Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Spot fell in Zouch Lock!

We moved off early today so as to avoid travelling in the heat of the day. In no time we arrived at Loughborough basin, taking the last available mooring. Then a trip to tesco to pick up food for dinner tonight, take on water and off.

We had decided we would spend the night between Zouch and Kegworth as it is one of our favourite picnic spots on short days out.

All went fine until we reached Zouch Lock. We locked down with another boat which I let go in front as we intended to stop before the next lock. I had just left the gates when a shout came from the top gates and the chap on the bottom gate said your dog has fallen in the lock! Panic!
Jan and Spot crossing the locks
We are not sure what happened but one second she was behind Jan crossing the gate and the next she has standing on the cill of the empty lock. She is generally very careful on the gates but not this time. As soon as she realised she couldnt jump out she bark so Jan saw her and told her to sit. By this time the first boat going up had started to enter the lock. This was not a problem as Spot was not in the water, so I reversed TM back into the lock until the stern fender touched the cill and Spot jumped onto the stern.
Fortunately Spot appears to be in good health, which is amazing as the drop to the cill must be six feet.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink

Yesterday was a long hard hot day back on the boat. Not that we are complaining, any day on TM is a good day especially if the sun is shining.

The day started with Colin giving us a lift to East Midlands Parkway station followed by a short train journey back to Leicester. You have to walk past the Market to get back to Castle Garden so we thought we could get some provisions, but the Market is closed on a Monday! Never mind we picked up some milk and bread and headed for a butchers we saw on the way home, but the butcher did not sell cooked meat so no ham sandwiches! Back on the boat by 11:30 just in time to see Brenda, Mick, Lynda and Ken return to their boats.

To fill in the gaps, we decided to go home last Thursday as it had rained for most of the day and the locks were red boarded so no movement. I didn't blog as I thought it not good to advertise TM was left unattended in the middle of Leicester. On that note, the secure mooring at Castle Gardens is good and secure. The pontoon gate is locked with a BW key and the whole park is locked at 8pm. We will stop here again as it is only 10 mins walk to the city centre.

We needed more water and a pump out so we pushed on looking for services as the extended stay in Leicester had put some pressure on our resources. No water points no marinas with pump out, even the water point at the Hope and Anchor was switched off. By 7pm we reached Mount Sorrel Lock and decided to call it a day and go to the pub!

Today was a short run to Barrow and a pump out at Meadow Farm Marina. We moored at the marina while I went to look for Clive, as instructed by the folks on the boat opposite. Clive was a very nice chap who arrived with the mobile pump out which soon sorted out growing problem. We also managed to take on water so when we moored above Barrow Deep Lock we were both in need of a shower.

Had a very good take away curry from the Indian opposite The Boat House pub and now off to bed.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Castle Gardens Carnival

Yesterday we pulled pins from Aldi and headed down towards home, not certain how far we would get.
Freemans Weir

Spent a half-sleepless night worrying about the "huge" unprotected weir at Freemans Weir just past Aylestone, particularly as the Soar was in spate (or so we were informed by various 'authorities').  Set off in trepidation - Jan had to have a brandy as she too was full of nerves of passing this nightmare icon.

We just checked the board at each lock and found the weir to be no insurmountable problem - all ok as long as we kept to the tow path side; also weir was half barraged off.  Eventually we arrived in Leicester centre at Castle Gardens.  All the moorings on the secure pontoon were occupied but a chap stuck his head out and said all was red boarded below and that we could breast up to their boat. The boat was Amarantine and the couple were Lynda and Ken. Ken took Jan by surprise by talking to "Spot" by name and saying you must be Jan. It turns out Ken reads our blog.
The Carnival of Boats

After settling the boat we went for a walk onto High Street where we sat outside a bar and people-watched for a couple of hours. Just next to the bar was a Chinese Restaurant called the Shanghai Moon which was full of Chinese people - menu was also in Chinese with English sub-titles so we decided to have a take way from there and take it back to the boat. Let me say, If you moor at Castle Gardens walk up to Witherspoons on the High Street and eat in Shanghai Moon on the opposite side of the paved street about 100 yard down from the pub. You will not be disappointed, this was one of the best Chinese meals we have ever had. 

When we returned to TM the group of 3 boats had turned into a flotilla of 7 boats all breasted up with a further 2 later arrivals which moored across the cut. So we all sat and had a chat. It was gone nine by the time we stopped gassing to Ken and Lynda - what a great evening.  It's what boating is all about!!

This morning the EA station at Syston has dropped 25cm overnight but by lunch time it has pi**ed it down and the Soar was up and we were back to square one.  We walked into the centre of Leicester, exploring the 'Lanes' and had a great afternoon. Leicester is a much better city than we expected. The market, particularly for fresh fish and meat is fantastic and the Lanes are a joy to walk around. I'm sure we will be coming back here instead of going to Nottingham.

Note: This post is dedicated to our friend Dave Palmer. I had decided I was to tired to finish the post when my phone beeped with a text from Dave "Where's the Blog?" Cheers Dave!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Aldi for the night with complementary balls

Today was a slog on from Kirby Bridge to Kings Lock in Leicester. We broke the journey for an hour or so to miss the rain that came in buckets.
Jan spotted a new Aldi by the canal with some new railings and a large area of cut grass. As there was already one boat moored to the railings we decided to join them and get some provisions. By the time we got back to the boat is was pi**ing it down again, so we decided to stop the night.

As we came out of Aldi we spotted an Indian Restaurant across the road so it was curry for tea with a complementary side dish of some sort of minced lamb balls, they tasted great.

For the last few days we have had our eye on the river levels on the Soar as it all looks in flood. The plan tomorrow is to push on past Freemans Weir and get on to the secure pontoon at Castle Gardens, then reassess the water levels.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Knackered at Kilby Bridge

12 locks today and we only saw one moving boat all day. The wide locks between Kibworth Top Lock and Kilby Bridge were all a pain in the arse. No matter how slowly I entered the lock through one open gate, the other gate opened as I entered. No matter how slowly I left the lock through one gate the other gate opened! Had a couple of pints to relax the muscles  at the Navigation when we arrived, and returned for a meal which was ok. 

As you can see Spot was even more knackered than us. Also say a  very nice church in the middle of nowhere. 

According to my map is is St Wistans Church and it has 6 bell but I don't know about bell ringing practice.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Rain and the Okefenokee Swamp

Left Yelvertofot area and headed towards the ultimate destination of Foxton Locks - knew we couldn't do it comfortably in one day. Headed towards the Welford Arm, one of the prettiest journeys seen so far: really beautiful countryside, farmland and surrounding copses. Lots of woodland and serenity; came across very few fellow travelling boats.

Decided to take a detour down the Welford Arm - Jan calling me Tits Magee going across the Okefenokee Swamp. Moored at Welford; tow path closed directly to village so had to go round the small marina to The Wharf Inn (again, good food). In marina, wow, amazing species and variety of fish seen lurking in the waters: jack pike under the pontoon, huge carp, loads of bream. Not being a course fisherman but a nature watcher (Jan too) had to watch this spectacle! Lots of boats moored, some short-term, some long so roped up under some over-hanging trees. In the night rained heavily so in the morning, was not sure whether it was still pouring down or if was dripping off trees - the latter proved the case.

Following morning moved onto North Kilworth for the necessary pump-out. Helpful people.

Then to Husbands Bosworth Tunnel wondering whether the tunnel light would hold out for the 1166 yards - it did!! Jan still fixated by seeing real live bats: none seen!

Meandered to top of Foxton flight where we met Pat and Tracey on nb Tilley heading to Market Harborough (if anyone comes across them say hello from us as they were such friendly folk). Having seen the piscatorial species the night before. It was amazing to see a red kite flying freely and so low you could almost count its feathers!
Jan, Master of Foxton

Moored above Foxton, Jan woke up in the middle of the night trying to rescue the windlass (she had apparently lost in the lock in her nightmare of going down the staircase) - new experience for us going 'down'.  BUT: volunteer Fraser to the rescue -  another volunteer who helped us through the initial passage until he was sure we knew what we were doing (small hope but all went well).  Spot tethered on boat at Foxton so she had to stop on the boat with me. She sat between my legs trembling every time we descended into a lock. I'm not sure I blame her the Foxton locks are bloody deep (see photo).

Deep Locks at Foxton
Next through Saddington Tunnel with the confidence that the tunnel light worked previously - not this time!  Got about 2-thirds through and all went dark.  Fortunately got new batteries for torch so managed to get through without any problems.

Stopped for provisions at Fleckney, good Co-op with other facilities (including pub!!)  Now moored just above bridge 74.

Home made fried rice tonight! Yum!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Elkington and an Alternate Reality

According to Nicholson's Waterways Guide Elkington is a long abandoned village just down the lane from bridge 28 on the Grand Union Leicester Section. I cannot validate the truth of the statement as we moored at bridge 27, but the idea of a long abandoned village here helps me draw you a picture of this spot of heaven.

Yesterday started with a stroll into Crick to get some milk, a quick stop to top up the water and onward towards Welford. The weather threw a few showers at us but mostly it was sunny until lunchtime when we decided to stop for a cup of tea and wait for the rain, which we could see heading our way.  After an hour of heavy rain the sun came out and we decided to stop for the night so I could walk Spot through Yelvertoft Covert.

One of the main attractions for me, of cruising the inland waterways is the tangible sense of travelling in an alternate reality. It's like the bit in Harry Potter when the kids run through a wall in the train station into another world.  Moored by a bridge that appeared to go nowhere, in the middle of fields, the nearest road was a small lane at the next bridge which went to an abandoned village.

The clouds were heavy but the sun shone through the gaps and illuminated the newly washed trees and grass.  Everywhere was clean and green and beautiful. As an encore nature gave us a storm and a rainbow before we called it a night.

This morning me and Spot walked to the top of the wood by the derelict barn (see photo). The small plate on the gate to the wood said "Dedicated in memory of Edith Mary & Malchus Henry Malpass 1902 - 1985, The Woodland Trust". I have no idea who they were but their wood is fantastic. I found a large Badger sett at the top of the wood and disturbed a Buzzard from the eves of the old barn.

So where exactly is this piece of paradise? 
Between Daventry and Rugby, 1 mile south of the A14 and 3 miles east of the M1/M6 junction!

I include are a few photos to give you an idea of how yesterday prompted the above poor attempt at prose.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Crick and a Good Curry

Yesterday was a short but interesting day. The two main attractions for the day were Watford Locks and Crick Tunnel before an overnight stop at Crick. Watford Locks has a four lock staircase in the middle of the seven lock flight. We had not encountered a staircase before so another steep learning curve.
Watford Locks

 Fortunately the flight was manned by 2 CART volunteers, who proved to be very friendly and extremely helpful.  Jan had been told previously about the 2 colours of gate paddles, red and white: "red then white, you'll be alright, white before red, you'll probably be dead".  The lock keeper who helped us through the lock explained in great deal what this old adage meant - extremely useful as we will no doubt come up against the same colour scheme at Foxton.  While waiting to go up the locks we met a very nice couple on nb Mallard from Crick Marina. I happened to mention to them that we had had problems with the tunnel light through Braunston tunnel and the chap promptly furnished us with the appropriate bits of heat shrink to fix the problem - he had a real Aladdin's cave of bits and bobs for repairs, maybe a lesson to be learnt! They also waited for us at the entrance to Crick Tunnel so we could go through behind them just in case the light went out again. Fortunately the light worked fine, but a big thanks to Mallard (don't you just love canal folk!).
The view through Crick Tunnel

I thought it would be a good idea to take Spot for a good walk so she would be knackered when we went out with Mike and Elaine. I walked back down the tow path to the tunnel entrance and walked back up the track used to walk the horses over the tunnel. Big banks, and grass fields full of rabbits, Spot heaven, an hour later we returned with one of us dragging its tongue along the ground - not me!! A big drink of water and a short rest restored Spot to a state to eat. A few bits of dog food topped with half a Walker's pork pie, it did not touch the sides. Now you may think pork pie is not the norm for a dog, but I had this thought outside the butchers in Braunston. If I feed the dog with the pie from Tesco it would give us a good excuse to buy two much better hand made pies. Everyone wins! I get two pies, the butcher gets business and Spot eats pork pie for two days (At this point all the readers who know me are shouting "Yet again he ate all the pies").

6:30 and Mike and Elaine arrived to look around TM then we set off for Long Buckby for a curry. We left Spot in the boot of Mike's Range Rover, where she slept all evening without a whine or howl.

Mike is my cousin, he lives in a fantastic house near West Haddon (just down the road from Crick) so I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet up. For many years we only saw each other when our mums arranged some sort of family do, or someone got marred or died. Now both our mothers have died and virtually all  their immediate family have gone too. It then dawned on me that it was now up to us to keep in touch else the next time we meet one of us might be in a box. Besides, we like Mike and Elaine they are great company and we had a great evening and a good curry. Next time we come through this way we will arrange to pick them up for a day on TM. We look forward to that, and thanks for a great evening.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Tits McGee, The Prince of Darkness

No trip for Jan and me to Braunston can pass without a trip to the butchers in the village. We stocked up with dry cured bacon, pasties, sausage rolls, and various pies and pickles (many of the latter home-made and to die for).  Back to the boat on the pontoon, fill up with water and off towards the Grand Union Leicester Section. At Braunston locks we were lucky to pair up with nb Georgiana B crewed by a nice Cornish couple on their way back to Weltonfield Marina (their home mooring).  Despite the general female lock-handling, this lady chose to take their boat through - her first timer.  Hats off to her courage, she did really well!! Welcome team work to get through the locks!

Now we come to Braunston Tunnel. We had never been through a tunnel before so all was exciting; amazing how many bats we spotted on the tunnel roof; also the ventilation shafts through the tunnel to above ground showed how deep we were plus it showed an amazing feat of engineering - in the middle of this we were dodging the water streaming from the roof through the shafts.
It's all to much for Spot

At almost exactly half way through the tunnel Tilly May's tunnel light went out - woops and more woops!!  Jan ran through the boat switching on all the internal lights, found a torch and sat at the bow with a torch shining on the roof.  I must say we coped well, no panic, just slowed down and watched the tunnel walls illuminated by the internal lights until we emerged without a scratch. It might have been different if we had met another boat coming the other way! (Jan: amazed at Chris's calm throughout!!)

We moored opposite Weltonfield Marina and walked over to see if we could sort the tunnel light.  It looked like a short in the wiring where the wires came out of the boat.  The office staff at the marina - and our previous Cornish chums who offered a spare bulb - were very helpful and furnished us with some extra connectors and wire so all seems to be working fine now.  We will, however stop tomorrow and get a big lantern torch (or 2) just in case it happens again in Crick Tunnel.

We have now moored in the middle of nowhere  between bridges 2 and 3. Any further and we get sandwiched between the main railway line and the M1 - Too Loud Man!  But if we need KFC, burgers, etc we're only a short walk from 'civilisation'.  Think we'll stick with what we've got from local butchers!
Todays mooring

We will stop at Crick tomorrow and meet up with Mike and Elaine.

Authors Notes:
Let me explain the title of the post. I am currently reading Terry Darlington's new book "Narrow Dog to Wigan Pier". He has a fictitious superhero he turns into in times of trouble: he calls himself "Tits McGee". Jan is reading Ozzy Osbourne's autobiography (after reading all 3 of T D's books); Ozzy is known as The Prince of Darkness. Thus when trouble hits us in the Tunnel, I become Tits McGee and by conquering the tunnel became The Prince of Darkness. Not wearing my underpants over my shorts this time (or as TD fans will appreciate, not back to front) I conquer all!!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Back to Braunston despite Chaos Theory

We were due back on TM yesterday but I made the mistake of taking notice of a very poor weather forecast which turned out to be rubbish, so a good day was wasted. Note to self: get fir cone and some seaweed and stop taking notice of the Met Office.

When we left TM she needed a clean so last Wednesday we popped back and spent a couple of hours cleaning and scrubbing. The biggest problem is getting Spot fur out of the pale coloured carpet in the living room. We also managed to find time to have a lunch of chicken wings and a pint of Hooky at the Admiral Nelson.  The food was so good we booked a table for Sunday lunch.

After dumping all our stuff today on TM we nipped over to the Admiral Nelson for lunch washed down with a couple of pints of Hooky. We sat in the bright sunshine next to the canal and ate rare sirloin of beef with Yorkshire pud, potatoes roasted in goose fat and perfectly cooked veg - a separate dish contained cauliflower cheese, the sauce had horseradish in it - unusual but delicious. You could cut the beef with a fork!
Sunset over Braunston Marina 7pm (No Rain!)

So yet again today the prat from the Met Office was totally wrong! £10M on two Cray supercomputers, a bucket full of PhD's in non- linear maths and chaos theory, and they can predict the weather with the same amount of certainty as I can with a fir cone and a bit of seaweed!

Getting back into the boat mode - a few slurps, radio on and a good book on the Kindle.  Jan reading Ozzy Osbourne's life story "I am Ozzy" at the mo; says she can't understand how he's survived so long particularly after the abuse he's given his body but he was still awesome when we saw him at Download.

This week we are hoping to meet up with my cousin Mike and his wife Elaine as they live only a few miles from Crick, no doubt, more food and drink!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Music in the Park

Yesterday was the Music in the Park event in Castle Donington. It is organised and run by the Parish Council with sponsorship from Live Nation (the company the put on the Download Festival at Donington Park). For me the day started at 7:00am, marking out the area for the various stalls, and finished with the final litter pick at 8:30pm. See photos below for a list of the bands.
Leicester Co-Op Brass Band

Take That Tribute Band

Ed Safell

Kyle Tribute

The Standards

A Great Day
We estimate that about 2000 people turned up and had a good free day of entertainment

Linyl Vinyl  

Various Artists
I think this is the best community event that we do, you feel a tangibly growth in the community spirit at the day progresses. If you want to see more photos of the day click HERE.

Back on the boat in Saturday, cant wait!