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.

Second Christmas

If the hobbits can have second breakfast we can have second Christmas. This time we were celebrating on board Firecrest on 25th December. Sadly it is the first time I can remember that we haven’t been able to go to church, but that wasn’t going to dampen our spirits, we knew who’s name we’d be singing a happy birthday to as we washed our hands that day.

I’d decorated the corner of the saloon with a miniature Christmas tree, that had been delivered by post complete with lights and decorations (thankyou Carole) and added the gifts we had been given last week. Everything looked perfect.

Firecrest’s Christmas corner

I won’t go into all our little traditions but as you can see we had a good time.

Goodness knows where we’ll put it all

Lunch was a prepped turkey roast intended for four, but hey we need leftovers to last the week.

Turkey roast from our favourite Suffolk butcher

But the effort was worth it.

Mmm not sure the cook is supposed to wash up as well

More presents in the afternoon, usually Eric gives me a jigsaw.

Easily pleased, he’s already drunk the whisky

but I turned tables this year and had this one printed from what we consider to be our best photo of the year. There is a confident kingfisher, who’s territory is the Market Harborough Union Wharf. And his favourite perch – no pun intended, just happened to be right opposite where we were moored. We saw him so often we became rather blasè about “our” kingfisher. Eric was able to snap away with his digital SLR most days.

What a poser

Try as we might, didn’t quite capture the moment he dived for his dinner, even though we saw it happen several times.

Preened and proud

So as we wrap up our Christmas cheer, I want to say thankyou to all our friends and family who found a way to send cards, gifts and good cheer. Thankyou, we love and appreciate you all. And to our friends and family who have not been able to celebrate this Christmas, particularly the families of Connell, Chris and Angie you are in our hearts and prayers.

Golden days

The stretch of canal between Husbands Bosworth and Foxton is a favourite of ours. I think it’s the hills on one side,

bridge 51, Laughton

and the vistas on the other.

Looking towards Lubenham

But in October it’s the golden trees glowing, that adds an extra joy to cruising in the autumn.

Somewhere around Lubenham

We love being rural, but it takes some planning to make sure we don’t run out of fresh food. There isn’t a supermarket on every street corner and sadly you can’t rely upon there being a village store anymore. But today, Google maps had revealed a potential opportunity in Husbands Bosworth. And having checked the tortuous route of the canal we reckoned I could walk the 2 miles inland and do the shopping by the time Eric had cruised the 3 miles to the next easy access.

A4304 to Husbands Bosworth


And we’d got our timing right. I arrived back on the Towpath just in time to see Eric and Firecrest emerge from the Bosworth Tunnel

North portal of husbands Bosworth tunnel

Fully stocked up again we were able to enjoy a few days quiet mooring

In the middle of nowhere

With some profitable walks, as we found several generous apple trees with enough windfalls to gather

I see Apple pie

So I made pie for tea

Pie day


And again it would be quicker to walk, 3 miles to Market Harborough or 8 via canal

Looking towards Leicestershire

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.

Graffiti

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.