Monday, 27 September 2021

Along the Grand Union Leicester Line some pictures

 Sunday 19 September Braunston to above Watford Locks (7.5 miles, 13 locks, 1 tunnel)

We woke up late (again) by Braunston Marina’s lovely cast iron Horsley bridge. After breakfast, we ascended the six locks with NB Six Belles, named to celebrate the owners’ six grand daughters!  

The odd short shower didn’t worry us too much. John got out the umbrella, while Liana decided to tough it out and change later!It was busy, and we passed several pairs of boats on the way up. 

John waited for two oncoming boats about to leave Braunston Tunnel. Entering this theoretically straight but quite bendy tunnel, we still had to pass three boats slowly and carefully, thankfully without incident. There was time for tea before reaching Norton Junction. The weather became sunnier. John tried to moor near the New Inn for Sunday Lunch, but there was no room , sadly. 

Reversing to the junction, we turned up the Grand Union Leicester Line and made our way past the two Welton marinas towards Watford Locks.  Once descending boats were clear, the friendly and efficient lock keepers helped both NB Six Belles and ourselves up the flight, chatting with us all the way up. 

At the top, John emptied loo cassettes and we took on water, plus looked in the charity book shop run by the lock keepers.

We passed under the noisy M1 and moored half a mile away, on a scenic favourite mooring overlooking fields beyond bridge 9. The distant rumble of traffic and trains isn’t intrusive.

This lovely day, we got chairs, table and red wine out, as you must! The scene at sunset was lovely, too.

Monday 20 September Across the top of Leicestershire (Bridge 9 to Bridge 51) (17 miles, 0 locks, 2 tunnels)

I always enjoy this quiet, isolated and scenic journey between Watford and Foxton. Crick Tunnel is dry and straighter than Braunston Tunnel, and John bellowed his way through, while Liana hooted! Boaters were enjoying Crick Marina in the sun. 

Past Crack’s Hill and Yelvertoft Marina, the canal boxes the compass through isolated countryside ten miles to the Welford Arm and the marinas at North Kilworth.

We had another singsong through Husbands Bosworth Tunnel, before mooring and enjoying the sun near bridge 51.

Tursday 21 September Foxton Locks (3 miles, 10 locks)

John enjoyed the three miles to Foxton, this sunny but windy morning, while Liana was busy inside. The Laughton Hills slope down on the offside, while breaks in the towpath hedge reveal lovely views of the wide valley below.

Reaching Foxton, we had plenty of time , as boats were going down, followed by six boats coming up, before our turn came. Liana’s sister Alison arrived with our nephew Scott, so we had a great day together, enjoying the Foxton scene, working the ten staircase locks. Liana and Scott did some car moving, while Ali and I righted the wrongs of the world over a glass of red wine …. 

For a change  we were allowed to descend in Annie and wait in the small pound halfway down, while the six ascending boats came past us. That’s our nephew Scott, sitting in the blue shirt, enjoying the activity.

The rule for opening paddles is “Red before White, you’ll be alright”. The red paddle fills the lower lock and the side pond empties , then the white paddle refills the side pond from the higher lock. Once both locks and side pond are level, the lock gates can be opened and boat moved to the other lock.

We moored in front of the Foxton Inn and ate together there. It’s lovely to catch up and see your family.

Wednesday 22 September Visit to Nottingham

This morning, we emptied rubbish and loo cassettes at Foxton services, using our new trolley. John then reversed and did a three point turn by the pubs and locks, leaving towards Leicester. We moored just beyond, on the visitor moorings. Leaving Annie at Foxton, we drove to Nottingham to visit Liana’s mum, Flo.

Thursday 23 September Visit to Wales

John drove through heavy motorway traffic to M5  Strensham Services. After a needed break, Liana drove us along the M50 Welsh motorway and A40 to Newport, near where our daughter  Jo, partner Mark and grand daughter Hope live. We had great fun babysitting while Jo caught up on various things!

Friday 24 September Visit to the Forest of Dean

We finished our trip to see daughter Jo, partner Mark and grandchild Hope by visiting the Forest of Dean on our way back to Annie. Jo took the chance to go mountain biking with her friend Janet, while we happily looked after Hope at peaceful Mallard’s Pike Lake.

Cute or what?

The drive back was tiring, we walked down Foxton Locks in the dark and slept well on Annie!

Saturday 25   Foxton Locks to Kilby Bridge (10 miles, 12 locks, 1 tunnel)

Today marks seven years of owning Annie! The time has flown. Liana renewed our boat insurance.

We woke, late but refreshed, to a glorious sunny day. Liana took the car to Kilby Bridge to meet daughter Rachel. Soon John set off to Debdale Wharf and Marina, past fields of sheep and cattle. Farmers have been busy trimming hedges with their flails, now the nesting and harvest seasons are over. Most hay and straw bales are stacked by now. The arable fields here are being disc harrowed to break up the surface, rather than ploughing deeper.


At bridge 72, just before Saddington Tunnel, Liana, Rachel and her dog Honeypie came onboard, and we hooted and sang  our way through the half mile long tunnel, which is straight, with no towpath. 

We saw a couple of types of bats (big and small!) fluttering above our heads in the gloom.

Once through, we passed near Fleckney to reach the five Kibworth locks, all empty, as a boat must have preceded us. We shared a couple with a single hander, who moored after Taylor’s Turnover Lock 20. Beside this, preparations were being made at this popular wedding venue, lockside and tented. 

We moored for lunch after bridge 78, with scenic views across the Sence Valley to Wistow Hall and Rural Centre. 

The three of us managed the remaining seven locks, with occasional help from families walking and cyclists on this lovely day.

Reaching Kilby Bridge, we moored, only to find that The Navigation no longer serves food or has satellite tv. We guess there will be a different landlord next year! After car shuffling, we bade Rachel farewell and kept Honeypie overnight.

Sunday 26 September Kilby Bridge to Packhorse Bridge 105 at Aylestone Village (5.5 miles, 9 locks)

Rachel picked us up and showed us her impressive, nearly finished large house extension, after which we attended her Free Church 7pm service, which was very relaxed, with chairs around tables, refreshments and chocolates thrown to us during the sermon! The hymns were good to sing, too. We had chats both before and after the service with Rachel’s friends , including our Settlers of Catan Zoom friend Pip.

Monday 27 September Aylestone Meadows along the River Soar to Leicester 

Wet and windy overnight, windy now with showers forecast, John caught up with this blog as we stayed moored below King’s  Lock 38. 

As the sun appeared, we moved Annie and moored beside Aldi for shopping. You have to climb over the fence or onto the Aldi loading ramp now, as the gate out into the play park is padlocked.

Shopping bought, without any tools but with the smoky and peaty Glen Marnoch Islay malt whisky,

We carried on through Aylestone Mill Lock 39, above which we have moored before. Around numerous sharp bends with lots of willows blocking our view, we arrived at St Mary’s Mill Lock 40. Three men were high up on an electricity pylon, waving back at Liana. Several young men seemed to be supervised by a female social worker behind a barred fence. We said hello and pointed out the pylon workers. The top gate cill was damaged, with water spurting on as we tried to empty the lock. Past the impressive weir in front of the Leicester City FC stadium, we chatted to an ex-boater on his mobility scooter as we descended Freeman’s Meadow Lock 42. Liana rang CRT reporting damage to the lower gate, as well as the lock 40 cill.

Now we rejoined the River Soar along the Mile Straight, past rowing club, De Montfort University and secure CRT pontoon visitor mooring beside Castle Park, accessible using a CRT key. The newish, powered Friars Mill pontoon visitor moorings are dwarfed by new white blocks of flats.

More new building is on both sides as you approach the large weir before Frog Island, where very artistic graphic graffiti adorns the brick walls near North Lock 42, which had a leaky top cill, too. We hope CRT sort these Leicester locks this coming winter!

We moored for lunch on towpath rings above Belgrave Lock 44, near the Space Centre and Pumping Station. As we entered the lock, two Narrowboats appeared behind us, clearly travelling together. We chatted with their lady lock wheelers.

It’s quite pretty travelling through the overgrown River Soar water meadows, past weirs and overhanging willows. We spotted the White Lion pub and decent moorings  by Birstall Lock 45, but carried on through Thurmaston Lock to moor in Watermead Country Park on bollards, before the Hope & Anchor pub. This has good walks and views.

Tuesday 28 September Watermead Country Oark to Barrow-upon-Soar (6.5 miles, 5 locks)

This windy but sunny morning, long trousers and wind proof jackets were needed. Once under the A46, we passed through Junction Lock on the River Wreake and Cossington Lock with no problems, enjoying the sunny scene despite the strong wind. Through yet more water meadows and overhanging willow trees, we reached Sileby Mill lock and boatyard. Here, we filled up with diesel (95p) much more easily than forty cars queuing to panic buy at their nearest garage, we were told. They have a good chandlery here, too.

This section to Mountsorrel is also pretty, and you can get a decent meal at the lockside Waterside Inn  there.

We passed a community boat near Meadow Farm Marina and enjoyed looking at the lovely houses at Barrow.

After using the services by the Navigation Inn, we continued through Barrow Deep Lock to moor close by on bollards. We ate interesting tapas and a duck/bbq sauce pizza at The Moorings with daughter Sarah, who works nearby. We slept well.

Wednesday 29 September Barrow to Loughborough and Zouch (7 miles, 3 locks)

NB Willoughby went past as we were preparing to leave the moorings near The Moorings at Barrow. We caught up with her and passed through Pilling’s Flood Lock with her, after a cruiser came up. Her owners have two shares in her, we used to have with our previous shareboat, Osprey. The weather was very windy, cool but mostly sunny, thankfully.

After seeing the Peter Le Marchant community boat again, we passed their base, next to the Sea Cadets. There are newish housing estates on both sides as you reach Loughborough, followed by high brick walls before the refurbished Great Central Railway bridge 37 passes over, with rolling stock close by.

The towpath is looking tidy these days. We saw a cheerful work party of volunteers clearing weed from the edge.

We like Loughborough town centre, so moored in the basin and browsed around, before setting off for Zouch after lunch, leaving the basin full of visiting boats. The basin arm now has new housing blocks overlooking it.

Loughborough and Bishop’s Meadow locks both need repairs, like a number of Leicester locks. The sun helped us enjoy the blustery windy scene as we passed by water meadows and the Soar Boating Club, past the weirs to the short cut by the Rose & Crown at Zouch (pronounced Zotch by locals).

Liana had used our new 200W electric slow cooker (donated by daughter Rachel 👍) and prepared a tasty pulled pork meal. John finished wire brushing and painted floor gutters and under the engine floor hatch with iron oxide paint. It dried while we had tea and read in the sun, until sunset.

Thursday 30 September Zouch to Trent Lock

It was very windy and raining hard overnight and this morning, so we put on the diesel Eberspatcher central heating and hunkered down, using our phones to chat with daughter Jo and write the blog, which John is well behind with. Liana lit the multifuel stove, and TV’s Homes under the Hammer caught our attention, until the weather dried enough to set off northwards.

Annie was blown along by the strong wind, but John was warm inside his wet weather gear. We passed through Zouch Lock , then the Otter Inn, not really accessible to longer boats like Annie. 

 on to Kegworth Deep Lock, with a derelict lock alongside, the open flood lock and then Ratcliffe Lock. 

Great numbers of Canada Geese shared riverside meadows with cattle. We saw only a handful of moving boats all afternoon.

These heavy gated locks all have river weirs and loops around them. Ratcliffe Power Station looms over river and Redhill Marina, where lots of wide beams are moored before the flood lock, with all its open in summer months, unless heavy rain causes floods.

Past the chalets of Redhill, we reached the Trent, turning upstream from the great weir towards the sailing club, and moored against the stone riverside opposite, at the entrance to Cranfleet Cut.

A pint at The Steamboat Inn by Trent Lock went down well!

Friday, 17 September 2021

Coventry and N Oxford Canals no pictures yet

 Tuesday 14 September Rain stopped play!

Today it rained pretty much all day. Only hire boaters and hardier souls passed us by as we sheltered from the rain. Later, we visited the pub for a drink before eating on board.

The Dog & Doublet has an imposing front door up steps, and the pleasant bar/restaurant is on the first floor. The Chinese chef came out to chat and drum up trade, as the rain had reduced custom to a trickle.

We read, did puzzles and John watched BT Champipns League soccer on his IPhone

Wednesday  15 September Dog & Doublet to Kings Arms, Atherstone

Damp and overcast, we moved to the first of the three remaining Curdworth Locks, following a boat down. There is a nature reserve on the right.

The three miles to Fazeley was quiet. We admired the remarkable spiral staircases of the turreted bridge close to Drayton Manor amusement park and zoo. The mill buildings at the junction are now being turned into flats. They had been used for workshops and craft shops, but it was closed down last time we passed.

John swing Annie right and through the narrow bridge hole. Last time, he banged it! Across the River Tame Aqueduct, past the Boat Club, we found ourselves third in the queue for the two Glascote locks. Liana soon made herself useful, chatting to and helping the boaters ahead of us. I soon joined her, when not moving the boat up. These locks each have unused side ponds, sadly. With the long pound above over six inches low, these could have saved half a lock full of water for each operation.Descending, your pour half the lock water into the side pond, then close its paddle and empty in the usual way. Ascending, first fill from the side pond, then close the side pond paddle and top up in the usual way.

With four boats waiting to descend, we were crossing over in the pound between the locks. Once through, we passed Glascote Basin, once the home of Steve Hudson’s boat building operation, before his untimely death. His good looking boats are his legacy.

Today was the busiest for boats, with double figures of oncoming boats, enjoying sun after yesterday’s bad weather.

We enjoyed the countryside through Alvecote, past marina and priory ruins. Again, we helped other boaters as we ascended the first five Atherstone locks, which also have unused side ponds.

We had been recommended the Kings Arms by two boaters independently, so stopped close by it and sampled Prosecco and Guinness(both good!). We  enjoyed the Steak & Ale Pie and Fish & Chips from friendly staff.

John enjoyed watching Liverpool win 3-2 in an exciting match against AC Milan in the Champions League.

We slept well!

Thursday 16 September  Kings Arms, Atherstone flight to Sutton Stop

We awoke late and set off steadily up the remaing six locks, following two boats. The last five are close together in a”thick”, and we got help from CRT volunteers for the last three. Above the top lock, we stopped at the services for water, Elsan and rubbish disposal.

The long pound takes you through Nuneaton, with some pleasant canalside gardens, and around Bedworth. On the way, you pass the end of defunct colliery arms, Marston Junction (the Ashby Canal) and newish marinas. Some of these use the old cast iron Horsely side bridges as their entrances. We passed quite a few oncoming boats as the sun shone and clouds missed us, with good views over the Anker valley.

At Sutton Stop, John took Annie smoothly through the 180 degree turn under the Lovely iron bridge, in view of the patrons of the Greyhound Inn, despite loud clunks as a log caught our propeller! Once through the stop lock, we moored up and ate a decent tea at the Greyhound in the sun.

Friday  17 September Sutton Stop to Rugby

First, we put up with the noise as we passed close to the M6, then under the M69, through Ansty and finally under the M6. After that, it’s been a straight, lockless run today southwards, through sunny countryside, along the curves, embankments and cuttings of the North Oxford Canal, loops cut off and route shortened a long time ago, in Victorian times, in response to competition from the new railways.

At Rugby, we moored at the visitor moorings opposite the park and close to Tesco’s, which we visited to stock up. Liana had cooked mince in Bolognese sauce this morning, so it tasted even better once heated up and eaten with penne and grated cheeses, plus the obligatory red wine!

As we chilled afterwards, about a dozen hire boats, most from the nearby 

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Going downhill fast!

 Sunday 13 September Gas Street Basin to Rocky Lane moorings, Aston (2.5 miles, 21 locks)

Last night we were collected by our friends Mike and Wendy, who live a few miles away, and had a takeaway with them. We caught up with each other before they brought us back to Annie.

Friday night it was noisy until midnight, then quiet at Gas Street. Last night we had very noisy happy revellers just outside the boat, at the Canal House, until 0100 Sunday morning. John watched Match of the Day, then Gladiator. It was quiet as the grave by 0115, so we slept well until about 0800. We noticed one of the resident boats had gone round the corner overnight , returning this morning after breakfast. Smart people! We do like staying here, despite the occasional cacophony.

This morning we had breakfast before a long visit to the services near The Mailbox to fill our nearly empty water tank. John also emptied all the loo holding tanks. 

We passed through Broad Street Tunnel to The Old Turn, with its little round island.

Brindley Place was quiet on Sunday morning, of course. As we turned right at The Old Turn and past the CRT services to descend the thirteen Farmers Bridge locks, we saw a CRT volunteer about to litter pick, and persuaded him to get his windlass and help us, litter picking as he went. He did a sterling job, closing bottom gates and lowering the paddles as John took Annie out of each lock. 

Liana went ahead, filling locks and opening top gates, while John closed the top gate after entering each lock, then opened at least one bottom gate paddle to lower the water level before getting back on Annie while he could, before she dropped too far. John squeezed Annie past an oncoming boat in the short pound between locks. As a team, we did ten locks, and the thirteen were completed in just ninety minutes! 


We passed through the arched cavern under Snow Hill Station.

We had lunch above the Aston flight top lock, then descended the “thick” of eight closely spaced locks to the visitor moorings at Rocky Lane, mooring just before the heavens opened, thankfully.

The small shop and takeaway were both closed. John watched Liverpool beat Leeds 3-0, while rain pattered on Annie’s roof.

Saturday, 11 September 2021

Up to Birnigum!

 Thursday 9 September Lapworth Locks (1.5 miles, 15 locks)

We have had nine days at home, sorting out house, garden, etc, plus fun visiting friends and family. Then we have had a lovely couple of days with Jo, Mark and our now six week old grandchild, Hope.

Liana loves Gas Street Basin in Birmingham, so we decided to go there via the North Stratford Canal.

Today, John backed Annie up to Kingswood Junction, with Liana looking out for other boats.

First, we entered the short link canal and went up the lock to the level of the lower reservoir/marina. The first half dozen locks are quite close together, going around a corner past this small marina, up to the Canal Shop and Swallow Cruisers little marina. Oncoming boats made life easier and more interesting. After this, a “thick” of nine locks, all very close and with side ponds (like at Devizes), took us up to four locks below the Birmingham summit level. Rain stopped play here, and we moored for the night.

Friday 10 September Lapworth to Gas Street Basin, Birmingham (19 miles, 4 locks, 3 swing bridges)

The Lapworth village main road parallels the canal here, usually thirty metres away. We slept well, though. We had help with the four locks up to the “fifty mile pound” as our friendly lady CRT volunteer called it, as she cleared up weed into a builder’s bag. We passed two oncoming boats, so this helped, too. Apart from occasional short showers, the day was quite warm, so John motored steadily along the twelve bosky miles to Kings Norton junction. The long pound was about six inches low.

First, we negotiated the two manually operated lift bridges soon after the top lock. The North Stratford Canal is largely lined with oak, alder, ash and willow, often with high banks, so it can feel like a long, winding cutting, broken by sudden intrusions of large new housing, eg around Hockley Heath and Dickens Heath. At the former, you pass by a short, weedy bridged arm, above which can be seen the large expensive Maclaren car showroom. Check your bank balance before visiting!

After passing under the noisy, fast M42, the EMYC boat club has been modernised. It was shallow here, near the feeder from the Earleswood reservoirs, where club boats are moored. John had to clear the propeller shaft soon after.

We had to wait at Shirley Drawbridge while men with a cherry picker maintained it, greasing joints , etc. We waiting boaters chatted with the men and each other, some having a drink at the neighbouring Drawbridge pub, but an Amazon delivery driver got upset.

Past gardens at Warstock and wooded cuttings, we entered the 322m Brandwood Tunnel and hollered our usual noises on the way through!

The guillotine gate of the stop lock 1 heralds the junction.

Once John had turned right at King’s Norton Junction, we had just four miles or so to go, largely with the railway line for company, so Liana waved at the passengers. Quite a few boats were moored on both sides by the visitor moorings at Bourneville  station, near Cadbury World.

At Selly Oak, we looked for the new Lapal canal arm at the new Sainsbury’s, but it was not there, as far as we could see. Plans must have changed? We soon passed the ArielAqueduct, university and hospital, famous for treating injured veterans of Gulf Wars and Afghanistan.

Edgebaston Tunnel is well lit. Entering the windy canyon before The Mailbox centre,   we turned right and moored in Gas Street Basin itself, right next to the Canal House/James Brindley restaurant, where we had an interesting meal. While not cheap, John enjoyed his Strawberry Mojito cocktail, only £2 dearer than the beer (about a fiver for 330ml!). 

We enjoyed the starter sharer, and the two sweets, sticky toffee pudding and Dark Chocolate & Peanut Butter Pot, were both chef made and excellent. Sometimes the money is worth paying!

After such a long day, we slept well!

Saturday 11 September at Gas Street Basin

Despite city noise and being moored next to the James Brindley/Canal House restaurant, we had a good night’s sleep, waking feeling well rested, thankfully. Today we will stock up with food, tour the city centre and visit lifelong friends Mike and Wendy tonight. What’s not to like? Oh, and we must use the local services before we move. 

We have had two walks around the newly modernised city centre area, being readied for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. New buildings, statues and tramways along Broad Street surround the older stone municipal edifices.