Tuesday 23rd September
Barrow to Junction Lock
Moored at Barrow-upon-Soar
Navigation Inn, Barrow
Our first port of call this morning was the sanitary station 5 minutes upstream, where we performed the necessary tasks. There seem to be permanent moorings right outside the facility, which makes tying alongside a bit of a challenge. Our hose only just reached. We nearly had to use the new one, which is still in its box!
Dutch houses at Mountsorrel
Mountsorrel Lock was in our favour. There are moorings above this lock, but the A6 is very near, so we have never stopped to visit the place. There are a few pubs, shops and churches, so maybe next time.
We paused just below Sileby Lock and went across to visit the chandlery. We had lunch on board.
When we were ready to leave, a boat was coming down in the lock and a cruiser appeared behind us, so we shared the lock with the cruiser. We also shared Cossington Lock with them, but they moored before Junction Lock, on a high bit of piling. This looked difficult to get on or off, so we carried on through the lock and moored above it, where there are rings and piling.
New since last time was an “upgraded” towpath which was now smooth tarmac, and formed part of a Sustrans cycle route into Leicester. The bikes were going at speed and Hugo was rushing back on board from time to time.
The bikes eased off when it got dark, but at about 1030pm there was an awful noise of a fight from the stern of the boat, with Hugo yelling at the top of his voice. We couldn’t open the side doors to look because the piling was too high. Hazel put the light on for the back deck, and opened the door. Hugo rushed in, but his assailant had gone. On the floor there was a lot of grey fur, as well as some reddish fur, and we think it was a fox. Hugo was limping badly with a lame right hind foot. He wouldn’t let us go near him and swore at us if we got too close.
We locked his flap and kept him in for the rest of the night.
4 locks, 5 miles. 2hr55
Wednesday 24th September
Junction Lock to Birstall
Hugo was still limping this morning and would not let us look at his foot, so we decided to take him to a vet.
We checked with another boat moored a few boat lengths away, but they do not have any animals on board. As we were half a mile from the nearest dwelling, we were even more convinced that it was a fox. What we need is one of those trail cameras they use on Springwatch.
River Wreake junction
We set off past the junction with the River Wreake, where there was a new footbridge (Sustrans), and past the Hope and Anchor, where we had had a meal last year on our way to Newark by car. Then came the Watermead Country Park, which would be a good mooring next time, followed by Thurmaston Lock.
We moored just above Birstall Lock, and made an appointment with the vet for tomorrow at 1115. (No spaces today) We went to explore the shopping possibilities. We found the vet at the top of the hill, a bit too far to carry the cat. We booked a taxi for 1100 at the White Horse, a few yards from the boat.
Back on board we had a very peaceful night.
Moored at Birstall
1 lock, 3 miles, 1hr15
Thursday 25th September
Birstall to Leicester Abbey Gardens
We visited the Co-op for some essentials, and returned to the boat.
We put Hugo in his carrying cage and went to the White Horse pub to rendezvous with the taxi at 11am. At the vets, Hugo had a pain killer injection and another with an antibiotic. We were supplied with pills to continue his course of antibiotics. We also bought some treatments for fleas and worms. Expensive cat! Very good service and pleasant staff.
We left straight away, continuing our journey south into Leicester. As we went through Birstall Lock we discovered that there is a nature reserve right there where we could have gone for a walk.
Belgrave Lock and National Space Centre
We passed the National Space Centre (must visit one day) and Belgrave Lock. At Limekiln Lock there were a dozen guys drinking beer and speaking Urdu. There was considerable leakage from the bottom gates, so it was difficult to get the top gates open. One of the chaps came to help push the beam, but it needed Hazel to nudge the gate with the boat to get it open.
At North Lock we met a Christian guy who works for a local charity.
We were wondering whether there would be space for us on the pontoon at Castle Gardens, as it has been crowded in the past. When we arrived, we were the only boat, so we had it to ourselves.
James went to great lengths to put our plank out as a ramp up to a dustbin, where Hugo could get onto the wall and into the park. Hugo showed his independence by finding another way up, involving a five-foot leap. His leg must be improving!
In the evening we took our instruments round to the Black Horse, where there was a singaround session. We sang Banks of the Ohio, Well Well Well, Waterloo Road, and Long Way Down. There was a group of people at one end of the room who were not there for the music, and they made a lot of noise. It made it impossible to sing anything quiet. It was a great evening, with friendly people.
4 locks, 4 miles, 2hr00
Friday 26th September
Leicester Abbey Gardens to South Wigston
The first job was to get an antibiotic pill inside Hugo. We ground it up and mixed it with his food. He had about half of it before retiring to bed.
Anabel came by bus to meet us at our mooring, and join us for the day’s cruise to South Wigston, where she lives.
The journey south from Leicester begins with the mile straight, where there are several ornamental bridges and fine buildings, including one called Soar Point. The straight ends with a slight bend and a large lock, alongside a wide weir.
Freeman’s Meadow Lock
The weir alongside
There follows a series of locks, with river sections and canal sections, and one or two mills. We spotted an Aldi alongside the canal above Aylestone Mill Lock.
St Mary’s Mill Lock
At Kings Lock, we spoke to the proprietor of King’s Lock Tea Rooms, based in the lock cottage. It seems that mooring here is safe and it looks OK. They also have an occasional music session on a Sunday afternoon, and the teas look good. Next time?
The navigation goes through some quite rural areas, although the housing estates are not far away. After 9 locks we arrived at a picnic site with bollards, just before Crow Mills Bridge 92, which is close to where Anabel lives.
Hazel and Anabel
Anabel and James
We had noticed an entry for Life Church at Wigston Magna in our BCF directory, with a suggestion that we call them for lift from Kilby Bridge, as they were two miles away. James tried to call, and he left a message on an answering machine. Being Friday afternoon, it was possible that their office was closed.
Anabel kindly offered to take us if we couldn’t get hold of someone at the church. She left us to walk home, and we moved on a further two locks and found a peaceful mooring above lock 31.
We managed to get another pill into Hugo. His limp was a lot less today.
We sent a message to Life Church via their website.
11 locks, 7 miles, 4hr25
Saturday 27th September
Above lock 31
We had a relaxing day doing one or two jobs. James cut the bow well mat in half, as, up until then, it had been difficult to lift up. It was then much easier to remove both halves, and sweep the deck, before removing the cover to the bow thruster, and moving a few of the ballast bricks from port to starboard.
He also had a go at sanding some of the paintwork knocks and scratches, and applying some rust beater.
It was very quiet on the waterway: only one boat went past all day.
Then he wrote a long letter to the BCF committee with some suggestions about the membership directory.
As we hadn’t heard from Life Church, we phoned Anabel who said she would come with us tomorrow. She would meet us on Kilby Bridge at 10.00am.
Later on we had a phone call from Matt, a member at the church, who said he could give us a lift. Having made the arrangement with Anabel, we said we would go with her after all.
No boating today
Sunday 28th September
South Wigston Lock 31 to Kilby Bridge Bumblebee Lock 29
After a very peaceful day we set off for Kilby Bridge, one lock and half a mile away. We stopped first at the sanitary station to take on water, empty cassettes and dispose of rubbish. Then we crossed to the towpath side to moor up on the bollards.
At ten o’clock we met Anabel as arranged by the bridge, and noticed that some slurry lorries had been past, and some of the contents had slopped over onto the bridge, causing a very ripe smell to pervade the area.
We went two miles in her car to Life Church in Wigston Magna, where we had a warm welcome, with many people coming to say hello. The worship group were very good, with drummer, keyboard, guitar, bass, and three lady singers. The lady leading the service was very warm and sensitive, and was good at explaining things, for example when someone spoke in tongues and there was an interpretation. We shared bread and wine, and the preacher spoke about the woman from Samaria, and how Jesus broke several taboos when he spoke to her. This was followed by four baptisms. There seemed to be lots going on at this church, with events for older people, a youth group, and lots of children for their Sunday School.
Life Church worship group
Pastor Phil Buckley bringing the word
After the service
Anabel declined the suggestion of a pub lunch, as she wasn’t feeling very well. She took us via Aldi for some provisions and then delivered us to the Navigation at Kilby Bridge. We said our farewells, and had a set price 3-course meal – excellent value with good-sized platefuls.
Wharf crane at Kilby Bridge
We slept it off in the afternoon back on board. Later on, we decided that the country smell was too much, so we set off for a short cruise to find somewhere quieter and a little less aromatic. We moored above Bumblebee Lock on some convenient piling.