Monday 28 June 2021

Car Shuffle Day

 Today's Navigation - River Soar

We were due to present ourselves at the boatyard at 9 o'clock so we made an earlyish start with only Sileby Lock to drop down. (We had moored just above the lock last night). We had expected to tie up alongside another boat waiting to be taken onto the slipway for work to be done on it later in the week. However, as we started on the lock we spotted that that boat was already being moved so we held back until the coast was clear. As we started out of the lock we were hen signalled yo come alongside their service boat/pontoon. This would give them much better access to our damaged window.

Before long, Andy arrived to set about removing the window. He then fitted a board over the gap in case it rained before the glass could be fitted.

With uncertainty over where we might be in he next few days, we had already decided that Mike would fetch the car from Barton Marina. On the one hand it might be useful for a couple of days but it would also be near enough if we moved on to another marina or boatyard as we had originally planned. He had already worked out an itinerary that included walking to Sileby station, train to Nottingham and then to Burton-on-Trent. a walk into town would then allow him to catch a bus to just outside the marina.

In the event, removing the window took longer than was expected and it was not until 11.30 that Mike began to walk into the village. Alas, as he came within two minutes of the station he could see the train just departing! At least the services he was planning to use are hourly through the day and so the delay allowed him to check out the small shops in the village and to buy a sandwich for lunch.

Meanwhile, Christine was sorting out  our contact with our insurance company - although it may not be worth making a claim, taking into account the excess and loss of no claims.

And then . . . the boatyard came to tell Christine that the glass company they use in Loughborough are unable to make the piece of glass until Friday, more likely next week. However, the boatyard are being extremely helpful and have offered that we can stay here until it is fixed and also until after we can go home and return - around two weeks later. We also have electric hookup.

Mike was by this time at the station and after a phone discussion we agreed to continue with the car shuffle and to look later at what we do for the next few days and when we will return home.

The train journey went as planned - initially the first train arrived five minutes late and the tight connection at Nottingham seemed at risk. In fact it caught up the schedule on the last part into Nottingham and Mike had no difficulty in catching the second train which took him to Burton-on-Trent.

By now, Mike was already aware that there is a gap in the bus schedule: it is hourly (five minutes past the hour) through the morning until just after lunch but then switches to hourly at 45 minutes after the hour! This meant that Mike had over an hour to wait for the next one, even after the lengthy walk from the train to the bus.

There are at least three shopping malls in the town centre but but was noticeable that most were are the lower end of the retail value chain. On the bus journey later, Mike passed a large edge of town retail park where many of the national brands are located so he guessed that this is where more of the upmarket money is spent.

The bus dropped him a short walk from the entrance to Barton Marina and before long he was on the road back to Sileby. It was interesting to note that, apart from the short diversions of the trains into Nottingham and Derby (in both cases leaving in the direction of arrival), all three of our canal/river, public transport and car journeys followed closely the same route. The original canal surveyors, working with very limited map information, could not have realised just how long lasting their work was to be! It was just after five that Mike drove into the boatyard car park.

After  chatting about our situation and working out options, time was passing and rather than preparing the planned meal we drove into the village to collect portions of fish and chips. They proved to be some of the most generous portions we have ever seen - in fact too large that we were both defeated!

We had sent out three enquiries about possible moorings for the end of the week and, quite unusually, all of them came back during the day with very positive answers. Good to know but, of course, we cannot now take up any of them.

0.1 Miles - 1 Lock

Sunday 27 June 2021

To Thurmaston and Back

 Today's Navigation - River Soar

Yesterday we arranged that tomorrow (Monday) the boatyard will commence work to replace the glass in our damaged window. Rather than just sit around all day we opted for a short trip upstream and back. Whilst this stretch is very pleasant rural scenery there is not too much to report!

As we came up the first lock, immediately ahead of where we moored overnight, a day hire boat crew were being shown how to operate a lock. We met them again after lunch.

Flowers alongside Junction Lock.

The actual 'junction' is a short distance upstream and is where the former Melton Mowbray Navigation joined in. This route to Oakham is a navigable section of the River Wreake as far as Melton Mowbray where it joined the Oakham Canal for the final section with 19 locks. It was never very financial successful but things might have been different if plans to extend to Stamford or Market Deeeping, allowing traffic to Boston, had been implemented. There is a restoration trust which aims to restore as much of the route to Oakham as possible.

The route from here up to Birstall is bordered by numerous abandoned quarries. Much of the land has now been adopted as public open spaces and it was evident that they are popular, especially for a Sunday walk. However, there were very few views of the waters on our way to Thurmaston where we moored up, opposite the boatyard. We had lunch and an extended break before setting off back the way we came.

There are numerous side branches to the river and many of them have weirs immediately after leaving the main navigation. Although it is good to stay well clear of them, this one only looks a bit hairy, it is not so in reality!

Unlike yesterday, the day remained grey throughout but it was not cold. We caught up with the day boat from Sileby - they had had lunch at one of the popular pubs just befoe Thurmaston. We shared the next two locks but we moored for the night above Sileby Lock which we will have to descend early-ish tomorrow.

8.5 Miles - 5 Locks

Saturday 26 June 2021

Sileby - and under attack

 Today's Navigations - Loughborough Cut, River Soar

It was a rather grey morning although not as chilly. We began by making the very short (circa 300m!) trip to Loughborough Basin to be as close to shops as possible. There was just one slot available which we quickly grabbed.

We locked up and walked across first to a retail park so that Mike could visit Currys PC World for anew mouse for his laptop. The current one is still working but is showing signs of age as a result of falling off the edge of the table too many times! We then crossed the road to Sainsbury for our weekend shop. 

Back at the boat Christine unloaded and packed away whilst Mike sought to empty the elsan. This should have been a five minute task but when he arrived at the door to the service block there were additional coded key pad and notices saying that the code could be obtained by calling CaRT. So, back to the boat for a mobile phone. Back at the notice he rang and listened to a long recorded message before being given the options. After selecting Option 3 another recorded message repeated most of what had been said the first time except that it added that they were only open 10 - 2 Mondays to Fridays so please call back on Monday - if it is really urgent! As Mike returned to the boat he recounted his woes to the folk on the next boat who said that they could give us the code - which they kindly wrote on a piece of paper! Finally, the simple task was successfully completed. As we finally set off for today's cruise we saw someone from the boat on the other side of where we had moored who was obviously going through he same process. He was mightily glad when we stopped and gave him the magic information!

Shortly after turning back onto the main line we encountered a large party boat with the folk on board all dressed up smartly. Christine asked what was the celebration, to be told that it was a wedding party and they were on their way to Normanton church for the service!

At one time the declining industrial base of Loughborough left many buildings in a poor, often derelict, state. Today we only saw one but many more that have been given a new lease of life. Some are restored with the original external design intact.

Others have opted for a combination of the old industrial and modern styles.

We gradually left the town behind - there has been quite a lot of recent housing expansion and we were decidedly unimpressed by its standard, especially the tiny size of some many and a lack of any real design thought on the outward appearances.

The Peter Le Marchant Trust specialises in providing boats for tripos and holidays for people with disabilities and illness.

At the end of the Loughborough Cut is Pillings Flood Lock - as we expected it was straight through. 

A large warning sign refers to a possible red flashing light. As with yesterday, try as we might we could not see where that light is.

Above the lock we then passed yet another radial gate which is now the main method of controlling flood water.

We then had a very pleasant section of river until we arrived at Barrow Deep Lock (no circumlocution used here!) There were two volunteers on duty who were exceptionally good at helping us through  knowing just how to to use the paddles to bring us up gently.

At Barrow Boating they have a range of unusual floating 'things' for people to hire and we had to navigate warily as many of the steerers were unsure about which way to go - or how to do it!

The river from Barrow to Mountsorrel takes several wide sweeps - initially passing some very well kept houses and gardens. As we neared the first bridge under the A6 we could see a large event taking place in several fields alongside both the river and the road. We guessed that it might be a horse fair gathering (well, there were plenty of horses and driving carriages!). It later transpired that the Betty Hensers Horse Fair is an annual event and for 2021 is over this weekend. Last year it was said to have    attracted hundreds of people and, comparing with an aerial photo of that event, it did seem that this year is very much larger.

We need to be circumspect about what happened next but in short, we, and a following boat, were shot at with ball bearings. We do not know if they were from a gun or a catapult. In both cases a side window was shattered. Christine immediately reported this to the police whilst Mike tried to keep the boat safe a short distance away from the site.

We then carried on - what else could we do? - but a phone call on the way said that the police would like to meet us at Mountsorrel Lock.

It seems that Mountsorrel Lock and others on the River Soar have not yet adopted the latest blue branding - nor several of the intervening makeovers either!

After a little delay we were allowed to continue with our journey so the next question was what to do about the window. We have called at the boatyard below Sileby Lock once or twice before and always found them helpful so we made that our next stop. We were not disappointed and not only have they boarded over the glass so that if it collapses the splinters will not go everywhere inside the cabin, but also have undertaken to re-glaze the window on Monday. They even sorted out a mooring spot for us whilst the work is being done - it may take two days -  but we opted to stay the night on the lock landing (it has room for plenty of boats and two others were already moored here!) We now have to consider our options for a marina at the end of this trip whilst we have a couple of weeks back home. This always was a bit tricky as marinas and rail stations are not close companions in this area.

The boatyard also stock gas, which we did not expect from our guidebook, so replacing the one that ran empty yesterday was useful. For the past few months there have been problems over the supply of Calor Gas and some places have not always had any when needed.

The day that had begun grey turned rally sunny after we had moored - so not all is bad news!

6.9 Miles - 3 Locks 

Friday 25 June 2021


 Today's Navigations - Erewash, River Trent, River Soar, Loughborough Cut

We were threatened by rain for much of today but fortunately, despite menacing clouds around most of the time it was only at lunch time that there was real rain. However , it was decidedly chilly all day.

The building work on the former Brittania Mill site was at work early, but most of the sound we could hear was from the tools used to tighten up the couplings on scaffolding which was going up apace.

Only one lock before Trent Lock - not far from our overnight mooring. As we worked through a couple of staff from the factory alongside the towpath came out for a coffee break. One of them told us that they make bespoke furniture and that there are today a lot of similar businesses in Long Eaton, replacing the lace industry which brought the buildings here in the first place.

Sheetstores Basin opens out off the canal through a narrow entrance. The basin was originally constructed as a transhipment facility, between canal and railway, for coke. Before long the railways extended right inti the coal fields so the canal was no longer used for this traffic. However, the site was converted into a works to manufacture the tarpaulins needed to cover goods as they were carried in open wagons (see). Hence the name Sheet Stores.

We paused to use the full range of usual boaters' services at Trent Lock but we had to work around a large group of children who were either on going out on the water in canoes or taking to the towpath for pond dipping. The activities are based on a CaRT School Room facility in a small former canal building.

As we left Trent Lock and out onto the river, we could see Ratcliffe Power Station directly ahead with all 8 of the cooling towers in operation.

It took only a few minutes to cross the Trent and enter the River Soar. Looking back, the Trent continues down over a weir straight ahead, whilst the navigable route via Nottingham is just to the right of picture.

Red Hill Lock is not included in our lock count for today as, recent flood works make this lock redundant so it is now never closed,

Ratcliffe Lock was a bit tricky. In recent weeks there have been reports of boats becoming stuck on a build up of silt at the lower lock landing. CaRT issued a warning not to use the landing (how else to work the lock was not specified!) and then in the last couple of days a further notice to say that it had been dredged. W approached cautiously and did still find ourselves catching on the bottom before we could get right up to the landing. In addition, it is rather high to get off comfortably from the front of the boat, but not high enough to use the roof! As it happened there were two boats already coming down so we waited for them to exit and then went straight in. Also, there were two people with another boat behind who assisted us greatly. It stull meant that Christine had to climb the ladder! All of which is to excuse the lack of a useful picture.

Earlier we had to change the gas bottle so were on the lookout for a replacement. Although they do last a long time, it is easy to forget and then end up with no gas at all! Our guide suggested that we could get some at Kegworth Marine but as we eased alongside we saw a well hidden sign saying CLOSED. Given the price of diesel it is possible that it has not been open for some while - also saying CASH ONLY suggests that it has not felt the impact of Covid.

Kegworth Shallow Lock is a flood lock in summer but as part of water management it operates conventionally in winter.

Since we were here four years ago, Kegworth Deep Lock has been renamed Kegworth New Lock it seems that its name was putting new boaters off! Whilst indeed this lock is deeper because it was created as part of some flood relief works, it has been here since 1984! Remains of the earlier lock can still be seen alongside. Oddly, the flood lock was previously named New Lock!

Kegworth is right under the flight path for arrivals into East Midlands Airport which is close by. Whilst bit as busy as we saw four years ago, traffic does seem to be recovering a little from the disastrous impact of the past 18 months.

At Zouch, flood gates were fitted under the road bridge some while ago to protect the houses along Zouch Cut. This meant that boats could not pass at such times and a warning light, together with an emergency mooring dolphin were provide a little upstream. More recently a radial gate has been built and it seems that the flood gates are probably no longer used (although we cannot find confirmation) In any event, the upstream warning,light has been removed and the moorings are looking the worse for wear.

Although the trees are gradually doing their best to hide Normanton church, it is still an iconic must-take photo-op.

We have fond memories of Bishop Meadow Lock as this was where we moored our little boat Fiona now over 50 years ago.

After going up Loughborough Lock we found a mooring close to the town centre as tomorrow we will need to do weekend shopping before we continue on towards Leicester.

11.6 Miles - 8 Locks

Thursday 24 June 2021

Long Eaton

 Today's Canal - Erewash

Very different weather was forecast for today, including rain this morning. However, we only had a hsot spell of very fine drizzle but the rest of the time was overcast, warm and somewhat oppressive.    

We were aiming to arrive at Sandiacre in good time for Mike's Zoom meeting at 2 (with time for lunch and also a chance to move if the phone signal proved inadequate. However, in the middle of a small town, with lots of housing, not more than a mile from the M1, we felt it was a good bet.

At the first lock (Hallam Field) we had a little wait as two boats travelling together had njust emptied the lock ready to come up.

At Stanton Lock a volunteer team had just arrived to do some painting work on the gates. Although the gates had been fitted recently, the old steel balance beams had been re-used and so needed a good scrub and a lick of paint. They helped us through so we made up for lost time.

From Pastures Lock we could see St Giles, the medieval church for Sandiacre, standing on a hill overlooking the town (which would not have been there when it was built!) and the Erewash Valley. However, kit was too far away go get a photo at that time so we hoped for one as we came closer. Alas, there was then a continual row of firstly small industrial units and then a row of houses. This was the best we caught! Even on the internet we did not discover a lot about it except that the very early church was expanded in the 14th century. The chancel looks as if it was a Victorian addition once the town had expanded in response to the arrival of extensive industry. (There were at one time at least three Methodist Churches)

On the way up we noticed some apparently new graffiti on Bridge 11, just below Pastures Lock. It looked to record a couple of pairs of young hopefuls but already someone was hard at work trying to remove it. It looked as if he was just a willing local volunteer - just hope that the relationships last longer than the record!

In the end we were on the mooring in Sandiacre before 11:30. On the way up, Mike had found that the Co-Op stocked the custard doughnuts that a friend in Wadebridge introduced us to during the lockdown! Christine felt compelled to get some more . . . 

After lunch, whilst Mike was on Zoom, Christine went to the nearby Lidl for a mini-shop - we plan a larger weekend foray to a supermarket in Loughborough. In the end, the meeting proved simpler than the chair had anticipated so it was all done and dusted in 35 minutes. At least we had not all had to travel a distance for a physical meeting, which would have been the case pre-Covid.

Christine then opted to visit the Family Butcher within sight of the mooring. She picked up a joint for the weekend roast and another pork pie. They look good quality but a bit pricier than we have been used to.

We had sort-of planned to get to Trent Lock for tonight but we then recalled that it was difficult to find a mooring space so opted to stop short. Perhaps somewhere nearer, such as where we moored two nights ago, would be a better option ?

Sandiacre Lock was only a short distance - we managed a reasonable photo of the lock cottage (given the greyness of the day) but also spotted a junction finger post that we not noticed before.

Finally we dropped down Duckholme Lock and started to look for the mooring. We half remembered the gardens of the houses opposite and their neat summer houses. Alas, we missed the point we were aiming for and realised that Long Eaton Lock was almost upon us. There was not much option but to moor opposite the plywood fencing around the new development site that we earlier somewhat derided as a stopping place!

3.8 Miles - 5 Locks

Wednesday 23 June 2021

Gallows Inn

 Today's Canals - Erewash, Cromford

The temperature has risen considerably and we awoke to a glorious clear blue sky. Before long we realised that it was time to go back to short sleeves once more!

The first lock was Shipley - a local walker pointed out to us the farm alongside the, the founding drummer of the 70's band Showaddywaddy.

The last lock on the Erewash is Eastwood, named after the nearby  former coal mining town, famous for its link with DH Lawrence. Just below the lock can be seen the remains of a former railway bridge. On the 1885 OS map it appears as a link from the main line to Eastwood Colliery . However, by the end of the century the colliery can no longer be seen.

Just above the lock we spotted a long piled edge with mooring bollards, all but overgrown. We suspected that it was formerly a loading wharf and indeed that is conformed by the 1885 OS map. This is a reminder that the main original purpose of the Erewash was to transport coal from the Nottinghamshire coal field and until the arrival of the railway was highly profitable.

The next lock - Langley Mill - is the only currently navigable one on the former Cromford Canal. 

Above the lock is where the now derelict Nottingham Canal branched off before heading down the other side of the Erewash valley.

The basin has, as well as a winding hole (so that we don't have to go down the lock backwards!) there is a boatyard and numerous moorings including nb Free Spirit - the Jamiesons keep a blog which is in the list to the right of our blogspot page. Currently they are on a trip with their newly acquired motorhome which is taking them around many interesting parts of north Yorkshire.

We were uncertain whether we could obtain diesel elsewhere on the Erewash and then on the Soar before Loughborough. We still had around half a tank but we do not like ti run much lower - just in case. We turned the boat around and backed into the boatyard gto enquire and, yes, they do sell fuel. After filling up we had a pleasant chat with one of the owners - she and partner plus two children live on a pair of former hotel boats which they keep alongside the workshops. It was fascinating to hear how they have developed the business in the five years or so since they took over. They are obviously  very committed to this place.

We headed back the  way we had come for a short distance, tying up on the end of the long lock landing above the Eastwood Lock to have lunch. We saw this sign which looks most odd as the site opposite just contains a scattering of rather run down sheds. There must be a back story!

After a quick conference we decided that, as the middle of the day was becoming rather hot, we would take an extended  break and set off again between 3.30 and 4, perhaps cruising a little later than we have normally been doing. Alas, around 3.15 a grass cutter and strimmer noisily arrived and woke Christine!

Mike has a Zoom meeting tomorrow afternoon, just after lunch,. so we need to make sure that we are somewhere with a good mobile signal. We know that this is the case at Padmore Mooring in Sandiacre. It will also be convenient as Christine can do some food shopping whilst Mike is locked away.

This is the ramp to Bennerley Viaduct that we mentioned yesterday. The viaduct can just be seen but we could not find anywhere on the canal where we we could have a good view - trees have just grown too dense!

As it was a pleasant evening and we found help (mainly youngsters) at every lock. So we made good progress - all of the locks were full as no-one has turned them since we came up. In the end we headed for a moorable spot alongside the playing fields below Gallows Inn Lock. There was a football game in progress between two teams of youngsters (?10 - 12 ish?) As we were mooring. Mike was intrigued to notice how often they seemed to adopt the techniques which have become part of professional football - pushing, tripping and diving!

This leaves just three locks for tomorrow morning. Later we discovered that rain is forecast for the morning so not having such a long run may prove helpful.

8.3 Miles - 11 Locks