but with heat and a big hammer it came off easily.

Out with the old……
And in with the new.
I replaced the shaft and centre tube (the bearing that the shaft runs in) and fitted the original prop.

All back together again.
And back into the water
The old shaft is pretty worn
I motored gently back round to our berth, and checked and adjusted the engine alignment before putting the new assembly under heavy load. The engine mounts have settled a bit, but well within the limits of the coupling. I adjusted them anyway, to get the best possible line-up.

We left this morning, swinging out of the marina onto the river towards Barrow. You can imagine my disappointment to discover that the noise hasn’t gone away. It’s quieter, and seems to have moved up the rev range a bit, but it’s still there. Damn!
Ah well, have to think of something else. At least I’m eliminating each potential cause in turn. I’m bound to get the right one in the end!

Leaving Barrow we got embroiled in a brawl between rival pairs of swans.
They’re very territorial, and I guess a new couple were trying to muscle in. The residents soon shifted the interlopers, though.

We ended up moored just above Sileby Lock.

The next job on the agenda (there’s always something!) is to get the cratch cover modified and build a new cratch board. This is the canopy and frame across the front deck. I had the cover made so that it could be opened from the top to let air in without letting the dog out. But it was never that successful, so we’re going to have it changed back to a standard design. Reg at Boat Hoods Direct is going to have a look at it.
The triangular board which supports the front of the canopy is getting a bit rotten around the bottom so I’m making a new one from 2 thicknesses of 18mm exterior ply, laminated to give a substantial frame. I made a start on cutting the wood this afternoon. I probably won’t get much done tomorrow, the forecast looks a bit damp.

Locks 3, miles 4½