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The Odyssey 2019: Day 7b

Posted by alexgreyauthor on 3 August, 2019

A beautiful morning after yesterday’s storm -waiting at Newark Nether Lock

Newark to Southrey (River Witham)

Sunday 9th June

By Sunday morning the storm had blown over and we were greeted by a crystal blue sky and brilliant sunshine. We set off early, hoping get through Cromwell Lock onto the Tidal Trent as early as possible. We’d been in touch with the lock keeper during the week to check the tide times, but after the week’s rainfall, especially yesterday’s storm, there was 4′ of fresh water coming downriver and we could basically transit the tideway whenever we wanted!

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Muskham Ferry – the pontoons still look short and precarious!

However we had a blip – we knew from the radio chatter yesterday that Newark Nether Lock had a problem, but the news was that one gate was operational so we’d be fine. However, the issue with one lock gate meant that the “self-service” function was blocked by the clever electronics so our early start was wasted. We got in touch with Cromwell Lock to warn them we’d be late and set about reporting the ongoing fault. I have to say that the lock is very picturesque, so there are worse places to wait, especially when you have a fine latte and a Danish pastry in hand. We didn’t have to wait long, a van full of engineers turned up and they helped us to get the lock ready and started letting us down; the lock-keeper turned up shortly after and were soon through, all be it through the one functioning gate.

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Saffy diligently reading the charts on the Tidal Trent…

We dashed down to Cromwell, waving to the moorings at Muskham Ferry, where we’d spend a memorably precarious night the last time we came this way. We met another of our convoy compatriots at Cromwell, old friends nb Flora Dora, who’d overnighted on the fine lock landings. We locked down together then had a glorious cruise down the tideway. We were very careful to follow the navigation notes, though the sheer volume of fresh coming downriver meant that we were highly unlikely to run aground. The fresh water coming off the river was flowing fast enough to negate the flow of the incoming tide, so we flew downriver and arrived in Torksey way before they had enough water over the cill to let us in.

We moored up and took the hounds for a mooch – there is a lovely walk along the embankment high above the river. We got a real feel for the flow of fresh water when a widebeam that had left the Torksey moorings heading for Cromwell was barely moving aginst the flow – it was painful to watch. We went back to the boat and Flora Dora soon caught up with us and moored behind us on the pontoon. We waited – there was no rushing the tide.

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While Alex maintained a 360 degree watch πŸ™‚

Eventually the tide rose high enough to cover the cill and the lock keeper let us in. Getting set up in Torksey lock is a bit of a palaver, the lock keeper is meticulous in checking that the boats are properly secured. I sighed at the delay, but when he opened the paddles and I saw the fierce turbulence I was grateful that he’d taken the time to ensure that we were safe.

We left nb Flora Dora at Torksey, they were mooring there for a bit, but we wanted to cruise until dusk and make the best of the good weather – this was the only one good day in an unremittingly dreadful forecast for the week to come.

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A more unusual sight for a narrowboat…

Indigo Dream was soon on new waters – we’d cruised as far as Saxilby in 2011, but hadn’t made it to Lincoln, though we had visited the city by train. I was excited to see Lincoln by boat, but I was a little disappointed. Maybe it’s because we’ve become used to more tranquil waters, but the commercial bustle of Brayford Pool did not appeal at all. We enjoyed the transit through the Glory Hole which seems to marks the boundary between new and Old Lincoln. There are moorings beyond the Glory Hole – they are fenced off with railings with all too infrequent gates which can be opened with a BW key. They really did not appeal as the path between the boats and the railings was terribly narrow and it would have been a nightmare for maneuvering the hounds. Not that we wanted to stop today, but we squirreled the information away for the future.

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Approaching Lincoln’s famour Glory Hole

Stamp End lock came as a surprise – it is a guillotine lock which, from upstream, is virtually invisible – only a small strip and two yellow markers about the size of a table tennis bat stick out above the waterline. It was very dingy when we were there – the water had abundant trash including several syringes – charming.

It seemed to take a long time to get out of Lincoln, it has a fringe of industrial units and I looked forward to getting past it’s dingy suburbs. However, when I looked back towards the city proper, I was surprised to find that the best views of the Cathedral are from this end of the Witham. In fact, the cathedral dominates the landscape for miles, the land here is so flat! The cathedral must have been so imposing for visitors (and marauders) coming up the Witham.

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Lincoln’s Catherdral dominates the landscape from the East

Once we got out into the countryside, River Witham was delightful – the sheer diversity of plant and bird life is astounding. There are regular mooring pontoons and there seemed to be plenty of space – the only exception was Kirkstead, but we didn’t make it quite that far. We did have a quick pitstop for the hounds at Washingborough; the moorings here are lovely, surrounded by beautiful countryside and flanked by a very fine house. It was a converted train station, as we found out later. The river must have felt very different when there was a railway on its banks. At this point it was too early to stop cruising, but it would have been a delightful place to spend the night, though we’d have had no rest if Saffy and Alex had spotted the station house cat prowling around.

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Delightful moorings at Washingborough

There are few locks on this section, so Bardney came as both a surprise and a welcome feature! There are visitor moorings above the lock and also some lockside services. I’ll just make a note here that when I picked Richard up from the lock landing below the lock, there was a BIG step down onto the boat – I’ll tell you why this is interesting when we get to Day 8!

By now, late afternoon was beginning to melt into early evening, with the westering sun providing plenty of light for cruising; but the reflections on the syrup smooth waters were a gateway to a night’s dreaming. The waterway is wide, deep and generous,Β  yet it’s just a tiny ribbon in the Ascot-worthy bonnet of the enormous skies hereabouts. It is almost impossible to think small thoughts under those big skies, almost impossible – as the level landscape rolled on our, our thoughts turned to supper and pubs!

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Below Bardney Lock – remember this view – a few days later, the lock landing was submerged by flood water!

The moorings at Bardney Village were an option, but it’s not that enticing from the waterway, the landscape being dominated by a huge sugar factory. Unlike the exotic Tate and Lyle Wharves in London and Bristol, this one processes sugar beet, a major crop in the fertile fens. We loved the look of the moorings at Fisketon; the village itself is a bit of a trek from the river, but the moorings give access to a lovely nature reserve – the greyhounds would have loved it! But it was still early so we pressed on..

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Beautiful reflections at our overnight mooring and yes, this photograph IS the right way up!

The next stop was Southrey. There are mooring pontoons on both sides of the river, looking downstream, the one on the left hand side offers access to the village, the one on the right to what we thought was a riverside pub. We rang the village pub first – they were not serving food that night, so we opted for the right hand bank. We had hoped for a pub meal, but we were surprised to find that although there are pub signs on the bank and on the side of the big white building, they are just mementos of a bygone era. The pub is now a private house!

We considered moving on the Kirkstead, but it was 7pm and it would have been quite late to eat by the time we arrived there (assuming that the pubs served food that late on a Sunday, many don’t). We moored up and I cooked on board. The absence of pubs is rarely a tragedy as there is usually at least one meal and several night’s worth of beer on board. We have enough wine, donated by generous guests, to float the boat!

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Perfect!

The moorings were so quiet, with good dog-walking along the top of the bank heading downstream. Saffy and Alex were quite tired, so we didn’t go far – just to the sluice and back (the river has lots of drains and tributaries with their attendant control mechanisms.

Note for other dog-walkers: There is a cattle grid just beyond the sluice control building – this would be a leg-breaker for a running greyhound!

We took some photos of the beautiful sunset, admiring the reflections on the broad, deep waters. It had been an epic day, but we were a bit sorry that it had come to an end. We couldn’t have anticipated that we wouldn’t see the sun again for the best part of a fortnight!

Photoblog:

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A rare landmark on the Trent upstream of Muskham Ferry

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Alex and Saffy taking the tidal water in their stride

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Saxilby – beyond this point we were in new waters πŸ™‚

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Brayford Pool in Lincoln – there were plenty of visitor moorings available but we didn’t fancy the bustle of the city today (and there was great benefit to cruising further while the weather was fair).

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Take heed of these warning lights as you approach the Glory Hole…

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…Because there’s not much headroom under there!

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Luckily we had Alex on watchdog duty so we were fine!

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There were loads of visitor moorings (14 day) beyond the Glory Hole, but that path is narrow and the gates are infrequent so we didn’t like the look of them, especiallly with hounds.

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There are some wonderful sculptures on the footpath that runs alongside the Witham downstream of Lincoln

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Imagine sailing up the Witham from the Wash and seeing that powerful edifice on the horizon – Lincoln Catherdral is quite magnificent

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More wonderful sculptures

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The enormously appealing Fiskerton Fen moorings – we’d like to cruise the Witham again and spend more time in these beautiful and tranquil places

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The Odyssey 2019: Day 7a

Posted by alexgreyauthor on 31 July, 2019

Newark

Saturday 8th June

We had planned to cruise from Newark to Torksey on Saturday, but the weather forecast was atrocious, with a storm due to hit England in the afternoon, bringing with it torrential rain and 50mph winds. So we changed our plan and stayed an extra night in the marina. The Trent had been very benign, but it takes water from a huge catchment area and being exposed to a strong tidal stream during a storm would had been unpleasant at the very least.

We packed the dogs into the car on Saturday morning and had a slow drive up to the marina. We were very relieved to arrive before the main storm hit the region.

Our mission for the afternoon was to get Indigo Dream set up for a fortnight’s holiday on board, starting from next weekend, when we would be hound-free and able to travel to the boat by train. We’d loaded the car with clothes and other odds and end, like our Tidal Trent cruising guides! We made the best of the marina’s services and Richard managed to move Indigo Dream over to the service pontoon for diesel and a pump-out, then back again, between the lively gusts of wind. In the meantime, I unpacked our bags and did an inventory of our food and drink supplies. There is a Waitrose very close to the marina (just by the train station in fact) so we took the car round and filled the boat with provisions.

In the end, it took us so long to get the boat set up for an extended cruise, I’m amazed that we ever thought we’d have time to cruise today – the weather had done us a favour.

The advantage of social media over the Blog is that it is very current. We knew that Cherryl and Ian on Dutch Barge Seren Rose, were moored in Newark, so we arranged to spend an evening with them on the dog-friendly Castle Barge, a floating pub/cocktail bar which also serves plain and simple food. Although it’s walking distance, the threat of torrential rain prompted us toΒ  pile into the car and drive round – phew, it’s hard to park in Newark!

We had the most delightful evening – Cherryl and Ian used to cruise on nb Winedown and we memorably met them for the first time in Salthouse Dock in Liverpool. After a boozy afternoon on nb Wine Down with the boys from nb Chance, they decided to join our crew to cross the Mersey the following day – it was epic! That was in 2015 and a lot of water has flowed under out baseplates since then – we had some catching up to do!

We had a very merry evening, and as always, it wasn’t nearly long enough, but we were excited that Seren Rose would be following in our footsteps to Boston and then across the Wash to the Fens. This means that our paths are highly likely to cross again over the Summer.

 

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The Odyssey 2019: Day 6

Posted by alexgreyauthor on 29 July, 2019

Nottingham to Newark

Monday 3rd June

Setting out from the Nottingham steps

All four convoy boats were planning to cruise downsteam so we made a rough plan to travel together and share the capacious locks on the River Trent. We set off bright and early (by our standards) and managed to fight the wind to get off our moorings and turn downstream with the minimum of fuss. Indigo Dream was in her element, she has a very sweet trinity of engine, propellor and gearbox, and after a service she was delighted to stride out into deep water. We flew downriver, enjoying the lush countryside views. There is a navigator’s guide to the non-tidal Trent – sadly we’d left our copy at home (!) but obstructions and channels are well signposted and it is possible to navigate without the guidesΒ  if you apply a bit of common sense about avoiding the inside of bends (where it can be very shallow indeed).

I know that some boaters find the Trent boring, but I love it; the landscape is rich and beautiful. There are few settlements along its banks, so it feels as if we’re boating in nature. We have many fond memories of cruising here with Lou, Lynx and Ty; back then, we took our time and stopped at Fiskerton for some splendid dog-walking, pub food and a slobber over Dutch Barge Joni, that was just being fitted out. But today we were on a mission to get to Newark.

Trent Bridge Cricket ground…

The lock keepers on the Trent are very organised, with each one radio-ing the next to let them know that our little convoy was coming. We also practiced our VHF technique, which does tend to get rusty when we’re just bimbling along remote canals. The lock-keepers were also very solicitous of our safety – the locks are enormous and swallowed our little convoy whole.

The river was very quiet, with a few boats coming upstream. However as we approached Newark, on the narrow bit, of course, we were stalked by a big tug travelling downstream. We all made room for it to pass – never argue with a boat that’s powerful enough to push the entire St Pancras Cruising Club, clubhouse and all, into the water! Again, we listening out on the VHF and knew that we’d be sharing Newark Lock with the tug – forewarned is forearmed!

Kings Marina is at the far end of Newark, so we had a good view of the town’s moorings. There was ample room on the walls, and one precious space on the pontoon (left hand side looking downstream). We’ve never seen a space there before (ok, we’ve only been here twice!) and were a bit sad that we couldn’t take advantage of it just on principle! Indigo Dream, Coracle and Mobius turned into the marina, but we waved goodbye to nb Scholar Gypsy who was carrying on to Cromwell Lock.

Room to spare in the locks on the Trent…

Kings Marina is closed on Monday, but we’d made arrangements to meet the manager at 5pm-ish. As it happened, we’d flown from Loughborough and arrived nearer 2pm. We were prepared to wait on the service pontoon (where he’d told us to hang out), but some super-friendly residents pointed out an empty space and gave us a gate key that an outgoing boater had left with them. The downside of the marina is that you can get in and out by boat easily enough, but the site is gated and only key holders can get in and out on foot/by car. It was a relief to get moored up – the wind had been very brisk all day, making for some tricky manouevering off lock moorings (the wind was handy for pushing us onto moorings but less handy for pushing off!).

We mused about getting the car, but the marina is very close to Newark Castle train station which has a good train to Loughborough. Now Saffy has been on trains before but I never thought that Alex, having come to us so traumatised, would ever manage. Nonethless, if we minimised the amount of stuff that we needed to carry home and got the dogs onto the train, it would save us over an hour on the journey home.

One of the few bridges across the Trent

We mooched over to the station and had a little wait, which allowed the dogs to get used to the idea. We had their sheepskin rugs, and Alex was happy to curl up on his temporary safe place. He doesn’t like crowds, so he jumped onto the train with no fuss and found himself a space under a table. Saffy was not so keen – it’s just as well that she was with Richard, who could lift her on board. Both hounds settled well, though the train got a bit crowded in Nottingham. We got them off the train with very little fuss at Loughborough. I was so relieved that Alex’ first train trip had gone so smoothly as it’s a useful backup.

Richard’s car was just yards form the station entrance – Alex and Saffy were so happy to see it. By greyhound standards they’d had an exhausting weekend, having assiduously left wee mails in Bath, Loughborough, Nottingham, Newark and many points in-between. Luckily, we had packed their favourite beds into the boot for their stay in the B & B, so they were travelling in some style. As soon as the car started moving they settled down and we didn’t hear a peep from them until we got home!

Photoblog:

Stoke Lock showing the strange proprotions of a lock on a river which can rise much, much higher

Typical view of the rural, remote and broad River Trent.

Saffy enjoyng the view

More rural scenes – this high bank is an oddity in a landscape that’s getting flatter and flatter as we approach Lincolnshire

This insect hitched a lift – we’ve seen a few of them this summer – I think it’s a fairy longhorn moth

Ooh, spaces at Fiskerton – this is a good place to moor if you have hounds and like pub grub!

Great view of the castle from Newark Town Lock – it’s big enough for the tug and for our convoy.

Alex hiding but otherwise calm πŸ˜‰

Saffy kept out of the way too – but she refused to sit with us!

Travelling in style – the last leg of our round Britain weekend :-p

 

 

 

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The Odyssey 2019: Day 5

Posted by alexgreyauthor on 28 July, 2019

Loughborough to Nottingham

Sunday 2nd June

This was a crazy busy weekend where we managed to travel a huge 500 mile ring by car, boat and train!

Scenic walk round the grounds of Toghill House Farm – super hound-friendly B & B

Late on Friday night we drove down to the outskirts of Bath, here we were due to attend a wedding on Saturday afternoon. I’ll give a shout out here to a lovely dog-friendly B & B – Toghill House Farm. We booked at the last minute, so we had to take their last room, which was a charming but tiny twin room with just enough room for us, Saffy and Alex. We knew we’d come to the right place when we met the resident dogs- a big hairy lurcher called Ralphy and a little whippet called Ferris – perfect. The beds were soft and springy so it was inevitable that Saffy would be the one who discovered tandem trampolining as she bounced from bed to bed – it was by far the quickest way to get around as there was very little floor space for walking!

The following morning we had a fine cooked breakfast, with quality control provided by Ralphy, who took the job very seriously. A lot of so-called “dog friendly” establishments do not allow you to leave your dogs unattended in the room, which is very restrictive. However, the owners of Toghill House Farm were very relaxed when we had to leave the hounds in the room while we went to the wedding. We took the hounds for a long (by their standards) walk around the farm’s abundant footpaths first thing – this wore them out! Although we always worry about leaving them for extended periods of time, it was obvious, when we got back from the wedding, that they had been fast asleep all afternoon. I had worried that they would be too hot in the tiny room, but the farm is on a high hill with commanding views over the Avon valley far below- this meant that a cool breeze kept the dogs more comfortable than we were in the sunshine of the luxurious wedding venue and its extensive gardens. We had thought to drive up to the boat in the evening, but we made the best of the room booking (we booked two nights so that we could leave the dogs there in the afternoon). The Farm is by a surprisingly busy B road, so traffic noise was an issue at times when the local contractors were moving combine harvesters and giant tractors around the countryside. It also meant that we were super-careful with the hounds on leads, they’d have no chance if they strayed onto the road. The resident dogs had been trained from a very young age so stay within the small garden area, thought the owner said that they’d lost their previous lurcher when he ran onto the road – a cautionary tale 😦

We saw some unusual craft today..

Anyway, bright and early on Sunday morning we headed off to Loughborough, arriving at the boat around 10.30am. The engineer had been very busy indeed and Indigo Dream was in very fine form having had:

  • an engine service
  • new fanbelts
  • additional bilge pump fitted
  • Vetus seal slipped out for inspection and replaced slightly moved to avoid a slight lip.

Richard took the car off to train station- the parking’s very reasonable and it would be extremely convenient for the trip home. He took his bike with him so that he could make a speedy return to the boat. In the meantime, I cast off and headed towards the River Soar. The first lock was a lot closer than I’d anticipated, but luckily there are lock landings on both sides. This meant that I could take the easy option of mooring where the lively wind wanted to put me. This was on an enclosed offside mooring so I didn’t have to worry about the hounds escaping while I went to set the lock. I had just opened the gate when a boat approached from Loughborough Basin. The lady of the boat was lovely and offered to do the winding while I brought Indigo Dream in and shut the gate behind me. Sometimes you just get lucky with the right locking partners at the right time! We were barely halfway down when Richard arrived on his bike.

I’m always amazed at how they fit a steam engine into such a small craft…

We shared the next few locks with them – they were on their was to the Erewash to have something nasty detangled from their bow thruster tube, but sadly for us, they intended to moor up early that day. Never mind, we soon picked up another locking partner who kept us company for a few locks. The canal/river was much busier than we’ expected, with a nice flow of upstream boats to keep the locks set our way.

I had forgotten how rural the River Soar is – there were several opportunities for Saffy and Alex to get off for a run around the locks. They are reasonably reliable on the towpath where there’s nowhere for Saffy to scarper and where Alex can run back to his safe place on the boat when he’s burnt off a little nervous energy. I have very fond memories of cruising this was with Lou and Lynx, who had excellent recall (sometimes!) and who had some splendid rummages along this stretch.

We had a debate in Kegworth Deep Lock as to whether a pair of boats would need to rope up, but the CRT signs are pretty emphatic and there have been cillings there. I recalled how turbulent this lock had been on the way up in 2011, so I roped up, but we locked down very smoothly and I needn’t have worried.

nb Stalwart, who have three greyhounds on board – not that any of our hounds were visible – it was raining!

We had a funny encounter at Redhill Lock. An upcoming boat crew asked us whether we’d been on the Chesterfield Canal. We were a bit bemused, we have been there but it was back in 2011! It turns out that they have three greyhounds on board and they remembered meeting us on the Chesterfield one the day that we had eight on board. Well, I guess that it was quite a memorable number πŸ˜€

The afternoon’s cruise had been marred by intermittent showers, a very brisk wind and a real chill in the air – such a contrast to the lovely weather we’d enjoyed on the Saturday. Nonetheless, we were keen to press on to Nottingham so that we would have an easier day on Monday. Our target for the weekend was Kings Marina in Newark, where we’d booked a week’s mooring.

We were just going through Trent lock when we heard a squawk on the VHF – we’ve been keeping it tuned to the ship-to-ship channel that the St Pancras Cruising Club had set for this particular convoy. An old friend, Simon on nb Scholar Gypsy, was just single-handing along the Erewash and was less than half an hour behind us. We waited for him at Cranfleet Lock (after he had a weed hatch work-out) and then had a convivial cruise into Nottingham aided by communication with other members of the convoy who were already moored at Nottingham’s town steps. Although we were in good company, I had a major sense of humour failure by the time we got to Meadow Lane Lock – I find the canal through Nottingham really dreary, and I was cold, damp and thoroughly fed up with fighting with the wind.

Nonetheless, Indigo Dream and Scholar Gypsy cruised triumphantly side by side under Trent Bridge to join nb Coracle and Mobius. Luckily, the wind was actually blowing in our favour, so I was able to moor up neatly – always essential when there’s an audience of fellow boaters!

Despite being near the famous cricket ground, there are very few amenities within “tired boater” walk of the moorings; thank heavens for Weatherspoons is all I can say. We trooped off for some simple pub grub and enjoyed catching up with the St Pancras boat crews. We’d been keeping in touch via Whatsapp, social media and, when in range, the VHF radio, but you can’t beat having a drink with old friends.

Photoblog:

The beds at the B & B were very bouncy and Saffy soon got the hang of trampolining between them!

Ralphy, Toghill House Farm’s resident lurcher – he was very well-behaved and didn’t beg at the breakfast table, though he was happy to take a piece of sausage in the hallway (with his owner’s permission) πŸ™‚

Ferris the resident whippet was also available for sausage quality control

The farm walks include a wooded section, whch was nicely shady on a warm day.

The only available room was a twin – Alex was happy to sleep on the floor in the doughnut bed we brought from home but Saffy insisted on proving that a single bed was big enough for two provided I tucked up small in a corner…:-)

The mooring pontoons at Redhill on Soar are scarily askew…

Another unusual design.

Be sure to head left for the channel to Nottingham – luckily the flow over the weir was tame and the sprightly wind wanted to take me in that direction today!

Old friend nb Scholar Gypsy caught up with us in Nottingham – by Sunday we had ourselves a convoy of four boats πŸ™‚

The arch hides a mooring under the old Fellows, Morton & Clayton building – I thought there were boats in there but I’m not sure how you access them. On a day like today, the idea of a dry mooring within easy reach of the pub was very appealing πŸ™‚

Might be a bit tight on headroom!

The old BW building imposes its will on the waterway πŸ™‚

 

 

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The Odyssey 2019: Day 4

Posted by alexgreyauthor on 26 July, 2019

Monday 27th May

Leicester to Loughborough

Fair bit of dereliction on the way out of Leicester…

We set off bright and early (by our standards!) and enjoyed a good trip through Leicester, which has come up in the world since we were last here in 2014. There were several new mooring sites and now that we know about them, we’ll explore them next time we’re in the city.

There was a LOT of trash in the water by Belgrave Lock – I’m not sure why, we speculated that it might be the flow from the river and the adjacent weir. It was a shame as the rest of the city’s water had been pretty clean.

The exit from Leicester is quite abrupt –Β  a litle way past Belgrave Lock, we joined a bendy river section surrounded by waterparks and meads. I remember coming the other way in 2014 and the transition from bucolic river to trashy city was unwelcome; it works much better going the other way!

There are regular locks, though there was very little traffic on the river. The one exception was at Cossington Lock, where there was a little queue. We met another boating friend there, Maggie from nb Forever Young. Although we follow each other on social media, it was still a lovely surpirse to see her. We couldn’t linger – we were on a schedule and it hard started to rain, hard! It as one of those waterproofs on, waterproofs off sort of day, with

Though some of the buildings have kept their original facades/features

the weather changing at a moment’s notice so that we never seemed to be wearing the right clothes at the right time. The wind remained troublesome, but the river itself was passive which was a relief The Soar is a moody old river which requires very little provocation to go into flood.

Do keep a keen watch on the meandering river sections – I was surprised to find two pedal bikes mounted on canoe floats cheerfully pedaling upstream on the wrong side of the river. There is a base nearby which hires them out – we were lucky to only meet two!

I think we were both a bit anxious to get on – we had a target for the weekend and the prospect of a long drive home afterwards. I had a cunning plan for retrieving my car and was pleased to see two volockies at Barrow Deep Lock, which meant that I could leave Richard to it and head off to the train station. It was a bit further than I thought, and access to the station from the canal was a bit more convoluted that I expected, nonetheless, I was just in time to catch the hourly train back to Leicester and the local connection to Market Harborough. It was then a cheap cab ride back to the car at North Kilworth Wharf.

I arrived in Loughborough a whisker after Richard had moored up – perfect timing! He’d moored on the 14-day towpath moorings to the right of the junction (turn left for Loughborough Wharf and the short-term, but secure moorings). This was exactly where she needed to be for the engineer, so we’d accomplished our goal for the weekend. As always, we found it hard to leave the boat, but we were soon packed up and on our way.

Photoblog:

Attractive new mooring pontoons away from the bustle of the city centre

This old brick chimney had a “crown” supporting several cables that were anchoored to the ground – they didnt look like structural supports so we don’t know what they’re for – interesting!

Squirrels!

Another new mooring facility in a short arm above Lime Kiln Lock

A very confident heron keeping an eye on our locking technique – he stayed nearby for the whole show πŸ™‚

Shiny new mooring rings above Belgrave lock – Leicester now has a fine choice of new moorings…

National Space Centre – such an incongruous sight.

Below Belgrave Lock you’re suddenly out of the city and back to the green as the river passes through the Watermead Country Park

The meandering River Soar…

A very stern gongoozler…

Threatening skies…

 

 

 

 

 

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The Odyssey 2019: Day 3

Posted by alexgreyauthor on 10 July, 2019

Smeeton Road Bridge (Br. 72) to Castle Gardens, Leicester

Sunday, 26th May

Setting off from Saddington – I really liked this mooring.

The moorings at Bridge 72 were wonderfully quiet and we had a good night’s sleep. There is always something special about waking up on board and hearing no external noise apart from birdsong and the wind in the trees. Ah yes, the wind, it proved to be a pain in the proverbial all day and on Monday too!

I don’t recall what time we set out, but it was quite early by our standards – we had managed to find an engineer who could replace the fanbelt and do a few other bits of engine maintenance after the Bank Holiday, but we needed to get to Loughborough, which was easy for him to access.

It’s quite a few lock miles, so we needed to shift, our target for the day being Leicester.

Most of the journey from Saddington passed through beautiful and tranquil contryside, but we were soon in the suburbs. Actually, as suburbs go, they’re quite pleasant, right up until you get to St Mary’s Mill lock, which is particularly dingy.

Saffy had a splendid day – she has done less boating than Alex so she still gets very excited by everything. The canal is very rural, but every passing dog, canalside garden and settlement now knows Saffy’s name as she let them all know, loudly, that she was in the neighbourhood! By the end of the day she was exhausted – more experienced boating hounds know to pace themselves, but newbies wear themselves out by overdoing it in the first 2 days πŸ™‚

The wind was a B*&&%^ nuisance all day, making some lock landings a bit tricky, especially above the last lock by Leicester City Football Ground, where the wind and weir combined to give the boat quite a shove in the wrong direction. Luckily we were ready for it, with Richard helping to secure the front rope so that I could bring the boat in and secure the after rope as well.

It really is a lovely waterway…

As it happens, we arrived in Leicester in good time and took the last mooring on the Castle Gardens pontoon. We haven’t moored there before, but it has the reputation of being the most secure mooring in Leicester – we were quite surprised to get a space. It was lovely to have the park right there for the greyhounds. We’d just moored up and were planning our next move when a very friendly boater moored on the steps of the Straight Mile opposite came across to warn us that we would be able to get out of the gardens between 8pm and 8am – he’d moved his boat across because he needed to get to the station early the following morning.

We were a bit perturbed by this news, but then we spotted a CRT notice that boaters could come and go via one of the park’s pedestrian gate which is locked with a CRT padlock (operated by a BW key). I was about to go off and do the car shuffle, which meant that I’d be back after lockdown when we just thought to check whether the padlock worked – it did not – eeek! If I’d gone, I would have been locked out, though in that scenario at least Richard would have been on the boat with the hounds. If we’d both gone out for dinner, the hounds would have been locked inside with us outside and I would have been frantic! We did report it to CRT only to get the reply, some days later, that the padlock regularly breaks, but no-one seems particularly interested in keeping it fixed – meh!

Though Pochin’s Bridge has seen better days…

We ate on board rather than risking being locked out of the gardens. It was very tranquil having the park to ourselves once it was locked, though I didn’t dare let the greyhounds off lead – although the gate and fences are secure from humans, a greyhound might have been able to squeeze through the gap between the main gates and the posts, and Saffy is something of an explorer (Alex runs back to the boat, which is his mobile “safe place”).

Being locked into the park was not a big deal as we had plenty of food and drink on board, but it did make me feel a bit discontented as it cut down our options for car shuffles and exploring the city. I did not sleep well – there was a lot of noise from passing revelers in the wee small hours of the morning and I worried about the boat moored opposite on the Mile Straight. I lost count of how many times their shouts woke me up – each time I looked out of the side-hatch to check whether the boat was unmolested. Of course it was absolutely fine, the Mile Straight is acknowledged as a safe mooring, though I was happy to be on the secure moorings.

Secure mooring pontoon at Castle Gardens – handy refuse and recycling bins too.

Photoblog:

We have some friends and family who like nothing better than the sight of a vintage tractor – if they’d been on board they’d have moored up opposite and stared at this all day long!

Bit of overflow, though the river sections were well in the green when we passed through…

Reflections…

Big skies – a harbinger of things to come on the flatlands of Lincolnshire.

I think this is a nesting box for owls.

Saffy crossing a lock gate – not something we encourage, because greyhounds are so clumsy when they’re not sprinting!

There is something special about the light coming into late afternoon.

Alex wondering what this bit of art outside Leicester might be πŸ™‚

Bit grim here…

Iconic view on the way in to Leicester.

There are some interesting bridges in Leicester.

Alex, just because!

 

 

 

 

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The Odyssey 2019: Day 2

Posted by alexgreyauthor on 9 July, 2019

Yelvertoft Bridge 20 to Bridge 72 Smeeton Road Bridge (Saddington)

25th May 2019

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The Odyssey 2019: Day 1

Posted by indigodream on 30 May, 2019

Heyford Fields Marina to Yelvertoft Bridge 20
24th May 2019

Today was the first day of our 2019 odyssey, about time we did some boating!

Reversing out of the marina

Today was a day that I got to boat by myself!!! We have a tough target to start with – get to Boston before the 15th June. How is that tough, it is only a trip of 175 miles, 2ΒΌ furlongs and 81 locks? But of course there is the small matter of needing to work full time, a wedding to attend next weekend and then a worry that there could be delays in going over the Leicester summit due to some boat show. I could have a day off on Friday giving me the opportunity to get a head start, though sadly Sue had to work.

I had come up the night before, slipping into the marina a minute before the gates were due to be locked; rather good timing as my gate keys were on the boat so that Graham and Jill could use them. That’s Graham and Jill, ex. of nb Matilda Rose, crewo of Tjalk Francoise, who had borrowed ID for a few weeks while Graham convalesced from a knee operation. The boat was in great order, with no sign that it had been populated by a CAT.

dodgy fuse

The following morning I had a series of chores, most important of which was to work out why the bilge pump did not work. No loose wires, fuse looked intact, what could be wrong? Chasing round with a multimeter I found that the so called intact fuse had actually oxidised ends and was not allowing any electrons to pass. I could have cleaned it with sand paper but seemed better to raid the bank balance and pay 25p for a new shiny fuse.

The trip to Buckby was wonderful, proper stress busting, forget all your cares and enjoy boating. As I approached Buckby a boat with a CREW pulled out behind me, my luck could be in. Turned out to be a hire boat from Braunston manned by a very pleasant crew and steered by a CRT Employee who does not do much work-related boating but steered really well. His crew were hard working and kept saying that they would do all the work so that I could stay on the boat; but for the first few locks I got into a nice rhythm, go in first, hop off with a centre rope etc whilst they drove in behind me. At the third lock we caught up with a boat which had been part of a pair but was now going up single. Never worked out what happened to the other boat, were they abducted by aliens, was that shallow bit them? Anyway they looked short of crew so I said to my great locking companions “you go on, you will go mad following if, I, as a single hander team up with a slow boat short on crew”. So the next bit of Buckby I did by myself, it was great, I just enjoyed it, this was a great day to go boating.

Leaving my locking companions at the top of Buckby,

Two locks down from the top I saw people waving at me, it was my previous locking companions who had stopped for “lunch”. I said I would go and set the next lock and they said they would join me. In the end I locked them through that lock, they locked me through the top lock, then sadly they turned left towards Braunston and I went on by myself to Watford. Sue has often mused what makes a good locking companion, not sure, but they were great.

Now that was strange, there had been horror stories of queues at Watford because of the Crick Boat Show, so imagine my surprise at turning up to find no queue, yes, zero boats in front of me and 2 volunteer lockies who basically made me feel very awkward, even embarrassed, as they did all the work and locked me up really quickly.

Bottom of Watford

Crick was jammed with boats, brested up boats for miles in fact. It was great to see and chat to familiar faces, e.g. Adrian from nb Briar Rose and the famous Halfie. Ah but that last bit was painful, Jan was cooking, it smelt wonderful and Halfie was offering BEER. However I could not brest up to them as it was still possible that Sue would be coming up that evening with the dogs and, to be honest, I was hitting the wall, really flagging, which seemed wrong – after all I had had a GREAT day. I tried mooring up after the next bridge (think nice food smells and BEER) but after spending an absolute age going aground, get stuck etc I gave up and continued to Yelvertoft. I saw bollards and a free space, wonderful? Alas no it was a water point. Finally found a mooring, moored up neatly and went inside for a wee and at that point I discovered why I was hitting the wall, I was dehydrated. Cure is easy, drink copious volumes of ale so that started the search for copious ale. Pub, nope, the pub was too far away for me to walk. Boat stocks: Jill and Graham had been great boat sitters and faithfully obeyed Sue’s command to drink the boat alcohol before it went out of date. – tough but someone had to do it. A comprehensive search found cans of fruity cider and two bottles of Corona. Dehydration averted, just!

 

Photoblog:

 

Stress busting on the GU

Vaguely disturbing?

Gorgeous

Love Staircase gates

 

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BCN Marathon Challenge 2018

Posted by indigodream on 26 May, 2018

Plenty of daylight left as we search for the elusive answer to the treasure hunt clue between Catshill and Longwood junctions πŸ™‚

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BCN Challenge 2018: 4.05pm

Posted by indigodream on 26 May, 2018

We picked up a length of this carpet in the prop last year, but it wasn’t quite enough for the hallway so we came back for the rest this year :-p

We can recommend coasting through Wyrley Grove Bridge in neutral!

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