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Monday, 6 May 2019

Fun at Foxton.

We had intended to spend most of the day in Market Harbrough but when we looked there was nothing on and the museum was closed so we changed the plan and left for Foxton at 10:00. The day boats and several others had gone before us.

As the canal from the basin follows the contour it forms a tongue of land that seems have some very large houses and gardens on it. It kept Helen happy as we drifted along. 

Wooden Step bridge, Br.14, has made way for a new road bridge that gives access to a new housing estate being built. It is surprising how many houses get built near canals. A combination of derelict industrial land from the commercial days of the canals, and 'it is better by water'.

The tree lined canal is a lovely in parts, especially with the leaves really coming through now. Not seem too many bluebells.

About half way down the arm is the J.G. Pears rendering plant. They started in 1972 in Yorkshire. Their business is collectioning waste animal by products, fallen animals, or fellmongering and food waste from shops and production sites. They pick up about 10,000 tonnes a week! It is good to know that it isn't just wastedThey then render these products into animal feeds, oils and meals as well as fertilisers. They also produce a bio fuel that can be burned in power stations in place of  fossil fuels. They also use their process to produce electricity too. Nearby there was the WWII aerodrome that was built in 1942/43 and was home to Wellington bombers and then later Hurricanes and Curtis Tomahawks. In 1945 it was handed to the army but they left in 1950. There were various plans to develop the site, one being a Christian theme park that was to re-create the Garden of Eden in 1997! It is now a business park. Just out of sight closer to Foxton is Gartree Prison that was built in 1965 as a Category C prison. It then went to a Category B and is now a main 'lifers' prison.

We have been up and down the Fowton locks several times but have never to see the inclined plane. The new plan was to take this in. It is well known for its side pounds to save water and to fill the locks more quickly. It was very busy this Bank Holiday but there were few boats passing up or down.

The museum in the old boiler house is small, and the best bit for me were the films of old canal footage and working. The inclined was short lived, only about 11 years. The plan was to make the canal wide beam to Leicester but the plan to put an inclined in at Watford Locks never happened and the traffic declined anyway. The locks were re-opened and the plane mothballed. It was  such a shame that it was all scrapped. Just think if they had managed to do that at the Anderton Boat lift too!

The top of the plane where there would have been the housing for the caissons into which two narrow boats could have fitted. One came up as the other went down.

It is a 1:4 slope and it took 8 minutes to descend. 12 minutes including the entering and leaving. 

This is the level that the top canal was at and where the boats ran into the caissons.

There isn't much left of the inclined plane but in-situ is a bit of rail in palce. These were attached to wooden sleepers. At the bottom can be seen the two basins that took the 'moving docks' with the boats in.

We walked to the top of the lock and had an icecream, despite there being a cold wind. I was a bit disappointed with the icecream though. We then decided to walk into Foxton and back to the boat via field paths. We will probably head to Bridge 61 when all the visitors have gone home.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Making hay to Market Harborough.

We walked into Fleckney yesterday and on the way back bumped into Karen and Jim who we had left in Leicester. They had caught us up as they had got lucky with sharing the locks with a large crew so they stuck with them and and did our two day journey in one. Why don't we get lucky like that?

We said our good byes to them as we passed at about 0930 and just round the corner was the Saddington Tunnel. It was opened in 1797 and is about 880 yards long. It was very dry today and we didn't see any bats, or the headless ghost of a girl called Anna!

The other side of the tunnel is a small aqueduct over the Langton Brook. In this region there was a breach in the canal in 1917. This maybe why the area has concrete edges. Just a little further on is the feeder from the Saddington Reservoir. It is the second oldest reservoir in the county and is a SSSI especially for beetles and dragonflies.

There are plenty of fields with medieval ridge and furrow evident. This was caused by the non reversible ploughs they used at the time. The would plough up one side of the strip and then have to turn the plough at the end and come back down the other side of the strip. They were strips so that they didn't have to drag the plough far. The action of the plough over time pushed each furrow up to form the rise. Over time this created different habitats for crops. Drier conditions on the top of the ridge and wetter  in the bottom.

It was eerily quiet of boats at the foot of Foxton Locks. The number of gongoozlers seemed to be crowing though. 

The bridges in the area are quite distinctive with a tall arch and low parapet.

The trees and bushes are really getting their leaves now and the greens are beautifully vivid as we passed along the cut towards Market Harborough.

At bridge 10 you pass Great Bowden Hall that was built in the early to mid 1800's. The more imposing side of it is facing the road, not the canal. It was converted into apartments etc in 1998.

The arm is quiet, when the day points have passed, but has some sharp bends and blind bridge holes. It makes it an interesting trip.

We got to the end of the arm, Union Wharf, and winded before finding a spot to moor for the day.

A well known bloggers boat that is now out on it's own now that Ray and Diane have returned to Australia was moored up and looking in a fair condition.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Fourteen Locks to Fleckney.

Another quiet mooring and a good nights sleep. We got away just after nine o'clock, but not before a boat headed into the lock and then waited for another coming along.

First lock of the day was Double Rail Lock and although the sun was shining brightly there was a fairly strong cold north wind blowing. Fortunately largely from our stern.

After another lock we pulled over at Kilby Bridge to take on water. There was  somebody on the tap so we parked up alongside the C&RT crane barge to wait our turn. We soon moved back on to the tap. They don't make things easy with residents and work boats hogging the flat wall. We had to sit across a knuckle but it was fine.

The slog up hill from Leicester, especially with the wide beam locks, is not for the faint hearted. We were doing fourteen today and as they were mainly spread out it takes time. It is no wonder that Helen takes a breather whilst the lock fills. The countryside is very pretty and in the sun was pleasant. The cold wind kept the heat down, and neither of us felt cold.

To save walking round the lock, despite it being a wide lock, Helen crosses over the gate to open the offside ground paddle.

Almost halfway there and Helen is still taking a rest when she can. There is plenty to see, but boats coming down to lighten the load were few and far between.

A lot of the locks and bridges are dated between 1912 and 1926 so the fact that this lock fitting dated 1897 is nice to see. I wonder if modern lock fixtures have the same longevity?

As we approached the five locks round Kibworth we saw another boat leaving the lock. We hoped that they would see us and wait. It was too far away for the horn to work. Above the first lock it looked like a wedding was due to take place. At the same time the clouds rolled in and we had a heavy hail shower. I bit cold for a skimpy dress in a tent, in a field, me thinks.

We caught them up and as Helen went a to set the lock they waited for us. We shared the last two locks. It has been a funny day lock wise as our first lock had a boat entering to come down as we got close. Nothing happened so we waited a bit before venturing up to find that one of the two boats had caught something round his prop so they pulled the boats out and swung the lock for us. When we got to the Bottom Half Mile lock it had been turned despite the earlier boats having passed through. A hire boat was working ahead and in the end we had to wait 15 mins before it arrived. I think working ahead is fine but it shouldn't be too far and really it should be only when you are insight of your boat.

We got to Kibworth Top Lock around 1500 so it had taken us six hours to do the six or seven miles and fourteen locks.

We moored up by bridge 73 as we will walk into Fleckney for milk, and maybe a pint whilst we are there.

Friday, 3 May 2019

Lingering in Leicester before leaving.

Well I'm pleased to say that we didn't stay at the foot of the lock over night. Round about 19:00 the on scene commander of the fire incident informed us that the fire was now out and we could pass. Both boats fired up as soon as possible and set off.

We had a bit of help with the gates. The girls loved the men in uniform.

This was the scene of the incident where a very large acetylene gas bottle in the back of the van had been vandalised and caught fire. It looks like there was plenty of stuff in the van, plus another couple of cars burnt out on top of those that can be seen.

The graffiti just after the lock was splendid indeed and helped to distract us from wondering whether there would be any room on the pontoon moorings for us. As it happened there was half a boats space on the end of Friars Mill pontoon. We winded and parked up the stern alongside and Karen and Jim, out lock companions moored up alongside. After our adventures of the day we agreed to meet up for a pint in the town. Maybe it was that that helped me sleep soundly, but it was a very quite mooring.

This morning we headed into town as Helen had some holiday shopping to do. I saw this as we passed on the way to another shop. Worth the trip. It seems that Thomas Cook was a local lad and thought of using the railways for Temerance outings whilst walking from Market Harborough to Leicester for a meeting! The building was put up by his son John Mason who had taken over the business following the death of his Father,. The new office, opened in 1894, was a memorial to his Dad and was next to the old offices. It was very up market and also housed the parcels department of the Midland Railway. The lower railway panels, starting from the left, 1841 depicts the first Temperance trip that Thomas organised to Loughborough. The 1851 panel depicts the excursions he organised to the Great Exhibition. 1884 shows a Nile Expedition and that of 1891 improvements in railway engineering with a new Midland Railway engine and the new Forth Rail bridge.

On the way back from shopping we called in to the Cathedral to see Richard III tomb. It was announced that a short guided tour would be taken place. We were the only takers. It was very informative and given by a very knowledgeable guide. At the end we were talking and I mentioned I had been at sea. She mentioned the name of her daughters father in law and it turns out I knew him as I was at college with him 45 years ago. We got back and had some lunch and then set off. Our lock mates were staying another night so had moved onto a vacant berth. These are the new Friars Mill moorings.

These are the original Castle Gardens. As we passed Lime Kiln lock near Abbey Park we passed the old City Wharves, in a side arm. There were new pontoons there, but no signs or anything. It seems that these are even more new C&RT pontoons and are open. It is a little further to the city centre, but not much. It looks as though it may well double the number of secure moorings for leicester.

West bridge is the point where the River Soar Navigation becomes the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union.

At Freeman's Meadow Lock there is a big weir and the King Power Stadium of Leicester City.

Blue Bank Bridge, just above the lock of the same name, has a nice reflection. The rain is holding off but it is very gloomy.

This is Blaby Mill. After Gees Lock the navigation leave the valley of the Soar and starts to follow that of the Sence. It would seem thyat the mill was firstly water driven but obviously later had a steam engine, with the chimney. It was a corn mill that has existed in some form since Medieval times. It is now a stables and equestrian school.

We saw our first cygnets, and have come into this world during a bit of sa cold snap. I hope some of them survive. We stopped above Ervins lock a little after 18:00 and lit the fire!

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Limping along to Leicester.

We had a very quiet sleep and a great view out the window when we finally woke up with the sun shining

This was out mooring and we were actually on the River Wreake. That joins the Soar a little further up. It formed part of the Melton Mowbray Navigation that later connected with the Oakham Navigation

The Wreake joins the Soar fro under the bridge. The navigation followed the river for much of its length to Melton Mowbray but there were 12 locks where levels had to be maintained for mills. It opened in 1794. Business increased when the Oakham Navigation connected with it in 1802, but with the advent of the railways what little profit the waterways made evapourated. The Oakham was closed in 1847 and this reduced the traffic on the lower navigation and it closed in 1877.

As we passed Watermead Country Park this work  boat approached. They told me that they drew 3.5 feet, so we should be okay.

These silhouette sculptures are very effective and similar styles have sprung up all over, but these were the first ones we saw. The are of Ancient Britain's and their cattle. Right opposite is the MGM boat builders.

Our luck was not to hold out as when we got to Birstal Lock the was a stoppage on. The paddle on the open upper gate had jammed up so we were stuck. C&RT told me there was only one bloke looking after three navigations and somebody should be there before 17:00! As it turned out we were on our way after three hours after they had dropped the paddle and were then restoring its action after we had gone. 
As it happened we had collected a lock buddy in the form of a Stone Cruisers hire boat with a nice Kiwi couple on a nine week holiday. We set off along the windy route. There were a couple of bridges that when you approached you couldn't really tell where the canal went. Your first view of this bridge were the arches that we wouldn't fit under!

Despite getting closer to the centre of Leicester there are still great green areas, even after leaving the water meadows. Mind you there was plenty of rubbish in the canals too. Not as bad as on our previous passage.

At Belgrave Lock the weir and Space Centre provide a view that is like something out of an episode of Dr. Who. The glowering sky made it more so. We had been lucky with the weather so far today as it pelted down when we were waiting at the lock.

This old mill seems to have been nicely converted to apartments. There is a fair bit of house building on sites that have been cleared but the area seems to be improving since we last passed.

Not sure if you can see the 'tide mark' on each of these swans? I don't know what it is but the swans are cleaning themselves and removing it. I don't know if it will be poisonous to them. We did see a dead swan yesterday. The canal may be cleaner than before, but still that clean. We didn't notice an oil slick either.

We were just starting to wonder if there would be any space on the pontoons at Friars Mill or Castle Gardens when we got to North Lock at Frog Island. This was the sight that met us. The fire brigade were attending a fire in an acetylene cylinder that was with a load of others in a car park with a truck nearby. They were pumping water out of the canal on to it, but had failed to put it out. It seems they they were now containing the situation and just letting it burn it's self out.

A little later a policeman came on duty and told us that he had been told he would be there until 23:00. It seems we are here for the night! Not the most salubrious of spots, but home is where the boat is I suppose.