Monday, September 29, 2014

Gently down the river, but charging and leak problems are a nuisance.

We were at Birstall till Saturday morning, Friday was taken up with shopping and a bit of maintenance. First job was to fit one of those repaired alternators I got back. I had two working units installed, one was brand new, but the other was a bit long in the tooth, being one of the originals. So I thought I’d fit one of the rebuilt ones in it’s place.

It took a while – the engine alternator is awkward to get at, unlike the domestic one. But just over an hour later I was ready to fire up the engine. Everything was fine for about 10 seconds, then the charge warning light for the repaired alternator came on. No output. I confirmed it by dropping the belt off the other, working unit. The wiring was double-checked, no problem there.

I rang Cox’s, they are going to deal with it, replacing the defective alternator. I part charged the batteries that evening off the one alternator, the other just free-wheeling but I couldn’t remove it completely as it’s belt also drives the water pump.

Saturday morning I set to, removing both alternators, fitting the proven one on the engine side and the other repaired unit on the domestic. This would confirm that there wasn’t a wiring problem. I’m pleased to say that everything behaved as it should, so now I’m just waiting to hear from Cox’s.

While I was fannying about with these I also noticed a drop of water below one of the hoses that would be for a heater if this was a car, but in this case feed the calorifier for hot water. Closer inspection showed the hose to be dry and cracked, but there was enough spare to remove the damaged section and refit it. These hoses will need to be replaced as soon as possible.

The good news is that Meg passed her check-up at the vets on Friday morning, and a work-boat cutting the vegetation back on the offside provided us with a couple of logs. Only willow, but it all burns.

After a bit more shopping we were away from Birstall, not too far as it was close to noon by this time.

Dropping down Birstall LockIMG_1762

The river levels are very low at the moment, very little water going over the weirs, unlike July 2007, when we were trapped by flood water in the area for several days.

Flood water going straight through Birstall Lock
July 2007 115 Birstall Flooding

Thurmaston Lock and weirsIMG_1766

After Thurmaston Lock the navigation goes straight on while the river heads off to the north and west. The canal section is fairly straight from Johnson’s Bridge to Wreake Junction.

On the canal past the old gravel pits

Gravel extraction was big business around here, but the machinery is now all gone and the pits are now part of Watermead Country Park. When I was a kid, paddling my canoe along here, there were still working pairs of boats, loaded with gravel, to be encountered on this stretch.

We met a hen party on one of Barrow Boating’s day boats near the Hope and Anchor…IMG_1770
…some sore heads later, I expect!

Dropping down Junction Lock we decided to pull in on the good length of piling there. It’s a bit high, but it quieter than above the lock, especially since the towpath has been upgraded to a velodrome cycle way.

Moored below Junction LockIMG_1777

Hey Angela, for the first time we deployed the mooring pin covers!IMG_1776

Yesterday I spent the morning slicing and dicing the wood we’d collected over the last couple of months, before having a quiet afternoon.

Took Meg for a good walk, and she decided to get a drink… out of the muddiest bit of river she could find!

Butter wouldn’t melt…

This morning, about to get a shower after my morning run, Mags asked me if I’d spilled something down the radiator opposite the loo…
Oh eck, we’ve sprung a leak! It’s valved off at the moment, and I’ve found a replacement at Plumb Centre in Loughborough, just got to collect it and fit it. It’s all go, isn’t it!

We got away at around 11:00, meandering round the bends to Cossington Lock. When we came upstream earlier in the year this section was badly overgrown, but quite a bit of cutting back has been done. We even got a couple more logs.

Below Cossington is a very pleasant river section, heading to SilebyIMG_1791

But the floating pennywort has returned with a vengeance.IMG_1792
A campaign of spraying a couple of years ago had reduced it considerably, but it’s very virulent.

We pulled in above Sileby Lock. There’s a boat here already but there’s just room for two above the lock landing.

Sileby Lock and weirsIMG_1794 

We’ll be pottering for the next week or so, catching up with family and friends while we’re in the area. Then we’ll be heading north onto the Trent and Mersey before stoppages below Burton kick in.

Locks 4, miles 5

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

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Easy trip to Aylestone

We had rain last night. Not seen much of that recently! But it had moved through by the time we got going today, leaving us with a fine but breezy morning.IMG_1695

We made use of the facilities on the wharf, then headed off, just 10 minutes to the first lock.


At this point the canal is heading west, following the valley of the River Sence as it’s heads to join the Soar. After the confluence it turns north along the Soar valley.

Double Rail Lock, a bit breezy here in the open.IMG_1697

C&RT are doing some bank reconstruction above Ervin’s Lock.IMG_1699


The large rolls of coconut matting are anchored along the repaired edge, populated with water plants that will help reinforce the bank.

From Ervin’s Lock the countryside is left behind in favour of the built up area of South Wigston, on the southern fringes of Leicester.

There’s a bit of construction going on along here, as the city extends it’s suburbs ever further out.IMG_1703

A good view from up there…

Swinging right as we join the Soar valleyIMG_1706

We’d done well on the trip so far, all the locks were full, and we met two or three boats coming the other way. But Blue Banks Lock was empty with wet walls, so we knew that we were now following another boat.

Filling Blue Banks LockIMG_1708

From Whetstone Lane to Kings Lock there’s a rural interlude, I guess the flood plains of the two adjacent rivers deter development.

We pulled in at Kings Lock, behind the boat we suspected was ahead, just as he finished setting the lock. He was quite disappointed to find we weren’t joining him for the run through the city. But we’d done enough. It’s only in exceptional circumstances that we cruise between Birstall and Kilby Bridge in one go. At 12 miles and 16 locks it takes at least 6 hours, often longer depending on the locks. Too long for Mags to be on her feet these days.

Moored above Kings Lock

Below the lock we join the river for the first time, hence the sign about the water level indicator. From here we’ll alternate between canal and the natural course of the River Soar all the way to the Trent.

Tomorrow we’ll head through the industrial fringes of the city, then through the centre before popping out on the north side at Birstall.

Oh, and thanks to the anonymous comment on a previous post, explaining that finger post at Kibworth.
I should have made the connection - Athens, Olympic Park, and the top and bottom of mainland UK. Doh!

Locks 8, miles 5½

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Shared locks to Kilby Bridge

We arrived at our first lock today to find it empty, set against us. This wasn’t unexpected; a couple of boats had already passed while we were still on our mooring at Wistow.

Approaching Newton Top LockIMG_1689

While we were waiting for it to fill another boat arrived, NB Rufford, a timeshare with a complement of five aboard.

Sharing Newton Top Lock with NB RuffordIMG_1690

From this point on Meg and I stayed on the towpath as the locks are never more than 10 minutes apart. Having plenty of crew meant that I could walk ahead and get the next one ready.

Although it didn’t quite work out at Spinney Lock, a C&RT work-boat was in the chamber, they were cleaning the lock gates prior to an inspection.

Fifteen minute pause at Spinney LockIMG_1691

We met a pair of boats coming up the adjacent Bottom Half Mile Lock and Turnover LockIMG_1692
There wasn’t a lot of imagination used to name these locks. The one above, half a mile above, is Top Half Mile Lock, and Turnover Lock sits alongside the turnover bridge where the towpath swaps sides.

The final two for us today were Tythorn Lock (named after the hill alongside) and Bumblebee Lock (???).

Mags approaching Bumblebee Lock
Our lock companions wanted to push on a bit further, so after filling the water tank at the services and themselves at The Navigation they left us behind at Kilby Bridge.

Moored at Kilby Bridge, NB Rufford across on the water pointIMG_1694

We’ll follow on tomorrow, more than likely breaking the cross-Leicester transit at Aylestone.

It been a little cooler today than yesterday, the sunny spells have not lasted quite as long. Still very pleasant, though.

Locks 7, miles 3

Monday, September 22, 2014

Chilly nights, fine days.

That’s the forecast for this week, and it has been right so far. Yesterday we had my brother Andy, his partner Donna and his son Luke come for a visit and a trip down the locks. You may remember that Luke joined us on our trip up in July, he must have enjoyed it…
They arrived at around 10:30, and after a brew and bacon butties we moved down to the top of the locks. A boat was just going down the top lock, so we would either be very lucky or very unlucky. The luck held, we were told to join the end of the convoy of four downhill boats as no-one was waiting to come up.

Luke, Donna and Andy on the locks. Not forgetting Zac, of course.IMG_1637

The crowds on such a pleasant day got thicker and thicker the further we descended, I reckon Mags had her picture taken several dozen times. Video, too. We had our work cut actually operating the bottom lock, with so many gongoozlers leaning on the balance beams, peering into the lock chamber, and just generally getting in the way.

We pulled in on the main line, beyond Rainbow Bridge, and had lunch. I’d made a beef casserole with roast spuds and Yorkshire puds which went down well. There was even a bit left over for the four-legged crew members! 

Of course the main event was Mags birthday! After a walk around the Inclined Plane site we returned to the boat and had a drink and birthday cake to celebrate.
Mags wants me to thank everyone who’ve sent their best wishes, so here you go – THANKYOU!!

Our visitors left us to it later in the afternoon, and I settled down to watch Lewis Hamilton, with a convincing win at the Singapore GP, take the lead in the F1 drivers championship. Team-mate and contender for the title Nico Rosberg struggled with his car’s reliability, and was forced to retire. What comes around goes around as they. Hamilton has had three DNFs to Rosberg’s two, now.

It was cool last night, as predicted, so I put a match to the fire in the evening. It was welcome first thing. Even though it’s been warm in the sunshine today, we’ve kept it in with a couple of logs. It’ll save me lighting it again tonight.

It was just after 10:00 when we got away this morning, the sun had cleared the thin cloud and it was turning into a lovely day.

Another GJCCo mile post where the pattern-maker will have struggled to get all the info on..IMG_1641

A fine morning, steadily warming up.IMG_1642

I don’t think I’d have moored there…

Passing Debdale Wharf, a narrowboat returns to the water.IMG_1648

The canal starts to twist and turn as it encounters the rising ground around Saddington Hill. It’s along here that the feeder from Saddington Reservoir comes in, and there’s a rather nice bit of bank here on the offside too…

A really pleasant mooring, especially if there’s no livestock in the field.

But we didn’t stop here today, pushing on around the bends to the cutting leading to Saddington Tunnel.IMG_1657

The tunnel runs for 880 yards under the hill, and like all of those along here is wider enough for two-way traffic. I half expected to meet another boat in there, after seeing nothing all morning, but we didn’t. The bore is high and brick lined, and with it’s orientation being NW-SE, the sun shines into the southern portal at certain times of year.IMG_1666

Dry at the south end, it’s wetter at the north, with some fine flowstone curtains on the walls. It’s also supposed to be home to bats, with bat-boxes placed along the tunnel roof, but I‘ve never seen one of the little critters.

We were thinking of stopping for the day at Fleckney, but it was such a fine afternoon (only just after 12, in fact) that we decided to push on and dropped down the first five of the thirty-nine broad locks that will take us down to the Trent. (For those that are now counting them, I‘ve not included the flood locks at Pillings, Kegworth and Redhill…).

Kibworth Top Lock and refurbished cottage.IMG_1678

We swapped locks here with NB Shy Girl, so the next was full, ready for us, and then there were a pair of boats coming up Kibworth Bottom, so a short wait before we could drop down that one.


Alongside the lock there’s a strange finger post. Directions and distances to Athens, John O’ Groats, the Olympic Park and Land’s End are shown, but I‘m not sure what the 2nd July 17:06 refers to…

Shapely fore-end, gate paddle rack and a pair of boots at Pywells LockIMG_1682

Crane’s Lock was our last for the day. Although still well out in the sticks, the graffiti daubed balance beams and bridge indicate that we’re not far from “civilisation”.  IMG_1683

We pulled in near Wistow at around half-one.IMG_1688

Mags modelling her latest wardrobe addition, from good friend Val.IMG_1686
“It’s lovely and warm, Val!”

On to Kilby Bridge tomorrow, I reckon.

Locks 15, miles 7