Tuesday, August 31, 2021

On the move again...

 A week last Friday we moved on to Loughborough, picking up a locking companion at Zouch to share the three into the town.

It’s a pleasantly quiet stretch of river here, between Kegworth and Zouch…

…well, mainly.

It’s on the flight path to East Midlands Airport, unfortunately.

Leaving Zouch Lock

All went well till we arrived at Bishops’s Meadow Lock on the edge of Loughborough. We already been warned of a delay here as CRT were doing some repairs on the lower gates, so we had a bit of a queue. Our sharers breasted up alongside us to wait our turn, and we stayed that way into lock too.

After going up Loughbough Lock we turned under Chain Bridge and pulled in on our regular spot.

Friday and Saturday nights were spent there; we would have stayed another night but woke on Sunday surrounded by anglers preparing for a match so cleared off out of the way and moored a little way on at Millers Bridge.

Monday saw us cruising in to Pillings Lock Marina where we stopped for 5 nights, until the following Saturday.

With a hire car we did some family and friends visiting, then on Wednesday drove across country to Shrewsbury Hospital for Mags’ pre-procedure blood test. That went well, they often struggle to get blood out of her narrow veins, but on this occasion we were in and out in 20 minutes. We stayed the night with good friends Val and John near Wrexham, then were away back to the hospital for Mags’ 08:15 appointment.

I stayed with her till they took her in for her ERCP, then drove back to Wrexham for a belated and very welcome breakfast.

Amber and I pottered about waiting for the call to go back to collect Mags, and I was able to pick her up at just before four.

With heavy pre-Bank Holiday traffic on top of the normal evening rush hour it took us a while to get back to the boat, but we were sitting with a brew before seven. All went well with the procedure, stents swapped out for fresh ones and no gallstones to remove. All set for another 6 months.

We has visitors on the boat on Friday, first my brother Andy for a couple of hours, then sister Kay with her partner Paul and son Aiden. Its been a while since we’ve seen them, and with a call in to see my Dad and step-mum on Tuesday we’re pretty well caught up with the news now.

Saturday saw us heading back out of the marina, back down to Loughborough, where we pulled in on our usual spot.

Back into Loughborough, passing the mill next to Nottingham Road Bridge, now converted into apartments with an extension and more development behind.

After a couple of days on the bank we headed off this morning, back downstream. We were out of luck for a start, having to go it alone on the two locks out of town.

Bishops Meadow Lock

St James Church, Normanton on Soar.

Warning signs and emergency moorings indicate how quickly this currently placid river can become “frisky”… 


We caught up with another boat above Zouch Lock just as they got it set up.

As they’d filled it I closed up after both boats, then carried on for another half-hour or so to moor across the fields from Sutton Bonnington.

Tomorrow we’ll be back on the Trent and Mersey, somewhere near Shardlow.

It’s the last day of summer today, meteorologically speaking. But it feels like we’re well into autumn already! It’s been cool and grey for the last few days, and today we’ve had spells of light rain. The forecast isn’t very inspiring either…

Hi KevinToo. Sorry, I should have let you know we were passing. We'll be in Shardlow for a couple of days, then Willington. 

Hi Debby. No problem at Radcliffe Lock on the way up, but I did speak to a couple of locals that said the gravel bank was a big problem the week before...

Since last post – Locks 6, miles 16        

Thursday, August 19, 2021

One canal, two rivers

We set off yesterday morning towards Willington, hoping to pick up a locking partner leaving the moorings there. No-one seemed to be keen to stir a though, and we toddled on to Stenson Lock where a pleasant surprise in the form of a volunteer locky awaited.

He set up the lock for us, then we had a brew while we waited a few minutes just in case. It was worth it, a boat joined us in the lock and we shared with them to Shardlow.

We hadn’t really intended to go that far but with proficient locking partners it made a long day shorter than it would have been.

Busy moorings in Willington

Leaving Stenson Lock

With a 12 foot deep chamber and leaks around the bottom gate it takes a while to fill and empty.

The first three locks are spaced about an hour apart, and we dropped lucky at Swarkestone with a pair of boats just leaving as we arrived.

The entrance to the Derby Canal is now used for moorings but with hopes for the restoration of the canal through to Sandiacre on the Erewash Canal.

Fertile Derbyshire farmland

Weston Lock was a pain, nothing new there then. Heavy gates and leaks. Then we had a half hour to Aston Lock. Another lucky break here as well with boats coming out as we hove into view.

The last lock we shared was Shardlow, and this was where we parted company with our companions for the day. They carried on to drop down Derwent Mouth Lock while we pulled in for the night above.

The Clock Warehouse

This morning we had a later start, not planning to go too far. Movement of the water indicated that a boat was coming up Derwent Mouth Lock, so I untied and headed down expecting a full lock. That we had, but it came with a pair of volunteers who worked us down as well.

Leaving Derwent Mouth Lock, the last at this end of the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Out onto the wide waters where the Derwent runs into the Trent.

The M1 crosses just above Sawley Weir, Sawley Cut swings off to the right here and through a flood lock, to the protected canal section with moorings and Sawley Marina.

Sawley Cut

There’s only one of the pair of mechanised Sawley Locks at the moment, but this was staffed so we were back out onto the river in good time. We swung around onto the backwater for the services then set off downstream to Soar Junction.

We were hoping for a slot on the pontoon at Trent Lock but it was fully occupied, so we cut across the junction and headed up the Soar.

Past the busy Redhill Marina

Lots of boats of all shapes and sizes moor here.

We had to wait for a couple of trust boats carrying crews of youngsters doing their Duke of Edinburgh Award to drop down Ratcliffe Lock, but that gave a chance for NB Carpe Diem to arrive to share the lock.

We paired up in Kegworth Deep Lock too, but we pulled in above the lock while they pushed on to Loughborough.

Kegworth Flood Lock


Kegworth Deep Lock

I’m not sure I mentioned our plans… We’re down here to catch up with my family, we’ve not seen them for a couple of years. We’ll be going into Pillings Lock Marina on Monday and picking up a hire car to go visiting. On Wednesday we’ll be heading across country to Shrewsbury for Mags ERCP that’s scheduled for every six months. That’s happening on Thursday so we’ll stop overnight with friends Val and John before heading back to the boat.

After this we’ll head back up the Trent and Mersey, probably all the way up to the Bridgewater and the Leeds and Liverpool Leigh Branch. We’ve a family wedding (Mag’s side) up in Windermere in October so we’ll get as close as possible.

Locks 8, miles 19    

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

 We’ve dropped down through Burton Upon Trent today, leaving the last of the narrow locks behind. From here to the Trent below Shardlow we’ve 6 wide locks to negotiate. Brindley’s decision to build this eastern end of the navigation caused major consternation amongst the proprietors of the Trent Navigation Company. Since 1699 and the original work to make the river navigable up to Burton Upon Trent it had spent a considerable sum upgrading and maintaining the route.

Then along comes this upstart with his new-fangled ideas of a man-made waterway from the Trent to the Mersey, and he was building this end to broad dimensions in direct competition with their own navigation.

They had every reason to be worried, trade shifted rapidly to the reliable canal that didn’t run shallow in the summer and in flood in the winter. Even a link from warehouses on the river up through the town to the new canal didn’t reverse the decline in trade and the river route soon fell into decay.

Anyway, back to the present. We left our mooring above Woodend Lock yesterday morning. The intention was to make an early start to get ahead of the inevitable queues at Fradley, but oversleeping put paid to that. By the time we were ready to roll there were three boats waiting ahead of us to drop down Woodend.

Down Woodend Lock

There was a volunteer working though, so he saw them through pretty quickly. In fact there were CRT volunteers on all the Fradley Locks bar the last, Hunts Lock. The only noticeable delay was at Keepers Lock where boats coming off the Coventry Canal were joining the traffic on the T&M.

The edge of Fradley Wood cleared in preparation for HS2…

Fradley Junction

We cruised along the mile or so to Alrewas, passing the new marina under construction at Common Lock, then into the village. A short stop for a visit up to the Co-op, then down Alrewas Lock and onto the river section to Wychnor.

New marina construction coming on

Alrewas Lock

Alrewas river section


We stopped before Wychnor Lock on a quiet spot just short of the lock.

We were joined by a couple of other boats a little later though.

This morning we were off early, having learned a lesson yesterday. In fact we didn’t see another boat on the move until we got to Barnton Lock.

Wychnor Lock


It was still quiet, surprisingly so. We had a short wait for one down and one up at Branston Lock, then pushed on into Burton.

Narrow Bridge 36

Chocolate box setting of Tattenhill Lock


Massive development going on at Branston

At one time no-one would think of mooring on the towpath near Shobnall, now it’s almost nose to tail boats. Only two on the offside moorings on the playing fields.

Quiet Shobnall Fields


We’d caught up with another boat that pulled out ahead of us, so had another short pause at Dallow Lock before we dropped down the shallow chamber, the last of the narrow locks when heading this way.

By this time the overcast day had turned a bit damp. Not really rain, just short spells of drizzly stuff. We were thinking of pushing through to Willington, but with a slow boat in front and darkening skies above we decided to pull in not long after clearing the last of the suburbs.

We’ve stopped here before, it’s a pleasant spot with a wide dry towpath, but there’s a bit of traffic noise from the busy A38.

Tomorrow we’ll be on the move again early (I hope). There’s six broad locks and 16 miles between here and where we meet the Soar, and I’d like to make a good dent into that.

Locks 14, miles 11½ (2 days)  


Sunday, August 15, 2021

Off down the valley.

 On Friday morning we were off at around half-eight again, but even that early there were boats going down and coming up Tixall Lock.

It’s quick to fill and empty though, being a lot shallower than those further up the canal, and we were out on the wide, passing Tixall Gatehouse, before nine.

The gatehouse is a remnant of the extensive Tixall Estate, once home to the Aston family, but now broken up and sold off. The hall itself, dating from the 16thC was demolished in 1927. The estate was owned by the Littletons then the Astons, two of England’s great families. The village of Tixall was listed as a settlement in the Domesday Book of 1086.

Less than a mile on we crossed the Trent on a short aqueduct before passing under Bridge 109, Haywood Bridge, and turning right onto the Trent and Mersey.

From here we’ll be following the Trent valley all the way down to Soar Junction.

The wide, low arch of Bridge 109 at the junction.

We pressed on, encountering no queues at either Haywood nor Colwich Locks, although there were boats waiting to come up both.

Pretty Colwich Lock

Taft Wharf, where we often moor.

We used to call this the pig farm but the pigs are all gone. Dave Freeman here has done our last two Boat Safety checks. His son William sold diesel from the open hold of Dextra, but I see that the boat now has a cabin.

We pulled in on the offside moorings just before the aqueduct on the edge of Rugeley.

It’s quieter than in the town here, and there’s a handy Co-op for shopping just 10 minutes away.

Yesterday we were on the move again, a little later than we have been but with a shorter day planned.

Over the Trent again. It’s slowly getting wider…

A sharp left turn at Brindley Bank takes the canal into Rugeley. The good moorings either side of Bridge 66 (no names for the bridges on the T&M) have been extended by new piling. A welcome addition to this popular spot.

It seems to take ages to get through the conurbation, but there’s the distraction of an abundance of moorhens of all sizes and the inevitable mallards.

We waited behind a hire boat at the water tap at the end of the Hawksyard moorings, and got chatting like you do. Their plan was to go to the Black Country Museum in Dudley via Foxton Locks. And back to Great Haywood. In a week. I pointed out to him that there was no way he’d manage that, even with a large crew, and he’d better google one of the canal planners to get an idea of what would be possible. I checked later, and CanalplanAC reckons 15 days at 7 hours per day. I reckon he was a bit confused. If he’d headed up the Staffs and Worcs from Great Haywood he could have done the museum and back in a week. But he’d come the wrong way. I think it was their boat at Shadehouse Lock this morning, facing back the way they’d come. After filling our own tank we had a slow chug past the moorings then waited for a boat coming through the narrows that used to be Armitage Tunnel.

The Armitage Shanks sanitary ware factory, the place to “go”…

We got through the narrow bits around Bridge 60 without incident, then pushed on through Handsacre, past Kings Bromley Wharf and through Ravenshaw Wood before pulling in above Woodend Lock. We moored near a family on a pair of ex-working boats, Phobos and Alperton near Rugeley and here they were again. They get started before seven generally to avoid holding others up.

They were heading down Shadehouse Lock this morning while I was out with Amber.

We’re staying put today then making an early-ish start in the morning to try to avoid the queues on Fradley Locks.

Locks 3, miles 13¼