Many lives of Leicester

Archaeology shows that Leicester was a celtic settlement in the Iron age, long before the Romans arrived and created a garrison town. With Romans and soldiers and access to a navigable river, the community naturally grew. We didn’t have to wander far to see some old buildings. Sadly there is very little left of the castle other than a few walls.

Old castle walls

But the castle grounds weren’t wasted as they were incorporated into the more modern homes.

Inside thd GuildHall

Commerce thrived, and wealth was acquired which needed showing off. Leicester has one of the countries oldest surviving guildhalls built 600 years ago. It’s now a museum, showing off it’s finery.

Magnificent fireplace in the guildhall

Guildhalls frequently became the town’s courthouses and prisons, Leicester’s being no exception, proudly showing off it’s gibbet iron. This one is a replica of one used to display the executed body of James Cook. He was hung for a grusome murder infront of a 30000 strong crowd in 1832, and that was before social media was banned from showing grizzly images. Apparently criminals weren’t always dead before they were hoisted up for public display.

Gibbet Iron, no longer in use

Thomas Cook (no connection to the afore mentioned murderer) was born in Derbyshire but made his home in Leicester. It was here that he set about encouraging social improvement through education and consumption of less alcohol. He saw the emerging railway as a means to create this opportunity and in 1841 he organised his first escorted tour. He took a group of 500 people 12 miles from Leicester to Loughborough to attend a temperance meeting, it cost 1 shilling. The rest they say is history.

Thomas Cook overseeing the building work at the train station

Leicester also played a pioneering role in the knitwear industry, introducing machinery to manufacture hosiery, there are knitting machines on display in the Abbey Pump house. However it is the Leicester Seamstress that is commemorated with a city centre sculpture where she is sewing up the stocking seams by hand.

The Leicester Seamstress

Space to explore

One of Leicester’s attractions is the National Space Centre

We’ve seen the brown signs as we’ve whizzed by on 4 wheels but never had the time to stop and investigate. So now that we were close enough to walk into space, it was time to take that giant leap. We invited Tim to join us for the day as he has a degree in astrophysics, I thought he might be able to give Eric some intelligent conversation.

National Space Centre.

Tim and Eric discussing the practicalities of living on the ISS

It was an interesting venue, even though it was geared towards the millions of little aliens swarming beneath our feet from the many school visits taking place. We got a better view looking up

Satellite in the rocket tower.

But being true boaters, once we’d done space, we nipped across the road to the Abbey Pumping Station, a free entry museum, (unlike the expensive NSC) which showcases Leicester’s industrial and technology heritage in magnificent Victorian building

Unlike the space industry where, practicality and weight take high priority, the Victorians added finesse to their structures.

Both eras are awesome but beauty is subjective and if I’m honest I be hard pushed to say which venue I enjoyed more.

It’s a good half hours walk back into the town centre, more if you stop to enjoy the cherry blossom along the river. But there is mooring beyond the museum’s and I’d strongly recommend visiting both if you’re feeling flush, (and yes you’ll see how an astronaut toilet works) and definitely visit the pumping station if you’ve got an hour to spare.

National Space centre

Abbey Pumping Station

From Car Park to Cathedral

Via the Castle Garden. We weren’t sure if we’d get a mooring in central Leicester but even though we’d been enjoying some glorious cruising weather, it seemed most boats were still tucked up for the winter. The waterways quiet and moorings plentiful, so we had a whole pontoon to ourselves. The pontoon itself has a locked gate into the gardens and the gardens are locked to the public at 5.30 each day, meaning not only did we get an extra level of security but our own private garden and castle ruin to enjoy in the evening.

Castle gardens

This is our first visit to Leicester, it seems a friendly city, not too big, the usual array of commercialism and a sense of pride in its history.

Most notably, Richard III. In 1485 he was defeated by Henry Tudor and killed at the battle of Bosworth. This was the last battle of the War of the Roses and marked the end of the middle ages in England. His body was unceremoniously buried in Leicester’s Greyfriars church although according to wiki, in the garden, not the car park. Henry Tudor, now King Henry VII, did pay £50 (£40 000 today ) to have a monument erected but over the years the site was lost. Until in 2012 research lead the RIII society to a council car park, ironically to a reserved bay marked with an R. During their first excavation human bones were discovered, which we now know to be those of Richard. After a bit of wrangling, he was ceremonially reburied in Leicester Cathedral.

Richard III

We’ve never been ones for paying homage at tombs, but we were both touched by the simple dignity that surrounded this new grave.

I particularly liked the modern stained glass that overlooked the tomb, (photo taken from the web)

Leicester Cathedral stained glass

From Canal to River

Shortly after leaving a very pretty mooring at Kings Lock the Grand Union Leicester Line, merges with the River Soar.

The River Soar merging into the canal

It wasn’t dramatic, no melee of boats rushing into an orderly single file, but subtle differences like having a natural rather than manmade bank. And now we have to be alert to flood warnings.


Getting to the outskirts of the city, the navigation is managed to maintain depth although with this amount of graffiti, we’re always uncertain what else might be lurking under the surface waiting to snare the prop. We came across the CRT crew, who had just pulled a safe out of the channel. That would certainly caused us problems

Donella Too

We were lucky enough to be joined by Donella Too to do our final few locks into the city.

Moored opposite the Leicester City football ground

And couldn’t miss the opportunity to add another football ground to our list of venues visited.

city ground weir and lock

Although there was a significant barrier stopping us getting too close.

Lambs leaves locks and litter

Wandering up the Leicester Line has been quite rural so far. Every day I get to hear the little lambs bleating, but they must all be camera shy because I’ve hardly had a chance to snap any of them. But we’ve had plenty of other things to watch out for on our journey north.
The canal has a fair amount of debris in it. So far it’s been lots of vegetation and branches, hardly surprising considering the strong winds a fortnight ago. But the amount of plastic and domestic rubbish is on the increase. We try where possible to pick up litter and dispose of it in a bin, so we were somewhat nonplussed when we came across about 15 big black bin liners that had obviously been fly tipped off a bridge, they’d be sure to cause a problem to someone’s prop so we dutifully attempted to hook them out as we cruised past.
Anyone who’s tried to lift something out of a canal knows that the laws of physics doesn’t make it easy. I got the first heavy waterlogged bag onto the bank, but the second split and revealed what looked like garden waste. “Thank goodness it’s not body parts” I thought glibly, only to realise that the weed I’d revealed had seven leaves, hmmm a quick Google search confirmed my suspicions that it was indeed cannabis.

The seven fingers

Now believe it or not, we try to be good law abiding citizens, our primary thought was how much could we make out of this haul, then we went back to our more immediate concern that all those bags would be a hazard to other boaters. It being Sunday meant that CRT was only available for emergencies, and I’m not sure where the division for emergency and non emergency lies, so whilst I dithered, I thought I’d let the police know, again, I knew this wasn’t a 999 emergency so I dialled 101. It was an automated answering service which suggested I pressed “hash” for other options, goodness knows what the operator thought cause I’d definitely got the giggles by then. 101 weren’t interested, the council deal with fly tipping. We’d decided not to hang around but saw some CRT guys who said they’d go the next day to remove them.

Mooring below Kings Lock

We were happy to leave our bags behind although we were still on a high having finally got cruising again this week. Fresh air and warm sunshine is enough of a fix for me. But oh boy, am I tired. We are now into double lock territory, and we haven’t had to do a double since the Braunston flight in October. My muscles are stiff and achey. There’s still hardly any boats moving and not only has every lock been set against us, the bottom gates are blowing open of their own accord and wouldn’t stay shut until there was water flow. It really is time I took the helm more. But that’s a challenge for another day.

We’re on our way

Having trundled up and down the A14 far too many times over the past 3 months, I met Eric at Welford so we could relocate the superfluous lengths of copper pipe, redundant DIY tools and pieces of planed oak, and I could return my essentials, the spare knitting needles, spinning wheel and bags of wool.

It was such glorious evening I didn’t want to leave Firecrest, but I needed to return the car to Heather. The next day Eric moved the boat up to Foxton and I returned on the train to Market Harborough. Our good friend Jo collected me from the station and we all went to say our farewells at Bridge 61, the boaters pub.

Soup at pub Bridge 61.
Soup at Bridge 61

We love the community of local folk and boaters, at bridge 61. They welcomed us warmly and we will make a point of returning next time we’re here. We think, that besides me and Jo, they make the best and most interesting soup. Tangy Carrot, and Mushroom and Stilton, to name two.

Approaching Foxton locks

We said our goodbyes to Jo and settled down for a good night’s rest before our journey north began. The Foxton flight is always manned, and as we were first boat of the day, the two volunteers were more than happy to do the majority of the work. Lovely guys and we appreciate your help. We did the flight, all 10 locks in 45 minutes.

Picked up fuel from Debdale marina and set off singing. We were just coming up to Saddington tunnel when we were flagged down because a widebeam was coming through. It was an emergency transit and they had CRTs permission provided they checked the way was clear before they came through. Sod’s law that we were the only boat moving that day. Not to worry though, we called it a lunch break.

Looking down onto the canal from saddlington tunnel
Looking down from Saddington Tunnel

Once we got underway again, I took the opportunity to walk over the top of the tunnel rather cruise through in the dark.

NB Firecrest cruising on Leicester Line Grand Union canal
Coming in to moor

After working through a few heavy double locks, we came to moor up for the night, very happy that we were finally on our way. Its a good feeling to be on the move, enjoying the fresh air, and each others company.

We are heading north, with the intention of enjoying the Leeds and Liverpool canal over the summer, with one or two diversions along the way to visit family in the Chesterfield and Sheffield areas.

I think we’re back

We’re sorry for such a long unexplained absence, we’ve had a few problems. Back in December we had some uninvited guests, unless that is, you wanted to purchase Chinese furniture. We’d been hacked and taken over. Eric spent a lot of time and effort sorting it all out, cleaning up, making it safe and significantly reducing the possibility of it happening again. Now whether as a result of all the work Eric did, or pure coincidence of timing, wordpress has also been doing some work, and consequently I have been unable to save any of the posts I have written, which has meant nothing’s been published for several months. Its been a frustrating and miserable time. I love writing and I’m always touched when people tell me they enjoy reading about our adventures.

Kingfisher near Market Harborough

On the plus side of things, at least we lost the blog over winter when our coddiwompling was seriously curtailed. Apart from winter being the best time to see kingfishers, in reality you have missed very little.

Looking across Crick Marina

We had planned to take 2 months in a marina so that Eric could do some DIY on Firecrest. We chose to use Crick Marina because of its closeness to the A14, the most direct route back to the bricks and mortar. The work took a little longer than expected thanks to us both succumbing to the flu for 3 weeks in January. I won’t go into detail, but Firecrest wasn’t built with maintenance in mind and it’s been a hard slog reaching fuel lines and water ingress points in cramped inaccessible places. And our visitors will be relieved to hear that the back steps now have equal height rises so they dont their dignity is maintained as they tumble into the boat. As will always be the case there is still plenty more to be done but we were all going stir crazy not cruising.

Early morning at Yelevetoft

We moved Firecrest out of Crick Marina at the end of February, sat out Storm Gareth at Yelvetoft Wharf and finally on March 22nd I travelled back to the boat by train and promised Heather I wouldn’t be imposing on her Suffolk hospitality until…. until the next time.

We have now set off on our cruising adventure for this year and hopefully over the next week I shall get back into the swing of sharing some of the joys we experience on a more regular basis.

Towards Market Harborough

Whist yesterday’s wander into Welford had been a joy to be out cruising in autumn,  today it was cold and harsh.
At least as we made our way through Husband Bosworths tunnel it was dry.And although it wasn’t sunny, the canal cut through an avenue of beech trees. And out into some open hilly Leicestershire countryside.  To help warm me up I got out and walked.
Until we got to our overnight mooring at the top of Foxton Locks. This has to be one of my top ten views from the canals, sadly the camera doesn’t do it justice.

Wandering up to Welford

Continuing our journey north, we woke to the most glorious of days, so decided to make the most of what autumn was left. Today was a true Codiwomple To travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination. We would take a detour just for the pleasure of cruising and venture down the short Welford Arm.

First though, it was with great amusement (and smugness) that we cruised underneath the A14As anyone from Suffolk knows there are only 2 escape routes, the A12 and the A14, both long tedious roads that are too small for the volume of traffic using them. We had crawled the A14 many a time on our way up to Braidbar and frequently stopped off at Welford to refresh our sanity. Seeing the A14 from the canal is much much prettier. Mind you we did have a moment when we thought the canal would grind to a halt, we had  “leaves on the line” More in the lock than on the trees,Although what were left on the branches were pure gold.Welford itself has a small marina basin at the end of the line, we were able to moor up and head for sustenance, this time enjoying a huge bowl of homemade soup, in Totty’s tearoom.  It’s a tiny place and the as the owner/cook/waitress chatted to us, she got Eric summed up in one, and offered him a second bowl on the house. Silly man, he was too full for the best coffee and walnut cake I’ve had for a long time, not that it stopped him having a piece. The light was going as we got back to Firecrest so we didn’t walk around the village this time. But this little detour was worth it. We will be back again to visit Welford and to explore properly.