Wednesday 12 April 2017


Today's Canal - Grand Union Leicester Branch

It was a rather grey day and generally quite chilly with a stiff breeze. We were slightly delayed in starting as a CaRT employee arrived, moving water down the canal by running it through the locks. He reported that there was a shortage in the Leicester area - something we certainly witnessed later in the afternoon.

The line down to Leicester from the Market Harborough level (as at Fioxton) begins the descent at and then has a succession of locks, mostly spread out one at a time, with few recognisable flights.

At the second lock, Andrew reported that he had seen quite a bit of water being pumped out from the side of the boat - we immediately suspected that it was coming from thew main cabin bilge pump. But why was it having anything to drain out? Panic came close to taking over and certainly our thoughts turned to how we would investigate its source. When this news was reported to our technical expert (who was still in the process of washing and drying her hair, she immediately said that she had put the washing machine on and that it was now draining! An imminent disaster was so quickly resolved!

We continued lock by lock, seeing the original lengthman and another as they worked their way down, bringing several million gallons of water down with them. Their area ended at Kilby Bridge, once an important maintenance base. Thereafter, Central Shires take over (from South East). The chap that we mainly talked with was certainly very proud of the job that he does, but slightly regrets that so few of the canal users either know about it or are even interested. The main supply for our descent into Leicester actually comes from Stoke Bruerne reservoir. It is pumped up that flight and then Buckby  next before flowing into the Leicester Branch and so up the Watford flight. At that stage it is into the 20 mile summit pound and can be moved down through Foxton and into the Leicestershire section.

We needed a full service stop at Kilby Bridge but were a bit miffed that the standard water point connector had been removed. Eventually we rigged up a connection but it did involve Mike having to hold the hosepipe over the water inlet at the front of the boat trough the whole filling operation!

Once we had filled up (and done all the disposals as well) we moved across to the moorings to finish our lunch break.

At the second lock of the afternoon, Double Rail Lock, we had a short delay as a couple of CaRT staff were doing some maintenance on the top gates - clearing silt and other debris from the cill - even after they had thought hat they had cleared it, when we emptied the lock we could see that they would still need to have another go at one of the gates.

On again and we gradually approached the various places south of Leicester that seem to have yet more housing every time we pass this way.

The last couple of times we have come this way, the stretch through Aylestone Park has been rather tatty. Today there is a lot of evidence that regular maintenance of the grass and towpath has changed the atmosphere and it looked so very much better with hardly any general litter around.

By the time we reached the noted Freeman's Meadow Lock and Weir, now a near neighbour to Leicester  City home ground, some sunshine did arrive but did little to raise the temperature. A little later the grey sky returned accompanied by a few drops of rain.

As we had made good progress we opted to aim for the secure Castle mooring in the centre of Leicester, at the northern end of the long straight, mostly bordered by the vast estate of the de Montford University. However, although there was a small space, kit was not long enough for Alchemy. On the opposite side, the towpath has a line line of good moorings with proper rings installed. They have had a reputation for a place not to stop but we had little option and there is nothing useful for some distance ahead. We shall just have to see whether the night time is any different from the quite quiet day time. It is a shame if a false (or perhaps past) reputation means that these facilities are not used - there was one other boat, a little further back that had already moored.

Mike walked into the city centre in search of a newspaper and some envelopes. He did find both but only after a lengthy roundabout route - and then at a shop very close to where we had moored!

13.3 miles - 23 locks


  1. There are new secure moorings on the offside just through the bridge beyond Castle Gardens. It's a pontoon, with water points as a bonus, and access to the outside world with your CRT key. We stayed there last September and gave a very positive report on our blog.

  2. Thanks - we discovered exactly that and then remembered your report, but only as we passed by this morning! And they were empty . . .

    As kit happened, we felt entirely secure where we were with very limited passing traffic. If more boats were persuaded to moor there then it would feel even better.