March 31, 2011

We are back in Alrewas, moored in exactly the same place that we were in last October (coincidentally the only vacant spot in the 14 days moorings just as it was last time) and moored next to the same boat as well.

It’s been a bright, sunny day, but what a wind! Alan reckons that it’s the windiest day that we have ever encountered. I’m not sure about that: I can remember some very windy adventures, but it’s certainly up high in the leader board. We certainly wouldn’t normally have travelled a five hour day under these conditions but we were looking forward to getting to Alrewas and it probably gets very busy here at weekends at this time of the year.

We were rather pleased to leave the heavy goods railway line behind not far past Willington, though I have to say it wasn’t as sleep disturbing as we had feared. However as the train track passes behind the gravel pits the A38 comes close. It’s a very busy road with lots of large trucks so all in all this isn’t the most exciting stretch of waterway though there is an aqueduct over a pretty stretch of the River Dove.

We went straight through Burton, past a glorious array of daffodils at Shobnall Fields and through a strong brewing aroma from Marstons. (We had done the brewery visit last time we were in Burton). As we went on through Branston the wind strengthened and the hire boat exiting Tatenhill Lock in front of us had a dreadful time getting off the side. When we left the lock Alan went straight off and picked me up at the next bridge. The river section between Wychnor and Alrewas wasn’t too bad but it took our combined efforts to get the boat off the lock mooring and into Alrewas Lock. So it was with a sigh of relief that we moored up at the end of a windswept day.

Today we did 12.27 Miles and 6 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2321.29 Miles, 1363 Locks, 128 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 39 Tunnels


March 30, 2011

The promised rain arrived overnight and today has been a grey and drizzly day, quite a bit colder than of late. We moved a very small distance, less than a mile, to the moorings at Willington, thinking that we would move on later in the day. No-one likes to travel in rain unless they have to, and we didn’t have to so we have stayed put.

It really was too much to stay cooped up indoors all day so we walked back and over the footbridge to Mercia Marina. It can’t be seen from the canal as there is a fairly long approach canal which passes under a road. It’s a vast place with a huge number of moorings, a shop, restaurant, boat hire and boat sales, as well as a large Midland Chandlers and the normal boat servicing facilities. The boat hire company, Shakespeare Classic Line, seems to be doing a roaring trade as we have seen many of their boats passing during the day.

The downside of not moving along is that we are still very close to the extremely busy train tracks. Most of the traffic appears to be freight trains. It’s a very good thing to see freight going by rail not on the roads but they are very noisy and seem to travel through the night.

Today we did 0.91 Miles

Statistics so far:-

2309.02 Miles, 1357 Locks, 128 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 39 Tunnels


March 29, 2011

Findern is a very tiny hamlet, it seems. We decided to moor here, just short of Willington because once again we were caught behind the very slow boat hirers. We had passed them earlier in the day, just after Swarkestone Lock, having repairs made to the boat. Unfortunately they passed us while we were having lunch above Stenson Lock. It’s now raining very heavily and become rather cold so it’s good to be moored. This rain wasn’t supposed to arrive until tomorrow.

We travelled for a couple of hours only today. Until Stenson Lock the countryside is green and quite pretty but now we are sandwiched between roads and the railway line and we know that there is nothing of great interest until Burton.

You may have gathered already that this has been a day of little excitement! The highlight was sharing Stenson Lock with a BW dredger that was being moved to the Coventry Canal. We had seen it being manoeuvred above Swarkestone Lock as we approached the lock ourselves. It was well away when we left the lock and we didn’t see it again until we arrived at Stenson Lock. Stenson is a deep lock, over 12 ft, so it was very welcome to be held snug by the barge as we ascended.

Coming through Stenson Lock

Today we did 6.45 Miles and 2 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2308.11 Miles, 1357 Locks, 128 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 39 Tunnels

Back on the Trent and Mersey

March 28, 2011

The early fog soon burnt off this morning and it was a beautiful day by the time we left just after 9.00. When I walked to Kegworth Deep Lock a small boat had just entered so I asked them if they would wait until Alan brought the boat round. When he got there he said that NB Hawkeye, who was moored around the corner from us, was also coming along thinking that they would be joining us in the lock. They pulled up as we were descending. When we reached the Kegworth Shallow Lock, which was left open so that we could pass straight through, the small boat pulled in to moor. We went on very slowly and were joined by NB Hawkeye as we entered Ratcliffe Lock.

The couple on NB Hawkeye are retired US Academics who have been travelling the system for the past few years. We have been coming across them on and off since Kilby Bridge, and were moored next to them at Leicester. We turned onto the Trent and went through Sawley Lock with them, before leaving them at the marina. It was only then that we discovered that the Professor’s field was electronic design, just like Alan, and they were both radio amateurs. They would have had lots to talk about but by then it was too late!

As we waved them goodbye we went past the River Derwent and back onto the Trent and Mersey Canal. We were one of three boats in the Derwent Mouth Lock as a small hire boat and a short Sea Piper boat were in line next to us. The hirers went off first and it was apparent that they had just picked up their boat: they were travelling so slowly that Alan had to keep stopping altogether. As readers of this blog will know we are people who believe in travelling at tickover past moored boats but we also believe in keeping moving! We were relieved when they pulled in for lunch at Shardlow so we decided to keep going. (They passed us late in the afternoon after we had moored up. They had obviously gained in confidence as they sped past without slowing down!)

We ate on the go and stopped to water above Weston Lock. It was such a lovely day that I got on the roof to give it a wash while the tank was filling and then we gave it a quick rinse with the hose. I also washed one side of the boat: it was long overdue. Now that I’ve got myself started I plan to finish the washing and polishing when we are moored on the other side of the canal and then start on the repairs to the paintwork. My least favourite aspect of boating!

Ratcliffe Power Station

Today we did 10.53 Miles and 10 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2301.66 Miles, 1355 Locks, 128 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 39 Tunnels


March 27, 2011

It’s always a strange day when the clocks go forward. Alan has suggested that we should just ignore it, at least until the next time we have to take a train or some other occasion when time matters. Like tonight, I said, when we want to watch Waking the Dead at 9.00, which was 8.00 yesterday.

It was a river day today, on the stretch from Loughborough up to Kegworth. It is wonderful to steer on the river and the Soar has views, unlike the Severn or the Trent. We drifted past Normanton, and Zouch, and then moored on the approach to Kegworth: unfortunately also under the approach to East Midlands Airport. Luckily it’s not the busiest of the UK airports but it is quite alarming as a plane passes just over our heads.

Because we had somewhat misjudged our proximity to Kegworth Lock, and then it’s a good stride on to the bridge we had a fairly long walk into Kegworth village. We managed to get to the Cap and Stocking pub which Mr Pearson says is one of his favourites on the waterways system. It was pleasantly busy in the late afternoon: one of those pleasant pubs with several small rooms and no slippery brown leather sofas. They also sell Bass from the jug which we very much enjoyed. It would be high up on the list of our favourites but nothing beats the One Eyed Rat in Ripon which would entice us to move there.

It’s worth also mentioning the Albion Innat Loughborough, which we popped into last night. It’s a very idiosyncratic little pub on the canal, a semi-detached half of a building, very quiet in that there are no machines or TVs, good beer, massive meals and the landlord knew all the clientele (except us of course) by name.

Today we did 5.74 Miles and 3 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2291.13 Miles, 1345 Locks, 128 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 39 Tunnels


March 26, 2011

It was an early start for us because we were breasted up to the diesel boat and he wanted to start off just before 9.00. So we were away at 8.15, through the Mountsorrel Lock. It was a very misty morning and, as predicted, much cooler today. I had a lovely long walk through the river meadows to the Barrow Deep Lock. As expected the traffic light on the house next to the lock was green, to say that it was safe to go onto the river. The deep Lock is 9ft 7ins so not really very deep, say compared with the Denham or Bath deep locks. We passed a boat moored just before the lock and the boater was out at the stern doing a bit of a tidy. He certainly saw me passing with the windlass and Alan followed just after. We were surprised when the boat pulled up to the lock just as we were about to exit. I know that our paint needs a touch up in the near future but I didn’t think we looked that disreputable! I would have expected them to ask us if we would wait.

Pillings Lock was chained open for the summer months. It will only be closed if the river rises. Then we were into a traditional canal section into Loughborough while the river went off in a big swoop around the town. We had been recommended to moor just before the sharp turn under the Chain Bridge so that is what we did.

It is market day in Loughborough and the market is one of the largest I have seen for a long time. We had a wander round, and some lunch and stocked up with provisions for the next few days. We might even have to put the fire on this evening: what a change!

Today we did 6.72 Miles and 3 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2285.39 Miles, 1342 Locks, 128 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 39 Tunnels


March 25, 2011

After the blog was posted last night we did come under attack from a group of Leicester youths – a group of about seven young teens on bikes who were yelling across at the boats and then threw some missiles. Not sure what they were but they landed close enough to splash the windows. So we decided to move on first thing this morning, not specifically because of that, but there seemed nothing attractive enough to hold us.

And the next few miles were even less attractive. The canal/river was rubbish laden and scummy and we were passing through an area of former textile mills, including the well known name Worsley, all derelict or being torn down.

When we reached Lime Kiln Lock, the second of the day, we met up with a group of three drunks (at 10.30 am quite paralytic) and the young teenage daughter of one of them who was definitely not drunk. Her Dad was an ex boater, and greeted us with joy. In fact Alan narrowly avoided being kissed. He insisted on helping us through the lock with his daughter assisting in the gate opening, and told us all about when he lived on a boat for a couple of years at Debdale, twenty years ago. Apparently he was to take his daughter to a hospital appointment!! He grabbed our centre line and insisted on holding it as we descended, and then when one of the gates wouldn’t fully open because of rubbish (though I would have gone through the other gate) he leapt onto our roof and grabbed the boat hook to poke futilely down towards the obstruction which he couldn’t possibly reach. He was just able to leap back onto the roof to replace the pole and then held onto the side of the lock with his hands while he pushed the boat off with his feet. By this time Alan and I were shutting our eyes and praying that we wouldn’t have to fish him out of the canal. Miraculously he made it back to the lock side and we all waved goodbye with his daughter raising her eyes heavenwards. Poor girl. Though he was actually a very nice man and the sadness was that he was in that situation.

By the time we moored for lunch at the Hope and Anchor and then went on after lunch to Mountsorrel things had improved though there was still a fair degree of rubbish that had worked its way downstream. It is good to be back on a river, especially one that is now broadening.

Just past Sileby Lock we passed our namesake, Lazy Days. This was a most illustrious namesake because she bore a plaque saying that she was one of the Dunkirk small ships fleet in 1940. We had first heard that there was a boat of our name involved in the Dunkirk evacuation when we were moored outside Cowroast marina some years ago and it was such a pleasure to finally see her.

We arrived at Mountsorrel at 4.00 to find the diesel boat, Star Carrying Company, which we should have hailed yesterday in Leicester, filling up two boats on the moorings above the locks. We came alongside and filled up and have remained breasted up for the night. The Swan Pub had been recommended so we went there for our Friday night drink. It was very busy and a perfectly pleasant place to end the day.

Friars Mills

Worsley Chimney

Space centre with the ‘River I Soar’

The 1940 Dunkirk Lazy Days – Our namesake

Boat Manoeuvres

Today we did 8.90 Miles and 7 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2278.67 Miles, 1339 Locks, 128 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 39 Tunnels


March 24, 2011

We are moored at Castle Park in the centre of Leicester. It’s very secure: we came back at 7.00 to find that not only are the gates to the pontoon moorings locked, so are the gates to the park and the footbridge that leads across the canal into the park is blocked off. Our BW key opens one of the park gates and once inside there’s a whole private park for the use of the boaters. It’s been another hot and sunny day and on the way to get shopping we had walked past a park that was crammed with students and families all out enjoying the early evening; quite amazing! And yet we could have a park to ourselves.

It was another early start, well 8.30 which is our definition of early. As we left the first lock, Blue Banks, another boat pulled up and Alan went back to say that we would wait for them at Kings Lock. (We had been advised to moor at Kings Lock the previous night but decided that we were better with our mooring half way between Gees and Blue Banks.) As we went under the big Soar Valley Way road bridge Alan counted twelve supermarket trolleys, wheels aloft, in the water. We were talking to a very friendly local man while we waited in Kings Lock and he said they had all appeared the previous weekend. Maybe there was a trolley derby with a prize for the first person to get to the canal?

When the following boat arrived it turned out to be a small, very beaten up craft, with three guys that, from appearance, you would not want to find yourself with in a dark alley way. However they were nice people, though rather chaotic, to say the least. They were taking the boat from London to Nottingham. It turned out that one of them, a man who looked very like the wrestler Big Daddy, and who was working the locks in an inept fashion, had a good reason for that because he had had a bad fall a couple of locks back when he was getting on the boat. He had split his lip and knocked a tooth loose, hit his head on a bridge, ripped a big cut in his leg which needed stitches and landed in the canal. Alan was working the lock so I was a bit removed from the conversations about this for the first three locks but when he got a chance he said that he was worried because the cut was so bad and the man had gone into the canal. The men had thought that their friend, Dave, would go to hospital when they got to Nottingham which wouldn’t be until at least late tomorrow. When I swopped with Alan I walked with Dave to Freemans Lock and said that I thought he should go to hospital in Leicester because of the threat of contamination to the cut from the canal water and the risk of Weills Disease. When I fell into the water at Cowroast Marina a few years ago a man ran round from the other side of the marina screaming at me to get in a shower; he had fallen in the water with a cut which became infected and took months to heal. When the boat went on in Leicester we heard the owner of the boat arranging for someone to pick his friend up to take him to A & E so we were relieved. We may have been over reacting but at the least the cut needed attention.

After lunch we walked into the city centre. There are some buildings and areas of historic interest but mostly it seemed to be traffic, grime and even the market couldn’t drag us in. I’m sure we are maligning Leicester and it was so much better walking on the other side of the canal in the early evening, but we felt that we couldn’t wait to get out of the place. We were ready to go on to the outskirts but when we got back to the pontoon other boats were arriving and we decided to stay put till the morning.

Weir at Freemans Lock

15th Century City Wall

Towards the City Walls

Old Trinity Building

Today we did 3.77 Miles and 5 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2269.77 Miles, 1332 Locks, 128 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 39 Tunnels

19 Locks!

March 23, 2011

Well we didn’t quite get into the centre of Leicester but we are only five locks and four miles away from the city centre mooring. It’s been a very long day and we are both pretty shattered: good training for hard days on the Leeds and Liverpool and Rochdale over the next few months.

The first few miles were very scenic. We soon hit the first of the nineteen double locks and it, like the majority we were to do today, was set against us with both the bottom gates open. By the time we stopped for lunch eleven locks later we were getting really riled and muttering about lazy people. As we finished our rushed meal we were joined by a boat we had passed right back at the beginning of the day: they said we were just 30 minutes too early for them. (We probably would have waited if we had known). We grumbled to them about the open gates and they said that they had found the same thing so obviously gates swing open on this stretch. But that didn’t excuse the several paddles left up and, more seriously, the several paddles partly up which meant that we had to be particularly vigilant.

Things got easier as we passed through Kilby Lock when we passed a very smart Dutch barge style narrowboat (last met on the Oxford in 2009). From then on the locks were in our favour, and the gates had often swung open! Not so bad when it makes our life easier!

Today we did 11.19 Miles and 19 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2266.00 Miles, 1327 Locks, 128 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 39 Tunnels

Near Smeeton Westerby

March 22, 2011

We are moored in a very attractive but very noisy place tonight: next to a field of young lambs and their equally noisy mums. It’s in an area of Special Scientific Interest and there are notices asking that boats travel slowly enough not to create breaking waves against the bank, stick to the centre of the channel and take care where they moor.

It was a late start today because this morning we went into the Market Harborough town centre to do some shopping. It’s a town with a prosperous look; there are few empty shops and many up market clothing stores, gift shops and housewares stores. We were looking for a salad spinner and potato peeler and went into two very smart kitchen ware shops but decided that we might be better to wait till we got to Leicester. What we saw seemed expensive and more for appearance than functionality. As a last resort we went into the Frank Gilbert housewares store. There was a vast array of wicker ware outside, baskets, pet beds, log baskets and so on. The sort of thing that makes me yearn to go mad and take home all sorts of baskets even if I have no use for them. We spotted a good selection of Le Creuset cookware in the window at better than normal prices so thought it was worth going in. It was a very little shop and crammed full of everything you could ever want in the kitchen, so crammed that I was terrified I would destroy huge amounts of crockery with the back pack full of groceries I was wearing. It was the sort of place where you asked for what you wanted and would be given plenty of help and advice. A suitable salad spinner was plucked from the very top shelf by a very long-armed member of staff and there was a large choice of nice old fashioned and usable potato peelers.

One piece of shopping that wasn’t as successful was the green grocery. I had decided that it was better in principle to get the veges at the greengrocer on my way back to the boat rather than at Sainsburys. I regretted it when I saw the rather poor choice and quality but it was too far to go back to the supermarket.

After lunch we set off back down the Market Harborough Arm in bright and warm sunshine. It was t shirt weather, 16 degrees. It felt very strange and undressed to be out without thermals or jacket. Tomorrow is to be even warmer, and then it’s back to normal March weather at the weekend. No rain predicted luckily as we are heading to the River Soar.

We would prefer to be in Leicester a couple of days before the weekend so Alan has suggested we leave early tomorrow and do a ten hour day. Hah! Can’t see that happening!

Union Wharf – a Basin of hire boats waiting to go out.

17th Century Grammar School

Going towards Market Harborough

Today we did 8.24 Miles and 2 Swing Bridgesl

Statistics so far:-

2254.81 Miles, 1308 Locks, 128 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 39 Tunnels