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)

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