Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

We'd like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Stay safe in this awful weather, stick another log on the fire and I'll see you again in 2014


Monday, 23 December 2013

Marina Life

We've been here in Pilling’s Lock Marina for a couple of weeks now.  

It’s the biggest marina we've ever moored in and there are LOTS of people living here. The car parks are full every night. This beautiful motorbike has been parked in the same spot since we arrived. It never seems to move and is starting to go rusty. Such a shame.

I love the rear pegs

We haven’t been on the boat the whole time though. Last week we went up to Newcastle to visit our little grand-daughter who is growing so fast. She’s starting to talk and is developing her own personality and it was very hard to come home and leave her behind. I'm now on stand-by to dash back early in January when the next baby is due.

This weekend we hired another car and went back to Manchester to visit the rest of our family. It was lovely seeing everyone again, just a shame that the meal we’d booked in the local pub was so dreadful. I think the chef must have had a hangover because not one of the 10 meals was right.

The weather has been amazing here this past week. It’s been bright and sunny almost every day but then extremely wet and windy every night. Last night the sky was really clear and full of stars but it was just too windy to get my telescope out. In typical fashion though, today is wet and windy.....just when we need to move for a pump-out. We can manage for a few more days but at this time of year I don't like letting the tank get above 3/4 full, just in case we get frozen in. The forecast is better for tomorrow so we'll leave it till then.

The other day we walked to the flood lock to check the state of the river after all the recent rain.
It’s almost in the red so we decided to stay in the marina for the time being.  I’d really like to get out for Christmas but we’ll have to see.

The flood sluice gate is still open

This is the weir that diverts the river past the canal section of the River Soar where the marina is

I hope Roger never needs to store anything under the bed as it’s full of bags of wool. I can’t resist buying more whenever we see a wool shop but being in the marina has given me plenty of “hooky” time.

Last week I made this jumper for my grand-daughter and I've now started on things for the new baby which seem incredibly small but thankfully make up really quickly and as they don’t take much wool I’m able to use up some of my stash. I’m making a New Year’s resolution to NOT buy any more until I’ve emptied at least one bag.  I can see lots of stripy things being made next year!

Monday, 16 December 2013


Last week we continued our journey along the River Soar.  It's quite a temperamental river and can rise rapidly after heavy rain so the flood defences are quite substantial.

This is the guillotine flood gate at Zouch.

Just round the bend are the emergency moorings

A few years ago, couple of friends of ours got caught out here on their maiden voyage and had to moor on the "dolphins" for 2 weeks.

Despite all this the River Soar is really beautiful and is one of my favourite cruising areas.

Some of the houses along it's banks are quite splendid

We moored overnight in the centre of Loughborough which has changed so much over the past 5 years that I hardly recognised it. The basin used to be in the middle of a builders merchants yard but this has now been replaced by a Travel Lodge hotel and student flats.

It was a good, quiet mooring and is very convenient for the town centre and supermarkets.

We're now moored in Pilling's Lock Marina just outside Leicester as it's a good base while we go off visiting more family and friends.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Onto the River Soar

We spent last night at Shardlow but there was no internet signal, hence no blog.  Years ago, before we had our own boat, we used to spend a lot of time around this area with friends on their boat so we paid a return visit to the Malt Shovel pub where Roger and Richard passed many happy hours drinking Marston's Pedigree and eating corned beef pie.  Unfortunately the pub has been "done up" and ruined. There were 2 large screen TV's blaring out although no-one was watching them and they don't do proper food any more.

The weather continues to be nice and sunny and my flowers are still going strong.

First lock of the day was Derwent Lock which drops you down off the Trent and Mersey canal onto the river and has this large warning sign.  Today the river marker was well down in the green.

As you come out of the lock you really notice the difference between canals and rivers. It's really wide here with the River Derwent crossing over from left to right. (double click on the panoramic photo to get the full effect)

It's good to rev up the engine and cruise underneath all the traffic on the M1. Even on a Sunday it was really busy.

Just after the motorway bridge is the huge weir

and then the short stretch which takes you into Sawley Cut.

The river often floods and one New Year's Day we came by car to see that the flood lock was well under water and the river was about 2 feet over the banks.......scary!

To get down onto the River Trent you pass through Sawley Lock. The resident lock-keeper has long gone and now it's fully automated.

We always wear life jackets on big rivers. Although we can both swim, neither of us is strong enough to swim against the current and safely get to shore. It's different in canals. In the majority of them if you fall in you can stand up and walk to the side.

The boat really loves being in deep water and you go much faster at the same revs than on canals.

This is Ratcliffe power station which dominates the skyline

Today we were going onto the River Soar. I would have liked to detour up the Erewash Canal to see a friend of mine who lives at Long Eaton, but we just didn't have the time as we needed to be through Kegworth Deep Lock (now called Kegworth New) today as it's supposed to be being closed for maintenance tomorrow.

Isn't it just typical?  We haven't seen any moving boats today, except right at the junction with the River Soar when this narrowboat came round the bend just as we were about to turn right.

The green light shows that the River Soar is safe to navigate and Redhill Flood Locks were open. If the river goes into flood they are closed.

There are lots of wide beam boats moored along this stretch

This one was my favourite. If we ever sell Fizzi and "trade up" then this is what I'd like and maybe take it to France.

These chalets are all built on stilts to hopefully avoid being flooded.

Kegworth Shallow Lock is another flood lock that is currently kept open.

We moored up and went to The Anchor for lunch.

We'd had really good Sunday roasts in here years ago but recently we've been told that the pub had gone down-hill and should be avoided.  How wrong were they?  We were the only ones in the dining room but the meal was delicious and excellent value at £6.95 each.  The beer was good too, Five Bells from Shardlow Brewery.

After lunch we carried on to get through Kegworth Deep.

Despite the new baffles that have been fitted it's still quite fierce, but by roping onto the rail and taking it slowly it wasn't as bad as I expected.

This is the view looking back down onto the river.

and the weir which runs beside the lock

We're now moored just past The Otter pub, beside the newly cleared storm ditch and under the flight path to East Midlands airport. The planes are a bit noisy outside but don't bother us much indoors and they come in so low you get a really good view of them.

Tomorrow we're going into Loughborough to do a bit of Christmas shopping.

Friday, 6 December 2013

The calm after the storm

We left Alrewas at the crack of dawn. I haven't been up that early for ages!

The river level marker below the lock was well in the green and there was hardly any noticeable flow where the River Trent crosses the canal.

The weir was hardly flowing

Yesterday's storm had brought down several trees and there was lots of floating debris in the canal. The first fallen tree was blocking the towpath just before the first bridge.

It was lovely cruising in the early morning sunshine and this heron stood and watched us go through Wychnor Lock.

The A38 runs alongside the canal for a long way and this enterprising garage opposite Barton Marina has opened up the fence and is supplying diesel to boaters at 86p a litre.  It certainly saves you having to go into the marina for gas or diesel but I doubt the marina management are too happy about it.

The second fallen tree we came across was almost blocking the canal

I tried going past very slowly but got stuck on a submerged log, so I reversed and Roger got off to pull it out of the way. That made all the difference and we just squeezed through.

We stopped at Horninglow Basin for lunch and also to take Chico to the vets. The ear drops he'd been prescribed in Birmingham had done their job and his ear infection has gone. The vet recommended that he have his teeth cleaned and de-scaled so as soon as we get to our winter moorings we'll look for another vet and get him done.

Dallow Lane Lock gave us more problems. The lock was full of fallen twigs, small branches and leaves which got wrapped around the propeller. I pulled a pile of branches out of the water while the level was dropping but when I tried to drive out of the lock the boat wouldn't budge.  The prop was clear but there was obviously something underneath the boat that was stopping it moving.  It took Roger pulling on the centre rope while I had the engine at full throttle to finally get us moving.  We couldn't see anything in the water other than the twigs and branches so maybe it was just the sheer quantity of them that was causing the obstruction.

Passing over the aqueduct above the River Dove we could see that the river level is well down.  In the past we've seen it rise to almost the top of the arches.

We're now moored at Willington. The noise of the trains is extremely loud outside, but inside we hardly notice them.  This is another major benefit of the secondary double glazing.