Sunday, 14 September 2014

Centre Stage.

This morning we left Kilby Bridge and, making good initial progress, we were soon to halted by the rather dry pound between Turnover and Bottom Half Mile Locks.

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Luckily the pound was very short and it didn’t take too long to run water down from the next pound which, luckily, was a long one.

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Once on our way again it was lovely to see an autumn scene of a newly ploughed fields.

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This whole stretch of canal follows the valley of the River Sence and the countryside is very unspoilt.  The locks are also attractive and peaceful. This is Newton Top Lock.

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After Kibworth Top Lock (the twelfth of the day) we meandered along the 345 feet contour, through Saddington Tunnel (so straight you can see the other end) …….

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……. and ending up in the very quiet junction of the Market Harborough Arm below the Foxton Locks.  Quiet boat-wise that is but it was still teaming with people.  Here’s us moored outside the Foxton Locks Inn.

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This view of the junction from Bridge 62 shows the lack of boats …

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…. and this pic of two hard working lads having a pint (purchased at the pub) on the back of “Chance” also shows how deserted the junction was on this Sunday afternoon.

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After a 40 minutes wait for one boat to come down the flight, the lock keeper gave us the all clear to make our way up the famous flight.  Being the only boat in the area we were definitely the centre of attraction.

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The guide book says that Leicestershire folk seem to regard this lovely flight of locks as “their own personal street-theatre”.  This was certainly the case this afternoon!

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We had the help of four young sisters (by kind permission of their mum and dad!) to open and close all the gates for us from bottom to top.  At the end of this enchanting 75 foot rise in the canal we paid them suitably for their heroic efforts and continued our journey with waves from many of the ‘friends’ we’d made on the way up.

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We’re now pretty much in the middle-of-nowhere again nestling beneath the Laughton Hills with gorgeous views over the valley below.  Amid the afternoon sunshine we’ve picked sloes and set next winter’s sloe gin in motion.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

A brief visit to Manchester then onward we go.

Very late on Thursday we collected our friend Manel off his flight from Fuerteventura at East Midlands airport.

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Taking advantage of having the car at the moment we had a day out in Manchester on Friday. It’s difficult to know where to call home these days as, like London the other day, it seems we’ve never been away.  Knowing where to park for £5 / day has it’s benefits and we were soon having coffee / beer in The Wharf at Castlefield.

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As Manel hadn’t been to Manchester before we did a walkabout to see the sights ……..

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………. then lunch in Tiger Tiger followed by a bit of shopping (and a quick pop into Whitewall Galleries where we were treated to a glass of Champagne and then sent away with another two bottles!) and then on with a bit more sightseeing ………

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…….. including the magnificent Town Hall.

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James just can’t resist drooling over a bit of first class design combined with first class engineering.

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In the evening it was into Canal Street ……….

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…. where we introduced Manel to the famous ‘Via’ with it’s distinctive and stylish interior adorned by woodwork and artefacts …….

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……… reclaimed from an Irish church dating back to 1830.  (Yes this is a pub!)

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Later in the evening we met up with friend Lewis “Nb One thing after another”  - James drew the short straw and had to drive back to the boat but, as can be seen, the others had a really good time!

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Today we left MGM’ Boats for our journey through Leicester and beyond. Here we are entering Belgrave Lock with the National Space Centre looming above the trees.

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Some of Leicester’s bridges spanning the river are very splendid.

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Manel worked extremely hard on the 17 locks on today’s journey but here he is sitting down on the job.

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He and Doug also managed to pick a bowl of blackberries while  Gee’s Lock was filling.

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Before we could escape from Dunn’s Lock we had to retrieve a 40 ton C&RT working barge and put it back on its moorings. 

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Anyway, after six hours of good cruising on a warm and sunny Saturday we arrived at the Kilby Bridge moorings at 4 o’ clock to find them almost deserted. Since settling in Doug has added the blackberries to some apples and made a superb pie, James has touched in two rather nasty scratches on the gunwales which he has to lay claim to and Manel – well Manel’s asleep!

This evening we hope to partake in the fare on offer in The Navigation – something we’ve been looking forward to for a while now.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Home Alone.

The last few days have been incredibly busy for both of us although in different places.  Doug took the train home to Chichester on Tuesday (and came back by car today).  His efforts are unrecorded but included much gardening, housework and catching up with friends and neighbours.

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James stayed behind on the boat to do the inevitable – cleaning, maintaining and repairing things.  We had a small repair to the rear door done by MGM and James did the rest – Mikuni service, varnishing of woodwork, stove blacking (horrendous job!) etc. 

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There was the usual cleaning and polishing of course and much needed sorting out out of lockers.  Even the engine room wasn’t spared the polish!

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Today James took “Chance” up to Leicester marina for a  pump out.  The one and only lock was a devil as it was losing more water than the top paddles were delivering and, not being that familiar (!) with lock operation, he needed some help with the gates.  On the way back James followed two boats down – one had a very unusual Captain!

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As an aside, MGM have a 70 foot “paint job” in at the moment which is amazing.  This is the boat before (actually it’s the bit sticking out of the paint shed that hasn’t been given the makeover yet) ……..

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……. and this is after!  The artwork on the rear panels is superb and the colour scheme very pleasant.  James had enough on his plate with jobs on “Chance” but, as he enjoys something different occasionally, did manage an hour or two giving a hand on this job.  Doug drove back and arrived late this afternoon equally as tired as James but we have a lot of good work under our belts. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A Day Out!

Yesterday, after a weekend of boat maintenance we had a trip out.

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In the morning we were in the middle of Leicester ……….

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…….. and an hour and a quarter later we were standing outside King’s Cross St Pancras station in London.  After a quick bus ride to Aldwych we took a walk through the city proper (the Square Mile).

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The first chance we took was a visit inside the beautiful and inspiring RAF church of St Clement Danes – the last resting place of Margaret Thatcher.

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In Fleet Street we found one of the tallest, thinnest and oldest pubs in the city.  A Guinness and a coffee was £7:45 compared to just hours before in Leicester where two pints of Guinness was £4:30!

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Getting to the top of Ludgate Hill we got a marvellous view of St Paul’s Cathedral …….

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…… and further on the dramatic “Walkie Talkie” rose above the traditional architecture.

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We understand that the curved face of glass (facing south) has the effect of concentrating the suns rays on certain unfortunate points elsewhere! Consequently they’ve had to shroud the building in fabric which gives the window cleaners a bit of  a nightmare!

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We wanted to see the poppy display in the moat of the Tower of London.

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Marking the 100 year anniversary of the outbreak of WWI the evolving art of  888,246 poppies, the last one of which will be placed on November 11th - it’s absolutely stunning.

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We had a bite to eat at Zizzi’s near the Tower before heading to Soho for a quick sojourn and then it was down to the Leicester Square theatre for the main reason for our day out ……….

……. the first night of the Betty Legs Diamond show.  Being great fans of Betty Legs, and not having seen “her” since 2008 when she worked in Blackpool, it was great fun to witness her brilliant talents.

It was very entertaining and hilarious fun ……….

…… with much glamour as well!

The train back to Leicester took a little longer than the one to London but we got back to “Chance” at 2 o’ clock in the morning after a fantastic day out.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

“Chance” comes home.

The River Soar was as we’d expected it to be, very pleasant, tranquil and different round every corner.  Thursday night’s mooring at Pillings was made all the more exciting by the express trains thundering past on the Midland main line just a spitting distance on the other side of the hedge.  

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The very low flow on the river made our journey upstream quite a doddle.  James likes to take pics. of boats with names special to us – this is for youngest daughter Frances.

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The river borders the village Mountsorrel which is becoming more attractive every time we come through.  These beautiful Dutch style houses have just been built around a new marina (moorings to let) on the edge of the village.

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Going up stream the massive brick railway bridge built in 1860 comes just before the lock …

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…… and the very popular Waterside Inn next to the lock has had a really good face lift and looks better than ever.

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The River Soar, for most of its length, is wide and deep but at this one spot (which is all a bit complicated because it’s actually the River Wreake at this point) it’s pretty challenging if you meet something coming the other way! 

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Like all our journeys up the Soar the object is to pay a visit to our boat builders MGM at Thurmaston.  We’ve got a couple of minor jobs for them to do for us this time (and James has a an awful lot of jobs to do himself) so we’re here for a few days now.  It’s a little bit of luxury for a while as we have water and power on the mooring.  We wake up in the morning to the geese taking off in Watermead Country Park on the other side of the river and, on Saturday mornings, the local brass band practices just a few yards away!  “Chance” is home for a short while.