Avoiding the weather


It seems like we are planning our cruising around the weather forecast these days. This time last year we were bemoaning the fact that we were locked in the Salthouse Dock in Liverpool when the sun was cracking the flags and it was perfect cruising weather.

12 months ago in sunny Salthouse Dock not allowed to cruise

But this year, April showers have turned into May monsoons. Ok perhaps not that bad, and the bright moments have been snatched and glorious.

Sunset at Swarkestone

We cruised up to Burton, travelling alongside Deep Dale Lane, which always makes us chuckle. We’re wondering if the signage is warning cars not to fall off the road into the canal, or warning boaters of the to be on guard for cars landing on their boats.

Deep Dale Lane

I’ve never seen any signage warning the sheep to take extra care,

Ewe better be careful

And sadly yes, I have seen more animals floating belly up, than cars going for a swim. Perhaps this heron is on sentry duty keeping an eye. Herons are used to canal life but usually fly off at the last moment so it was quite a treat to get up close and personal to this one standing on the side at Dallows lock.

Quite magnificent birds

It’s always a relief to see Dallow’s lock as we cruise into Burton. It’s the first of the single locks, which are so much easier to work through. But we moored up shortly after this in Burton.

14 day mooring in Burton

This stretch of Towpath is maintained by the homeowners who take great pride in their section, even the Armco edge had been neatly trimmed. But oh boy when it rained, the footpath took on the appearance of a new canal in its own right. We called it the Baby Burton Branch

The Baby Burton Branch

If it hadn’t been so miserable I’d have made some paper boats to float down in. Instead we sat inside and waited until it was dry enough to continue another few miles west.

Holiday’s in Swarkestone


With a bank holiday on the horizon we know that would only mean two things, “weather” and boaters leaving the marinas for the weekend, not that we mind either, both add to the spice of life, but we opted to moor up somewhere peaceful so we could watch the world go by.

Dandelion Row

And just as we expected the heavens opened

I’m glad we were under cover during this deluge

But the rewards were dramatic skies

I still wasnt risking going out for a walk

Our mooring spot, just below bridge 13 allowed us to look over the hedge to the rather magnificent Swarkestone Pavilion

Swarkestone Pavillion

This grade 1 listed building was thought to be built as a wedding gift in 1630 by sir John Harpur for his new wife lady Catherine Howard. It was a grandstand overlooking the bowling green of Swarkestone Hall, which is no longer there. Nowadays it’s a holiday home let by the Landmark Trust. I looked it up thinking it could be a fun venue for family get together, but despite its grandeur, it only sleeps two. Mind you, I wasn’t the only one to see it’s potential, the Rolling stones used it for a photo shoot of their album the Beggers Banquet, I’m not sure if this photo actually made it onto the album but it’s what came up on a Google search, disclaimer, I wasnt actually the photographer that day, I was still in nappies!

Showing off in Shardlow


As soon as I saw theses swans and their cygnets I knew we had to moor close by. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such confident friendly swans. But who can blame them wanting to proudly show off their young.

Let me introduce you to the family

Swans are amazingly attentive parents and clearly work as a team. I’m guessing these cygnets must have been under a week old. I was able to lean right over the water and snap these fluff balls close up.

We’re cute and we know it, please feed us…

Even when I saw them on the towpath I was able to get very close without causing any alarm to the parents, who carried on preening rather than hissing at me.

Time out for some adult pampering

But the babies needed their afternoon nap, so mum called them over and tucked them up under her wings

I’m glad we didn’t have 9 babies at the same time

You’d never have known there were 9 cygnets hiding in there.

Can you spot the one who won’t go to sleep

Of course it’s not just swans who are proud of their children, and as we cruised on, we dutifully smiled and waved as we become the local attraction.

Waving goodbye

Some Solar Stats


After a lot of procrastination I finally wired in the solar panel we fixed in place last summer.

The final solar panel in place

It takes our panel capacity from 640Watts to 1KW. I’m pleased to see the difference it makes, so have some figures to share.

Solar panels supplied by photonic universe


With the easing of lockdown and the better weather, we are now cruising in a more normal pattern for us, which admittedly is slowly. I’ve been very encouraged by the results we have seen. So far the panels are providing a lot more power than we use for propulsion and over all 51% of all the electricity we have used in the past two weeks, and when you consider we cook electric I think that is pretty impressive.
These are the figures for the past 2 weeks, mid April, weather predominantly sunny with some light cloud.
Cruising stats
• 13:47 hours cruising
• 21.9 miles covered
• 6 days cruising, 8 days moored.
Electricity usage over past 2 weeks
• Total 92 KW hrs
• Propulsion 12KW hrs (14%)
• Domestic 79 KW hrs (86%)
Sources of electricity over past 2 weeks
• Solar 47 KWhrs (51%)
• Gen set 38 KWhrs (42%)
• Battery 7 KWhrs (7%)
(note – the 7KWhrs of power that came from the batteries means the batteries had less charge in them at the end of the two weeks then they did at the start by 7KWhrs, which is 13% of our battery capacity.)
Power required for propulsion
• Per hour cruised – 945 watts
• Per mile of cruising – 594 watts
• While passing moored boats about 600 watts
• At average canal cruising speed (2.5-3mph) 1.7-1.8 KW

Only once in the past 14 days did we use more power for propulsion than we generated that particular day from the solar panels. That was the day we cruised for 4.5 hours downstream on the River Soar and then upstream on the River Trent. Although the boat travels faster and is more efficient on rivers, it still requires more power than on a canal. But even so, we still generated 89% of the propulsion power through the solar panels, so only 11% came from our batteries.

Power sources

Based on the past 4.5 years records, we only cruise on average once every 2.4 days. So taking into consideration our non-cruising days alongside our cruising days, the solar panels will provide far more power than we need for propulsion. In the past two weeks it has been 3.5 times as much, or 363% which means that even if we doubled the amount of cruising we do, the solar panels will still provide more power than we need for propulsion.

It is also interesting to see how much the power gained is increasing week by week. Two weeks ago the peak power was just 11.5 Amps now, at the end of April, it is over 15 Amps. I expect those figures to continue improving throughout May and June.

For other boaters reading this, you might be horrified at how much electricity we use for domestic purposes. To be fair, we are a gasless boat. We cook electric, use a 240v fridge, an electric kettle and toaster, and the washing machine heats from a cold fill. We run a diesel boiler for heating and hot water. Not to mention the other gadgets that keep us connected to the wider world.

Previous post about our solar set up https://nb-firecrest.co.uk/taking-advantage-of-the-sunshine/

Can I also take this opportunity to apologise that our contact and comments options are still disabled.

Trundling up to the Trent

We opted to stay put for the weekend and soak up the sunshine on the Zouch Cut. The sunrises were full of potential and quickly burnt off the overnight frost. As we expected the canal was busy with families enjoying themselves,

A family of 4 ducklings and proud mum

We filled our time walking through the meadows amongst the cows.

More cows

And along the bank of the river

Promenading along the river Soar at Normanton

Before we set off on the final section of 7 months on the Grand Union leicester line. The Soar flows into the cross roads of Trent at Cranfleet. Turn right to travel towards Nottingham or left for Derbyshire and straight across for the Erewash canal.

Choices, which way shall we go

Looking back you can barely see the mouth off the Soar

The mouth of the Soar is infront of the treeline

Through the Sawley cut

Sawley cut, looking towards Ratcliffe power station

Under the M1

Our prefered way to see the M1

Onto the Trent and Mersey canal

Derwent mouth, start of the Trent and Mersey Canal

Crossing the border

Bidding our farewells to the gorgeous Herefords on the Moor we continued our journey downstream. We didn’t venture onto the short branch line into the centre of Leicester because there was plenty of mooring, albeit with pins, within walking distance of the supermarket for us to stock up with a weeks worth of groceries.

Leicester line just south of the junction

Water points seem to have been a bit of a sore point recently as too many of them have been out of action, making planning ahead difficult. So we enjoyed a sunny hour at Bishop meadow whilst the stand pipe begrudgingly dribbled out sufficient to fill our tank. I took great delight seeing a green and white combi. My family had one the same colour over 40 years ago, and we would go off touring around Britain in it. It’s probably where I inherited a love of exploring but why I see our narrowboat life as a luxury compared to when mum dad me and my bro hard to live in the combi for a week. Eric knows if I ever won the lottery it would be another combi, not a Ferrari that would be my first car purchase.

Happy memories

Our journey downstream took us onto wide sections of the Soar
Past some desirable summer cottages.

The Leicestershire Riviera

And even more desirable houses at Normanton upon Soar.

Normanton upon Soar

Before we left the navigable river and turned onto the Zouch Cut for a few days mooring.

Zouch cut

I am reliably informed by those that know better that it is Zouch as in botch, where as the more familiar, Ashby de la Zouch is Zouch as in the boosh , the Mighty Boosh. And a quick Google search informs me that the origins of the name Zouch refer to a dweller by a tree stump, or perhaps someone who is stockily build. And after 6 months in Leicestershire, we have now crossed the border into Nottinghamshire

A little bit more of Loughborough


Loughborough Moor felt like it could have been in the middle of nowhere.

A promising start to the day

But inbetween the cows mooing, we could also hear what sounded like a steam train whistle. Sure enough, the Great Central Station wasn’t one of British Rail’s mainline hubs, but a terminus for the Great Central Railway heritage line. In its heyday, the line ran from Manchester to Marylebone, but now it operates both as a tourist attraction between Loughborough and Leicester and as a test track for modern diesel trains and restored steam trains.

The Great Central Station


The station was only 15 minutes walk from the moor, so we would happily have taken a trip, but of course, the service had been reduced so we could only get a brief glimpse of some locomotives through the fence.

The engine shed


When we came through Leicester 2 years ago, we discovered that Thomas Cook’s first package tour was an excursion from Leicester to Loughborough. I wonder what the Victorians thought of the industrial factories nearby the station. Or were they whisked through to Queens Park by carriage. We continued walking into town and passed by one rather striking building, Taylor’s, the world’s largest working Bell Foundry.

Taylor’s Bell Foundry

We were greeted warmly when I poked my head through the door marked museum, and glanced at the treasure trove of stories inside, but alas they weren’t able to permit us entry. We will have to come back another year.

A glimpse inside the museum


I’m missing the opportunities to really explore the places we visit, and now getting to know a bit more about Loughborough had to be done via the internet. We came across this man sitting in outside the town hall. He is known at the Sock Man, a sculpture by Shona Kinlock. He represents the knitted hosiery industry that helped create Loughborough’s prosperity.

The sock man


We felt rather sorry for him as he is only wearing one sock (besides a fig leaf for modesty). In my world of hand knitted socks this is known as the curse of SSS or Second Sock Syndrome, where the knitter becomes so enthralled (or bored) by the fact that they completed a whole sock that they fail to cast on the second. I’m sure we will come back another year to moor on the moor and explore Loughborough some more.

Advisory note… this post contains Cows

We’re watching you


We spent 5 nights on Loughborough Moor at Miller’s bridge, along with 3 other boats but still had enough considerate spacing between each boat for us to think this would be a peaceful mooring. “Oh no” said our nearest neighbour, “You wait until the cows arrive…..” I looked out shortly and saw this beautiful lady taking a drink,

Mirror mirror on the floor

Then the whole herd wandered over the bridge to join her

Here come the family

And just after teatime, the farmer arrived as well. He called over to apologise because they were going to be very noisy overnight as some of them had just been separated from their calves.

And the farmer

Dusk fell and it was a beautiful sunset, but not a cow or moo to be seen or heard.

Only bird song to disturb the peace


They had the good grace to spend the night over on the far side of the field, but sure enough at 5 am they emerged from the mist mooing mournfully.

Waking at dawn has its advantages

The farmer is very very caring. He comes into the field twice a day with a bucket of treats for them so that he can check them over. The canal/river is narrow enough at this point for us to hold a conversation, so as they tucked into their supper I learnt a bit about these beautiful pure Herefords and how to spot the Hereford/Holstein crosses.

Bottoms up

I wish I could share the video I took of them running to greet him. Much better than most modern TV comedy. But when he’s not around they do plod sedately

That must be delivermoo calling us

One afternoon we heard them making quite a commotion. I was a bit worried one might have fallen in whilst taking a drink.

Don’t fall in

But no, hidden by the longer grass, ones of them was giving birth. So on our last day on the Moor we were treated to watching a 1 day old calf frolicking. And if I thought that running cows were funny running calves are hilarious.

The little one hasn’t learnt to pose for the camera yet

I was quite sorry to say goodbye to them.

A short journey

We could have stayed in Barrow for a few more days, just soaking up the peace.

The meandering Soar at Barrow

Until the joy riders arrived on their bikes. Yes, Barrow Boating brings new meaning to travelling by water.

That looks more like hard work than fun.


There were several of these bike boats and swan shaped pedaloes, and once the frost had melted happy families joined the emerald drakes adding to the rich colours. The ducks seem to have disappeared, I can only assume they are now sitting on their nests and we’ll be rewarded with fluffy ducklings soon.

Where have all the ladies gone

But Barrow wasn’t always fun and frolicks as this poem pinned up at Barrow deep lock reminds us.


Barrow Deep lock is the deepest lock in the East Midlands region having a fall of 2.9m (9.7′) but it didn’t faze us, the deepest canal lock in this country is Tuel Lane on the Rochdale canal at 6m

The Barrow Deep lock

The rest of our day saw more wide open river sections.

The navigable Soar between Barrow and Pilling Lock


Although we didn’t plan to cruise far, just beyond Pillings Marina under Woodthorpe Bridge

Woodthorpe bridge

And onto Loughborough Moors, a journey which took us all of an hour to do of just over 2 miles. We are easing ourselves into the sort of boating we love.

More tranquility on Loughbourough Moor

Oh what A beautiful Morning, from Birstall to Barrow

We could have enjoyed a few more days at Birstall but the water point at at Friars Mill (in Leicester) wasn’t working and we were perilously close to running dry. (CRT were informed so hopefully it’s fixed now). We phoned ahead and were given permission to fill up at Leicester marina, and carried on our way.

The river Soar

Canal builders knew how to make the most of local features and took advantage of the navigable sections of the river Soar so canal and river intermingle which makes for an interesting journey. We love the 1860 bridge at Mountsorrel. It was built to carry the railway supporting the local pink granite quarries. At 90feet (27m) it’s one of the countries longest single span brick bridges. The track was lifted in the 1950s and although it’s now a grade II listed structure, previous restoration was badly done and it’s condition is deteriorating.

The 1860 bridge at Mountsorrel

We were lucky to get onto the visitor mooring at Barrow Boating as there’s only room for 1 narrowboat and a small cruiser.

Visitor mooring at Barrow Boats

During the day there’s a steady stream of walkers crossing the bridge over the weir that permits the river to continue its meanders whilst the canal to cut the corners.

The weir at Barrow


But at 6am in the morning it was all ours for one of the most breathtaking walks we’ve had so far this year. (Not that we usually walk at 6am but when I saw the sun rise and the frost, there was no way I was missing this treat) The flood plane meadow beyond the weir was shrouded in ethereal mist.

It seems like the cattle had the same idea for a morning walk, but thankfully they haven’t worked out how to open the gate over the bridge.

Cattle on the soar

It’s a bit surreal with the daytime reaching teeshirt temperatures, to see a proper frost first thing.

Frosty nettles

I’m quite glad we haven’t discarded the winter duvet yet.

That’s ice on the roof

I usually compile a “create your own calendar” so we can enjoy looking back over our previous years travels, I fear 2022 may be full of misty morning images.

I still haven’t decided which is my favourite

Grazing rights

I should say that Barrow upon Soar looks an interesting place to explore, I’d image it was a thriving place in the 17th/18th century looking at the houses. But with Eric suffering badly from the catkin pollen we decided to leave our daytime explorations until we can return here in another season. There’s plenty of 14 day Armco mooring just beyond the next bridge. And lots of lovely walks