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Archive for September 5th, 2011

The Odyssey 2011: Day 38

Posted by indigodream on 5 September, 2011

Hope and Anchor Bridge (Thurmaston) to Blue Bank Lock

Sunday 7th August

Bye bye Matilda Rose - it was so lovely to cruise with you....

We really needed to shift today and were up early with the aim of setting out by 8am – we almost made it, getting away by 8.30am.

However the morning was full of incident before we pulled our pins. I took the dogs for a walk along the lakes, preceded by a couple with an excitable spaniel. The spaniel wee’d on one of the fishermen’s tents and the whole situation suddenly erupted quite horribly. We’d passed the fishermen last night and they’d seemed ok, but when the spaniel transgressed (which I agree was very annoying) the fishermen started shouting, swearing and issuing coarse threats towards the spaniel’s owners, inviting the man to fight and culminating in threat to ‘cut the dog’s throat’. It was awful and went on and on, with the fishermen’s shouts echoing around the lake. I live a very sheltered life and  found it dreadful – well out of proportion to the original ‘crime’. Luckily it’s a circular walk so the spaniel’s owners didn’t have to pass the fishermen on the way back.

I didn’t get involved but put Lynx firmly on the lead on my way back – if that’s how they treat a couple, I’d no idea how they’d treat a lone woman whose dog trespassed in the same way.

Knowing that Graham is a morning person, I knocked on his window to let him know the fishermen’s temper (Baxter and Muttley are both boy dogs but immaculately behaved) – he and Jill came to see us off and we were away. I was sorry to have witnessed the event – these moorings are perfect for dogs and they got better the further along we went.

It was early Sunday morning and we had the navigation to ourselves – bliss! We did break the silence by helping Graham to check his new VHF radio, but otherwise the waterway was green and pleasant. It remained so on the approach to Leicester, though the sudden presence of trash and dead fish in the locks signaled that we were getting close to a large conurbation. The weirs around Leicester are notable – imposing and, in some cases, enormous, with little separation between the weir and the locks – the river is very benign at the moment but, as I’ve observed before, it must be fearsome in flood.

Approaching Leicester - the futuristic building is the national space centre - http://www.spacecentre.co.uk/

We did our good deed of the day below Watermead Bridge – a BW workboat was sticking out at right angles to the navigation, unsecurely secured by its front rope. There was enough room to get past but we decided to secure the workboat. I dropped Richard off and he scampered over the boat to the offside bank and pulled it in as I came alongside. Weeks ago we picked up a long length of thick blue rope from the canal (before it got caught in our prop) – we’ve been carrying it around since then, reluctant to throw it away but having no conceivable use for it on Indigo Dream. Today we found a home for it – on the stern of the workboat, securing it to a handy tree!

Leicester itself looked very inviting from the water – it’s mainly surrounded by parkland so the dogs could have a bobble at most of the locks. The mile straight is quite a sight and the castle mooring looked inviting – encouragingly there was space on the pontoon, though it’s hard to judge whether it had been available overnight. It was strange to see the long stretch of unoccupied mooring bollards on the towpath side. We picked up a leaflet about this section and it stated that Leicester Town Council are very keen to welcome boaters – the empty towpath moorings say that they have a way to go before they overturn the city’s fearsome reputation.

We didn’t have time to ‘stop and stare’ – we’d had another unfortunate incident at Limekiln Lock – as I was moving off the lock moorings below there was a horrible noise from under the counter. I assumed I’d hit a trolley and thought nothing of it. But the prop felt sluggish, so while the lock was filling Richard had a look down the weedhatch. He cleared a few bits and pieces from the prop but she still wasn’t right – the tiller was heavy and making an irritating rubbing/grinding noise. It took us over half an hour to first diagnose and then solve the problem – a tyre (as from a mountain bike) had corkscrewed around the tiller and the skeg just out of reach through the weed hatch. Fortunately the waterway was still deserted and we eventually managed to release the offending item without having to tow the boat out of the lock.

We’d enjoyed our trip through Leicester but I have to admit that the waterway became increasingly attractive as we traveled out of the city. The stretch above Mary Mill lock is so narrow and overgrown I thought I’d taken a wrong turn onto a tributary – what a contrast after the majestic weir just yards away above Freeman’s lock. The canal/river twisted and turned its way through an increasingly rural landscape. Aylestone Mill Lock was particularly attractive, with fine dog rummaging (though it was already too hot for our tired hounds, who just lay in the soft grass to supervise).

The weirs are VERY close to the locks in places....

We were eager to reach Kings lock (lock 38) – the starting point for the stoppages imposed by the water shortages. Our aim was to press on past Kilby lock and moor up for the week in Kilby Bridge. Alas it was not to be – at 1pm the lock-keeper at Kings Lock told us that they were starting to lock the locks before 4pm and that we wouldn’t reach Kilby lock in time. He also advised us to moor below Blue Bank lock as further along it was “bandit country”. This was a blow – it would mean that we’d have to stop cruising at 2.30pm (where we’d normally cruise until 7 – 8 pm) – how frustrating.

We went on to Blue Bank lock – the moorings below the lock are quiet and rural – too quiet, Richard was worried about the boat’s security for a week, so we decided to stay overnight, take Monday off and move the boat to Kilby Bridge the following morning (one of the compensations of being self-employed). Richard cycled off to do the car shuffle and I settled down to some domestics – time to wash the floor again! Richard was gone a while so I had time to chat to passersby and observe a thunderstorm approaching from Leicester. Richard timed his journey perfectly – he arrived back on the boat at the same time as the first drops of rain. Within an hour the outside temperature had plummeted from 24 degrees to a scant 10 degrees.

While Richard was away, numerous boats came down Blue Banks lock, desperately trying to get through King’s Lock before 4pm. Not all will have made it and I assume that the mooring above King’s lock would have filled with boaters waiting to pass through in the morning. I was surprised that no-one joined us on the Blue Banks mooring but I guess that most had been caught out by the stoppage at Kings lock.

The only trouble with the Blue Bank lock moorings is that they are in the middle of nowhere so I scraped another meal out of our supplies (thanks to some garlic bread donated from nb Matilda Rose’s store cupboard) and we settled down for a quiet evening. The mooring was silent and we had a good night’s sleep here…

Photoblog:

The country park looks very fine from the water (if you can avoid upsetting the fishermen!)...

Tug Warrior with Sarah of Chertsey fame on the helm....

It's so neat through Birstall...

These early starts are soooo tiring....

I wonder what the holes in the bridge are for?

Pretty....

You won't miss the navigable arch...

"City Skylines" climbing frame - I'll give that a miss thanks!

The less attractive approach to Leicester...

Part of Leicester's industrial heritage...

Leafy approach to Limekiln lock...

Not everyone respects the river in the way that the city council would like...

The tyre that tied itself to our rudder...

Duck....

Castle moorings, Leicester (on the left)...

Fine bridge over the mile straight...

Unusual footbridge....

Vast weir above Freeman's lock and a view of the Leicester City football ground....

Aylestone Mill lock - a good place for hounds to have a rummage....

The tea rooms at Kings lock - I guess you could do worse than be stranded here by the stoppages!

You see allsorts on the canal....

It really was an early start and a hound needs his beauty sleep...

Ponies in the field adjacent to the mooring below Blue Banks lock...

Storm on the way...

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