We moored up expecting rain but were rewarded with a few precious moments worth of blue sky as I looked across the water meadows.
We had seen the church perched on the hill as we cruised through Wychnor
So I took the opportunity to walk back along the river section for a closer look.
I climbed up the hill and found some info boards in the adjoining fields hinting of the archaeological significance of mediaeval settlements, but the village was wiped out during the plague, I didn’t stick around to investigate more. Alrewas however survived and became a thriving village with some stunning timber framed thatched cottages
And Coates, one of our favourite butchers shops.
We can recommend the pies, sausages and rump steak, however we suspected the local camel would taste a bit wooden.
We wondered if there’s an equivalent term for boaters who look wistfully at houses like gongoozlers watch narrowboats. And where does that place us with our modern electric boat, hankering after an old thatched cottage.
We didn’t make it up to the national memorial arboretum this visit, preferring to follow ratty’s advice on this Canal side cottage.
So we had to smile when we came across another Braidbar boat, appropriately named.
Usually we love this time of year, with ducklings and spring flowers, but this May it’s been a struggle just to accept what is, is. The weather has really put a dampener on our spirits. We’ve had some lovely meetings up with friends and family, but all with shadows of having to be careful, not to get too close, and will it be warm and dry enough to meet outside. Equally so, this has impacted on our cruising, and desire to explore. But we still realise just how lucky we are to live this life and really how little serious impact Covid really has had on us personally. We cruised up to Shobnall Marina in Burton to fill up with diesel.
It really is a great little marina and Chandlery, if not least because diesel prices are so good, 69p/l, mind you it’s a skill getting in and out of this place as it is situated on the now disused Bond End arm cut. So it’s a sharp right under the bridge, and a reverse out.
The weather dictated our next stop, fearing imminent rain, we stopped to overnight at Branston Water park. But after a heavy downpour the sun came back out again. Giving us magnificent clouds to enjoy.
I was a bit worried Branston had become more of a safari park, than a nature reserve, when we saw this lioness sitting on the towpath.
But it didn’t deter the family of geese guarding Firecrest
And we snatched half an hour’s sunshine to walk through the woods around the lakes.
We continued our journey the next day past the lovely Tatenhill lock, where its cottage is now a desirable Bed and Breakfast.
The next stretch of canal runs a close parallel to the A38 so for an hour or so, we just have to grin and bear the noise of heavy traffic. Grumpy me would like to say “we were here first” but actually the A38 follows the roman road here, so in this instance we accept the road was here before the canal. We returned to tranquility as the river Trent and the canal mingle again for a short while. And today there were warning signs to “enter with care” as levels are in the amber zone, but looking at the flow and comments from oncoming boats, we weren’t too concerned and passed through safely.
We stopped on the 48 hour Alrewas moorings to sit out another day or two of threatened rain.
And again enjoy the dramatic clouds in between the deluge.
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.
But this year, April showers have turned into May monsoons. Ok perhaps not that bad, and the bright moments have been snatched and glorious.
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.
I’ve never seen any signage warning the sheep to take extra care,
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
And just as we expected the heavens opened
But the rewards were dramatic skies
Our mooring spot, just below bridge 13 allowed us to look over the hedge to the rather magnificent Swarkestone Pavilion
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!
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.
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.
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.
But the babies needed their afternoon nap, so mum called them over and tucked them up under her wings
You’d never have known there were 9 cygnets hiding in there.
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.
After a lot of procrastination I finally wired in the solar panel we fixed in place last summer.
It takes our panel capacity from 640Watts to 1kW. I’m pleased to see the difference it makes, so have some figures to share.
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 week • 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.
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.
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,
We filled our time walking through the meadows amongst the cows.
And along the bank of the river
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.
Looking back you can barely see the mouth off the Soar
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.
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.
Our journey downstream took us onto wide sections of the Soar Past some desirable summer cottages.
And even more desirable houses at Normanton upon Soar.
Before we left the navigable river and turned onto the Zouch Cut for a few days mooring.
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
Loughborough Moor felt like it could have been in the middle of nowhere.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
Then the whole herd wandered over the bridge to join her
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.
Dusk fell and it was a beautiful sunset, but not a cow or moo to be seen or heard.
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.
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.
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
One afternoon we heard them making quite a commotion. I was a bit worried one might have fallen in whilst taking a drink.
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.