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