Sunday, 14 October 2018

12-16 October down the River Soar from Leicester to Loughborough and on to Nottingham

Friday 12 October: a blustery journey Northwards from Leicester to Syston (6.5 miles, 5 locks)
Liana tells me we have hurricane Callum to thank for the strong wind and flapping. Some passersby have umbrellas, too, but we can't see much rain on the water: Definitely a warm, wet weather gear day, though. Organised seeing our busy niece Jo and family, once we are home :)
Annie at Castle Gardens visitors moorings, Leicester

West Bridge

we spotted new moorings at Friar's Mill

Friar's Mill visitor moorings

NB Cair Vie (Manx for “Bon voyage”, we were told) passed while Liana was at Tescos. John moved Annie across the river to pick her up, and caught them up at North lock. On the way, past two weirs, the engine was spluttering and smoking a bit, so John went slowly. Thankfully, it kept going, and John cleared the prop of a bit of rubbish, and checked we had plenty of fuel, and revved the engine in neutral to try to clear any contaminants. The tank was 1/3 full, so maybe the fuel had water or sediment stirred up. The engine worked fine from then on. We will fill up asap, to reduce the problem, but we will clean the fuel tank, check and clear our two fuel filters with water traps in the fuel line, plus replace the cartridge twist on/off fuel filter attached to the engine. John added an extra fuel filter with extra deep water trap last year, before we crossed The Wash, to minimise problems due to wave movement stirring up sediment in the fuel. There are excellent new floating visitors pontoon moorings at Friar's Mill and along the Town Arm crossed by bridge 8, just before Lime Kiln Lock.
Wolsey's chimney is clearly an integral part of the new housing estate
new visitor moorings along the Town Arm by Lime Kiln Lock

Annie moored by Lime Kiln Lock
The lock volunteer told us that CRT was still negotiating access from this pontoon to the local shops and the famous Golden Mile of Asian shops (!). Once sorted , this should be great!
Belgrave Lock, by the big weir and Space Centre, has a short lock mooring above it.
new building above Belgrave Lock and weir, by the Space Centre

Through the water meadows, the river twists and turns between reeds and under willows, some split with branches hanging down across the water. At Birstall Lock, we found a CRT workboat in the lock with men fixing a new vertical thick plank to one of the top gates, plus a cheerful, dripping Volunteer in raincoat and shorts! One thing about Volunteer lock keepers: Where you find them sometimes seems very arbitrary and unplanned. Perhaps that is to be expected.
we waited while they mended Birstall Lock top gate

job done

Past Birstall Lock, more bends led across the damp, rainy land towards Thurmaston and Leicester Marina, down a side arm, now the scene of …. building. We hope the land level is raised enough to avoid flooding. Also, aren't water meadows really flood reservoirs?
Thurmaston Lock

new MGM Boats wet dock changes the view

the view below the lock has not changed
Followed by NB Cair Vie, who had also cleared their prop shaft, we moored in strong winds and increasing rain, just before bridge 18 and the Hope & Anchor Hungry Horse pub/restaurant, to ride out the storm. Later, Rachel visited for the night and left Honeypie with us while away in the USA. The workboat zoomed past and moored by the pub, as did NB Mulcibar after dusk (we had passed her, moored, earlier). Surprisingly, we have not had one boat pass us going the other way, today.

Saturday 13 October: to Sileby Mill, Mountsorrel and Barrow-on-Soar towards Loughborough (10 miles, 6 locks)
Harris & Sons' marina is at the junction of a stretch of canal and the River Wreake. The newish, raised junction bridge is sadly beset by trees in the water, with a floating barrier. We had heard someone was going to build a marina up this stretch, before the first lock, but this has not occurred, clearly.
Pennywort weed infested the River Soar near Montsorrel

diesel boat plus chandlery behind at Sileby Mill

the diesel boat

arriving at Mountsorrel Lock by the Waterside Inn

The next mile is actually the River Wreake Navigation, with Junction Lock, strangely, half way along. The confluence with the returning River Soar occurs half a mile downstream, by long term moorings just before Cossington Lock and its weir!
Below Cossington Lock, large floating banks of Pennywort weed stick out from the banks, with some drifting islands of weed, all the way through Sileby Mill, where we filled up with diesel (85p/l @ 0%, but we needed some). The chandlery has a useful stock of items, and the boatyard do welding and blacking, etc.
we passed a trip boat with Sikh gentlemen on board, who exchanged waves

fishermen in the Barrow-on-Soar watermeadows

John with cannons behind!

lovely riverside gardens at Barrow-on-Soar
Pennywort was a problem all the way through Mountsorrel to Barrow-upon-Soar, where we spotted NB Cair Vie, about to set off after using the CRT services.
Annie pushed the weed through bridge 28 at Barrow
Both boats struggled to pass huge islands of weed blocking bridge 28, and the entry to Barrow Lock. Last year, on the Fens, we saw Great Ouse Environment Agency workers clearing every scrap of Pennywort, so we were surprised that CRT seem unbothered. Despite this, we do like this whole scenic stretch of twisting river and water meadows.
the weed we left behind above Barrow Lock

Pilling's Flood Lock had top gates open, so we went straight in. The lock is used normally from October to beginning of March, although today, the drop was only a few inches, Liana said.
Pilling's Lock Marina

passing under the GCR rail bridge in Loughborough
The last three miles into Loughborough take you past Pillings Lock Marina, Sea Scouts, Peter Le Marchant Trust Charity Community boats (now with two widebeam and a narrowboat moored, plus poly tunnel floating wet dock), which give cruises to handicapped folk. As you pass under the old rail bridge, you can see rolling stock owned by the Great Central Railway. We heard steam train whistles, too.
We moored just before the junction, as Honeypie would have towpath, grass and trees close by, unlike the concrete town basin.

Liana, Honeypie and Annie moored in Loughborough
A few tent dwellers were pitched under the trees, nearby. Walking into town to shop and have a drink, we passed the basin and noted that the services were all out of order! Not impressive, when you pay your license fee to use them. The basin is not large, so the pontoons are short: Bollards or rings could be added at the side in places, for longer narrowboats, without impeding winding. Bell ringing friend Norman rang to sort out ringing for the 100th Anniversary of WW1 armistice day on 11 November. Will this be the last time? With Falklands War, two Gulf Wars and Afghanistan, probably not.

Sunday 14 October: a rainy day at Loughborough
Honeypie was a bit worried by the strong winds and heavy rain buffeting Annie through the last evening, despite her large balloon fenders. We all slept ok, but woke to steady rain. John had a rare bacon and eggs breakfast :) while HP popped out briefly with Liana. We wrote up diary and blog, and read. Rachel collected us after her church, and we spent the day with grannie Flo in Nottingham, before Rachel dropped us off with HP. Work, travel to London tomorrow, then flight to USA for her. We saw sister Ali, too :)

Monday 15 October: a short trip to Zouch (3 miles, 2 locks)
What a horrible day, rain continual, but we braved the elements and took Honeypie for a walk along the canal, then to B&Q briefly. John coukldn't remember the detail sander hole pattern, so couldn't buy more shaped sanding sheets. Once the rain stopped, we decided to set off for Zouch. Two boats passed as we got ready, so we didn't rush. John wore wet weather gear and life jacket, as rivers can be much deeper than canals. Rain began again, so Liana only emerged at Loughborough Lock and Bishops Meadow Lock, where the water point/service mooring was occupied, so we joined NB Mulcibar in the lock and continued together.
We didn't spot the chain ferry at Normanton-on-Soar, but waved to NBs Crockett and Joyce B, travelling together and moored outside the Plough pub. We remembered the kindness of folk at Soar Boating Club, where we have left Annie for a week, a while ago. Reaching Zouch (pronounced “Zotch” by locals), we moored outside the Rose & Crown pub and had a well deserved beer/coffee, plus a light meal together, enjoying a light hearted chat with locals and staff. Hiding from the rain, we had a quiet night in, reading and watching TV.

Tuesday 16 October: from Zouch down the Soar to Trent Lock and on to Beeston and Nottingham (14 miles, 5 locks)
Liana walked Honeypie, finishing at Zouch Lock, while John got Annie ready. Just as John set off from the Crown & Anchor mooring, two narrowboats came round the corner and followed him to Zouch Lock. Their lady lockwheeler kindly helped Annie through.
The lower Soar below Zouch is pretty, with meadows and wooded islands. We passed the Devil's Elbow and Tongue Island ( looking very peaceful), to cruise slowly past boats moored by The Otter pub and adjacent East Midlands Boat Services boatyard and marina. Clive on NB Mulcibar (going our way) was being pumped out, having sprung a leak of some sort, he shouted.
The gates at Kegworth deep Lock are large and heavy, but we managed together, and had left just before the two boats following arrived. The lower Soar winds slowly towards the A453 bridge and Ratcliffe Lock, then twists and turns to the assorted pontoon moorings close to the power station and East Midlands Parkway railway station. With all sorts of bits and pieces, Redhill Marina has the usual services, including a newly refurbished cafe, before you go through the open flood lock and pass by waterside chalets in the shadow of the red sandstone cliffs of Red Hill itself, to the confluence with the Trent. We turned upstream past the large weir, the short distance to Cranfleet Cut. This time, there were no volunteers to help, but Liana managed fine. On the river, a strong current, probably 2 knots, was flowing, despite the level being in the Green, so we made the five mile journey to Beeston in just under an hour, without hurrying, enjoying the wide river and views. Liana made tasty bagels with smoked salmon and Philly spread lunch on the move. There is still a scout (?) base on Barton Island. It is a shame you can't see much of the Attenborough Nature Reserve as you pass, and there isn't a pontoon mooring so you can stop and visit, either, sadly.
Soon, Beeston Marina, weir and Lock apeared. There is a small grey landing craft (John thinks it was an LCVP, for vehicles and personnel) by the marina offices. A cruiser emerged as we approached the lock, so John hooted and they kindly left the gates open for Annie. Liana got off at the pontoon, as this was easier for her. Once through, we stayed a while at the adjacent services: Annie needed lots of water, rubbish needed emptying, plus John had six 3 gallon holding tanks to empty for our vacuflush loo. Liana walked Honeypie around the adjacent sports fields, then kept an eye on the water, while John did the same walk again with HP!
The Nottingham & Beeston canal is unremarkable, taking you past pleasant overnight moorings near the lock, then past Boots and John Player factories, through a cutting and past light industry to Trevethick's Boatyard, where we saw NB Lady Lee, now away from her long time mooring at our home Retford & Worksop Boat Club on the Chesterfield Canal.
We moored on our usual spot between Castle Marina and Sainsbury's, chilled and walked around the shops. John was impressed by the 65 inch TVs!! There are several eating places close by here, including A Hungry Horse pub by the towpath. John watched Brazil beat Argentina at soccer on TV.

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