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Sunday, 19 August 2007

First Week of boating life

Monday 13th August We left Debdale after a fraught morning with both our cars playing up. We ended up leaving Carol's wheel at a garage to have a new tyre fitted, whilst my thing refused point blank to start even with jump leads or a tow. It could be an interlock that operates on the clutch pedal, whatever it was I ended up pushing it to a remote spot until we return.

As a result it was around 13.10 when we set off, pleasant weather but not hot. We meandered northwards along the long pound to Kibworth top lock. As we were about to leave this a boat arrived, crewed by a couple who used to on a knitwear company on the floor below ours! We also had an interesting chat with a British Waterways man at the next lock. He was painting non slip paint on the balance beams so that people walking across to work the lock did not lose their footing.

The Kibworth Flight is four locks arranged over a length of about 1/4 mile and which lower the canal by some 32 feet, and form the first of a total of 21 locks that lower the canal from Debdale Wharf to that of the river Soar. All these locks are double width, being some 14 feet wide and about 80 feet long.

One more lock saw us down to the level of our first night's stop overlooking Wistow Church, just before Newton Top Lock. This is a lovely spot, much loved by boaters and dog walkers with open fields and a quaint little church set amongst trees. I include a picture with Lily at her mooring, Wistow Church is set off to the left of this view. The only slight drawback here, as is the case with many canals, is that the Midland Mainline railway running from London to Sheffield runs fairly close to the canal. In fact a few hundred yards further on the railway embankment is right alongside the canal towpath with trains hammering past perhaps 15 feet from the cruising boats.

Interesting fact, as we cruise later into London along the Regent's Canal we shall pass just below these same trains as they complete their journey.

Our cruise this day took us only 3 1/4 hours and we cruised a magnificent 5 miles and worked 5 locks!

Tuesday 14th was wet at the start and we only planned to cruise 3 miles and 7 locks to a meeting point with the grandchildren that evening. We shared the journey with a charming lady on Grace, a boat about 57 feet long. Elsewhere in the country the night of 17/18th August was wild and Clare, our youngest daughter, rang to say their first ever camping holiday had ended just after 3 nights when the gales and torrential rain had smashed their tent at around 9 am this morning. Fortunately no-one was hurt, but it had been a brand new tent 3 days earlier!

During our short cruise of just under 4 hours we passed about 7 or 8 boats going the other way, and we were following closely another two boats. At Kilby Bridge there is a popular pub, the Navigation, and also a set of services for boats. These include water points, toilets and shower and an elsan disposal point. Lily Pad has her own very good shower, just the same as we have at home except it is better as both hot and cold water is pumped, almost like a power shower.

As to the toilet, on boats there is the choice of either elsan type " bucket & chuck it" type as used in caravans, or else what is known as a "pump out" system. With these the waste is collected in a large holding tank and when this is full the boat goes to a boatyard with a "pump out" facility where the waste is sucked out into the sewer system. On Lily we use the elsan type and despite having a spare toilet cassette we need to empty these about every 4 days, or more often if there are more than the two of us aboard. I might revert to the reason for our choice later.

Sam and Hannah joined us at 7pm and we went to the pub for a meal. Carol had a very acceptable Chicken Madras, though it was not as spicy as some, I had the excellent Steak & Kidney pie whilst the kids had Beef Stroganof, which they enjoyed. The Pedigree bitter was well kept.

Wednesday morning it was late when we rose, we woke the kids after 8.30, and it was a fine morning. We set off at 9.45, but unfortunately we were not able to team up with another boat, Grace's owner had said she would wait for us at the first lock, but paired up with another boat that had reached there already. Two other boats followed us, but they had made a previous agreement to continue the arrangement to work together that they had made the day before. So we worked our way through, picking blackberries as we went. The day clouded over and around mid day the heavens opened and we had a torrential downpour, we were glad to stop for lunch! The soup Carol had made was much appreciated.

We restarted around 14.00 and had some more heavy rain. At least it was mild so we all wore shorts and proved our skin was waterproof and dried easily! Sam is a very competent lock operator now and fully able to work them, though he might have a problem with heavy gates and paddle gear, especially in the new year wen they have not been used for a while. Hannah pushes the gates open and shut well, and I'm sure that she will be able to handle the paddle gear on narrow locks. Sam is also a wonderful helmsman. We cruised onto the river Soar and through 3 more locks, stopping for supplies at a Sainsbury's on "The Mile Straight" in Leicester, before moving on to the secure moorings at Castle Gardens in the city. These moorings are within 200 yards of the clock tower in the city centre.

During this day we did 12 locks and 6 miles.

Thursday 16th dawned bright but cool, it was 9am when the kids woke. We went into Leicester to see things I hadn't seen for many years, visiting the Jewry Wall museum of Roman remains, going on to the Cathedral ( too new to tickle my spot ) and then tried the ancient Guildhall. It was unfortunately closed but is well worth a visit. We used to hold many meetings of the Leicester Textile Society there, in fact I was made President there. We then went to St Mary de Castro church, which we had never visited before....................why ever not? It is a wonderful church, started in 1107 and still showing lovely Norman features. We had a very interesting talk with the vicar, David Cawley, who explained certain features and made us very welcome, and invited himself to see Lily at a later date! We were fortunate to find it open, we had tried to look into St Nicholas Church, the oldest in Leicester and built with many Roman bits and pieces, but it was closed. If you are visiting Leicester, do try to see them.

St Mary de Castro is by the Leicester Castle. This is not a castellated building, but a large Medieval hall that has been changed and adapted over the years. Sadly it was not open to view, so we went to the Newark Houses museum nearby and all of us thoroughly enjoyed the exhibits and activities there.

After lunch we set off at 14.20 and cruised to Mountsorrel, seeing several herons and kingfishers. We had several short showers on the way, but arrived alongside Wasp in Mountsorrel at 18.20. 9 miles and 7 locks.

The river is getting badly affected by an invasive weed from the USA , Floating Pennywort, and in several places it stretched almost wholly across the river. It was introduced into the river accidentally by people emptying pond plants into the river, and with British winters being nothing like as severe as those on the Great Lakes, the weed grows almost non stop. It has very major implications for all waterways users, it kills fish and aquatic plants by preventing light from reaching them. It clogs waterway structures and could easily cause flooding by blocking weirs and culverts. The apparently solid mat it forms looks like any other area of green countryside, but it gives way when an animal tries to walk on it. All of us need to help prevent its spread, especially as only a very short piece of stem can propagate into another raft of weed in only a few weeks.

The kids ate with us that night before being collected by our daughter Sally and son-in-law John.

On Friday, we stayed put. I walked up from the river to visit my mother in the care home nearby, and then tackled a nasty smell of diesel from the engine. Sally dropped by with a bit of post, including a terrible phone bill, I set to sorting out a better tarif. I have been able to get a fast internet connection through my Vodafone USB modem ( 3.6 Mbs ) in Leicester and Mountsorrel which is very satisfying.

Saturday morning we set off into Loughborough. We passed through Mountsorrel Lock and onto the Services at Barrow upon Soar where we filled up with water and emptied the loos. We shared Barrow Deep lock with a family just setting out on a 2 week holiday. The next lock is a flood lock and these are normally left open during the summer, but the weather this year has been so bad that the gates were shut, but only held back about 2" of water. We stopped in Loughborough having covered 5 1/2 miles and just 2 and a bit locks.

We then did something I have not done for over 40 years, went to Loughborough Market. This is a full street market and is bigger than I recall from the days when I was at school here, though I was
at school on Saturday mornings. The rain started as we bought fruit and veg, so we went to the cinema to watch the latest Harry Potter film. The last time I went to this cinema it was called the Essoldo and only had one screen, now it had at least 5. We enjoyed the film, Sam said we would, he is a great fan and has already read the last book in the series.

We have also had a floppy Sunday, not moving again. We went to a laundrette to wash the bedding. We have slept on water bed for many years as these give Carol's back great relief, she has had 2 spinal operations and needs all the help available. With a water bed there is a quilted cover to the mattress and this rather overfills a domestic washing machine, so when available we use these commercial sized machines rather than the machine we have on the boat. It threw it down with rain again as I walked to get some bits from B&Q so I got wet again. We have needed to run the engine to recharge the batteries as we use quite a lot of electricity.

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