Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Bank Holiday Fun

On Saturday we left our “home” mooring at MGM Boats to enjoy a great day continuing downstream on the River Soar.


It’s a short but delightful river in all it’s parts none more so than Normanton-on-Soar which is a pleasure to cruise past.


Some of the houses at Normanton verge on the impressive scale we’re used to seeing on the Lower Thames.


The old and the new are equally up-market …….


……. not quite as up-market as this residence situated on the backwaters near Kegworth Deep lock - which is where we’d organised to meet up with ……….


….. friends Louise and John on nb “Ploddin’ Along”. A chillier day than expected but as soon as we arrived the sun shone and things warmed up nicely, ready for our BBQ.


John and Louise’ dog Jasper had a whale of a time with us.


A great selfie by Louise.


Doug and John before the fire was lit.


Jasper’s ball kept falling into the canal (mainly due to Doug’s poor aim!). Just like to say that neither Doug nor the dog were injured during this retrieval operation!


Eventually Louise resorted to her ‘apple bobbing’ technique for ball retrieval. (not really!)

We had a great evening, all of us, and it was brilliant to catch up with J and L again and we’re looking forward to the next time.


On Monday we continued on our last leg down the River Soar. The last lock being at Ratcliffe - overlooked by it’s enormous power station.


At Trent Lock the River Soar meets the River Trent and the Erewash Canal and Cranfleet Cut also adds to the complexity of the junction.


We moored up on ‘the wall’ at the start of the Cranfleet Cut (the way you get to Nottingham) to await the arrival of Mark and Rachel from MGM travelling in the very smart and novel MGM weekend hire boat.


With them were Rachel and Ray, having just taken delivery of their brand new MGM Weekender and were on their maiden voyage.


We all piled into the Trent Lock for an evening meal together – Doug, MGM Rachel hiding behind her menu (!), Rachel, Ray and Mark (the only one paying attention!). It was a great night and thanks to you all for your company.


Our journey continued today (Tuesday) as we headed for the Trent and Mersey canal.


The ‘road’ sign is important to tell strangers to these waters where to go. It’s an odd junction, with the confluence of the rivers Trent and Derwent and the canal tapping off as well, A tricky bit of water when the rivers are running fast. They approach each other from opposite directions and meet just where you want to enter the canal. All was well today as there was virtually no flow whatsoever.

It was another cold day with the addition of a strong wind, but at least we were being blown onto the safety of the moorings at each lock. When we reached the Ragley Boat Stop there was room for just one more. We managed to get tied up, electricity hooked up, coal bucket full, TV aerial positioned and all hatches battened down just as the rain started. How’s that for timing? Or perhaps it was just damned good luck!

Sunday, 29 May 2016

A ‘Soar’ Journey.


On our second, and last, evening at Crick we had another riotous time with Sian, (Doug and Ali larking about!), Del and Mark.


As we left on Thursday morning we breasted against Del and Al’s immaculate “Derwent6” while Del did a quick check on “Chance’s” various alternator outputs. Glad to say all’s well.


Just outside Crick we passed some impressive ‘boat art’.


After covering some 18 lockless miles in 6 hours we arrived at the top of Foxton lock flight. The flight takes the canal down 75 feet in two sets of five staircases and, pausing in the top lock, the views on a clear day are wonderful.


From the steerer’s viewpoint passing from one lock chamber to another feels as if the boat is going to fall off the edge!


Every so often there’s a little “something” that catches the eye – in this case a date brick in the wall of the lock, which gently reminds us of the remarkable length of time the canal network has been around and ……….


……… how well the equipment and machinery were built and have lasted for so long. (This is not at Foxton by the way!)


Nearly at the bottom – and just 40 minutes after starting.


Exiting from the Saddington tunnel at this time of year the hedgerows are beautiful with Hawthorn bloom. When the flowers have gone it’ll turn into a disgrace as it’s so overgrown that it’s only just possible at one point to get the boat through without shrubbery touching the sides – c’mon C&RT!


A quintessentially English landscape around Newton Harcourt.


Arrival on Thursday afternoon at Kilby Bridge. A favourite stop for us and ………


……. a meal at the The Navigation was an absolute must.


Next morning it was a 6 o’ clock start and Doug had some vital assistance at Kilby Lock!


It was to be total of 17 locks during the day and King’s Lock, with it’s cafĂ©, heralds the outskirts of Leicester.


At Freeman’s Meadow lock we got a good view of Leicester City FC stadium and the centre of recent football history. It’s also the start of the ‘mile strait’ through the city with some intriguing and pleasant bridges over the river:-






Approaching Frog Island the professional graffiti used to brighten up some of the walls is spectacular!   


And, as we begin to leave the city behind, there are still some remnants of Leicester’s past industry.


Just north of the city we arrive for an overnight stop at “Chances’s” spiritual home - MGM Boats. We always have a warm welcome from Mark, Martin and Rachael - and James got straight down to helping black one of the boats on the slipway!


At midday on Saturday we took our leave, with thanks to MGM for their hospitality, and continued our journey down the River Soar. Not a common sight, but there are two red Horse Chestnut trees on the riverbank just outside Thurmaston. A grand display.


The river flow was well down but, at Sileby Mill, it was still enough for the weir to produce a bit of foam.


Superbly serene, with sunshine and birdsong to accompany us, the river is a real joy to journey along.


A field full of shire horses – not something you’d necessarily see on a road trip.


At Barrow-upon-Soar the little summer houses and river side sheds at the bottom of the very long gardens were being used by the owners on this wonderful sunny Bank Holiday Saturday – all giving us a wave as we passed.


Further along the houses get a bit bigger and the gardens more manicured.


They still like their summerhouses and riverside patios ……


……. and some try to outdo the neighbours!

After Barrow Deep and Pillings locks we settled to moor short of bridge 32 with just the trains on the other side of the hedge for company – and a dozen boats with their owners, like us, enjoying the good Bank Holiday weather.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Back on the Cut

Well, after 7 months doing “other things” this winter, we got aboard “Chance” again on Friday, and eagerly looking forward to the joys of the canals for the next few months.


As we left Barby marina, where “Chance” had been in storage (and had faired extremely well, we were pleased to say), the freedom of the canal ahead of us took over straight away and we were off!


There’s something about the rolling English countryside, especially from a canal, which words can’t adequately describe. 


Its a small world on the cut and it wasn’t long, as we headed towards Braunston, before we passed someone we knew. It was lovely to see Steve and Denise on nb “Riverside Escape” again.


It’s a marvellous approach to Braunston with it’s church spire standing proud above the tree line.


We were lucky to find a boat leaving just as we arrived in Braunston. It’s always a popular and busy place, especially on a sunny Saturday.


Our reason for heading straight to Braunston was to meet up with our dear friends Pauline and Neil on nb “Waterlily”.


Being the undisputed “Cup Cake Queen of the Canals” Pauline had made a superb sponge cake which we enjoyed together over a cup of coffee. And yes, this picture does show us drinking Champagne!


In the evening we all walked up into the village a had a very good meal at The Plough. Neil, Doug, Pauline and James.


On Sunday morning Neil and Pauline left, (we shall see them again very soon) while we stayed in Braunston to await the arrival of …………


………… friends Allison and Dave (with their friends Teresa and Gary) on nb “Free Spirit”. Of course, there was more Champagne to be enjoyed – this time courtesy of Teresa and Gary. Here we are in the sunshine – Teresa, Allison, Gary, James and Dave.


As the The Boat House was right opposite our mooring we all took the short walk for, a surprisingly good, Sunday lunch together.


Then it was back to “Chance” for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages before Teresa and Gary had to take their leave. It was very nice to meet you both.


After a nice post Sunday lunch snooze we joined Allison and Dave aboard “Free Spirit” for a bit of an evening ‘party’ (complete with glitter ball no less!). However, the party was to be cut short when James, returning from “Chance” with a tray of wine, nibbles and cheese, decided to take a swim in the canal! Luckily Allison heard, what she thought was, an uncharacteristic noise and came out of the boat to find James doing the breast stroke in the dark! Raising the alarm by saying “James has fallen in the canal” she was joined by Dave, which left Doug enjoying the wine and the music and thinking it was all just a joke! Anyway, James’ life was saved by Dave and Alison and ………


……. the next morning there was the muddy evidence, all over the newly scrubbed dodger, of James’ scrabble to get out of the water ………


…… together with all the wet clothing. Happily, the tray, dishes, cheese and one bottle of white wine were all retrieved. The only things lost were a half bottle of red wine and James’ dignity!


Well, it was a night to remember we have to say! and the next morning we said goodbye, with grateful thanks, to Dave and Allison as we set off in different directions. We had a good run up through Braunston locks and then the tunnel and, after turning onto the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union, we soon arrived at the Watford lock flight.


Some of gates of the Watford staircase locks seem to need some attention. We had washing out drying on the front deck here but all was well, it survived!


It’s always a pleasure doing the Watford locks and, apart from the noise from the M1 and the Watford Gap services on the other side of the hedge, it’s a very pleasant surrounding.


After Watford the Crick Tunnel was soon upon us and on the other side we found temporary moorings alongside the other boats preparing for the impending Crick Boat Show next weekend.


It wasn’t long before we found friends Del and Al (nb “Dewent6”) with their friends Sian and Mark at the The Wheatsheaf in Crick village. There was a lot of catching up to do and much noise being made while doing so! Alison, Doug, Sian, Mark and Del – another great evening had by all.