Sunday, 27 March 2011


Yesterday evening Christine spent some time making phone calls to discover what time the service would be at Findern or Willington churches. She established that it was 10 o'clock at both and, with Findern being nearer to our overnight mooring, we planned to go there. The aim was to set off just after eight which would give us plenty of time to go through Stenson lock, moor at Buckford Bridge and walk gently up to the church.

This plan was fine but we completely overlooked the fact that the clocks went forward overnight. Christine woke saying that it was 7:20, expecting a gentle rise before setting off. However, Mike looked at the radio controlled weather clock and discovered that it was actually an hour later!

Our initial reaction was that we were too late but Mike quickly set off (without his usual ritual of taking readings etc). Arriving at the lock - which is over 12 feet rise, figures on the bridge beckoned us on and a huge gate opened to allow the boat in. As it happened we arrived just as a boat coming down checked whether to fill the lock or not. It was still a lengthy process with so much water to fill the lock, but we arrived at Buckford Bridge by 9:40 and the bank was piled, making it an easy mooring.

We locked up and did a power walk up to the village, arriving only five minutes late for the service!

After church, we picked up a paper and some more milk from the village shop. The village green was saved from a threat of being tarmaced over some years ago and is surrounded by a number of pretty, old buildings.

Back to the boat and we completed the run to Willington, passing Mercia Marina where we are booked to leave the boat for the next two and a bit weeks whilst we go back to Cornwall. At
Willington we winded and used the service station before mooring up for the rest of the day on the opposite bank. This was just a short walk from the bus stop where Mike planned to begin his journey back to Lower Heyford, by bus and train, to collect the car.

Saturday, 26 March 2011


The weather today was a complete contrast from the past week or so - especially from yesterday. The brilliant warm sunshine was replaced by overcast skies and temperatures that never rose above 7C.

We set off in good time, completing the three remaining locks before the River Trent and passing through Long Eaton. Although one or two old mill buildings stand empty, several have been converted and put to good use, mainly we surmise as apartments. One chimney survived when its associated buildings were demolished on account of having been put to good use.

Having seen no moving boats on the Erewash hitherto, it was surprise to meet two coming up Long Eaton lock!

Shortly after 10 o'clock we arrived at Trent Lock and made a quick stop at the services before locking down onto the river. The junction was quite busy - three or four boats passed by to go up the Rive Soar and as we emerged there were two others passing immediately in front of us. Fortunately the river here is wide and there was plenty of room for all of us.

A short stretch brought us to Sawley Locks - two locks side by side, both double width, are available and mechanised. We followed a single handed boat up the river and into the lock.

Sawley Cut is a popular mooring spot and is protected at the upper end by flood gates - fortunately not in use today.

A little further and we left the river and felt the comfort of being back on a canal once more: Trent and Mersey. This final section, from Derwent Mouth to Burton-on-Trent the canal is broad and a couple of the locks we shared with the same boat that came up Sawley with us.

We pulled in at Shardlow, once an important and bustling canal port, with a number of significant warehouses. Mike was dispatched on a mission to buy milk and a paper whilst Christine prepared bacon rolls for lunch. However, he eventually discovered that the canal location named Shardlow is quite a long distance from the village of the same name! Despite being promised shop, after a kilometre+ there was nothing in sight so he turned around and returned to the boat empty-handed.

Swarkestone Lock is at the junction with the former Derby Canal, with only a short distance here being used for mooring boats.

The afternoon was quite cold but we continued almost as far as Stenson Lock - we needed to be careful about our schedule for tomorrow as Mike has a bus and train to catch to make the journey back to Lower Heyford in order to collect our car.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Langley Mill

We had a hard day ahead of us if we were to make it all the way to Langley Mill - the end of the Erewash Canal. We had agreed to make a decision about whether to turn around earlier at 10 o'clock. By that stage we were just below Shipley lock and tantalisingly close to the end, but it would mean a strenuous run to get sufficiently far back to Trent Lock to make tomorrow's final run to Willington an achievable target.

Lock followed lock (or so it seemed) but we eventually passed under the bridge just before the last lock into the terminus basin at around 11:20 - thus taking us officially onto another canal: The Cromford Canal.

Whilst Mike attended to the usual facilities Christine went to a nearby Asda for a paper. As she returned, Mike was just beginning to wind the boat - made rather more difficult by a couple of boats the moored in the winding hole. even so, turning a full 70' boat would be an achievement.

Also joining the canal network here was the Nottingham Canal, now disused.

We set off to retrace our steps - at least all the locks were set for some kindly boaters (us yesterday!) We took rather longer over our lunch than was originally allowed for but we need time to recover some energy!

An unusual name - the place name seems now to be Gallows Hill but we have not seen any indication of its derivation. Wonder what it does for house prices!

On the was back we spotted two other former canal junctions which we missed on the way up. The first is the former Nutbrook Canal, never very successful and long closed. It ran through the site of Stanton ironworks and they retained a short part of it for transportation until after the Second World War but later were only interested in it as a water supply. Its junction is now reduced to two missable holes in the wall!

The converted mill which we noted yesterday: Christine took a closer look as we passed this time and it seems as it is mainly apartments now - not offices.

Just above Sandiacre Lock - scene of yesterday's mayoral visit - is where Derby Canal joins in. Although this too is now disused there are well developed plans - now at the Outline Planning stage - to restore it to full navigation as well as proving a valuable recreational asset for walkers, cyclists, joggers and fishermen.

Oh, and the new plaque and lock cottage  we failed to snap yesterday!

We were pleased to have reached this far - just a little sooner than we had predicted - but were glad to moor for the night just below the lock.

Thursday, 24 March 2011


Yet another glorious, warm sunny day. We set off down the now quite wide River Soar to complete the remaining couple of hours. two of the locks are flood locks and so, with normal water levels, they are open at both ends.

All the way the view is dominated by the huge Ratcliffe Power Station continually being supplied, like some rapacious giant of fairy tale land, with trains of coal trucks.

We also passed under the flight path into east Midlands airport and at this time of day there seemed to be a steady flow of traffic in and out - predominantly Ryanair.

Two of the locks were re-built in the 1980's as part of flood protection work. A listed structures, the old locks alongside have been filled to within a few inches of their upper level - even the lock gates can still bee seen.

Eventually, we arrived at the junction with the River Trent - much calmer than when we were last here four years ago. As a result we easily made it across the Trent Lock, the start of the Erewash Canal.

After locking through we stopped to use the services. Opposite was Kingfisher Narrowboats - not sure if this is Take Five's birthplace.
The Erewash is a broad canal, originally built for canal barges bringing coal down from the Derbyshire and Nottingham pits. At one time (like the last time in 1968 when we ventured up this lesser known part of the canal network) there was a huge iron and steel works alongside the canal but now it has been cleared and there is very little sign of what used to be here. One former mill chimney remains undemolished, whilst all around it has gone, just because it serves as a mobile phone mast. Another complete mill building and chimney have been converted into offices.

Uphill, these locks are quite hard work. They have been fitted with anti-tamper locks but not all work and this particular design are fiddly and time consuming. Better that than empty pounds.

What never ceases to amaze us is the interest that people take and the evident satisfaction at being 'allowed' to help operate the locks, especially if accompanied by some explanation of what is happening.

The bridges are unusually low - because the barges they were designed for were much lower that traditional narrow boats.

As we left Dock Holme lock something attacked the prop and we gradually made less and less progress. It was not far to Sandiacre Lock and we would have cleared it there but as we approached we could see that piling work was in progress just below the lock to re-instate the landing which was largely washed out.

As Mike investigated and then removed a couple of chunks of purple carpet from the prop, Christine investigated passing the work boats. We were given a slot in half an hour so it was obviously time for lunch.

Just as we were finishing our yoghurts, the foreman came and told us we could pass - he also warned us that there was a large party of people at the lock along with the local mayor. Indeed there were - it turned out that they were officially unveiling a plaque on the lock cottage (now headquarters of the local canal association) in memory of the person who had at one time been the driving force in keeping the canal in operation.

The construction of the canal is one in which the locks are spaced well out, as the change in level dictates. Later canals used more cut and fill to group locks into flights. as a result it is a continuing process of 15 minutes cruising interspersed with 15 minutes lock operation. Mind you, if you make friends with the onlookers, you save a bit of time at the end by leaving them to close the gates after you!

We were unsure about moorings and so when we found a possible location just below a lock (the main canal bank was too shallow) we opted to tie up. The adjacent railway line does not seem too busy and, although the towpath is well used in the day time it does not look as if there will be many who venture here after dark.

Time now to do some calculations and see if we can reach Langley Mill in the time available to us.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

River Soar

The first part of today's journey was all of 10 metres - from the bank where we were moored overnight to the diesel boat for the boatyard immediately opposite. They duly opened at 9 o'clock and we filled up the fuel tank. Since they have a full range of services on site - a 'proper' boatyard - we asked if someone could have a look at the leak around the water pump. As luck would have it, Mike's examination of it yesterday seemed to have stopped the leak but nevertheless he took some precautions by adding special sealer to the likely joints. We will have to keep an eye on it!

Whilst we were at it, we also asked for guidance on filling the stern tube greaser and it seems that it was missing a circlip - a slight modification cured that issue. It only affected the filling operation not the normal daily injection. We also replaced a missing nipple on the tiller bearing. They also made a sterling effort to sell us their boat painting services although they have no vacancies until October!

Mid morning we eventually set off and continued down the River Soar, through Mountsorrel and Barrow Deep Locks. Just below Mountsorrel, we saw a bridge of the former Great Central railway which reminded us of a very similar bridge over the River Thames.

A little further and fields on both sides of the river were home to a significant number of shire horses.

Many of the houses that are alongside the river have well manicured gardens - some more individual than others!

Eventually, Loughborough came into view. The IWA leaflet available from various locked boxes along the Leicester section, stated that the short arm at Loughborough was still closed for re-development and advised mooring just before the junction - which we did.

We set off to go shopping and reminisce about the days when we lived here - actually the arm is now open and provides excellent visitor moorings. We found Loughborough much changed - even from four years ago and it took us some time to orientate properly. We did eventually find our flat although access is somewhere else than from Market Street itself.

Sadly, the good market which we enjoyed last time we were here is not until tomorrow and even the greengrocer had disappeared. We had to settle for buying everything from Sainsbury!

Back to the boat and we went down the next lock to the water point just above Bishop Meadow Lock, mooring almost exactly where we used to moor our little boat Fiona back in the last years of the Sixties. Today, a huge chemical research factory has recently been developed close by to the lock. We also were relieved to see a green light and no hint of the floods from four years back.

The morning had been warm and sunny but the afternoon was especially so and the trip down through Normanton to Zouch was very pretty in the sunshine.
We had intended to be the other side of Trent Lock this evening - perhaps a little ambitious - but with all the other delays this was now unlikely before dark. There are no reported moorings below Zouch although we recalled being able to find mooring, even if that was over forty years ago! However, with age comes discretion and so we opted to call it a day at these last moorings and complete the rest of the river tomorrow,

Tuesday, 22 March 2011


A warm and generally sunny day that was a very pleasant taste of spring. We were off in good time and continued the last part of the canal to the junction with the River Soar. We realised that we had been sensible to moor where we did as there was little opportunity for some distance thereafter. At the first lock we had to wait to allow a BW workboat come up on its way to some work a little further up. Lack of money until the new financial year means that they are limited in what tasks they can complete.

Pretty flowers alongside Kings Lock.

The last of the rural landscape soon yielded to the pressures of urban development. Although there has been a lot of effort over the past few decades to clean up and improve the areas surrounding the navigation, what troubled us was the signs that there is now growing neglect and a rapid decline back to the much salubrious reputation that Leicester once suffered. People respect well-cared for environments but as soon as the litter, graffiti and - even more so - the general maintenance by landowners, including public bodies (although private ones are rarely shining examples) - takes a hold, respect for the environment also disappears and it is a long haul to recover once again. Simple care for the environment is probably more important and cost effective than many other of the sexier 'green' initiatives.

At Freeman's Meadow Lock, opposite the huge Leicester City Football Club, the approach for the unwary can be rather intimidating with the large, unprotected weir. However, there is little flow over the weir and we arrived at the lock landing without difficulty.

Some sudden displays of Spring lighten the landscape.

In the centre of Leicester we decided to moor up at the secure Castle Gardens pontoon and take a short walk into the centre. Castle Gardens is where the city began but is now largely underneath urban sprawl and ring roads.

Close to the navigation is Jewry Walls. Later, Christine investigated more closely and discovered that it has nothing to do with Jews but a medieval corruption of something quite different. The remains are those of a Roman bathhouse, although most of the stonework was carried away over the centuries for re-use elsewhere.

Not sure there is much demands for records and typewriters these days!

We located the covered market - a good collection of meat and fish stalls, as well as the usual range of goods on four levels. The fruit and veg were outside. Alas, what we really wanted was a good bread stall or shop but all that was on offer was Greggs.

The cathedral is crowded in buy is neighbours and it is difficult to find a real vantage point to see all of the outside at once. Inside we were surprised that it seemed to hold only quite a small congregation but we later discovered that until 1927 it was the local parish church.

Back to the boat and after lunch we continued through the rest of the industrial landscape, passing the distinctive shape of the National Space Centre.

The countryside re-appears quite suddenly with the arrival of the Watermead Country Park, with lakes on either side of the river.

We were quite keen to find a supply of diesel - nothing available since Braunston and so turned into the marina just after Birstall. Its large sign included fuel but it was only after we had navigated down to the centre that we learned that it is closed on Tuesdays - no mention at the entrance. The diversion meant that we would be too late for the next supply at Sileby Mill. However, Christine has a good chat on the phone with a man at the boatyard. yes, we would be too late for today but they re-open at nine tomorrow and there are good moorings opposite!

By the time we had tied up it was half past five so photos of the lock and mill will need to await better daylight in the morning!