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
We had a lovely few days on Victoria Embankment overlooking, (or should that be underlooking) Trent Bridge, watching the Dragon Boat training. Eric doesn’t like the thought of me sitting at the bow beating a drum, it defeats the idea of a silent electric boat, and besides as all boaters know…. you shouldn’t go fast past moored boats…..But it was time to set off back up the Beeston Canal through Nottingham, admiring the grand warehouse developementsand snapping almost identical photos to those that took on our outward journey. I wonder if the sun always shines on this canalside hub. We never found out how to access it from city side.
The forecast was dodgy so we decided to push on to Nottingham whilst it wasn’t raining, and I’m so glad we did. We we welcomed onto Victoria Embankment with flags, balloons and banners promoting the Tour of Britain. Thankfully not our own slow meander around the country but the high speed cycle tour, which was due to start from West Bridgford the next morning. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but there was a buzz of excitement as I pushed forward through the crowds. I’m not sure of the terminology but being a TV fan of the F1 Grand Prix, it felt like we were doing the grid walk.The car park had been turned into the paddock and the teams were preparing themselves for the race. Coaches and support vehicles all emblazoned with their team sponsors, cyclists, reporters and fans, all milling together, eagerly awaiting the start on the High street. I’d got a route map and knew that they were going over Trent Bridge twice, to do a circuit of central Nottingham and back again, so once the teams left the paddock I walked back towards the river and managed to get a prime position on the corner. Of course not being a true cycling fan I hadn’t anticipated just how quickly the peloton whizzed past.I’m fairly sure these are 2 of our British hero’s, Geraint Continue reading Touring Britain, but not by boat
After some mindless hooligans spoilt our last visit to Newark we were a little apprehensive. We delayed our entry into the town to avoid the weekend by using the Muskham Ferry patrons mooring. We anticipated they’d be quite tricky to get onto due to the river flow and the short angled pontoons. The easy solution would have been to go in bow first but you cant use the pub if you cant get off your boat easily, so that would defeat ths object. Eric’s helmsmanship was well and truly tested, they don’t do reversing around a corner whilst going upstream in boat school. Thank goodness we’d chosen to arrive in the morning before the gongoozelers were watching, it took 2 attempts but we made it. I made sure he was well rewarded and we fulfilled our “patrons duty” with several pints and a good sunday lunch.And before the anticipated weather change, I got to finish the shawl I was knitting and took advantage of the sunshine to wash and dry it flat on the roof.
Well replenished we set off to for the last few miles into Newark.
We steamed ahead towards the castle and in our excitement forgot to read the map, I mean what could be so hard to navigate, under the bridge and moor up on the right….Oops, when you have an 8 foot radio mast, it pays to to go through the middle arch with enough headroom. Luckily I don’t think the damage to the bridge was severe enough to stop the traffic. And it really was only the tip of the ariel that scuffed the already flakey brickwork. Much relieved we moored up at Farndon and I went for a walk. One of the last remaining working willow holts a is just off the mooring. Both a fascinating site for the number of varieties of willow trees, a haven for wildlife. This Comma Butterfly obliged me by posing for a photo.
Victoria Embankment is a great place for people watching and an even better place for boat watching. Although I think Roger the anchor man had been at it a bit too long and had forgotten to come down for his dinner. There were the large. Several huge floating gin palaces came past, full of happy people, the later the hour, the noisier and flashier the lights, but they were travelling sedately so didn’t cause firecrest to rock, so not a nuisance at all.Not like these maniacs on their hover speedboat. They were ‘playing’ with a jet skier, racing round like Vettel drawing donuts. Don’t get me wrong speed can be great fun, but they weren’t wearing life jackets and the consequences didn’t bear thinking about if they had crashed into each other. And they created a huge wash. There were a lot of rowers or skullers, I’m never sure how to tell the difference. Some were obviously in training with coxes with microphones and coaches on bikes racing along side on the bank.Some like the Dragon boats looked ready to take on the speed boat.Some just prefered to sit with a fishing rod watching the world go by. These girls had brought their picnic so stopped paddling for a bit to eat.I chose to wander into town, West Bridgford is the rather attractive town separated from Nottingham by the river. About 5 minutes walk from our mooring, I found the thriving buzzing high street. Lots of rather nice street cafes, not that we could afford to ‘take lunch’ in them. And itC turns out to be where one of our best friends was born, and his parents had married at the parish church, St Giles.I went to the Sunday morning service and received a warm welcome, Bridgford is lucky to have such a lively thriving parish church. Definitely one I’ll return to. While we were moored here, our friends Ian Joy and Kate joined us. Trad sterns aren’t the best place for 5 people to stand whilst cruising so we let the fellas do their stuff at the helm.
From our mooring on Victoria Embankment, we could just about see a windmill in the distance, north of Trent bridge. I had to do a bit of digging to find out more, and discovered they were having a summer fete, and what’s more, it was only 1.5 miles away.
George Greens father built the Green’s mill in 1807, when it produced flour for Sneinton. But when George inherited the family business he chose to install a manager so study science and mathematics at Cambridge. After several owners and disastrous fires the mill is now grinding flour again as a charitable organisation and also promoting science and maths to children. The fete was to be officially opened by the Sherrif of Nottingham. For some silly reason I was quite disappointed to see an ordinary lady Sherrif instead of a villainous greedy Walt Disney character. We took the tour to the top of mill and guess what, we could still see Nottingham Castle, on the left of the picture. I could also just about see Trent bridge, but not good enough for a photo. Greens mill is one of the recognised attractions of the area and the lovely park around it makes a perfect picnic spot.
On leaving the Beeston Canal we were planning to turn north and head downstream but a couple of people had said Victoria Embankment was a nice place to moor. So we came through lock 1, and turned south to go upstream instead. There is about 2 miles of navigable river before we would have to turn around. Passing by the Nottingham Forest football ground, and under Trent Bridge itself. Now it’s a beautiful 3 arch stone and iron bridge, painted in blue and gold, built in 1868. The first was built in 970 but I couldn’t find any photos. The second built in 1156 had 20 stone arches and a chapel dedicated to St James. But they continued to be destroyed by flood. Here the river is now contained by concrete steps on either side, which not only greatly widens it’s flood volume, but makes Victoria Embankment a very attractive place for us to moor and a real asset for the local community. It was packed with people from the County Hall taking their lunch breaks.Sir Jesse Boot, founder of Boots chemists, had the memorial gardens built on this section but sadly they have suffered from lack of maintenance, so despite these impressive gates, the gardens were weedy, and the grand rockery was starting to fall apart. But the grounds are expansive and beyond the formal gardens are fields that double as a car park for the nearby sporting venues.You can conveniently cross over the river on a suspension footbridge known as Wilford Bridge. On Thursday we looked out to see hordes of people doing so because the most famous sporting venue here is the Trent Bridge cricket ground. And England were playing India. The atmosphere was party like all day so we couldn’t have guessed from the demeanour of the crowds going home who had won. We could hear the roars of the crowd cheering. I took a photo in the morning for a family who were obviously of Indian origins, so I asked who they were supporting- mum and dad instantly said India, the children England. India won. This was taken from Wilford Bridge. The flood lights and curved roof on the right are the the Trent Bridge cricket ground. The green roofs are the County Hall. Notts Forest FC is behind the scaffolding on the left. And that’s the bridge itself on the left. Firecrest is the 7th boat from the right. Perhaps the sunshine has helped but this has proved a very sociable mooring, one we will use again. Lots to explore.
The 5 mile Beeston Canal bypasses an un-navigable section of the river Trent and takes us through central Nottingham. I thought this would be a treat, but the anticipation of a big shopping centre failed to excite me once I got out to explore. I morn the demise of a proper high street with independent shops selling goods they are proud of. But it’s not all bad, there has been some effort to take advantage of the canal and make it into an attractive community space.Fellows Morton and Clayton had a big warehouse and wharf here which is now a thriving bar selling craft beer.One good thing about town centre canals is that there’s often a supermarket close enough for me to surreptitiously take a full trolley right back to the boat. And there was a super view of the castle from the retail park. Mooring was unrestricted by Sainsbury’s but we moved on around the corner to take advantage of an over hanging tree. Although there were a lot of people using the tow path and some rough sleepers, it was a quiet night. We set off the next day to complete the last two miles of this section.Quite a mix of old and new buildings to catch our attention. Nottingham is a tall city. This one particularly caught our eye.And some lovely bridges.although not every one agrees with CRT’s recent rebranding, spending goodness knows how much on promoting the canal network to a wider audience. Not sure how wide an audience this sign will reach being underneath the bridge.
I was lucky enough to find out that Nottingham Castle was due to close for a multi-million pound revamp over the next two years, but even better for us, they had removed the entry charge for the week. So off we went to see what we could find. The kids were in, attempting to build a replica out of Lego.The castle was full of atmosphere, and history. William the Conqueror built the castle in1067 but it became dilapidated and was demolished in 1649. The Duke of Newcastle built the ducal palace in its plac, but in 1831 rioters burnt it down. The Duke was paid £21000 in compensation but didn’t rebuild his home and eventually in 1878 Notingham council rebuilt it as a museum and art gallery.
The castle was built in a huge sandstone rock and overlooked an array of old and new buildings. The one that looks like a stadium is actually the HMRC offices, (which is right next to the canal.)We wondered which building Robin Hood would be frequenting now.One of the other things Nottingham is famous for is that it is the home of Torvil and Dean and their Bolero costumes from their 1984 are on display in the castle.
The Castle dominates the city and as we cruised through Nottingham we could look up through the houses we could see it. The castle was a good place to spend the day, but I hope when it is re opened in 2020/21 it won’t be known as the castle because sadly it is not a castle any more.