Saturday, 30 April 2011

Royal Wedding Celebrations

I said I wouldn’t bother and would perform instead other much more useful things on board. But in the end I spent the whole of yesterday morning listening to the Royal Wedding on Radio 4 and I have to admit I found myself quite moved by the whole event; like a lot of other people I suspect. As with all good stories, I didn’t want the occasion to end and felt a bit let down when we were brought back to Earth with ‘The World at One’, to be informed that the populations of Syria and Libya had more pressing things to think about than fairy tales! However in spite of our Royal Family’s poor record in such matters, I hope these two young people make a go of it and live happily ever after.
Later in the evening we were treated to a great firework display above the castle high on its cliff and for a few minutes the clear night was filled with flashes of bright colourful light, loud bangs and lots of ‘Oohs and Aarhs’ amid the pungent smell of barbeques all around.

Fireworks above the Castle Mound

This afternoon, as it was such a beautiful day, albeit remaining chilly in the north easterly breeze, I went ashore and ventured into the city. It is my first visit here ever and I find it is rather like Leicester but with a canal running through it instead of a beautiful wide river. However the City of Nottingham has lots of the usual lovely shops in many pedestrianized areas which are most useful. I managed to find a barber’s shop and was invited to sit straight into the chair. I didn’t need to wait at all for my haircut, which I desperately needed.

As everybody will know probably, Nottingham has a castle but so far, I have only seen it atop its steep sided mound and plan to walk up there before I leave. But I’m a little disappointed to note that its square features give away that it is not the fabled castle of old that was inhabited by the Sherriff during his feud with Robin Hood. The architectural features indicate that it was probably built no earlier than the late Seventeenth Century and it looks even as late as ‘Georgian’. It certainly needs to be confirmed with a visit anyway.

The Castle from the Canal

Crowds of people in front of the City Hall Nottingham

The Old British Waterways Warehouse, now pubs and offices

A very modern Nottingham Tram

I am so pleased with my solar panel!
With all the lovely Sun today it has managed to fully recharge my batteries, without any help from the engine at all. In other words in a day filled with sunshine, like today, I am getting all my electricity free of charge. I haven’t needed to start the engine once. I realise that on a cloudy day the output will be less but I am still so pleased with the panel’s performance and it is currently laying flat on the roof. When I get it to be directional the output should be even better.
It’s wonderful and I’m amazed!

Thursday, 28 April 2011


You know, I’m having terrible trouble with my computer recently. Occasionally it just won’t work for me. I cannot get it to do anything. It is almost as if someone else is using it at the same time; I suppose you could call it a ghost writer. That’s how it feels anyway. I tried using it late this afternoon and it just wouldn’t do anything for me at all...
I had to give up in the end, with a great deal of swearing and doing about on my part. Maybe I need to defragment the hard drive. I’ve never performed it on this computer and as it is recommended occasionally I shall have to do so. But if I didn’t know different I would swear that someone else is using the same computer.
Anyway that is beside the point. I am here now and the computer is working as normal so I’ll carry on about more interesting things.
At last ‘Futurest’ and I left East Midlands Boat Services at around ten o’clock yesterday morning, complete with brand new functioning solar panel. But because we have been travelling every day since with the engine running and alternator charging, it is difficult as yet to judge the amount of charge that the panel is putting into the batteries on its own. We arrived at Nottingham this morning and as I plan to stay here for a couple of days before moving on, over this period I shall be able to establish how much use it really is. ... You’ll have to watch this space.
Because of the mess up with the delivery and then the holiday right at the end, we were tied up at the little boat yard for a fortnight and though it was very relaxing there, it was so good to be on the move again yesterday. It was thrilling to feel the weight of the water against the rudder through the tiller, the slow firm beat of the ‘JP2’ which was most reassuring and the feel of the breeze in my face, albeit filled with acrid exhaust fumes sometimes. Life which is always good had all of a sudden got even better.
The Soar was busy with traffic and therefore we made good time through two locks as there were plenty of people to help. There were four locks in all but the other two were open flood locks. Therefore we were able to pass straight through without stopping before we arrived finally at Trent Junction.
All I had seen of this area was the map in Nicholson’s Guide and, as is so often the case I find, the actual location was far different to how I had imagined it. What looked like a small crossroads of waterways on the chart was in fact a much grander affair of wide water and flat green flood plain. But with a deeper draft than many, ‘Futurest’s performance is so much better in these wider and deeper waters. She is such a dream to navigate and so much easier to control than in the narrow shallow canal system.

Solar panel on roof

Controller in Engine Room

Last evening having spent a heady few hours on the Trent, we kept left at Beeston Lock while the wide river went down over a weir to the right and would bypass the city centre of Nottingham altogether. Instead we went through the busy lock and into the manmade Beeston and Nottingham Canal. Though we tried to make fast at the moorings here our draft was too deep to get alongside so we moved along about another half mile before tying up snugly to spend a quiet night by the Boots Industrial Estate at Thane Road Bridge. Then this morning brought us another couple of miles into the City of Nottingham, where we are now moored outside a large branch of Sainsbury to very substantial steel rings set in concrete. Not being far from the city centre I shall go off exploring tomorrow.

Goodbye East Midland Boat Services

And hello wide water, trees and flat water meadows

The old filled in Ratcliffe Lock alongside the new

Show the flag!

The River Trent... At Last!

It was wonderful yesterday when we arrived at the River Trent junction and finally left the River Soar that had been our travelling companion for so long. Of course we were unable to go down it straightaway as there was a dirty great waterfall in the way called Thrumpton Weir. I could tell that the Skipper was impressed by it though and had there been incidental music playing in his ears at the time, at this point it would have risen in a great swelling crescendo as we entered the vast width of water that was the junction and it would have burst upon his ears in a great harmonic climax of symphonic beauty.     Er... Sorry about that!
But really, I could see that he was amazed by the vast width of water and the surrounding flat green water meadows that spread out towards the steep ridge to the south.
And I liked the breeze as came across the flatlands and it hit me full in the face. It was gusting at times quite severely and the waves were furiously breaking against my stem, wetting my nose each time with their spray. I loved the exhilaration of it all!
Because we couldn’t go over the waterfall without badly injuring ourselves, we had to travel a bit further and enter the short man made canal called the Cranfleet Cut, which the Skipper I think, found to be an anticlimax, as I always do. But we didn’t have long to wait till we could join the mighty river below Cranfleet Lock and then it was wonderful again.
He had heard so many stories about it that the Skipper I think was a bit anxious about what to expect from the River Trent. But I’ve been here before of course, in my previous life as ‘JP2’ under Ian and Linda so I was well used to it and I would like to have reassured the Skipper that everything would be okay. He is a careful person so I shall have to transmit by telepathy that all will be well. And of course he has me to look after him so he will be fine.

A blending of Nature and Man on the River Soar

Leaving the River Soar

Arriving at the River Trent

And on the River Trent

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Welcome Visitors

What a wonderful Easter weekend it has been for me...   and it isn’t yet over. The weather is still set fair though it has been overcast for most of today. And yesterday evening we experienced a violent thunderstorm for about an hour; but more of that later.
Today is also my birthday and looking at the number of years I’m celebrating, I just cannot believe I have managed to stay around for that long. Though the coincidence is quite likely to happen with my birthday being fixed so close to Easter as a moveable date, I cannot ever remember us being on the same day before.
I didn’t get up that early this morning but when I did, and it was timed beautifully just after my shower, so I had to receive it very appropriately in my birthday suit, I had the first greetings phone call of a morning that was filled with happy birthday tidings. It is satisfying that my phone has such an excellent signal here and I was able to pick up every one of them.
My love and thanks to my dear family for their kind thoughts.

A peaceful scene on the river at Normanton-on-Soar

You know.... I’m getting used to this life of soft living around marinas and no doubt you will be surprised to hear that I am still at East Midland Boat Services near Kegworth, when you know me as a man who generally likes to cruise. I haven’t moved very far now in almost a fortnight, except in playing a nautical version of musical chairs, by dodging from one berth to another as their more permanent occupants come and go. And the whole ambient atmosphere here seems to encourage relaxation, notwithstanding even being directly under the flight path of the East Midlands Airport. It is as if time stands still and it’s most infectious.

A foggy morning at Kegworth

As I have already mentioned I am awaiting the fitting of a solar panel and control box and though I received delivery of the former very quickly over a week ago, the controller only arrived yesterday after being sent to my billing address in Wiltshire by mistake. The yard is fitting it all up for me on Tuesday, so we should be cruising again on Wednesday. And though I am relaxed here I also feel we do need to move on with our odyssey....
Sometime anyway!
However ‘Futurest’ and I have not been that quiet over the holiday weekend.
On Thursday afternoon I received a phone call from Rob, my good friend from Essex to enquire whether it would be convenient for him and his wife Penny to visit me on Good Friday. I was thrilled to hear from him and invited them to stay the night aboard.
Originally they were a couple of gongoozlers (inquisitive sightseers) that I met last year while I was tied up at Victoria Park on the Regents Canal and they made such flattering remarks about ‘Futurest’ that immediately I was drawn towards them..... couldn’t help it! 
They had arrived there on a Harley Davidson motorcycle and returned to visit me a few weeks later on the same machine whilst I was moored at Hertford. They are a lovely couple and are planning eventually to sell their house and live on a boat. 
Early morning on the River Soar

Bluebell Time

Misty Reflections

It was lovely to see them on Friday afternoon and they are so easy to get along with that their stay with me was not a bit stressful, as it is often with some visitors. That evening we went to eat first at ‘The Otter’, a riverside pub next door, where we enjoyed a very good meal and then after returning to the ship, we consumed a couple of bottles of wine without even realising it, whilst gaily chatting on about old times, new times and every other time.  Conversation is always easy with Rob and Pen.

Cattle watering (and toilet!) hole

Yesterday we left the mooring at 0930 and cruised southwards, through three locks to Loughborough and back, which both Pen and Rob enjoyed very much I think. After we had returned they had to leave in order to visit another friend before the weekend finished. So I went with them to the car park and after our goodbyes they shot off in Pen’s Smart Car.

Skippers Mate. Unfortunately only temporarily.
Thanks Rob for the loan for a little while.

The weather that had been wonderful all day, as it has been for so long, suddenly changed after they left. Thick heavy cumulonimbus, as angry looking as darkness, encroached the sky from the east and very soon we suffered a severe thunderstorm which lasted about an hour altogether. The storm moved overhead as the clatter of deafening thunder and harsh flashes of lightning clouted us simultaneously. However afterwards the icy rain had not cooled the air at all and it remained muggy and humid after it had passed.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Abreast 'Barn Owl'

The solar panel arrived here yesterday morning but we are still awaiting the delivery of the control box. I’ve asked Frank one of the two the proprietors here if he can put it all together for me when that time comes and he’s said he will gladly oblige. I would be able probably to do this myself, especially if I care to read the instructions but with my glasses tending to slip off my nose all the time it will be much easier and just as satisfying if I get the professionals to do it for me.
So ‘Futurest’ and I will be spending the weekend here at least; the panel company promised delivery by Monday or Tuesday of next week.
And it is very pleasant here.
Apart from the distant drone of the A6 away over the fence, it is also a quiet and most peaceful spot. ... What more can a man and his boat ask for?

The Weir at Sileby Lock

The owner of the jetty where we were moored returned yesterday from his cruise so ‘Futurest’ and I were obliged to move alongside ‘Barn Owl’ as soon as possible. It meant going ahead out into the river and then going astern for about thirty yards, hoping to steer a straight course. Very luckily there was no wind so the whole movement was accomplished with great ease and precision.
In fact we have been so lucky with the weather altogether this month and though it has been overcast for the last few days the Sun has returned today with great vigour and it remains forecast for next week as well.
I received some marvellous news last night. My friend Ann who owns a narrowboat called ‘Miss B Having’, texted me greetings from Hampton Court Moorings on the River Thames. This is unusual, as she has never ventured further than the River Wey before, which is where she moors. For a long time she has been building up her courage to brave the Thames and I was so pleased when I heard her news last evening.
Now to a lot of folk this feat is nothing and I am sure Ann will heartily agree with this, having now accomplished it herself. But I do know what she was going through as she was building up her confidence. It always needs a lot of pluck to stretch one’s ‘zone of comfort’, when it would be much easier not to bother. Well done Ann!
At the moment I am having similar feelings as Ann must have had, prior to her going out from the reassurance of the River Wey. However my challenge is the forthcoming passage down the River Trent.
From different stories I’ve heard, the Trent experience is like nothing else on the British waterway system. The river is very wide and very large, has lots of massive commercial traffic making huge wash and it has swift tides for about three quarters of its length, making it difficult to get into locks.
However I boost my confidence in the fact that every teller of these horror stories is here to tell the tale of what might have happened rather than what actually did happen and though there have obviously been sad true tales, I get the feeling that, with my seagoing (tidal) knowledge and also my ongoing experience with ‘Futurest’, so long as I take care I should be alright.
I know ‘Futurest’ can do it as Ian and Linda the previous owners did the passage through Keadby Lock every year to winter in Doncaster, so I am confident we can do it together.

The River Soar from the stern

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Kegworth, close to Nottingham

We are tied up at a boat yard called East Midland Boat Services awaiting the delivery of a solar panel and control box. I ordered them on Tuesday but it looks as if we cannot expect delivery until Monday or even Tuesday of next week. So we may have to move from our comfortable jetty complete with 240 volt hook up and personal water point, as the berth belongs to someone else, who is currently out cruising but is expected back at the weekend.
There is no other berth available like this one and we shall have to breast up against another narrowboat called ‘Barn Owl’ on the loading jetty if the people return. I shall stay here for as long as we can though. It’s so pleasant.
Next door there is a pub called ‘The Otter’ who have a wharf on the river for their patrons and I enquired there this morning whether I would be allowed to use it for a few nights till I was ready to leave; said I would be happy to rent it from them, as well as becoming one of their patrons. The landlady was very nice about it but told me I would only be allowed to use it for a maximum of two nights so I shall probably moor alongside ‘Barn Owl’, where there are no restrictions.
This afternoon I had a walk up into the village of Kegworth. Though the Sun wasn’t shining it was warm and the walk of about one mile in each direction was very pleasant. The route followed the very busy A6 road which was full of traffic zooming both ways but the village itself I found to be most rewarding. There is a market square with numerous shops around it including a largish Co op supermarket, a butcher, a greengrocer and numerous takeaways as well as a post office and convenience store. Everything seems to be concentrated around the parish church, standing high on its hill. I didn’t have the time to visit it today but hope to be able to before I leave the area.
‘Futurest’ and I are on our own again now. I wanted to await the delivery of my goods while Chris on ‘French Holly’ felt he needed to push on towards the River Trent, so we parted company on Tuesday. We had been travelling together for a week, sharing the locks for all that time, which had been very useful. Whether I shall catch him up or not remains to be seen but as he is going down the River Witham to Lincoln which is where I plan to go and as we have to return the same way, I expect our paths will cross again somewhere, probably along that route.
It was Chris who finally convinced me that having a solar panel was a good idea. He has one and I was so surprised at the amount of power his generates. I’m looking forward to having mine installed and working.

The Parish Church of Normanton-on-Soar

Our berth at East Midland Boat Services

Solar Panels and Soft Headedness

The Skipper has gone off for a walk into the village of Kegworth, about a mile along a very busy main road, so while he is away I’m making the most of the computer and having my say for a change. As you know he loves the walk but he‘ll be in a foul mood when he gets back since he doesn’t like the stress of busy road traffic anymore. He not only reckons that the fumes poison him but that the continuous noise gives him a headache!
The poor old man..... I do think he’s going a bit soft in the head really.
For the third time since leaving Warwick about a month ago, he is paying for a mooring would you believe and we are moored up at a little builders yard called East Midland Boat Services, on the River Soar about a mile upstream from Kegworth Deep Lock. It’s actually a wonderful little place and looks quite ancient. But maybe the fact that it has one of the ‘Dunkirk Little Ships’, which is even older than my ‘JP2’, tied up in front of it that makes it look that way.
Most of the numerous moorings are taken up by small dirty white cruisers and I am by far the biggest girl there. I am tied up stern to the bank alongside a rickety old landing stage about three feet long and even moored diagonally into the river my bow sticks out far beyond any of my neighbours.  It makes me feel quite self conscious and gangling.
So what are we doing, sitting here doing nothing again after having made such swift progress over the last week or so? I even had hopes that the old man had decided to turn over a new leaf and get on with this cruising business and not dawdle so much.
But no there is method in his madness.
He has decided to buy a solar panel to help keep my batteries charged up and we are staying here for a few days, using East Midlands Boat Services as the delivery address. So being here is quite a good idea I suppose, though I’m not so sold on the solar Panel as he is.
If we cruised every day, like I want him to, then the alternator driven by the engine would keep me well charged up anyway. But he does have these silly ideas of wanting to stay moored for longer than one day sometimes and since we have on board a hungry electric fridge that never lets up, the engine needs to be run every day to keep me charged up.
He thinks and has been advised that the solar panel will provide more than enough power to keep the fridge going on its own. So he’s taken the plunge. Time will tell!
But I see the Skipper coming in through the front gate laden down with bags and with a frown on his face so I had better close!
See you later!

Sunrise on the River Soar

Sunshine on the River Soar

Friday, 8 April 2011

Castle Gardens

On the bank just above us, beyond the ornate but locked gates which protects the moored boats from any unwanted visitors, is Castle Gardens. Apparently it marks the spot that was first settled by the Romans when they founded their city of Ratae back in the first century AD.
Since then successive generations have added their bit to it and since the ground naturally rises up to a mound, this was the obvious place for the Normans to build one of their fortified Mottes in the Middle Ages. Somewhere in the city too lay buried the remains of King Richard III, slain by the Tudors at the Battle of Bosworth (a site also close to a waterway; the Ashby Canal) in 1485. Though very little of the castle now remains, I couldn’t help wondering how much action and slaughter this garden area must have seen over the centuries. The manicured rock gardens and flowerbeds now so well looked after, hide beautifully what must have been a very unforgiving and turbulent past.
Today the Sun brought out all the good things, including the flowers. As I passed through there was a wedding party celebrating with photographs and the lawns were well scattered with happy people soaking up the Sun’s welcome warmth. There were a few holiday makers like me but most were company employees male and female in their in their sombre office suits, enjoying their respective lunch hours. The ladies were most cheeky with their hitched up skirts showing a lot of shiny lycra legs and tops pealed down to let the Sun get to their white shoulders and chests as was just about decent. The men, more diffident in their aspirations, were content to sit uncomfortably and in particular self-consciously on the grass with their plastic lunchboxes, having removed their jackets and ties back at the office.
It was a lovely warm day and something we are not used to in early April.
I did some shopping in town; went to Primark to buy tee shirts, jeans and socks for the summer and then went to have a look at St Martin’s Cathedral. It’s a small cathedral to any standard and reminded me more of a large parish church and like a lot of other buildings in this city, was not very old, though of course there were old parts in it. I get the feeling that Leicester is a very modern city today with its many pedestrianized shopping areas. With all the large national companies here it is a shopaholic’s dream city.
I have reprovisioned my cupboards and fridge and am now ready to move on tomorrow.

‘Futurest’ moored on the River Soar at Leicester

The Turret Gateway.
All that remains of the castle in its original form

St Martin’s Cathedral

Statue of King Richard III in Castle Gardens

Wednesday, 6 April 2011


What a pleasurable journey ‘Futurest’ and I have had today, plying our way quietly and slowly north through the green rural countryside of Leicestershire. The weather has been glorious, the Sun has shone brightly and everybody’s spirits have been sky high. People along the towpath passed happy greetings and remarks and even the normally sombre anglers wore a smile. Some of them actually spoke to me! What a difference the Sun makes and how dependent upon it are we, even for our psychological disposition.

Moored opposite British Waterways services at Kilby Bridge

We left Kilby Bridge at nine o’clock this morning in the company of Chris on ‘French Holly’. We had met originally at Market Harborough and last night he caught up, arriving a little later than us at the mooring.
It was good having him there today to share the work at the twelve heavy double locks that we had to descend in order to get to Leicester. He has been this way before and while I had planned to miss staying in the city area, though much to my disappointment as I know there is so much to see here, he recollected that there was a very safe pontoon mooring right in the heart of the city, which it would be well not to miss. 
And he is right; it’s a wonderful safe berth, behind a locked gate. There is room for three sixty footers behind a large British Waterways work lighter and when we arrived two of the spaces were already occupied. So Chris took ‘French Holly’ alongside and ‘Futurest’ is now snugly breasted up against her. As soon as one of the other two berths becomes available I shall slide astern into it.
Like me, Chris is a single handed live-aboard and is not only travelling down the River Trent but is journeying up the Ouse to York and Ripon this summer as well, just like me. So it is quite likely we shall be in each other’s company for some of that passage. It’ll be most pleasant company.

‘Futurest’ at Kilby Bridge.
She hasn’t sprouted a tall chimney. This is a BW information post on the towpath.

As we came up towards Leicester, the River Soar, barely a brook at this stage, meandered its tortuous way across green flat water meadows, spread generously with the buttercup yellow of Lesser Celandine and the light green foliage of Weeping Willows and joined us eventually in a great tumbling swirl, down from the large weir at Freeman’s Meadow Lock.
The last stretch into the city was wide deep and eminently voluptuous and beneath large ornate bridges, we came quietly to our mooring.

Blackthorn, bridges and Blue Sky

Looking back at the lock

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

kilby Bridge

After we had remained at Foxton for a couple of days ‘Futurest’ and I moved down the quiet arm to Market Harborough and I booked two nights with British Waterways to moor in the beautifully redesigned Union Wharf Basin. The basic layout remains as it was fifty years ago, when it was a dirty but busy commercial centre. However the whole area has now been redeveloped and the old warehouses turned into modern flats and a restaurant.

The Union Wharf Basin as it used to look in its heyday

I was awaiting the arrival of a couple of letters that I had arranged to be delivered to and then collected by me from the local post office and I didn’t know how many days I would need to stay there, so I comfortably booked in at £8 a night including a 240 volt  electric hook up. This meant that I didn’t need to run ‘JP2’ every day, which meant I could get away from the ship for longer periods if I wanted to.
The town was pleasant enough without being outstanding in its architecture or appearance but it had a good indoor market and lots of different shops including supermarkets about twenty minutes walk from the mooring. The oldest relatively untouched building was the Seventeenth Century old Grammar School.
But by last weekend I had collected all my mail and on Sunday morning I was ready to leave. We had a very pleasant journey back to Foxton Locks, where we arrived in the early afternoon. So with time on my hands and feeling for some reason in a celebratory mood I went to the ‘Foxton Locks Inn’, later in the evening to enjoy a meal of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

The 17th Century Grammar School

Today ‘Futurest’ and I find ourselves on the edge of the sprawling City of Leicester.
Kilby Bridge Wharf though very rural is within half a mile of the built up area that is the suburbs of the city and this built up area stretches, on and off, for the next sixteen miles, according to my maps and guides.
I have heard many stories from boaters that Leicester has an unsociable element of the population that doesn’t encourage one to want to moor overnight there, so I am trying to plan things so that I pass through the city centre during the daylight hours. With this in mind I shall have to plan one more overnight stay somewhere and the suburb of Aylestone looks quite promising. It belongs to a heavy built up area on the right hand side of the canal but on the opposite side, behind the towpath, it appears that there are the open water meadows of the River Soar and a mooring along here might be quite safe. There are some good shops here too according to the ‘First Mate’ Guide, so we’ll probably go for that.
 I am glad at last that, for the first time since joining the Leicester Section of the Grand Union Canal, I have both an excellent internet and phone signal. For a fortnight or more I have barely been able to send a text. Inside the steel shell of a boat the reception is never very good but by going up on deck or even moving along the towpath a few yards often means that you can get through on the phone satisfactorily. But recently I have not even managed to do that.
The reason for this is that the area has been so beautifully rural and the population is scarce. For miles the canal has meandered through green meadows of cattle and sheep and mounds where once stood medieval villages. Even the more modern villages that we passed on the way are small with marvellously quaint names like Smeeton Westerby and Saddington, Fleckney, Wistow and Newton Harcourt. The canal manages to avoid them all. Mostly the Sun has shone brilliantly and though there has been a bite to the breeze, blowing mostly from the south east, daily life has been most pleasant. 
To update my photographs here are a few pictures taken en route to Kilby Bridge Wharf from Yelverton.

Daffodils and reflections at Yelvertoft Bridge

The light at the end of Husbands Bosworth Tunnel (1166 yds)

This photo for Martin's benefit in particular

Peace & tranquility at the end of the Welford Arm

Ewe and lambs on the beautiful Welford Arm

From the top of Foxton Staircase Locks

From the bottom of the inclined plane