Monday 30 September 2013

Big Trip Stats

In bare figures, the Big Trip was 438 miles, and 270 locks.

We recorded 206 hours on the engine, and used 280 litres of fuel.  That means we burned about 1.3 litres an hour.  Actually, it was a bit less than that, because some mornings we ran the Eberspacher for a while for hot water.

We averaged 2.1 miles an hour over the ground, or 3.4 lock/miles an hour.

Waterways travelled on were:
  • Grand Union mainline
  • North Oxford Canal
  • Coventry Canal (including the part built by the Birmingham and Fazeley)
  • Trent and Mersey Canal
  • Macclesfield Canal
  • Peak Forest Canal
  • Ashton Canal
  • Rochdale Canal
  • Bridgewater Canal
  • River Weaver
  • Manchester Ship Canal
  • Shropshire Union Canal
  • Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal
  • River Trent
  • River Soar
  • Grand Union Leicester Section
We went through tunnels at:
  • Blisworth (twice)
  • Braunston
  • Newbold
  • Harecastle
  • Hyde Bank
  • Woodley
  • Preston Brook
  • Saltersford
  • Barnton
  • Cowley
  • Saddington
  • Husband's Bosworth
  • Crick

Sunday 29 September 2013

Big Trip - Day 34

Another bright sunny morning, and we treated ourselves to bacon and eggs for breakfast.  Both (bought yesterday from the farm shop at the second lock up the Buckby flight) were excellent.

We set off at just before 8.30, and there were a surprising number of boats on the move already.  In Blisworth, we were fortunate to be at a wide section when the widebeam hotel boat Tranquil Rose came in the opposite direction.  At 70ft long and 12ft 6in wide, I would have thought that Stoke Bruerne, Blisworth, and Braunston would be anything but tranquil.

We went through the tunnel without meeting anything coming the other way.  The side shaft was clearly visible today, complete with the apparent light at the end.  The moorings in Stoke Bruerne were as empty as we've ever seen them: just three boats between the museum and the tunnel.  A couple of spaces right by the tunnel and now designated as tunnel waiting only -- for what purpose, I'm not sure.

Two boats were coming up the top lock, so Adrian popped into the museum shop while we waited.  Progress down the flight was good, meeting boats at every lock.

There was a slight hiatus around the middle of the flight, when the pair going down in front of us decided to leave the gates open for uphill boats which were still a few locks away.  We had time to make tea in the pause.  Later, boats passed included Kala, Braidbar no 107, whom we last met in Birmingham a couple of years ago.

We made it to the foot of the flight in an hour and a half, and set off on the familiar plod along to Thrupp Wharf.  We had mixed feelings: sad that our Big Trip was over, but determined to enjoy the final day, especially as it was so sunny.  Consequently, we decided to stop just short of the marina and have lunch.  We noticed that the farmers have been busy harvesting in the time we've been away.

At the marina, the wind was blowing quite strongly in an unhelpful direction, but we managed to reverse into our berth using the second choice of approach.  It didn't take long to pack up the boat, load the car, and head for home.

10 miles, 7 locks.  (438 miles, 270 locks)

Saturday 28 September 2013

Big Trip - Day 33

 It was another bright but slightly misty morning when we woke up, and we were under way just a couple of minutes after 8am.  We were soon at the top of the Watford Locks, and I went to find the lock keeper.  Two boats were already on their way down the staircase, and he said we should follow.

At Watford there's a single lock at the top, a staircase of four, and two single locks at the bottom.  It was 8.25 when the lock keeper wrote our name in his book, and 9.10 when we exited the bottom lock -- which means we did the seven locks pretty fast.  We even caught up the boat in front.

It's a couple of miles between the locks and Norton Junction.  In passing through the junction, we completed the Leicester Ring -- albeit in two very distinct halves.  The first half, from Norton Junction to Fradley Junction via Braunston and Fazeley was Day 2 to Day 6 of the trip; the second half, from Fradley to Norton Junction began on Day 26.

We got to the top of Buckby Locks at 10am, where we were due to meet family.  We thought we'd top up the water tank while waiting for them to arrive, but then we spotted a boat also heading for the locks so decided we'd go straight down, and have them as lock partners.  I went to fill the top lock, which was empty, during which time my second-cousin, Catherine, her husband, Nigel, and their son Matthew, arrived; their daughter Grace is away for the weekend.  It was really great to see them again; they're having a boating holiday themselves in the October half term, so we'll look forward to hearing how they get on.

We shared the locks with a Calcutt hire boat.  Matthew wanted to ride on Briar Rose, but also helped with the lock work.  We got into a good rhythm where the chap from the Calcutt boat would go ahead to set the next lock, while Catherine and I looked after the one the boats were in.

We got to the bottom in about an hour and half, which is pretty good going.  There were plenty of boats coming up, and it was sunny and warm which helped everyone's mood.

We moored up at the bottom for tea, cake, and chat, during which time numerous boats arrived at the bottom of the locks, including our neighbour at Thrupp Wharf, as the boat is for sale and they were moving it up to ABNB.  When Catherine and co were ready to go, I walked with them back to the road and went to the Canal Turn Farm Shop by the second lock up, to get some bacon and eggs for breakfast tomorrow.

We set off again at about 1pm, and had lunch on the move.  Adrian started making a chili for dinner tonight.  This section is so familiar that I didn't take even a single photo!  We stopped to top up the diesel tank at Rugby Boats at Stowe Hill Wharf; they were having a busy day, as we had to wait for a boat to move off the wharf, and another was waiting when we'd finished.

We carried on for another couple of hours.  One of the boats we passed was Watermark, which I happened to notice had the registration number one on from ours!  We've moored up just before Bridge 46, where we have a great view of the Virgin and London Midland trains rushing by.  We're trying not to think about it being our last night on board for this trip.

15 miles, 14 locks.  (428 miles, 263 locks)

Friday 27 September 2013

Big Trip - Day 32

We had a great evening with Debbie and James from Lois Jane last night, and we can confirm James's reputation as an excellent chef -- particularly as I'm awkward in not liking curry, so he did chicken stroganoff for one in addition to the main menu!  We walked the long way down from the top of the flight to where LJ was moored at the bottom, to see the site of the inclined plane; but we came back the short way in the dark at the end of the evening.

Our mooring at the top of Foxton was right opposite the access arm to the inclined plane, so was a wide expanse of water.  It looked particularly nice in the morning sunshine before we set off.

Although it was sunny, there was also a chilly breeze.  But I was determined not to put another layer on, and it warmed up as the day went on.  The first section of canal from Foxton is lovely, with wide reaching views of the Leicestershire farm land and distant villages.

The first major feature is Husbands Bosworth Tunnel, 1170 yards long, and very straight so you can see the far end.

At Welford Junction, we resisted the temptation of an excursion up the Welford Arm as we've done it at least twice before.  Instead we crossed the aqueduct over the River Avon, and so into Northamptonshire.  Shortly afterwards we passed the bloggers, Jeanie Deans.

The last time we travelled this stretch was in March 2008, when we went to Market Harborough and back on Debdale.  I distinctly remembered the Bridge 32 had looked on the verge on falling down back then, and was pleased to see it had been beautifully rebuilt.  I've just looked up the 2008 photo to compare with today's.

Before long we passed through Yelvertoft and past the marina which wasn't there in 2008.  Then the familiar shape of Crack's Hill came into view, and we were at Crick.  This feels like home waters, having been to the boat show by boat for the past two years.  As we passed the marina we had a brief chat with John and Ali on TriskaidekaWe moored up and walked to the Co-op in the village, mostly because we were down to our last bottle of wine.  As it was only 3pm and quite sunny, we decided to go a couple of miles further.  So it was into Crick Tunnel, the longest on this stretch at 1528 yards.

We passed one boat in the tunnel, who's adopted a strange method of getting through.  He had his bow up against the wall, and as we approached came to a complete halt so his sterm swung out in front of us.  After we'd bumped our way past each other, he carried on, diagonally across the tunnel, with his bow pinned to the wall.  I do wish people would realise that the best way to pass another boat in a tunnel is to keep going; if you stop, you lose all steering and one end or the other will end up in the way of the other boat.

We moored up in the stretch between the railway bridge and Bridge 9, with Home Farm visible through the towpath hedge.  It's a nice sunny spot; the only slight downside is that the M1 is audible.  We're only about half a mile from Watford Locks.  A number of boats have been past, including Ellen who are presumably heading back to Crick.

20 miles, 0 locks.  (413 miles, 249 locks)

Thursday 26 September 2013

Big Trip - Day 31

The moorings at Kilby Bridge are pretty good.  We were so far back along the line that we couldn't hear the road at all; there's the odd train going by, but nothing to worry us.

We set off this morning at 8am, bound for the water point.  Our hire boat lock companions from yesterday were just finishing up, so the timing was perfect.  We filled the tank and started a wash load.  Half an hour later, we set off properly.  We knew the locks would be against us, but we hadn't bargained for the low water levels in some of the pounds, which were at least a foot down in places.

The third and fourth locks of the day were close together, and as we were in the lower one we could see the hire boat in the one above.  They kindly lifted the paddles for us as they left, and waited for us at the next lock, which is a little way ahead.  We shared the locks with them right up to the top, and had a great time chatting to each other.

The stretch between the locks and Foxton includes Saddington Tunnel.  It's 881 yards long, and you can see the far end.

We'd planned to moor before the junction at Foxton.  We didn't think we'd fit into th first space, but thought there was one further along.  Of course that turned out to be the water point; two water points, in fact.  The only moorings at the junction itself were at the pub garden, and we didn't fancy that, so decided to go up the locks.  We waited outside Bridge 61, and I went up to find the lock keeper, along with a lady from a boat which had just come through from Market Harborough.

We didn't have long to wait, as there was just one boat on its way down.  We were the second of three boats booked to go up.  It had turned into a sunny afternoon, so there were plenty of gonzoozlers about, most of whom wanted to know how look it took to go up, where we'd come from, and where we were going.

The flight is great fun, and the ten locks take only about 45 minutes.  But some of the side ponds were very low, and we struggled to get over the cill in a few of the locks.  There were volunteer lock keepers on duty, but someone who looked like a pro turned up as we neared the top, and began running some water down.

We were at the top at around 3.30pm, and there was no-one on the extensive visitor moorings at all.  We've tied up at the first space beyond the water points and the disabled mooring.  All the boats which came up are now moored here.  It's lovely and quiet here, and the towpath is actually nicer than at the bottom.

We have a dinner engagement this evening on board Lois Jane, which is moored at the bottom.  I've just made a cake for dessert.

10 miles, 22 locks.  (393 miles, 249 locks)

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Big Trip - Day 30

Last night we had drinks and nibbles on board Chance on the slipway where the boat is being blacked, so everything was on a bit of a slope!  Then we walked down to the local pub, which last week Doug and James discovered didn't do food on a Monday; this week they discovered it doesn't do food on a Tuesday either.  Plan B was the Chinese take away, where we ordered a wide selection of dishes which we took back to Briar Rose to share.  We had a great evening catching up with D&J, and talking as boaters do, about toilets.

This morning is was very misty when we looked out.

We set off shortly after 8am, and Doug and James came to see us through the first lock.

The locks on the northern outskirts of Leicester are pretty grubby, although there wasn't as much rubbish as we'd been expecting.  It was still very misty, so misty that we could barely see the National Space Centre, which looks a bit like a giant inflatable.

The river through the centre of Leicester is the Mile Straight, and has some impressive bridges.  Near the first one, West Bridge, is where the Union Navigation from the south met the Leicester Navigation from the north, in 1794.

There are also some buildings which we're sure weren't here last time we came this way in 2006.

Freeman's Lock is the first after the Mile Straight, and was where a hire boat we'd met the other day joined us.  It's opposite Leicester City's ground.

There's a huge weir above the lock, but the flow was negligible, and certainly nothing like what we remembered from last time.

We shared the next few locks, before the hire boat stopped for lunch.  We carried on, eating on the move -- although the spacing of the locks means there's not really enough time between them to do much.

After the city, the canal goes through the suburbs of Aylestone, Glen Parva, and South Wigston.  There seem to be quite a lot of new houses, which often face the canal in a rather attractive way; and there are plenty of back gardens to examine.

At the last lock of the day, Kilby Lock, one gate was blocked by a huge floating island of weed.

Shortly after leaving the lock, a large plane flew directly overhead.  Adrian identified it as a VC10, although they're supposed to have been retired.

Rounding the corner to the Kilby Bridge moorings, we saw a long line of boats, so decided to grab the available space at the end.  I'd been wondering for the last little while whether there was something round the prop, or whether Briar Rose was simply protesting about being back on shallow canals, rather than deeper rivers.  As we'd been through plenty of rubbish and weed today, I decided to have a look down the weed hatch, and removed some kind of elasticated garment, which may once have been someone's knickers, a selection of plastic bags, and quite a bit of weed.

13 miles, 17 locks.  (383 miles, 227 locks)

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Big Trip - Day 29

It was a misty start to the day as we left our mooring at Zouch at 8am.  The river is very docile at the moment, but it's not always like this, as the emergency flood moorings at Normanton illustrate.

It's a rural area, and I managed to get one of my better photos of a kingfisher.

Two locks took us into Loughborough, where we continued into the basin.  This was closed when we came this way in 2006, but has now been redevoped with a hotel, bar, and student accommodation.

There's a big Tesco just a couple of minutes walk away, where we stocked up with veg; the shopping centre also has an M&S, next, and Argos, among others.

We remembered Barrow Deep Lock well, because in 2006, when we were going the other way, the current through the bridge below the lock was running very fast.  Today everything was calm.  At Mountsorrel, there are some Dutch-style houses with their own basin, which I'm sure weren't here seven years ago.  There's also an impressive bridge carrying a conveyor from a stone quarry, and the whole approach to the lock is very attractive.

We passed Seyella, looking great in its new livery, but no-one seemed to be home.  We met boat at several of the next locks, so we've had a fairly easy run. At times, the river seems exceptionally narrow; at others, you're thankful for the signs directing the way; and occasionally, the most likely route isn't the one you take.

We reached our destination at around 3pm.  We're moored at MGM's yard at Thurmaston; Doug and James are here with Chance, which is currently being blacked.  We're planning to try the local pub tonight -- but we mustn't forget that we've got quite a long day tomorrow to get through Leicester.

14 miles, 7 locks.  (370 miles, 210 locks)

Monday 23 September 2013

Big Trip - Day 28

After yesterday's sunshine, today has been dull and damp, although still reasonably warm.  First thing, it seemed like the first really autumnal morning we'd had, as it was misty.  Later this turned to drizzle.

We set off at 8, straight into Swarkestone Lock.  The canal runs through pleasant if rather unremarkable farmland and woods.  Weston and Aston Locks come next (the second of each of that name that we've been through on the Trent and Mersey; the others are further north, near Stone).  Then we arrived at Shardlow, with it's well known warehouse, now a pub.

We stopped on the water point below the lock to fill the tank and start a wash load.  The we continued through the town, and on to Derwent Mouth lock, the real end of the T&M.  We shared the lock with another boat; the river gauge below the lock showed the level was well down -- about a foot below the start of the gauge.

Out on the River Trent, we went under a water main.

Next comes the M1 bridge, and then past a big weir into Sawley Cut, and past the marina.  A boat was just leaving one of the pair or locks at Sawley, so left the gates open for us.  The locks are mechanised, so the only work is pressing buttons.

Below the lock, we were passed by a big Dutch barge.  The skyline of the whole area is dominated by Ratcliffe on Soar power station.  At Trent Junction, we moored on the pontoons, and went for lunch at the Trent Lock, where the food was excellent.

After lunch was had a walk around the junction.  The Erewash Canal heads off north (and we'd have loved to have had time to go up there), there's the Cranfleet Cut to Nottingham and the rest of the Trent, and the Soar heads off south.  When we set off again, we headed past the big weir and turned right onto the Soar.

The first lock, at Redhill, is a flood lock, and was open.  There's very little flow on either the Trent or the Soar at the moment, and the levels appear to be well down.  At Kegworth, there's a very deep lock, and the gate paddles let in a lot of water.  Alongside is a former lock, which has been filled in.  Even the gates are still in place.

The final lock of the day was at Zouch (pronounced Zotch, apparently).  Again, the paddles are quite fierce and give the boats a foam bath.

We moored a little further on, on Zouch Cut.

15 miles, 8 locks.  (356 miles, 203 locks)