Friday, July 31, 2015

Trent trip - final day

Wednesday morning, and, after long farewells with Dave and Sandy, we left Smeeton and moved on. San Fairy Ann led the way, past Debdale Wharf and on to Foxton, where they turned left and went up the Market Harborough Arm, and we moored up at the foot of the locks, to wait to go up.

Dave and Sandy are a lovely couple, and they made our already very enjoyable trip even more so. We seem to have a lot in common with them, and we got on really well together. We enjoyed lots of conversation, very many laughs, hours of games. We became good friends.

I love it that they talk about feeling "privileged" to be living on their boat for eight months of the year. It's a word you don't hear very often these days. People now seem to think that they have an automatic right to good things. "I've worked for it", or "I've paid my dues", their just desert. Like us, Dave and Sandy feel privileged, and I believe they enjoy their boating all the more because of that.

They're off to Liverpool next month. We'll have to do that another year. This year, we have to be at Yelvertoft so that Grace can practise then complete the roses and castles on Kantara. We'll stay in touch with Sandy and Dave, and we hope very much to travel with them again some time.

Grace and I had a long haul back to Yelvertoft, slowed at times by others - difficult meetings at bridges and bends, and having to follow one young man on a boat which rarely went anything other than dead slow. Slowing down for moored craft meant, for him, drifting past in neutral! But at least we escaped the rain which loomed in the clouds all around us.

Arriving back at the marina late, and too tired to do anything else, we ate at The George and went to bed early.

It was a great trip. 200 miles and 128 locks.We thoroughly recommend the River Trent. 


I see a turning wheel
On a dusty track,
Caught in the void and empty space
In between there and back,
And the paradise of going somewhere
That's still so far away.
Happy? Boy you bet I am,
Holding on to this smile for just as long as I can.


It's all bright in front
And it's all dark behind,
Livin' for the now that's in between the bridges and the signs,
And getting there is still a long long way to go.
While the others dream and wish
This is everything I officially need to know.
Happy? Boy you bet I am,
Holding on to this smile for just as long as I can.


(Chris Rea)

My song of the moment. I don't claim fully to understand the lyrics, but a lot of it just sounds so right for me. If I fully understood it, I might think otherwise! I'm singing it a lot. Love it.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Out of Leicester, and getting stoned at Pochin's Bridge

There was heavy rain throughout the Leicester evening, and the four of us all had a quiet night in, in our own boats. It was cold. A damp cold. We turned on the Alde boiler and put on pullovers. Just before bed, we realised that the boat was listing. I got out to investigate. The river had risen in the rain, and our ropes were now too tight, pulling the side of the boat down towards the bank. Smiling at the driving rain, I loosened them all. And went to bed.

The rain had finished by the morning, and we'd not been swept away by the flooding river, nor even had the ropes got too tight again. White cloud was forecast for the day. Yeah, right. So after a quick trip to Tesco to buy food for the remaining days of the trip, and a visit from an old guy who purported not to be a robber, but homeless, unemployed, not having eaten for two days and in need of some money, but wouldn't let me take him to Tesco to buy him some food instead, because he didn't need it right now, he wanted to buy it himself later, he could be trusted, he wasn't going to spend it on drugs or drink, and he doesn't smoke. I said if he hadn't eaten for two days, why on earth did he want to eat later, and not straight away. He just did, he said. Could he come back later and get some money from me then? No, I said, we're just about to leave. If you can't take up my offer of a meal now, then I'm afraid I don't trust you with any money I might give you, and I can't help. And he left. Sigh. I did try to help.

We set off together, 20 lock miles to Kilby Bridge, which isn't a bridge, but a village. The locks were all in our favour, Sandy and I had our locking routines running smoothly, though the paddle mechanisms weren't always on our side! and Grace and Dave were very slick at entering and leaving locks together. We were a very good team. The weather was just right, too.

The River Soar is very varied, and on this day a lot of it was narrow and winding. On one occasion, just past St Mary's Mill Lock, Grace and I were seriously thinking that we might have taken a wrong turn, and got onto a backwater which was going to shrink to nothing very shortly. Reeds, water-weeds, overhanging trees, and almost not enough room even for ducks as we passed through. It put me in mind of the River Avon as it flows through Rugby. Not exactly what one has in mind when hearing the name "River". In other parts, though, it was broad and beautiful.

Our enjoyment was spoiled somewhat as we passed under Pochin's Bridge, no. 91 - the lock after Ervin's Lock, where two teenagers had unpinned us on the way down. On this bridge stood a gaggle of mixed-sized kids, who peered over as first Fairy then Kantara passed under. Dave said afterwards that he and Sandy had expected trouble from them, but they got none. I, however, wasn't too bothered by them - and we got stoned! A few metres beyond the bridge, a large piece of mortar flew close past us and hammered onto the underside of the open hatch in front of us. Another stone splashed into the water alongside. I turned around to see the perps watching gleefully, grabbed a camera and pretended (it was still in its case) to take a photo of them. They disappeared behind the parapet, but followed us from a distance, leading us to expect further trouble. There was none. It rained hard, and their malicious intentions were thwarted by their dislike of being wet. There was nothing the police could have done to catch them. They weren't near a public road, and we had no descriptions of any of them, but I phoned Leicestershire Police anyway, just so that they could be aware. I Tweeted the details to CRT as well, and my boating followers on Twitter, just in case it might help others to avoid similar problems. There was no harm done, just the tiniest of dents, amazingly, to some fairly insignificant paintwork.

We took two of the last three available moorings at Kilby Bridge, not the most picturesque of sites, but a decent mooring with full services on the opposite side of the river. It was our penultimate evening with Sandy and Dave, and we spent it with them, swapping stories over glasses of wine.

"...not the most picturesque of sites"

Full services across the river before making off into a day of 11 locks, sunshine, showers, heavy showers, wind and still. Odd weather, innit? The new, typical UK summer. We stopped for lunch at Ivy Bridge, it showered as we arrived, poured as we left again. There was very little traffic, and what there was was going the opposite way from us, and leaving the locks in our favour. One such boat was a hire-boat, not long into the crew's holiday, sharing locks with a grumpy, lone male boater in a slum boat, who knew it all - as they do. He had the gall to tell the holidaying skipper to stay where he was in the lock while he, the solo expert, drove ahead of him into the lock we were vacating. This put the poor bloke in the difficult situation of having to cross a fairly narrow pound while our two boats were approaching. I hope those holidaymakers had the sense to stop for a cuppa while the surly bloke put some distance between them.

Dave's just removed a lot of weed from his propellor.

Saddington Tunnel, and a pruning job to be done just beyond the exit, where a thick shrub (which, to my displeasure, turned out to be Hawthorn) was narrowing passage quite considerably, in league with a willow opposite. One much-prickled and torn Roger cut it back as much as he could without falling in. The river is beautiful here, beautiful countryside dotted with sheep, cows, and horses of a very distinctive and unusual type. Ripening wheat stood golden against a background of stormy skies, and trees glowing bright green under the sun.

We moored on Smeeton Aqueduct, just 15 miles from Leicester, where we were two days previously. I'm told the old working boats pulled by horse travelled faster! But then, every minute meant money to them, and they didn't stop, except in dire emergency. And there was no speed limit for them, either. 4 mph for us, it is.

Our final evening with Dave and Sandy was spent playing RummiKub, Greedy and Cribbage.

Our leaking pipe was under control.

"Work is what people do who don't go boating." (A plaque on the front of San Fairy Ann's cabin)

Monday, July 27, 2015

On into Leicester. Remember Leicester?

It was a short trip from Zouch to Loughborough Wharf, a small, neat basin surrounded by colourful buildings, with space for six to eight boats. There was already a widebeam and three narrowboats there, so we were lucky to get in. We moored at the foot of a tall, colourful TraveLodge, with Fairy next to us.

It was windy and raining, but we ventured out after lunch to buy food, and for Grace to visit a handbag shop she'd discovered on the web (Yes, I know she bought a handbag back in Newark. She bought another there, too). There was a small art exhibition in the Town Hall, which we enjoyed (some of).

The next morning, the rain had gone, and we set off after filling both boats' water tanks. We moored for lunch at Barrow Lock, then carried on through the Mill Basin (it's a sunny Saturday. Watch out for the canoes and pedaloes!). On through Mountsorrel Lock (look out for the dayboats Fumble, Rumble and Tumble!), Sileby and Cossington Locks (look out for the gongoozler who's sure he knows more about mooring than you do!), finally mooring at a very quiet, green spot just past Junction Lock.

It was then that we realised with some dismay that a patch of our bedroom carpet was wet. With engine coolant. We have in the past had problems with a leak in the joint between the calorifier and the pipe which brings hot water to it from the engine. We've had it "dealt with" twice by professionals, but we'd put a drip tray under it for good measure. And forgotten about it. It had overflowed, possibly some days earlier, and the floor under and around the leak was rather wet. No major damage was done, fortunately, but it was more than annoying, and probably means we'll need a new calorifier. 

Our despondency was duly squashed by an evening of cards and wine with Dave and Sandy, and we went to bed knackered after midnight.

The only thing we could do about the leak the next morning was to stand the mattress on its side next to the bed throughout the day, and check regularly to make sure the leak wasn't getting worse, and that the drip tray (a lunch box) wasn't about to overflow. Apart from a small amount of water which collected overnight, there was no further problem. I think we might carry on doing this for the rest of the trip. We anticipate being back in Yelvertoft on Friday.

Sunday's weather started off very much better than forecast, but the weather we were promised duly arrived as we made our way up towards Leicester. It rained, then it rained harder, then it poured. The floating filth increased in density the closer we got, but there's no denying that the River Soar at this point is rather beautiful - so long as you don't look at the water. Winding, often quite narrow, and with large populations of manifold varieties of birds. We saw a pair of Little Grebes. None of us had seen any before, though "the book" says they're not uncommon in the UK.

There were few walkers and cyclists; the rain had deterred them, perhaps, but the weekend boats were out.

There's what looks very much like a very large, inflatable building to be seen by Birstall Lock. Seriously! Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera to hand. 

Five locks up into Leicester, then, and the "official" CRT mooring platform was full. They need to make it bigger. Double-depth platforms like they have on the Trent. We both moored opposite, in the shadow of the DeMontfort halls of residence. It was raining still. Hard. And we were all wet and a bit chilly. It was so bad, even the emergency services weren't out. All the crims and other deplorables were indoors, keeping dry, I should imagine. Sixteen swans massed past us, too cool to be bothered by the weather. Two young ladies rowing backwards at high speed bounced off the side of the boat, too dense to consider the possibility that they might hit something unless they look where they're going. Sigh.

A change of clothes for us next, a quick, hot lunch and drinks, and an afternoon of avoiding the weather. Easily done, though we did need to buy some food. We'll do that tomorrow, then. The forecast says better weather tomorrow. We'll see. No photos today. My camera's not that waterproof.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A bit of a detour - Sawley Cut

On Wednesday, we moved on out of Beeston Cut and back onto the River, to enjoy our last day on the lovely Trent. The weather had been better on our way down the river, but at least it didn't rain. Well, not much. The birds certainly didn't mind it, though. There were thousands. And so many different species. We even saw an great white egret, unusual in the UK, we think.

A large group of volunteers were working hard on a stretch of the bank, removing huge swathes of the pernicious Himalayan Balsam which would take over the waterways, given half a chance. Well done, Friends of CRT!

San Fairy Ann leading the way
Ahead, Dave, straight ahead!
At Trent Junction, we turned right to Sawley Cut, ascended the electrically powered lock - this one operated by Sandy, and not a Lock-Keeper - and moored opposite Sawley Marina. It poured with rain immediately after we'd tied up. Really poured! Dave and Sandy got soaked, filling their water tank. It was a lovely evening, however.