Sunday, 31 May 2015

Foxton to Barrow upon Soar

Thu 28th May

Foxton to Market Harborough to Kilby

As we set off to Market Harborough for Hazel’s dentist appointment, we met BCF boats Essence (Adrian and Chris Dann) soon followed by Jubilee (John and Jan Halford).  It is good to see so many BCF boats around.

It takes an hour and a half each way from Foxton to Market Harborough. Amazing buttercups once again.

 Buttercup carpet

We went first to the facilities area to empty a cassette and dispose of rubbish, and then to a place on the visitor moorings.

Market Harborough

We walked the mile into town, visiting Wilko, Sainsbury’s and Aldi, and having lunch in the market cafĂ© – very good fare. Hazel went for her appointment while James walked back to the boat with the shopping, having just missed a bus.  He used the water tap near the mooring to top up the tank.

Hazel arrived soon after, having caught a bus back.  Her tooth has been smoothed off but not filled.

We set off as soon as we could as we had some catching up to do.  There aren’t many landmarks on the Market Harborough Arm, but we saw Bowden Hall and the factory that disposes of animal carcasses.

 Bowden Hall


Hugo sniffs the air

On the way back to Foxton we met several of the hire fleet returning to base. The swing bridge had developed a fault and was being operated by volunteers.

 Foxton Swing Bridge 4

Very few boats at Foxton

Soon after Foxton we met the wide trip boat going back to Foxton. We didn’t meet any other boats in over four hours of cruising

Thankfully the weather was good, but some of the locks were awkward, with gates swinging open by themselves. 

Swan family

Saddington Tunnel

Lonely Tree

It was a long day, and when we arrived above lock 26 and saw Essence and Jubilee
moored up, we decided to join them, mooring on the lock bollards.   They kindly invited us on board for a glass of wine, but we declined as we hadn’t eaten, it was 9pm and we were very tired.  We asked them where they were heading, and discovered that they were also on the mission.

 L – R Hugo Adrian John Chris Jan Hazel

8 locks, 19 miles, 3 swing bridges, 1 Tunnel

Fri 29th May

Kilby to King’s Lock, Aylestone

As there were three boats, and the locks take two, we decided to slip away early, and leave the other two to share the locks.  Rain was forecast later.

Creeping away early

We crept away, talking in whispers, not starting the engine until we were inside the lock and going down.  A man came along the towpath, and when he was level with Essence, called out in a loud voice: “Good Morning!”

We got to Kilby Bridge at 0840 and found a mooring before the rain started properly.  Trinity and Gospel Belle left a few minutes later, wearing all the wet gear.

We had a cooked breakfast (we deserved it!), and discovered that all the eggs in our box of six had double yokes.

 Two double yoke eggs

We found another BCF boat Remus there (Eric and Sue Lewis) so there were now six, an even number at last. We agreed to share the locks with them when the rain subsided.

Then we discovered that Jubilee needed to stay behind for a friend’s visit, so Essence went down in front of us with no one to share with.

We set off at 1200, and had a very pleasant day locking down towards Leicester in the company of Eric and Sue.  We phoned Anabel, James’ cousin, who lives nearby, but she was entertaining guests.

 Locking down with Remus

Sunshine and cloud

Some of the locks were quite difficult to open, as there was a lot of water around, overflowing the gates at times. It was quite windy and a lot of the blossom had blown off and landed in the water, creating amazing patterns.

Plenty of water

Rivers of blossom

Blossom art

Overtaking Essence

We overtook Essence when they stopped for lunch, and we arrived at Kings Lock Tea Rooms in time for tea and cake. Very civilised.

Essence went on past later.

12 locks, 6 miles

Sat 30th May

King’s Lock, Aylestone to Barrow upon Soar

 Morning sunshine at King’s Lock mooring

King’s Lock and the Tea Rooms

0815 departure as we had a long way to go, the weather was fine, and it was Saturday, when, later in the day, there may be football fans celebrating or bored teenagers on the loose.

We paused at Aldi for provisions. The store is offside, i.e. not where the towpath is. We tied to railings and had to climb underneath them to gain access. We bought some marigolds for the boat roof.

The journey into Leicester was very pleasant. On three occasions we had just started setting a lock in our favour, when a boat came in sight below the lock.  If we had been two minutes later the lock would have been done for us.

Eric Sue and Hazel in Freeman’s Meadow Lock

At Freeman’s Meadow Lock we saw a little egret on the weir. A little later near Soar Lane Bridge we saw another.  We also spotted a bullfinch.

 The Straight Mile in Leicester

A busy moment by Castle Gardens Mooring

Reflection art

At Limekiln Lock we were relieved to see that the two benches there were unoccupied. Last time there were lots of guys drinking.  However, the state of the canal here was very bad, with lots of rubbish, and big bubbles coming up from the bottom, with clouds of black silt making the place stink.

Ageing industrial sites

We got something round the propeller and James was pleased that we had some pond gloves so that he could remove the rubbish without getting foul water on his hands.  It was the remains of a saree plus some plastic.

As we headed towards Birstall we had an unexpected passenger in the form of a whitish racing pigeon, which landed on our roof pallet, after being chased by two other pigeons. He remained on the boat for several minutes, even going through Birstall Lock with us before he decided to fly off again.
Extra passenger

Caption suggestions please

We had lunch on the run as we passed Watermead Country Park and the Hope and Anchor pub.

Leaving Mountsorrel Lock

When we arrived at Barrow, the official visitor moorings were full. Essence had found a space there. We decided to postpone the use of the facilities in favour of finding a mooring, so we continued round the corner, and found the last place, behind Gospel Belle. Remus came alongside. Trinity was in front, and then came Mistol, but Rob and Tricia were not on board.  We saw Peter, Henry and Jack coming back from the shops. Apparently Chris and Diana had just left on Ultreya.

So we now have eight BCF boats all heading for Cotmanhay.  Tomorrow the Baptist Church will think they have been invaded!

13 locks, 14 miles

Wolverton to Foxton

Sun 24th May

Wolverton to Stoke Bruerne

We all went for a walk to find New Life Church, who meet in a large warehouse. It was encouraging to find a good mixture of ethnic backgrounds and ages. A New Frontiers church.  The worship team were very good, but some of the songs we found a bit repetitive. The message was excellently delivered by a lady called Donna, who spoke about Mary the mother of Jesus.

New Life Church, Wolverton

We managed to arrange a lift back for Peter, who finds walking difficult, and the rest of us took a different route through the remains of Old Wolverton, with wonderful buttercups everywhere.

Walking back from church

We set off first, and paused below Cosgrove Lock to fill up with water. We helped with several boat movements while this was happening, and eventually Gospel Belle came up, sharing with another boat, and we shared with Trinity.

On the locks up to Stoke Bruerne we shared with Empress. They were already one lock up, and they waited for us.
Starting up the Stoke Bruerne flight

Sharing with Empress

The moorings were fairly full on 7D moorings two locks down, but there was just space for our three boats.  We were moored behind River Wey boat Pompey Chimes but they were not on board. 

Pompey Chimes

We all had a lovely meal on Gospel Belle.

6 locks, 7 miles

Mon 25th May

Stoke Bruerne to Long Buckby

We arrived at the first lock to find a boat going up in front of us.  It was Teezy, and we shared the top lock together.

 Entering the top lock at Stoke Bruerne

Our friend Kathryn came out of her cottage to say hello and push a lock gate.

Kathryn lends a hand

Blisworth Tunnel was wet as usual, but if there are no boats coming you can avoid the worst of the pouring water. This time we were able to get some photos of the calcification in the air vents.

Blisworth Tunnel entrance

Ventilation shaft

Blisworth mill building

Teezy turned off at Gayton Junction, heading for the Fens


Turnover Bridge near Gayton Junction

At Stowe Hill Wharf we noticed that the fuel price was 67p. We saw BCF member Rachel Kerkham on Nomad Dream, which had just been sold. They are moving back to dry land.


We were making very good time, and then, just before Weedon, Pyefleet pulled out in front of us and went very very slowly even when there were no moored boats. This was a very twisty section, so there was no opportunity to pass.

We found Gospel Belle and Trinity at Weedon. The Lins had gone shopping. We stopped a little further on and went to Tesco, hoping this would give Pyefleet a chance to get away.

We were 35 minutes in Tesco, and then set off again

When we arrived at Buckby Locks, Gospel Belle and Trinity were there waiting their turn. Pyefleet had gone before them, sharing with another boat, and had not wanted to open more than one paddle, so it was taking ages.

We decided to wait for a boat to share with.  Three boats appeared in the long straight section.  The first one went into the marina.  The second turned round and went back.  The third turned into the marina.  At that point some boats came down the flight so we went up and followed the others.  We soon caught them up as everyone was going so slowly.

We ended up two locks down, having a barbecue on the towpath with the sound of the M1 close by. Henry’s grandson Jack had joined us.

Buckby Locks


Sunset by Buckby locks

7 locks, 14 miles, 1 tunnel

Tue 26th May

Buckby to North Kilworth

We set off first up the remaining two locks on our own, with boats coming down first to set the locks.  We emptied a cassette and some rubbish at the top lock and proceeded to turn into the Leicester section.

Norton Junction

Stephen Carter was coming away from Crick on Chyandour. He phoned us a few minutes later to say he had left his Hozelock fitting on the tap, so we retrieved it for him when we arrived at the foot of the Watford flight where we were second in the queue. We reported to the lock keeper at 0915, and we also registered Gospel Belle and Trinity, and the hire boat that was first in the queue.  We topped up with water while we were waiting. There were lots of boats coming down the locks, as the Crick show had just finished.  It was 1145 by the time we cleared the top lock, and we counted 14 boats waiting at the top.  As we drew away, there were more boats arriving, and Henry counted 20 boats by the time he came through two locks behind us. It would have taken several hours for the last ones in the queue.


Watford Locks

Crick Tunnel was also busy, and dripping wet.

Crick Tunnel

Wet drips from Crick Tunnel and Stephen’s Hozelock fitting

There were lots of boats still in position on their allocated moorings, including Sola Gratia (no-one aboard) and Norfolk Belle (BCF). We hadn’t met David and Angela before. Hazel bought some Eco products from them.  There were lots of unusual boats including Raymond and Nutfield, a beautifully restored working pair.

Temporary Bridge for the Crick Show

Raymond and Nutfield

Unspoilt countryside.  Shallow in places. We saw a yellow hammer.  There were lots of places to moor.  Amazing fields of rape as well as buttercups.

 Rape fields

We stopped at bridge 40, where there was space for three boats.  Everyone came on board Gabriel for a meal.

9 locks, 15 miles, 1 tunnel

Wed 27th May

North Kilworth to Foxton

Dawn at North Kilworth

Gospel Belle and Trinity set off before us, as Peter was concerned about his gearbox rattle.  We gave them a 20-minute start and set off at 0840.  We saw various wild birds including a Greater Spotted Woodpecker, a Reed Bunting, a Kingfisher, and a Bullfinch.

Welford Junction

Hay making

Husbands Bosworth Tunnel

Husbands Bosworth Tunnel was only slightly damp, and we could see from one end to the other.

Hazel had a problem with a tooth and we hunted around for a dentist. We found one eventually in Market Harborough who could see her tomorrow afternoon.

When we arrived at Foxton Locks at 1115, we were in a long queue.  Gospel Belle and Trinity were 4th and 5th, and we were 9th.  Three boats had come between us in those twenty minutes, and there were three behind us soon afterwards. It took us 2 hours to get to the top of the locks, and 1 hour to get down them. Lots of gongoozlers looking on.

Foxton Locks

Descending Foxton Locks

We turned right at the bottom, and someone kindly operated the swing bridge for us, as there was nowhere for us to get off and do it ourselves.  We met a guy called Malcolm on Santiago.  He joined BCF last year.

We moored up on the 14D mooring rings before bridge 3.  Trinity and Gospel Belle had gone on to Market Harborough.

10 locks, 8 miles, 1 tunnel