Friday, 15 August 2014

A staircase, a living milestone & a moraine!

Monday 11th August

On our way back down the Harborough Arm we approached the Road Swing Bridge with trepidation after the traffic jam we caused on the way up.  Luckily the Gods were with us & we managed it without a hitch.

The Foxton Flight
 Foxton Locks is the largest flight of staircase locks on the English canal system with two 'staircases' of five locks.  As you can imagine it is quite a tourist attraction and there is no lack of Gongoozlers. We had thought that by avoiding the weekend we would also avoid the queuing.  No such luck.  Each lock will only take one boat at a time & there is only one passing place in the middle pound.  We had to wait 1.5 hours before we could start the ascent.

There was however plenty to look at while waiting, like this ambitious Roof Garden.......

...and this rather colourful boat adorned with traditional canalware.

Taking a moment to admire the fantastic views at the half way mark, on a bench dedicated to our friend Marion's parents who loved to visit Foxton Locks.

And what an amazing view over the Leicestershire countryside. Unfortunately the photo doesn't really do it justice.

From Foxton the canal follows the contours of the hills, so that you find yourself looking up hill to the right....

...and downhill to the left. Both views are quite picturesque. 

Soon we were in Northamptonshire and a little further along we turned off onto the Welford arm, only 1.6 miles long, and moored in the basin. A pub & the pretty village of Welford are nearby, from where there are several interesting walks. This very short arm was built to supply the main canal & Foxton locks with water from the nearby reservoirs.

Rejoining the main canal again it became very narrow in places as the vegetation spread out from the banks.

It made passing another boat very interesting!

These metal signs denote the site of a living milestone.  Most canals have milestone markers, usually wood, stone or metal but this stretch of canal has trees planted as mile markers, hence the 'living milestone'.  I guess when first planted the trees stood out, but as the hedgerows grew more dense another form of marker was needed.

You come across some odd sights on the canals.  This one left me wondering how on earth it got there!  The very rounded hill in the background also seemed an oddity.  It is called Cracks Hill and is a moraine. No I didn't know what that was either. see

We shortly arrived at Crick Marina where we were made to feel very welcome by the staff.  Having filled up with fuel and availed ourselves of the services, we spent our last night aboard for a week or so.  This morning, in torrential rain, we picked up our hire car from the nearby village & set off for home.

14th August 2014  -  618 miles & 388 locks!

Monday, 11 August 2014

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Monday 4th August

On the way back to Nottingham we stopped for water at Holme lock.  On the way down we knew we were in the vicinity  of Holme Pierrepoint, the National Watersports Centre, but as we didn't get off the boat, had no idea that the White Water Slalom ran right next to the lock.

On the other side of the lock landing was this dream boat for sale.  If only!

Once back in Nottingham we moored up outside the Magistrates Court, right in the middle of town for lunch, and then moved a mile or so for supplies at Sainsburys where we were able to wheel the trolley right back to the boat.  What a convenient city Nottingham is for boaters.
River Soar
About 8 miles outside Nottingham we joined the Grand Union Canal Leicester section which is made up of part River Soar, part canal & below Leicester, the river Sence. The River Soar sections are very tranquil and very pretty. In parts it is so clear you can see the bottom.

At Mountsorrel there is this attractive housing development which on approach looked like renovated old buildings on a wharf, but on closer inspection proved to be a new housing development with moorings.  Neat eh!

This grand bridge at Mountsorrel carries the railway which has recently been renovated by a group of local volunteers. As early as 1860 there were eight and a half miles of track serving the local quarries of the Mountsorrel Granite Company, now owned by Lafarge Aggregates. The line ran from the Great Central Railway at Swithland Sidings, around the quarries, over the Grand Union Canal at Mountsorrel, to the Midland Main Line at Barrow-upon-Soar. The line fell out of use in the 1950s, the track was taken up in the 1960s, and most of the route was abandoned.
As we approached Leicester the National Space Centre dominated the skyline.  Unfortunately there was nowhere to moor in order to visit it! 

As we entered Leicester City, all changed. The canal-side became very industrial, mostly dilapidated, the towpath was littered with rubbish, graffiti adorned the walls and where there were no buildings the tall hedgerows & trees shut out all the light giving a claustrophobic feel. The locks leaked and were in very bad repair and hard work. Pretty Ugly really.

All that is left of the old Wolsey Textile factory established 1744.  The rest was demolished in 2009 to make way for a housing development.  At one time Leicester was the centre of the hosiery trade. see

We had been warned that  Leicester had only one safe mooring pontoon and it was definitely not advisable to moor anywhere else.  It certainly wasn't worth writing home about so we continued on our way. 
 Leicester has a lot to offer the visitor and should be ashamed of it's canal-side. It could certainly take a leaf out of Nottingham or Newark's books.

After the depressing journey through Leicester and it's outskirts it was a real pleasure to reach the countryside again.  We were now in famiiar teritory as some 15 or so years ago we lived in nearby Market Harborough.

We moored up near Wistow and took a walk to the Wistow Rural Centre accross the fields.

A glimpse of the beautiful Leicestershire countryside through the hedgerow.

Aylmer emerging from the Saddington Tunnel.  The guide book said there were bats in the tunnel so I opted to walk the half a mile over the top while Tony drove through the tunnel.

Arriving at Foxton we opted to turn left towards Market Harborough & leave the famous Foxton Locks for another day.

After a small incident with a road swing bridge,( where we somehow locked the whole system up & held the traffic up for bout 10 minutes until some helpful boater came to our rescue)  we approached the Union Wharf at Market Harborough.

Marion, a very good friend drove over from Corby to visit us. The expected rain held off, the sun came out & we sat on the back deck having a good ole chin wag!

We holed up in Market Harborough during the promised storms with a quick foray into the town between showers.  On Monday morning, after stocking up with supplies, we set off to tackle Foxton Locks.

Mum, by the way, had a successful double hip operation and is now recuperating at home. We are making our way to Crick where we will leave the boat and hire a car so that I can get home & care for Mum while the rest of the family are away on holiday.

Monday 11th August

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Newark & Lincoln

As soon as we left Nottingham & the Nottingham Canal we were on the River Trent and the scenery changed dramatically,

the locks got deeper, -  This one, Holme lock, is 12ft deep.  Luckily there are vertical guides to wrap the ropes around as the boat moves up or down in the locks, rather than having to throw them over the bollards at the top!

the waterway got wider, -  At Radcliffe, the river is bordered by a steep, tree clad escarpment of cliffs which conceals the village above.

and the bridges get bigger. -  Radcliffe Viaduct opened in 1850 and carries the Nottingham to Grantham railway over the river.

Gunthorpe Lock was having minor repairs so wasn't open until 12 o'clock, by which time there was quite a queue.  The lock keeper managed to ram 8 boats in.  It made for quite a social occasion. As Gunthorpe is a popular tourist spot there were plenty of Gongoozlers about.

We all moved down the river  in a flotilla.  It was the busiest we had, or would see the river Trent and must have been quite an unusual sight for any onlookers on this lazy stretch of the river.

The river and scenery is vast, mostly agricultural with the odd village or hamlet in the distance.  Lots of fishermen on the banks.

 This is also a very common sight.  The farmers regularly pump from the river to water their crops.

We moored up at Farndon Marina, just outside Newark where Doug picked us up & took us back to his house on the river bank, where Bev had prepared a sumptuous banquet.  Before the floods, earlier in the year, we would have been able to moor at the bottom of Doug & Bev's garden but the storms ripped one of the pontoons away & carried it half a mile down the river!

Bev & Doug in front of their lovely home

After a lovely afternoon & evening with Bev & Doug they came out to say goodbye as we sailed by next morning.

Aproaching Newark Lock which has the fabulous backdrop of Newark Castle

We continued on this beautiful but very remote river to Cromwell Lock where we were to enter the Tidal Trent the following morning.  However I received a phone call from my brother telling me Mum had had an accident on her mobility scooter & was in hospital with a broken hip.  Ironically she was on her way to a hospital appointment!  We decided that continuing to Lincoln along this remote tidal stretch where there were few, if any places to get ashore was maybe not sensible if I was needed back in Southend.  We therefore returned to Newark next morning.  I am happy to say Mum had a successful double hip operation and is recovering well.

We moored in Newark on the right of this photo so this was our view from the boat.  Fabulous eh!  It was less than a five minute walk into the town centre & equal distance to 3 supermarkets and the train station.  I love Newark, the most convenient town we've stayed in & it has some fabulous buildings.

On Saturday we decided to take the train. into Lincoln.  This is the street leading up to the castle and the cathedral, a very popular tourist spot.

The very aptly named.....
Steep Hill  (probably a one in four cobbled street!)

Cathedral from Castle Ramparts
Lincoln Cathedral. Dates from 1072

The beautiful stained glass windows
Wow! What a ceiling. 
We decided to join the last guided tour of the day at the castle & were lucky enough to have the tour guide all to ourselves & so had a very informative personal tour.
        Our Personal Tour Guide
Medieval Festival
Jousting Tournament
 The castle has a full programme of events throughout the year and today's was a Medieval Festival exhibiting crafts & costumes of the day and included a very colourful Medieval Joust.

 High Bridge, in the centre of modern Lincoln, spans the River Witham and is one of the many interesting buildings in Lincoln. It is known locally as the 'Glory Hole'. The Shops on High Bridge  date from the 16th century, but the history of the bridge itself goes back to the 12th century. This is one of only three bridges in England with shops on them, the others are Pulteney Bridge in Bath and Frome Bridge in Somerset.

After a very interesting day in Lincoln we returned to Newark where tomorrow (Sunday 3rd August) we will retrace our steps back to Nottingham.