Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Barrow-upon-Soar to Kilby Bridge

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

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.

Sileby Mill

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.

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.

Bridge reflection

Peaceful mooring

2 locks, 2 miles, 1hr00

Car Hire weekend from Barrow-upon-Soar

Saturday 20th September

Car Hire Barrow – Farnborough – Southampton – Farnborough – Chertsey

We collected our car from the Indian restaurant, and with a 9am start we were soon onto the A6, then via the A46 to the M1.  Almost immediately we were into a 50 mph limit with narrow lanes. Thankfully the cruise control on our Vauxhall Astra was simple to operate.

At Milton Keynes they were working on a slip road, which was causing horrendous queues on the M1 in both directions, and there were unexplained stoppages every few minutes.  The traffic in the other direction was queuing from Milton Keynes right down to the M25. We decided to avoid the M1 on the return journey.

Even the M3 was busy as we travelled to Farnborough to collect Oliver. We had a five minute stop there before getting back on the busy M3 to go to Southampton. We worked out that there was some boat show traffic which didn’t help.

We went to Arthur’s house, and Amanda arrived there from Poole.  We drove to a pub a short distance away called the Malvern Tavern. Very adequate for our needs. It was good to catch up with family again.

On our return journey to Farnborough we took the A31 from Winchester to just before the Hog’s Back and the A331 north to Farnborough. We went under the Basingstoke Canal where we had been in May.  This route was much better and we should have gone that way earlier in the day.

After dropping off Oliver we drove into Chertsey to the Bridge Hotel, where we had a noisy night.  This is the text of the email we sent to the manager afterwards, and ten days later we still have had no reply:

When we arrived the room (133) was very hot and we could not find any heating or cooling system other than the radiator which was off. We could not therefore adjust the temperature, so we had to open the window to cool it down. The road traffic outside the window was continual and noisy.
The room had a locked connecting door with the next room, and there were loud voices and music coming through.
We went for a meal downstairs, and discovered that a wedding disco or band was just setting up. Back in our room, the noise from the wedding was very loud, particularly the bass thump shaking everything. The noise from the next room was also still going on. Eventually, around midnight, the wedding celebrations came to a conclusion, but not the noise from the next room.
At 2.40am I went in my dressing gown and knocked on their door. They did turn the music down after that, but the loud laughter and voices continued until 3.40am.
My wife and I had had a long drive on that Saturday, before arriving at Chertsey for a sleep. The following day we had a full programme of events and another long drive. We needed our sleep.
I do not feel that you should let out rooms that have interconnecting doors, unless you have some proper noise insulation installed. I also feel that rooms overlooking the road should have better noise insulation and some sort of climate control so that guests do not have to open the windows.
It is also surprising that we were not warned about the wedding music when we booked. There were other cheaper places where we could have stayed, but we thought we might get better service at the Bridge Hotel.

Bridge Hotel, Chertsey

Sunday 21st September

Car hire Chertsey - Weybridge – Leatherhead – London – Barrow.

We had a good eat-as-much-as-you-like breakfast, before checking out and driving to Weybridge to attend our Methodist Church service.  It was Harvest Festival and the church looked really good.  Some people knew we were coming, but for others it was a surprise.  It was a good day to go as many of the occasional members were there as well as the regulars.  There was a shared lunch after the service, which gave us more time to chat to people.

Harvest Festival service

Harvest Lunch

Before we left Weybridge we drove past the new Morrisons site, where considerable progress has been made. The store is due to open by Christmas 2014.

We drove to leatherhead and visited Jessy, Greg, Jasmin and Claudia, who all seemed to be doing fine.

We then headed up the A3 to London where we managed to find an empty parking space within range of the Festival Hall.  On Sundays there is no charge on the parking meters and no congestion charge.  We had time for a latte before the Joan Baez concert.  Unfortunately we left the binoculars in the car, but there are no bad seats in the Festival Hall.  The concert was very good, but some of the songs had been rearranged to leave out the higher notes. She did well for a 73-year-old.

Gabriel’s Wharf

 London’s lights

After the concert we had a pizza on Gabriel’s Wharf (appropriate) before returning to the car. It was a warm evening. We had a bit trouble finding our way out of London, but we got there in the end, using the A1 and A47 to get back to Barrow-upon-Soar, where we arrived at 2am. The temperature had dropped from 150 in London to 50 in Barrow and there was a slight fog.

Hugo was pleased to see us, and had eaten most of the food we had left him.

Monday 22nd September

Car Hire Barrow – Calke Abbey – Loughborough – Barrow

We were late emerging this morning after our long drive and lack of sleep the previous night.  We had decided to make good use of the car, so we visited Calke Abbey.  The brown signs were inadequate at one roundabout, and we took the wrong road, heading for the village of Calke, which we though was logical. On the way we visited Staunton Harold, where a map indicating “You are here” had been moved out into the car park. We weren’t where the map said we were. When we did find the church, it was closed. 

At Calke village we found the gate to Calke Abbey, but it was the exit only.  There was no map there to show how to get to the entrance, and no brown signs to follow.  We got there in the end but it was five miles round to the entrance.  The place is worth a visit. It is huge, and is depicted more or less as it was when it was given to the National Trust in the mid 20th century. The family did not have the money to maintain the property, and the place is in gentle decay, with some of the rooms abandoned and full of unwanted items.  There were lots of stuffed birds in glass cases.  We could have used an extra two or three hours there, but we had to return the car.

Calke Abbey

 Outbuildings at Calke Abbey

We drove back to Loughborough but had difficulty finding the Enterprise depot. In the end we had to go round the ring road to the A6, and come in that way, which was more familiar.   Enterprise: it would be useful to supply all hirers with a town map showing where the depot is.

We are used to Ordnance Survey maps when driving around. Our magnificent collection went out when we let our house. We now only have room for a 4 miles per inch AA road atlas, and we notice the difference.

One of the Enterprise took us back to Barrow, but James left his wallet and phone in the front of the car. 

The lady kindly delivered them back to us later, on her way home.

We had an Indian takeaway which was lovely.  We noticed on the menu that the Dhansak was cooked in a “sweet and soar sauce”.  Not sure whether it is a joke or a misprint.

A good weekend.

Total driving distance: 481 miles

Friday, 19 September 2014

Swarkestone to Barrow-upon-Soar

Monday 15th September

Swarkestone to Sawley

We found a gift from Hugo on the stern deck – a bank vole, very stiff.

A boat went past and we cast off to catch up and share Swarkestone lock. When we arrived at the lock there was another boat in the lock already so we had to wait and fill the lock after they had gone down.

If we had known, we could have used the water tap but by the time we had reached the lock we had passed the tap.

Swarkestone Lock

The Derby Canal used to leave from just above the lock, and the first few yards are used as moorings.  This is marked as a winding hole in the Nicholson Guide, but there is a sign saying “No turning in the basin”.  There was plenty of space to turn, so I would take issue with this sign. Why should we not turn a boat at a canal junction?

No turning sign

Thankfully we had no intention of turning, so we continued down the lock and on three miles to Weston Lock.  The two boats were just going down, so we stopped at the water point and filled the tank.  While we were doing this, another boat appeared below the lock and by the time we had finished with the tap, the lock was ready for us.

We stopped for lunch just after the lock, by a railway bridge, as we wanted to see what trains were using the line. We had heard them but not seen them.  Two trains passed while we were there – both were freight trains.

Another boat went past just as we finished lunch, so we set off after them and were able to join them in Aston Lock. Sapphire was the first boat we had shared a lock with since the end of May on the Thames.

We shared Shardlow Lock before cruising through this lovely village with its historic buildings.


Derwent Mouth Lock had a boat coming up, and then we shared our last lock with Sapphire, as they were going on towards Nottingham.

We opened up the throttle on the short River Trent section, passing under the M1,  before arriving at Sawley visitor moorings, to discover that the boat moored in front was another Sapphire, BCF friends of ours Robin and Mary Bielby.  We had a cuppa together and caught up with news.

Under the M1

Robin and Mary

Threat of rain so we put up the hood overnight

5 locks, 8 miles, 1mouse, 4hr15

Tuesday 16th September

Sawley to Trent Lock.

No rain after all.  Robin and Mary set off before we were ready to go so we said our farewells.

We moved the boat across to the fuel pontoon to visit the chandlery, only to find it is closed on Tuesdays.

Onwards to the facilities block near the lock for rubbish and loo, before taking the boat down the right lock. The left one had tape across suggesting it was out of order.

These locks are mechanised, without the need for pushing things and turning things, so Hazel applied the necessary key.

Sawley Locks

River Trent

Out onto the Trent and round the corner to Trent Lock, where we found Sapphire (Robin and Mary) moored on the pontoon.  They were just about to leave, so we took their mooring.  We only just fitted onto the pontoon, with our bows tucked inside the bows of a wide beam barge named Galatea, and our stern level with the downstream end, so Hugo could just step ashore without having to walk along the gunwale.

Amanda phoned to say she was likely to exchange contracts this week. We did some shuffling of finances in preparation. She also said she would join us for lunch on Saturday in Southampton.

James caught up a bit with the blog, which had fallen behind ever since the Taft weekend.

We went for tea at the tearooms, but they are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.  We were approached by two CRT chaps who tried to persuade us to become members of CRT.

Back to the boat for our tea.

Hugo was quite happy going up and down the gangplank from the floating pontoon, although he wasn’t too keen on the Canada Geese.

Wednesday 17th September

Trent Lock to Zouch    

A mild windless morning, overlooking this wide piece of water.

James trundled a cassette to the facilities block on the Erewash Canal, and disposed of some rubbish at the same time.

Pontoon mooring at Trent Lock

We reversed out from under Galatea, and backed round in an arc, just as someone else was reversing out of Cranfleet Cut to go into the Erewash Canal.  We went past the Erewash entrance, and past Cranfleet Cut, past the sailing club and turned off the Trent into the Soar just by Thrumpton Weir.

Junction sign

Entrance to the Erewash Canal

Redcliffe Lock and bridge

We passed Redhill Marina, which is not a marina at all really, just a long line of moored boats, with a few portacabins and a fuel jetty (88p).

At Ratcliffe Lock there was no one to share with so we went up on our own.  The remains of a previous lock are visible alongside the present lock.

We saw a kingfisher, and noticed lots of floating pennywort, which reminded us of the River Wey.  We stopped at Kegworth, mooring by the “Shallow Lock”, which is a flood lock in the summer, with all gates kept open.

We visited the village, a half mile walk each way, for one or two basics from the Co-op there.  We had lunch on board when we returned to the boat.

Wild flowers

Just as we set off from Kegworth, we noticed a boat coming into view behind us, and we were able to share Kegworth Deep Lock with them, a boat called Corniche. The lock is quite fierce, and a single hander was going up in front of us, very slowly.  When it was our turn, we were halfway up when a hire boat appeared below us, so we now had a single boat, then two boats, then a single boat.

On the next section, but there are some lovely looking moorings, but the flight path to East Midlands airport passes overhead, so it is noisy.  We tried to catch up with the single hander, but when we arrived at Zouch Lock, he was already in the lock and going up, so we ended up sharing with Corniche once again.

Sharing with Corniche in Zouch Lock

Above the lock there are lots of bollards, and there is no sign to say where the lock bollards end and the mooring bollards begin.  Corniche tucked in leaving one boat length of lock bollards.  We carried on, passing the single hander who had also found a spot, and finding a place further on where we could use one bollard, and one mooring pin, in very hard earth.  Despite the road not far away, and a pub nearly opposite, the mooring was fairly peaceful.

3 locks, 6 miles, 2hr50

Thursday 18th September

Zouch to Loughborough

Another cloudy start to the day, with a very fine dampness in the air which you could hardly even call rain.  Several boats seemed to set off at once, including Corniche.  We had a cooked breakfast, with lovely sausages bought in Alrewas, so we were a few minutes behind. A boat called My Sharona went past, and we said we would catch them up at the lock.

We pulled out, and went past all the moored boats and under the road bridge.  My Sharona was nowhere in sight, so we put on some speed, and as we were passing Soar Boating Club, we spotted them way ahead, going at quite a lick.  It was two miles to Bishop Meadow Lock, and we managed to close the gap, but to no avail, because there was another boat already at the lock for My Sharona to share with.

We went up on our own, and used the water tap and rubbish facilities at the top, before cruising into Loughborough, and mooring in the small basin at the end (5 boats max). 

The junction in Loughborough

Flying practice

We then spent three hours pottering round the charity shops and market, buying several things we hadn’t planned.

The basin isn’t somewhere you would want to spend the night, as there are busy roads all around, so we set off once more, doing the loop round Loughborough, before mooring on some bollards before Millers Bridge 34.  There was a small white cruiser moored slap in the middle of the line of bollards, leaving not quite enough room for us either in front or behind, so we checked no-one was aboard, and moved the boat up to the end of the line, leaving room for us behind.

A lovely sunny evening.

Moored outside Loughborough

2 locks, 5 miles, 1 mouse, 2hr55

Friday 19th September

Managed to catch up with the blog backlog, before departing.  There were not many boats around as we headed for Barrow-upon-Soar.

There was CRT volunteer to help us through the deep lock at Barrow, and he had a collie and labrador cross that wanted us to throw stones all the time.  We moored just beyond the bollards.  The piling there wasn’t the usual sort, so we used mooring pins in the slots which seemed more secure.

We went to explore possible eating and parking places, and decided on the Indian restaurant for both.

Enterprise came to collect us, after a chaser phone call, and took us into Loughborough where we were allocated a white Vauxhall Astra 1.6.  

We returned to Barrow and had a good meal at the Bengal Indian restaurant. They said it would be OK to leave our car there overnight.

Lots of driving this weekend: Barrow – Farnborough – Southampton – Farnborough – Chertsey – Weybridge – Leatherhead – London – Barrow.

1 lock, 2 miles, 0hr55

The Taft to Swarkestone

Monday 8th September (Continued)

The Taft to Handsacre

While we had a good signal we booked car hire with Enterprise for Wednesday, requesting that we get collected from Alrewas.  We had decided to go to the Graham Bell funeral, and miss the Doris Armstrong funeral, as it was too early.

We moved across to the fuel barge opposite, and bought £100 worth of diesel at 79p per litre.

Crossing the Trent at Rugeley

On arrival at Rugeley we visited Aldi and Tesco.  We also met Gary on a hire boat, who had called in at the Taft as we were leaving.  He had an interesting card for evangelism entitled “Are you going to heaven?”

After the very blind and sharp bended bridge 62, we stopped at the water point by Hawkesyard Hall.  As we were finishing, Grace came past, so we followed them through the narrow cutting known as Armitage Tunnel and past the Armitage Shanks factory.

Armitage Tunnel

Armitage Shanks factory

Grace moored by Bridge 58, but this was by a busy road, so we carried on a little further and moored after Bridge 56.  We had lovely views, but the trains were a little noisy.  We had to use mooring spikes and the earth was a bit soft.

Speckled Wood Butterfly

Gary went past on his hire boat.

0 locks, 6 miles, 3hr00

Tuesday 9th September

Handsacre to Alrewas

We had a heavy dew this morning, leading to a lovely sunny day. 

We passed Gary who had moored a bit further on, and headed for Wood End Lock, where one boat was waiting and one boat was coming up.  The house by the lock looked empty.

The next lock was Shade House Lock. Again there was one boat each way first. The house here was for sale for £625,000

Shade House Lock

As this is where HS2 is due to pass through, is this an example of property blight?

Fradley Junction

The five Fradley locks were mostly quiet.  We stopped at the sanitary station where we found there were not enough mooring bollards, so we had to tie on to a ring with the centre line.

A boat came past too fast, and Hazel asked him to slow down. Our stern was sucked out leaving a dangerous gap for stepping off with cassettes.

James thought he heard him say, “Why are you using just one rope?”   James replied, “I’m only using one rope because there are no bollards”.

He had a very loud voice, and said, “That’s not my problem”

We caught up with him at the next lock, where he said in his huge voice “I never go too fast. I was on tickover. I never asked “why are you using one rope?” - that’s not my problem, that’s your problem.”

The name of his boat was unpronounceable, so we referred to him as Mr Loudmouth. We found him trying to moor after lock 14, and his boat was up on one side on a submerged ledge.  We went past very slowly, showing him how it was done, and offered to tow him off, but he declined.

We arrived at Lock 13 Bagnall Lock, where a hire boat was coming up. A CRT volunteer was also there.  They closed the paddles before opening the gate, and James struggled to open the gate. James suggested to the hirer that they open the gates before closing the paddles in future.  When they had left and Gabriel entered the lock, we closed the gate and were chatting to the volunteer, and the level in the lock dropped quickly before we had even moved to the other end of the lock. We discovered that one of the bottom paddles had not been closed properly.

We moored in Alrewas, three boat lengths before the footbridge.

Alrewas Church

Gary went past on his hire boat. Later he returned going in the other direction. It was a lovely evening for a cruise, he said.

8 locks, 5 miles, 3hr55

Wednesday 10th September


We decided to move boat the other side of the footbridge, where it was better for Hugo, with access to the churchyard. Also it was not so overlooked by houses.

We walked to the George and Dragon, our rendezvous for collection by Enterprise Car Hire.  The car was a bright green Vauxhall Corsa.  We were driven down the A38 to Lichfield to the Enterprise base.  Then, after completing the paperwork, we set off back up the A38 past Burton.

Our first stop was Kedleston Hall, a National Trust property we had never visited.  It was a wonderful place with amazing landscaped parkland. It was one of the locations for the film “The Duchess”.

Kedleston Hall

 Marble Hall

  Saloon Ceiling


We had lunch there before looking round the house and chatting to the friendly and helpful volunteers and staff. Then we drove up over the hills before heading for Mansfield.

We have a 2006 road atlas, and we discovered that some junctions had been changed on the approach to Mansfield. Two anticipated roundabouts were missing. However, we found the Civic Hall sooner than we expected.

We were there to celebrate the life of Graham Bell, a friend of ours for many years, and leader of Ashwood Church in Kirkby in Ashfield. We have never investigated to establish a family connection, although if we went back far enough we might find a link.

Before Graham’s memorial service

We had a warm welcome from Molly and eldest son Matt.  We were a row in front of Chris Bowater and Norman Barnes.  It was also good to catch up with John and Christine Noble.  The place was almost full, and the worship was excellent, led by Paul Bell. There were nine eulogies. A very good send off for Graham.

We drove back from Mansfield to Alrewas, and parked in the churchyard, just 50 yards from Gabriel.

No boating today

Thursday 11th September

Alrewas to Branston Water Park

We made us of the car by driving to the National Memorial Arboretum, just outside Alrewas. It was a very moving place and we had glorious sunshine.

 Memorial Arboretum

We returned the car back to Enterprise, and were then dropped back into Alrewas, where we visited the famous butcher for ham, pork pie, turkey, chicken breasts, and feta cheese.

Then lunch on board before setting off.

We timed it well at Alrewas Lock - a boat was just coming out.  This was followed by the river section where the navigation joins the River Trent for a short distance. This sometimes causes stoppages in the winter when the river goes into flood.  No problems today though.

Alrewas Lock

At Wychnor lock there was a queue of one.

We called in at Barton Turns Marina for gas and elsan.  Since our last visit there is a whole line of new buildings including shops and restaurants.

Facilities are a bit spread out along this section. We stopped at Barton Turn Lock for water, and then again half a mile further on for rubbish.

Barton Turn Lock

At Tatenhill Lock the bottom gates had been left open so we had to fill the lock before we used it.

We moored by Branston Water Park, where there were several boats already.

There were lots of rabbits on the path, and something similar to a shield bug on a plant by our window.  Hugo was happy.

Shield bug?

4 locks, 5 miles, 1 mouse.

Friday 12th September

A leisurely departure today, with only one lock to operate before mooring at Shobnall Fields.

We walked into Burton town centre past the Coors brewery, almost a mile.

Monument to beer

Burton beer town

James wanted some brown socks, so he went into M&S.  You can’t buy dark brown socks there unless you also buy light brown ones and beige ones.   Why do they package them like this?  No sale.

We stopped at a lovely teashop and had tea and cake, before taking a bus back to near the station and walking through to Lidl for our provisions.

Back to the boat for supper.  We heard on the news that Ian Paisley had died.

We walked the short distance to the Cottage Tavern where Brewtown Folk Club takes place every Friday.  The guest artists were Harry Bird and the Rubber Wellies – very entertaining with their own songs, which had a folk feel, with a touch of reggae.  They had been at Greenbelt this year, where they had sung Sydney Carter songs.

Floor singers only had one song each, so we sang Well, well, well.

There was a raffle where they sold tickets by the strip of 5.  Instead of folding up the stubs singly to put in the basket they folded the whole strip.  A lady was asked to draw the first ticket, and she drew her own strip. Then James was asked to draw one, and he also drew his own strip! Very odd. We took away a nice bottle of Hardy’s Shiraz Cabernet.

Brewtown Folk Club

1 lock, 2 miles, 1 mouse

Saturday 13th September

Burton to Willington

It was sunny today as we set off through Dallow Lock, the last narrow lock.  We stopped at Horninglow Basin to fill with water and empty the loo.

Dallow Lock

As we crossed the Dove aqueduct, Hazel spotted some flowers for our vase, so we stopped on the aqueduct and took some photos.

13th century Monk’s Bridge at Egginton

Aqueduct over the River Dove

We moored at Willington, where the trains rattle loudly past on the other side of the hedge, and traffic rushes along the minor road the other side of the canal. We will try and avoid mooring here in future.

James tightened the stern gland and replenished the grease, to stop water leaking in by the prop shaft.

We walked round via the bridge to dump our rubbish, and then went to explore the baptist church, the shop and the three pubs.

Back on the boat, despite the noise, we had Zzzzzzzzzzz.  Hazel made a shepherd’s pie with the mince be had bought at the Alrewas butchers - lovely.

Willington moorings

1 lock, 5 miles, 2hr15

Sunday 14th September

Willington to Swarkestone before bridge 15

As we headed for the service at the baptist church, we spotted a Fox boat, and James was just about to get a photo for Peter Ekins when he realised it was March Mole, Peter Ekins’ boat!   They weren’t on board but we spotted Peter and Pam further along the towpath so we went to say hello.

Peter and Pam

At the Baptist Chapel we had a warm welcome, and discovered that Peter Brooks was also visiting.  The service was very real, with no formality. There was an excellent children’s talk to explain what taking communion was all about.

Willington Baptist Chapel

Music group

We had a good Sunday lunch at the Green Man, and it looked better value than the more popular Dragon, which is on the green in a better location.

Originally we had planned to spend two nights in Willington, but due to the noise we decided to move on.  We paused at Mercia Marina to buy some blue. We tied alongside another boat, as there was only one mooring space by the chandlery. The couple on board had met Norman Woolley on heartbreak hill (Pat and Terry).

A little further on we came to Stenson Lock, our first wide lock since the Thames. It was also quite deep and took a while to fill.  We gave out two “How do locks work?” leaflets.

Stenson Lock Gongoozlers

The railway line had divided into two, with the main line going off to the left, and a minor line staying with the canal.  We moored just before bridge 15 at Swarkestone, where there was a thick hedge between the canal and the track.  We only heard very occasional trains here.

We noticed Hugo jumping around on the stern deck, and when we opened the door, we found a very active bank vole, who wisely decided to escape by running and leaping into the canal, and swimming away.

1 lock, 5 miles, 1 lively bank vole, 2hr15

Next week: heading up the Soar