Sunday, 26 January 2014

Loughborough Lock Open Day

Yesterday C&RT held an Open Day at Loughborough Lock to show members of the public how a lock works and also to show boaters exactly what works have been done while the lock has been closed for the past 3 weeks. It re-opens tomorrow, Monday 27th. I was surprised at how many people had turned up and when we we arrived at 1.00pm there was quite a long queue for the tour.

The large rubble bags on the opposite bank contain all the debris they had removed from the bottom of the lock. They had been stacked up to drain most of the water out of them before they were sent to the tip as C&RT have to pay by weight rather than volume.

Unusually, they had also removed all the mud and silt and found that the bottom was lined in timber. Our tour guide was Darren who is the C&RT engineer in charge of this area and he told us he has never come across a timber bottomed lock before.

The total cost for the works was just under £30,000 with scaffolding being a major part of the cost. Before H&S went crazy these types of works used to be done from a ladder but now they have to erect full scaffold and stairways to access the bottom of the lock.

They were still finishing off some pointing work.

This is the planking dam they use at either end of the lock. They used ash and clinker from the local steam railway to infill between the planks to make them water tight.

This is the dam above the top gates.

The concrete plinth below the sand bags is a kind of speed bump which heavily laden working boats would rub up against to slow them down before they rammed into the main cill which is timber framed and could be easily damaged. That damage would be difficult to easily repair and would result in the gates not sealing properly.

You can see the repairs they've made to the edges of the lock gates to make them seal better. These gates were replaced about 8 years ago and usually last around 25 years so by patching them up like this they should get another 10 - 15 years out of them.

They've also done some brickwork repairs to seal the lock gates better where they hinge.

This shows the timber edging on the top cill a bit clearer.

The lock was drained by 3 huge pumps, one of which was running constantly to cope with any leakage.

You can see just how deep the lock is under the water level. The end wall is the top cill and the hole in the wall is where water rushes in from the ground paddles.

It was well worth the visit and Darren was an excellent guide. He was really good at explaining the lock to the little children in our group as well as giving much more detailed technical explanations to us boaters. He was also prepared to answer general boating questions as were Richard Parry and Simon Salem who were in attendance. I'll say one thing for C&RT, since they took over they have certainly been far more approachable and willing to listen to boater's opinions about how they should run the system than the old BW were. Whether they act on any of our ideas/problems will have to be seen but I definitely can't knock them for trying.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Green for Go!

The river level dropped during Saturday night and the green light came on.

Roger phoned ahead to Sileby Mill Boat Yard to check what it was like there and although Sandra said the level was still in amber she thought it was safe enough so we set off for a cruise in glorious sunshine.

This is the river-side view of the weir at Barrow Boating. At the height of the flood the top rail of the barrier was under water!

A new housing development has been built at Mountsorrel since we last cruised this way. These houses look like they've been transplanted from Amsterdam. In front of them is a new basin advertising moorings but so far no-one has moved in.

We were accompanied on our cruise by 3 canoeists. Although they went to have a look at Mountsorrel weir they didn't fancy canoeing down it.  They asked if they could share the lock with us but when I pointed out that a 65ft steel narrowboat could easily crush a fibreglass canoe they had second thoughts and lifted them out on the lock landing and carried them up above the lock.

The level marker at the lock was on amber but the river current was hardly noticeable.

This houseboat was just being built last time we were here. It's not my idea of living afloat but is obviously someone's home.

It's complete with outdoor terrace heating and BBQ

At Sileby Mill we pulled up against the service boat and had a much needed pump-out. We also stocked up on diesel and coal, just in case we get stuck again.

This is the mill pond in between the service boat and the next lock.  

Sandra told us the best way of turning our boat around using the current and although I was a bit apprehensive it was actually really easy. We just aimed the bow for the white frothy water in the centre of the photo which then pushed it right round until we were facing the other way.

We had a good cruise back and shared the locks with another boat that was going back into Pillings Lock Marina. We'll be here for a few days while I catch up on the laundry and get an Asda delivery but we won't be stopping long.  There's a big furore going on at the moment as C&RT are threatening to block access to the marina as the management haven't paid their bills.  This morning 4 boats left and I have no doubt that more will follow. Maybe those basin moorings at Mountsorrel will fill up after all.

This morning it was very frosty and after his walk Chico decided he was going to blag the prime spot in the boat. He sat there toasting himself for over an hour.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Still stuck

The flood warning light changed from red to green on Sunday afternoon so theoretically we could have moved, but we're facing upstream and need to go to Meadow Farm to turn round and the river level was still too high up there. By Monday morning the light was back on red and after more rain the Environment Agency website was showing rising levels again. We monitor the EA site every day but as fast as the level drops it rises again so I doubt we'll be going anywhere soon.

That's starting to be a bit of an inconvenience as the toilet tank gauge is creeping up. We should be OK for another week but yesterday someone told me about a company operating a mobile pump-out service so my job for today is to investigate that possibility. If we can turn round and get back down Barrow Deep Lock we'll be fine as we can go back into Pillings Lock Marina and use their machine. It's very expensive though at £14 for 4 minutes pump time. The last time we used it it took 2 goes to empty the tank by only a quarter, so we'd much prefer to be able to get upstream to Sileby Mill where their machine is far more efficient.

Friday, 10 January 2014


The red light is still on at Barrow Deep Lock which means we can't move yet. The man who lives in the lock cottage has very kindly told us to help ourselves to water from his garden tap, so when the level dropped a bit on Wednesday I reversed back into the lock and filled up. The other boaters here didn't need water but one of them helped me by opening and closing the lock again afterwards (I'm still not allowed to do any heavy work). It's currently being left with the top paddles fully open and the bottom paddles half open to help stop the canal level topping the gardens and flooding the houses.

Some of the boats moored below the lock have been totally cut off for a couple of days. At it's height the level was almost up to the wall! The bollards are the lock mooring and that was the first time they've been visible since we arrived on New Year's Eve.

I suppose we're lucky that we're on the canal section above the lock and although the water level has almost reached the towpath it never actually overflows here. That's mainly due to the weir and culverts about half a mile up the canal at Barrow Boating.

I walk to Barrow Boating to dispose of the rubbish and at the moment you can't get through the bridge as the towpath is submerged. There are steps up onto the bridge but it's a bit awkward getting the trolley up them.

On the way to Barrow Boating is a paddock with 6 Alpacas. They're very curious of passers-by and stand and watch, but they're also very timid and don't come anywhere near the fence. I wonder if they eat carrots? I might get some when I go into the village later and see if I can tempt them to come closer.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Happy New Year!

Yes I know it's a bit late to wish you all a Happy New Year, but I've been away for a few days babysitting & helping out while our daughter had her second baby. Nathaniel weighed in at 6lbs 14oz and both mum and baby are doing well.

We're currently moored at Barrow on Soar. We arrived on New Year's Eve afternoon to spend the night in the Soar Bridge Inn with other boater friends and half an hour after we'd moored up the red light came on at the lock and the river went into flood.  We're now stuck here until the levels recede but that could be a while as roads and fields in the area are under water.  We're not in any danger as we're on the canal section but the level is almost over the towpath and they are running water through the lock in an attempt to avoid the lock cottages flooding.  Unfortunately this is an internet black-spot but as soon as I get a decent signal (i.e. go to the pub to use their wi-fi) I'll post some photos.