Tuesday, 31 May 2011


It was an absolutely beautiful morning and time to be on the move again. We dropped down Zouch Lock, turned round and came back up again and set off towards Loughborough where we moored back in the basin and went shopping - again.

view from the boat this morning

Loughborough is a really nice town. There are plenty of shops and the people are all friendly. We carried on after filling up with water and this time I'd found the rubbish disposal point. It’s behind the sanitary block, behind a black unmarked door. I only found it because I spotted another boater taking his rubbish there. You need a BW key, but honestly, can’t BW afford a sign?

I treated myself to this gorgeous potted sunflower from the florists in town. It’s one of the best florists I have ever come across and even had 4 different colours of English Peony on sale.

When we got to the new Pillings Lock Marina we sailed in and had a quick look round. We’re still looking for a marina for the winter but it won’t be here. The boats were crowded in and the pontoons were VERY short with the stern of the boats being fastened to poles.

We re now moored at Barrow-on-Soar just under the bridge, opposite the caravan park and before the lock moorings.  Just before the bridge we passed a guy standing on his boat roof trying to cut the branches off an overhanging tree. He was definitely struggling as every movement rocked his boat but he persevered and a large branch crashed down onto his boat. I don’t think that was quite what he had in mind though.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Still at Zouch

It was torrential rain this morning but had died down enough by lunchtime for us to take Chico out for a nice long walk. We headed off along the towpath towards the Soar Boat Club to see if there was any entertainment on at their Spring Bank Holiday Rally but they’d already finished and packed up. We carried on walking through a buttercup meadow and followed one of the parish walks for 2 miles to Bishop Meadow Lock where we sat for a while and watched the boats. Chico thought the buttercups were very tasty and obligingly posed for the camera.

Overlooking Bishop Meadow Lock is the 69 acre Astra Zeneca research and development plant which closed earlier this year with the loss of 1200 jobs. It was the second largest employer in the area, after the university.

We noticed that the weir at the start of Zouch Cut was flowing faster than when we passed the other day. Presumably the heavy rain overnight and this morning has raised the water level a bit, but not enough to activate the flood-water relief gate.

flood-water relief gate
Just beside the flood gate there was an enormous Elderberry tree in  full bloom. If it's dry in the morning I might nip back and pick a few blossoms to make Elderflower Champagne.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Still at Zouch

We had a really good time with Jean & Garth last night. After drinks on their boat we walked 20 mins. to the Kings Arms pub and had a lovely meal. It's one of those '2 for 1' pubs and the food was basically pub grub but the quality and service were excellent and we rounded off the night back on their boat drinking yet more wine! They also have a 15 year old Westie, a tiny frail little dog called Bonnie who, like Charlie, is also deaf and blind in one eye. Like Charlie she's also extremely spoiled and joined us at the table to make sure she didn't miss a thing.

It was bitterly cold this morning and they passed us just before lunch, carrying on their way towards London and then the River Wey.  Most people think the boat's called Sycamore, as in the tree, but actually it's "Sycnamore Too". It's their second narrowboat, the first was "Sycnamore", but for many years they were real sailors and owned a yacht. Unfortunately Jean suffered terribly with sea sickness so they had to move onto the canals.  If you say it slowly with a Yorkshire accent you'll understand the name  (Sick na more)

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Lazy day at Zouch Cut

I just LOVE  PoundSaver shops!!  I spent a very happy half hour browsing round the one in Loughborough yesterday. They're always a good source of cheap crafty things for me to do and this time I was inspired by a small hot water bottle. Granted it wasn't a very nice colour, but I intended knitting a cover for it so that didn't really matter and at £1 it was a cinch. I had a part ball of dusky pink chunky wool in the stash under the bed which was just perfect for what I had in mind.

from this
to this in 2 hours
This morning Charlie had me up at 6.15 so after we'd been out for a quick walk I made myself a large coffee and started working out the pattern (if you'd like a copy please email me and I'll send it to you).  It only took a couple of hours to knit up and was just about finished when our friends Jean & Garth arrived.  They couldn't moor near us so stayed back just past the lock moorings. The hot water bottle's already spoken for and will be winging it's way to Newcastle as soon as I can get to a Post Office.

Again it's been a very busy day with lots of boats moving about. We've had the usual 'speed boats' and one was so fast I almost fell over as the boat rocked so much when they went past. I'm afraid I broke my own rule and yelled at them to slow down. Granted it was a young lad driving, so maybe his excuse was that no-one had told him to slow down past moored boats.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Zouch Cut

Because the canal basin at Loughborough is right next to a bar/restaurant with student flats above, I was a bit concerned that it might have been noisy last night. I needn't have worried as it turned out to be very quiet and peaceful.

This morning I did another shopping run into town and then after lunch we headed back down the locks to moor in Zouch Cut. It's very busy here and we managed to slip into the last spot. We're hoping to meet friends Jean & Garth here tomorrow so hopefully at least one of the moored boats will move on so that they can get in.

There are lots of beautiful BIG houses around Normanton on Soar but just half a mile further along they're a bit more modest.

It's the Soar Boat Club rally this weekend and if the weather's nice on Sunday we might turn round and go back, moor up and have a look.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Loughborough Basin

Those of you who know us personally know that Roger doesn’t cook. It’s not that he can’t cook just that he prefers not too. Last night was the exception to the rule and I was treated to one of Jamie Oliver’s recipes  'crunchy garlic chicken'  It looked just like the photo in the book and tasted amazing!

This morning we set off wearing full waterproofs as the sky was grey and rain was imminent. As usual though, the waterproofs kept the rain off and we over-heated, instead of rain we had sun.

The River Soar is especially beautiful when the sun shines and the wildlife was out in abundance. We saw several swan families, Canadian geese with their goslings and a solitary juvenile cormorant but no sign of its parents.

Just after Zouch Cut we came to the flood relief gates and the scary warning signs. Just round the bend were the emergency moorings (known as dolphins), in the main channel with no access to the shore. I wouldn’t like to get stranded on them for any length of time.

At the top of  Bishop Meadow Lock there are more warning signs and lights, just beside the sanitary station.

waiting for the lock to empty so we can go in
We arrived in the basin at the end of the arm just as the heavens opened. I know we need rain but does it always have to come down just at the wrong moment and so hard? Needless to say we’d taken the waterproofs off as well so we both got soaked to the skin!

Last time we came here there was just a rickety pontoon for 2 or 3 boats and you had to go through a builders yard to get to the shops. It's now been developed into a very modern canal basin, overlooked by student flats above an Asian Fusion restaurant and a posh buttie shop. There are good moorings on short pontoons for 5 boats and a sanitary station, but no rubbish disposal.

one of 3 elaborately carved stone balls
about 3 feet high just beside the moorings
Loughborough is a good town for stocking up the boat. There is a fantastic street market on a Thursday and I bought loads of fruit and veg at ridiculously cheap prices e.g. 20 plums for £1 which I might make into jam. The fish stall was also really good and the freezer is now full to bursting. There are Tesco & Sainsbury’s supermarkets within easy walking distance, Dunelm Mill, Wilkinson’s, several banks, dry cleaners, Timpson’s shoe repairs, most well known chain clothes shops and lots of charity shops.  You’ll be spoilt for choice for pubs and bars and there’s a good selection of Indian, Thai & Chinese restaurants & take-aways.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Sutton Bonington

We didn't move today. Instead, we spent the morning and early afternoon cleaning and touching up the paintwork and doing those once a year jobs like stripping and cleaning the roof vent for the cooker extractor. The fire had a really good cleaning and Roger swept the chimney and re-sealed the chimney collar, ready for next time we use it which hopefully won't be until late Autumn.

view from the boat at 6.30 this morning

We're actually moored at the end of Soar Lane as seen on the map. It's a good spot to moor and yesterday evening we watched teams from Loughborough Rowing Club practising up and down the river.

After the chores were finished we took the dogs and walked into the village for a nosy around. There isn't much there to be honest, just a church and  a pub (which was shut). Apparently there's quite a large university campus here but we didn't see it. There don't appear to be any shops either. 

When we got back to the boat I spent a very pleasant half hour feeding the swans and cygnets. Every Spring I buy a bag of ARK floating duck and swan food. This is much better for them than bread and is a small price to pay for the entertainment I get, especially from watching the ducks squabble over it.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The River Soar

This morning started bright but still very breezy. Roger nipped over to Sawley Marina chandlery for a flag pole socket but as usual they didn’t have what we wanted. They seem to be very good at stocking expensive clothes and shoes but not so good at stocking bits for boats.

We passed down the automated Sawley Lock onto the River Trent, cruised past the entrances to the Erewash Canal and the River Trent towards Nottingham and then turned right onto the River Soar. Some new houses have been built on the river bank since we were last this way. They are built on stilts as this area floods regularly in winter.

Sawley Lock

Entrance to River Soar

Ratcliffe Lock is overlooked by Ratcliffe on Soar power station which was billowing out steam. Unlike the power stations at Rugeley and Willington this one is still operational and was in the news recently because of demonstrations by eco-warriors.

We moored for lunch just after Kegworth Shallow Lock. This is a flood lock and is only operational when the river level rises. It‘s normally left open and has moorings on both sides. Kegworth village is a good refuelling stop and has a Post Office, Co-Op, combined butcher, baker & deli and is only a 10 minute walk from the moorings.

Kegworth Deep Lock (or Kegworth New Lock as it appears to have been re-named) is DEEP! It always used to be extremely fierce when filling but has recently had baffles installed to help reduce the force. It’s still pretty impressive though as you can see from the photos.

Entering Kegworth Deep Lock

Half way up

Water rushing over the baffles

Just round the bend from the lock is a large, beautiful mansion house which I wanted to photograph. Unfortunately a strong gust of wind blew my cap off just as we passed it. I tried to recover the cap but it floated off down the middle of the river back towards the lock. Good job it was only £2 from Matalan.

We’re now moored almost opposite The Tame Otter pub. It’s been a beautiful afternoon and I got all 4 loads of washing dry in a couple of hours. At least this strong wind has been useful for something!.


We set off Tuesday morning with the intention of travelling down onto the River Soar to Kegworth but that wasn't to be.
The wind was just too strong and we only made it as far as Sawley Cut. We'd intended mooring up for water and then carrying on, but other boats who'd also had that idea found that they couldn't get off the quay when they were finished and had to stay put and sit it out.  There was only one spot left before the house-boats and lock and luckily it was just our size.  The wind blew us sideways straight into the made-to-measure slot and kept us there all afternoon.  Just after we moored up the heavens opened and we had a torrential downpour, so filling up with water had to wait until later. As suddenly as it started, the rain stopped and the sun came out. The wind carried on blowing a gale and banging the boat against the underwater ledge that runs along the quay but after hanging 5 big fat fenders down between the hull and the quay we finally managed to stop the banging much to the relief of Chico who was convinced a monster was coming to get him.
The gale carried on all night but seems to be dying down now, hopefully we'll be able to carry on later.

Sunday, 22 May 2011


The weather certainly changed today. As we got up this morning, the wind was blowing the tiny conkers off the tree we'd moored under last night with such a force that it sounded like someone was throwing stones at us. 

It's been the Spanish Grand Prix today and we couldn't get any TV reception where we were moored opposite the marina so we had to move. We tried to turn the boat round in front of the Clock Warehouse pub but the wind was just too strong and it was impossible without hitting the moored boats, so we went back up the lock and moored in the same spot as Friday night. Later on we watched another boat trying to turn round there. He obviously didn't care about the moored boats as he rammed 3 of them whilst turning his boat round. 

The satellite picked up the signal with no problem but the wind was so strong that the picture kept flickering because of the movement of the boat. We've never had that problem before, but if I say that we had to have 4 mooring pins and ropes out to stop the boat banging about (we normally have 2) maybe that will give you some idea of the wind strength! The waves coming down the canal were huge and some even had 'white horses'.

Even though the wind was so strong, the sun shone and it was too nice to stay indoors after the race finished, so we set off with both dogs for a nice long, slow (because of Charlie) walk. This van was parked beside the lock but Scooby Doo was nowhere in sight (it says Mystery Machine in case you can't read the sign)

Just beside the first bridge is the old salt warehouse. This is where the salt was stored when it was unloaded from barges bringing it from the Cheshire salt mines in Middlewich, Nantwich and Wheelock.

Charlie did really well and managed to walk down past the automatic stop lock. When the river goes into flood the red lights flash and the gates close.

The wind continued into the evening getting stronger & stronger and blew one of the planters off the roof. Luckily it blew onto the towpath rather than into the canal but we decided that all the pots had to come down before we lost any. They're now residing in the cratch and shower.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

To Sawley and back

It’s been another beautiful sunny day. This morning there were 2 alpacas in the field beside the boat. Their smell must be very attractive to dogs as every one that went past was totally distracted and just wanted to linger and sniff.

My sister and her family came to visit this afternoon and we took them for a cruise down Shardlow and Derwent Mouth locks as they’d never been through locks before. Nephew Matthew steered the boat out onto the River Trent and at quite a speed under the M1 to Sawley Cut where we turned round and headed back the way we’d come. It was a very pleasant afternoon which we rounded off with a meal in the Clock Warehouse pub.

the M1 bridge

the monster of Shardlow?

We’re now moored opposite the marina in the centre of Shardlow. We were lucky to get a mooring spot as it’s very busy with lots of first-night hire boaters out of Sawley Marina.