Slow Boat To Leicester. 10th January

Ross Bridge to Castle Gardens Moorings, Leicester

The alarm goes off earlier each morning and each morning it is darker outside. Today we had quite a bit of cruising to do. According to Waterway Routes and Canal Plan it would take us 5.5 hours to reach the centre of Leicester, no need to arrive in plenty of time for shore leave as Tilly wouldn’t be allowed out anyway, but we still needed to get a move on.

Kilby Bridge we pulled in to top up with water and dispose of rubbish, it didn’t take long before we could push off again.

P1450581smP1450586smEvery canal lock would be set against us today, but we did manage to have some help at some. As I was setting Double Rail Lock, three frisky horses charged across the fields to come and gongoozle. They were very lively and although not afraid of horses I was cautious due to being next to a 7ft 7” drop (the off side of the lock is the field). They seemed to have lost interest until I crossed back over the gates to lift a paddle, a head rub was all I had to give them, no spare carrots or apples, but they seemed happy with that and moved away.

P1450598smBelow Ervin’s Lock the level was low, down by about two foot. I decided to risk getting  back on board and hoped that there would be enough depth at the next lock to get off. It was a slow pootle but we managed it, no need to call C&RT out.

P1450604 (2)smP1450611smPeople have been doing a lot of work to their gardens along this stretch. Lots of fancy garden rooms, bars, seating areas, we don’t remember them from two years ago. The next pound looked fine so we hoped the levels would be okay until we reached the river sections.

P1450629smDunn’s Lock came into view, there was a figure leaning against a beam and paddles were lifted, at both ends of the lock. Either someone was maliciously emptying the canal responsibly ( the gates were closed) or there were problems below with depth. The chap had a C&RT beanie hat on and said that they had a couple of boats stuck lower down so he was sending water to them. He thought they were almost there, another five minutes and he’d give them a call. We tied up and waited. I started to heat up some soup I’d made last night for us to have on the go when Mick said the lock was being filled for us. The chap walked down to the next lock to set it for us and we were on our way again.

P1450637smP1450640smOn our way to Gee’s Lock I managed to get the soup up to a suitable temperature and into our insulated mugs, today we’d have to keep moving if we had a chance of reach Leicester in the light, no lunch break. The lock came into view and this was where we met the first of the boats that had been stuck. A C&RT tug and hopper boat were tied up above the lock, blocking the entrance and below a C&RT crane boat was doing it’s best to leave the lock. We helped close gates and fill the lock whilst chatting to the chap driving the tug. The lack of dredging along this section and the very low reserves in the reservoirs make it almost impossible for them to manoeuvre their work boats. The weight of the crane boat means that it is just ploughing it’s way along the bottom and any weight added to the hoppers means they drag too. They had spent all morning doing only two locks and using up a lot of water in the process.

P1450649smWith the tug and hopper out of the way we made our own way down the lock and followed to Blue Banks Lock. Here the tug had been left in gear just through a bridge and two chaps had just about finished filling the lock, they waved us to pass. The force from the tugs prop sent us all over the shop, it took a lot to keep Oleanna from avoiding hitting the bridge, then avoiding the offside vegetation, then to straighten up and not hit the hopper side on. By the time we were back under control the gates were being opened for us. They worked us through and warned us that we’d be meeting the crane boat soon, it was likely to get stuck at Soar Valley Way Bridges.

P1450656smYou could tell the bottom of the canal was being dragged, all the rotting leaves were surfacing and the water had turned almost black. We soon caught up with the crane and went into neutral. He saw us and suggested that we should pass on the off side. We looked, the vegetation team certainly hadn’t been along this stretch and we certainly were not going to drag Oleanna through the trees. So we carried on following very very s l o w e l y….. The bridge wasn’t a problem and maybe that is where we should have passed. A short distance on the crane got stuck, try and try again, reverse, try again, reverse again until he got moving.

P1450658smThe next wider section he managed to pull in towards the offside leaving enough room for us to pass. We offered him a tow but he declined!

P1450671smKings Lock. The Lock cottage has just recently had a new coat of paint, well all of it except the chimney stacks. A chap was replacing the fence along the front. Ade and Lou who built the set for Aladdin saved this cottage some 40 years ago when a fire had almost destroyed it. They put in an Elm fence and Ade’s youngest brother was forced up onto the roof with no scaffold or any form of safety to paint the chimney stacks (most probably the last time they were done).

P1450682smWe were now in front of the slow work boats and could up our speed. Once down Kings Lock we were joined by the River Soar enabling us to go a little bit quicker with more water underneath us. The next two locks were sat waiting, top gates open. The gasometer before St Mary’s Mill Lock has vanished. I used to be fixated with it’s staircases to nowhere, but now they are nowhere to be seen just hardcore where it once stood.

Freeman’s Meadow Lock needed filling which meant I got to stop the water going over the large weir for a few minutes. Then it was straight on into the centre of Leicester.

P1450713smCastle Gardens moorings had a couple of boats on the pontoon, but we carried on under West Bridge to see if there would be space on the new pontoon at Friars Mill. Sadly there were three boats already moored here. If a touch more thought had been put into how they’d tied up then we’d possibly have fitted on the end, but the dolphins being on the outside doesn’t help with nudging up to each other. We winded and made our way back to Castle Gardens. Here we pulled back towards the other boats to be away from the footbridge and the amount of duck poo on the pontoon, all tied up just before sunset.

DSCF7121sm12 locks, 8.85 miles, 2ft down, 3 C&RT chaps, 1 crane, 1 tug, 1 very slow afternoon, 2 mugs of soup, 1 cottage, 1st river, 1 big space, 3 smaller spaces, 1 wind, 1 yapping woofer, 0 shore leave, 73 swans, 1 pants outside.

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