Tuesday 18 April 2017

Tucked up in Mercia

Today we returned home: of course it had to be a brilliant sunny day, after the greyness of the past week!

Just a few photos - Mercia is one of the more imaginatively design marinas with lots of different nooks and crannies, but plenty of room to manouevre.

Monday 17 April 2017


Today's Canal - Trent and Mersey

We only had a short run this morning to reach Mercia Marina,. where we will be leaving the boat for the next month whilst we return home. It was again very grey and rather cold.

We passed three bridges that appeared to have had recent vehicle strikes, in some cases leaving the bridge structure looking somewhat precarious.

Only one lock today - Stenson Lock but one of the deepest on the system. Also being a wide lock it needs care to  operate and often there are lock keepers on duty but today we were on our own - apart from a number of onlookers, either walkers (two of whom asked about how the lock works) or having refreshments at the former lock house.

A little later and we arrived at the entrance to the marina. Christine collected a plan of the marina (it is quite complicated to navigate if not familiar!) and we found our way around to Redshank where we tied up.

Mike was ordered by Christine to clean the roof - or no lunch! In the process he discovered that the sponge was better than the scrubbing brush, to his surprise. The surface is a non-slip one so is a bit harder to clean than the smooth surfaces.

After lunch, Mike and Andrew set off by car to return to Foxton where Andrew had left his car. On the way they both needed to visit a supermarket for a small food top-up. They found Morrisons in Lutterworth, quite closer to the exit from the motorway. Mike then drove back to the marina where Christine had been cleaning (making good use of her new Dyson) and packing ready to make the journey home tomorrow morning.

4.9 miles - 1 lock

Sunday 16 April 2017


Today's Canals - Erewash, River Trent, Trent and Mersey

Another grey day and at first an extra layer and gloves were commended! However, late afternoon some sunshine arrived but it was quickly followed by quite heavy rain. Since this had been forecast for much earlier in the day but only began as we were tying up for the night, we were quite pleased. Otherwise only a couple of patches of very light drizzle.

As we descended the first lock at Sandiacre (we had moored overnight just a 100 metres above the lock) we noticed that the end section, which we knew from our visit two days ago was the toll office, was constructed so that the toll collector had a good view of boats arriving. Not only would he see them coming down the Erewash but also around the corner from the Derby Canal which once joined in here. (We would see the other end later in the day)

Christine complained that our readers would not have been able to see the EU flag that was mentioned on Friday, so here is  a slighter larger view.

There were once numerous lace mills in this area but this chimney is all that remains of one. As can be seen it was more recently put to use as a communications tower but we were surprised to see that all of the large cables leading up to the antennae have been cut through at the ground level. Presumably it is now redundant.

Just above Long Eaton lock stands yet another former lace mill. This one - Harrington - was built in 1825 and was even larger than the one we recorded yesterday, one of the largest in the country. It is not easy to see at one go just how large it is.

We continued on to Trent Lock where we emptied the elsan and disposed of rubbish. We also had a short chat with a CaRT Volunteer who was manning the Visitor Centre - it was his first day. We were also amused to see the above sign - at least someone has a (slight) sense of humour!

It was now back out on to the River Trent and  a short opportunity to see how Alchemy behaves in more open water - well as it happens but we had to restrain ourselves as we were following behind another boat, which we ended up sharing the lock with at Sawley.

In Sawley Cut we spotted Stamford, Stem-to-Stern's previous boat which we were shown when selecting our builder last summer.

After the short cut we had another section on the river, this time following at least two other boats, one of which veered off left here at Derwent Mouth - the river is navigable a short distance up to Shardlow where there is a marina. Our route led straight ahead to the start of the Trent and Mersey Canal.

In the centre of Shardlow there are a number of former canal related buildings, some still used for their original purpose, others converted into houses or apartments. There was some disquiet a short time ago when the developer of the former warehouse wanted to remove the iconic signs on the front - they obviously bowed to public pressure and have restored them as well.

Alongside Aston Lock there was a striking field of flowering rape. Also, waiting to be collected, was the equipment used for the stoppage two weeks ago that cause us to re-plan our route for this trip.

It looks as if the bridge (which seems to be only a farmer's accommodation bridge) had taken quite a knock and it seems likely that a major re-construction will soon be needed as the whole structure is now failing. Certainly the steel railings can hardly satisfy the heritage authorities!

By now we had our blue sky for the day - mind you, we had to take this photo looking in the right direction as behind the camera some rather dark clouds were gathering. Shortly afterwards we passed through Swarkestone Lock and moored just above. As we were doing so, heavy rain arrived.

Swarkestone is also where the Derby Canal (the other end was at Sandiacre) went off - sadly it was never much of a commercial success so was an early closure. However an active restoration group still believes that it is possible to re-create a route through Derby even though it involves an imaginative boat lift.

13 miles - 10 locks

Saturday 15 April 2017

Sandiacre via Langley Mill

Today's canals - Erewash, Cromford

Weather-wise a day of two halves. The morning was very grey and chilly but around 1 o'clock brighter sunshine arrived and at times was pleasantly warm. Later, however, a chilly breeze left us with much reduced temperatures.

We ended up back at our starting point but having made it all the way to Langley Mill, currently the end of the navigation. As  result we saw much the same scenery in the morning as well as the afternoon. Hence the photos will be a selection from both directions.

After setting off just after 9 o'clock we stopped shortly afterwards for a brief moment to allow Andrew to pop to the Co-Op in Sandiacre for a newspaper. It was then a series of locks, generally spaced pout with only a few shorter walkable pounds. Going up, almost all of the locks were against us - fortunately on the way back they were generally in our favour and we saw rather more boats on the move. As  a result the journey up to Langley Mill took around five hours but coming back down only four.

The Springfields Mill in Sandiacre was originally built for T Hooley, a local entrepreneur who established several large lace mills, of which this was one. In 2005 it was bought by a developer who converted it into over one hundred apartments. Sadly that developer went bankrupt in 2008 but another took it over and it seems to be a popular location for people seeking apartment living. It is good that such an impressive building has found a new purpose and not simply demolished once its original purpose was no longer viable.

The first duckling we have seen this season.

Pasture Lock is well named - for the first time along this canal we are out in agricultural land.

At a couple of places we could signs announcing the location of proposed HS2 rail crossings over the canal. Presumably anyone who feels that they have a case against this route can make an objection. However, both of these were very close to the M1, a mainline railway and rather waste land.

At Gallows Lock a plaque on the adjacent bridge records the bicentenary of the canal opening.

This plaque at Eastwood Lock records the link with DH Lawrence whose novels featured the town.

We continued up to the final lock - at the bridge below a sign indicates that we are now passing onto the former Cromford Canal - alas only a very short distance is currently navigable from this end although there are plans to restore it to connect with the short section that is preserved at the northern end.

nb Free Spirit is one of the blogs that we follow on our own blog web site - they have recently returned from  a six month tour of thew antipodes.

The restoration sign number this lock a 14 whilst elsewhere it is given the number 74, which follows in succession from those on the Erewash. Presumably 14 is the number that it was given when part of the Cromford.

This was once an important junction. Ahead lies the Cromford Canal whilst to the right the Nottingham Canal branched off. It was a later construction by the same engineers and offered an alternative route for the lace and other industrial trades of the area.

We were amused by this waymark to Shortcut. Is this a place?

After a pleasant late afternoon, early evening cruise we made it back to our start point for  the day, just shortly after 7 o'clock.

16,7 miles - 22 locks

Friday 14 April 2017


Today's Canals - Loughborough Navigation, River Soar, River Trent, Erewash Canal

Today was generally very grey and rather chilly but rain only appeared just the once. When it did it was rather unpleasant.

First of all, we made the short trip to Loughborough Basin where there was just one space available to moor. At the Junction, which is quite a tight turn and the bow is very close to the wall opposite, and Mike spotted a rather out-of-date advert, but rather appropriate given the chance of hitting the wall whilst making the turn!

After tying up, Mike and Andrew went to Tesco for a small top-op, especially the daily milk and newspaper. By the time they returned, Christine had been researching Dyson cleaners and discovered that the model she had been told was good for boats was on special offer at Currys. Since she could see the local branch just a short distance away, she and Andrew went to investigate, leaving Mike to do the elsan and rubbish! They returned with cleaner in hand and immediately assembled it.

After we had set off, Christine tried it out on various awkward spaces that she had been unable to clean so far. A surprising amount of dirt was collected in a very short time!

There was quite a bit of traffic around today - at least until we were well onto the Erewash. At Bishop Meadow lock a day boat out from Pillings Marina arrived with twelve people aboard! Their lack of concern for simple safety left us keeping our fingers crossed that they all make it back at the end of the day.

No, this car was fortunately parked, not about to make a GPS-inspired leap into the river!

As we were rather late on setting off we had lunch in shifts but the locks are rather spaced oput on the River Soar.

At Ratcliffe Lock the clouds, which had gradually been getting darker, suddenly decided to drop their load on us - by the time we were through the lock we were rather wet!

At Red Hill we joined the River Trent for a very short distance, long enough to cross over to the entrance to the Erewash Canal. Mike spotted a sign at the pub bedside Trent Lock that said they sold coal. Christine went in search and then called for help to carry a bag back to the boat. We may well need a good fire tonight!

Even on the first part of the Erewash there was quite a bit of traffic but by the time we had passed through a couple of locks it petered out. There are several houseboats moored just above Trent Lock - but this was definitely the grandest.

It was a bit sad to see that, since we were here last, this footbridge has had to be made generally inaccessible. It looks from the map as if it leads into the adjacent school playing fields so perhaps there have been security issues in the past.

We saw plenty of Union and St George's flags being flown from gardens adjoining the canal but it was amusing to spot this brave person who flies the EU flag, just a couple of doors away from someone with perhaps different views.

At Sandiacre Lock, the former keeper's cottage and toll house has been acquired by the local restoration society,. They have restored the ground floor as it once was but the upper rooms are used for meetings of the society. Today had been an open day and we were invited to look around - they also did refreshments but stopping in the lock was not really a possibility. However, one of the volunteers said that we were only the third boat they had seen all day.

Looking at the map, mooring ahead is generally alongside a railway line , with the added fun pf the M1 at one place. So, when we spotted mooring rings immediately above Sandiacre Lock we opted to pull in for the night, probably quieter than a little further on. The rings looked new - unfortunately the dredger has not yet been invited to visit and we could only get to within 300 mm of the bank!

15.4 miles - 10 locks